Dear Kobe,

This was written before Kobe’s retirement announcement. Had I known this would be his final season, I may have approached this letter differently. But I think it still fits…check it out.

Let me preface this by saying I am a huge Kobe Bryant fanatic. This didn’t just start a few years, months, or days ago…I’ve been watching the dude since 1995 when I was still in high school. I heard about Kobe Bryant when he was a junior at Lower Merion and of course I was skeptical. Then I saw some footage of him and I officially became a hater. I was a year older than him and he was making headlines for talking about being NBA ready.

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A year later I was away at junior college in Iowa watching the McDonald’s All-American game and I was jealous because Ed Cota from Brooklyn got to play in that game on Kobe’s team and I foolishly thought because I played against Ed that maybe I was good enough to be there. I wasn’t. Watching Kobe go through warm-ups and seeing the way he carried himself during that game, I told everyone that he was next up. I didn’t know for sure but I saw a dude that had a true mission that transcended some silly high school all-star game and loaning his talents to the collegiate world for a year so they could capitalize off his greatness. He was focused on being the next Jordan. Let me rephrase that, he was determined to be better than Jordan. He even told Michael that he could beat him once he arrived in the league.

 

Dear Mr. Bryant,

I know that I am a stranger to you. I’ve read Mad Game, watched every documentary that told a piece of your story, I even bought your expensive shoes a few times and that still gives me no right to address you directly. But last week I watched you compete against the Golden State Warriors while they were on a quest to break a record for being undefeated to begin a basketball season. They were successful and easily skated to a 40-point blowout and no one was surprised. The Lakers look like a college team when it comes to their cohesiveness and fire. Maybe Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell can’t play in your enormous shadow. Or could it be that the talent on the young team isn’t what we thought it was? I won’t go as far as to say that you guys should have drafted Mudiay or Okafor, but I feel like if you had a killer on your team, you could sniff him out and crown him. lakers

But this isn’t about those dudes, this is about what I witnessed the other night. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mr. Steal Your Girl (Rap’s Obsession With Your Girlfriend)

“I wasn’t born last night,

I know these h**s ain’t right,

But you was blowing up her phone last night,

But she ain’t have her ringer or her ring on last night, oh

Ni**a that’s that nerve,

Why give a b*tch your heart

When she rather have a purse?

Why give a b*tch your inch,

When she rather have nine?

You know how the game goes,

She be mine by halftime…”

–Lil Wayne
There was a time in my life when I would sing lyrics like that with pride and vigor. I would feel like these words were my life. And if it wasn’t, I would want it to be.

If you’re unfamiliar with that song, it’s called “Loyal” by Chris Brown featuring Lil Wayne and the wordsmith that deserves every dollar he’s made in the industry, Tyga. The song basically implies that a man with money can have any woman he wants. Yes, even your woman. When a rich dude wants you, and apparently the man that you have can’t really do anything for you financially…those factors result in the obvious conclusion that, “these girls ain’t loyal.” It sounds simple when they lay it out there.

  1. Female has a man that is broke.
  2. Rapper man is rich.
  3. No females are loyal.
  4. Rapper man sleeps with or takes female.

Where and when did this all start?

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Was it back when Naughty by Nature made “O.P.P” or when Slick Rick declared that we should “Treat ‘Em like a Prostitute?” When did it become so popular to get at a girl that was in a relationship with another dude? I remember Big Daddy Kane saying something about releasing tales from the darkside, and separating men from their women like apartheid. I thought that line was ill. I can recall The Notorious B.I.G rhyming, “don’t leave your girl around me,” and I thought about what could make my girl leave me for Biggie. Could it be money? Would your baby-mama consider dealing with a rapper that’s on TV as an upgrade?
Read the rest of this entry »


The Eternal Influence of Sean Price

sean_price

There was once a time I was determined to be the king of rap, hip-hop, or whatever you want to call it. I studied Jay-Z’s advancement, I used moves that 50 Cent perfected, and I worked diligently to make up for my deferred basketball dream. I believed that mainstream success was the only kind of success. After flirting with the rap star life, that flirt turned into a dissatisfying tease and I began floating around the independent world of hip-hop trying to find my way as my dude Torae hipped me to the gold mine that existed when you control your own content. One day I caught wind of an interview with Duck Down records legend Sean Price who basically said that if he had to stop rapping and work at Costco because of his financial obligations, he would be still be Sean Price…just working at Costco. I’m paraphrasing, but the whole point of his statement was that his family was worth more than his rep or his image. I had never experienced a love like that at the time. I was chasing fame more than anything.

The first time I saw the “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka” video I was an instant fan of OGC and Heltah Skeltah.I had heard Ruck and Rock on the “Cession at da Doghillee” and I eagerly anticipated their album.

heltah nocturnal But seeing Ruck’s charisma, his hilarious dance moves and effortless flow, he became a standout member of the collective. Even when Rock threw the fake Biggie off the stage in OGC’s “No Fear” video and B.I.G came at them on the early version of “Long Kiss Goodnight,” I didn’t stop wishing that my brethren from BK would leap into the same ocean of stardom that Bad Boy was swimming in.

It seemed destined for Duck Down to take a similar meteoric rise that the other labels like Roc-A-Fella and Deathrow were experiencing. Ruck and Rock’s first album was a stellar collection of hard beats, barbaric verses and a feel that was all its own. They were poised for greatness, and I was a witness. The whole crew came to perform at my college, Delaware State University and while we rapped in a cipher outside near their tour bus, Rock and Ruck jumped in and torched us all. I was hoping they would want to sign one of us, but it was a thrill to see them join in without flinching. Just the mere fact that they rapped with us without asking displayed humility and hunger. They were getting paid to grace a stage but they still had the desire to come spit with some students. I will never forget that. While my crew and I waved our Bucktown flags in school assured that Black Moon, Smif n Wessun, Heltah Skeltah and OGC were “next up,” something happened that we didn’t foresee. Read the rest of this entry »


The Plastic Couch Theory

A few years ago, I found myself at church on a Sunday morning. I remember this because I have been playing ball Sunday mornings for a couple of years now and my church experiences have recently been online. Impact Church in Atlanta, which is probably my favorite place of worship I’ve been to out here, is a breath of fresh air. The lead pastor Olu Brown always has a powerful message that he delivers in a way that isn’t too preachy. He infuses some comedy, spirituality and a whole heap of passion in his sermons. The particular Sunday I am writing about, I recall him mentioning and bringing a plastic covered couch on stage.

We’ve all seen the couches with the plastic covers on them. Most of us had them in our households or our grandparents’ households growing up. I never thought much of them. I just figured that if you had a nice couch and you had kids or pets, it made sense to cover it up.

plastic_couch_119I’m not sure who started this trend or if furniture stores recommended keeping the plastic on for a few years, but Olu pointed out an interesting observation in relation to his sermon. He correlated the couch to our blessings. He stated that by covering up this possibly expensive piece of furniture, it was like concealing its beauty for the act or preservation. It wasn’t a cloth cover; it was a transparent shield that allowed visibility of the patterns and design, without actual contact with the material. It meant that this sole couch or chair, or whatever it was, was going to have to last for some time. It may have to last forever.

Well that’s what the plastic signified. The cover meant that there was a lack of faith that if this couch got stained, ripped or turned blue from too many pairs of denim jeans on it, The Creator would not bless you with another one. It was a symbol that this blessing was one that you had to hold on to, because there was no clue leading to when there would be another gift. It was the customer’s message to the universe that they gratefully accept all offerings and will protect them from unforeseen disaster and human error.
Read the rest of this entry »


Praying For Aliens…Again

I write raps, prose, and poetic pieces at times that reflect my thoughts at the moment. Most of the time when I share my views with the world I hope to provoke thought and possibly spark some kind of emotion. When I look back at the words I composed, it’s interesting to think about where my mind was. I hate getting emotionally attached to my own songs. It’s almost scary when I actually like something I’ve done, or I think to myself that people need to hear the joint.

The fear comes from the fact that the work will not be well-received. And in my line of work, well-received is inaccurately defined by visibility. So if I am excited about a video, and the views and/or likes are lower than another song that I think is not my best effort…I get confused. This particular piece, entitled “Praying For Aliens,” seemed like a wonderful idea at the time. I initially wrote and recorded it in 2012 when I was putting out monthly EPs. This was a part of The March. The songs on that EP were influenced by the Trayvon Martin case, Obama’s possible re-election and the ongoing police brutality issue that continues to plague us all.

There are points in time where I feel like doing music that is all about heritage and pride. But when I did this song, I was thinking globally. I was sitting and contemplating about the fact that in a few scores, race and ethnicity may not be defined too easily. Today, as we all cling to our labels, and racism is breaking out of hiding more and more…I wondered if I still felt the same way I did when I penned this composition. Yes I still imagine how we as humans would handle a threat that had to combine us all, but I have to admit that with every burned church, each filmed proof of Black hatred, and all the media distractions meant to keep us talking about coonery, I am not always feeling like the most congenial earthling. Nowadays I write with a bit more pain, I feel affected by disturbing headlines, and I want to do more than provoke thought…I want to spark action. Allow me to reflect on these words that still resonate and if you have time, join me and check out the visual I made as well.

pray aliens

Tupac said this is a white man’s world,
I don’t necessarily agree, I do think people look at color and we judge one another,

But the most important one is probably green,
Slavery was less about racism, more about paper,
Negro workers giving up free labor,
Similar scenario happened with all the Natives,
When Americans took over their land, and they got raided,
Hitler killed millions, based off of pure hatred,
And white folks comedy was wearing black faces,
Nowadays we mesh cultures, we’re integrating,
And the color lines are destined for fading, but not today,
‘Cause even if we had Stevie’s eyes
We would still find a way to have our peeps divide,
And if we all looked the same, you would be surprised,
There’d be crews wearing colors to keep beef alive,
We’re all human, but if humans had to fight a losing battle with another race,
Like joining the military but up the stakes,
All countries and nations no matter what the case,
Would have to pull out their weapons to keep each other safe,
Damu that was guarding his block, claiming his set,
Has to build with killer Eses from Watts, avoiding death,
Palestinians that love throwing rocks, instead of lead,
Would have to team with the forces that bust shots in your head,
I don’t think you understand, a whole lot of misery,
is based off what’s your nationality, ethnicity,
Right now I’m worried about a Black man killing me,
And that thought is literally killing me,
There should be Martians, maybe Plutonians,
Come in a spaceship, bringing their soldiers in,
Tell me the game plan,
What would it take to put the Ku Klux and Wu-Tang in the same clan? Read the rest of this entry »


The Meaning of Forgiveness

Forgive

[fer-giv] 

Verb (used with object), forgave, forgiven, forgiving.

  1. To grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
  2. To give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).

What does it mean to forgive someone? Granting a pardon doesn’t mention anything about how one should feel.

  1. Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.

In this Wikipedia definition there is an offender and a victim. That’s very interesting that in order to forgive someone, you would have to acknowledge yourself as a victim. The process is also described as intentional and voluntary. That would suggest that forgiveness takes a conscious effort and only happens when one takes that leap knowingly. But how do we know when we’ve truly forgiven someone? Sure you can let go of vengefulness and wish your offender well, but what if you’re not the victim?

If you are a Cleveland Cavalier fan mildly affected by LeBron James’ decision to go to Miami years ago, is it called forgiveness when you welcomed him back?

lebron burn

Has LeBron forgiven the team’s owner for his hateful letter, or the fans that burned his jerseys? There was probably no real forgiveness going on because both the fans and LeBron’s emotional investment is based on an outcome over anything else. A championship is what most fans and players desire. Winning cures all is the catch phrase.

Does that count in relationships when a parent and adult child no longer see eye to eye? Does winning matter when two grownup siblings have a falling out that can’t be easily resolved? There is no championship to win. When two people decide that their own point and opinion on a certain matter is grander than being understanding of another person’s view, they get stuck at a crossroad. Forgiveness most likely cannot exist when both offenders feel as though they are victims. Isn’t that what happens in courtrooms everyday? A plaintiff sues a defendant and sometimes the defendant counter sues or they simply have their opposing argument ready that says they are not guilty.

What happens when you forgive, but you don’t forget? If you’ve had a supposedly committed lover step out on you and you ended the relationship…but then you got back with that person, have you forgotten what happened? It is possible that you didn’t. Or it’s highly likely that you were both offenders in different ways. Someone’s neglect or disinterest led to another scenario that called for action, and all of a sudden pain ensued for all parties involved. There is the pain that comes from a broken heart and there is also a non-physical torment that can inhabit one’s soul. forgive me

When I received the news that a man walked into a prayer meeting at a church and sat with men and women for over an hour before killing them, I was sorrowful. I thought about the families of these people, about my own family and their safety when going into a place of worship, and I thought about the offender. The offender here is clear. Read the rest of this entry »


When We Die

One interesting fact about me is that I write rhymes, blogs, and scripts in my sleep. I guess that means figuratively because “writing” is actually replaced by typing in my phone, and I don’t do it while I’m unconscious. Maybe the word I’m looking for is “compose.” I don’t know how rare that is, or if it makes sense to people, but the process always tripped me out. I’ve been doing it since my collegiate days. If I had a song or concept I was working on, I would simply think about it as I was close to falling asleep and start to put words together.

Whenever it worked, I imagine that I must have had a dream about the song, and amidst dozens of dreams involving everything under the sun, somehow whatever I was trying to compose would sneak in and take form. When I would wake up, which was usually in the middle of the night, there would be whole verses and compositions already written. And my mission was to remember them. So if you’ve ever heard a song from me, or read one of these rambles, 82% of the time that I came up with them, it was in between 3 and 6AM and I was literally trying to recall lines and phrases that seemingly already existed.
Earlier this week, I got the news that a homie, colleague, and I hate to throw the word “friend” around but I’ve known Pumpkinhead aka Robert Diaz for so long that we weren’t just rap buddies…I learned that he passed away suddenly.

pumpkinhead1He wasn’t a victim of police brutality or some random shooting, or a car crash, or anything wild that can cause his friends to aim their frustration about his passing at one specific place. It was apparently a pain in his stomach that led to a hospital visit that would be his last.

Just the thought of him being a few years older than me, with a child on the way, and leaving the earth without warning is instantly frightening. It’s alarming because it wakes most of us up to focus more on our health, our family, and the importance of our impact while we’re here. Well that’s what it does for me.
Read the rest of this entry »