“Bass is Loaded” by Leaders of the New School
I can no longer play track 11 (“Bass is Loaded”) of the Leaders of the New School CD that I kept in my car through most of 2007. The frequency of the bass — that deep, mean, wavering two-note bass that gives the track its melody and bottom end — has, along with other culprits, long since overtaxed the Jetta’s rear left speaker, producing a pitiable honk that makes me eject the CD in annoyance no more than 30 seconds in. I can still rock a lot of songs in the Jetta, but not that one. It’s not worth it to try.
“Bass is Loaded” is from T.I.M.E., the Leaders of the New School’s 1993 release, their second and last. It was lent to me in spring of ’07 by Sean Cronin, and was my reward for throwing my entire summer on the pyre of start-up ambition. I had landed a ground-floor position for a Boulder start-up whose service anticipated a sea change in consumer behavior. My 12-hour days of blinding stress would pay off.
I would stand outside at dusk on the Pearl Street Mall, thoughts cottony and thin from a brain wheezing with overwork, smoking and looking at Boulder’s gleaming professionals laughing on the patios of places like the Boulder Café. It was OK, because I was working hard and I had earned a place on the entrepreneurial rocket ship that would someday return and deliver me back here a millionaire with a thousand carefree dusks to squander amid piles of oysters and tall, cold glasses ringed with tall, warm women. I was going to be rich.
It was a small, proud, and hard-bitten feeling that, in the numbness of the overwork brought on by the terror of being totally, wholly inadequate to any purpose whatsoever, I mistook for satisfaction.
With maybe a shred of dusk blue visible through the wide-open sunroof and the mountain coolness leaching off the heat trapped in Boulder’s concrete, I would start back for Denver with T.I.M.E. playing full blast.
The release! The richness and thrust of those tracks were enough to make you think that the low-current excitement latent in Boulder’s receding lights was an entry into some kind of victory tour. That album had an over-the-top sound: huge beats, rich walls of samples, they wrung every ounce of richness from it. I’m sure there were other New York crews at the time who wished their whole albums had as much energy as “Eternal,” the one-minute, 28-second intro instrumental. And exploding in four different directions over the top, Dinco D, Cut Monitor Milo, Charlie Brown and Busta Rhymes, growling the eccentric style that would carry him way past his comrades. But on “Bass is Loaded,” they’re all still together, always will be, returning from their Drunken Master 2- and 3-bar voyages just in time for the four-hype-man overdubs that still bring both hands off the steering wheel in bumper-to-bumper, 80-m.p.h. traffic to punch the air: “Ha-huhhh!” “Doooown!” “Oooooh!”
If you want to party/LONS will wreck your body/’Cause we know how to turn…it…out
The album is packed with powerhouse tracks, but they were all just warm-ups for “Bass is Loaded,” which would usually come on about halfway between Denver and Boulder. It just moved a little better than the rest. It was playing in every car, on the stoop of every party, in every club, everybody knew that this was what my ascent would sound like. It was only to natural to imagine it so. I would repeat the track all the way through Denver, the trough of I-25, to I-70, to Colorado, to Leetsdale, to Florida, to The Breakers and Big K-Dog’s apartment, tapering to motionlessness in a moment of reprieve, almost in disbelief that at the end of it, this is it, you drive home. But not home, but to a friend’s couch because you’ve screwed up your life really good, and you’re going to work hard and retrace the route in reverse the following morning, nerves trilling, once again assured of how unfit you are for greatness, the CD jostling in the junk in the back seat, waiting for the evening.