Previous Industries – Service Merchandise

73

Previous Industries, a new hip hop trio of old names, Open Mike Eagle, Video Dave, and STILL RIFT, present their newest record, “Service Merchandise.” Across 35-minutes, these three men are reminiscing on “nostalgia, heartbreak, joy, and disposability” through references and allusions to forgotten department stores, discontinued name-brands, and nearly forgotten elements of pop-culture.

Artist: Previous Industries
Album: Service Merchandise
Label: Merge
Release Date: June 28, 2024
Location: Los Angeles, California

Written by Tony Le Calvez

Last night, I fell asleep listening to “Service Merchandise.” In my dream I was ten years old, wandering through a nearly abandoned mall. The mall music, like Muzak and adult contemporary jazz, drifted across the pink, stuccoed walls like effortless vaporwave. The Cinnabon was still in operation, but the Sears had closed and Circuit City had a big “Going Out Of Business” sign stretched across its front doors. Sitting in front of the store were three middle-aged men, and they also had a “Going Out Of Business” sign; on a post, sticking out of a plastic bucket;

Listening to them talk, I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. “Zayre? Roebuck? Babbages? Huh?” I would have interrupted them if I could, but the steady flow of their speech, eloquent, rhyming, subversive, kept my questions at bay. Before I could ask, they told me their names: Open Mike Eagle, Video Dave, and STILL RIFT. Without looking up at me or interrupting their conversation they told me, “We’re the new fools in town/ And the sounds laid down by the underground.”

In between their foreign words and expressions of mutual relatability, I put together what I was seeing: they were men between youth and senility, having credibility without reverence, and memories without material proof. The things they once knew had flashed in and out of existence, and what seemed like laughter and merriment masked sentiments of erasure and obsolescence. I watched them laughing and whistling, rubbing their heads and pointing at each other, and then I woke up.

Those men were Previous Industries, a new hip hop trio of old names, and my dream sticks with me whenever I play their newest record, “Service Merchandise.” Across 35-minutes, these three men are reminiscing on “nostalgia, heartbreak, joy, and disposability” through references and allusions to forgotten department stores, discontinued name-brands, and nearly forgotten elements of pop-culture.


Tagging in and out, the trio of MC’s rhyme and riddle their way across these references, drawing them back into comparisons about themselves and their feelings of anxiety about their age and professions. Rap is known as a “young man’s game,” but what happens when you just keep playing? Have the rules changed? Have you changed? Or is it the world that’s changed? They might not have found an answer, but they present their audience with an inevitability: it will happen to you too.

Where this record sinks a bit is that without an understanding of the references or a familiarity with insolvent businesses, it’s difficult to follow along. This isn’t a narrative album, but rather an abstract “glimpse of the past” scrapbook sort of record that reads more like a chapbook than a story, which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with the breed of rappers (poets) on this project.

But like a door floating in the ocean, when one end sinks the other rises. Because I don’t understand the references (these big-name stores of Westfield’s past don’t evoke any memories for me), I inadvertently expose myself as part of the population these rappers feel alienated by. To them, every store brand, every canceled TV show, and every telemarketer who got their 15-seconds of fame recalls a memory of youth, nostalgia, and community.

Someday I’ll be talking with my friends about Circuit City, Xbox Live, and Limewire, while the newer generation looks at me confused, with no clue of what I’m saying. In the face of this inescapable destiny, I just hope that I’ll be able to express it as eloquently and artistically as Previous Industries can, or at the very least, still have friends that know what I’m talking about.

Listen to and follow the band:




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *