You can learn a lot about a person by looking at their playlist.

I recently did a lesson with my older ESL students in which they created playlist profiles. They chose songs that they feel accurately represent them in various situations. The kids loved it, and it was a huge success. The lesson went so well that I decided to take it one step further and create a profile for myself using a slightly more complex set of emotions and circumstances than I used in class.

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My Everyday Mood

Electric Relaxation – A Tribe Called Quest

I strive to stay calm and keep my head on straight at all times. This classic Tribe record is the perfect representation of my overall personality, mood, and style. From the hypnotic beat to the smooth lyrics, I feel like this could be my theme music as I’m going about my daily life. Anyone who gets to know me and subsequently hears this track tells me that it sounds like my style.

When I’m Done with People for the Day

Get Back – Ludacris

One of the downsides of my personality is that my social battery drains quickly, so I readily admit that I can be a bit on the moody side. I love being around people, but once that battery nears zero, I need to get away for some alone time. It comes on without warning, so people who don’t know me tend to get caught off-guard. That’s why this is my introvert anthem.

When I’m Thinking About the Past

T.R.O.Y. – CL Smooth & Pete Rock

In my humble opinion, this song has one of the best-applied samples ever. The horns are from “Today” by Tom Scott and the California Dreamers. For starters, I love jazzy beats and music that pays homage to the greats that preceded us. T.R.O.Y. always makes me think about people I used to know and various crazy experiences from my childhood. Every time I hear this song, it’s like stepping into my own personal time machine.

When I’m Ready to Party

Bottle of Rum – Machel Montano

If you hear this song and don’t start tapping something, you are dead inside. It doesn’t matter which musical genre is your favorite. Soca is the epitome of party music, and I’ve yet to meet the soulless individual who can withstand the vibes of this banger from Mr. Fete himself, Machel Montano. Without fail, if I’m running low on energy at any time, this is my go-to song.

When I’m Feeling Ambitious

Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

It may seem out of place based on the other songs that I’ve chosen and my obvious adoration of all things hip-hop, but this song has a great story and message. It’s old, but I heard it for the first time in 2019 and got hooked. It stands out in my mind because I associate it with Rock of Ages, so it always reminds me of the movie’s plot. If you watch it, you’ll see what I mean. It’s not a cinematic masterpiece by any means, but who doesn’t love a good story about people chasing their dreams?

When It’s Time to Get Crazy

Survival of the Fittest – Mobb Deep

Mobb Deep used to pump me up before every football game and wrestling match in high school. It oozes that raw, gritty style that ruled east coast rap in the ‘90s. If there was ever a song that could fill me with bad intentions, this and/or “Shook Ones” is it. Sometimes a little darkness is just what the doctor ordered.

When I’m Feeling an Inexplicable Sense of Neighborhood Pride

Lex, Coups, Bimaz, & Benz – Lost Boyz

If you were coming of age in South Jamaica Queens circa 1996, there’s no way you don’t know this song. Around that time, the Lost Boyz were local celebs who were bubbling up to star-status. They hung out and shot videos in the neighborhood.

It wasn’t uncommon to see Mr. Cheeks and/or Freaky Tah walking around Jamaica Avenue on a weekday afternoon. I still remember the excitement that I felt the first time I saw this video. The location wasn’t even 10 minutes from my house, and that made it feel more real for me.

When I’m Thinking About My College Days

Bia Bia – Lil’ Jon & The Eastside Boyz

Back during my days at Hampton University – aka “The Real HU” – the south was in the midst of a hip-hop takeover, and folks were A-Town stompin’ all over campus. Crunk music was alive and well, and you couldn’t go to a party without a Lil’ Jon song kicking-off the obligatory scrum in the middle of the dancefloor.

Once the baseline dropped, anyone who wasn’t about that life knew to retreat to the edges of the dancefloor if they didn’t want to get tossed about like a ragdoll. It might seem crazy, but those were some fun times.

When I’m Reflecting on My Life

Moment of Truth – Gangstarr

Guru is one of my favorite lyricists, and Gangstarr is one of my favorite groups. I still listen to a lot of classic Gangstarr hits to this day. This record is deep and talks about confronting issues head-on. The beat is a perfect match for the lyrics, and this song never fails to make me stop and perform a self-evaluation. I’ve spent plenty of afternoons thinking about past decisions and plotting out my future with this song on repeat.

When I’m Thinking About the State of The World

Changes – Tupac

For everything Tupac says on this track that’s still relevant, he might as well be looked at as a prophet. I love a rapper with a message, and that’s why “Changes” is such a powerful record to me. I like to party as much as the next man, but sometimes, I look at the world, and all I can do is shake my head. If I get the chance, I might analyze this song with my students.

When It’s Sexy Time

Cupid – 112

Lord knows how many babies have made to this song. The way the beat drops at the beginning lets you know that you’re in for something epic. It also happens to be one of the greatest R&B records of all-time. “Cupid” was a non-negotiable on my Slow Jams Deluxe Get the Draws tape. Everybody had one, and I’m willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of them had “Cupid” somewhere on their playlist. It was the first song on mine.

When I’m Feeling Jealous

Odio – Romeo Santos ft. Drake

This is a fairly new song compared to most of the others on this list, but it sums up my green-eyed monster perfectly. I die hard when I really want something, so “Odio” is fitting. Even though Romeo believes that the war for the woman’s heart is all but lost, he refuses to give up the fight. That’s me all day. I refuse to surrender.

When I’m Thinking About Family and Friends

Worst Comes to Worst – Dilated Peoples

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my loved ones. Dilated Peoples captured my sentiments perfectly with this track because no matter what happens, I put family above everything. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt the need to take care of those closest to me, so that’s probably why this song registers so deeply with me. It’s my moral code.

When Someone Is Ruining My Mood

Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick is easily one of my favorite new-school emcees. Have you ever had someone try to start an argument with you, and you responded by drowning them out with music? I used to do that with this song all of the time. The title speaks for itself, and the lyrics are on-point. What’s not to like?

When Failure Is Not an Option

Ain’t No Half-Steppin’ – Big Daddy Kane

Sometimes, the only way out of a tough situation is to jump in with both feet. When those moments arrive, you have to remember how great you are and what you’re capable of. This braggadocious single is just what I need when doubt starts to creep in. If I don’t have faith in myself, no one else will.

When I Need to Elevate My Mindstate

Revolutionary Warfare – Nas

I could fill almost every category on this list with a song from Nas. To me, “Revolutionary Warfare” is a call for men everywhere to get themselves together and play their positions. It talks about making sure that you stand for something and stick to your principles. Above all, you need to be smart enough to realize that brute force is not always the best way to solve a problem. Whenever I hear this song, I feel like I’m getting a personalized pep talk from Nas.

When I’ve Proven Someone Wrong

Oh No – Mos Def, Nate Dogg, and Pharoahe Monch

It feels good to prove the naysayers wrong. From the title down to the individual verses, I love everything about this track. Sometimes it’s necessary to let people know that they messed up by doubting you. Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) gets the message across perfectly with his first verse.

When I Need to Spark My Creativity

ATLiens – OutKast

OutKast is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about creativity. Andre 3000 and Big Boi complement each other perfectly. They always come with a next-level rhyme scheme and deliver bars that crank up the creative sector of my brain. Big Boi’s word-play and flow combined with Andre’s lyrics put me right where I need to be when I hit that inevitable creative roadblock.

What’s in A Song?

We already know that the music you listen to and your personality are inextricably linked. Regardless of the artist’s intention, a song will represent different things to different people. My playlist profile reflects my introverted-extrovert personality and observant nature. I’m willing to get crazy and have fun with the best of ’em, but I equally value my alone time to think and recharge.

What does your playlist profile say about you?

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Author Derek Phifer

Financial freedom fighter. Breaker of molds. Destroyer of misconceptions. My name is Derek, and I'm a jaded 80's baby.

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