I can hardly believe it has been ten years since I graduated from Modesto Junior College. It’s definitely not Harvard, it’s not even Stanislaus State. But, I’m a proud alumni, like George Lucas and Jeremy Renner before me.
The school gave me direction. The two years I spent at MJC forced me to take responsibility for my future without throwing me into into the lion’s den that would have been a four year institution. The extra time I spent in Modesto allowed me to get closer to my family and childhood friends (Bridgewood, whatup). And of course, I saved a lot of coin by going to a community college for my general education requirements.
Driving back and forth from both MJC campuses (campii?) meant I spent a lot of time listening to music. Hip Hop is my time capsule. It evokes very specific memories from years gone by. The genre has been the soundtrack to my life. It’s why I can still remember ditching my history class one Tuesday morning in September 2006 to go pick up Lupe Fiasco’s debut album. Or how Teevan and I spent one rainy, two hour break in my dad’s GMC Envoy, listening to a leaked version of Jay Z’s “Kingdom Come.”
I’ve shared my playlists before and many of them cover the two years between Fred C. Beyer High School and San Diego State University. But there is one song that stands above the rest. There is one song that came a little over ten years ago that serves as the perfect capstone to my time in Modesto. The artists on the track where legendary, the song release was limited and the timing could not have been better for the 19 year old me.
The song is “Classic” by Kanye West, Rakim, KRS One, Nas and DJ Premier. The track didn’t appear on any albums and it still missing from most streaming services. If you want to add the song to your library, your best bet is to hop around the depths of internet rap forums to find an mp3 file.
It was released in February 2007 by Nike Records and performed on MTV2 for the 25th Anniversary of the Nike Air Force One release. It’s interesting to look back at the artists on the track and look at where they were at then versus now.
While I was weeks away from receiving my AA, Kanye was months away from Graduation, the album which firmly entrenched him in the annals of pop culture. But at the time, he was probably the fourth best rapper on the track. Rakim was prepping his comeback album, The Seventh Seal, Nas had just made peace with Jay Z and yelled Hip-Hop is Dead, and KRS One, while decades removed from his prime was still a relevant name in the industry.
For the remainder of the term and the subsequent summer, this track was on every mixtape I made. The song was like my Lionel Messi, and I built a team of tracks around this masterpiece. It was such an idyllic time. I didn’t have a care in the world. I was too naive to worry about the next steps in my collegiate career but old enough to enjoy the fruits of my hard work. The rest of that spring was just me bouncing around Modesto with decent pocket change, hanging with my friends. It was at the perfect stage of accomplishment and no impending responsibilities.
I’ve been very lucky to travel the world. But I’m still Modesto’s own. My values, work ethic and temperament, in short all the qualities I admire most about myself, I learned at home. I might not be “Classic” yet, but “I’m better than I’ve ever been.” And MJC played a big role in that.