Friday, November 25, 2011

25 Reasons to Say Thank You

Me Then...

I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday of this week... still alive at 25 and truly blessed. Despite the minuscule failures and disappointments I've experienced in my life, I have a lot to be thankful for. I reflect often, and I'm a firm believer in "everything happens for a reason". Too many of us complain about what we don't have without appreciating the things that we do have, things that others may not be fortunate enough to claim.

I give thanks every morning before starting my day, however, I've listed 25 materialistic and meaningful things that I'm thankful for below:

1. Jesus loved me enough to die on the cross for my sins. I finally found a church home to give him a weekly, joyful praise. Thank you.

2. My life was spared earlier this year. While driving the normal speed limit on 9A, I was forced to come to a complete stop. My car did a 180 degree turn and I ended up facing oncoming traffic. I closed my eyes while trying to gain control of the steering wheel and opened them to find all of the cars at least 2 feet away from me. I got off on the next exit and stopped at a nearby gas station to call my mom and tell her what happened. She answered the phone crying and told me that God flashed the moment before her. She was praying for me as it happened. Thank you.

3. It took me 2 years to move on from my first love... and then I met my Superman. Thank you.

4. My parents wouldn't let me get a car until I could afford to pay for one myself. I drove Boomsheka off the lot when I was 20 years old and I've never been late paying my car note. Thank you.

5. I was 12 years old when I lost my maternal grandfather. He loved all of his grandchildren equally, but I was the "obedient one" and he always made me feel like I was his favorite. It's because of him that I try so hard to lead by example. Thank you.

6. My paternal grandmother was admitted to the hospital on the day that I was scheduled to conduct my college orientation visit. She passed away a week later, the day after I graduated from high school. She never missed an opportunity to tell me how pretty I was, despite my unknown self-esteem and confidence issues. I look in the mirror and smile at my reflection every day because of her. Thank you.

7. My first roommate introduced me to Facebook my freshman year at FSU. My iWrite4orU company page now has 253 "Likes" and my client base is growing rapidly. Thank you.

8. My high school English teacher, Ms. Fletcher, encouraged me to pursue writing as a career. I majored in Creative Writing, graduated and became a Contributing Writer for EU Jacksonville Newspaper 3 months later, and I am now the Owner/President/CEO of my own writing company. Thank you.

9. My maternal grandmother birthed and raised 6 girls on her own. Those 6 girls gave her 13 grandchildren, whom she also helped mold and raise. Someday I'll be labeled as a strong Black woman, and I'll owe it all to her. Thank you.

10. My paternal grandfather attended most of my sporting events and recorded all of the play by play action with his video camera. Without his support, I'd lack the necessary motivation and drive to succeed, for the benefit of myself and others. Thank you.

11. I have 6 best friends. Some people aren't lucky enough to have one. They support me, encourage me, pray with me, laugh with me, cry with me, and most of all, they're honest with me. Thank you.

12. I'm healthy and wealthy with happiness. Thank you.

13. No cavities found during my last dentist visit. Thank you.

14. My insurance deductible is outrageously high, but I'm fully covered. Thank you.

15. I got my first relaxer when I was 8 years old. I went natural in January 2010. My hair is now growing long and strong. Thank you.

16. I have a full-time job that allows me to apply what I studied in college. I'm eager to clock in every single day. Thank you.

17. Music is life... Poetry is love. I wouldn't survive without either. Thank you.

18. I cherish my ability to read and write, well. All of my teachers and professors stressed the importance of communicating effectively and I took their words to heart. Thank you.

19. My cell phone is my lifeline. Without it, I'd be a disorganized procrastinator who couldn't remember a thing. Whoever invented its high-tech capabilities and functions, Thank you.

20. The Internet is my Heaven on earth. Google searches save me from ignorance daily. Thank you.

21. I'm finally able to add to my savings account, without subtracting frequently. Thank you.

22. I would have been a very lonely only child, but God gave me a brother. Thank you. 

23. Gas prices are extremely high, but I can afford $40 per week to get from point A to point B. Thank you.

24. I have a roof over my head, a cozy bed, three meals a day and I survived long enough to say... Thank you. 

25. You read all the way down to number 25 and you're still alive. Let us both say, "Thank you". 

Me now...

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Friday, November 11, 2011

Black Beauty Blues

Ask me what it's like to be a woman.

Challenging, yet rewarding.

Now, ask me what it's like to be a Black woman.

A challenging, never-ending struggle of acceptance and equality...

While skimming through some of my older blog posts, I stumbled across my review for the movie, Precious (click title to read). Even after two years, I'm still deeply affected by its raw depiction of a Black woman's battle with fitting into the world's subjective melting pot. I've only watched Precious once since seeing it in theaters. However, I'm frequently granted a front row view that reiterates the same effects of those painful onscreen scars, scattered as leftover fragments and presently existing in my own community. 

This past Sunday, I sadly noticed an unfortunate epidemic. While watching the premiere broadcast of this year's Black Girls Rock on BET, my Facebook news feed was full of updates referencing the coinciding premiere of this season's Real Housewives of Atlanta. I was immediately disturbed by the plethora of Black women who were so eager to share the details of NeNe Leaks' latest shenanigans versus the positive display of honoring successful, phenomenal Black women. 

In an era where most young Black women are plagued by the stigma of popping out babies and pimping the Welfare system, we should expect to see a greater quantity of thriving achievers and a decrease in the magnitude of baby mamas threatening to put their baby daddies on child support. Sadly, a Black man's inability to recognize and cherish a Black woman's true beauty is often her own fault, simply because she does not value her own self or does not possess the confidence to fiercely demand an adequate exchange for her worth.

Additionally, I am saddened by the lack of encouragement for the progressive group of powerful Black women aiming to dismiss the judgmental stereotypes concerning our race. Instead, we'd rather endorse foolishness and elongate petty and damaging drama. We should all dedicate an unlimited amount of effort to developing ourselves and strive to be better daily.

It is time to eliminate those Black Beauty Blues and open ourselves up to the joy of Happy Historic Hues. We all have the potential to be great. I challenge every Black woman to work harder to reverse the cyclical familiarities of societal expectations and make yourselves proud. We must stop settling for the norm and create our own avenues of greatness.

Personally, if I am unable to release the burden of past faults, then I have failed myself and every young Black girl I aspire to set an example for.

"Be more than what you were yesterday, so that you can be prouder of who you are tomorrow."--LRW

"Black women, it is so important that we support each other... we're always an afterthought, but we don't have to be."--Taraji P. Henson (during her Black Girls Rock acceptance speech)

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How Hip is the Hop When the Beat Stops?

I'll never forget the first time I heard LL Cool J's "I Need Love", 2Pac's "Dear Mama", Biggie's "One More Chance", Nelly's "Country Grammar", Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy", Ja Rule's "Put It On Me", Missy Elliott's "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)", T.I.'s "24's" or Eminem's "The Way I Am". I'll never forget the moment I discovered Hip Hop... a remixed version of Poetry, chopped and screwed to accommodate the difficulty of metaphoric precision and smooth syncopation.

Unfortunately, I divorced Hip Hop and buried my love for it around the same time that Nas claimed it was dead, shortly after Soulja Boy popped up on the scene and began to brainwash teens with his "super soaking" craze. I was content with spending my days being comforted by the sounds of melodious R&B tunes... until my favorite artist, Alicia Keys, decided to step away from the spotlight to focus on family.
I immediately developed a strong dislike for artists who blatantly overlooked the fact that they were heavily influencing youth listeners with their angry, street-driven lyrics full of disrespectful derogatory terms, and bragging about material things that they had no ownership rights to. Additionally, I'm disturbed by money hungry Rappers who constantly thank fans for purchasing their music while failing to acknowledge or address the plethora of supporters who can recite their lyrics from memory, but don't possess the ability to construct a complete sentence or verbally communicate their own thoughts and feelings effectively.

Many of these Rappers, while aiming to maintain their street cred and gangstability, are constantly running into trouble with the law and participating in illegal hustles. However, most are saved by the fame of the game because of their so-called "baller" status.
Furthermore, I'm often disappointed when meeting young toddlers who can quickly adapt to learning choreographed dance moves from a Rap video, but struggle while trying to count to 10 or attempting to recite their ABC's without pausing or stuttering. Rappers who are aware of this unnerving circumstance obviously dread the responsibility of leading by example, and they certainly don't deserve the privilege of power.

As a true music lover, I respect all artists and their courage to openly display personal emotions and feelings over a tight beat. But, I'm very selective when it comes to Hip Hop and the artists that I choose to support or abort.

I didn't become an avid listener of Hip Hop again until my brother began to frequently share with me his excitement over today's school of lyricists who deliver witty punchlines and rewind-worthy verses. I have him to thank for introducing me to motivational and consciously aware artists, such as J. Cole and Wale. These two Hip Hop artists recently released albums with a similar theme of hood recollections and factual scenarios wrapped up and specially delivered in a fragile package filled with inspirational messages.
Both album reviews are below:

Album Review: J. Cole - Cole World: Sideline Story

Release Date: September 27, 2011

"I put my heart and soul in this game, I'm feelin' drained... unappreciated, unalleviated," J. Cole raps on the title track of his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, an open invitation for fans and listeners to share in his desire to be heard. The reserved, self-proclaimed "Grown Simba" constantly reps his hometown of
Fayetteville, North Carolina, as he spills raw emotion and sincere lyrics onto the majority of sampled beats that he produced himself.

In 2009, J. Cole was the first artist signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation label. However, he was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch other equally talented newcomers claim their spot in the constantly evolving rap game. Perhaps, this was not an ironic occurrence, as Cole's debut album is an authentic representation of his own personal experiences and struggles, covering the recurrent and important subject matters of abortion (Lost Ones), relationships (Nothing Lasts Forever, Nobody's Perfect, Lights Please), the effects of growing up without a father (Breakdown, Daddy's Little Girl), and the benefits of following your dreams (Dollar and a Dream III). 
The album's official lead single "Can't Get Enough" features R&B superstar, Trey Songz, and the video is currently maintaining its rank on BET's 106 and Park countdown. After releasing a saga of mixtapes, and being cut from his high school and college basketball teams, J. Cole has finally earned his starting position. 

Album Review: Wale - Ambition

Release Date: November 1, 2011

DC native, Wale has quickly claimed his place in the industry as a self-defined Messenger Poet who efficiently communicates lyrics in Spoken Word fashion on his highly anticipated sophomore album, Ambition. His dedication to the "Illest B*t*h" alive stands out as the most influential track as he passionately sympathizes with common sufferings, highlighting the many complications of life for a woman. 

Wale's debut pop influenced album, Attention Deficitreleased in 2009, birthed the singles "Chillin" and "Pretty Girls". After expressing a need to reach an audience that could better relate to his style of delivery and influences, he signed on with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group in early 2011. Inspired by his hometown go-go sound, Ambition is a direct correlation to Wale's background as he incorporates the raw elements of the popular subgenre.  

"Girls say everything that I write smooth... f*ck rap, I get p***y off of haiku," he boldly proclaims on track 7. Full of creative wordage and visual imagery, Ambition is Wale's second attempt at establishing himself as a Legendary Lyricist.
Guest appearances include: Ne-Yo (White Linen - Coolin'), Miguel (Lotus Flower Bomb), Lloyd (Sabotage), Jeremih (That Way), Kid Cudi (Focused), Big Sean (Slight Work), Meek Mill & Rick Ross (Ambition).

“Ambition is the desire to be better than the people who came before you. It’s your obsession to be good or great. How great is your obsession to chase your dream?”

Hip Hop is an ever-changing genre that will, despite Nas' previous claim, never die. However, it is up to music lovers around the world to frequently determine what's worthy of remaining hip. Otherwise, we will continue to hop around the corners of Hip Hop's original foundation. For me, Hip Hop has always existed as an outlet for the poetic release of emotions that serves to inspire, inform, unite and uplift.

It would probably do me justice to separate and clarify Hip Hop's defining elements from the simplicity of "Rap", but true Lyricists possess the ability to solidify their presence and longevity. The "Rappers" who didn't get the memo will eventually hop out of the hip anyway.

What is your most memorable Hip Hop moment? How do you distinguish Rap from Hip Hop? Who is your favorite lyricist and why?

Sound off...

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*