The Richmond, Virginia music scene is in just as much of a state of success as it is limbo. In a time where the cultural importance of cities seems to be rapidly dissolving, Richmond seems to still carry with it some hope. This is because despite all that is thrown at it, the city’s music and arts scene has an impeccable ability to somehow not die, and the history of the artists and bands that come out of Richmond reflect that. For example, one of Richmond’s most notable bands Gwar—formed in 1984 as part of a formation of two separate entities—has a lineup of members that has changed plenty over the years. Gwar even has its own Wikipedia page dedicated to logging previous members.  

However, while all that’s fantastic, every person in Richmond that achieves actual success appears to be a white dude or group of white dudes. For instance, one of Richmond’s most successful up and coming bands, Iron Regan, is completely white. Furthermore, every member of Gwar, Avail, Lamb of God, Municipal Waste and many other bands are all white, and the music is all metal or punk.

The question is, is the continued popularity of seemingly only white male artists in Richmond due to defects in the way Richmond is portrayed by its news outlets or by its own people? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If an artist drops one of the best albums of the previous year in Richmond, who is responsible for making you hear it? The reality is, the Richmond music scene has a lot more to offer than metal, most notably its bubbling hip hop scene. However, the hip-hop scene also falls victim to its own set of problems. Just like the rest of Richmond, the most publicly known hip-hop artists are white. The fact that only white artists are getting publicity in Richmond is a problem that creates a divide.

While it’s not a literal divide, there is an uncertainty on how different entities interact and what the result of these interactions leads to. “Trying something different worked for me, but they won’t try it because it hasn’t worked for them,” was the sentiment from OG Keesh, an outlier of the Richmond hip hop scene who’s found his own success with little to no connection to any other artist in the Richmond music scene. Keesh’s music has thousands of plays on Spotify and he has a dedicated fanbase on his social media platforms, all without connecting to other artists. This is in the same vein as Ugly Mane, whose rise to popularity was almost entirely self-constructed or “behind the curtain” as Richmond hip-hop legend Radio B put it.

Alternatively, while some of Richmond's more successful hip-hop artists have come up with little to no help at all, just as many have come up with the help of collectives. Operating out of Richmond, Mutant Academy has been in the public eye, with world-renowned MCs giving shoutouts on Twitter to members of the group. Similarly, Nickelus F of the AGM and Late Bloomers Club has experienced exponentially larger amounts of success in the last year. After the release of his album “Stuck,” Nick began playing sold-out shows in cities outside of Richmond, including New York.

While at a glance Richmond’s problems seem completely isolated in itself, a closer inspection can reveal how these problems can relate to any artistic community. The element of ignorance is the great equalizer, and the more powerful element of arrogance is the great executioner.

When she isn’t working real estate or keeping our house from falling into pure chaos, my mom sells second-hand items on eBay for extra money. As of late, antique hunting has become more than just a third job for her; now it is a passion. During breaks from school, I often find myself tagging along on her endeavors. The two of us drive out from the suburbs of DC and into rural Maryland and Virginia, searching for the best ghost town Goodwills and roadside businesses. My mom digs for anything that might be worth something, from old sports memorabilia to collectible Disney mugs. The real seller, though, is the music: Records, cassettes and most importantly, CDs.

Like a lot of people who grew up in the early 2000s, I was the proud owner of a solid CD collection. It was the norm to have a boombox sitting on your dresser, coated in stickers and in need of a good whack to get it going. After school, I often found myself at the music store in my local mall, scouring for whatever I was into at the time. When I was thirteen and at my angstiest, Nirvana overtook the Radio Disney holiday compilations from my elementary school years. During the weird seventh-grade psychedelic phase, the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and MGMT’s “Oracular Spectacular” became two of my most prized possessions. My stacks changed as I did, moving through phrases too fast to follow. 

CDs are weird when you really think about them. They’re not as clunky as records or tapes but are nowhere as seamless as digital music. However, there’s something comforting in that inconvenience: Making the run back inside the house after getting into your car and realizing the CD that’s playing isn’t the one you wanted, the fact that there’s not really a great place to store them in your car, the process of trying to get a disc into your new, CD drive-less laptop and the fact that they scratch so easily. Most of my collection was lost or given away once I got a smartphone. I had all of the songs I could ever need at the tips of my fingers. There was no use for anything else.

As I stood in a record store in Falls Church this past August, however, I was brought back to what my life was like before that philosophy. Watching as my mom dug through crates of CDs, holding up titles we used to sing together, I remembered the occasion that picking out music used to be. I remembered feeling both overwhelmed and energized by the fact that I didn’t know what I was going to find or walk away with. I remembered the many nights spent lying on my bedroom floor, flipping through sleeves and feeling like I was somewhere else completely. There was still some magic left. I wanted to experience it again.

I spent this past summer trying to reconnect. Sometimes with my mom by my side, other times on my own, I started growing my collection again. Yard sales and the backs of thrift stores became my new favorite hangouts, where I curated to my current tastes (I can’t see my middle school self indulging in Hinds or Mötley Crüe). After hearing about my quest, my friend gave me all of her old CDs that she was getting rid of. They came in handy on a road trip, when the signal to my phone ran amiss in the middle of rural Delaware. Bon Jovi’s “Greatest Hits” kept me occupied as I belted out the lyrics to “Bad Medicine” over and over again.

Physical music like CDs have been in decline for some time now, or so it seems. According to a recent Rolling Stone article, CD sales are currently being overthrown by vinyl, whose revenue has grown 25.7 percent since the end of 2018. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported that vinyl sales were accounting for more than a third of the profit from physical music releases, while CDs were declining three times as fast. The failing sales do more than just hinder profit. Starting as far back as 2011, Sony’s key CD plants are closing down, leaving many people without jobs. As recent as June of this year, a proposal to shut down the United Kingdom’s Digital Audio Disc Corporation (DADC) is also jeopardizing the future of many employees.

Believe me when I say that I enjoy records as much as the next person. However, vinyl is an expensive love, costing nearly twice as much for something even more inconvenient than CDs. More intriguing than the price is the personal attachment. LPs are what my parents and their friends grew up with. CDs are something our generation can call our own. We had the pleasure of getting to argue with our siblings on long car rides about which disc to play. We had the satisfaction of seeing a mix we spent hours picking out finally come into its own physical form. If coming back to CDs this summer has shown me anything, it’s that you can still hold onto those memories, to the person you once were. Though we’ve grown up, and also come of age in an era of digital music, are we forgetting where we really started?

As I was finishing a draft of this article, my mom Facetimed me to show off the box of CD’s she’d snagged at a garage sale for her eBay store. There were dozens thrown in the cardboard container she had, filled to the brim with names like Heart and Prince, which she practically stole for a little more than ten dollars. 

“I thought, ‘Is this guy crazy?’” she laughed over the phone. “I would’ve paid so much more.”

I wonder if other people would ever consider doing that, too. 


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Don’t mess up, don’t be an idiot, are your eyes twitching? Fix your posture, be careful not to let your arms look chubby, don’t say anything wrong. Watch what you say, be careful, don’t say anything stupid, should I shake her hand? She’ll never be your friend. You’re so stupid. Weirdo. Why are you so afraid? 

Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, impacting over 15 million adults. This disorder is the second most commonly diagnosed form of anxiety in the United States. Often times, social anxiety is bred from early years of trauma, which can range from constant verbal and physical bullying, humiliation in front of public crowds or other forms of abuse. 

Sometimes, it only takes months for someone to develop anxiety and most of the time it’s unconscious. However, it is very important to keep one thing in mind: Anyone can have social anxiety, no matter how minuscule their trauma may seem. I’m not going to lie, social anxiety is not something easy or natural to talk about with a lot of pride. Discussing what's going on with yourself internally always has the tendency to feel uncomfortable and wrong. With men, there's an even higher stigma around sharing your feelings. For that reason, victims often remain silent. In fact, most people don’t find out that they have social anxiety until later on in their lives, normally when they are transitioning into high school. Suddenly, students making this huge life transition have no idea how to exist in public without feeling extremely uncomfortable. 

I’ve come to realize that the stigma surrounding mental health is what prevents victims from defeating their stress and the problem at hand. Many people, especially teens, are unable to speak up and ask for help that is necessary to their mental health out of fear of rejection and/or embarrassment or being labeled as “melodramatic.”

The reality is, those who suffer from social anxiety are everywhere. Imagine, the girl who leaves early from the party to go home, the boy who barely says a word while struggling to interact within his friend group, the girl who spends most of her time in the bathroom to look at her appearance, debating with herself on whether or not she should leave. These are all examples of how social anxiety manifests in people. 

There are a number of reasons why someone would lose their self worth, their ability to coexist with people, to choose isolation over socialization. It isn’t easy to acknowledge that you need guidance, that you need help, especially when a person starts to convince themselves that they are an “introvert,” and refuse to deal with the problem at hand. Victims will blame their own personality, believing that if they deny what has happened to them, it won’t be a problem anymore. However, things won't just go away, but self-care and talking about what is going on is the first step.

We all deserve to be treated like we matter.  

As a student at Pratt Institute who has known several people in her life who have suffered, it is not easy to eliminate this illness alone.It requires teamwork, trust and faith, that if you reach out, you will not be shot down. Social anxiety can be managed if treated and handled properly with extreme amounts of care. If the student body unites and embraces one another, we can help diminish the symptoms of the illness through hospitality, rather than exclusivity. Because everyone deserves to feel included, to experience a trustworthy, genuine friendship, to be given the chance to make relationships that could potentially last them a lifetime.

Talk to your friends. 

Go to Health and Counseling or the Learning Access Center

Inform your professors about your circumstances. 

Get the care you need. 

You’ve survived. Now it’s time for you to enjoy this valid, imperative part of your life, to socialize with a clear mind and revel within your happiness. It’s never too late, so if you’re truly feeling alone in this battle, if you feel lost, reach out. Be heard.


Illustration by Oliver Buika

Seven and a half hours away, my old bedroom waits idly. Behind a chipping green door, slightly sticky and vaguely scratched-up waits a new one. I looked at the pictures online, of course, but they might not be accurate. The beds could be against the right wall or the left wall and the bathroom could be on the left or the right and who knows if the desks have been moved or if the chairs are there—I’ll answer my own questions soon enough. I hope.

I can’t get the key in the lock. I’ve never had a house key—the back door was always unlocked when I got home from school. Always. My RA must think I don’t know what a key is. She’s sort of right, I guess. This is going to happen every day, I’m sure of it. My roommate had better be good at keys because I’m going to be eternally locked out unless she’s there. Weird—I’ve worried about so much this week, like where my classes will be, and if I’ll like the food, and if anyone will like me or if I’m to remain friendless and live in the studio instead of this room I’ll never be able to enter—but keys somehow slipped my mind. 

When the door decides to indulge me, I give it a push. Welcome home, my room says to me. It’s kind of just a whisper. Rooms don’t have a very loud voice when there’s nothing in them. It’ll talk to me later, I know. Once my things are out of their boxes and they tell the walls my stories. I can pick up where they left off later. When the rest of the world is quieter. When I’m more sure of what I want to say.

I thought my bed would be smaller, but I don’t know why. Insomnia will surely find me here regardless—out of everything I forgot back home, the nervousness somehow worked its way into my suitcase. I have my melatonin supplements, right? They’re next to my toothpaste? Oh my God, I might have forgotten them. There has to be a Target around here. I’ll be there by the end of the week, undoubtedly. I forgot toilet paper.

Between scratches and chips and stray Sharpie marks, constellations of pinholes dot each wall. I’ll add my own stars once I unpack my supplies. I brought a lot of posters—white walls are so vapid. I can’t stand them. By the end of the semester, there won’t be a swatch of white left on my side of the room. Only color.

Everything is much brighter than I’d expected—the windows dominate the room. I gravitate towards one of them. Beyond a smattering of leaves, the whole campus waves to me, and I’m pretty sure I witness some magic.

Pratt is an enigma. Such a place surely can’t exist, right? People can only be one-hundred-percent themselves in fairytales and daydreams. But, it would seem, that’s true here, too. Here is a fairytale or a daydream or something else entirely I’ve had yet to encounter. Can I actually drop every pretense I’ve ever assumed and find a way to adapt to this environment by not adapting at all?

If I could answer those questions already, it wouldn’t be any fun.  


Photography by Samuel Herrera

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