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 »
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?!
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 »
It finally happened. I wasn’t sure when it would go down, but I’m actually writing words down again. Well I am truthfully typing them into a phone and a computer but you know what I mean. I wasn’t writing blogs or music this year until now.
I think I had to take a step back from it all because I almost forgot my mission. For the last few years I had been caught up in staying relevant, showing consistency, and ultimately I became a victim of doing something so long that I needed to see some grand result for the years of effort, and for the naysayers. I don’t know what a naysayer is but I’m guessing it’s someone that says nay quite a bit.
Read the rest of this entry »
Monday Ramble #64 The Reason For The Savior
“I started writing this EP, the eighth installment in The Rent Tape Series with the feeling that I could be some sort of savior of the rap game. I listen to the radio and I hear the music that is popular and I get the feeling that there’s nothing that is thought-provoking, honest or soul-nurturing and although I can’t change the whole game, I wanted to spark a revolution.
I don’t know what that revolution would be but I imagined what Tupac would do today musically to co-exist with Rick Ross and Lil Wayne in the mainstream and started to compose an EP. Then all of a sudden I realized that I myself needed saving as I noticed my focus was on things and people I cannot control. So some songs regard myself as a savior, others admit my own need for salvage, and finally I learn acceptance and I receive what is. As confusing as that may sound, that is…The Savior.”
Read the rest of this entry »