I can’t recall the last time I was this excited to write a blog! From the moment it hit my eyes I was awestruck. So full of life, thoughts, feelings, concepts, art…..words. In fact it made me feel a bit envious. Too be so young but yet so opinionated and possess the ability to put feelings into words that rhyme…with other words that rhyme……. truly amazing! I’m almost certain you’re thinking, “What is he talking about?” I’m talking about an 11 year old boy from the inner city who carries a book around with him titled, “All Things are Possible”. Domani didn’t name his journal. Those were the words inscribed on its outer cover but he believes in the phrase. As evidence open the book up and turn to page 5……or page 35…..or page 105 and you’ll see the same thing each time: combinations of words that rhyme and express his views on current events. This is what so many of my adult friends who make music aim to do: have a book full of rap verses so they can brag and say something like,”Real MCs can freestyle AND write”! It’s funny to think think as older artists we make such a big deal of that and Domani quietly carries with him a book full of lyrical ammunition(90’s hip hop phrase for high quality rap verses)ready to do battle. I often say to Domani that if he continues writing then the rap career he envisions having is very possible. Then again, all things are!
Friday December 1st 2017 was quite an evening to remember. Lyricism 101, a music arts program created by the Boys & Girls Club of America was held on that day. There were two main ingredients that made the evening a success: teens and artistry. Various areas of hip hop we’re covered. Graffiti, beat making, lyricism and break dancing were all showcased. The Cleveland Cavaliers Scream Team was on hand to help out with dancing. In the gym the youth who participated learned a few of the dance steps that the Screen Team performs during Cavalier home games. DJ Steph Floss, a world-renowned DJ and native of Cleveland was also on hand to talk about his experiences in the music industry and give the youth pointers to help them get started. Mark Watts a local MC among many other things was also here to share his ability of hip hop wordplay and provide in death experiences of the music industry as he knows it. All in all the youth learned about the history of DJing, various scratching techniques the history and what it takes to be a competent lyricist. In N4N studio there was a rap battle. ZBangz, Deezy Ahmad, Foreign Dell and many others participated. The competition was very high and quite possibly the best part about it was they had Steph Floss be the judge. Also the guest lyricist on hand gave pointers on how to approach battle rapping and right informative yet mind blowing lyrics. I believe the best part of the evening is that the youth learned the history of something they enjoy so much. A few young men I recall were surprised to find out that hip hop was created in Bronx, NY during the 70s. The next week since Lyricism 101 was held has produced many newcomers to the studio high with intentions to apply what they learned. We will see how this turns out!
Artists when working on their craft tend to take their time and be very specific about the finished product. I know this all too well because I have wrote and produced songs that are more than 5 years old. They still reside in my “The Vault”(that magical folder where all my unfinished works are kept). In truth it’s hard for me to imagine completing a song from start to finish in less than a week. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been doing music for quite some time or that I’m aiming for perfection. Whatever the case I saw something Monday that made me completely rethink my approach to music making. November 27th, 2017 at 3:21pm to be exact Jason strolled into the studio and calmly said,”Ryan I have a complete song”. I laughed because I hear this daily from many of the youth whom frequent the music studio. This time was different. I replied,”Ok Jason get in the booth, put the headphones on and lets hear it.” Without hesitation he comfortably placed the headphones over his ears, closed his eyes and energetically started reciting the lyrics to his song. So as to stay in the moment I turned on Reason 9.5,(studio software)shuffled through a few drums sounds and created a drum rhythm to compliment his lyrical cadence. In 7 minutes he recorded his first verse. After 15 minutes he had recorded his second verse. By 3:47pm I was shaking Jason’s hand and congratulating him for a job well done. We played the song repeatedly for the next 20 minutes in celebration of him “doing his homework”. In this regard we use homework as a reference for practicing your music before arriving at the studio It was obvious that he had applied himself outside of the studio and it paid off. Not only did Jason finish his song in 25 minutes. He reminded an “older” artist that music isn’t about perfection. It’s about expression!
Thank you Jason,
In the Boys & Girls Club Broadway location there are about 125 youth that attend per day. For the most part they’re all well-behaved small children and teens. There are a few that frequently engage in street life activities. That’s not to say they don’t want good things in life or a positive future. Unfortunately most don’t have positive role models and therefore result to criminal activity.
On any given day Daerou will walk into the studio, chat for a few minutes about his future as a huge rap star, take out his pad and pen, think deeply…………………and then stuff his things back into his book bag only to disappear! This usually happens within the first ten minutes of his arrival and takes place 2 or 3 times a week. One Tuesday afternoon after Daerou went through his normal routine I pulled him to the side for a conversation. We discussed goals, the future and famous people whom he admired. It seemed to me all of his idols were hard workers and understood the importance of sticking to a task. The more we conversed Daerou started to notice this common theme as well. He mentioned Nelly a St. Louis born rapper who shoveled snow during the winter months to earn extra money to record his demo. We also discussed Rick Ross(Miami rapper). I mentioned to him that at one point he was a corrections officer working for the State of Florida. He and I both shared a laugh soon thereafter. Considering Rick Ross reputation as a “street artist” we thought it was comical for him to have worked in law enforcement. By the end of the conversation Daerou realized that his goal of being a rap star would only become a reality if he worked as hard as possible. I issued him a light challenge: If he we’re to come into the studio for 2 weeks straight and write a 16 bar/measure verse each day, I would close the studio for he and friend for one full day. Since Monday Oct. 16th I’m proud to say Daerou has come to the studio and completed his end of our deal. Looks like I’ll have to take a look at my calendar and figure out which day works best!
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