I’ve been putting off writing this for a little over four years. I was finishing the first draft of my book and an essay based around this song was supposed to be one of its closers. Three years ago, I created two other posts entitled The Gospel According to Nipsey Hussle and “Overtime” was supposed to be the third. Given the circumstances and his death, the words have begun to hit me. So let’s begin…
Overtime, cuz I ain’t have a mic…I was in that Chevy, playin’ Savage Life.
Everyone has albums, mixtapes, and playlists in which we personify the body of work. The people who made the music become friends of ours so much, as time progresses and we look back, we associate it-and them-with our experiences and we aren’t certain if our present lives would even be without it.
The train was my Chevy and my Savage Life (Webbie’s debut album) was Mailbox Money by Nipsey Hussle. I first listened to it the day after its release, January 1, 2015. I’d given it a couple of listens and I thought it was cool; but it didn’t have much replay value for me until a few months later.
By the Spring of 2015, I’d begun working in the city for New York’s utility company. My train rides and subsequent walks were my time to myself. One afternoon, I decided to give Mailbox Money another listen. With no distraction, I was able to listen to it with a little more clarity.
When the final track began, my ears perked. “Overtime…cuz I ain’t have a mic” had me. I felt the conviction Nip spoke with because I was all-too-familiar with trying to cripple self-doubt by speaking something I didn’t completely see into existence. I worked a full time job, wrote 10-12 articles a week, and was still someone’s parent. It was a lot; but I had to make shit happen.
Niggas lookin’ like I had it wrong…Now them niggas know I had it right.
I’d stumbled into writing as a profession. I didn’t see it-or anything that’d become of it-as something viable other than just a creative outlet. I was in my late twenties and felt lost because I’d given up on all of my dreams for the sake of my family; only to endure loss and have a very minimal experience to do almost anything other than a trade, admin work, or become a teacher; and all of those wouldn’t have sufficed anyway.
I began to ask myself “Maybe me, I’m being too ambitious…Maybe they’ll judge my intentions.” I’d let years of people not getting it-whatever it was-get the best of me. “Overtime” possessed all of the questions I’d ask myself in moments of doubt; but then spoke back the little voice that always spoke in whispers but had become hard to hear. You know how we hear advice or say something to ourselves; but it doesn’t click until we hear it from a different voice? “But either way, I’m on my mission. In the sky, who I love, Imma tie a ribbon,” was just that for me.
I began to remember all of those who’d given me a push, or nudge, because they saw something I didn’t. And every time I followed those little pokes, doors opened.
My friend Chase sent me a link to a casting call about a documentary about single parents. I emailed them and sent a link to my site. They were interested and we filmed shortly after.
After a long day of shooting in Manhattan, I asked the producer if I could step into the office and charge my phone for a little and they obliged. The videographer, Bryon, suggested to the producer for them to take me upstairs, meet the writers and editors, and maybe do some freelance writing for them. One of the editors liked the idea of having a dad writer to offer a male perspective to their overwhelmingly majority women’s audience and offered to pay me a little more than other writers to do so.
Over the years, I’ve had quite a few editors believe in me; people like Karen and Kweli at Madamenoire, Diana and a couple of others at The Root, Dr. Price and Dr. Harper from Spelman College, and eventually Louise Sloan who I connected with through LinkedIn. I just saw what I was doing as a hustle and they pushed me.
By that point, I’d been accustomed to thinking that I was just bullshitting. I’ve always been talented and had a way with words; but I thought it’d just be hobbies of mine. I love my college; but Morehouse was more of a breeding ground for aspiring financiers, doctors, educators, and pastors; not really a creative like myself.
Along the way, a lot of people didn’t and still don’t get it. But I’m 33 now, so I don’t particularly care too much. It doesn’t take very long into meeting me to know I march to the beat of my own drum; why on earth would anything remotely close to a traditional route for a career make sense? It’ll make sense to everyone else when it’s time, I guess. If it never does, that’s perfectly fine, too.
They don’t know about them sleepless nights…Them looking for a reason nights.
As a writer, I’ve learned the audience won’t see things from the writer’s perspective without conditioning; they see themselves in your words. People simply see what they want or only what they know how to see. For example, I’ve written cries for help during bouts with depression that were viewed as stories of inspiration. In this, I’ve learned my work is one of service to others for them to see themselves and maybe help along the way or to simply be an entertaining break.
But they don’t know about those sleepless nights. The many times I looked out into the night sky, hoping things could or would be different. If so, how can it be? I’d spent most of 2011-2015 isolated. I worked from home and spent most of my time with my little girl who couldn’t handle the burden on my back. These were seminal years for her cognitive and emotional development. So I had to find a way, just so she can be alright.
I’d learned to become very self-contained and self-soothe. I tend to talk myself out of and off emotional ledges. When emotions run high and everything feels overwhelming, I put myself through the proverbial gauntlet, knowing there’s a brilliant idea on the other end. I’m gonna just finish this thought here because that in itself is a whole other post.
They say it’s six degrees in life…Opportunity, preparation; they meet, it’s nice.
It is April 15, 2019. Opportunity always presents itself when we are at a crossroads of feeling ready and clueless what we will do next. We prepare for one thing, and where we wind up winds up becoming something else. But at the same time, it feels familiar because it wasn’t too far-fetched from our original vision.
I’ve turned down several major writing opportunities that could have given me way more success, money, and whatever else because I didn’t feel prepared for them. And for every last one of them, I was right.
Four years later, I’m once again inching to that crossroad of feeling ready and clueless. With the death of Nipsey Hussle, I’ve found myself once again listening to that unreasonable voice of reason and it’s reminding me to listen to one way more important than Ermias Asghedom’s: my own.