The Struggle

Continuing on with last week’s theme, this Food For Thought was written by Amy Nicole, and will further address unfulfilled working, as seen through J. Cole’s perspective lenses.

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Working 9 to 5 Just To Stay Alive

By Amy Nicole

“I can’t count how many times I’ve seen comments and memes from people flooding my social media pages, expressing how much they hate their jobs and how they can’t wait for the weekend. I’ve posted a few memes myself regarding my frustration about working a job that I hate because bills have to get paid. I had a conversation with my sister about how the thought of going to school for so many years just to prepare to work for someone for the rest of your life is depressing. I do realize that in order for the average person to sustain a lifestyle, that person has to work to earn an income. We have bills to pay, food and clothes to buy, families to support, and with whatever is leftover we want to try to somewhat enjoy life within the madness.

I came across an interview that J. Cole did with Angie Martinez on Power 105.1 recently and he spoke on the same topic. He said the following about working a job that you hate:

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“We all sellouts….. You selling out. You going to something you don’t like. Why? So you can live and survive. To me life don’t feel like it’s supposed to be like that no more. It feel like somebody time gotta be worth more than $8 an hour. You spend your whole day going to work, 8 hours out of your day. A day is only 24 hours, you gonna sleep 8 of those so right away that’s 16 hours. Half of your day is making $8 an hour.  Even if you get $15 an hour and they trying to raise minimum wage. A hour of my life is worth $15? Ok but I gotta do it, I gotta work, I gotta eat.”

He also touched on some other heavy issues that most people are afraid to discuss. He referred to capitalism as paid slavery, and he discussed how most people are out for themselves looking to make a profit despite what is being jeopardized in the process. He even went as far as to say the type of food we eat, music we listen to and type of shows we watch are detrimental; however, at the end of the day someone is making money off all of it. He stated:

 “That’s what capitalism teaches us. It’s a every man for himself mentality. It’s a I gotta be on top….For me to be on top, I gotta have a bottom. For me to own McDonalds, I gotta have somebody at the bottom working at McDonalds. For me to own any company, any business… Capitalism is like… to me it’s like… I don’t know the alternative; I don’t even know if it exists. I don’t think we’ve evolved to something that exists yet, but capitalism is just paid slavery. It’s the same set up as slavery, only difference was slaves wasn’t getting paid.”

Martinez addressed his taking part in the Ferguson protests, and he opened up on how he feels that we live within a system that wants us to become so preoccupied and distracted with our own lives that we don’t have time to take a stand on anything or have compassion for someone else.

 

“The people at the top love the fact that everybody is so busy with themselves and their own lives that they don’t have the time to stand for something or to fight for something.”

“It’s graduate college and it’s like now I gotta pay my bills now, I gotta get this deal before my time runs out. Like life happens and you worry about all this stuff and you don’t have the time to fight for nothing no more. You don’t have the time to even care because I got my own kids…  yea this man died, but it’s like yo bruh  I got bills and twitter is popping right now, and Instagram is hot, and ‘Love and Hip Hop Reunion’ is on. It’s like they love to distract you and like keep you occupied while they just molest the world and milk the world. You know what I mean?”

Cole said a mouthful. He has been one of my top favorite rappers for a while now; not just because of his music but because of his mindset and intelligence. This interview made me have a new level of respect for him. He was very vocal about certain taboo topics on his latest album 2014 Forest Hills Driveand he recently gave an emotional and powerful performance on the Dave Letterman Showthat even left the host almost speechless.”

Apple Music | Spotify

We’ve All Been There (Or Currently Are)

I recently read an article by Cassidy Kakin that I couldn’t resist sharing with you all. His words were all too familiar, as a working adult, whose escape from the reality also stems from the impact of music. I’m pretty sure we’ve all woken up in the morning, dreading going to work as each hour creeps closer to the time we have to be there. “Do I really need this job?” we think. “Oh thank God, I’ve got two more hours until my alarms clock goes off” In America, it has become common to live only for the weekends, but why? Cassidy explains how the “American Nightmare” weighed heavily on his energy, his psyche, and his happiness, and what he did to reclaim all of these things. Give it a read, I promise it’ll be worth it.

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I Quit My Tech Job Because of Kendrick Lamar

Since then, I’ve been a whole lot broker but also a whole lot happier.

 

 Cassidy Kakin

Apr 10, 2017

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Jake Fransen

“When I was 23, my mother-in-law to be was proud of me. 

I’m two years older now, carrying a few pounds less stress and a few dozen more complexes when I wake up in the morning, and that notion disgusts me.  

A lot has changed; new jobs, new relationships, new addresses have come and gone. Old friends with new homes and new wives. New perspectives. New hip-hop. Looking back, I can trace the first domino in all those toppling transformations back to the morning I quit my Silicon Valley tech job. And the night before, when Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp a Butterfly.  

Rewind to February 2015, the first time I felt like a big kid. I’d been out of school and living on my own for two years, but by the end of that cruel winter, everything was different. I’d found my pocket. Professionally, romantically, it all looked on the surface like things were lining up.

The soundtrack was golden too. Joey Bada$$ stumbling into his grown man swagger right alongside me, Run The Jewels giving all of us young old heads faith in the culture. More powerful underground music than I’d ever swam in before, doing more for my heart and soul than I’d ever thought to ask for. 

Something was wrong, though. Something was missing. A grating feeling, like I wasn’t who I was supposed to be, started to work its way deep between the cracks in the paint covering the white picket fence in our tidy San Jose suburb. And it took To Pimp a Butterfly for me to understand why.

To imagine that my struggle as an upper-middle-class white college graduate living in the Bay and smoking too much weed shared any DNA with Kendrick and the demons he was battling is naive and bordering on cultural sacrilege. But I heard his words like I was staring at myself in the mirror, tasting the same anxiety and self-doubt that lingered in the back of my throat that Kendrick was trying to drown out in that hotel room.    

March 2015, I was the COO of a small Silicon Valley angel-funded tech company that builds designer bike lights worth more than my dental visits. I was good at my job, but I wasn’t sure why, and nothing made any sense. To this day, I have no idea why my boss’ patent was worth millions of dollars, or why I was trusted with a company credit card when most months I lived on the wrong side of my checking account’s overdraft line and treated my FICO score like a game of Russian Roulette.

I had everything that the TV had ever told me I wanted, and none of it tasted right. The soundtrack was turning rotten. All the artists I loved looked scared. I remember feeling nauseous every morning, hearing about another death in the black community, another cop getting a paid vacation, another stain on my comfortable millennial ideals.

And I remember feeling anxious, like none of the community leaders I looked up to had the guts or vision to make the music I needed to hear addressing all of that fear and hurt.

Then, on March 15, Kendrick dropped.  

To Pimp a Butterfly, starting with the opening track, felt as abrasive and refreshing as a Sprite wrapped in sandpaper.

“When I get signed, homie, I’ma buy a strap / Straight from the CIA, set it on my lap / Take a few M-16s to the hood / Pass ’em all out on the block, what’s good? / I’mma put the Compton swap meet by the White House / Republican run up, get socked out.” — “Wesley’s Theory

Around midnight on the 15th, I was laying in bed, staring at Twitter and hating the idea of work in the morning like the rest of us. A few minutes later, TPAB landed in my iTunes folders, courtesy of its famously bungled release job, and I remember thinking as much about Huey P. as 2Pacalypse Now.  

It felt like a weight was being lifted; like I was drinking my medicine for the first time in years. Kendrick rapped “I need forty acres and a mule / Not a forty ounce and a pitbull” and I felt like the trajectory of mainstream hip-hop was changed forever. Like I was witnessing history.

By 3 a.m., I’d squeezed in two back-to-back listens of TPAB‘s neo-fusion odyssey. Staring at that ticking clock and thinking about all of the emails I had to send in the morning, I walked myself through shutting my laptop and taking off my headphones and pretending like I cared about anything other than the voice of my favorite poet speaking truth to power.

But, of course, I pressed play again, diving a layer deeper into the radical mind of the artist just as revolutionary.

“And I’m insensitive, and I lack empathy / He looked at me and said, ‘Your potential is bittersweet’ / I looked at him and said, ‘Every nickel is mines to keep’” — “How Much a Dollar Cost

From “How Much a Dollar Cost” to “Alright” to “Mortal Man” to “Complexion,” Kendrick refused to take the easy way out. These were protest songs for the people, not for TV endorsements. They were real images, not packaged politics.

I thought about Kendrick’s world, before and after fame, and I thought about what it meant to swing so hard for the fences as a major label artist with everything to lose. I thought about his unwavering convictions. Kendrick stared White America in the eye and showed us his scars.  

Halfway through my third spin, as the hands on my clock were nearing 4 a.m., the prospect of my 10 a.m. budget meeting became the furthest thing from my mind. 

When “u” came on, I heard it the way Kendrick meant for me to hear it:  

“I fuckin’ tell you, you fuckin’ failure—you ain’t no leader! / I never liked you, forever despise you—I don’t need you! / The world don’t need you, don’t let them deceive you / Numbers lie too, fuck your pride too, that’s for dedication / Thought money would change you / Made you more complacent / I fuckin’ hate you, I hope you embrace it” — “u”

I’d been complacent, volunteering on the weekends and writing some rap think-pieces here and there, but otherwise totally detached from everything that inspired me. I knew the stakes were high, and that I wasn’t doing enough. I convinced myself that that was ok, that I had done my time and worked hard and deserved to live with whatever luxury was left after the rent and average self-destructive habits took their financial toll.  

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Yet, here was Kendrick. One of the most important figures of his generation. Taking the blame. Accepting that he hasn’t always been the leader he knows he should be. Looking in the mirror and seeing a 360-degree view of himself and resolving to cast out the lie that says we deserve to love every bit of ourselves, even the parts that don’t trust in who we can be.  

By the fifth spin, with the clock reading 6 a.m., I didn’t have any illusions about showing up to a meeting at a job I didn’t care about. By the fifth time “Mortal Man” rang out, Pac’s voice cutting through whatever sheets of self-deception were still hanging on like a chainsaw through a Jell-O mold, I knew I didn’t ever want to go back to work.

So I didn’t.

That morning, I called my boss, turned in my two weeks notice, and was told politely that I should shut the hell up and chase my dreams sooner than that. That same morning, I also published a review of To Pimp a Butterfly that made me feel hungrier than I ever had for a life of thinking about rap and art and politics full-time and figuring it out along the way.    

Since then, I’ve been a whole lot broker but also a whole lot happier. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, as a leader or a man or a member of my community, but I’m a lot closer than I was two years ago, staring in that mirror with Kendrick and finding reasons to hate myself.

To Pimp a Butterfly is an objective classic. More importantly, as it pertains to my own life story, it caught me at the right time. Kendrick showed me how to be a version of yourself that doesn’t hide from the nuances; his commitment to creating the album he wanted at a time when that album was needed inspires me to this day. I don’t think that I’ll ever fully move past that morning when I made that phone call.

Sitting there in my bed, iTunes on repeat, wrapped in blankets, but warm most of all with passion and the certainty that the right artist could change the world. Even if that only happens one late-night bender, one phone call to your boss, and one abandoned career at a time.  

Kendrick helped me to appreciate who I am and who I hope I can become. Quit your job for an album listening session and join me in figuring it out, and I’ll see you in the “thank you” card aisle whistling K-Dot.  

Apple Music | Spotify

Kali Uchis

“Musically and aesthetically, the culture of it just inspires me”

Colombian-American singer-songwriter Karly-Marina Loaiza, or, as she is commonly referred to by countless die-hard fans, Kali Uchis, is notorious for making her grand entrance into the music industry in 2012, following the release of  her mixtape, Drunken Babble. The genre-bending vocalist was given the nickname “Kali Uchis” by her father. Uchis has stated that she is influenced by music of the 1960’s, with its mix of early soul, R&B and doo-wop, saying, “Musically and aesthetically, the culture of it just inspires me.” She also mentioned that she enjoys jazz, stating during her career beginnings that she draws musical inspiration from Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, Curtis Mayfield, Loose Ends, Ralfi Pagan and Irma Thomas.

While growing up, she frequently moved between Columbia to America, all the while still managing to learn how to play both the piano, and saxophone. Uchis was even part of Jazz band, before graduating from T. C. Williams High School.  Sounds like the perfect studious child, right? Not exactly. Uchis often skipped classes to spend time in the photo lab, making experimental short films, where she found a newfound interest and talent for creating mix-tape cover art. She also wrote poetry, songs and music, but did not initially intend to sing, as she was drawn more towards being the magic that happens behind the scene, via directing films, rather than being the direct talent in the spotlight.

Nevertheless, the spotlight is exactly where she landed. In 2015, Uchis released her first EP, Por Vida, further increasing her recognition, which erected more hype and enthusiasm for her 2018 debut studio album, Isolation. This debut album received widespread acclaim from critics, with Llana Kaplan, of The Independent writing that Uchis “has been largely underrated the past few years, but Isolation might just finally give her the attention she deserves”.

Apple Music | Spotify

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: DIZZY CRANE

Romy Dya

The first time I wrote a song I was 10 years old. It was about loving myself, because I was always being bullied at school. So music was my therapy and it still is.”

Globally famous for singing alongside British singer, Jamie Scott on David Guetta and Martin Garrix’s song,So Far Away,” singer-songwriter, Romy Dya has fans on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting her next endeavors. With powerfully smooth Contemporary R&B vocals, and a reputation for writing for Dutch artists, Sharon Doorson, Roxeanne Hazes, and Maan, it comes as no surprise that Dya is catching the attention of many listeners. Having spoken to Dya, I had the special privilege of uncovering the answers to some of the inquiries that fans might have themselves.

 

Where were you born and raised?

Holland, in a little village called Broek op Langedijk.

 

Is your family musically inclined as well?

Yes, they are! My mom used to be a singer and my dad plays the guitar.

 

Can you remember the first time you wrote/sung a song?

The first time I sang a song I was 4 years old. I sung ‘Gloria EstefanandMiami Sound Machine-Rhythm is Gonna Get You’. That’s when I already knew I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. The first time I wrote a song I was 10 years old. It was about loving myself, because I was always being bullied at school. So music was my therapy and it still is.

 

Who gave you the support to begin writing? Who did you play the early songs for?

My parents. 

 

You write all of your own music; where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?

I draw my inspiration from daily life. Love, problems I’m facing, but also friends, family, books, movies or series. My favorite part about the process is recording it, because it comes to live and you can feel the emotion of the song like you’re telling a story. 

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Photography by: Dizzy Crane

 

As listeners, we can all assume what artist’s songs are about, but I find it more beneficial to be direct and ask. What is “Smile on My Face” about? What does it mean personally to you?

“Smile on my face” is about turning a negative situation into a positive one. My dad always used to tell me that there was always something positive even in a negative situation. I always used to be a drama queen. I still am sometimes [she laughingly admitted], but last year was one of the toughest years in my life. I had hit rock bottom. I was overworked, my relationship ended after 12 years, I was broke, had a lot of debt, and I lost my job. I cried a lot, but I told myself almost everyday in the mirror: ‘Girl, you got this. You’re strong, beautiful and you’re a Child of God. Put a smile on your face and go.’ 

 

Who are your biggest writing influences, and who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

My biggest writing influences are Sia, Bebe Rexha and Bibi Bourelly when it comes to writing songs for myself or others. I’d like to collaborate with Russ, because I really like his way of rapping and I especially like his song ’Since I was broke’. He’s talking about the law of attraction there which I do believe in and that song has been an inspiration for ‘Smile on my face’ too.

 

For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words

  1. Vulnerable
  2. Powerful
  3. Edgy Pop
  4. Jazzy
  5. Soul

(Vulnerable and powerful at the same time, an edgy pop sound combined with some jazz and soul influences).

 

If I was to turn on your iPod right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?

H.E.R., SZA, GoldLink, Jorja Smith, Xavier Omar. 

 

I’ve let plenty of people hear your music, and we all agree that we can’t wait for more! Are there any plans for new singles, or an EP on the way? What’s next for Romy Dya?

My next single is coming out on January the 11th. And I’m planning to release every month in 2019. And yes there will be an EP in 2019! I’m also still working as a songwriter for other artists, cause I’m determined to win Grammy’s.

Apple Music | Spotify

 

 

Anderson .Paak

           “When you go everywhere, you just hold on to the things that made you

If Brandon Paak Anderson, who initially went by the appellation, Breezy Lovejoy, but currently goes by, Anderson .Paak, isn’t on your list of favorites, then, can you really consider yourself a true “music head”? .Paak, whose Neo-soul, Funk, R&B, and Hip-hop sound mixture earned him a record deal with Dr. Dre (Aftermath Entertainment) in 2016. The American musician and record producer from Oxnard, California Began gaining attention in 2012, following the debut of his debut album, O.B.E. Vol. 1. Following this releases well-received reception, .Paak released Venice in 2014, followed by Malibu, in 2016, earning himself a nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammy Awards.

Apart from his solo career, Paak is also one-half of NxWorries, alongside record producer Knxwledge. He is accompanied by the band The Free Nationals, who play a variety of instruments such as electric guitar, bass, piano, keyboards and drums and also serve as backing vocalists. Paak, who is set to release his third album this Friday, entitled, Oxnard, named after the Southern California city where he grew up, held a listening party for the unreleased album earlier this Monday, which of course, I attended. The whole vibe in the atmosphere was pretty chill, with low lights, alcohol, fine wines, and even finer women. .Paak entered the room dancing, accompanied by the DJ playing his single, “Tints”, and immediately began greeting the listeners, taking pictures (with almost EVERY fan), and autographing both, vinyls and CD’s alike.

I’ve got to say, it’s one thing when a celebrity makes good music, but is a, for lack of better words, a shitty person. I’ve heard plenty of cases where celebrities, like Nicki Minaj (back when she made good music…waaaaayyyy back, because lord knows her music is garbage now) would meet fans and treat them with the utmost disrespect, almost as if it were a bother to meet the people who support their music. But, it’s a completely different feeling when a celebrity you “ride for” is genuinely good at their craft, and even more so, genuinely a good, kind person.

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.Paak, joked around with the audience, and performed a couple of tracks from Oxnard (which were fire, by the way). When asked why he named the upcoming album after his hometown, .Paak replied with, “When you go everywhere, you just hold on to the things that made you.” After the performances, he let us all know that he had to go, leaving the crowd with a “farewell, and goodnight”. The fun surrounding this up and coming album is far from over though. Beginning at 2 p.m., at the Performing Arts & Convention Center fittingly, in his hometown of Oxnard, California Paak is throwing Andy’s Oxnard Carnival to celebrate the release of Oxnard . If you don’t have a random hundred dollars laying around to spend on a trip to California, I think it goes without saying, that Oxnard is deserving of a purchase (yes, I said “purchase”, not stream).

Apple Music | Spotify

Mac Miller: Gone, But Never Forgotten

“Where were you when you heard?” “Hey man, are you good” “Did you hear?”

Around 4 pm today, my phone pinged with text after text like these. I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew as soon as I responded, to ask what was going on, I’d be in for a major heart break, so I didn’t respond…I didn’t have to. Something was seriously wrong. I felt it in my stomach. It’s the kind of eerie, gut wrenching feeling that you get before knowing you’re about to receive horrible news; and truly horrible it was.

I didn’t have to respond to any message to figure out what had taken place. The buzz around the office was enough to confirm the recent loss. That, and the coworkers that actually came to my desk to ask, if I’d heard the news of rapper, Mac Miller’s passing. As a major Mac Miller fan, I honestly thought it was some type of social media stunt. People are pronounced “dead” all the time in memes and online trollings as jokes. This wasn’t one of those times, nor was it a joke.

Mac Miller was found, and pronounced dead after an apparent drug overdose around noon, this Friday in his San Fernando home. Only a couple of years prior had Miller himself said, “I’d rather be the corny white rapper than the drugged-out mess who can’t even get out of his house. Overdosing is just not cool. You don’t go down history because you overdose. You just die.”

However, in cases like this, you don’t “just die”. In the Hip-Hop community, in the hearts of the fans, and in the hearts of his family there’s a shared pain that we understand all too well. Someone near and dear to us was taken way too soon.

In 2014 Miller released his mixtape, Faces, which was almost wholly centered on personal drug use. It’s here that he also makes references to a premature death. It’s almost eerie how artists who leave this earth at far too young ages somehow seem to predict their ill-fate.

Nevertheless, if there’s anything that someone who’s been around for a minute can tell you, it’s this, “In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining”. Every moment in life has the potential to be learned from, if you can find it’s teachable moment. I think it is my place to spread the news of October being National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. It is during this month that drug awareness is raised in an effort to lessen the stigma surrounding real life’s issues, while also shedding a light on healthy coping methods. Miller may have ascended to a higher plane, but his legacy of music, honesty, vulnerability, carefree spirit, and all around good vibes will never be forgotten.

Apple Music | Spotify

 

 

Noteworthy Artists

 

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”   — Plato

In a world full of mumble rappers, there still are amazing artists actually worth listening to. You just have to know where to start. For those of you who think today’s music is falling off, you might want to take the time to reconsider, and check these artists out (the list is in no particular order).

1. Earthgang

2. J.I.D

3. Duckwrth

4. Smino

5. Saba

6. Boogie

7. SiR

8. GoldLink

9. Kyle Dion

10. Masego

11. Elhae 

12. Jalen Santoy

13. The Internet

14. KYLE

15. Kali Uchis

16. Ravyn Lanae

17. Ruth B.

18. Jorja SmithJorja Smith

19. Isaiah Rashad

20. Ella Mai 

21. Trevor Jackson

22. Topaz Jones 

23. Noname

24. KWAYE

25. Doja Cat

26. Raveena