IT SUCKS BEING BROKE #5AM
Been really digging this BK by way of Boston MC, Skipp Whitman’s 5AM album since I started checking it out yesterday. Skipp handles all the completely original (no sample) production himself and it is impeccable. Vocally he reminds me of the homie, D-sisive at times and a little bit of friend of The Kitchen, T.Shirt as well but overall, this is kind of fresh to my ears. I digs! What about y’all??
If you like what you hear and you’re in the NYC area, Skipp has a show at Arelene’s Grocery in the LES tomorrow evening:
it’s not supposed to be easy because if it was, everybody would be doing it. and just when you think you got it. just when you think you have figured it out. you realize. you have no idea what you’re doing and you are now one bit smarter than before: enlightened in knowing that you now know less than you thought you did a moment ago. there’s a reason why most people don’t try this, correction, DO this.
people will tell you you don’t have STAY power, and that you don’t know what you’re doing or saying and you know what? they’re right. but guess what: we’re all the same so that’s a bit broad of a thing to say about someone don’t you think?
remember when you thought adults had all the answers? and then you became one?
THE biggest fear in my life (more than death) is to wind up somewhere i didn’t mean to go. to look back at that road and think shit, where did we turn. or where were we so focused on looking ahead that we MISSED the turn.
and you feel the same way. you do because we all do. we all must or else the ‘sales’ profession wouldn’t be a profession. nobody wants to miss IT. the grass is always greener. we’re keeping up with the … yea.
and just when you think you got it. you realize it must have slipped out of your hands like a greasy pig at a bacon factory because when you open them up and look there’s nothing in there. just a taste of what you thought you had and a trail leading to where you think it may have gone.
what other choice is there but to keep going? caught somewhere between chasing and running from. still frame snap shot frozen in time and put behind glass for everybody to see.
Still, when OTHERS look at you they will inevitably say ‘man, he has it all.’
Queens, August 2012
i’m up i’m up i’m up i’m up ook i’m up. my dog isn’t. he’s asleep. matter of fact, passed the fuck out on my leg. and why wouldn’t he be it’s 4.30(am). it’s dark. the house is dark. the door to the bedroom is open and as i (still) lay in bed i look through the open floorplan and can barely see all the way through our place … through the half open door into the opposite side of the house into my studio. where i need to be. the cat walks by.
what if i juuust close my eyes for another couple hours and i’ll knock it out after work. i’ll be so much more charged, and inspired and. well. awake. no. i always fall into that and then am so tired after a long day i push it off to the next morning and so on. this is why my mixing deadline is a DEADLINE. plus there’s something immensely peaceful about 4.30am. no texts. no calls. no facebook updates (unless LA has something to say). nothing else to do but wake up. aaaaaaaand GO!
my puppy’s head is temporarily displaced and resettled and sunk into the puffy white down comforter that i don’t use but she does and doesn’t have a cover because mo pissed on it and it had to be sent (back) to the cleaner a couple of days after it came back. he hasn’t been so happy with us lately. but i digress. and i rise. and i head slowly towards the bathroom. to my own personal sink (yea we have double sinks. don’t hate). cold water. energy drink because my local dunkins staff is probably not even awake yet.
expecting nothing from myself but to sit blankly in front of my keyboard for 2 hours until i have to go because really. what else can you expect from yourself at 5am. execute the motions and pray for inspiration.
i listen back to what i did yesterday. to what i did last week. to something i accomplished a month ago and all of a sudden i’m playing my greatest hits and gradually fading off with my headphones providing pillow as i rest my head on my table. my dog thinks i’m crazy. that’s ok. i think he’s crazy too. my cat doesn’t give a shit. my girl is out of town, and i’m in my skivs, half asleep in a large, dark, empty apartment somewhere in Queens with four days until the album is to be mixed.
the more I write the less I doubt myself. the more I write the easier the words come together and come out. the more I write the more I want to write and the less I think about the before and/or after. the buildup or the let down. the hype machine. the more I write the more I get across what I’m really trying to say and the less I sit in static. frustrated. wishing or wanting or hoping or fantasizing (god forbid). the more I write the more I become who I am and the less I see myself as someone who I am not. the more I write the less time I spend thinking before an idea hits the page or plotting out bullshit plans that don’t matter until the work is there anyway.
the more I write the more I project. plan. scheme. playout scenarios that, because I write more, I know are impossible to predict until the pedal hits the all too referred to yet perfectly descriptive-metal. the more I write the more I realize that doing anything else would simply be a waste of time. a practice in futility. a labored masturbation at best and at worst well … . the more I write the more I can see what the potential is or isn’t and so the harder I work. the further I push. the less I think and the more I am.
I have been sharpening this tool since 12 and so now watch out cause I got a fucking diamond cut razor in my pocket. the more I write the more I realize that the music is only a part of it. it’s only a head on my screaming hydra of expression. it is one way to relate. yet. there is more. the more I write the less right I feel I have to be because who is keeping score anyway?
i just had the most amazing two days off.
i slept. i created. i ate drank and most importantly had uninterrupted time with my girl. i woke up this morning feeling amazing. excited. relaxed as hell. approaching the day with a seemingly unpenetrable sense of humor and outlook. i had lived. i had achieved serious progress in all areas of love and creativity.
within 2 hours of ‘plugging’ back in i was in a miserable mood. anxious, angry, uneasy, and tense. what had happened in the short amount of time to shake my natural high?
i had gone online. i had updated myself on the latest achievements on all of the people who shouldn’t have careers. i saw 7 new things that i wanted and couldn’t afford. 5 lives that i’m not currently leading and some new ‘rapper’ with 20 million views poppin’ and a fanatical preteen following. where is the line drawn?
impossible to wade into the online ocean without comparing and despairing. or burning half a day flipping through pictures of people you wouldn’t even say hi to if you passed them on the street. we’re all so important. i’m now burdened by a screeching headache and an urge to buy something or regret from buying something that i wouldn’t have considered 10 minutes prior.
plug in but don’t burn out. there’s too much life waiting for you.
we have to figure out a better way of doing this. but we have been doing it for so long that it has become impossible to imagine anything else. you have done it since college. and your parents did it before you. and their parents before them (most likely). the idea of leaping out and risking it all shrinks as the years tick forward. as a stable financial plan and fiscal responsibility and king comfort become priority over feeling alive.
when online shopping and catalogue shopping and outlet shopping and all of the conveniences of modern life become a crutch. a viable solution for a busy life. when you can get all you need in one place. centralized. modernized. updated. stainless steel and granite. strip floors in a high rise.
gtl. and everybody has been workin’ for the weekend for so long that the idea of not throwing all you have at a friday night is unfathomable. is such a separation from all that you have grown up with and experienced life through that where would you be? more importantly, what kind of person would you be (and be seen as) if you missed out on happy hour after work with the crew?
cleaning with poison. consuming prepackaged, chemical-ridden, tasty snacks. popping capillaries in traffic after revving your heart up with an energy drink that’s “all natural” and not only that, but supplies you with 350% of the vitamin B you’ll need for a week. yearning for a raise. taking what they give you and then squabbling about it with your cohorts at molly mc’whatever’s where fried cheese poppers are free with a pitcher of ‘skinny bitch’ sangria.
you do what you have to because you feel you have no other option. everything that has happened in your life up to this point has brought you here and to uproot would be … well. inconvenient.
whether or not we know it .. or especially whether or not we are willing to admit it … we are ALL in the rat race. just because you wear jeans and sandals to work and don’t sit at a desk doesn’t mean that you’re not with us. your whole grain rainforest snack is, far enough down the line, still a pepsi product. just because you’re ‘on the go’ and toil from a mobile work station and hold conferences in your living room in your interesting boxers . . you’re not exempt.
there has to be a better way.
money not only isn’t everything but beyond a means for survival it literally isn’t shit. none of this is real, it just seems like it is. we work. and work. and work. and work to get things to make us feel better about how much we’re working. and guess what?!? it doesn’t work. but in we go.
and there has to be a better way.
‘mixtapes’ that drop daily. shit, hourly. new videos posted, blogged and tweeted about. responded to, retweeted, streamed, downloaded, and blasted. fans that are purchased. artists chasing trends. both #nline and creatively. no idea’s original. singers copy their counterparts or idols and list them as influences. they’re sampled by ‘producers’ for the sake of a rapper who has transplanted a biggie line yet again and in so doing was only biting jay .. copying somebody’s idea of copying somebody. brilliant.
and they’re all waiting.
late nights. early mornings. long, hazy afternoons. a new puppy. a last minute show. that time of the day when my voice is perfect and all else can go to shit. being played music by people who i’m neither impressed nor inspired by and it’s literally burning time. i’m wide awake at 7pm stressing about 1am already and what won’t be done. what will have to wait until tomorrow. playing keys that sound cold. stiff. it’s hot. my 4th shower, 3rdmeal, 2nd attempt and 1st time talking about it.
and they’re all waiting.
time flies. excitement comes and goes. shows are booked. promoted. rocked. regaled. and most likely done again. as long as people come out. as long as standing on a sidewalk, handing shit out, talking to people, finding other artists with fanbases, using that. getting press. building excitement. doing it consistently. as long as ALL THAT is here and will be.
and they’re all waiting.
a hook. a verse. a story about who i am and not what i have but maybe what i may have in the future. just me. impossible for a successful writer to NOT be a narcissist because even when it’s about other people it’s really only about you. because what else in the world can you speak on with any certainty. it’s your thoughts. your views on things. the way you are effected. but somehow THEY know what’s best for you. oh,
and they’re all waiting.
drowning in flourecent overhead lights. blocked in and locked away. unable to type WITHOUT capitalizing the first letter of the first word after every period. programs that think they know things about you that actually aren’t necessarily always true. 401k savings. saving … saving. lunch breaks. email chains and conference calls. hoards of people that shuffle in and out of local sandwhich shops between 12pm and 1pm. that shuffle in and out of bars between 5.30pm and 10pm. and believe it or not. i say this without judgement. if this is your life, and if you are completely ok with it and even happy to do it please, PLEASE don’t take offense. or do, whatever.
i say that all to say this. god bless. growing up i always saw myself as different as not fitting in. at times it was a burden and at times it was a source of pride. now it simply is what it is but i can recall many times growing up whether listening to music, or playing sports, or applying to schools, or shopping for clothes or shit, deciding how to spend an evening and being surrounded by a ‘group’ mentality to which i simply didn’t subscribe. as we grow these decisions create our identity. they make us who we are.
i was never the tree in the school play. i always, from as early as i can remember, felt a need to stand out. to be paid attention to, more so than those around me. i sucked at sports so i got into music. i always lept for a gold star in school not because i even gave a shit about good grades but more so because i wanted to be considered as special. and for a while i assumed that everybody felt the same way i did. come to find out ….
most people fear public speaking more than death. most people would go the same lengths to fit in as i would to stand out. most people want a stable job. a happy marriage. a nice house. well behaved kids. and a relaxing retirement. the end. of that sometimes i’m judgemental and sometimes i’m jealous. if only. if only it were that simple.
i say that to say this. i don’t look down at you. i envy you. i am here chasing and will be chasing attention and fame and creative innovation and a whole load of other bullshit. my gift and my curse. i am (not) ok with being average and never will be.
it takes a lot of work to make something look effortless. faced with the despicable option of preselling tickets, i decided to do my own show. i found this amazing club in the middle of nowhere/williamsburg called ‘the acheron.’ it was/is a punk/metal club that never had a hip hop show before. after confirming the date, guaranteeing the door, announcing the event, booking the act(s), finding a live band (more on that later) and rehearsing, and jumping off on an aggressive promotional campaign for the upcoming night … i decided to take a look at the space.
it was a rock club. it is a rock club. it is and was magic. the smell of it. the stained concrete floor and similarly situated walls. the 4 ft stage covered in industrial grade powder blue carpet worn to perfection. the white spray-paint stenciled skull on wings that adorned the back wall at the end of the stage. the black ceiling. the small, makeshift bar to the side where Nicole enthusiastically slung (slang?) drinks and banged J5 from a local cd/boombox.
after four total hours of practice my band was ready to rock. aya, pasquale and ignacio are some of the most talented musicians i have ever met. for the first twenty minutes of our first rehearsal we sat in the (semi) soundproof room staring at each other. i looked up at the 20 foot ceiling and tried to conjur leadership but had no idea what the fuck to tell a live band. this was all new to me. not to mention, as soon as they started playing i was hooked. they asked for suggestions, critique, preferences i said … ‘do THAT ..’ and so they did.
and so on the night of i came in at 8.40 (for 9pm doors) and met fid. he would be working the door. he, and our soundman, couldn’t have played their parts any better. they were MEANT to be here tonight, at this club, for this show. and we were all excited that there was a bar because at first look i didn’t see one. tj came all the way from boston to meet me and stace for the show. t … one of my biggest supporters in boston. in the corner of the bar, before showtime, he put his hands up playing Cus D’amato. energy. energy. energy.
all of the uneasiness. not nerves. never nervous. just very uneasy. anxious. and after shakespeare had his moment(s) on stage i got on and did my thing. in so many ways, when throwing a show, the actual performance is almost a sidenote (even IF the performance was as stellar as i feel that this particular one may have quite possibly been). all of the time leading up to it. slick fliers. my band. the club. rsvp’s and those closest to me who live near but didn’t bother going. it’s all good. i’ll catch you next time. as to everybody else .. i’ll see soon this is so just the beginning and i can’t say that rocking to an ipod is anywhere in my foreseeable future.
we are in a constant struggle between immediate and delayed gratification. we are, in every moment, in some way or another striving for happiness. though not our decision at the time, this is why we show up at kindergarten on the first day; so that we may start learning how to learn; so that we may do well in school; so that we get into college, which should hopefully guarantee a good job; which makes us money that buys us the things that lead to a great life.
‘things’ are the opiate that temporarily fill the happiness receptor in us. but just as with drugs … they too wear off, build tolerance, and are required in more abundance to do the same job the next time. whatever we have after paying for food and shelter (which in NY can equate to all your income anyway) is either saved or spent on things.
this can apply to anything really example, food: the 1st calorie that we intake above what is needed to sustain us is in essence frivolous. eating for the enjoyment of eating and not for its primary purpose of basic nourishment is, though commonly done, explicitly unnecessary. it is a luxury.
that being said, i enjoy not much more in the world than hitting the city on a beautiful day to eat, drink, and shop. it’s thrilling. and if money were of no consequence, honestly, it’s probably how i would spend most of my days.
so if these things are so enjoyable, then why the fuck in the world would i wake up at 5am to torture myself in the gym? why do i abstain from bagels and pizza and pasta covered in cheese and brownie ice cream sundaes? why do I spend most waking hours producing, promoting, and performing which can be thrilling but much of the time is tedious, disappointing, and exhausting. because, now don’t quote me here, I THINK I have found the true key to happiness …. ready? … wait for it, wait for it ….
it is the DELAY of gratification.
so if it is SO simple?! if the KEY to happiness is the delay of gratification then why aren’t we all happy all the time? waiiiiiit for it …
because we are human.
because we are subject to weakness. to ‘cheating’ on our supreme routines. to indulging in exactly what we will feel like shit for and regret tomorrow. because there is night us, and morning us. because we are fueled by emotions which motivate us to operate opposite from rationale. on second thought, maybe happiness is only possible in fleeting moments?
maybe happiness is the spring after a bad winter and so without negatives wouldn’t be able to exist?! if asked, i would say that humans were programmed to slip. and, like that questionable will smith movie, maybe we live only in the pursuit of happiness afterall.
when I’m weak I look back at you. sometimes I wonder where I would be if I made a different move or decision. committed to this or abstained from that. ultimately, you made me who I am now. I spend too much time focused on you, especially because no matter what I do you will never ever ever change. you are permanent, stubborn, and so set in your ways. fortunately my thoughts about you can. I remember when I was in the midst of so much angst and impossible (or for what seemed like) struggle and I was so blind. at so many points. if I focused hard enough I could just make out the next foot in front of me. I couldn’t see a thing. when I look at you now it’s a different picture. I can see birds eye. superhuman perspective even. so easy to see what the right answer would have been whether or not I took it … at least to get me to where I am today. when I was there I had the liberty of option limited by perspective. now, with infinite perspective that option no longer exists. it’s in stone. cement. pavement blocks. you’re cut off. you are the irate, shitfaced, office holiday party bar patron and now don’t have to go home but can no longer stay here.
most times you escape me. I love music because you are it. as I write, you are all that I know. what has happened before or will happen are of no concern or consequence. and then you’re gone. forever changing. always evolving. in my more confident moments I flaunt you. I love you for existing and I’m happy to just be. at other times I need you gone. you are the truth. so fucking brutal sometimes. at the end of pointless conversations and analysis and expectation, plans, hopes, dreams, let downs and come backs ….. you’re forever now. I work to get close to you every day. and sometimes I succeed momentarily. they say that a or even THE primary fundamental of enlightenment is grasping you fully. how? I have no idea. I used to meditate, and most likely spent that time thinking of before shit or after shit. it’s discipline to be in you but I have to say, in bad times and in good, you never have disappointed.
you will never be. I have chased you my whole life and have never caught you (maybe fortunately so). I spend most of my time thinking about you and you’re tricky because you never once have come to be as I had imagined. I’m distracted from my day thinking about you. wondering. curious and sometimes anxious. can’t wait to get to you although I know I never ultimately will. you are forever elusive. you are what I will be and never am. you are my aspirations. you are where I see myself. you are my ultimate fantasy. I have tried to forget you and let come what may but I always come back. pretending not to care. or trying too hard to force any particular outcome. ultimately I know that no matter what happens in a flash you are my now and just as quickly become what used to be.
SHOW IN BROOKLYN. 1st W A LIVE BAND. BE THERE!
back in the day, when I was with my first group E3, we did over 100 shows a year. easy. we played all over boston. we played in new hampshire. in vermont. in connecticut, all over western massachusetts, montreal, ohio maine … oh the things we saw. man, the people we met. we opened up for kanye west in front of 3000 people. we opened up for chingy in front of 5000 people. we signed autographs. and after all this we grossed … right around $100. i remember looking at my boys after one of these blowout shows saying “imagine if we actually got paid for this?!”
after a while, the thrill of sharing a bill with one of my rap idols was overshadowed by the time i had to take off work to do it. by the long drives, bad sleeps, and unfilled bank accounts. by the fact that we PAID, out of pocket, both monetarily and otherwise, for the pleasure of entertaining. and god damn that shit was pleasurable. but after a while it grew stale. we got tired. the grind ground us down. and like so many times in life we grew apart.
soon after, i moved to new york and got into high end real estate. 10k/month for a 2bd apartment high-end real estate. and heavens to murgatroy: i got paid. i got paaaiiiiid. i knocked out debt. i stacked orange boxes. they literally filled my small, but amenable, New York City apartment. i sat in the office during the day and ordered hundreds of dollars of rugbys. i wandered through this amazing city on my days off and just blew through cash. and then came home to more of it. and most importantly: i recorded. nightly. i produced, i wrote, and fuck, i recorded.
creatively, everybody works different. everybody. some people thrive on an empty stomach and overdue bills. some thrive on high pressure deadlines. that spring in new york city i found my magic. surrounded by brand new clothes with the tags still hanging off. consumed by the smell of brand new sneakers. comfortable with enough in the bank to splurge and still have enough left to pay bills, save, and then splurge again. i created. for those who know my shit: i did ‘brookline,’ ‘sonny,’ ‘pretty clothes,’ and ‘home’ all after (or during) successful shopping trips. i distinctively remember writing the first lines to sonny while on one of these trips, in my head … thinking “from summer shade to the winter with heat to spring time when flowers grow to fall when they leave / born in …”
at a young age i was told, both verbally and implicitly, by two starving artist parents that “you don’t need to be starving to be an artist.” i grew into a particular mentality: i would rather spend more of my time making money to build the level comfort at which point i’m inspired to PRODUCE. when i was in new york i got offers to play out of state for nothing. and when faced with missing what i could make at work for the opportunity to PAY to play for 5 people i usually passed.
some may say that doing shit like that is a necessary step. a must in the uphill battle to make it. and i don’t disagree. however everybody’s struggle is different. the longer i have done this the more i have realized that what may work for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. as a matter of fact, it most likely doesn’t because nobody’s the same person. aside from bank balances and miles traveled, and maybe most importantly, is knowledge of self. or better yet, knowledge of self (worth). playing a free show for 5000 people is a rush. getting paid to play for 5 people is a job. but playing a free show for next to no one …. after a while gets exhausting. it degrades the level at which you see yourself, erodes your pride, and eventually runs you ragged. how is anyone ever going to take you seriously if you don’t take YOURSELF seriously. ultimately, this shit is either a business or a hobby.
after living around the country. getting paid for shows. not getting paid for shows. playing the whisky a go go and playing bob’s bar and grill. after working with idols and getting paid for verses i have learned (at least) one immutable truth. money is better than not money. and there is nothing wrong with demanding to be compensated for what you are worth.