Every now and then, it pays to peer into the nearest mirror. Practice a bit of the old self-evaluation. You know, size yourself up from time to time. The most effective way to better one’s self is to chin-check one’s self, I think, and this applies just as much to a person’s fandom as it does his or her career, or relationships.

I do so quite often on all fronts of my life, and this week I’ve been experiencing a real stop-and-think stretch, rooted in the blog I wrote here two days back. The topic was my favorite soundtrack cuts, and, looking back on the randomly selected list, the post was another sad example of my unconscious East Coast bias. The impulses were there to include The Dove Shack’s “Summertime in the LBC” (The Show) and MC Eiht’s “Straight Up Menace” (Menace II Society), but, instead, I opted for the NY-heavy posse joint “Uni-4-Orm.”

Complacent is as complacent does.

Don’t act like coastal bias is an urban legend—it’s as real as taxes and aliens (they do exist, I tell you!). I know because I’ve come to grips with my own fit of the disease, and I’ve been on a one-guy crusade to rectify the dilemma as soon and as painlessly as possible.

Rather than simply post a hodgepodge of nostalgic jams for the sheer audible pleasure of it, I’m taking a trip down memory lane today, my laptop acting as the steering wheel. So much for “business never personal;” sorry Erick and Parrish. This is an I-am-Sigmund-Freud-for-the-time-being exercise. Better yet, it’s an effort to prove to myself and the comments board regulars, who are quick to crucify any and all biased bloggers that, I’m deeper than Big Apple rap.

That’s right, always entertaining peanut gallery—don’t think I forgot about the minor firestorm that blazed after I assembled a “horror movie theme samples” rundown and overlooked a bulk of Three 6 Mafia beats. I’m still indebted to you all for that one.

The interesting thing, to me, about my unwavering slant toward all things Wu-Tang, DJ Premier, Boot Camp Clik and the such is that the first hip-hop music I was exposed to was gully-to-the-core West Coast gangsta rap. Back when your New Jersey-born narrator was no more than nine years old, my older brother—who’s six calendars my senior—and our cousin (same age as my elder sibling) were diehard N.W.A. fan; yes, they were the suburban teens wearing Raiders coats made by Starter and lip-synching MC Ren lyrics into their bedroom mirrors. We’ve all had our shamelessly-out-of-our-element moments, so don’t judge them.

If you think two 15-year-old White kids locked in a room bumping Straight Outta Compton is a trip, just imagine my single-digit-aged ass sitting right there with them. I was the wide-eyed rugrat, mesmerized by everything my older bro did, so of course I followed he and our cousin into the latter’s private den; the guy owned over 50 rap CDs, a tower of foreign sounds that both excited and intimidated me. Perhaps that’s why I was so quick to love hip-hop—opposites attract, after all.

We visited my aunt and uncle every Sunday for dinner, so I was guaranteed at least one uncensored exposure to hardcore rap a week. The menu opened up beyond Eazy-E’s crew, though; King-Tee, DJ Quik, The D.O.C. and Boo Ya Tribe all gradually seeped through the speakers. In hindsight, I can say in confidence that those pseudo listening sessions in my cousin’s bedroom are what turned me into a hip-hop junkie, and, in turn, a member of the XXL staff. Which is why I find my preferential treatment of New York tunes so odd; my affinity for this culture certainly didn’t start in the sleepless city.

In fact, the first rap song to earn the distinguished keep-on-repeat handling in my world was Above the Law’s devastating “Murder Rap,” off the Pomona, California group’s 1990 opus Livin’ Like Hustlers. It’s got to be the piercing sirens. Ominous and nihilistic, “Murder Rap” makes perfect sense as one of my all-time cherished records; I’m the same guy who saw Grindhouse four times in theaters just so I could repeatedly watch the four-point-of-view car crash sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s half, Death Proof. Darkness reigning supreme within a piece of art is my Hefty bag, always has been, will be until my inner clock stops.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with that Above the Law masterwork. Think of it every time you see my byline attached to a somewhat-NY-centric blog post here on XXLmag.com, and try not to condemn. I’m a work in progress. —Matt Barone

Above the Law “Murder Rap”