Drake featuring Drake

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The ego is the most flexible muscle in the human body, and rappers are motherfucking Soviet-Era Olympic gymnasts wit’ it.  The best of the best often balance dizzyingly inflated, almost cartoonishly arrogant confidence levels with barbed-wire-raw vulnerability and expressions of insecurity.  The ego has to constantly expand and contract in proportion to the pressures pressed upon it by the truly relentless artist.

Which brings us to Aubrey Graham.  Champagne Papi.  Young Drizzy a.k.a. Drake featuring Drake.  The man who can wear all black in front of a gang full of hard looking thugged out dudes in one video, and then lounge next to a bubble bath in satin pyjamas in his next photo shoot.   You gonna make someone around him catch a body like that.  Same elastic, different stretches.  

Ego is not the same thing as confidence, though.  In fact even arguably “low ego” moves, like, for example, a grown man recording an entire song about drunk-dialing a woman who doesn’t love him anymore, requires massive reserves of core-confidence.  But it requires the ego to step aside and cede the spotlight, at least for a few moments.  

Dog, there’s an entire bloated sub-genre of rappers who are terrified to allow 16 consecutive bars pass without reminding you of how nice they are on the mic.  Again, ego isn’t the same thing as confidence.  These are egos that are incapable of stepping aside.

There’s also an entire sub-genre of rappers with egos who won’t step up.  Who allow their music to revolve entirely around the dark corners of their psyche.  The insecure, neurotic depths of the beautifully tragic self-indulgent tortured artist.  

Most artists remain in a healthy middle-ground between these two soaring extremes.  But every now and then a brilliant chameleon of an artist comes along who embodies almost exclusively the two farthest margins of the scale.  Kanye is one of those artists, Eminem, for all my disenchantment, is one of those artists, and today, at this point in time, Drake is probably the best one of those artists.

Some allow those elastics to snap.  Through the initial arc of his career DMX veered drunkenly and gloriously back and forth between a sort of cocksure bulletproof street-rap swagger and a spiritually tortured remorseful fatalism.  The portrait painted was one of a man who had to embody every mistake he had made with arrogant abandon because it was far too late to repair them.  Whether it was the pressure, or the drugs, or prison, or entropy, somehow or another those swerves have steadied and lost their elasticity in recent years.  

Never trust a man who lets his Air Jordan’s get too dirty.

Never trust a man who keeps his Chuck Taylor’s too clean.

See, I can relate to an artist like Drake because I experience constant inconsistency in my own life.  I happily, hungrily, excitedly embrace the peaks and valleys and stagger drunkenly through negative space with my eyes closed.  I can stick my chest out and my chin up and just as comfortably collapse to my kitchen hardwood like a mannequin if that’s what I need to do in that moment.  My ego expands or contracts to fill its needed role, but my confidence remains unshaken.  Walking with confidence, speaking with confidence.  These are the first skills you learn.  It’s common as fuck.  Once you understand how to bleed with confidence and cry with confidence you will find a type of freedom that cannot be replicated.  

And you won’t be worried about your homies finding a bunch of Drake on your iPod.  

Because fuck them, anyway, right?  

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Bulletproof

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One of my favorite albums is 50 Cent’s behemoth of a debut LP “Get Rich or Die Tryin”

I can guarantee you 50 didn’t make this record for me.

This album was everywhere, though, so in one way it was made for me as much as anyone else.  It was perfect for me in how wrong it was for me.  But in 2003 I was a quiet, unassuming high school kid leading a quiet, unassuming life in a quiet, unassuming city in the middle of quiet, unassuming Canada.

It’s weird to look back on now, but at the time it was impossible to distance 50-Cent-the-rapper from 50-Cent-the-real-life-movie-hero.  50 Cent might be rap’s ultimate protagonist figure, and as much as his brash, charismatic flow and detail-oriented oozing-with-street-personality pen game had to do with creating that persona, the real-life drama surrounding 50’s entry to the game was inescapable.    

  “Shell hit my jaw, I ain’t wait for Doc to get it out /

hit my wisdom tooth I *hawk too* spit it out”

-50 Cent, “U Not Like Me”

I think we all know the first-act setup by now.  The initiating incident on Curtis Jackson’s eventual hero  journey.  Cliff’s Notes: It’s 2000, 50 Cent is sitting in a friend’s car, someone walks up beside the car and puts nine bullets into him, including one in his chest and one in the side of his face.

And not only did 50 survive, 50 came back stronger than ever.

And three weeks later the shooter turned up dead in an abandoned lot.  

“They say I walk around like I got an S on my chest /

nah, that’s a semi-auto and a vest on my chest”

-50 Cent, “What Up Gangsta”

Dog, you gotta realize, for a shy kid from Canada who had never even been in the same room as a firearm before, this shit was fucking crazy.  Unfathomable.  You don’t get shot 9 times and live, that just wasn’t something that even existed in my worldview.  50 Cent was a comic book character as far as I was concerned: Queens, NYC’s answer to Frank fucking Castle – the black-hoodie’d anti-hero riding through the city with vests, and guns, and an absolutely bulletproof fucking swagger.

“You got me feelin’ real bulletproof up in this motherfucker,

Cuz my windows on my motherfuckin’ Benz is bulletproof

Cuz my motherfuckin’ vest is bulletproof

Cuz my motherfuckin’ hat is bulletproof” -50 Cent, “Heat”

 

 And the music.  Oh god the fucking music.  Some of these beats could be the theatrical score to a snuff film.  But not like some dingy 8mm Mobb Deep style snuff film.  I’m talking about if James Cameron decided to film someone getting shot in the temple at close range on ultra high-rez 3D or something, he’d want these beats playing in the background.   The Curtis Jackson Story is both gutter and glamorous and rather than dividing the difference to some healthy middle-ground his production team cranks both dials all the way to eleven at the same damn time.  These beats are blood-spattered champagne-yellow crystal chandeliers swinging drunkenly over-top the entire record, throwing shadows every direction.  The most decadent and luxurious mansion interiors are still just as capable of being utterly riddled with thousands of bullet holes in a split-second.  This shit fucking BANGS, dog.    

But it’s 50’s assertive, audacious swag, brazen writing, and confidently-in-the-pocket flow that give the record its transformational super-powers.

“I came into rap humble, I don’t give a fuck now /

I’ll serve anybody like niggas who hustle uptown”

-50 Cent, “Life’s On the Line” 

 

Because a fucked up thing happened.  The more I listened to 50 Cent, the less I felt like that quiet Canadian kid.  The more I listened to 50 Cent the more bulletproof I started to feel in my own skin.  The more confident I was in sticking my chest out, holding my head up, turning my swag on. 

People who only knew me in 2001 usually don’t recognize me when they see me on the street today.    

But I still recognize them.  They are still living very recognizable lives wearing very recognizable roles and very recognizable personas and faces and expressions. 

And sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly bulletproof I’ll approach one of them.  And just be like.

Daaaaamn homie…. In high school you was the maaaaaaaan homie….

What the fuck happened to you? 

March 9th

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Rest in Peace Christopher Wallace.

 

I kinda wanna talk about dead rappers.  Not just Biggie.  Today is Biggie’s day, but there’s more to it here.  I wanna talk about our fallen soldiers.  I wanna talk about why we care and what we get from it.

“You know dead rappers get better promotion” -Jadakiss

I love Biggie.  I’m spinning a best of Biggie mixtape in my office this afternoon.  His music is incredible.  I only know Biggie as an icon, though.  A legend.  When Biggie died I was too young, I wasn’t as wrapped up in rap music as I am today,  I was still playing Gameboy and dodgeball and trying to figure out how to deal with losing my father.  I was still wiring my brain together and soldering the ends in and all the pieces weren’t in place yet.  I only grew to know Biggie as a memory that hadn’t ever happened to me.  Maybe that’s the greater loss, maybe that’s why I feel a certain type of way when I listen to Biggie or Tupac. 

Loss is life, or maybe life is loss, but when you really lose something you’re lost without it.  

I’m about to get my g-pass revoked here, but I shed actual fucking tears when Pimp C died.  Like, 8-year-old-watching-the-end-of-Disney’s-Fox-and-the-Hound type tears.   I sat in my bedroom for hours listening to “Heaven” , “Trill Niggaz Don’t Die”, and “How Long Can It Last” over and over again.  That three-song run that bridges the gap between the end of the first-disc of “Underground Kingz” and the start of the second-disc.  I’d skip my iPod back again and again and stare at the stucco on my bedroom ceiling and try to magic-eye my feelings back together again. 

I think the connection we feel to an artist gives us license to feel intense, dizzying emotions but from a safe distance.   When my father died it broke me, I think anyone who’s experienced a close loss would feel the same way.  It breaks you, and it takes you years and years to put yourself back together again.  Sometimes even decades later you’re not 100% positive if all the pieces actually ended up going where they belong.  There are songs by Biggie and Pimp C and Eyedea and Camu Tao and Tupac and Mac Dre that I can listen to that make me feel like that again for 4 or 5 minutes at a time  before the feeling washes away.  It’s like having a safe-word.  It’s like cave-diving into your subconscious with a rope tied to the exit. 

But there’s also the other side which is one of celebration.  Men built up as immortal monuments and cultural touchstones.  Icons.  Statues.   The invincibility that exists only in death.   For some of you it might be Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix or John Lennon but we have Biggie and we have Tupac.  Warrior-Poets with brilliant polished cuirasses and plackarts.  Dead don’t bleed.  Trill N-Words don’t die because they’re fucking immortal, so we can lose them over and over and over again and know that they’ll still be there waiting for us the next time we need to lose them again.    

 

4/4

Experiment: drunk on 151 mobile blogging.

I don’t even know what’s going on sometimes. You feel that way? Dog, life is peculiar. My life has been completely opposite versions of awesome lately. One of my best friends asked me if I was happy this week and the question sprained my brainstem. I couldn’t begin to answer her.  I’ve been simultaneously beautifully ecstatically perfect and painfully perplexed and confused within hours of eachother this week. There isn’t a question in the world that is as casually asked yet as difficulty answered as “how do you feel?”

Yo, how do you feel, dog?

Truth me.

If you can truth me on that question then you are bawsed out.

The average person will hear that question two or three thousand times in their life, and answer it truthfully maybe a dozen times.

Sometimes I need to live vicariously through an artist. I love listening to Yeezus when life confuses me because he sounds just as confused as I am. If I had a jewelled Margela mask I would consider wearing it. There’s a dissonance. I used to think my confidence in self was shaking but i recently realized that was the only thing that was unshaken. It was a parallax effect: when everything else moves at the same time it looks like the only thing moving is you, when you’re the only thing standing firm.  I watch Kanye speak and feel insane in his clarity.

Rap music maintains a cultish devotion to the beat. While time signatures ebb and flow and flourish and swing throughout music, rap refuses to provide you a beat that heavy boots cannot be stomped to. Rap is a heartbeat monitor on life support. Pure downbeat is death, pure upbeat is a seizure. Anything in between is motherfucking hip hop. 

If you haven’t been elated, heartbroken, and terrified this week then I don’t know you. I can’t fuck with half steppers anymore. The middle of the road is for yellow paint and fucking roadkill.

Put your elbows up. Stand beside me, dog. Last time I got punched in the face I was in the club and In Da Club was playing and a trickle of blood ran way back down my throat. I remember the taste of iron and blood and enlightenment and now. It was. I don’t remember why. But it was.

Let’s swap tapes. I wanna put you on Yeezus and Gucci Mane and that one E40 song so you can spit the kind of blood I do. Soil. I wanna scale mountains to the footfall of trap drums with you carrying canteens full of molly water in Gucci bucket hats.  I need more mud on the soles of my Jordan 4s.

The beat maintains doe. The 4/4 mantra Nirvana chant.  The ohm of the boom and the bap. It maintains. It sustains.

I wanna spit Tesla electrics through the midnight.  I want arcing crackles of perfection casting through the sky every time my hands clap together. The sky deserves to split before me.  To the beat.

To the beat.

To the beat.

No Nephews in My Circle of Bawses

Never let a motherfucker try to nephew you.

That’s Skizza’s advice for the day: never let a motherfucker try to nephew you.

Look, someone is always gonna try and nephew you.  Someone is going to sit you down and put their hand on your shoulder and explain why what you’re doing is wrong and why you need to do what they think you should do and appeal to their age as a measure of expertise and credibility. 

Be aware: just because someone older than you is trying to give you advice doesn’t mean they’re trying to nephew you. 

There’s a huge difference, and taking advice from intelligent people who have experienced things in their life is one of the smartest things you can do.  Good advice is priceless and there’s no such thing as a bad reason to learn.  If you have experts in your orbit then take advantage of those motherfuckers.  Let a motherfucker mentor you.

But never let a motherfucker try to nephew  you.

It’ll become like a sixth sense to tell the difference.   The kind of dudes you want to take advice from aren’t going to try to nephew you to begin with.  You’ll pick up on the subtle cues.  The people you want advice from are people who have qualities you value and want to emulate.  The big secret is that the people who are confident and secure are also the people who are most willing to treat you as an equal from the jump anyway.  Someone who is internally secure in their own bawseness never feels the need to look down on or degrade another person.   These are the people you want to emulate. 

If you genuinely feel like someone is trying to downplay you or marginalize you or condescend to you, then chances are that motherfucker is trying to nephew you.   Whatever advice he’s giving you is about him, not you.

 

See, a secure bawse-ass motherfucker doesn’t have to tell you that he has 20 years on you, and he also  doesn’t have to try and minimize your value.  Keep your ears perked for nicknames like “kid”, “sport”, “champ” – the only reason a motherfucker is going to try and shrink you down is because deep-down inside he’s worried that he can’t measure up to your true height.

I’ve got this office job where I’m often put in charge of managing and corralling salesmen sometimes as much as 25 years older than I am.  You can probably imagine that some of them *do not* like this.  At all.  But you know who has never had a problem with it?  The bawse-ass motherfuckers.  We have dudes who are fifty or sixty years old who come in and put the game in a fucking bodybag for us every day.   I’m talking Glengary Glen Ross motherfuckers here.  Who perform their job to the highest levels, who are personable, fun to be around, and hyper-secure in their own bawse sauce.  None of them has ever felt the need  to tell me how much older they are than me, or how many sales they had made before I was in kindergarten, because they don’t need to.   These are the dudes you want to take advice from. 

The dude who is going to try to nephew you is not cut from the same cloth as these men.

The dude who is going to try to nephew you is life’s C-student.  An asshole who popped out of his mother in ’71 instead of ’85 is still, at the end of the day, just a fucking asshole.  He has no bawse sauce to spread, all he wants to do is try and taint yours with his bullshit. 

If someone says what they would do about a situation before they ask you what you want to get out of the situation, they’re probably trying to nephew you.  You shouldn’t do what they would do about it, because they’re them, and them is a motherfuckin’ sucker. 

Don’t let these motherfuckers try to nephew you.

All due respect to Sway, but Sway tried to nephew Kanye in that interview.  I was telepathically high-fiving that boy Yeezy when he blew up on him on some “fucking FINALLY” type of shit.  I think the rest of us young bawses need to make a conscious effort to follow Yeezy’s example and take these uncle-ass motherfuckers to task when they try and pull that shit.  I’m not saying you have to go scorched-earth, but do not tolerate their patronizing half-advice.  They don’t want the best for you.  They want to use you to feel better about themselves.     

The dude who’s gonna try to nephew you is the dude who’s gonna tell you not to go buy that microphone or that Nikon or that stock car or that longboard or that paint easel or that food truck.  The dude who’s gonna try to nephew you doesn’t want you sharpening your tools or improving yourself or drawing attention.  The dude who’s gonna try to nephew you wants you to punch clocks until your bawse sauce curdles and spoils.  The dude who’s gonna try to nephew you wants you to die an Assistant fucking Manager.  Fuck that guy.

Abraham Lincoln intentionally selected strong men who often disagreed with him and would defend their positions bitterly to be his closest advisors and cabinet-members.  He spoke on the idea of having a “team of rivals” and the strength of character he derived from that.  I don’t think day-to-day life has to be as adversarial as war-time politics, but I firmly believe in surrounding myself with a circle of bawses.   If you can’t picture the five or six people closest to you seated at a polished-oak table eating lobster and drinking champagne with linen bibs on with you, then you are riding with the wrong motherfuckers right now.  You might be riding with the type of dudes who want to put you at the kiddie table because they’re afraid if they give you a chair you’ll scoop the food from off their plate.  Even worse; you could be all alone at that round table because you don’t trust anyone enough to share your food with them.  But if your bawse sauce is spicy enough then you know there’s more than enough food to go around.

But if you let people nephew you, you’re going to be sitting at that kiddie table for a very long time.       

 

 

 

 

The Based Lord’s Prayer

Our Based God
Who art in Berkeley
Brandon be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy Will be done
On Earth as it is in BasedWorld
Cook us this day our daily swag (wooo!)
And deliver us from haters,
As Task Force protects TrueBased from all FakedBased
And lead us not into negativity
But deliver us to Rareness
For ever and ever
Woo! Swag!

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Thank You Based God!

Sometimes I find it hard to relate to people how I feel about Lil B. We’re in a post-Pitchfork hipster maelstrom of sardonic personal branding and tweet-speed cultural shrapnel; a social network cult in honor of irony and sarcasm. Within this context it’s exceptionally difficult to express sincere love for work that is simultaneously exposed-nerve raw and heartfelt as well as over-the-top satirical and absurdist. I don’t want to have to explain myself every time I drop a swag adlib or launch into an unexpected cooking dance.

In his NYU lecture (that’s right bitches, bet your favorite rapper hasn’t done one of those motherfuckers) Lil B said the secret to life is to look at everyone like they’re a golden million-dollar baby. Babies aren’t afraid of sincerity. Babies aren’t afraid of sincerity because babies don’t understand the concept of judgement. You’ll never meet a baby in your life who’s worried about how alt his Twitter feed is. 

Lil B’s video for “I Love You” is filmed in a small pet store and ends with B standing in an aisle cradling a snake in his arms as tears stream down his face. I have no intention of think-piecing every last bit of visceral immediate beauty out of that moment but I can assure you there is nothing “alt” or “ironic” about the way I appreciate it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P6-V7J5S-0

Thank You Based God!

Local Rap Night

I can’t believe I’m still this fucking hungover, dog.

The local rap show is a magical place.

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Do you guys have favorite local rappers? And don’t be on some bullshit like “I live in NY so Biggie’s my favorite local rapper” you know what the fuck I mean by local rapper. The first McDonald’s opened in San Bernardino, California but if I went down there and asked someone for the best local burger spot they better not fucking tell me fucking McDonald’s.

How about that authentic. You ever go to one of those restaurants where the tables and chairs and plates and cups and stuff don’t all match up, like they were all bought from a bunch of different sets or something? I love those places. I always feel like I just broke in to someone’s house during family dinner but I was so charming they invited me to stay anyway.

The local rap show is like family dinner.
Music scenes are kinda like big extended families anyway when you think about it.  Everyone kinda knows each other, but there’s levels to this shit (TM Meek Mill, all rights reserved) also. Like at the big family wedding you might be seated at one table with your brothers and sisters but you’re gonna go say hi to your cousins three tables over, too.

Also, much like family dinner, chances are you’re all drunk.

YAWK YAWK YAWK YAWK

There was a moment last night when a cashier at 7-11 told me the Monteray Jack taquitoes weren’t ready yet. I mustered up my best Aubrey Graham and screamed “MUHAFUGAS NEVA LUVD US!!!!!” directly in his face. #WorstBehavior. If that cashier is reading this now then I want to apologize, but also only kinda.

It was local rap night, dog. I’m sorry you got caught in the crossfire.

The great thing about local rap night is everybody knows your name. It’s like Cheers if Cheers had 150 characters in it and they were all turned the fuck up and none of them were Frasier. I love Frasier but not on local rap night. Local rap night doesn’t fuck with Frasier.

When you invite me to your city don’t show me any stupid fucking statues. Take me to a restaurant with mis-matched cutlery and then take me to a local rap show.