“Yeeeeeah, it's Gucci!/What's up baby?/Yellow err'thing this time, you know what I'm talkin' bout?/Yellow rims, yellow big booty, yellow bones/Yellow lambs, yellow M-P's/Yellow watch, yellow charm ring, chain/Yellow livin' room set/Lemonade Gucci shoes for my girl/Gucci!”
These words constitute the intro to Gucci Mane's 2009 single "Lemonade." In 2015, I practiced reciting these words religiously in the weeks leading up to my wedding.
I practiced other things, too — the two-step for our first dance, set to Tegan and Sara's "Love They Say"; the cheeky choreography to the mother-son dance for Pharrell's "Happy"; the tonal shifts in my wedding vows; the Beyoncé parts of "Crazy In Love," for our karaoke after-party; not crying while watching my wife walk down the aisle. But on my laundry list of pre-wedding tasks to do accomplish (which I kept in my iPhone notes) was “memorize the intro to Gucci Mane’s ‘Lemonade.’” I wanted to get every turn-of-phrase correct for the big moment.
That maybe makes me insane. That probably makes me lame. I don’t care. It filled my heart with joy, just like everything did that day. It’s my musical memory of the year.
When my wife and I started cobbling together our wedding reception playlist, we agreed on the selections for the most part — “We Found Love,” “Pony,” “Boyfriend” and “Sussudio” were musts; “Bo$$,” “Calabria” and “What I Like About You,” if there was time; slow songs were a no-go. We got into an argument about including the Game’s “Hate It or Love it,” but it didn’t get too heated. Mostly, we were on the same page. Then came “Lemonade.”
My wife knew how much it meant for me to hear “Lemonade,” one of my favorite songs ever, at our wedding; it was a non-negotiable. About a month before the big day, however, she tried to get it relegated to the dinner section of the evening — when no one was really paying attention to the music being played. She thought that, if it was played during the main reception, it would be a mood-killer.
“No one’s going to be dancing to ‘Lemonade,’” she protested. “It’s just going to be you and your friends who love hardcore rap.” She listed about six or seven names from the guest list—the collection of rap-writer attendees, mostly—then let out a long sigh.
To be fair, she was right. “Lemonade” is a weird song. Its beat is composed of a slow-roll Flo & Eddie piano sample and groaning bass riffs; its chorus is sung by a children's choir, but it doesn't contain any immediately catchy phrases like Jay Z's "Hard Knock Life." It's got Gucci rapping about things that are yellow (jewelry, cars) and things that should be yellow (weed, mostly). It was a hit on rap radio, but never crossed over to pop. It's one of Gucci's more well-known songs, but far from a signature single, like "Wasted"; even his unmemorable Usher collaboration "Spotlight" charted higher.
But I love “Lemonade” with my whole heart, with a fierceness and joy I cannot explain. When I listen to it while walking around the city, I can’t not rap along. When I listen to it in the car, I have to perform ridiculous hand-dances. I love Gucci’s viscous flow, the exuberance he imbues in every line, the playfulness of Bangladesh’s production, the “BRR, BRR” ad-libs. I love when the beat drops out right before the third verse; I love “Woke up in the morning, fuck it, bought a yellow Aston Martin.” I never get sick of “Lemonade.” It’s a love song to a lifestyle, and it makes me feel invincible, like a skyscraper come to life and moving in slow-motion across a crowded city.
So, no. I couldn’t quarantine “Lemonade” to the dinner music. I needed to be on a dance floor when it dropped. I needed to lose my shit to “Lemonade” on our wedding day.
The No. 1 thing I love about music is losing my shit to it—that is, becoming completely uninhibited in its presence and getting swept up in a song, or album, or verse, or moment. No matter how old we are, no matter how hard we try to be cool, part of us still exists to get overwhelmed by music and lose our self-consciousness around it. It’s a very humanizing experience, to sacrifice control of our stone-faces and become euphoric, or devastated, or furious, or tearful because of music.
I’m blessed to work in an industry where I get a lot of opportunities to lose my shit to music, at concerts and festivals, in listening sessions and through private song streams. I’m also greedy with my shit-losing experiences; that is, I always want more. Would our wedding day have been immaculate without “Lemonade” being played? Of course. Did I still desperately want to hear it that day, surrounded by my loved ones and whomever was brave enough to dance alongside me? Of course.
As my personal music tastes have evolved over time, so have my methods of discovering, listening to and losing my shit to music. I spent much of college holed up in my room late at night, binging on Björk's back catalog and writing terrible Wordpress blogs about the band Architecture in Helsinki. I gorged on music night after night, diversifying my torrents, perusing as many best-of lists as possible to become a well-rounded listener; I was a junkie, scrounging for the next high. Wait, Pitchfork gave a Best New Music to an MF Doom project? I had to check it out. Hold up, Robyn dropped a new single? Inject it into my bloodstream, please. I was single and staying up until sunrise; I also had a new laptop and the history of popular music at my fingertips. I'd often lose my shit by myself, in the dark, at 4:18 AM, and as a gawky 19-year-old, that's how I preferred it.
Now I'm a married 28-year-old with a desk job, and I watch Netflix with my wife before I fall asleep instead of downloading remixes on obscure blogs. Dear 4:18 AM: I miss you, but not as much as I thought I would.
I still listen to way more music than most ordinary adults because of my job, but like most ordinary adults, I now try to squeeze music discovery into the free cracks of everyday life. I try to make peace with the fact that there are a lot of "critically acclaimed" albums released this year that I haven't heard, and some albums that I've never even heard of. I have less free time in my life now than I had five years ago, because I've replaced music as my best friend with a real-life person. I don't mind this.
And, yeah, I lose my shit differently to music now, because it mostly happens when my wife is next to me. I still have the songs and albums that I cherish by myself—shout-out to Rae Sremmurd’s “Unlock The Swag” this year—but more and more, my most exuberant music-listening experiences are shared, from screaming along to Paul McCartney's epic Firefly Fest set to gyrating to "Sledgehammer" together at a Fifth Harmony show, from hearing Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean?" eight thousand times in Paris on our honeymoon to learning all the words to Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell album in car rides over the summer. One of the beautiful things about marriage is finding someone with whom you can lose your shit and feel completely at home—so much so that when you lose your shit without them, it feels great, but not completely perfect.
Near the end of our wedding reception, after the majority of the crowd-pleasers had been played, our DJ started a block of rap music: Ja Rule’s “Always on Time,” Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” and “Lemonade.” I barely remember the details of “Lemonade” being played, because when the beat dropped, I basically blacked out from excitement.
Here are the details I do remember: the dance floor mostly cleared out except for me and about a dozen amazing people (a few more than my wife had banked on dancing to “Lemonade,” I proudly pointed out to her the following day). Our DJ played two whole verses and choruses, which was acceptable, if a little disappointing (the third verse is the best). He at least let the intro play in its entirety, and I shouted along with it at the top of my lungs. I flapped my arms a lot, I think, and bounced my shoulders uncontrollably.
And I sang the hook in my wife’s face.
In the middle of all of the rap weirdos and "Free Guwop!" cries was my wife, dancing with abandon in a wedding dress, to a song that she had grown to love (or, at least, appreciate) over the many months I had tried to convince her it was mind-blowing. She had her mean-mug on; she was bumping her elbows and criss-crossing her wrists. She was bringing the "Lemonade" Experience from a 10 out of 10 to a 15 out of 10. As much as I had planned my unhinged reaction to the moment "Lemonade" dropped at our wedding, I hadn't foreseen my favorite part of the experience: watching my wife dance as hard as I was dancing, if not harder.
That's how it's going to be for me as a music listener from now on, I think: I'll have my personal favorites, but my most enshrined memories will be with someone else. And why wouldn't that be the case? So much of my life has dramatically changed since I met my wife, and music is a huge part of that life. Sometimes the lose-my-shit moments will be highly choreographed spectacles; other times, they'll be unexpected moments in the hidden corners of our daily life together. How many more will happen with "Lemonade" as the soundtrack? I'm not sure. But I'm cautiously optimistic.