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?!
I dropped my new project and the first of The Rent Tape Series January 23rd and you can get it right here
But if you need some incentive or maybe even insight to the words on the project, I am providing them right here. Here’s a breakdown of my rhymes on The Calling.
Volume prod by V Ladian Productions
If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and spoke to yourself in an attempt to discontinue being a character in someone else’s dream then you might feel this record.
Sometimes I need to listen to my own records where I talk about looking at obstacles in my path and remembering the ones from my past. But I am guilty of losing faith, so it comes out in the music.
It’s a gift and curse since the plight of the rap dude on the rise is an old familiar story, yet the daily struggle of the human trying to find oneself is universal so at times you don’t mind hearing it. I just think it’s so easy to lose sight when it comes to your reason for beginning a journey.
It’s like literally getting on the road, getting lost and continuing without knowing where you want to end up or why. Sometimes we let people turn down our volume because the outside forces are what we listen to. The folks commenting, giving their opinion, or telling you how to do what you do can become the force pushing you. And all of a sudden you’re talking to them instead of the ones who truly are listening. This is my way of telling myself to wake up.
“They gon’ tell you that you can’t, won’t
Try to convince you/That you’re wack, broke,
Get in your mental/But you can’t, fold,
Never back down, volume on ten, I ain’t turning back down…”
Me feat LelaBizz prod by DJ Pain 1
Lela Bizz came up with this chorus to the DJ Pain 1 beat. I wanted something that felt like an intro and I think she nailed it singing, “It’s all up to me.”
I just feel like a lot of us forget that we’re the answer to what we’re looking for. I kind of flipped it and decided to call out the thousands of rappers there are out there that you have to choose from, and in the same breath where “Savior” left off, I deduced that the game’s fate is in my hands. So to be honest, I wasted a bunch of bars hoping that someone would figure out that I went from 17, 440 spitters, where 3,000 were corny and 5,000 were bitter, then I continued running down numbers subtracting until they equaled one.
Now I say the word “waste” because if you don’t get that part then it’s just a heap of rap crap about things you might or might not already know. It still feels good to me and the hook means a lot. The Calling isn’t about anything other than looking inside to find what you really want out of life. Music went from a dream to a crutch to me. I became afraid to let it go because I thought it defined me. Now I view it as a tool that conveys messages and has the power to lift anyone’s spirits or make them reflect.
“When everyone is just alright,
I’m what’s left…”
From Me To You prod by Black Metaphor
This may be the most seemingly negative albeit clever song on this disc. Going from Unsigned Hype to unhype signed is funny to me. But my dark humor may get misconstrued as bitterness.
I’m really just shedding the expectations and guidelines of the industry. I went from a point where I really was wearing shades on stage, partying every other night out of what was perceived as necessity, and searching for emotionally unavailable women to being a person that is now a bit more evolved.
While “Me” was also about looking inward, “From Me To You” is about the reason I rap. I still focus on improving, and profiting from my passion but I also have an aim to make relatable songs and tell stories that the average person can identify with. I didn’t start out like that.
“I went from hard to difficult, went from spitting to bleeding,
I was rhyming for money, now I view money as freedom…”
Conception prod by Big Fraze
Conception took me about four minutes to write. The ideology that I was raised by hip-hop is just something that came out so easily. The influences of Run-DMC and Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest were so real. I was inspired to do music but I was also shaped by some of the subject matter. I learned about politics, social content, artists they sampled from, I even got vocabulary lessons from music.
This song is no exaggeration when I tell you that witnessing the rise of some of these people set the stage for what I wanted to do with my career. I observed the power of words, how Queen Latifah and Fresh Prince catapulted from one phase to another. Ice Cube and Ice-T began one way then totally changed their image.
And right in my home was Lord Digga to show me how a young rapping producer could have a vision and turn it into a record deal. This was deeper than just rhyming lyrics to me. This song is a timeline trip through my young mind that was absorbing everything I heard and turning it into fuel that would drive me to this point.
“Nas made his memory lane so graphic,
That we shared a project window where he was seeing the static,
It was just like mine in my mind, dope addicts…”
Walk on Water III prod by Emazin
Someone asked me why I keep doing this “Walk on Water” thing. I don’t really know. It started out as a metaphoric mission to let those that ask me “what’s going on with the music?” know that I’m above it all. Years ago on my second mixtape Follow My Lead, I was in Brooklyn leaving the train station and vibing to beats and I was walking through a puddle with my headphones on and the concept came to me. Sounds corny but it really did happen like that.
I throw in some biblical references just to give the feel that I’m somewhere else with the path I’m on.
It’s also a metaphor for doing thee impossible. We can believe Jesus walked on water because we have faith in Him. But to believe in ourselves that we can make miracles happen is absurd sometimes.
Yet we do it everyday. The small miracles that we experience every time we wake up, breathe, digest food, witness the weather and simply live get ignored. Some circumstance and occurrences that go down get written off as The Creator or luck, but there is so much greatness in us all that we need to reach for the stars and land on a cloud once in awhile.
“You compare me to rappers that’s spitting bars,
While my function is to give you a touch of my gift from God…”
The Realist prod by DJ Qvali
I always felt like rapping came with an image that you have to represent a certain level of thuggery. The hood has to embrace you as one of them. But as I am growing I am also seeing hip-hop grow.
Gone are the days when the Jay-Zs and Fifty Cents set the standard for living criminal lives that spilled into the booth. In today’s world the Drakes, Walés and the homie J. Cole are not selling you anything, killing you or threatening listeners. Wiz Khalifa is Snoop without the murder being a case, Kendrick Lamar is from Compton but he isn’t most wanted by the authorities.
Reality is now in, and it’s ok to be who you are. With that said, there are still some who follow the old blueprint that might is right and fear equals love. And this song is an answer back to the question about the importance of street credibility as opposed to ability and honesty as I answer a kid who wants to know if I’m “real.”
“They say he’s alright but he’s not real,
What if you’re real but you’re not alright, how does that feel?”
Brenda’s Baby prod by Louis G.
I was at a birthday bash for Tupac Shakur in Atlanta when I realized that there may never be records like “Dear Mama” on radio again. Pac’s first single was “Brenda’s Got a Baby” back in 1991 and I sincerely doubt any record company, A&R or homeboy would advise a rapper to put out a record today that is even remotely similar to that song.
But the beauty of not answering to a major is that you can do what you want. And twenty years later I decided to drop a song that is an ode to Pac’s single. I saw someone else did a “Brenda’s Baby” song years ago after a few fans pointed it out to me. But mine isn’t so much of a distinct narrative as it is a reflection of our times.
I’m simply saying that I constantly focus on getting buzz, hotter and watching the throne while even Jay and Kanye are being Niggas in Paris with no real message to the listeners. Not that they have to because maybe living your dream is enough of a message but for me…I just went on an enlightening trip through song that might be more received because of its ties to a legend. Well that is the aim.
“Brenda’s baby is grown and I’m out here watching a throne…”
Dreamgirl prod by Black Metaphor
This was probably the last addition to this CD because I just wasn’t sure if it fit. I also knew it was borderline depressing and possibly a filler if you’re a dude. But there’s something about dreaming that gets me going. I just feel like we don’t reach enough as humans.
I hate when I get complacent and settle for what I see in my face. So whenever I feel a certain way I know others need to hear it. So I created two stories about a girl who gave up on her dream to raise her fam and another who is holding on to a lost child. This is where I get confused about what’s entertaining and enlightening and I am open for criticism when I choose the latter. But I am comfortable with that.
“Passion is the key to finding out the piece to know your calling,
If you want to capture happiness and peace you gotta dream girl…”
Angels & Demons prod by Emazin
The Awakening prod by GZ Beats
My favorite record on this project is a collection of short stories that don’t really end but reach a point where I hope the listener feels somewhat awakened.
I don’t want to give away too much if you haven’t heard it but the reason I enjoy this song so much is because I have no memory of composing it and in the studio I did the whole song in one take. So what you don’t care about that but as an artist I can sit back and marvel at the anecdotes I made up and how I was able to bring them to a close in less than 16 bars. Still not impressed? Well listen anyway and I’m sure you’ll at least close your eyes and see some characters in the stories.
“We all equal but I boldly discriminate,
Each time I say pause that’s exhibit A…”
Call On Me feat. Danny Sky High prod by J. Cardim
I rewrote this record a few times and it started out as me proclaiming to be the man to rescue the hip-hop game. But then I started to think about the spiritual aspect of the concept. And as I went deeper I thought about what it meant to believe in something you may never see with your eyes.
My uncertainty about religion leaked out in the second verse and even though I still feel like saving the game, I need to save myself. So I talk about a trip to church and how it moved me even though I am not a Baptist or anything. The song has a gospel feel and I do speak about God quite a bit on The Calling. I make no excuse for that but I will just say that when you’re looking for your purpose, you tend to look to a higher power.
“The same way you singing out hymns,
Every time you singing about Him,
I want you to feel my music when it’s like you can’t win…”
Monday Ramble #59 “Angels & Demons”
I thank everyone that purchased, thought about buying, told a friend, or looked at the ad for my book online. We moved some good units for a pre-release and I am truly blessed to have an idea turn into reality. This blog was created for the book and now it has become more than a blog but a chance for me to vent, share and connect with people across the globe. Every comment holds weight, every page visit means something and outside of music I exist in another world that many people couldn’t foresee. With that said, I have lyrics to share:
I wake up with the voice in my head that says God’s watching,
Studied scriptures and even skimmed thru Allah’s doctrine,
Minutes later I’m thinking of killing haters, and ways to bring in some paper so having faith is a hard option,
My moms told me that praying will get me far in life,
And anytime it gets hectic just give ya heart to Christ,
But I don’t know if the Lord can help my bars get tight
Or make the fans think I’m a star that’s nice, I’m an artist writing
Real shit, real feelings, angels in my ear
Like, “Do better, be better, pick a new career,
Maybe teacher, preacher, counselor, physicist, engineer,
Someone doing things with meaning for people,”
Read the rest of this entry »
Monday Ramble #51 – “Jumping The Broom…”
For those of you that don’t know, I began this site one year ago when people started applauding my writing on Facebook and they suggested I do some sort of book. By applauding I mean commenting. We’ll get back to that point in a second, but I wanted to let you all know that the book is on the way, and it is meant for you to enjoy in the lavatory for the most part.
With that said, I’m having a hell of a time going through the editing process with my team (shout to Read Head Publishing). Mondayramble.com was originated to promote the book and give me a chance to vent weekly. Unfortunately, the applause I’ve been receiving lately have come in the form of phone calls, emails, and some cyber pats on the back that are wonderful but are not comments on the site.
Sure this is a wack plea that I usually don’t do, but since we are in a mathematical society where numbers count; visiting my site, reading something and not commenting is like calling someone’s home and not leaving a message on their answering machine in 1989.
I apologize for that rant but I just went to a wedding yesterday and if there’s one thing I got from that ceremony is that humans are great liars, so I decided to tell the truth to my peoples.
You look confused.
Have you ever been to a wedding? Have you been to one where you’re not in the immediate family, or maybe you’re a guest of a guest and you don’t know the bride or groom too well.
Either way, there are people there that are deeply moved by the pastor’s words, the song that’s being sung, the cute flower girls, the adorable ring bearer, the exciting bride-walk, and the emotional vow exchange.
But some cynical bastards are chuckling inside at the faces the wedding party makes as they walk down the aisle. Some jerks are laughing deep down at the off key vocalist, wondering if the bride is going to trip, yearning for an Ex’s hand to raise with a dramatic objection to the blessed union, thinking the groom is a softy for tearing up, hoping the candle lighting causes a small fire, and most of all counting the minutes until free food and possibly alcohol can be consumed.
So you’re not one of those people that wouldn’t mind an extra long prayer so you can catch a small nap. I didn’t say these were my thoughts.
But in case they were, I shall expand. Or is it expound? I never used that word. I have now though.
Anyway, I’ve been to a few weddings in my days. Some had the bare minimum: short ceremony, standard music, cash bar, buffet style grub. I’m not mad at those. Then there are others where the bride and groom may want you cherish the experience so things are a little more dramatic or expensive.
There’s a documentary being filmed, wedding party dressed in some hood gear, small surprises to wake up the audience like footage shown on a screen or a solo by the bride or groom.
There can be a few selections from a moderately famous gospel singer or a “has been” R&B artist, handwritten personal vows, a long tongue kiss, or a reception that doesn’t start immediately after.
Some people don’t even bring gifts and they expect an open bar with top shelf liquor. Then they want some gourmet entrees, and they complain when they have to wait for the stars of the show to get their food first.
I know they charge per head for venues and plates and all that, but isn’t it a fair exchange when you get a whole bunch of presents and money and then you go on a honeymoon trip right before the divorce, I mean marriage begins?
I think there should be a to-go option for wedding attendees. But maybe that’s just me. I think if you’re not the closest to the people getting hitched, as soon as the kiss goes down, you should be able to ask for a container for your meal, and a bag and be out.
But instead you have to wait out the first dance; that you pray does not burst out into some MC Hammer or Sir Mix-A-Lot assisted choreographed step that the newlyweds rehearsed. Then they dance with the parents, and switch to the in-laws and whatnot. All this time, the people that came to celebrate the food that goes along with matrimony are sitting and waiting patiently.
I may be getting this all wrong. Weddings and receptions are beautiful, but I’m just saying that everyone there isn’t smiling inside and breaking down when the Best Man starts to stutter and tell his goofy story about how he knows his boy is really in love this time.
Some attendees could care less about the father of the bride grabbing the mic and subliminally threatening the groom while praising him for wifing up his seed. Not everyone knows how to do the electric slide, wants to catch a bouquet or garter, or is even concerned about the love between the two folks tying the knot.
Sometimes there are friends or family at the wedding just to judge the hotness of it. Was there chicken breast, salmon and rice pilaf or were there nuggets, crackers and bologna?
Who did the strange flower arrangement? Banquet hall instead of a church? Did you smell that man?
Critiques on the bridesmaid dresses, whispers about the bride’s dress, how long will they last? Why do I have to sit at a table with people I don’t know?
Blah, blah, blah. Hate, hate, hate. I thought weddings were supposed to be sentimental, sacred, and blessed ceremonies with loved ones that want the best for the couple. But somehow, ignorant guys such as myself end up in a seat analyzing, people-watching, holding mental pictures and creating comedy at the expense of others and I’m tired of it. See you next week.
Don’t feel pressure to comment, I was just being a whiny baby.
Get ready for The Toilette Papers: The #1 Number 2 Book coming in November.
Have you ever gotten so disturbed by other people so much that it made you look at yourself and analyze your own issues? Me neither, but if I did I’m sure I could find a bunch of things I don’t dig about myself.
And so I write:
-I hate humans that are great tiny talkers. I can’t compete with their thoughtfulness and insightful questions as I shift my shoulders, play wrap-up music in my head and search for the uncertain ending of our conversation.
-I hate the fact that Bernie Mac and Michael Jackson aren’t alive, primarily because I didn’t meet them.
-I don’t like the fact that I watch some of Tyler Perry’s movies with the hopes that the newest one will be better than the last one. But it never is, and I lose precious moments of my life. I don’t blame Tyler, he’s rich and he’s a smart man. It’s my fault.
-I hate The Situation for coming up with a better stage name than most of us.
-I dislike people that panhandle without the panhandling uniform. I’m not saying some of us aren’t underprivileged out here in the world, I’m just saying if you’re gonna ask for money, look the part please.
I don’t want to limit this to New York, but my hometown is the one place I’ve seen folks begging with name brand gear, fresh haircuts and the scent of Versace Blue Jeans or something. At least have the decency to skip the fragrance. That’s just disrespectful, you’re slapping me in the face because I don’t have the small amount of pride that it takes to go from train car to train car politely asking for contributions.
I realize you can make more per hour than the average minimum wage worker but does that mean you’re on your grind? No it doesn’t. Display a talent, show that you have a nice speaking voice or some dance moves, not that you have fashion sense. I am prejudging and discriminating like the rest of the world. And I don’t dig that about me.
-I don’t like myself for always saying, “pause.” I’m not homophobic but it’s a fifteen-year habit I can’t seem to break. Has it been that long? Yes, and you would think that I could just stop saying “pause” but I have truthfully only paused saying “pause” for brief moments of time and maybe pausing was all I was supposed to do because if I stop then there may come an instance where I didn’t say it and…forget it, now I hath confused myself.
-I actually used the word “swag” for lack of a better word. I used it twice last month and the delay right before I got it out was like 4 seconds. Everyone that was listening to me chimed in with “swag” to assist me as if to say, “come on, you can do it…say it…join us”
And so it was done. I was pissed.
-I can’t believe I still call Black people, “Black” and White people, “White.” We’re not even close to those colors; Tan and Peach make more sense. I still say “nigga” too.
-I don’t enjoy being on the phone as much as I did when cell phones initially became the standard way of life but for some reason if no one calls me I feel neglected. I can not touch my phone for hours and then look at it and I want to see double-digit text messages, emails, a missed call or two, some Facebook love, a few Twitter mentions, what’s wrong with me? Is this the same as checking your answering machine after being out all day and hoping you have a whole lot of messages? Yes it’s pretty close.
-I know this sounds weird…but I rap. I look down on rappers and I rap. When someone asks me what I do I don’t claim to be a rapper but I still rap, and sometimes I am embarrassed. People ask what’s going on with it? What’s your rap name? Are you trying to get a deal? I have to group myself with the foolery that exists, then get advice from acquaintances about how to get more poppin’. They aren’t the blame for my issue. Sha is.
-I talk to myself and answer. I mean I conduct interviews like a psychopath. And sometimes the questions are in Oprah’s voice. And if it’s a wack question it’ll be Tyra Banks’ voice in my head. She asks some foolish stuff sometimes…but I answer anyway.
-I don’t like the fact that I’d rather be comfortable than fashionable. That’s just lame.
-I am totally upset that 79% of the time that I have a face-to-face conversation with someone I imagine punching them in the face out of nowhere. Who does that? But I picture it in my head and I think, ‘I wonder what this person would do if I just caught them in the jaw mid-sentence for no reason.’ That’s not cool.
-I eat food sometimes and get sad when I’m almost done because I’m still hungry. I go to sleep thinking about breakfast most nights.
-I don’t know how to play video games. Even deeper than that is I hate doing things I’m not good at…for example, I went to a batting cage and missed every ball and I was so upset at baseball the sport. I am still bothered by the pastime itself and I apologize for that.
-I judge people based on their knowledge of movie lines, Seinfeld, grammar skills…I’m just slightly off and I know that now. I mean I always knew it but it’s surfacing more as I open up to the world. Is this a pessimistic post to start off the week? Maybe, but only if you view it that way. Who’s the cynical one now?