While Thinking about Kanye and The Sunday Service

It’s almost a week removed and the images, memes and videos are still circulating of Kanye West at Northerly Island for Sunday Service. The most famous or “infamous” is him “parting the sea” of people and clarifying to security that Chicago is “his city”. Now, I’m not here to debate whether that proclamation is right or wrong; I’m more amazed at the perfect timing of that moment being caught. I have my own thoughts and theories about everything surround that day. I’ll keep them to myself for now. However, I almost always get turned off or away by the “Extraness” of artist and people in the industry. It’s not to negate or undervalue the talent and quality product. It’s just a reminder of there being some things I can really do without ever seeing. That video is one of those moments.

This morning another meme surrounding Sunday Service brought me to another personal revelation. You know why I’m still a big fan of Nas yet my fandom is in check?

Cause Nas never tried to make me “believe in him”. He may have been carrying a “golden child” or “prodigy” stigma early in his career, but he never truly embraced it and ran with it at a warped speed that would prop him on a pedestal to put people in a state of worship. Even in the act of calling himself “God Son”, there is still a great deal of humbleness and maybe even meekness there. Nas is a legend, cultural icon, a King and a Giant in hip-hop, with none of the extra frills.

Sure, maybe he didn’t “work as hard as others” to have multiple hit records, multi-platinum albums and be the stat machine other rappers are. Maybe he did lose the materialistic race that rappers compete in. And I get he didn’t end up the guy with the most money that’s recognized nationally as everybody’s “Big Homey”. All of those things he may lack, yet there aren’t many “Rap Mt Rushmore’s” that he won’t be on. He made a mark and succeeded without truly playing the industry game. His contribution is still important without mega star allure. He matters and not because he made a living out of telling us why he matters. I respect that.

Sure, Kanye, Jay, Pac and Biggie will more than likely be put over Nas in many Top 5’s based on numbers and national impact criteria, but for over 2 decades whether in combat, controversy and collecting accolades, he remained a cool, conscious, self aware human being. The money, fame and women never got to him. He was never thirsty to be noticed or to make a moment. He is the moment because he showed up.

AZ, Jungle, Nore, Steve Stoute, Kelis or anyone in a 6 degree of separation of Nas has never been asked to explain “why they mans on goofy shit” or “What’s wrong with him?” Nas saw his best friend get murdered, his mom die of cancer and had the mother of one of his children try to slander him after being intimate with his rap rival. All that and not once do we say “Nas did some clown shit right there”.

I admire and strive to be in that space. I never want to put my circle in a position where they feel they may have to justify why they stand with me. I also don’t know how I would react if I had one dude in the crew constantly seeking attention by any means and trying to say it’s ok because of his talent, status or how much he has. That’s just not for me.

I’m a fan of Kanye West music. That will never change. I’m super cool on the worship though. Every level of it; I’m good.

Long Live Nipsey Hussle

The last 3-5 years of life for me has been a bit rough. I’ve been trying to “figure it out” “stay focus” “stay motivated” and “make something happen”. One artist who was definitely getting me through those times was Nispey Hussle. Nip was one of those few artist that gave you the street stuff but also gave you some real game and a blueprint to rise above your situation. He was speaking life, promise and progression to hip-hop and the young black and brown people in it.

I don’t want to accept his death right now. I can’t. Man, I was just sleeping in my grandma’s car to save money to get to a part time job in the city of Chicago. Listening to “All Get Right”, knowing that one way or another, I was going to pick myself up out of my circumstance. Although he was a young dude, Nipsey was saying and doing great and brilliant things. Making real life evolutions and becoming a person that the world really needed. It was a symbol of success. A ray of hope. He was black man with a purpose and a message. This is a devastating loss. Not just as a rap fan, but as a black man in America.

Victory Lap spoke to my soul. Some of those lyrics are gospel to me. Dedication and Hustle & Motivate are staples in my life. The Marathon campaign is something that I connected with and it helped me build disciplines to live by.

I truly am saddened by the news of Nipsey’s murder. Yeah, I want justice, but I also want it to be false. I want to not even have this post be in my mind. No person with great purpose should have their life cut short. We can’t replace Nip and I highly doubt we will find many better at what he was doing.

Prayers and condolences to Lauren London, his family and real friends. We will miss you physically, Nip. May your spirit and your purpose live in us and in hip-hop culture forever.

R.I.P Mac Miller: Deeper Than “Stop Using Drugs”

Mac Miller
Credit: @PaintingsByAnthony

The news of Mac Miller dying of apparent overdose is heart wrenching. Now, in my 30’s whenever I hear of a young person dying, it literally breaks my heart. It’s so much life to live. So many things to do. So many dreams to chase. You never get too old to go after everything you want in life. When it’s cut short, the world has been robbed of your greatness. That’s something that is so difficult for me to process and digest at this stage in my life.

Since the album “Watching Movies with the Sound Off”, Mac Miller had an obvious battle with depression, anxiety, heartbreak, fame and he was using drugs to cope with all of that. The music was telling. It was expressive, reflective and dark at times. When he found love again, “The Divine Feminine” showed a different reflection and state of happiness. “Swimming” drops and he’s back to depression and somewhat aimless. It’s got to be difficult to have those looming emotions as a young person and not sure what to do with them. It’s got to be difficult to have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but be so famous and well off that no one around you that’s close feels they can help you. He was pouring out his heart. We were all listening. Many people industry and fans alike loved Mac Miller and his spirit. It’s hard to show a person battling depression how much you mean to them. That could honestly be a 24 hour job if they don’t receive that love in the proper dosage at the right time. Depression is a tricky emotion. It makes you think no one loves you but yourself. Then it tells you it’s nothing there for you to love either. How you cope with that varies. You can chose a vice or an outlet. When you make your outlet a vice, that’s when it gets tricky beyond any true understanding.

The common thing I’m seeing again is people simply saying, “Get off drugs” “Leave the drugs alone” “These kids got to stop all this damn drug use”. You’re right, but you’re misguided in your advice. Drugs are easy to quit when it’s nothing wrong with you. If you’re just trying to be “cool” and trying to “party and have fun” drugs can be “left alone” just like that.

But when you’re lonely. When you want to escape the bad day you just had. When your heart is broken and you want to cry and talk to someone but you feel you have no one, those drugs become your best friend. They become your dependency; Your addiction. They become a staple in your life on the days you feel you can’t get through. That’s not something you “just stop doing”.

I’ve never been on drugs, but I’ve watched addiction. I’ve also watched the birth of the WorldStar era. I’ve watch social media slander. The pressures of young men and women wanting to create and have rap dreams, but have somebody that grew up with them tell them they’re too old to be chasing their dream. The light-skin vs dark-skin battles. The “wanting to come out but family and friends may shun or disown you” anxiety. The need to lose weight and have a fat ass, because that’s all that’s getting attention on your timeline. The need to make it look like you got money angle so that man or woman will finally pay attention to me cycle. We live in a time that people are so scared to be themselves that drugs give them the opportunity to escape and at the very least make it feel like they are somewhere else.

I reach out to as many of my young homey’s as I can and I always try to make sure they know they can reach out to me. Why? Cause I truly love them all. I don’t say it enough or to some of them at all. I need to get better at that. I don’t want to be in tears one day because a “Mac Miller Situation” has hit too close to home. I don’t want to have anybody I care about feeling like they need to escape because the pressure of life has gotten too great.

It’s so much deeper than “Stop Using Drugs”. You got to be around and show love to the people you call “Bro” “Sis” “Fam” “Homey” and “Friend”. Then you got to stay around. I’ve had people leave my life that I loved and cared for. I’ve battled self doubt, depression and anxiety because of the way people have treated me and my talents. It fucked me up. Probably in more ways than I truly understand. I thank God I didn’t look at drugs as a means to cope every time. Who know’s where I’d be if I did. I’m one of the fortunate ones. I been in that space where drinking was an escape. I’ve lived in that moment where “I don’t care if I live or die” with the biggest smile on my face. I’ve also gotten that text saying “I really need a reason to not kill myself” and man…You’re heart and mind is never the same after that.

If you don’t have a hand, an open ear, a “moment of time” or a “minute to talk” to somebody that needs to “stop using drugs”, then you don’t have a right to tell them how to cope during the times that you have no time. Yes, the drug epidemic is serious. Yes, drugs are addictive and causing death. But never forget, you have to find drugs, pay for drugs and use the drugs before any of that can happen.

When’s the last time you talked to someone on drugs?
When’s the last time you talked about someone on drugs?

R.I.P Mac Miller. I hope you are in the peaceful, happy place that you were striving to be in. The world is missing you already. Condolences to his family and true friends.

Moments: Remembering My Story of The Purple Tape

I originally wanted this to go live on August 1, 2015. My apologies for my lateness.

The summer of 1995 was indescribable. It was probably one of my most impressionable years of listening to music. Hip-Hop was on the verge of becoming a very big thing and the artist were becoming scary good. In 1994, Nas had dropped “Illmatic” and really changed the landscape and sound of lyricism and then Biggie drops “Ready To Die” that plays well into 1995 and the remixes to One More Chance and the unveil of Junior Mafia made his impact unreal.

At the time I was “Pro Biggie” till the casket dropped and honestly wasn’t a big fan of Nas in the moment. Another crew I was iffy on was Wu Tang Clan. A lot of people that know me from my childhood would swear I’m lying to you. Those may also be the same people that swore every time I was playing music, it was a Wu Tang Song, when it was actually something Def Squad, Mobb Deep or Tribe Called Quest. I guess sound association is what they were going by.

36 Chambers really didn’t grab me in the time it popped. In fact, I wasn’t really sure if I liked Wu at all. My guy J Dub was a huge fan though! He was big on Method Man and the whole clan but, he made sure he copped everything Wu that was available. C.R.E.A.M was undeniable and I won’t front on that, but without Dub, I probably wouldn’t even be considered a Wu fan. No question, I turned the corner when “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” dropped.

When the “Glaciers of Ice” video dropped, I was kind of hypnotized by the sound. This broken carousel type of sound with bass was just something you literally never heard before. The woman that’s just singing over the track but under the track was just flat out different, but it worked. RZA is genius for putting that all together. You got to be out your mind and not care to think in that realm of production. The video simple, gritty and entertaining. The Method Man dance shot was hilarious to me at the time.

At the time I was not a fan of Masta Killah or Ghostface at all but Raekwon became super dope to me after seeing this video and hearing his verse.

I remember the day Dub bought “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx”. He said “Dog! You got hear this Raekwon! It’s COLD! And dude…The tape is PURPLE!”

I’m thinking, “Why in the world is the tape purple!?” As a young teen, the idea of “marketing” and “standing out” didn’t even cross my mind. 20 years later, this album is simple described as “The Purple Tape”. Iconic for its material and it’s presentation. Something that you literally just don’t get anymore. Needless to say I was a little upset purchasing the CD and realizing it wasn’t the same color. I was using that paper route money for the “Purple Tape” not the “Red CD” but it didn’t change what happened to my ears when I hit play.

The only thing I didn’t like about this album on first listen was Ghostface was on almost every song, but listening back, Rae and Ghost are truly one of the best duos in hip-hop ever! They just mesh, blend, fit and makes sense together. I’m now at the point where I really don’t want to hear one without the other, even though they are time tested proven, great emcees.

This album is classic because it helped shaped the way you listen to hip-hop today.

Ice Cream still plays today and women definitely do describe themselves as flavors…ask Diamond. It’s also the first time we’ve heard Cappadonna and his very memorable closeout verse. We all wanted to know “Erica” after she turned around.

Wu Gambinos – The first time the nation heard “I call my brother Sun cause he shine like one”. That’s right kids; Credit Method Man, not Brooklyn from the ATL movie.

Shark Ni**as [Biters] was probably the most controversial interlude on an album at the time and possible ever. Ghostface calls out Biggie and Puffy [not by name] for Biting Nas album cover and makes it clear “I don’t want ni**as sounding like me…on NO ALBUM!” also the “flip it and bounce it on some bullish” line was said for the first time on this album.

Criminology, Fire! Verbal Intercourse, Fire! Heaven & Hell Fire!

Incarcerated Scarfaces is one of my favorite rap song EVER! Like Top 20 no question. So many quotables and one of the best rap verses I’ve ever heard is on this song.

“I move rhymes like retail, make sure ish sell, from where we at to my man’s cell”

This album and other Wu Projects need to be listened to by everyone, to understand what inspires a lot of A$AP Mobb, Early G.O.O.D Music and TDE albums and performances. This album impacted every region musically. Raekwon may not make a lot of “best rapper ever” list, but this album is cemented forever in hip-hop history and I would say, your collection falls short if you do not have this album in it. I am forever a fan of Raekwon because of this album and that’s not hard when so many timeless moments occur in one project. Listen to this album to hear where a lot of “mafioso, scarface and dope lingo” comes from.

It’s 2015, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” is a strong standing classic rap album and Dub’s oldest son, Raekwon is riding through the city with his favorite artist music turned up, much like his pops and I used to do, to the artist that shares his name. Long Live The Purple Tape!

R.I.P Craig Mack

I woke up at about 2:30am this morning and read news that emcee Craig Mack had died. The cause was heart failure and he was 46 years old. Another piece of my childhood and love of hip-hop is gone and it’s just a crazy feeling.

Craig Mack is probably known just as well by life long hip-hop fans as he is casual rap fans. Reason being his classic hip-hop record, Flava In Ya Ear and it’s remix, which may be the greatest rap remix ever. His song alone garnered great anticipation for Sean “Puffy” Combs imprint, Bad Boy Entertainment and what was next.

Although Mack would leave and denounce hip-hop and it’s lifestyle to join a religious based cult in North Caroline, no one can deny his undeniable impact on the culture. His signature Afro, his “AHHHHHH BOOOOOYYYY!” and kicking that “Funkalicious Fat Funk Flav” were one of a kind and infectious to a generation of hip-hop fans.

I can’t help but to look at my own life and health at times like this. It’s really scary to know that a lot of rappers, who just happened to be black men, Don’t live to see 50 years old. Craig Mack, Phife Dawg, Prodigy, Sean Price all died within the last 3 years and all under the age of 50 years old. That’s a scary thought to process seeing that I am over halfway there. I’m going to read more on the passing of Craig Mack and continue to live a better and cleaner lifestyle to be around for my family and my dreams. 46 is too young of an age to check out. I can’t let that happen to me or the great people around me if I can help it.

Let’s take better care of ourselves and be around for the people we love and for the moments we want to create.

Let’s End Hip-Hop’s Role In Drug Culture

This morning I’ve been reading about the passing of an artist by the name of “Lil Peep. He died of an overdose before his concert. The information that’s out there is that he posted a pic on IG that stated he was “Off 6 Xans” and it appears that is the last actual post from him before being rushed to the hospital where he would later die. It’s a sad string of events. This young guy was only 21. I had honestly never heard of him before today, but his numbers reflect that he was extremely popular and loved by many. Post Malone and Juicy J to name a couple. Now the music I heard had me thinking he was more Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit, but they he’s identified as a rapper. I’ll run with it for the sake of arguing at an ill time. My greatest concern is this new era of Drug Culture in hip-hop that has gone way too far.

When I was a teen and in my early 20’s, Rappers smoked weed. The smoked weed and sold cocaine, pills and other street drugs. It was never cool to use or abuse drugs. Truth be told a lot of the rappers didn’t really promote weed usage until Snoop, Cypress Hill and Redman got popping and even then it was rare for it to be glamorized or sensationalized. Also at that time there wasn’t so many strains of weed and names and potencies back then. Now, I’m totally confused. Rappers abuse prescription pills, do coke, heroine, sip lean excessively and lace weed. They also call themselves rock stars which raises more questions about what culture they are truly embracing.

No matter what’s it’s sad. Hip-Hop runs the world right now, but many youth are dying or killing themselves slowly with this drug culture that is stronger than ever. It’s what gives this beautiful thing called “Hip-Hop” a bad name. The real pioneers and OG’s of the culture spoke against doing a lot of drugs in song and in interviews. As the late great Prodigy of Mobb Deep said “It just goes to show it’s no respect for the OG’s”. I don’t smoke, but through research I don’t think weed is a “bad drug”. Pills, lean, cocaine and heroine got to go! Drinking is legal but it’s also something I wouldn’t recommend in high volume.

I pray for this new youth. The youth that are experiencing destitute, anxiety and depression. The ones who have watched their friends die from overdose or from violence in the streets. The kids that are being bullied and don’t know if the music or the drugs are truly helping them escape. It’s sad. I wish I could talk to some of them. Maybe even write them a letter. Let them know they are greater than their circumstance and to keep pushing. They have a gift and it’s important for them to be around to share it.

Pray for our youth. Reach out to one if you can. Let’s all do our part in separating the Drug Culture from Hip-Hop.