I have found a lot of my inspiration to write in The Bronx.
The Bronx has always been a crowded-yet-desolate no man’s land. It’s congested, littered with potholes, loud, and can be pretty dangerous. More than any other borough, Bronx County was not a place you visited unless you knew someone who could vouch for you; with the exception of visiting the Bronx Zoo or Yankee Stadium. Those Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and the black people that mated with them were crazy was and still is the way many of us see it. My grandfather told me tales of his upbringing on Boston Road that supported this. He moved to Queens in the late 1950’s and most of the family followed. Hell, my cousins from The Bronx are still an incredibly wild bunch.
December 26, 1998. My sister and I were at a Christmas party on the north side of Queens. I met this girl there. Her name was Jade and she was from the Soundview in The Bronx. At the time, I only knew what Soundview was because of Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz’s big hit and ode to their home, “De Ja Vu (Uptown Baby),” because they shot part of the music video in the Soundview Projects. I was a shy thirteen year old who regretted the whole ride home that I didn’t get Jade from The Bronx’s number. It wasn’t like I was ever going to see her again; but it was the principle…middle school logic is that you always get the number. Somewhere between knowing that my boys would have clowned me for my faux pas and listening to my favorite rapper, Bronx native Big Pun, I was finally inspired to find a marble notebook around the house, a pen, and start writing raps.
That afternoon I wrote three whole songs. By all means, they are-and that whole book-was the hottest steaming pile of garbage ever. But we all gotta start somewhere and this was my genesis. Since the summer of 1997, I knew I had it in me to write my own lyrics, I just didn’t have anything to rap about. As of December 27, 1998, I wanted to be a combination of my favorite two emcees, Pun and Rakim, as well as run my own record label like Puff Daddy.
Fast forward to the spring of 2015…I met Fly Light Skin who resided in the Boogie Down. We knew each other through some guest blogging I had done for a site two years prior; but we never met in person. That April, she had an event in neighboring Yonkers. I took the Long Island Railroad to Manhattan, then the 1 train up to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, and caught a ride from my man, Kalique to meet up with her. It was definitely worth the trip.
Fly Light Skin and I hit it off. We would talk for hours on the phone and I found myself doing something I almost never thought I would be doing: frequently making the trek to The Bronx to visit her. She’d always greet me with a smile and we would ride all over the potholed squalor as she’d tell tales of her upbringing one couldn’t make up. I’m a little more guile these days; but there is a part of us all that is still an insecure teenager. For all of the shit that I would talk to her-she was Puerto Rican, lived in The Bronx, and was a huge JLo fan, so I told her she was such a stereotype-I still have moments of being a shy thirteen year old. By all means, she lived up to the name I had given her, so whenever she wasn’t paying attention I was checking her out.
On the morning of Memorial Day I was sitting at the Royal Coach Diner on the corner of Gun Hill and Boston Roads. This was a place that Fly Light Skin had put me up on a few weeks prior and we would eat there frequently. I was playing hooky from my life by pretending I had to go to work when I really had the day off and was waiting on her because we were going to hang out all day. For months I had barely written for my own site. I was caught up in the hustle of getting paid to write for other websites and had begun feeling uninspired, citing that I felt as if I needed to take some time off and “live a little.” Continuously searching inward and 100% of my content coming from my own experiences gets draining from time to time. I just didn’t have it in me. Somewhere between my second coffee and thinking about Fly Light Skin a light bulb went off. I came up with the idea of “My Life in 100 Songs,” in which I would pen essays based around a song.
Down the street from my grandfather’s old stomping grounds I had found my muse in someone and began drafting the first post. I have only posted on my site fifty-two times this year and thirty-three of them are a part of this series. Out of those thirty-three, somewhere between six or seven allude to, are based around, or at least once Fly Light Skin had been mentioned in some capacity. This helped me get back in gear in finishing the first draft of my manuscript as well. I am greatly appreciative of this because I more or less regained my proverbial mojo when I was feeling depleted of new angles to tell my stories.
Fly Light Skin was like my favorite rappers, Rakim and Big Pun. For now, I’ll just focus on Pun. Being Puerto Rican and calling The Bronx home are the obvious. But it’s more than that. In ’98, I was enamored with the way this guy would put together words. Every verse I heard just drew me in more and more. He did things in a way that I could relate; but where he came from was a different world than the one I resided in between southeast Queens and Nassau County. Pun’s talent for manipulating words, flow, and wit made him larger than life and put him in a class all by himself. That was Fly Light Skin. They both made me recognize there was something in me that I knew was there that I just didn’t quite know how to utilize. They inspired me to write.