727: Ode to the Crossfader

727: Ode to the Crossfader

727: Ode to the Crossfader


I’m Nate Marshall and this is The Slowdown.

I love music. From a young age I’ve always loved music. First, it was the classic Motown of my grandparent’s youth and then later came the scions of early 90s R&B that my oldest sister loved, like Mary J. Blige and Boyz II Men. Eventually though, as I came into my own as a listener I fell in love with hip-hop.

Hip-Hop as a musical form has long been a site of controversy and creativity. Even today, while some of the biggest stars in all of media come out of the genre, it can still be used as a dog whistle to signal some latent gangsterism or shadiness in a performer’s personal life. What these criticisms of the genre so often tend to miss is the way hip-hop is a connecting and storytelling force at every level of composition.

When I first came to love hip-hop it was still in the moment when you bought CDs or cassettes as physical things. One of the joys of the physical hip-hop album was the ability to look and see all the credits and component parts out of which a song was made. From those lists of cleared samples, you could begin to build a wider constellation of musical lineage. You could begin to see the historically-minded and future-facing impulses of the greatest creators. If you listened close enough, you could hear the conversations between the music of your generation with your parents and grandparents and beyond.

Today’s poem offers a celebration of that revered process of crate digging that a DJ or producer, or even just an observant listener might do.

Ode to the Crossfader
by John Murillo

Got this mixboard itch
           This bassline lifted
from my father’s dusty
           wax     Forty crates stacked
in the back of the attic
           This static in the head-
phones      Hum in the blood
           This deep-bass buckshot
thump in the chest       Got
           reasons and seasons
pressed to both palms
           Two coins from each
realm     This memory
           Memory crossfaded and
cued    These knuckles’
           nicks and nightsweat
rites     This frantic
           abacus of scratch     Got
blood in the crates
           in the chest    in the dust
Field hollers to break-
           beats     My father’s dusty
wax    My father’s dust
           got reasons    Got night-
sweats and hollers
           pressed to both palms
breakbeats and hollers
           pressed to both palms
Static in the attic      Stacked
           crates of memory      Dust
blood and memory      Cross-
           faded and     Bass Cross-
faded and cued      Crossfaded
           and    Static      Stacked hollers
Got reasons in the dust
           in the chest    Got seasons
in the blood      In the head-
           phones’ hum     This deep-
bass    buckshot    blood
           pressed     to both palms
My father’s dust      pressed
           to both palms      Got
reasons and reasons
           and reasons

John Murillo, “Ode to the Crossfader” from UP JUMP THE BOOGIE. Copyright © 2020 by John Murillo. Used by permission of Four Way Books.