I was shaken out of my musical apathy by the rapper, whose video channel shows him listening to others’ tracks for the first time
Throughout the pandemic, I, like many others, found myself turning to familiar music I listened to as a teenager, seeking comfort in 2000s nostalgia playlists and the hollow, monotonous “landfill indie” of the 2010s. It wasn’t that I especially enjoyed listening to music that I’d last heard on student nights at bad nightclubs in York, or that they marked a particularly happy period of my life. Instead, I returned to these playlists because I found myself unable to listen to new music.
Initially, I blamed this on Spotify. It’s well documented that the platform’s recommendation algorithms are less likely to introduce you to new, interesting genres of music than to recommend songs that sound similar to your favourites – producing an endless feedback loop, where music is not something to be enjoyed and shared, but rather a way to fill silences with constant background noise. I was listening to more music than ever, but appreciating barely any of it.
In early 2021, YouTube recommended I watch a video called First reaction to “Rock Music” Linkin Park. I immediately clicked on it – the song in the video, Faint, remains my favourite Linkin Park track, and one that has been a constant on my Spotify playlists. The reaction video was made by Desean Hunton, an American rapper, music producer and YouTuber, whose channel, LaydbakDFR, became hugely popular on the platform for its music “reaction” videos, especially those where hip-hop fans listen to rock music and vice versa. Hunton’s video series, Trash or Pass!, shows him discovering songs and genres for the first time, filming live reactions as he listens. In each video, ranging from reviews of the Beastie Boys and Disturbed to UK acts like Dave, we see Hunton dancing, head-slamming, at times even pausing and rewinding the track, to parts that he’s awed by. While there are thousands of music review channels on YouTube, Hunton’s strips the format back to its basics. Absent of overanalysis of lyrics, deep dives into production credits or engaging in the lore of fandoms, Hunton’s metrics are simple: is this a bop?