Capturing the rite of passage with zany storytelling, the compressed lyrics of "Now I'm Older" showcase the succinct wordplay and cinematic quality that years later made the Berkeley-born musical impresario DJ Dave's video/songs "Whole Foods Parking Lot" and "Yoga Girl" million-viewed viral sensations. Though he was initially known at UCLA for his drumming, DJing and skilled musical composition, he can rhyme with immaculate phrasing when called upon. His lyrical register employs economy of word and punchy couplets while making the personal universal.
Originally appearing on my "I Am Alive in Los Angeles!" album that he produced in 2004, "Now I'm Older" describes the history of Dave, poet-painter Phillip Martin and me, and how we all connected at UCLA two decades ago. The three of us cut our teeth together in the infancy of our respective crafts, logging hundreds of hours in the lab together. The track begins with a sample of Phil exclaiming: "I'm feeling sensations along the spine/It's time to hear DJ Dave rhyme."
Dave's verse starts by describing a memorable incident that led to us becoming roommates. We were recording a late night freestyle session when a disgruntled neighbor cut the lights and power in Dave's apartment. His verse begins: "Westwood 1995, me & Mike were getting live/Over & track & then everything went black." This incident with his neighbor made him want to move. Turned out at the time, I needed a new apartment also, so it all came together. The place we got became an incubator for a lot of creativity. Phil gathered with me while Dave mixed records, we wrote lots of poems and carried on long freestyle sessions. Dave explains,
Made plans there, we enjoyed the waning college fanfare
Some nights we listened to Rae Kwon to the way dawn.
The following year Dave graduated and Phil lived with him. I was finishing up and I lived up the street from them in West L.A. We gathered near Sawtelle and Santa Monica Boulevard. "Seed planting for a new era of art and expansion." The second half explains:
Finished school, wasn't quite sure what to do
Phil Martin rolled through & stayed for about 6 months
Seed planting for a new era of art & expansion
The same 2 cats I lived with back then
Are still friends, trying to get ends
And trying to makes sense of life in the city
Sometimes it's tricky, sometimes it's cool
But I remember back when we was in school.
The style's more refined now
But it's funny when you rewind how
You see that early energy had a birthplace
The first place may never be found
But I remember how we used to put it down!
Coupling wisdom and nostalgia, "Now I'm Older" is a universal piece because it captures the growth process while still keeping the core spirit. "The early energy had a birthplace, the first place may never be found, but I remember how we used to put it down!" The sample of Guru at the end affirms the point: "Time to give props kid 'cuz now I'm older."
Congratulations to Dave and his wife Rebecca, their daughter was born earlier this month. Needless to say, "Now I'm Older," means even more now than ever.
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Top: Wet Night in Westwood by Rich_Lem used under a Creative Commons license.