All Will Be Well

I had an awful dream last night.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a nightmare–I could have mined it for story ideas.  No, this bad dream was about something that actually happened.

Awhile ago, the only girl I’ve ever been in love with asked me to go away with her.  She was going to grad school on the east coast.  That whole last year together,  she’d been dropping unsubtle offers for me to go with her.  To her credit, she made the whole thing lighthearted.  It would be awesome if you came with me.  As if she was suggesting we get an ice cream sundae after dinner.

The incident in my dream transpired during one of our goofy–but absolutely perfect–conversations, this time about Method Man’s Release Yo Delf (she thought the song said “bitches by homicide!” which makes no sense.  The actual line is “being chased by homicide”).  And for the first time she pushed the issue.  She really wanted me to come with her.  She thought I could do well back east.  I could further my education.  Find a better job.  And I could still work on my art.

I stood my ground.

I was going to San Diego.  My favorite studio was there.  My utterly stupid notion of an ideal life was there.  Besides, I couldn’t leave California and my friends and my family and my life.

Of course it was none of those reasons at all that kept me from going with her.  I didn’t go because I was an idiot.  I was chickenshit.  I took for granted how much I loved her.  So I let the best thing that ever happened to me walk right out of my life.  And now, my subconscious mind was rooting through that misery for reasons only Providence could possibly know (Damn to hell  whatever it was that connected those dots, by the way).

I didn’t realize how serious she was about the move until she stopped trying to convince me.  She had this exasperated look on her face.  That’s the image that’s been stuck in my brain since I woke up.  God, how could I have been so stupid?

We officially broke up about two weeks later.  But the die had already been cast; from that day on, our relationship was palpably different.  She was starting the process of letting go.

It seems that was about the time when my life kind of got…stuck.  As far as relationships, I took my hat out of the ring.  At first because of heartbreak.  Then because it became comfortable to not take the risk.  I mean, sure, I dabbled.  But I’m an odd cookie.  I’m black, but the world I live in is not. I know it doesn’t sound like a thing.  Maybe it wasn’t.  But in my head it was. I mean, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian…cleaned up they sort of jibe.  But then there’s this 6-foot-4 black dude lumbering around in the mix; I would sometimes feel…out of place.  Of course, neither of my brothers has a problem with that, so it probably was me.  Still, I was living in a new city; I didn’t know a lot of people.  And hitting on women cold has never been my forte.  (I got laughed at once.  Laughed at. Let that stew in your noodle a bit.)  So i didn’t really go out all that much.  I’ve never been the rock out with your cock out type.  Unless we’re talking pancakes, I typically favor quality over quantity, particularly with interpersonal relationships.  And I’m not a toad, but unless it’s the DMV, I’m rarely the best looking guy in the room.  I’ve never really made a lot of money, had particularly cool jobs, nice cars, or “dripped swag.”

To top it off, I’ve been raised almost exclusively by women, so I have a great deal of respect for women, which means I’m a nice guy, which I have learned–the hard way–is poison to the romantic interest of the vast majority of women.  I’m talking forever friendzoned.

While we’re running the litany, I’m prone to bouts of depression.  They don’t necessarily manifest as sadness so much as withdrawal from social interaction. Sometimes months go by when I feel wholly disinterested in doing anything.  Oh, and I have a potentially fatal heart condition.  I don’t smoke, don’t drink, and I have never taken an illicit drug in my life.  But I do love junk food.  I wouldn’t say it’s killed me, but it definitely has it’s hooks in.  If I was betting on which way I’m gonna go, I’m putting the house on the ticker.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think I’ve had a bad life or anything.  I don’t seek pity (before now).  I’m not waiting for death.  In fact, I find that entire mindset absurd and counterproductive.

I have plenty of amazing people in my life who love me and care about my well being.  I’ve typically been well liked and well respected by most of the people with whom I’ve interacted.  My passions are writing and drawing and I do one or the other pretty much every day.  And I have had relationships…just fewer than I would like (I’m probably with the majority in that regard).  I’ve even been in love.  Requited love.  I fully expect the day will come when I earn my entire living with my art.  I don’t believe in soul mates or anything but I know there are people out there with whom I’m compatible.  I just have to get re-acclimated with putting myself out there. A la George Costanza, I’m like a commercial jingle (do they have those anymore?); initially I may go unnoticed, I might even be annoying, but you’ll be humming my tune by the end of the day.

I’m perpetually optimistic.  I mean, it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.  You’re stuck with what you’ve got.  You can spend your time getting worked up about your circumstances or you can try to make things better.  Tomorrow’s coming either way.  It’s like that quote that says something along the lines of, optimists are realist; they know how bad a place the world can be.  It’s pessimists who keep relearning it every day…or something to that effect.  Personally, I think optimism, when applied, looks a lot like determination; and as an ideal, it’s the next best thing to happiness.

Anyway, my point, at the beginning of all this, was about my dream about this girl I loved and how my life would have been profoundly different if I would have just gone away with her.  Would it have been better?  Possibly.  Okay, probably.  But perfect?  Obviously not.

I was just haunted by the vividness of that look on her face.  It dredged up every bad thing that’s happened in my life since.  I had to vent. But even as I thought about the bad stuff, I started thinking about the good.  That says something, right?

Anyhow.

Free. Thought.

Watch Your Back, Yankovic!

This is by far the best political song parody I’ve seen in quite some time.  The song (and video) was made by a group called JustNew Productions (?) based on Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know.  It’s a pretty well written parody and I think it’s accurate about how a lot–a LOT–of people feel about Barack Obama.

Probably why the video is going viral.

Well, maybe that and the creative body painting.

(BTW, does Weird Al Yankovic still do parodies?  I don’t know.  Anyhow…)

Money out of politics.

Free. Thought.

For God’s Sake, Get That Kid Out Of There!

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Iggy Azalea.  I hadn’t until a few months ago.  For those that don’t know (out living a life and whatnot), she’s an Australian rapper.  I think that says it all.

I came across this video earlier this year and wrote it off as the mildly amusing drek that it is.  By happenstance I came across it again this morning and a thought struck me: “WTF is that kid doing in the video?!”

Please understand, the video is called Pussy–and it’s not a euphemism.  It is a song about Iggy’s genitalia and the enjoyment she derives from receiving oral pleasure–while strolling through her neighborhood dressed like a prostitute, of course.  Anyone who’s followed my blog knows how big a fan I am of trashy hip hop, especially when performed by white female rappers.  Music of the gods as far as I’m concerned.

My only point of contention is that while extolling the virtues of cunnilingus (oh–and drugs), she’s giving a 7 year-old boy a piggy back ride.

Inappropriate.

First of all, it destroys whatever fantasy she’s trying to sell.

Second, who’s effing kid is that?! Get him off the goddamn set!

Imagine 50 Cent performing Magic Stick while holding hands with a 10 year-old girl.  He’d be jailed immediately.  No trial.  And rightfully so.  This isn’t quite that bad, but it’s like 90% of the way there.

Or maybe it’s just me (it’s not).  What do ya’ll think? (P.S. there’s swears galore in this song.)

Common: The Believer

Funny to think of the (falsefied) uproar Common’s presence in the White House caused last year (ahh…politics).

The Chicago native has endured–over 21 years–because of his unique and unparallelled ability to straddle the line between poetry and rap.  It’s not hip hop for dummies.  This most clearly evidenced with his inspirational track The Believer off his 2011 album The Dreamer/The Believer.  I find it to be insightful and sometimes moving music that gives me a little something new each time I hear it.

His line, “If he could how would Ernie Barnes paint us/look at the picture, it’s hard not to blame us,” is in reference to Barnes’ custom of painting his subjects with their eyes closed to symbolize our blindness to each others’ humanity.

Likewise, in the verse, “Destiny’s children, survivors, soldiers/in front of buildings their eyes look older,” Common uses the now-defunct R&B group’s name and song titles as a metaphor to describe the saga of young life on the streets.

And lastly, with, “That ain’t the way the Langston Hughes wrote us/soul controllers on the shoulders of Moses and Noah,” Common laments how urban youth, despite possessing biblical potential, are running around with guns; it’s such a shortfall to how poets (and visionaries) such as Langston Hughes described African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance–which was the first real exposure the modern world got to the potential contribution blacks could make to culture and thought.

I love stuff like that. 🙂

Anyhow…

P.S.  The lyrics are included below.

– John legend – Hook –
I believe in the light that shines and will never die
Oh I believe the fire burns, we stay alive
They will talk about us
Like they talked about the kings before us
They will talk about us

– Common – Verse 1 –
These are the words of a believer, achiever, leader of the globe
Feeding souls of those in need
I bleed the blood of the struggle
Walking over troubled puddles
Hustles in my chest, no hustle no progress
Extremities of life and it’s process
Birth of a son, death of another
With love I caress both mothers
And tell ‘em, who’s in control is the One that’s above us
I walk where money talks and love stutters
Body language of a nation going through changes
The young become dangerous, pain gets spent into anger
Anger gets sent through the chamber
It’s tough when your own look like strangers
We are the sons of gangsters and stone rangers
If he could how would Ernie Barnes paint us?
Look at the picture, hard not to blame us
But time forgives, in the Chi where the young die often
Do they end up in a coffin because we haven’t taught them?
Is it what we talking? We really ain’t walking
Dues hustlers pay, how much did it cost ‘em?
Find myself on the same corner that we lost ’em
Real talking, in their ear like a Walkman
Thoughts spin around the corner to the World
When I see them, I see my baby girl
Believe!

– Hook –

– Verse 2 –
The lord lives among us
The young ‘uns hunger becomes a means to get it
By any means necessary, under pressure
Children feeling lesser, with the steel upon the dresser
Kill-at-will aggressors, Destiny’s children
Survivors, soldiers, in front of buildings their eyes look older
Hard to see blessings in a violent culture
Face against weapons, sirens, holsters
That ain’t the way that Langston Hughes wrote us
Soul controllers on the shoulders of Moses and Noah
We go from being Precious to Oprah
Cultivated to overcome ever since we came over-seas (seize)
The day and the way that you can see we determined
Solar keeps burning, shorties know to keep learning
Lessons in our life, but life stripes that we earning
Took Gramp’s advice that Christ is returning
Like a thief in the night, I write for beacons of light
For those of us in dark alleys and parched valleys
Street kids spark rallies of the conscience conquerors of a contest
That seems beyond us, even through the unseen, I know that God watches
From one King’s dream he was able to Barack us
The prophets, nothing can stop us
Believe!

– Hook-

[John legend]                                                                                                     I know I know I know our dreams won’t turn to dust
They will talk about us
I know I know I know our dreams won’t turn to dust
They will talk about us
I know I know I know our dreams won’t turn to dust
They will talk about us

How About Some Kelli Ali For Easter Sunday?

I bet you’re wondering where you’ve seen this woman before.

No?

Kelli's...err...Chiclets.

Well, her name is Kelli Ali (slash Dayton) and besides owning a fearsome-looking set of chompers (seriously) she used to be the lead singer of the English Trip Hop group Sneaker Pimps mildly reknowned for their their late ’90s chart toppers 6 Underground and Spin Spin Sugar.

Still nothing?

Anyway, Kelli was unceremoniously–and randomly–dropped from the band after their first album and decided to go off on her own.

She started out doing her own version of the  Sneaker Pimps’ down-tempo electronica style but evolved into this melodious folksy sound.

I love it.

Hope ya’ll do to.

Happy Easter!

 

The Servant

I always feel like every Brit rock band is doing some version of U2, Radiohead, or the Beatles.

It’s no different with the now defunct group The Servant, who I got introduced to with the music for Sin City. I think their overall sound definitely hovers around that Beatles/Oasis landscape–without being derivative.  What lead singer Dan Black lacks in lyrical deftness he more than makes up for with creativity and presence.

In the end, I’m a sap and they’ve got some great, twangy, singalong type stuff. I wish they were still making music.

Hope ya like it…

BTW, this video uses unedited clips from Sin City.  There’s some graphic imagery in here. 😮

Hidden Gem: DubFX

For years, DubFX–a.k.a. Benjamin Stanford–buttered his bread via odd jobs in his native Australia. Meanwhile he dreamed of giving it all up to make music.  So finally, he turned in his dish-washing apron and hit the streets in pursuit of that dream.

Literally.

He began a world tour as a street performer using a looping generator and his considerable beat-boxing skills to perform his songs live.

These street shows are his strong suit.  They display his talent while giving us an intriguing glimpse of his roving and seemingly adventurous lifestyle.  But what comes through the most in his work is his passion for music, life, and the opportunity to live his dream.  It radiates throughout his music. The only thing missing is the promotion.  To me, that’s what makes DubFX (and his girlfriend/partner in crime, Flower Fairy) a hidden gem.

Unfortunately, some of Stanford’s passion is lost in his studio work and supplanted instead with technicality, which he shows us on his independently-released debut album, Everythinks A Ripple.  He probably needs an experienced producer to capture the energy of his live performances.  On the upside, however, he did release a collection of his street performances aptly titled Live on the Street.

At any rate,  I like it.  Hope y’all do, too.

San Diego’s Greatest Rapper

The music scene in San Diego is robust but it’s not much of a rap mecca.  Anyone familiar with San Diego is probably surprised to learn there are any rappers out of San Diego.

His stage name is Wax and to be fair he’s originally from Baltimore.  It’s a fact I’m conveniently choosing to ignore.  He’s a phenomenal lyricist, one of the best out there, in my humble opinion.  Plus he’s a musician in his own right.  He has a twin brother who is similarly talented but isn’t as productive.

For those harkening back to my post on Immortal Technique, Wax is not that type of MC.  At all. There is no social relevance in Wax’s music; it’s all absurdity and fierce lyrics.  He’s much more in the vein of Eminem (due to content not skin color!).  His underrated producer EOM crafts tracks that fit Wax’s style seamlessly. What you get is a lyrically inventive head nodding underground sound that could work in almost any era of hip hop.

It’s funny and irreverent and I think it’s great.

Hope ya’ll do too. (There’s swears and potentially offensive subject matter in these vids, just so’s you know.)

Wax freestylin’ in the Sentra:

Wax and EOM (off of the Eviction Notice mix-tape):

Wax singin’ and rhymin’ at a live show:

The Subtle Genius of Susan Enan

Susan Enan is a favorite of mine as a singer and a songwriter.  Her music is definitely in the Sarah McLachlan vein as they actually collaborated on a song called Bring on the Wonder, which appeared on Enan’s 2009 debut album Plainsong along with a differing version on McLachlan’s 7th studio album, Laws of Illusion.  I like Enan’s version better.  Anyone who knows how big a fan I am of Sarah McLachlan understands what high praise that is coming from me.

Sarah is definitely more polished and has a greater range, but that’s actually the charm of Susan Enan.  Her music is intimate and introspective.  It’s honest and sincere.  She’s one of those performers where I find that almost every note is beautiful.

My favorite song is probably Bird (although it could just as easily be Bring on the Wonder).  But Plainsong is good start to finish.  It’s one of those albums you can just let play.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Susan Enan is that she does a house concert tour.  The entire tour is made up of her putting on shows at fans’ homes.  I’ve been trying to get her to do a show here in Fresno (She says I’m on the list, so I’m crossing the ol’ fingers and toes).  I don’t think I’ve heard of any other artist touring like that.  She’s been doing it for the last couple of years and just recently brought the tour to an end for awhile.

Susan Enan house concert.   Eugene, OR,  2010
Susan Enan house concert. Eugene, Oregon 2010

She still sounds interested on continuing the house concerts though.  I really hope she does, but if I have to go to a bar or a club or an arena to see her, I’m there.

(P.S. If this is your type of thing, other artists to check out include Miranda Lee Richards, Shayna Zaid, Ingrid Michaelson, Cat Power, and Great Northern.)

(Plainsong image from: http://indiesoundsny.typepad.com/indie_sounds_ny/2009/09/new-release-rap-susan-enan-plainsong.html.  Susan Enan in Eugene, OR image from: http://www.last.fm/music/Susan+Enan/+images/64766465.  Sarah McLachlan image from:  http://www.beautyriot.com/celebrities/sarah-mclachlan/photos)