The Best of 2012: Gro

Carrying the “guest torch” even further is former Bizzies contributor Michael Grochowski aka miracleGro, as he steps out of blog retirement to share his perspective on 2012. Unlike Redthreat and Guidry, our previous guests, Mike went for a more verbose approach; diving deeper into the meaning behind his selections.

Michael Grochowski on 2012
For quick context, I want to re-introduce myself. I posted on Bizzies a few years ago as miracleGro, but fell off after joining AmeriCorps (more specifically City Year) and doing some intense tutoring and mentoring work at a public school in Milwaukee. After another year of service with Public Allies working with young refugees and immigrants from Africa, I was hired on to do that work full-time. I mention this, because I’ll mention the young people I work with a few times. I spent a lot of time listening to and/or discussing these albums and tracks with them.

1. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city

I know Kyle and I disagree here, but Kendrick has been my guy all year.

Highlights: 1. Too many album tracks to pick one, but maybe “Backseat Frestyle”. ”Now or Never” with Mary J. Blige gets bonus track cred. 2. His verse on Schoolboy Q’s “Blessed” is my favorite feature all year. 3. “Cartoon & Cereal” and “Westside, Right on Time”.

2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

This might be the standard and safe pick this year, but I played the hell out of this album.

Highlights: 1. “Pyramids” obviously. 2. The Ryan Hemsworth remix of “Thinkin Bout You”. 3. Frank being himself in his subject matter and gender pronouns. I know it’s been discussed a lot, but here’s my quick perspective: I work with young people in Milwaukee, and Frank’s story was a chance to talk about LGBT equality. With any sort of social justice issue, I see exposure and familiarity (usually through friends or family, but here as popular music) as major starting points. I don’t mean to turn him into some sort of spokesperson, especially since I don’t know how he identifies, but he found success while being himself. Regardless of identity, that’s key.

Other Albums
Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Beach House – Bloom
Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions
The Walkmen – Heaven
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

*I probably should’ve done a “Best Tracks” list, because I’m realizing now all my most played stuff was Hip-Hop tracks. If you listen to Hip-Hop you probably know most of them anyway.

1. As I mentioned before, Kendrick Lamar on “Blessed” by Schoolboy Q.

2. Andre 3000 on Rick Ross’s “Sixteen” and T.I.’s “Sorry“. I love hearing lines like: “She yelling that selling’s a sin, well so is telling young men that selling is a sin, if you don’t offer new ways to win” (from “Sixteen”), I work with young people in the city who stay strong in the face of racism and inaccessible opportunity. This line, for me, hit upon the importance of mentorship.

3. Drake on “No Lie“, “Stay Schemin‘” and “Amen“. I had a month where I couldn’t get my iPhone connected to my car and fortunately these were all being played then on our Hip-Hop station.

4. Danny Brown on “Terrorist Threats” by Ab-Soul. Just real talk all over this song.

5. A$AP Rocky on Schoolboy Q’s “Hands on the Wheel“. It’s catchy as hell, but I wish it actually had substance.

The Best Stuff I Was Late To
1. William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops

The release of the boxset was an opportunity to try again what seemed daunting when I first found the album. It clicked after a full listen while reading for grad school, and it became prime homework music. This experience also led me to check out more ambient, electronic, instrumental, whatever albums while I read and wrote.

2. Podcasts

This also became the year I got on board with regularly listening to Podcasts. This may seem to be at odds with the music purpose here, but it became more of an addition to my work day or a substitute for watching any unneeded TV.

Democracy Now!
Independent, non-corporate news that is actually informative

Comedy Bang Bang
Awesome comedy interview/improv show

Lectures on progressive topics

The Majority Report with Sam Seder
Great interviewees

The Bugle
Political comedy with John Oliver from the Daily Show

Among others like Citizen Radio, Economic Update, Sklarbro Country, and WTF with Marc Maron, to name a few. Which I liked isn’t especially important, but it’s notable for me that most of my news intake and a lot of my entertainment came from independent audio sources (free and funded at least partly by listeners). There is hope beyond bullshit corporate media.