DiscoverSwitched on PopBegging songs and basketball's musicality (with Hanif Abdurraqib)
Begging songs and basketball's musicality (with Hanif Abdurraqib)

Begging songs and basketball's musicality (with Hanif Abdurraqib)

Update: 2024-06-04
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Haneef Abdul-Raheem, a renowned music writer, joins Switched On Pop to discuss his new book, "There's Always This Year." The book, ostensibly about basketball, delves into themes of time, mortality, and longing, using the sport as a lens to explore these broader concepts. Abdul-Raheem highlights the musicality of basketball, comparing it to jazz and hip-hop due to its improvisational nature and rhythmic flow. He also examines the role of music in his writing process, particularly the "leaving song" and "begging song" categories, using Otis Redding's cover of "My Girl" as an example. The conversation explores the influence of Motown's sonic blueprint on popular music and how artists like Otis Redding reinterpret classic songs, adding their own emotional depth. Abdul-Raheem emphasizes the importance of open-mindedness and curiosity in engaging with different genres of music and art, encouraging listeners to embrace a similar expansiveness in their own lives.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces Haneef Abdul-Raheem, a music writer known for his insightful essays and podcasts. He is invited to discuss his new book, "There's Always This Year," which explores basketball, childhood, race, and music.

00:19:15
The Sounds of Basketball

This Chapter delves into the musicality of basketball, exploring how the sport's rhythms, improvisations, and fan culture connect to music. Abdul-Raheem compares basketball to jazz and hip-hop, highlighting the improvisational nature of the game and the rhythmic flow of players' movements.

00:24:33
The Musicality of Fandom

This Chapter explores the musicality of basketball fandom, focusing on the chants and calls that fans use to express their support and excitement. Abdul-Raheem discusses the phrase "Ball don't lie" and its connection to the idea of accountability and the inherent truthfulness of the game.

00:27:18
The Importance of Open-Mindedness

This Chapter reflects on the importance of open-mindedness and curiosity in engaging with different genres of music and art. Abdul-Raheem encourages listeners to embrace a similar expansiveness in their own lives, allowing them to appreciate the nuances and beauty of diverse artistic expressions.

Keywords

Haneef Abdul-Raheem
Haneef Abdul-Raheem is a renowned music writer, essayist, and podcaster known for his insightful and thought-provoking work. He is the author of the book "There's Always This Year," which explores basketball, childhood, race, and music. His writing often delves into the intersection of music, culture, and personal experiences, offering unique perspectives on popular music and its impact on society.

There's Always This Year
"There's Always This Year" is a book by Haneef Abdul-Raheem that uses basketball as a starting point to explore themes of time, mortality, longing, and the intersection of music and personal experiences. The book weaves together narratives about basketball, childhood, race, and music, creating a rich tapestry of reflections on life, memory, and the power of art.

Basketball
Basketball is a team sport played with a ball on a rectangular court. The objective is to score points by throwing the ball through a hoop. Basketball is known for its fast-paced action, strategic play, and improvisational nature. It is a popular sport worldwide, with a strong fan base and a rich cultural history.

Music
Music is an art form that involves the organization of sounds and silences in time. It can be created using a variety of instruments, voices, and electronic devices. Music plays a significant role in human culture, serving as a form of entertainment, expression, and communication. It can evoke emotions, tell stories, and create a sense of community.

Motown
Motown is a record label and production company that was founded in Detroit, Michigan, in 1959. It is known for its distinctive sound, which blended elements of soul, pop, and R&B. Motown produced some of the most iconic artists of the 1960s and 1970s, including The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. The label's influence on popular music is undeniable, and its legacy continues to inspire musicians today.

Otis Redding
Otis Redding was an American soul singer and songwriter known for his powerful vocals and soulful performances. He is considered one of the most influential figures in soul music, and his songs continue to be covered and celebrated by artists today. Some of his most famous songs include "Respect," "Try a Little Tenderness," and "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay."

My Girl
"My Girl" is a song written by Smokey Robinson and originally recorded by The Temptations in 1964. It is a classic soul ballad that has been covered by numerous artists, including Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, and The Four Tops. The song's simple yet powerful lyrics and catchy melody have made it a timeless favorite.

Leaving Song
A "leaving song" is a musical genre that expresses the pain and longing associated with someone leaving. These songs often feature themes of heartbreak, separation, and the desire to hold onto a lost love. Examples of leaving songs include "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by John Denver and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John.

Begging Song
A "begging song" is a musical genre that expresses a desperate plea for someone to stay or return. These songs often feature themes of pleading, begging, and the willingness to do anything to win back a lost love. Examples of begging songs include "Please Don't Go" by KC and the Sunshine Band and "I'll Be There" by The Jackson 5.

Q&A

  • How does Haneef Abdul-Raheem use basketball as a lens to explore broader themes in his book "There's Always This Year"?

    Abdul-Raheem uses the sport's inherent rhythms, improvisations, and time constraints to reflect on themes of time, mortality, and longing. He sees basketball as a microcosm of life, with its small blocks of time feeding into a larger narrative.

  • What are the "leaving song" and "begging song" categories, and how do they relate to the book's themes?

    These categories represent different emotional states related to loss and longing. The "leaving song" captures the bittersweet pain of someone departing, while the "begging song" expresses a desperate plea for them to stay or return. These categories reflect the book's exploration of the complexities of human relationships and the emotional impact of loss.

  • Why does Abdul-Raheem believe basketball has a musicality that connects to genres like jazz and hip-hop?

    He points to the sport's improvisational nature, particularly in one-on-one play, where players must adapt to changing situations and make quick decisions. The rhythmic flow of players' movements, the interplay between teammates, and the constant need to adjust to the game's tempo create a musicality that resonates with these genres.

  • How does Otis Redding's cover of "My Girl" illustrate the concept of the "begging song"?

    Redding's version of the song, with its tentative phrasing and slightly behind-the-beat vocals, conveys a sense of uncertainty and longing that goes beyond the original's straightforward declaration of love. It suggests a deeper emotional complexity, hinting at a preemptive ache or anxiety about the relationship's future.

  • What is the significance of the phrase "Ball don't lie" in the context of basketball and Abdul-Raheem's writing?

    The phrase embodies the idea of accountability and the inherent truthfulness of the game. It suggests that actions have consequences, and the ball will always reveal the truth, whether it's a missed shot or a foul that wasn't called. This concept extends to Abdul-Raheem's writing, where he approaches his subjects with a genuine curiosity and a willingness to explore the truth, regardless of its complexity.

  • How does Abdul-Raheem's approach to music and art encourage listeners to be more open-minded?

    He demonstrates a deep appreciation for diverse genres and artists, highlighting the beauty and significance of even seemingly obscure or unconventional musical styles. His willingness to engage with different forms of art encourages listeners to expand their own musical horizons and embrace a more inclusive and curious approach to artistic expression.

Show Notes

There's no music writer like the essayist and poet Hanif Abdurraqib: whether he's narrating the beautiful awkwardness of a Carly Rae Jepsen concert or talking jazz and eastern spirituality with Andre 3000, he manages to coax stories and insights out of songs in a way that never fails to surprise. His latest book, There's Always This Year, is a free flowing meditation on basketball, childhood, his home state of Ohio, and of course, music – so on the precipice of the NBA finals, Hanif returns to Switched On Pop to discuss classic soul, sports, and sound with musicologist Nate Sloan.

You can buy Hanif's work through his website here.


Songs discussed:


  • Boyz II Men, "On Bended Knee"

  • Otis Redding, "My Girl"

  • The Temptations, "My Girl"

  • Joy Oladokun, "My Girl"

  • Stevie Wonder, "My Girl"

  • Stevie Wonder, "Knocks Me Off My Feet"

  • Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, "Challengers: Match Point"

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Begging songs and basketball's musicality (with Hanif Abdurraqib)

Begging songs and basketball's musicality (with Hanif Abdurraqib)

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