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Baker's Dozen

Beauty From Trauma: Paul Mendez' Favourite Music
Paul Flynn , October 7th, 2020 08:40

Pop is all over Rainbow Milk, the Gordon Burn Prize-nominated debut novel by Paul Mendez. Here he tells Paul Flynn how a love of Marvin Gaye, Beyonce, Solange, Joy Division and Missy Elliott gave him a clearer understanding of his sexuality and racial identity


Aaliyah – ‘One In A Million’
If R Kelly wasn’t a fucking rapist, I would’ve gone for the first Aaliyah album. Sometimes, all I want to do is hear ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ and watch The Cosby Show. It’s such a damn shame. But these people have done what they’ve done, and I have to turn away from them.

I saw Aaliyah’s ‘Back & Forth’ on America’s Top 10 one Saturday morning. I was not yet a teenager but seeing Aaliyah in that video, in her baggies, sunglasses, cap backwards, being too cool to dance and just owning it, really hit me. The energy of that tune, the siren in the background, all the people around her. This is Blackness. This is America. This is what I want to do and be when I grew up. I became a teenager in my mind the first time I saw that video.

The reason I’ve chosen the particular track ‘One In A Million’ is because it’s the first time I ever heard a beat by Timbaland. Aaliyah could’ve been finished by what happened with R Kelly, but she took a chance on these two, unknown writer producers from the South, who had not had a hit yet and made a masterpiece.

I remember the day she died. I was working in McDonalds, Wolverhampton and my friend and I just stood outside against a wall, staring into space with this news we’d been given. Her death and 9/11 happened within three weeks of one another. It was really a lot. Why her? She’s the most inspirational, aspirational, beautiful, gorgeous person. She’s our reference point. And she’s gone.