This year all Finals year-end content -- coming your way via myself and friends of the blog -- will be NY-focused. I will not expand on that, except to say I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what NY has brought into my life these past 8 years since moving here, and I want to hold onto that feeling.
On that note, I'm thrilled to say the Upper West Side's own producer genius kimdollars1 aka DJ Kimila is kicking things off with a fresh mix and a beautiful piece of writing, both of which are all about NY. Without further ado, here's Kim.
Andrew gave me two parameters: a year-end list that was also a reflection on New York. This is actually the first year of my life where I haven’t lived in New York, coming back only as a visitor. This mix, then, is my view of New York from a distance. While loosely organized around Andrew’s prompt, it also features music that wasn’t made or released in New York as well as music that wasn’t made or released this year. If New York is my memory, and memory is imagination, then this mix is fantasy (greater than reality, according to Ten City and Lacan).
There’s always a lot of music playing in New York. It hangs in the air and comes and goes in layers. There’s nights by the water between speakers on land and on boats passing. There’s the Central Park roller disco. Songs whirr by out the window while you lie in bed — Flow 28 or Harryson for me while staying on my sister’s couch. Obviously, I hear music in Texas too, things I’ve never heard before and I’ve learned a lot. But in my new sonic climate, I miss the familiar streaks of sound that marked my day to day life.
Here is where fantasy comes into play, as the alternative is nostalgia, a dead and unrecoverable past made tragic through its alleged glory. Instead of viewing the music I heard around the city while growing up as some immutable oeuvre, it’s something that can animate my taste and sense of history now. And so this year, July Queen was my favorite rapper on the planet, though I never heard her distinctive “HMMM” blaring through car speakers or block party sound systems. But if any song defined the way I felt about New York in 2023, it had to be the Village People’s Y.M.C.A., quite possibly the most legendary entry in the American songbook.
In the same way that disco contains musical horizons for everything that comes after it (house, hip-hop, R&B, contemporary pop music, etc.), in Y.M.C.A., we get a glimpse into our social future: austerity politics and the replacement of public services with faith-based charity organizations. The song demonstrates both material and existential crises associated with living in New York across themes such as housing insecurity and social isolation. A pleading assurance that the Y.M.C.A. offers both stability and community drives the track, hammered in by the defining ecphonetic phrasing.
Of course, through innuendo, we arrive at a gay interpretation, which promises sexual exploration and excitement, and maybe a deepened sense of camaraderie. Y.M.C.A. actually demonstrates the limits of this queer idealization of New York, in how it is wrapped up in the classic American aspirational ethos, where hard work and good company can solve a young man’s problems. Obviously, this idealization won out, drawing in new generations of arrivals to face the same challenges described in the song, arguably at an even greater scale and with fewer options than ever.
I often feel cynical talking about the repressive and individualistic nature of New York, mostly because I understand the allure nonetheless. I always find New York to be inspirational, even if I’m simultaneously shaken by the fundamental violence that the city produces as one of the political, financial, and cultural cores of Western empire. These excesses of love and tragedy all manifest in our day to day lives. Like anything else, New York is defined by its contradictions. I do love the city still, I think. It doesn’t really matter either way, though. Whether or not I want to live there, there’s always someone else who will. And from what I’ve heard, they’ve got to know this one thing…
C+C Music Factory ft. Q-Unique & Deborah Cooper - Keep It Comin’ (Dance Till You Can’t Dance No More) (The Clivillés & Cole House Anthem)
Queen Latifah - Come Into My House (LP Version)
DJ Delish, VJTheDJ - Deep In Vogue (VJTheDJ Remix)
Tomu DJ - Beach House (ft. blessings nore)
Sdot Go, Jay Hound - Lie To Me
Cleo Reed - Slip Away
Chuquimamani-Condori - Until I Find You Again
Tobias - Strange Days
DD Osama - Who I Am