Ask 10 different people what they thought to their first year of university you’ll get 10 different answers. It can be the most enjoyable time of one’s life or the worst – for me it was both throughout the year. I study Communication, Society and Global studies at Nottingham Trent University and there was several ups and downs I endured for the whole of first year but I was able to pull through with the help of people around me and of course, music. I went through an eclectic phase of music as I think most people do at uni and branched out into techno, metal and indie-rock again after a couple years of pure hip-hop. I thought I’d do this article after I got my results as I didn’t want to be writing it if I failed, and luckily by the grace of God I passed! So here’s the 10 most important songs from my first year at university.
Bicep – Just
ScHoolboy Q – By Any Means
21 Savage & Metro Boomin – No Heart
Retch – Product of da Block
Lil Herb ft. Earl Sweatshirt – Knucklehead
Lucki ft. Da$H – Jigga 98
Childish Gambino – Redbone
Freddie Gibbs – Alexys
MF DOOM – Deep Fried Frenz
Northaze – Jed Eyes
YG & Nipsey Hussle – Fuck Donald Trump
This track echoed through the walls of my flat on November 9th as Donald Trump was elected as President. Something only nightmares contained before became true, but destruction is a form of creation and one good thing that came out of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was the music. YG and Nipsey Hussle made this track in early 2016 but it’s been a mainstay on my playlists since it dropped, it captures the feelings of a huge majority of people I associate with perfectly and is something I’ll never skip.
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
Arguably the greatest song ever made, Wicked Game holds a special place in my heart just because of how much I love Chris Isaak. But this year at uni saw me go through a break up and I wasn’t even left wondering what song sung by a man so painstakingly heartbroken could help me. Of course it had to be this. Honestly if you haven’t heard it you need to listen to it, I still don’t understand how his voice hits every note so perfect and how his lyrics are so cumbersome yet so endearing at the same time. My flatmates probably got sick of me playing this pretty much every morning and every time I was in the shower, it’s undoubtedly my favourite song and at a time when a break-up was controlling my life in such a bad way, this helped me get over it.
Kodak Black – Tunnel Vision
Probably my favourite song from the last calendar year, Kodak Black made a hit here. The snippet was put on his Instagram back in December and I wasn’t a fan of him at the time, but Metro Boomin’s production and Kodak’s dance in the video made me want the track to drop immediately. Honestly pretty much everyday me and my friend would message each other and scour Twitter to see if it had dropped and when it finally did it became my most played on iTunes within a couple of days. I’ve never changed my opinion so quick on an artist like I did with Kodak after this and I see him as a modern day Lil Wayne now. It dropped officially at a time in my life were everything started to turn for the better and all the negativity was washing away so I’ll never not be able to associate it with that. Catch me playing this song at every future function I’m at.
XXXTentacion – Look At Me
X inexplicably found his way into pretty much every pre-drinks I was at. This song must have come on at least twice a night, it’s the perfect hype track and the mystery surrounding his time in prison made it all the more intriguing. Somebody my age in a different country making music that was out of this world and in prison, I had to find out more about him and it was this song that drew me into him like it did for several others. My best memory of this comes from seeing Rejjie Snow however, as the DJ was playing Drake’s KMT (a rip off of this) me and few people I was with just weren’t feeling it but he mixed it so effortlessly into this and everybody went crazy. This song is ubiquitous with my time at university and it’s one of those I’ll be playing into my old age.
Yung Lean – Miami Ultras
Yung Lean had an incident in Miami that changed his life and he went back to Sweden and kept silent for a few months, nobody heard from him properly and it was a strange time in his career. This song sums up how he was feeling at the time and the only word that can describe how he felt is: depressed, really. It hit me hard realising I resonated with this song so much and would play it over and over. His raw, unbridled, heartbreaking emotion is something that even the least empathetic person can feel for. He definitely lived up to his ‘sad boy’ moniker he built up over the past few years. This song is an emotional rollercoaster for me as it can catch me at my best or my worst, if I could put the whole Warlord album up I would but it’s this that sticks out to me.
Dizzee Rascal – Do It
The final track on Boy in da Corner is one I often overlooked. I would go to the album to hear Stop Dat or I Luv U but it wasn’t until one day I wasn’t feeling too great that came on and sadly some of the lyrics were things I was feeling myself. “Sometimes I wake up wishing I could sleep forever, I spend my whole life tryna’ pull myself together, Tryna’ reassure myself that I ain’t going mad“. I don’t want this to become something where I’m just pouring my heart out but for me to really feel those lyrics it’s something I had to share even if it’s just to show people that, yes university can be so shit and you’re not the only one feeling it. It’s not all it’s hyped up to be but you can persevere and stick through it and come out the other end grinning and realising some of the stuff that concerned you was just a joke.
Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
If Wicked Game isn’t the best song ever made than this one is. Taken straight from the beginning of my favourite movie Donnie Darko, The Killing Moon is 9 minutes of musical perfection. Everything from the lyrics, to the riffs to the echoing vocal style throughout makes this one of the most enjoyable pieces of music ever made. Couple this in with it being played pretty much everyday through my favourite month (October) it helped me get through some pretty shit days and I was able to appreciate it all the more.
GHSTLY XXVII – 3310
One of the things that makes me like this so much is that not many other people have even heard it still. As hipster as that sounds, 3310 is one of my top grime songs of all time and was definitely grime’s best tune from last year. I’d never heard of GHSTLY before this but after hearing it on Radio 1xtra I had to find out more about it and it stuck with me all throughout first year. When I’d come home to Leeds I’d play it for people I knew would like it and it became one of my hidden gems that I was happily surprised by whenever it came on shuffle.
Gorillaz & Popcaan – Saturnz Bars
Gorillaz are the greatest band ever in my opinion and when they announced their return at the start of the year I was overjoyed and felt like a little kid listening to Demon Days all over again. Humanz is still one of my favourite records of the year and this along with She’s My Collar are my standouts from the album. There was just something about hearing this on the radio the first time it was played that took me by surprise and launched me back into Gorillaz fandom with a classic chorus paired with what is still one of my favourite verses of the year from Popcaan. Popcaan’s cockiness and bravado epitomises everything I love about this track as one of the most unlikely duos in a while made one of the best songs I’ve heard in years. I first heard it the night after I finished my longest essay and it was the perfect celebration.
Da$H – Parachute Escape/Counselling
Da$H has been one of my favourite rappers for a long time, he features the most on my top 25 most played on iTunes too. This is the song I think of first when asked about him, brilliantly mixing two tracks into one they blend together so seamlessly, his flow and content is so unique and make him stand out. The drug infused style that was present all throughout his V.I.C.E.S mixtape makes for perfect university listening – not that I was doing drugs but just that everything was happening at such a weird pace, life experiences happened before I could even understand what was happening and I realised it was okay to be out of your depth at university and just in life really. Also the Counselling part of this is just sublime and something you need to hear.
Kanye West ft. Pusha T – Runaway
I HATED Kanye before I started university, but genuinely as I felt so shit from the offset I felt I needed to change my life somehow and I started listening to Kanye. It was this track that converted me to be a fan of his. He was rapping/singing about stuff I’d be thinking and wanting to say for so long, and it was also quite scary that some of the lyrics were things that had happened in my life so I couldn’t help but feel a connection to the track. Kanye in this was the soppy side of me that couldn’t push past all the negativity and Pusha was the side of me that was feeling himself too much to even care about negativity. There’s songs I feel you have to go through certain things in life to understand/respect and this is definitely one of them.
These are my 11 most important tracks from first year at uni, be sure to keep an eye out for a podcast including these and whole bunch of other tracks titled “Soundtrack to my First Uni Year.”
words by Rohan Parmar.