Runaway

This is a remake of Salsoul Orchestra’s 1977 disco hit. I remember being in the car the first time I heard this. My mother got excited and instantly liked it because she remembered the original. My mother was a member of Columbia House-where you ordered CD’s in the mail-and she played it repeatedly for about a week. I haven’t thought much about this song since 1997.

About three weeks ago “Runaway” popped into my head as I drove home from the barber shop. I get my hair cut my too far away from where I went to middle school in Queens. Just hearing the song while seeing the various people walking about in the most diverse zip code on the planet made me think about the time in my life when I was over here everyday. I was just a kid who was first getting to venture out into the world on my own unsure of what life had in store for me. Eighteen years and several lifetimes later, I wondered what would I tell eleven year old Chad Milner.

“Shit is gonna get real. Enjoy the journey becoming me. Don’t run from anything.”

The song is bittersweet. It’s a bright disco record as Puerto Rican freestyle legend India sings about wanting to escape before it’s too late. This is the opposite of everything I stand for; but wish that I could.

It’s safe to say that I don’t run from anything. I don’t like confrontation; but when that or adverse moments come up, I don’t get scared and turn in the other direction. That’s for pussies. Sure, there are times when one should retreat but they’re don’t occur often.

Honestly, I get very calm when shit gets real. I do the best that I can to not let my emotions take over during said times because while everyone else is reacting, I want to keep a calm mind, body, and spirit so that I can respond. Responding means thinking something through; being logical and calculated. You’ll often hear people who react in times like this later apologize if they aren’t stubborn or prideful and justify their actions. Responding means coming up with a plan and one is aware of what they’re doing or how they maneuver…with the exception of offending someone, there’s no need to be apologetic.

With all that had transpired in my mid-twenties, I made a choice to be fearless and it has been beyond freeing. You just see love differently. I am still an extremely shy person who over thinks everything; but eventually I just go for whatever.

There’s no need to be angry, hold grudges, or whatever. Life is too short for that shit and by the time most people realize this, they have by far lived more years than they have left. That was one of-if not-the most valuable lesson I could have ever learned. It makes me think of my eighty-eight year old grandmother who sits at home all day and watches the Game Show Network. Every time I see her she has the attitude of “I’m just happy to be here.” It isn’t until you lose something or someone close to you that the mindset of “tomorrow is not promised” is no longer an ideology; but applicable knowledge.

There are many days I want to run away from my life. I haven’t had a vacation or a full weekend off from parenting duties in almost two and a half years. There are days I just can’t take Cydney asking me any more questions or any of the other shit that she does…I just want to say “Fuck it” all, just pick up and go without all of the negotiations, and the bullshit that makes freedom be something I covet because it doesn’t really exist.

But I’m not a runner.

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How I Became A Writer

“You haven’t dedicated your life to writing,” my once significant other once said to me.  We were having a conversation via text message at a time in which she was trying to figure out her next career move.  She loved to write and didn’t have the time.  I don’t remember what I said to provoke such a response; and honestly it didn’t matter.  What I do remember is thinking to myself “You do realize that there is a pen in hand tattooed on my arm, right?”  I replied in some capacity about writing music my whole life, so I understood the mindset and process of a writer.

I got the tattoo about ten years ago.  The pen in hand is located at the bottom of my left bicep, it is attached to a large treble clef that starts at the top of my shoulder, and the whole tattoo extends right above my elbow.  The thought was that I have spent a significant amount of my life writing music, so if I never did again this would have played a major role into whoever I evolve into.  I was just a kid and knew that writing lyrics in some capacity would always be a part of my life.
I was always a creative and had a way with words.  Music was and still is my first love, so I often wrote little songs for as long as I could remember.  It wasn’t something serious; but I had always flirted with being a songwriter.
I played basketball year-round since I was eight years old.  In the summer of 1997, I broke my left arm trying to show off rollerblading backwards with a three year old girl in my arms and I fell.  This played a major role in my falling in love with hip hop.  I spent six weeks with my arm in a sling and not on any kind of basketball court, so I was outside listening to the radio or watching music videos on BET all day.  Puff Daddy was running shit at the time, so within every four songs, something of his or an artist on Bad Boy Records played.  “It’s All About the Benjamins” and “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” were ubiquitous; but they were such great songs I don’t think anyone got mad when the played over and over. 

I wanted to be like Puff Daddy: having my own record label and stable of artists and would make mixtapes that were sequenced and played as compilations of what I would want my label to sound like.  I saw myself as the guy who every once in a while would get on a song, say some fly shit and then be out.  My cousin, David, who is two years older than me had already started writing his own rhymes, so in my head he was the artist and I would be the producer.
That August, David’s grandparents and mine took us with them on a cruise.  He, my sister, and I ran amok on that ship.  We didn’t do any of the activities that the other teenagers were doing because we thought they were corny and they were.  However, there were three girls who only spoke French that he drooled over the whole week.  Every time we would see them, David would say to me “Yo, rap something” and he would beat box to try to get their attention.  I thought they were cute and all; but he was smitten, so I just went with it.  We never caught it; but my sister said that she noticed them once trying to mimic him beat boxing and giggling to each other…I guess he was the talent between the two of us.

On the final evening on the cruise, David and I were sitting by the poolside because we didn’t have shit else to do before dinner.  Truth be told, we were just there being kids and he was a little too nervous to shoot his shot and say something to these girls who didn’t speak English.  Or so we thought…

The three girls looked in our direction pointing, and it looked like they were daring each other to say something.  So all three came up to us at once and asked us to rap for them.  We didn’t think twice about it.  We didn’t look at each other and come to any type of agreement of what song we were going to do or anything.  He just started beat boxing “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” and I rapped all three verses without taking a break.  Being nervous kids who were put on the spot, I don’t think either one of us looked at them the whole time.  But yes, this is how I became a writer…Three brown girls from France who could hardly speak English summoning up the courage to ask a fourteen and eleven/twelve year old to rap for them.

It really was the beginning of something.  I didn’t quite know what to rap about at first, so I didn’t for a year.  I have always been a planner and won’t act until I have one.  Writing was and still isn’t any different.  I couldn’t put any words to paper at all; but whenever I would visit my cousin David he would force to freestlye something and it was always trash; but he was always encouraging me to keep with it.  In the fall of 1998, my family moved from Queens to Freeport in Long Island and he lived down the street from us.  We started writing all of the time and I had my father’s old four track recorder, so it was on. 

There hasn’t been a day in these last seventeen years where I haven’t creatively written down my thoughts in some capacity since 1998.  The more I wrote lyrics, the more enamored I became with prose, structure, and the craft.  It became second nature to think of witty and clever things to say off the top of my head for the sole purpose of provoking a response from an audience. 

Come to think of it, my relationship with music and writing is kind of parallel to my own life.  Music was and is something that has always been a part of me.  It is a lot like my parents’ love for me because it has been there for so long it is in my DNA.  Hip hop would be Timile.  Because I learned what love is from my parents, I was able to fall in love with something else because at the root it was very similar; but was something unique to my life’s experiences.  Cydney is my own music.  Through hip hop I created something that brought out the best in me; much of it that I would have never thought I was aware of doing and could have an impact on others.  Because of Cydney, I started this blog and discovered how much I love to write.  Hip hop may have been my first love; but in many ways I have outgrown it.  I’m too old to be a rapper and I have evolved. Nonetheless, it played a major role in who I am supposed to become.  Writing is the applied knowledge based on all that has come before.
These days, music, hip hop, my past life as a rapper all give context to everything that I write.

The Summer of 1997

The summer of 1997 is when I fell in love with hip hop.  I liked it before then.  My father and his friends have told me stories of me being a toddler coming into his studio, getting onto the mic, and pretending to be one in the late ’80’s.  I had my favorite songs that I would hear on the radio, could rap along with the hits, and at eleven years old had memorized all of the words to The Fugees’ sophomore album, The Score.  Hip hop was an acquaintance.  We would say hi to each other, have a casual conversation, and play with each other every once in a while.  Hell, throughout the 90’s I used to flirt with it not quite knowing that’s what I was doing.  The summer before I started seventh grade we had hung out so much not only had it become my best friend, an organic relationship blossomed into something I couldn’t get enough of.

In 1997, hip hop was in the beginning of a transition.  2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. were killed within months of each other and that ultimately lead to a shift in the music; and the cultural landscape had followed.  It was no different than an eleven year old kid from New York beginning to go through puberty.  I had just finished y first year of middle school.  Sixth grade is still elementary school-ish, you just have a little more freedom and a locker.  My junior high was a magnet school on the other side of Queens.  That in itself had opened me up to a world I knew existed; but what was once just theory had begun to be applied knowledge.

I lived in St. Albans, which is in the southeast, and my school was located on the northwest side.  My bus ride was over an hour long.  The route started in my neighborhood that was 100% black, rode through affluent Jamacia Estates, stopped in predominantly Jewish Kew Gardens, and ended in East Elmhurst, which is predominantly hispanic.  That hour-plus ride was when I started listening to the radio every morning and began to pick up on all of the new music.  At 8PM, I sat by my radio listening to Hot 97’s with my finger ready to release the pause button because record and play were locked down.  

The summer of 1997 was the time when I first began to formulate my own identity. Hip hop was and still is the foundation of how I express myself. As one can attest to in reading this blog or meeting me in person, and this is a large part of my foundation.

Over the course of the next few days, my posts will be based around songs from that summer that defined me.