MNR: Nostalgia Series Blog #2 Napster
2020 is three weeks away. Crazy, right? Time really is Illmatic. It really does fly. Another decade in the books. As a 41 year-old, I can truly say that I’ve watched four decades come to an end: I was 11 in ‘89, 21 in ‘99... you get the picture. I can recall being young world, riding around in something American, four doors with the couch in the back, eight track player for sounds. I remember a couple player-type cats who listened to music in their cribs on reel-to-reel. I owned tapes, CDs... then came the digital era. But I wonder if you remember that digital media didn’t exactly catch fire overnight. There was a good half a decade before the iPod dropped and another year or so after that before it caught fire and outshined other inferior mp3 players. Ahh...mp3. When it hit the masses, it might as well have been named C3PO. Fvck I need one of them for? I don’t e’en own a damn computer! Sadly, that was the case for a lotta Black folk just a decade and a half ago. Thank the Lord for the babies and their natural interaction with technology through birth and education. People my age were especially slow to the wave. Internet was introduced to me my senior year at HCHS (‘95-‘96). One kid in my classes had it in his home, and he told us he only had 12 hours worth (AOL) a week (yeah, you paid by the hour day one). Shit, I graduated VUU with a BA in Journalism and a Poly Sci focus having done every term paper on Robert T’s word processor. There were only so many computers on the yard. And honestly, I was comfortable with the word processor. Didn’t have to leave the dorm room. But back to the music. So yeah, I was slow to the iPod party. Ten introduced me to the Gen 1 when I lived in Highbridge. Jermil boothed it from some sucker on the train and gave it to him. But I wasn’t fvcking with it. Didn’t see the need. I loved my twin towers of CDs. But I did have plenty of prior mp3 experience. Just didn’t have a player. And nah, I’m talking way before mediashare or megaupload or any of those other (safe) file sharing (stealing) web sites (big ups to my bro Sean). I’m even talking way before limewire. I’m talmbout the OG of music sharing. I’m talmbout Napster.
I hear a lotta folk talk about Napster and how they rocked with it back when, but when they talk I can tell most were either lying about being on it or they were on it when it was lame, after Lars from Metallica sued the shit outta Napster (and won). But I really lived it. I was a half year removed from VUU, back at my mama crib. Beginning of ‘01. She’d just copped a PC so she could do her papers for her Masters classes. But I ended up dominating the computer. I even did her papers for her. But back to Napster. I don’t even remember how I found out about Napster. I just remember downloading it one day. Dial up era. Somebody call the crib and break the connection era. I had it for a minute but I decided to finally give it a try one evening watching 106 & Park. The first song was Lil Mo “Superwoman” feat Fabolous. That’s my shit. It definitely took over an hour but I got the track. That takes us to Napster memory #1: it took FOREVER TO DOWNLOAD A SONG. Dial up was a bitch. Some downloads were faster than others. And, of course, the bigger the file the longer the download. So needless to say there wasn’t any album downloading back then. You got it a track at a time. If you could find it. And that’s if the file is the whole track. And it was common for a song to be more than half downloaded and it just stop and be lost. Gotta start at 0% again. And the bitch on top of all that shit??? If you do manage to download the file after all those hurdles, the file may be corrupted in some sort of way. There was no way to guarantee you downloaded a clean file. The most common corruption was a piece of the song being sped or slowed or choppy. And the bitch on top of the bitch? If you downloaded another file of a corrupted song, there was a 99.9% chance that file came from the same source as the one you already had, and THAT MF WAS FVCKED UP TOO. Sheesh. Can a young nucca stealing music off the net in the earliest days of song stealing off the internet live? But hey, if you stayed loyal you had a nice lil playlist of songs on your PC. There was no internal CD burner or source to plug in any type mp3 on PCs because internal burners and mp3 players weren’t common yet. Some did it big and had hundreds of songs. I didn’t have the patience. But it was new. It was different. It was cool. But the irony is that music was only a part of the Napster lore. The true legend was in the chat rooms.
If I type a/s/l would you have any type idea what I’m talmbout? I’m showing my age with this one (as usual). A/s/l was the way to spark a conversation with one or everyone in the chatty. It was an acronym for age/sex/location. Needless to say, that answer could spark a whole other type of scenario (hook up scenarios). But that wasn’t my experience I’m real enough to admit. But I did have a ball in the Napster chats. Met plenty of cool ass folk from all over the states and the world on there. I’m talmbout on a random Saturday night there would be 2.6M MF in all the chats. Screen scrolling like crazy. MF maccing. MF talking crazy to other MF. MF battling (I was MF). MF making real connections. There were some real funny people in the chats. There were some really interesting people. I remember being in a chat with a twelve year-old kid from the Chi on house arrest. Couldn’t go outside. Some violent shit, so he said. Plenty freaky white girls. It was sorta like Twitter, just far less organized and no type stored memory. But you did have your chatty handle, which you created, and stayed the same if you let it be. And if you were a regular in a particular chat, you befriended other regulars and mobbed on lames in the room. It was cool. It was real cool. It was different. Internet was really starting to come into homes like that. The web was far less extensive than it is today. It was half a decade before the earliest social media. It was one of the first broad platforms where the world was able to interact. Who woulda known...
After Lars sued Napster and won it survived, but it was never the same. Most of us left it. It became somewhat of a premium site from what I recall. People weren’t quite ready to pay for music on the net. And limewire had taken off around that time. It became the new Napster until it suffered a similar fate. But it could never touch Napster in the ethos of popular culture. Napster was a whole vibe. Napster was a new generation saying fvck the world, the FCC, and the music industry. It was new age bootlegging, digital style. Only this time there was no middle man. There was no African on 2fifth or Haji dem out the 7-Eleven by Norfolk State bootlegging the product. It was a clean jux. I miss the vibe that being on Napster brought. It was the first time I looked at a computer as something other than a work tool. It’s my time y’all. Blessings.