(Editor’s Note: I met Morgan Rhodes when we both came in to record a Tuesday music segment for KPCC’s Take Two.1 Among other things, Morgan has been the music supervisor for Ava Duvernay‘s Middle of Nowhere and The Door. She also hosts both The Listening Station on KPFK and Wonderground on WURD (Philly, holler!). –O.W.)
Just like I had been in the three summers before and the eight summers after, I was in love that summer, the summer of 1995. I was giddy, devoted and spellbound. And as was my steez, I was heavily invested in music supervising the experience – a song for the chase, and the catch and the fall.
On one of the hottest days that summer, my brother and I made plans to hang out. We always hung out. We always hung out because he was cool. After picking up a friend, we were headed to Melrose to shop and people watch because in those days nothing was better than Melrose on an L.A. Sunday. My brother was pushing a tricked out Volkswagen GTI, black on black with a slight smoke tint, sitting on pristine Fittipaldis, with the requisite west coast accessories (Stussy and Local Motion stickers on the back window)
The journey from his friends’ house to our destination saw us making a left – Crenshaw onto Wilshire then after a short while, a right – Wilshire onto LaBrea. At some point my brother’s friend pulled a CD out of his bag – D’Angelo “Brown Sugar”. He had a favorite song so he skipped to it first. This was all I heard before I dissolved into a D’Angelo coma: (courtesy of the Alpine speakers embedded into the panels on either side of me)
said i got a Jonz in my Bonz
said this feeling that I got won’t leave me ‘lone
I said I got a Jonz in my Bonz
I said this feeling that I got, goes on and on
He moaned between verses; it was sensual and engaging but unfamiliar to me presented that way: falsetto sexiness layered over what sounded like church organ playing. Wait was that a Hammond B3? Enjoying it was carnal maybe, and I felt a bit guilty for enjoying it, like the time our youth musician snuck “gin and juice” into his worship medley. In 1995 liner notes were a manifesto. A place for lyrics and shoutouts, the place where i found out that Angie Stone (credited as Angela Stone) had co-written this track and Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Raphael Saadiq had run the point on the album alongside Kedar Massenburg who would, a few years later, introduce the world to Erykah Badu.
all my natural life I’ve been waiting
I’ve been holding on to everything that belongs to me
fooled misled by every possibility
what I wouldn’t do to get next to the things that are meant for me
Five minutes and fifty six seconds seemed like it went on for forever but forever wasn’t long enough. Heretefore my brother and I had had an unspoken music rule for our excursions: compelling songs could be repeated. Repeatedly. We played the song again. And again.
on and on, on and on, on and on and on
I head nodded past LaBrea and 3rd, beyond LaBrea and Beverly, and through the tears that fell unexpectedly all the way to Melrose Avenue.
I didn’t know then what ne0-soul was and that D’Angelo and this album would be credited as one of the architects of this brand new genre. I didn’t know that it would be five more years until this voice would sing on another studio album. I didn’t know that the wait after that album would be endless, and excruciating.
Just like I had been in the three summers before and the eight summers after, I was in love that summer, the summer of 1995. I was giddy, devoted and spellbound. A trip down LaBrea to Melrose with my brother and his friend gave me a soundtrack for my infatuation, a new musical hero and figuratively speaking, a jonz in my bonz.
–by Morgan Rhodes
- Morgan is the one who introduced me to Laura Mvula so I knew, right away, she had exquisitely good taste. ↩