This is a season of firsts for me.
My first Live Derby Girls blog! My first time subbing! My first season playing every position except pivot! My first engagement to a badass, derby-supporting man! My first time using five exclamation points in a single paragraph!
My first time purchasing a Kanye West album.
If the first time isn’t the best, it is always, always the most memorable.
Hi, I’m 9lb Hammer. I play for the Burn City Rollers of Auburn, AL. I’m a doctoral students, I teach college English, and I wrote a book about derby (that was reviewed by Villianelle, my interleague derby wife and favorite blogger!). I hate tomatoes, and I despise ketchup. I define myself by the amount of love my three cats give me. I I’m picky with my men (beardies are best) and with my skate wheels (Atoms, please).
I’m even pickier with my music.
I grew up listening to old time mountain music and mainstream country. (Anyone else remember Suzy Bogguss and Aaron Tippin?) In 8th grade, my cousin and I discovered The Beatles. We spent an entire week listening to Abbey Road; we didn’t even stop the CD when we slept, ate, or dug a hole outside for our time capsule. As I whipped through high school and began college, my musical tastes converged, eventually leading me to an appropriate apex: alternative country music.
Alt. country was—and still is—a perfect fit for me. I’ve always been a little bit country and a little bit rock-and-roll. (But not the Donny and Marie kind. Seriously.) The first time I heard a Ryan Adams’ song, I knew that this was the genre of music I’d been waiting to hear all my life. I fell deeply in love with Gram Parsons, The Jayhawks, and Old 97s. All of my friends liked alt.country, and for boyfriends, it was a requirement.
Unfortunately, I judged people who listened to pop, punk, metal, or rap; I even judged people who liked the same bands but different albums. Your favorite Wilco album is A Ghost is Born and not A.M.? I really don’t think our friendship is going to work. Like, whoa. No way.
And then I started derby. I started making friends who listened to everything from Metallica to Barney to Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga. The more I got to know my teammates, the more I realized, hey! Cool people can listen to pop music! Country music! Kids music! Metal! I even dated a ref who—gasp!—loves Wu Tang Clan. The more I skated, the more I realized that music is not the definitive measure of a person.
Then came the Kanye album.
I bought My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on a whim. It was payday, and I was browsing the entertainment section of Target. I’d heard that one of my favorite artists—Bon Iver—was featured on the new Kanye album, so I thought I’d take a chance. A risk. A leap.
On my first listen, I hated the album. Until this point, I’d never owned a hip-hop album. The only thing I knew about Kanye was that he spoke his mind, and I liked that. What I didn’t like was that a lot of his rhymes seemed like rhymes –for-rhymes-sake.
But I kept listening.
Eventually, I started discovering that the universal themes of the album could reach a recovering music snob like myself. Cure me, even. I fell in love with the songs one-by-one; I started appreciating how the highs and lows of the album created a pastiche of personalities and experiences; I let the words and the beats find their way into my hardened lo-fi heart.
So Saturday night, before I subbed for the very first time, I listened to MBDTF’s “Monster” on repeat. The song features a variety of heavy hitters: Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Kanye, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj. As I let the rhymes and beats seep through my skin, I got pumped. I got ready. I got fired the f. up.
During the bout, I played the song on repeat in my head. I didn’t hear the announcer, the mixed-up music, or the fans. (I did listen to the coach, though…promise.) As I skated, I pushed to the beat of “Gossip gossip/ N-ggas just stop it/ Everybody know (I’m a muthaf-cking monster).” When I jammed in the second half, lines from Nicki Minaj’s verse echoed between my ears: “You could be the King but watch the Queen conquer /O.K. first things first I’ll eat your brains /Then I’mma start rocking gold teeth and fangs /Cause that’s what a muthaf-cking monster do. ”
And you know what? I had a great bout. A great muthaf-cking bout. I was a monster.
(I’m pretty sure it’s because I had a more badass earbug than Kathy Mattea’s “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses.” )
At the close of “Monster,” my man Bon Iver croons “So I-I am headed home.” I know that I will always listen to alt.country music. I also know that no matter how many times I will sub or move, I will always consider Burn City my home team.
But it’s good to shake everything up sometimes. It’s good to be a muthaf-cking monster.