Written on September 20, 2015
6:14 is the time my alarm goes off on weekdays. It’s an interesting time and I’m not sure why I chose it but it allows me enough time to do what I need to do and be where I need to be each day.
My life wasn’t always so structured. My days rarely began with the sound of an alarm clock for most of my adult life. Not since high school in Brooklyn did I need a sound to wake me up at a particular time so I could be somewhere. In college, my classes began late and once I graduated I would sleep late because I was usually up late every night. I was either in someone’s studio, at a party, or I was up writing songs with the hopes that those writings would put me in a place that I would never need an alarm clock again.
That part of my life lasted over a decade. It took me almost six years to land an elusive record deal that would satisfy my childhood dream.
Then it took me two years to place my career in a stupor, and my world in a depressed state that would not be relieved until I left the city of New York altogether. Leaving my city of birth actually saddened me more because I felt like the alarm clock life was coming. I smelled it; I assumed people wanted it for me, my mother foreshadowed it, my girl mildly advised it at times, I knew they were correct but I fought it off…until…
Until one day I was waking up at 6:14. Some days I would be upset; I used to get pissed when I hit the snooze button and mad that I was up an hour earlier due to a dream about urination that could have ended really horribly. I would even get down on myself for wasting my talent and not being rich enough to not need this alarm clock. All of that subsided one morning when I just decided to smile after my eyes opened. I was tired, groggy, my allergies were affecting me and I could envision just falling back in the bed without a care, but all I could do was smile. Read the rest of this entry »
Written July 26th 2016
I still remember the first time I purposely sagged my jeans. I was a sophomore in high school at Brooklyn Tech and I had a pair of jeans that were sized 34 in the waist but the length was like 29 or something. I had grown pretty much overnight and these jeans that used to fit me correctly were no longer the right length even though they fit my waist with the correct 90’s bagginess. So anyway, I liked the jeans and I wore them to school with a slight dip below the waist so that they didn’t resemble “high waters” and so no one would accuse me of having on “young” gear. Those were the negative colloquialisms we used for clothes that were too small back then.
I wasn’t trying to be cool but I did think that sagging my jeans intentionally was a bit out of my element. I recall people actually pointing out my inappropriate fashion statement as if they were helping me. Sagging was a style, but it was done mostly by people who were perceived as hoodlums, guys that just came home from jail, and rappers. When Treach said, “my pants always sag ’cause I rap my ass off…” I thought that was brilliant but it didn’t make me want to show off my boxers. When Jodeci took the stage and broadcasted their undergarments whilst going shirtless, that still didn’t influence me enough to mimic the trend. It wasn’t until I began rocking basketball shorts underneath my jeans that cinching my belt super tight around my waist became something I was cognizant of. New York weather forced me to throw shorts on almost every cold day of the winter and fall. It was almost impossible to keep the jeans tight so I let them hang a little bit. My underwear was never officially put on display but I was still considered a free-spirited rebel that got the side-eye from elders, adults, and anyone who wore their pantaloons the way they were intended to be worn.
Years later I became a hip-hop artist and watching Jay-Z and Nas parade around stages with their name brand boxer briefs being a featured part of their wardrobe probably subliminally sunk in my head and made me feel like I had to do the same. I was more conscious of the designer name adorning my waistline when I had a scheduled performance as opposed to days I did not. Fast forward to the present and I am working in education along with dabbling in music and I am around a plethora of youngsters daily that sag their jeans to an all-time low. I assumed this trend might go away one day but instead it has elevated beyond a point I could never imagine. In my days of sagging, we wore belts but they weren’t always the tightest fit. We didn’t sag with the intention of sagging, our pants were a part of our youthful ignorance and our embracing of a culture that did everything in its power to go against what society deemed as proper and grown-up. We wanted to be loud and obnoxious on the train, we made sure we went places in groups larger than four…and our clothing reflected the essence of the hard-edged, sometimes message-driven, and powerful music we loved. Read the rest of this entry »
I have five unfinished Rambles that never made it off the cutting floor over the past few years. Why didn’t they make it? Eh, there’s a myriad of reasons. My ego is probably the real answer. Stats and views and analytics are cruel. So when you think you’re putting out some stellar artistry and you see that a certain amount of people viewed it, and then you look over at something that seems crappy yet it has astronomical numbers…it weighs on you. So you start writing words for your own personal growth but you say things to yourself like, “No one reads these anyway.” 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 »
Whether it’s high school basketball or cheerleading or the school play or the dance recital, there’s something scary and equally exciting about a tryout. Even the word “tryout” sparks a bit of anxiety. It’s the youthful version of the audition. It places people in a position of authority and can crush dreams, inspire greatness and introduce politics simultaneously.
Now that I am assistant coaching high school basketball I have a different appreciation for tryouts. I am on the other side of the curtain. I can respect the fear in the young players’ eyes, the worry they have about doing well and the power that the coaches have when making decisions about who makes the team.
When I flashback to my first tryout I was in 8th grade and I had just started playing basketball. I was pretty terrible but for some reason I thought I could dribble. I got cut.
And the funny thing about it is that I wasn’t upset. I was so driven to make the team and it had very little to do with basketball. All of my boys were on the team. In fact, anyone that was popular was on the team. It was like a rite of passage for any dude in Philippa Schuyler middle school with some type of social status to play on the basketball team. We only played about three games, with the student-faculty game being the biggest event of our season. Making the team was truly imperative for me.
With that said, I marched in Coach Davis’ office and demanded that I be on the team. I tried out as a forward and I told him I may be better suited to play guard. So he let me try out again and ultimately I made it. I did it. I didn’t accept no for an answer when I was probably not good enough to make it.
A year later I tried out again but this time I was a freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School attempting to make the J.V team. I didn’t even imagine trying out for varsity. I played all summer in preparation for that moment, but to be honest I just didn’t know how to play. I watched guys play in the park and I emulated them but no one taught me how to shoot, I never did a dribbling drill, and I had no idea how to play defense. I was 5’7” and frail. The only people I knew that were trying out with me was my boy Kijana who lived around my way and he was much better than me. And my other boy Steve who went to junior high with me was also at the tryouts. Steve was taller and bigger than me, he was also better than I was and he didn’t seem scared at all. To make matters worse I was unsure about what to wear to the tryout. I remember Coach Davis saying that he knew Mr. Rock, the JV coach at Brooklyn Tech so maybe it made sense for me to wear my Schuyler jersey at tryouts. Nah that’s thirsty…I thought to myself. I decided to wear the t-shirt from a tournament I played in over the summer thinking that would show that I had some experience.
Read the rest of this entry »
A few years ago I wrote about the “pee dream” and described it as a frightening experience that creeps in during adulthood with the aim to ruin reputations. It’s the unconscious, nocturnal vision we have where we see ourselves in the bathroom and we’re ready to release urine and if we don’t wake up in time then we revert back to our adolescent days where bed-wetting was right up there with tying our shoes as the top obstacles in life.
But anyway, I bring this topic up because the dreams involving urination are becoming more and more frequent and I am not sure if I’m going to be able to keep on escaping a saturated mattress every night as I get up there in age. As for now, I am thankful that I have my wits and bladder in control.
That brings me to a thought about a dream I had the other night.
It was an interesting dream that had to fall in between the one I had about peeing in a fountain and one where I was at a urinal at a movie theater.
In the dream I was at home, but it wasn’t the home I live in now. It was a house…and it was pretty big… and it was a Saturday…and I was making pancakes. And my daughter walked in the kitchen. She was an 8-year-old daughter. At least I think she was 8. She looked around 8. Now that I think of it, she told me she was 8. She was asking when she could have her own phone so she could Snapchat with her friends. And I pretended I knew what Snapchat was and then I told her she could have one that only had a talk and text plan.
And she asked me how she was supposed to watch videos like her friends did. It opened up a conversation about what videos she had seen and what she thought about them. And since this was my first time being a parent and all of a sudden I had an 8-year-old, I thought to myself, maybe this is my stepdaughter. But she kind of looked like me, and the way she spoke to me, she seemed like flesh and blood. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
I get asked every once in awhile why I discontinued releasing music at the moment. My generic answer is that I need to take a step back or I’m not in love with the hip-hop genre anymore. Those answers are honest but they might be incomplete. The dream I once had as a youngster has changed. Music has changed, its popularity has reached new heights but the characteristics of a star artist with fans and respect are not the same as they were before. I don’t view any of these differences as negative.
Well maybe the lack of wordplay and substance can be described as a drop down from what was going on years ago. And possibly hip-hop’s obsession with mollies, combined with the lean-sipping sensation fused with an all-time high of auto-tuned sound alikes could be deemed as a far cry from the golden era.
But for the most part there are new artists creating waves of music that cross genres, leap over stereotypical boundaries and they redefine what rappers sound and look like.
So why did I pause my progression? The real question I have been asking myself is what was it all for? 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 »