Do You Really Need Kanye to Validate Me?

Don’t wait for someone else to validate your friend’s work to support him/her. Ask yourself, “If Kanye said my homie’s art was dope, would I start supporting?” If the answer is yes, don’t wait for ‘Ye or Kim or Barack or Cardi or LeBron or Beyoncé or Cole or anyone else to say it. Just support your people the same way you support ‘Ye or Kim or Barack or Cardi or LeBron or Beyoncé or Cole. Go to their shows. Rock their clothes. Hype them up on social media.

And, while money is ALWAYS nice for artists who pour our souls into our art forms, I get it: We don’t all have bread to spend on every little thing (I blame Sally Mae). But you can click a link. You can repost a piece of work or a web address. You can have their new track playing on your Instagram Story while you’re driving up I-95. You can go hard for your homie’s business like it’s yours every now and then. If you wouldn’t buy their stuff regardless of whether ‘Ye liked the work or not, that’s cool. But if (s)he is truly your friend, still repost because art is like food: everyone has different tastes.

In short, stop killing genuine art (and, ultimately, your friends’ livelihoods) with your apathy. It’s not 1984, it’s 2018. Supporting is as easy as tapping a touchscreen once or twice. If you don’t even do the bare minimum to support, don’t expect to get put on when your talented friends make it.

While we’re on the subject of support, check out my Patreon page and subscribe to get an exclusive look at my creative process and weekly pieces that won’t hit the public.

Make supporting your team a priority.

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As I Sit in Starbucks… 🤦🏿‍♂️

Let’s jump right in.

 

I love and hate the influence that the West, and specifically the United States, has on the world. I love it because I can go anywhere in the world and move around with relative ease. I hate it because I can go anywhere in the world and move around with relative ease. Essentially, it takes away from the experience of feeling truly foreign in a foreign land. I am not a native Swahili or even French speaker who has to lean on a limited understanding of English to communicate while in Japan. I don’t go to Thailand with a strong German accent and struggle to order my scotch on the rocks. I, as a native English speaker, have it easy. And not only about language.

 

Yesterday, Desirée and I went to Good Town Doughnuts in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. While I’m not a fan of American country music, if I were, this would be the place for me because, the entire time we were there, an American country radio station was playing. While all the customers (except the two of us) were Japanese, the decor was quintessential Americana, down to the two flags hanging on the wall (though one was pretty cool in that it had the Holtom peace symbol replacing the stars). Tonight, we sat down for dinner at a Japanese-made beer company’s restaurant and I heard Anita, Stevie, and Diana playing through our meal. And don’t get me started on hip-hop’s impact; I walked into a vintage clothing store on the day we arrived and saw that 90% of the cultural influence came from the 5 boroughs, with a few splashes of NOLA and the West Coast. From De La Soul’s album at the entrance to Dipset’s Supreme photoshoot on the wall, I felt at home.

 

The thing is, I don’t leave the United States to feel at home. And I don’t feel that way all the time but I also know that my discomfort is always temporary. Eventually, I will find someone who will meet me where I am in conversation, whether we’re discussing politics, music or American football (shoutout to Cam Newton, who is the sole reason my barista in Santorini knows where North Carolina is).

 

It is nice to move with ease but doesn’t that take away some of the fun everyone else from around the world gets to have? When everyone speaks English and knows your major notable figures, doesn’t it say something about your own society’s narcissism for knowing very little about their society? This may never change. The U.S. may be this influential until the world ends. But the least we can do is make an effort to meet them halfway, right? I mean, I’ll be honest, I can’t even ask someone where the restroom is in Japanese (and haven’t had to because there is always dual signage). Let’s stop allowing our self-centeredness be what defines us.

 

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Oh yeah… And I’m writing this while sitting in Starbucks because I knew I’d be able to hop on the WiFi with relative ease, which I wasn’t able to do the previous establishment (pictured above) where I needed a Japanese keyboard. See? I knew the comfort would come. Lucky me.

 

 

 

Make researching more than tourist sites before traveling abroad a priority.

What Do You Do When The Connection’s Gone?

I will preface this post by saying that this problem is first-world in nature and an indication of the privilege many Americans have.

Desirée and I have a 9-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey. Yes, you read that right. Nine hours. #NoTypo. We can’t We’re not leaving the airport because, to purchase a Turkish visa, you must pay 30 USD per person and we weren’t down for that. What really sucks about this layover is that there’s no way for us to connect to the internet for free. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent about 8 USD trying to connect over the first four hours ($7 on some subpar ice cream from a shop that provides “free” wifi and $1 on an “unlimited 24 hour web connection” that didn’t let me get any further than Google.com). The major problem is that, in order to connect to (what I assume is) the best internet in the airport, you need to be able to receive an SMS text message. Because we don’t have phone service here (Verizon’s international plans were just too expensive for all that), we couldn’t get the code necessary to purchase service.

But, per usual, I came prepared. Though I’ve never been to any international airport in the world that doesn’t have complimentary internet (and I’m sure I’ve been to at least 35 international airports over the past decade and a half since wifi use began norming), I knew that, on this trip, I wouldn’t always have internet connection. Therefore, while I was packing, I made sure to toss in a couple paperback books that I wanted to finish over these two months (ended up downloading the books that I packed to save on weight but you get the gist). Additionally, before leaving the United States, I snagged a few films that I had purchased on Amazon Prime and the iTunes Store. And, because I have a Spotify Premium account, I made sure to save all my favorite playlists and albums to the phone. When I got tired of being inspired by literature, cinema, and music, I’ve proceeded to write, both here on The Reader and continue working on my book. And, lastly, once all that has been done, I spend time looking through and editing photographs because, on a trip like this, there are always photos I can be touching up.

The moral of the story is you don’t need to have an link to the World Wide Web to get the most out of a layover at the airport. All these things (books, film, music, and writing) require no sustained internet connection as long as you plan ahead. But that’s enough for today; time to get back to this awesome book.

 

Make preparing for the worst a priority.

OTR II – Live from Cardiff, Wales

I’ll kick this off by saying that the only Beyoncé songs I’ve ever liked have been the ones w/ Jay Z on them. I just haven’t ever gotten into her or her music. Such is life. But I must give credit where credit is due. The woman is an amazing performer. She is, in my mind, a better performer than vocalist but she actually showed her range some last night at the opening show of the On The Run II tour. Now, does this mean I’m adding her to my playlists? No. But she did her thing last night and put on an amazing show.

Ok, now on to the next one. Jay showed up and showed out. I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t reach as far back into his catalog as I would’ve liked but he hit the Blueprint album so I won’t complain. From where we were standing, I one of a few Jay fans in the vicinity, but we were also in the United Kingdom and I will be the first to admit that, while Jay is more of an icon within the African-American male community, Beyoncé is a world pop star so I’m not surprised. Either way, I was going in, spitting every line like I had been in the booth feeding him lyrics. This was my third time seeing him live and I’ve come to the conclusion that he is the most impactful name in the history of hip-hop. He saw hip-hop as a political movement. He was in the rap game through its gangster stage. And now, as mumble rappers are dumbing it down and conscious ones are working to maintain a level of excellence, he is still the go to O.G. Last night, he showed that even as he knocks on 50, he can deliver an amazing show and spit a dope freestyle.

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If you can, I suggest going to see the show wherever you can. Don’t go broke doing it but if it means cutting out a few beers over the next couple months, make that happen. They’re great as individual performers but together, they are unbelievable.

 

Make exploring the world a priority.

Feels So Good to Be Alive

I got an e-mail from one of my go to hip-hop sites, Ambrosia for Heads, and the subject line talked about a collab between Royce Da 5’9” and J. Cole. I was so excited that, before even getting to the content in the e-mail, I went to Spotify and looked up the song (which just dropped today). I listened and it sounded super dope and I wanted to drop it on The Reader for you all but at the end of the song, I realized I hadn’t heard J. Cole nor Royce’s voices. The song wasn’t theirs! I had been bamboozled! But the song I had heard was dope, so I figured “Let’s see whose it is.” Turns out, after a second listen and while Googling some of the lyrics, it’s a song by XUITCASECITY called “Alive.”

I don’t usually post music but I think the positive vibes in this song are necessary. Life is tough sometimes but remember that you’re alive. This song that I happened to stumble upon is now on my wake up playlist. Check it out below. And have a great weekend.

 

Make joy a priority.

Two Decades of 3EB

Twenty years ago, my parents bought me my first CD/cassette/radio combination boombox (a HUMONGOUS step up from my cassette tape one which I gave to my little sister once I got the cooler one) and Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut album. I was in fifth grade and I thought I was the coolest kid because I had a cool new CD with a boombox so I could be the classroom DJ for our little parties.

Today, on the way to a pre-work meeting, I was in the mood to listen to the album for some reason. I was really feeling the music so I decided I’d play the rest on Spotify at my desk. Little did I know when I typed in 3EB that this year is the 20th Anniversary of the album’s release. There’s a special edition of the album that came out less than a month ago. If you were in the group of kids/teens that listened to hip hop and pop rock interchangeably, you probably rocked with some of 3EB’s songs, namely “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper”. Anyway, this new release has a whole nother disc with unreleased tracks and demo versions.

This has very little to do with anything professional, per se, but has everything to do with being a young professional. We’re finally at the age where the music we grew up listening to is hitting the age required to be re-released. That’s kinda cool… and kinda not. But I’m going to enjoy finishing out the songs I know and then moving on to those that I’m unfamiliar with.

Oh… And it’s cool to finally be old enough to know what the heck these 20-something year olds were talking about. I was a 10 year old kid singing about a jumper and didn’t know what being on a ledge had to do with jumping. Adulting is tough folks but not that tough. So, please, “step back from that ledge my friend. You could cut ties from all the lies that you’ve been living in.”

 

Make being nostalgic a priority.

 

 

What’s Better Than One Billionaire? Two.

“I’ll be damned if I drink some Belvedere while Puff got Ciroc.” — Sean “Jay Z

Do you know what I took from “4:44”? (Well, I took a lot but this is my favorite lesson.) That I must support those in my circle so that we can grow and build together. Is that always going to be supporting by buying? No way. If your product is garbage, I’m going to tell you your product is garbage but I’m going to tell you how you can improve it.

Example: Desirée had some idea for menswear the other day that just wasn’t appealing. I told her that I, as a man and therefore a part of her target market, didn’t find that idea to be worth my money. But I said, “What if you adjust it this way? I’m sure more brothers would willingly pay for this as opposed to that.”

Support isn’t always found in the form of dollars but also in critiques that lead to dollars. If I love you, I’m going to do one of two things: critique you or spend money with you/bring you customers. I want to keep my dollars in my circle, in my community, and in my family. “Nobody wins when the family feuds,” so why not get on the same page and support one another? Stop competing. Start working together, building, and watch what can come if, as opposed to a two way street, everyone’s lane builds a highway.

 

Make commUNITY building a priority.