Written August 29, 2015
Do you bow your head and close your eyes? Do you speak to your Creator as if He is always watching? Do you ask for forgiveness? Do you bless your food so that it doesn’t kill you while simultaneously taking a moment to reflect on the gratitude you may feel? And what happens when you bless food anyway? Or is that just a comforting move based on habit?
How do you pray? Do you pray when you’re in need? Do you call on God to get you through a time that seems hopeless? When someone close to you passes away, are you asking for strength from The Almighty? How about news of your own sickness? Is that the time when you call on a higher power in desperation? Can you imagine what it’s like when someone undeserving of pain or illness gets dealt a horrific hand? You’ve been there and wondered why. Why are there children with a terminal disease or afflicted with incurable conditions?
Are fatal accidents really accidents? And if they are, does a verbal safety request prior to those tragic occurrences get ignored? Do all prayers get answered in some form? They say we attract what we desire or even what we fear. So maybe when we’re praying for financial relief or some possibly life-altering opportunity, the path we yearn for may have some detours based on an ultimate goal. If that sounds confusing, I mean that a “No” today could be leading you to a greater “Yes” that you already requested. Read the rest of this entry »
For the last two decades, the term “hater” has been one of the most overused and unfit labels for any human with a personal opinion. I feel like there are times when I don’t give a certain kind of food, or a television show, or an artist a chance because of something indescribable that just turned me off. Does that mean I’m hating on The Walking Dead if it didn’t grab me like everyone else? I believe when it comes to peanut butter, Tyler Perry programs and Wale, I may just fall into the category of being a “disliker.”
As a coach and an educator, I have the unofficial job of mentor/counselor for students. They often talk to me about social, scholastic, domestic and extracurricular issues. Then there are times when sports and music dominate the convos, and since I’m not completely out of touch, they assume I can almost relate. Last week two young ladies, one a senior in high school, and the other a sophomore, decided to share a musical selection with me and a co-worker. They didn’t only share the song, they sang these lyrics word-for-word:
“I just bought a pistol, it got 30 rounds in it,
Pull up at yo momma house and put some rounds in it,
Wet a nigga block and watch them niggas drown in it,
Hunnid round drum gun a nigga down with it,
I’m on that Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit
Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit
I’m on that Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit
Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit”
And then they spit the first verse…
“I’m on that Slaughter Gang shit
Take a nigga bitch,
Nigga yous a bitch ’cause I ran off with ya shit
I’m a real right blood and these niggas counterfeit
You don’t pull up on the ave pussy boy you get dipped
I bought a brand new drop and then I poured me up some drop
Young Savage real street nigga y’all ain’t on no block
Bitch keep your legs closed ’cause all I want is top
(At this point my boy and I stopped them to inquire if that last line about keeping legs closed and wanting top were cool with them. They laughed and said that no boy could ever say that to them, but on a song it was funny.)
I pull up and pew pew pew y’all gone call the cops
The hook came back in… Read the rest of this entry »
A few years ago, a high school senior that I coached in Atlanta, Georgia was being recruited by an NAIA school in South Carolina for basketball. I drove the kid out to the school on an official visit so he could meet the coaches, see the campus and get a little workout with the team. As I sat in the room with a few of the college basketball coaches and answered questions about how they could land this recruit, I thought it would be wise to increase my knowledge of the game since it was my first year with a clipboard in my hand. I asked the seasoned head coach of that school a series of coaching related questions. He answered the best he could, and then he got really serious when he told me what he needed on his roster.
He loved shooters, defenders, and unselfish guys, but most of all he needed dogs. “Is this kid a dog?”
He inquired firmly and I wasn’t totally sure how to answer. I said that he had displayed spurts of “dogness” and “dogicity.” They chuckled…but since I was still in student mode, I fired a question back at him: if a player isn’t a dog, can you inject some canine in him? He swiftly replied no. He said, “But if there’s some dog deep down inside him…I can find it.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s used in sports to define a relentless player that has a killer instinct and competitive nature that doesn’t involve backing down. Dogs don’t believe in excuses, they love to be challenged, and they exhibit supreme confidence because they train just as hard as they play. It’s deeper than being a superb talent or having a will to win. Canines are carnivorous beings that will slay their own flesh and blood on a playing field to obtain victory. Think Allen Iverson or Kevin Garnett. Michael Jordan had a cutthroat spirit that carried over into the golf course, the gambling arena, and the boardroom. He made up self-victimizing lies in his head before games so he could be angry at his opponents. Nowadays you see guys like Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, and maybe even Draymond Green just to name a few that have a kill-switch that they hit when it’s time to destroy an adversary.
Of course during my own self-reflection I thought about this seemingly natural trait and wondered if I was one of those people with the deep down dog buried within. Shamefully, I attempt to motivate youngsters on the court with a whistle around my neck using encouraging words, but at times, I envy the potential-filled position they are in. And as much as I sarcastically scold someone for “not wanting it” bad enough, I feel like I am speaking to the 15-year-old version of myself at times. I want to tell these students that their coach didn’t play with an edge in high school, he wasn’t a killer, and he knows what it’s like to think he’s really good, but never reach his full potential. Who wants to hear that story as motivation? Read the rest of this entry »
The first rap I ever wrote won a talent show in summer camp when I was 10 years old. The song was called “We’re Fresh” and it was pretty horrible. Or maybe it was just really elementary. My cousin Dre Knight and I sang the repetitive chorus on stage rocking Hawaiian shirts on our way to victory. We beat a team of older dudes with better bars and flows…later on I found out that they borrowed some of their raps from Big Daddy Kane’s “Just Rhymin’ With Biz.”
At the time we didn’t know where their verses came from so when I heard a young kid spit, “If rap was a game I’d be MVP, most valuable poet on the m-i-c…” I figured we were cooked.
But as fate would have it, originality and the Hawaiian theme must have won over the judges. When we got back to school Dre bragged to everyone about how nice I was at rap.
Unfortunately I had not written another verse after that win, but the rep I had led to me being on the school bus one day with my classmates prompting me to rhyme. This was a very long time ago before a rap song entitled, “The Symphony” hit the mainstream. I don’t even know if it was released yet because my brother was working with Masta Ace and he may have given him an early copy which I dubbed and listened to everyday.
Maybe it was something subconscious in my mind that told me that those guys we beat in that talent show had the right idea. Maybe I felt like it was all about impressing people first, then working on your craft later. That indecision and improvisation inspired me to borrow 8 bars from Big Daddy Kane’s killer closing verse from the aforementioned classic Juice Crew anthem,
“Setting it off, letting it off, beginning,
rough to the ending, you never been in
to move the groove with the smooth rap lord:
like a bottle of juice, rhymes are being poured
down your ear, crisp and clear, as I prepare,
to wear, tear and smear, then I’m outta here…”
The bus went crazy, I was considered great and my legend grew. That night I went home feeling the pressure and decided to write my own rhymes. The only positive thing that came from my thievery was that I actually believed I was good and my only hurdle was that I just hadn’t taken time to write. My first rap won a contest for God’s sake, it’s not like I needed to steal Kane’s verse. That was how I rationalized what I did. It didn’t make sense but it did set off my music career.
Fast forward many years later and I am in the latter part of an independent music journey that started out mainstream and probably has one more undefined chapter left. Recently it came to my attention that a rap artist out of Sacramento took some of my lines and reused them as his own. I had never heard of the guy until it was brought to my attention on Twitter and my response to the news was simple: Not again?!
One day I was sitting in the crib and flipping through channels and ironically I landed on a movie with a plot that surrounds a remote control. I saw it as a sign, similar to cooking meth in the kitchen and Breaking Bad comes on…you would have to check it out. Anyway, I had never watched The Adam Sandler flick entitled Click because I assumed it might be goofy and silly with predictable moments and lighthearted comedy. I like Adam in roles where he’s semi-serious like Spanglish and Funny People but I figured that a story about a remote control that pauses and plays his real life had to be juvenile. Maybe you’ve seen it since it came out way back in 2006 when I was still counting daytime minutes so you might not be too interested in what I got from it. Or maybe you haven’t seen it and reading this could possibly spoil it for you. I guess those sentences were warnings to stop you from continuing to read but I didn’t mean to discourage you. I think you should keep going since you started reading already. Now I’ve wasted time convincing you. Which brings me to my point about the film itself; time is important. Read the rest of this entry »
When I heard the news about Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson’s 2-year-old biological son dying because the mother’s boyfriend assaulted him, I cringed imagining what that pain would feel like as a parent. Then I felt a small bit of relief when I got the news that Adrian had never even met the child. That doesn’t lessen the blow for someone out there who lost a relative that had only lived for two years.
And the kid had a father who was the caretaker, and that guy had to learn of his child’s death due to the hands of another man in a situation he most likely had no control over. How does one just accept something so tragic? How do you just wake up everyday with that weighing on your soul and just keep existing? I think if I knew some ancient Asian secret to cure my emotional pain and get over it, I most likely would deny it because there’s a time when we wallow in sadness as if it is therapeutic. Every bit of attention from others and every moment of mourning, as difficult as they seem at the time, also appear to be necessary.
There’s therapy based around this ideology that teaches subjects to embrace their private events, especially previously unwanted ones. The process aims to help individuals clarify their personal values and to take action on them, bringing more vitality and meaning to their life process, increasing psychological flexibility.
That term caught my attention simply because we stretch our bodies to become more flexible, we compromise our spending so our finances can cover what we need, we even expand the confines of our emotions so that we can reach new boundaries of love. But to alter our way of thinking, to modify our reaction to the factors that routinely bother us, doesn’t seem like second nature to most of us.
Read the rest of this entry »
I had a show in North Africa years ago when my music career was a decision or two away from fame and fortune. Unfortunately, the Internet was not a haven for the grinding artist back in 2005. The people in the audience that could possibly research me today; had very little knowledge of me other than Myspace and the fact that I was on Virgin Records. The guy responsible for booking the show was named Josh, and he was an eclectic dude that actually moved out to Morocco from NY for a few months. He learned the language, hit up the Mosque, and adapted to using a hole in the ground as a lavatory.
I noticed a tattoo on his right forearm that read “It Is.” I was hoping it wasn’t “Itis” since that would be a little racist but funny.
I wasn’t going to be the one to ask about it but as we rode on the bus to the venue, I was glad someone inquired about the tat. The answer was basically what I expected: Any occurrence, good or bad, grandiose or minuscule, just is. Sure you can get excited, yes you may react, at some points your emotion leads you to feel anger, sadness, resentment, pain, and unforeseen circumstances may alter your life forever. But acceptance is one of those difficult concepts to grasp that puts life’s ongoings in perspective. Sometimes I wished I hadn’t seen that tattoo, or read some books on Buddhism, or felt like a Zen master some days when my reaction or attitude seemed passive to normal humans…but this is me. I am a habitual “accepter.”
I’m not great at it but practice makes perfect. I used to find myself expecting people to reciprocate, act a certain way, or do what I would do in certain situations. And even more than that, I am on the other side of someone else’s expectations and desires. How many times do you say to someone, “I would do it for you, why wouldn’t you do it for me?” Read the rest of this entry »
I would like to start this piece by saying that I am not good at many things. That sounds a little too negative so let me begin again, I am great at writing words that rhyme, I’m decent at basketball, I graduated with honors from college, I can keep my eyes open for a long time without blinking, I can read signs like “stop” and “yield” from hundreds of miles away, I can heal myself without (health insurance) ever seeing a physician, and I don’t have the best memory on Earth but I have at least two pin numbers, three phone numbers and my own social security number stored in my head. I hath amazed you, I know this, I feel it.
Aside from all that, I think one of my greatest attributes isn’t really an attribute, but I have an innate ability to store toilet paper before I need it. I don’t know how attractive that is or if it would work as a bragging right. I know some guys talk about their cars, or money, or jewelry. Not many of them can boast about having at least two family size packages of no less than 24 rolls of Charmin or Scott Extra Soft unopened in their linen closet as an unmarried dude. If they can, then I salute them. But this is my claim to fame since I am so bad at many other things.
I decided to run down some of my faults, not because I would like to improve on them but because I have time on my hands.
Sometimes I am on the phone with a business representative and after a transaction they give me a confirmation number. Or sometimes they have to spell out an email or a name and this is where the “assigning letters to a proper or improper noun” action takes place. You know the drill, “S as in Sam, A as in apple, B as in boy, etc.”
I don’t know how people come up with these so fast but I assume they go through alphabet-noun training. I love English, I knew the alphabet backwards when I was 38 months old, I’m a wiz at (cheating at) Scattegories, I’m moderately strong at Ruzzle, and I used to pride myself on solving word jumbles in the newspaper when I was young. But if I have to spell out my email or my name or something using nouns to represent each letter, I always get stumped and I feel crazy.
The other day I was watching a rerun of Family Matters, and at the same time I was flipping the channel to check out The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.
There’s something disturbing about seeing Jaleel White in suspenders and thick glasses in HD but the episode itself was the typical simple plot with Steve professing his love for Laura publicly, and it kind of sickened me yet I was entertained. I went back and forth to the young Will Smith at a pre-marital counseling session with Lisa, (Nia Long) the girl he never married and I flashed back to the days when these were primetime TV programs.
I remember being a young kid and catching Good Times, What’s Happening?, The Jeffersons and one or two other shows that had brown people in syndication, but on the weeknights and weekends there were actual shows that featured African-Americans or whatever you want to call them. I don’t mind the term “black,” although I don’t know if it should be capitalized or not. I mean I know; I just don’t always feel like it.
With so many headlines surrounding the Trayvon Martin verdict, it reminded me how much we feel compelled to use social media to express our thoughts about popular topics. When the shooting first took place it was difficult for me to post a status, write a blog, or pen a song that would provoke thought without sharing too much of my opinion.
I do not have all the facts in this case. I did not follow it as closely as some people did. I do understand the racial significance, but outside of Trayvon’s ethnicity I hate to think of a young man having his life taken for no reason while Chief Keef is still running around spreading ignorance. Just kidding young Keef.
Speaking of things I don’t like, having only six jurors sucks. I saw the movie Runaway Jury, and I watched Law and Order a few times, and I learned that both sides got to pick jurors. That’s as close as I got to law school. Read the rest of this entry »