Tag Archives: music

Reverend Mason Betha Devotional: Love Thy Frienemies

Every Monday I will share an anecdote and/or existential life lesson based on teachings from your favorite rapper’s favorite pastor, Ma$e.
“Even Cam get money again.” Book of Double Up, chapter three: epilogue. 

Since I began the Mason Betha Devotional, it was only a matter of time before Ma$e became a headline. A little over a week ago, Harlem Diplomat Cam’Ron told the world that Ma$se became a pastor to protect himself from the streets. The good reverend dismissively refuted said claims. 

The first single from Ma$e’s sophomore album was a Shalamar-interpolating number entitled “Get Ready.” For a project named Double Up, it was only right the Harlemite told the world it was “get money” time once more. After he shouted out several of his constituents, he saved the best for last, Camron Giles, aka Cam’Ron.

 We grow a part from many that we once thought we’d never be able to live without; this was the case with Cam and Mas. Not only were they teammates on the basketball court, they were both members of the hip hop collective, Children of the Corn[er Preachers]. After being delivered when P. Diddy named him pretty, Betha introduced his good friend to the Notorious B.I.G. and Cam earned his own record deal.

Cam’Ron’s star began to rise in 1998. However, after recording a song hymn called “Horse and Carriage,” the former Manhattan Center teammates had a falling out over money and Puerto Rican Judo (Oh, jou don’t know what that is?). 

Cam’Ron didn’t have any follow-ups as big “Horse and Carriage;” and it seemed as if he could have possibly faded into obscurity. Betha not only made an attempt to bury the hatchet with his friend, he wished him well, and prophesied as well. 

Cam got money again. If people never get a shot at a first impression, Killa was the exception. He rapped incredibly well, showed the world that real mean wear and drive pink, ushered in one of the most revered crews in the Diplomats, gave Bill O’Reilly his greatest interview, told 60 Minutes he would move and not snitch if he lived next door to a serial killer, and as he pointed out in a confrontation with Betha, made $140 million in Sizzurp aka Manischewitz for the hood.

The two gents had a love/hate relationship. While their paths have separated, the two will forever be linked to each other. For every falling out on social media, there is a report of the two playing basketball or something like that. Cam’Ron even reciprocated Betha’s ministry with the last song on his Purple Haze album, “Take Em to Church.” Many thought the song was a diss; but it was a friend telling his other friend “I love you brother, please take these lost souls to church.”

The powerful lesson in this is to always speak life into others. There are many friends, family, and constituents I wish the best of luck to that I wouldn’t have too much to say in person. It may be best to love them from afar; but always keep them close to your heart.

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The Reverend Mason Betha Devotional: Book of Life After Death, Chapter 10

Every Monday I will share an anecdote and/or existential life lesson based on teachings from your favorite rapper’s favorite pastor, Ma$e.

“Stay humble, stay low, blow like Hootie.”

Prosperity preachers often get a bad rap. The public perceive them as pompous and pious people who pillage Peter to pay themselves. Most miss the undercurrent of humility and thankfulness in their message. Ma$e is an expert propagator of this narrative.

Rev. Betha grew tired of speaking as a gun-toting product of his environment. His contribution to 112’s ode to showing one’s woman love the way God loves us all, “Only You (Bad Boy Remix),” aka “Songs of Solomon, 1996,” garnered the young man a clear path to success.

Spending time with a different crowd, M-A-Dollar Sign-E felt compelled to explain the entrapment of success with the world on a song called “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” The newcomer felt obligated to expound on modesty and servant leadership.

Had Cuda not schooled Mase to the game, he would not have known his duty. At 19 years old, the good reverend was “mostly Dolce down to the tube socks” because God sent Cuda Love to guide him.

The most salient advice Mr. Love had for his protégé  was given in one incomplete sentence: Stay humble, stay low, blow like Hootie. The seven-word parable was layered with information. There was a fictional tale about a black man who made country and rock music named Darius Rucker from South Carolina.

In this tall tale, Rucker was the lead singer of a band called the Blowfish. They toured the southern states of America playing to audiences that loved his music; but wasn’t too fond of the pigment of his skin. The racist crowds disliked Darius but loved his music so much. To get under his skin, these audiences referred to him as “Hootie,” a derogatory term for disgraceful music that originated with Bell BivDeVoe’s second album, Hootie Mack.

Rucker took the high road by “staying low.” He already stood out like a sore thumb as the one black guy everywhere he went; but the music was most important. Instead of making a fuss, he quietly changed the name of the quartet to Hootie and the Blowfish. They sold millions of records and whenever they asked if Darius was Hootie, he’d say “That’s just a name for the band.” Once again, this is all folklore…Charlie Pride and Nelly were the only two black people that made country music.

Ma$e told the world he never would have made it without mentorship and humility. Yes, he danced in tunnels, threw his Rolex in the sky and waived it side to side; but he was still the same ol’ pimp with a changed limp. Scholars have argued the Harlemite’s limp was because he too wrestled with God like Jacob in the book of Genesis; but that’s for another devotional.

We all need and have Cuda’s in our lives. They are the proverbial villages that raise us, tell us right from wrong, and give us guidance we often miss when directly displayed from the divine. Nelly too listened to Cuda’s fable of Hootie and the Blowfish; it worked out very well for him.

 

Thinking B.I.G.


“Biggie got killed,” were my mother’s first words to me on the morning of March 9, 1997. Somewhere between shock and déjà vu, the moment felt surreal. 

The passing of both B.I.G. and Pac felt like the end of childhood innocence. My world was beginning to expand in sixth grade: I went to middle school on the other side of the planet—northeast Queens—and began taking the MTA on my own to basketball practices. My worldview was becoming larger than my parents’ sphere of influence. The onset of adolescence required a different soundtrack. 

Twenty years later, I am the father to a six year old girl and a father figure to my nephew who is in the fifth grade. I have become my parents because I never want to listen to the nonsense my boy is into. They’re stuck listening to as Cydney says “that old school stuff” when they’re rolling with me.

Cydney and Courtney respond differently to my music. My nephew could care less; he’ll opt to blare Drake or something from his headphones. In my head, I still feel youthful; so if I play something like “Unbelievable” and he doesn’t nod his head appropriately, I feel old. He can’t relate and that’s fine…I did the same thing in 1995.

My nephew and I have talked about the difference between our musical preferences. He feels a similar way 10 year old Chad did about Earth, Wind, and Fire. I will tell him “See, B.I.G. was the greatest of all time. The way Hot 97 plays Drake all day, every day, is how they did with B.I.G.’s records.” My nephew will never understand how essential it is to live and die by the “Machine Gun Funk.”

Cydney on the other hand is her father’s child. Whenever I wear my t-shirt with Ready to Die album cover on it, she says “That’s Biggie Smalls, right? That’s the Notorious B.I.G., right daddy?!” 

If I play [edited versions] of the Brooklyn emcee’s songs, she begins to roll her neck to the beat and jam. She loves “One More Chance” and “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” But “Hypnotize” is her favorite. 

“Daddy, can you play “Hipmitize?” You rap the boy parts and I do the girl parts.” I’ll cue it up and she mimics that hefty “Uh…Uhh!” that let us all know the King of New York was about to say some shit in ’97.
Cyd wants to be in and a part of everything I do. She at the age in which I can do no wrong in her book. If I like it, she loves it, and she wants me to notice. In spite of being over my “old school stuff,” my daughter wants to be a part of it with me. She knows that music-especially hip hop-is a very large part of who I am. It’s in my walk, talk, attitude, and how I raise her. She wants to rap to instrumentals and play rhyming games.

Biggie Smalls died at 24 years old; he was just a kid. In my thirties, I have had a very hard time taking most things people in their mid-twenties say with seriousness (not you guys, of course). The concept “applied knowledge is power” is a brand new one because life is consistently kicking your ass. 

Listen to B.I.G. or a ‘Pac interview. They sound like kids who think they know more about life than they actually do. If that was your 23 year old cousin, you would listen intently and say in the back of your mind “Shut up! You don’t know shit!” However, reckless abandonment made that time in our lives so much fun.

For some reason, our generation doesn’t see B.I.G. as a kid we would ignore. His words still sound profound because it takes us back to that time in life when we looked at him as our big brother. The generation before us think of him as one of their homies who shared a similar struggle. We all have surpassed him in age and experience; but that’s the power of music. 

While “Blunts and broads, titties in bras, menage a trois, sex in expensive cars,” still sounds like a hell of a time, I’m listening that shit in an office thinking to myself “Once I get off work, I have fifth and sixth graders to coach, my daughter wants attention, and the other day I had an awesome ass date where we did laundry.” But there’s a brief moment I picture the week when “Hypnotize” went from the new song everyone tried to memorize to learning the words in memoriam.

Twenty years from now, Cydney and Courtney will hear “Juicy” somewhere. At 26 and 30, they’ll recall being the kids in the back of the car that looked up to me.

Hopefully Alicia Keys’ New Album Will Make People Leave Her ‘Blended Family’ Alone

This is an amazing picture….

Social media: the magical place where everyone is a judge or critic while lacking context, experience, or expertise. I love the creativity it has spawned…even if a lot of the content lacks substance.
Alicia Keys’ newest album, Here, is available in all media outlets (streaming, stores, and iTunes) today (November 4). Rooted in soul, gospel, and hip hop, AK’s newest album is a love letter to people with a New York state of mind. 

Hopefully this album will be the beginning of the end with regards to the internet dragging Alicia Cook through the mud. Here’s first single, “Blended Family (What You Do For Love), featuring A$AP Rocky, is an ode to complicated familial dynamics. On the midtempo track, Keys sings directly to her stepson, Kassem Jr., letting him and the world know how she feels in a manner that many can understand and relate to.

For those that do not know, here is the brief back story: Alicia Keys and producer Swizz Beatz began seeing each other in 2008. At the time, Swizzy was still legally married to his wife, singer Mashonda, whom he had a son with. Keys and Beatz married in 2010 and had their first child, Egypt, a few months later. Needless to say, this timeline can make the transition into a happy family a little complicated.

“I know it started with a little drama. Hate you had to read it in the paper,” the singer begins her second verse. Since the news of Alicia Keys and her now husband became one, she has received some sort of backlash on the internet. People have called her a home wrecker, a word that you’d get if one takes that “m” out of “home,” and a myriad of judgments from people who have yet to understand how complicated life can get. Any little faux pas she makes, note she cracks, or risk she takes, people can’t wait to throw stones and hide their hands while sitting on their high horse.

Men and women cheat. Marriages-half of them-end before death parts the bride and groom/bride and bride/groom and groom; and irreconcilable differences being the cause of most. What almost anyone who has ever been through a divorce can tell you is that the marriage has ended long before the separation or official signing of legal documentation. There is a long period of loneliness in which one’s heart, mind, and spirit has left the union before the body does. How could the classically trained pianist have wrecked a home that was already in shambles? 

Hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. People often don’t realize that we have made mistakes until they look back for perspective. Many people get married and go through hell; only to realize long after it has ended that they weren’t supposed to have united with that person in the first place. We all know people who have entered or stayed in relationships they knew they should have left after several proverbial red flags have been waved. Just because Mashonda and Swizz Beatz wed and had a child together doesn’t mean that they were supposed to.

Nonetheless, mistakes in life are relative. Everything works out the way that it was supposed to. While things may have been complicated for the Dean family, they all seem to be very happy and supportive of each other. It may sound absurd; but many of us are the products of mass confusion and fairly messed up circumstances; and we are all trying to find happiness in our own journey. More can relate to the song “Blended Family,” the story that created it, and ever after they are living much more than the snide comments they make for retweets and internet fodder.

A Tribe Called Quest’s New Album Rollout Brings The Feels

A picture of A Tribe Called Quest at the Kanye show I was too late to see them at.

A Tribe Called Quest is releasing their final album, We Got It from Here, Thank You for Your Service, next week. While I am more than certain that the project is one of love, life and celebration, the title itself makes me feel a way.

I read the New York Times article, Loss Haunts A Tribe Called Quest’s First Album in 18 Years yesterday. It was a heavy, yet beautiful. I had this unidentifiable feeling looking at pictures of Jarobi with a graying beard and Q-Tip-who seemed to never age-beginning to look like a man in his mid-forties. The world and myself have been waiting for “A-E-I-O-U…and sometimes Y” to get it together and lace us with new music; but not like this; but I understand.

A Tribe Called Quest means a lot to me. I’m from Queens. I’m from St. Albans. “Back in the days on the Boulevard of Linden” is not some classic rap lyric to me; it’s my reality. I drive past the block that on November 19 will be renamed “Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way” all of the time. My grandfather’s wake was held at the funeral home right across the street from the Nu-Clear Cleaners Tribe stood on and filmed the music video for “Check the Rhyme.” 

The Midnight Marauders’ music was the soundtrack to the hardest period of my life. The October 2011 release of Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest prompted me to listen to their whole catalog repeatedly. Timile, Cydney, and I were in the process of relocating from Buffalo to Virginia. Cyd left with her grandparents October 14, I drove Timile down the weekend of the 20th, and I worked in Buffalo for an extra week, completing the move October 31st. 

Virginia was a very tough time because I was by myself. I spent all day applying for jobs at a Starbucks, visited Timile in the hospital during the evenings (only for a half hour at a time because her parents told me I had to sneak around and hide), and spend time with my daughter at the in-laws with vigilant eyes watching me as if Cydney wasn’t my child. 

Q-Tip and Phife’s words, Ali Shaheed’s soundscape, and Jarobi’s spirit were the only friends I had in Virginia during those three weeks. Living in a place that was nothing like my stomping grounds, the music was all I had to cure my homesickness. I needed their playful lyrics to express what was a complicated time and abstract thoughts. My mother was just starting her first round of chemotherapy, so even there I was feeling depleted because I had spent all of my time being there for others. I had my big brother, Barry, and my good friend Donnell that I could call and vent to. To this day, I can barely listen to the album Beats, Rhymes, and Life in its entirety…its darkness and frustration with changing times give me Vietnam Flashbacks to those evenings.

However, I can listen to “God Lives Through” from Midnight Marauders all day and not get tired of it. It was the perfect ending to a perfect album. That was the victory lap of a time that can never be replicated. So when it plays, you just vibe out and remember the struggle and hard times with a melancholy smile. It’s the welcomed kind of moodiness, if that makes sense. If one asks me how I feel about living in Virginia five years ago, it’s a pleasant sadness I think of very fondly. Timile Brown may have still been alive; but that was the beginning of the Single Dadventures.

*Does litmus test to see if I can write with Beats, Rhymes, and Life playing. Turns Midnight Marauders back on…Beats was too distracting.*

Reading the Times article yesterday afternoon was interesting. Jarobi lamented on how traveling and recording this last album was taking a toll on Phife, who had been living with diabetes since 1990 and succumbed to the disease March 22, 2016. The click bait articles are trolling by using headlines like “The Final Tribe Album Killed Phife” or some shit that I’m exaggerating to get my point across. Some people are just not going to understand; but I do.

The phrase “Now I can die in peace” is often a joke; but the sentiment is a real thing. I truly believe that Malik Taylor knew his time on earth was coming to an end. The only thing he had left to do was make right with his friend since four years old, Q-Tip, and lay down some Tribe music. I have witnessed people “transition,” in which they stick around on earth until a few more things are in order and then let go. They see the world very differently. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why Q-Tip said that he had a very hard time listening to Phife’s vocals on this new album. Other than him no longer being with us, there is probably something very different about the timbre of his voice. Those who are transitioning sound different. 

The heavy feeling that is sitting with me in lieu of this final Tribe album is one of completion. I have been trying to see them live ever since. I missed them a few times in New York (I was late to when they opened up for Kanye West at the Barclay’s Arena in 2013); but things happen the way they are supposed to. 

I think I was unconsciously searching for a closing to an emotional void. For the past five years, there has been a lack of vulnerability on my end. I am used to my emotional processing being an internal process that even in times of wanting to shed tears I literally can’t. It’s time for things to be different. So I guess with the last album dropping November 11, 2016, I can say to friends that helped me through a very tough time-Timile, Donnell, A Tribe Called Quest-I got it from here, thank you for your service.

What I Took From Lil Wayne’s Nightline Interview

 

The way I think we all watched the clip from Nightline.

Brian “Birdman” Williams was just given all of the leverage-and then some-to tell Lil Wayne “You need me more than I need you, playboi.”

In 1998, Cash Money Records’s flagship artist Juvenile released the music video for his breakout smash, “Ha.” While Juve was, is, and will forever be the hottest of the Hot Boyz, one couldn’t help but zero in on the kid with the cornrows who in stuck out amongst all of these grown men in New Orleans’ Magnolia Projects. Months later, that teenager with the Cash Money pendant engendered the greatest onomatopoeia of all time: bling bling. The Neo-Negro Spiritual, “Back That Azz Up” concludes with an exhortation in simile form that the world could relate to: wobbledy wobbledy wop, drop it like it’s hot.

Last night (November 1), ABC’s Nightline broadcasted an interview in which three years of interviews with the rapper born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. were truncated into a six minute and change segment. Weezy F. Baby candidly pontificated “Yeah, if they callin’ her a b**** or a h**, I’d have a huge problem with that. But I’d never call a certain kind of female outside her name, unless I got a real big problem with a h**, yeah…,” referring how he would feel if his daughter was called words he has used frequently in his music. He expounded on his relationship with Mary, a woman he is often linked to (There’s God, my family, there’s my kids, there’s music, and weed…in that order). Man, does he have a way with words.

However, most of what the emcee formerly known as Shrimp Daddy had to say was eclipsed by none other than Lil Wayne, himself. When asked if he regretted his communiqué that there is no “such thing as racism,” Lil Weezyanna stuck to his caricature of being unapologetic by replying that he didn’t.

Reporter Linsey Davis followed this question up by inquiring how the New Orleans spitter felt about the Black Lives Matter Movement. And that’s where things got interesting:

So here’s the thing….

While I don’t share any of the same sentiments that this man expressed, I am not surprised. The 60 second portion that has gone viral and is currently inspiring as many think pieces as Tha Carter 3 sold in its first week is missing some context.

Lil Wayne is a rapper and mostly a damn good one. While this is a skill in which many think they could do cannot, studies have shown that the average rapper’s verbal dexterity is around a third grade reading level. So if the person that is the subject matter had made a nearly 25 year career communicating on an elementary level, why are so many people up in arms? Poet Laureate Clifford “T.I.” Harris eloquently stated what most of the world something that pretty much sums up the mindset of a plurality of rappers:  Man these n****s is all hype/Not even rappin’ on real mics/They just get high and say whatever the f*** they feel like.

The music industry-especially the business of hip hop-is a façade. The players that we see and hear are caricatures doing nothing more than playing a role as if it were real. While it is rooted in music and a culture, hip hop music is a competitive sport with rivalries and relationships between one another that are being nothing portrayed as real. Each personality must evolve aspects of their persona because a shtick can get stale very quickly, especially in the days of the internet.

Throughout his career, Mr. Carter has evolved from baby gangsta, to wunderkind, the Uptown Hot Boy in Gibraud jeans, heartthrob, the “rapper eater,” Martian, “Best Rapper Alive,” pop culture fixture, phenome, rock star, and skater. Now, he is the drugged-up shell of himself that still doesn’t give a fuck. To renege on his September statements regarding race would require Lil Wayne to break kayfabe.

Anywho…I’ll pretend this isn’t an act. Lil Wayne has been rapping professionally for over 25 years and has been a millionaire for at least 18 of them. If 80% of hip hop sales (music, concerts, merchandise, etc.) come from white audiences, his outlook is going to be skewed. While he has tattoos on his face and blonde locs, his naiveté is probably closer to Carlton Banks’ when he thought that he and Will Smith were arrested for driving too slow over by white policemen on that episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Wanye is rich and as he stated on the Fox show that started this whole cluster-fuck at his shows he sees all races. Even if it is dumb and inaccurate, who are we to judge him on his reality?

I found what Birdman J.R. said about prison to be more compelling and the portion on how prison changed his outlook on the world. In jail, the Best Rapper Alive mentioned that his stint in the bing (that’s not a “bling” typo) as most honest portion of the interview. With his eyebrows raised and eyes dilated to draw in light, the former Riker’s Island inmate says “I learned a lot about people. You’re all on the same level. You’re all going through the same thing. Everybody wants to go home.”

If you-the public-watch this portion again, he looks as if in his mind he is internally flashing back to being incarcerated and reliving moments within a flash. If you ask anyone who has ever done a bid, they will tell you that it changes who you are, how you see the world as well as those around you; and you can’t un-see it. Many leave and are institutionalized that they commit crimes to stay inside because they can’t function on the other side of prison walls. From those that I know who have been in the system will echo a similar sentiment as the Heart of Hollygrove, with regards to the only life that matters is their own.

The rest of the interview is then shot to shit; but the Young Money founder has to stay in character. He seems caught off-guard and gives his answer. He begins to bounce up and down, shifts around in his chair, and then ends the interview back in full Lil Wayne-mode, not giving a fuck, flaunting his gang flag, and storming out, proclaiming “I’m a gangsta.” I could be wrong; however, most of what I learned in my college psychology courses about discourse analysis suggests that the veil was pulled back and he had to regroup himself.

Flawless marketing for the book Lil Wayne is promoting. Clearly in other aspects of his career this guy has used his mouthpiece and platform to talk about the plight of Black America at the hands of law enforcement, federal and local government, and other blacks.

Fuck everything I just said…this is bullshit.

Usher, wil.i.am., and My Daughter


“Do you know who Usher is?” my daughter asks me while getting out of my jeep after six hours of kindergarten-ing. Cydney then said “I like him.”

Always full of surprises, I was curious of trajectory of this conversation. Cydney is really into music. When my child likes a song, she inquires “Who is this singing?” That is usually an indicator that I need to add said song to “Cydney’s Favorite Songs” playlist on Spotify.

In that moment, I quickly scrolled through my mental rolidex of songs I have recently played around Cyd, wondering if I had played any Usher sings in her presence. His eighth album, Hard II Love, had just been released that morning and per a friend’s recommendation, I had been listening to it all day.

My next thought was “What inappropriate song was some dumb five year old singing around my kid that has her innocently asking me of all people if I’m up on Usher Raymond IV?!”

Cydney chimed in “We listen to Usher in class.” Still in parent-mode, I pondered “Okay, I know Cyd’s teacher is amazing with kids and nothing about her says that when she drives off from elementary school, she’s blaring “Lil’ Freak” or “Good Kisser.” Reeling me all the way back in, my five year old tells me “We listen to Usher’s ABC’s from Sesame Street at school.”

I internally sigh with relief and the logical cortex of my brain tells me “Of course, you idiot!”

My daughter’s interest in music is beginning to bud. I love this because I know how much music meant to me when I was her age. My father is a musician and I absolutely loved being around all of that when I was growing up. Now that Cydney is a real kid-not an infant, toddler, or preschooler-she has more of an understanding as well as her own opinion.

At Cyd’s preschool graduation, my daughter confidently walked up to the microphone, introduced herself, and told the room of her peers’ family and friends “When I grow up, I want to be a pop star,” and meant it. She recently started piano lessons and has grasped the rudimentary concepts quick enough for me to really pay attention. After class, she says to me “Do you think that playing the piano will help me with becoming a pop star?” Dead serious.

Last night, while getting ready for bed, Cydney asked me “Daddy, who makes the song ‘wil.i.am.?'”

“wil.i.am.,” I replied. She looked a little confused and retorted “The guy who made the song “wil.i.am.” is wil.i.am.?” Before I could answer back, she began to sing the lyrics to see if I was familiar with the tune she was referring to. I picked up my phone, Googled “wil.i.am.” and the words Cyd sang that I could remember. The first thing to pop up in the search engine was “What I Am,” a song the Black Eyed Peas frontman made with puppets from Sesame Street.

While putting away her dolls that were on her bed, my daughter sang along and danced. I enjoy the moments of seeing Cydney being such a little girl. As soon as it ended, she requested that I play Usher. I perused around Youtube, looking for “Usher+Sesame Street.” The two-week mystery of what song my kid had been talking about now had a title: “Usher’s ABC’s.” I was still a little relieved she wasn’t referring to “No Limit,” a song that she can sing along with some of the chorus.

It was time for Cydney to call it a night. But she had one more song she wanted  me to play for her. “Beyoncé had a song on Sesame Street from when she was a teenager.” That was the moment that I really said “Okay, it’s time for bed, Cydney.”

…my daughter loves Beyoncé.

 

Virgo

 

“Won’t you come and chill with a Virgo…” Nas

The Autumnal Equinox marks the official end of summer. To me, it means that I have survived another Virgo season.

From August 2012 to April 2016, everyone I have dated or had a non-platonic dynamic with-excluding one-and-a-half-have all been Virgos. By any and all means, this is not an exaggeration.

For nearly four years, I would meet someone, we would show mutual signs of interest, contact each other, the birthday question would surface, and said lady would reply “August/September ___.” It has become a running joke between God and me because I have/had love/hate relationships with almost all of them. As soon as something would be on the verge of ending with one, God would send me another, and we would have the saaaaame dynamic.

As much as they have gotten on my nerves, my favorite women that I have been romantically linked with were Virgos. Timile was a Capricorn; she too was an earth sign and possessed some similar traits; but it was different. I am a Sagittarius; so Virgos and I being as different as night and day made for lots of drama that I would be more than entertained by. When we first met, almost every last one of them would say they can’t stand someone with my astrological sign. I would laugh, tell them that the feeling was mutual, and in time, we proved ourselves to be correct.

We would have a lot in common; but we were just different and I liked that. However, we often would butt heads because they were very emotional and I’m the opposite. Many of the times I would simply joke around with them, they would take it personally; and I would have to reassure them “Look, this is just me. I talk a lot of shit.”

The fun in the drama was the constant one-upmanship. Every Virgo woman I dated thought that they were the most calculated and manipulative person. Because I don’t like being put into a box, I would observe their behavioral patterns, and completely switch things up on them. Virgos are over-thinkers; just like me. However, for all of their planning and calculating, they often made an emotional decision in haste, continuing the perpetual cycle of living in their mind. There was always a need for order and they all had professions that matched their almost OCD-like need for order. I always wanted to burst their bubble.

I remember having a conversation at my nephew’s Christening in 2007. This was the first time that Timile had come to New York and met my family. We were in my mother’s kitchen conversing with my aunt, who mentioned that she was a Virgo. Timile mentioned that her mother was one, also. Timile talked about how manipulative and calculating her mother was. I just sat, listened, and held onto all of this information; feeling as if this would become useful information at another point in my life.

Four years later, I would be in the midst of a custody battle with my “in-laws,” spearheaded by a meticulous plan orchestrated by Cydney’s maternal grandmother. With help from Timile’s family, I took too much pleasure in seeing her face at me showing up to a hearing to have legal rights to my daughter. This woman had planned for over six months how she would operate to get me-someone she never liked-out of her life. So watching her blood boil and utter words of frustration in complete gave me a rush that can’t be rivaled by too many other sensations in life. Mrs. Brown couldn’t stand me because she too couldn’t put me into a box that fit her paradigm.

I now know the Virgo like the back of my hand (Looks and observes a new cut that wasn’t there yesterday). For the first time in years, this Virgo season was drama-free. I’m still friends with quite a few of these women. Everyone we meet is a segue for the rest of our lives and I am truly thankful for the lessons that I have learned along the way. Truth be told, they have been some of the most influential people in shaping my worldview since 2011.

Remembering B.I.G. 20 Years After the Death of Tupac Shakur

It’s only right I used the pic with the Morehouse shirt

Deuteratagonist: the second most important character to a protagonist that may switch from being with or against the protagonist, depending on the plot or conflict.  There is no better word to describe the dynamic of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace in their individual Greek tragedies.

Today marks the 20th year that many of us remember where we were when word was widely publicized that Tupac succumbed from his gunshot wounds (Slow clap for that alliteration).  No one thought twice about Pac dying from the drive-by that occur ed on September 7th.  Like he did two years prior, everyone thought the rapper would survive from his wounds; until it actually happened.  September 13th has become a day of remembrance for generations x and y, as we universally and collectively play tracks from Shakur’s extensive catalog.

This morning, I watched the newly-released trailer for the upcoming biopic of Shakur, All Eyez on Me.  In the less than two minute clip, the producers included a dialog between contemporaries Pac and B.I.G., portrayed by actors Demetrius Shipp Jr. and Jamal Woolard.  I immediately switched from my Spotify playlist entitled “Pac,” and opted to listen to The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die.

Two September 13th’s before Makavelli’s passing, Frank White’s debut album was released.  Ready to Die hit New York City like a typhoon.  There was no such thing was being anywhere within the five boros and not hearing one of its 17 tracks-or one of the remixes-blaring from a tape deck, radio, or a lyric being quoted in everyday conversation. I won’t delve into this anymore; there are hundreds of thousands of words dedicated to the greatness and impact of the album with the chubby baby with the afro on the cover.

One can’t tell the story of the Thug Poet and King of New York without heavily mentioning the other.  Their careers and legacies have been intertwined since their respective beginnings.  The majority of the public was introduced to both emcees between 1991 and ’92.  When Heavy D and the Boyz performed on In Living Color, Tupac-who was well known in hip hop circles but not a household name-can be seen dancing on the stage right next to Puff Daddy, who had already signed the Brooklyn emcee.  There were a few issues of The Source magazine and see pictures of the two as they stood side-by-side and grimaced for the camera with middle fingers up.

Both rappers heavily alluded to dying young.  They either spoke it into existence or inherently knew their life’s work wouldn’t have their significance until they left earth.

While revolving around the use of words, rap is a competitive sport.  In time, the closest allies become almost always adversaries.  In just about every era, there are two that stand out more than the rest of the pantheon.  Collaborative freestyles with “My nigga B.I.G. right beside me” become “If Fay had twins, she’d prolly have two Pacs.”  There could only be one king and both knew it.

In spite of being ready to die, both Shakur and Wallace are proof that there’s life after death.  Their words and influence have lived on 20 years after both were gunned down.  In less than six months, we will all play “Hypnotize” repeatedly, just as the kids did on the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn during B.I.G.’s final ride through his neighborhood.  And on March 9, 2017, there will be some written words about a connection between these two deuteratagonists as well.

So on this day, throw some ice for the nicest emcees. *cues “I Get Around” to follow “Unbelievable”*

 

 

The Answers To Life’s Questions Always Find You

 
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We never receive what we pursue with fervor until we acquiesce…I have been reminded of this by way of searching desperately for a sample to one of my favorite songs.

Ever since his cameo appearance on Trinidad Jame$’ “Southside,” I have been a fan of Atlanta indie artist, Fortebowie.  He is one of the most creative rapper/singer/producers I’ve heard in a very long time.  In his music, Fortebowie flips fairly obscure samples.  Half of the fun in listening to his music is trying to find the original song he lifted to create a brand new song.

Sampling is an art form.  It’s a form of audio manipulation that takes a a creative ear to perfect.  In almost forty years of audio production, engineering, and knowledge of musical theory, my father couldn’t sample as well as I can on his best day.  Because of this, I appreciate someone who can do this beyond well.

On his 2015 project, Something Else About Bowie, there is a song called “Wrong Girl.”  In the first verse, I listened as Bowie apologize to all of the hearts he’d broken.  Attempting to justify himself, the last four bars made me pause:

“Only love one muh’f*cka and she won’t let me rest.  Runnin’ round in my mind, doing laps.  What the f*ck?!  Tryna act like she irrelevant; but I don’t give a f*ck.  But my mama know, and my daddy know, and my n*ggas know who run my world.  And until she comes back…I’m f*ckin’ with the wrong girl.”

Those lines summed up exactly how I was feeling during the summer of ’15.  After things ended with my ex, I began dating my “What If” girl.  Shortly into our courtship, I knew it wasn’t going to work out.  It would have never worked out between us; however I may have been a little more patient.  I wasn’t over someone I was very much in love with.  As a means of proceeding through life with no unanswered questions, this period was something that needed to happen.

While thinking about how I related to Fortebowie, I began trying to figure out what was the sample in this song.  After doing some searching, I put into the Twitter universe that I was looking for the sample in “Wrong Girl.”  Fortebowie replied saying that he’s keeping that a secret and the fans just have to find it.

I scrubbed out Fortebowie’s vocals on my computer.  I tried to speed up the sample to see if I recognized the voice.  I Googled the lyrics.  I downloaded Karaoke apps to scrub out the middle frequencies of the track and then play into Shazaam to see if it would recognize the sample.  No matter what, Shazaam kept telling me that the song sampled was “Wrong Girl” by Fortebowie.  I would leave it alone for a little while and every few months, I would try again to see if someone on the internet had found the answer.

What often prompted me to try once again to look for the sample was another person on Twitter asking me if I had found the sample.  The searches got shorter and shorter.  Knowing that one day, probably the day I truly said “fuck it,” the answer would find me.

On Monday morning, something prompted me to look for this sample one last time.  Well, the honest answer of what inspired me to look was that once again, those four bars-and other parts of-the first verse were ringing true in my life.  Nonetheless, I looked for all of five minutes.  The first result that popped up in Google’s search engine was Fortebowie’s Soundcloud page, where he originally posted “Wrong Girl.”  I decided not to look there because I had repeatedly and no one had yet to find the answer.

The next morning, I saw a Twitter notification in which someone asked me had I found the sample to “Wrong Girl.”  I replied that I still hadn’t.  Immediately, the person said “Wrong Girl by Latrelle.”

The lightbulb went off in my head.  I knew exactly who Latrelle was.  Because the sample was slowed down, it sounded like a man singing; but it was a woman.  Latrelle was a singer that was signed to Arista Records in 2001-2002.  She had two singles, “Dirty Girl” and “House Party;” both produced by the Neptunes when their music was ubiquitous.  I loved “House Party” and was looking forward to her album being released.  However, it was shelved indefinitely.  “Wrong Girl” was the second-to-last song on her unreleased album that of course, was on YouTube.

Repeatedly listening to what I coveted for over a year, I decided to Google “Latrelle, Wrong Girl, and Fortebowie.”  The first thing that popped up in Google’s search engine was Fortebowie’s Soundcloud page.  THE ANSWER TO MY QUESTION WAS THEE ONE PLACE I HAD BEEN IGNORING BECAUSE I HAD LOOKED THERE REPEATEDLY AND COULDN’T FIND IT.  SOMEONE FOUND IT A MONTH AGO!

By nature, I’m both assertive and proactive.  It is beyond difficult for me to stop looking for the things that I am “looking for.”  I feel as if I can find the answers quicker than the universe can reveal them.  I guess this is my way of manifesting “faith without works is dead.”  In the bible, Jacob was dealing with a lot.  One night, we literally wrestled with God until God blessed him.  Jacob had to literally be subdued in his hip.  Most people don’t exhaust their resources until divine intervention steps in.  I try to live my life doing just that.