Bet You Never Thought of Hip Hop This Way // Praise for Dissect Podcast
TL; DR: If you've ever listened to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly or Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you’ll never hear it the same way again after listening to Dissect, described as “A Serialized Music Podcast: long-form musical analysis broken into short, digestible episodes.” Hip-hop and rap, with the exception of some of the mainstream songs on the radio, tends to be something people either love or hate. Creator and host, Cole Cuchna, eloquently breaks the stigma against the common misconceptions around these genres, striking the perfect balance between informative and entertaining. Few people have his talent of being able to gracefully oscillate between talking about the psychological, political, philosophical and historical implications of each song in ways I guarantee that you’ve never even thought to begin to consider. The end result is a polished repertoire of thoughtful analysis breaking down some of the greatest musical geniuses of our time.
Now here's my take: What many people don’t know about me is that I was classically trained in piano and music theory for 10 years of my life, and saved up in high school by teaching music to kids in my neighborhood. For the longest time, my classically trained ear and I tended to stray away from mainstream music as I felt the bulk of it consisted of the same I-IV-V-I chord progression popped into a computer combined with semi-meaningful lyrics and sub-par counterpoint. There are very few artists, Kanye especially as a producer, who have the ability to convey intricate messages through their music while making it acceptable for mainstream consumption. The way this podcast effortlessly applies aspects of classical theory to modern music was the first thing that caught my attention and hit me like a breath of fresh air.
Growing up, my mom pulled the classic tiger mom move, signing me up for piano lessons against my will, disgused as a present for my fifth birthday. My first teacher was an elderly Russian woman who was the sweetest thing as a person, but held strict traditional teaching values lead me to dread lessons every week and came home crying more often than not. After taking a year break, I decided to find a new teacher whom until this day, I accredit anything cool I’ve ever done to and still considered one of my greatest mentors. Instead of teaching from a textbook, she helped me apply the classical theory we learn to modern music, even getting me to try my hand at my own compositions (here’s one of them, brought to you by a shitty iPad 1 microphone recorded in the living room of my parents’ house).
Right from the first episode, I immediately made the connection between my latter teacher and the creator of this podcast, Cole Cuchna. Both of them have the rare talent of being able to effortlessly convey complex thoughts and concepts into ways that the average person on the street can understand, and that is the reason why I seriously cannot stop talking about this masterfully crafted piece of work Cole has created. My only criticism (if this even counts as one) is that I can’t help but be a tiny bit frustrated that this podcast is able to deliver the utmost value for what I paid thousands of dollars over the years to learn.
As a student who lives (for lack of a better word) a “double life” as a student and photographer, I spend a casual average of 4 hours with headphones on in crowded spaces, commuting from school to gig to work, vice versa. Don’t get me wrong, I love my curated playlists as much as the next person, but there comes a point where you question the productivity of your time. I’ve never been one for audiobooks or podcasts simply because I could never find one that was able to retain my interest for more than 10 minutes at a time. Somehow I found myself finishing part 1 and part 2 of Dissect’s episode on Kanye’s Runaway, totalling well over an hour, with a lingering thirst for more. I mean who knew that Runaway was a freestyle, that Kanye sampled Gustav Mahler’s The Farewell and how the stories of the tragedies of ancient Greece make such a huge presence songs? I can't even count on my fingers how many times I've gotten shivers throughout the episodes because it all JUST. MADE. PERFECT. SENSE.
That being said, I highly (emphasize HIGHLY) recommend anyone, whether hip-hop fans or not, to take a listen. Not only will it blow your mind in terms of the extensive details Cuchna goes into in his research, it will inspire you to look at music as a whole in an entirely different light. As someone with a diverse music taste (honestly tho, I can talk to you about Oasis to Holst to Bon Iver to Jay Z), I appreciate how Cole emphasizes how all music genres somehow draw from each other and references snippets of samples behind each song. Of course, everyone has their right to their own opinions and preferences, but hip-hop and rap is definitely one genre that gets commonly overlooked and judged without understanding the whole picture and I believe for that, there is no higher praise for Dissect. I challenge you to take a listen and not be addicted, I will personally hand you $5 if you're not completely hooked from the first episode (maybe, not really, but still).
Since the first episode, the podcast has been gaining the attention of several major music publications, including Pigeons and Planes, where in an interview, Cuchna explains "I would hope people leave Dissect with a greater appreciation of art. I would hope they come to respect hip-hop as an art form. I would hope they empathized with artists more, see them as real people who give us extraordinary gifts," he adds. "I would hope they’d be inspired to spend more time with the things they truly loved."
As mentioned before, I am completely baffled at how much this podcast delivers for absolutely free. Just from the few Instagram messages I've had the privilege of sharing with Cole, it is evident how genuinely passionate he is about the project. He spends 20+ hours researching, recording and mixing each episode and asks for nothing but donations in return other than donations in order to keep it completely ad-free. I am certainly a Patreon and look forward to the big reveal of who Season 3 will focus on, and you should be too.