Thursday, February 27, 2014

Five Times I've Shot Milk Out Of My Nose While Listening to Rap


          First a bit of necessary backstory; as a kid who grew up in the 90s in Atlanta, I've been into rap music since I started getting into music in general. It also helped that I was and still am a huge fan of 90s basketball (Glen Rice forrrrrrrrr 3!). It seemed to me like that was the heyday of all that original swag, but while rock music has gotten pretty square over the years (and incredibly pretentious), hip hop continues to push forward.

One of rap's biggest fans, Michelle Benbama

          I love the rap industry; I'm the smallest part of it, just a bass player, but I see the way all these people treat each other. It's very business-like, but with a great amount of respect for what each individual brings the table. From my experience, it is more about teamwork than anything else. Certainly more about teamwork than being in a band.

          And there are unbelievable hip hop lyricists out there. Gangstarr's Guru raps what are essentially well written essays about important subject matter. But as evidenced by the title, you won't be seeing any of Guru's verses highlighted here. So without further adieu…

5-Candy by Will Smith
-You know I've gotta lead this off with a heavy hitter. I remember bumping this disc (Big Willie Style, if you didn't know) on my walkman on family trips in the old Vo. I could always relate to the metaphor in this song, because I've always had kind of this emotional/sexual thing with candy (don't reread that). So when Will really busts out with that Independence Day swag in the 3rd verse, whew. 

"I know the deal, I talked to Mary Jane and she said
Your ex-boyfriends Mike and Ike are both Lemonheads
I ain't tryin' to playa hate girl I know
That you go with Bazooka Joe
Now you know he don't love you like that
He tryin' ta get a Reese's piece of the Kit-Kat
Really hon, what he need is a Jawbreaker
Cause I'm the one that'll love you baby, Now and Later
Be my Peppermint Paddy with a hundred wishes
And I'll be your Hershey daddy with a hundred kisses
Get the Twins M&ms, they booked all outta flights today
Me and you can Starburst to the Milky Way
I don't care what it cost, girl a hundred grand
we could snicker all night at my jolly ranch
just me and you, I'll call your friends up too
I could get my friends Babe Ruth and Charlston Chew."



TLDR: With a whopping 19 candy references in one verse, Will Smith reminds the world that more than his movies have slick product placement. 

4-Get Your Walk On by Xzibit
-The "Pimp My Ride" star showing why he is a double threat with these gems.  

"I can drink a whole Henessy 5th 
some call that a problem but I call it a gift"



3.-Break Up by Lil Wayne
-There could be an entire list of Lil Wayne verses. And before anyone gets the wrong idea, I could point out maybe 100 creative, clever, and expert rhymes. But that's not the purpose of this blog, so for now enjoy one of his classics where towards the end, Weezy lets you know just where his mind is at when he is rapping.

"nice tires on my 'ghini
you should wanna king me
brain dead flow
vegetable zucchini"



2. Black Dreams by Young Jeezy
        -No doubt rap fans knew this was coming, but since most of my blog traffic is made up of lesbian-folk appreciators, this one deserved a spot. I love Young Jeezy and hardly anyone has a cooler sounding voice in rap. Nevertheless, that makes it all the more hilarious when he busts out this INSTANT CLASSIC

"Mafia B*tch, I'm in the mafia
holla at your boy, I can do a lot for ya
speakin my language if you talking bout Tilapia" 






1. Ayy Ladies by Travis Porter featuring Tyga 
-Where have all the rockstars gone? You'll have a tough time finding dudes who rock like Travis Porter does nowadays. These dudes are the greatest and chock full of great rhymes, but the funniest line from their smash "Ayy Ladies" actually comes from the mind of featured guest, Tyga. 

"man I wouldn't shake his hand with a broke hand"



         There is beauty in simplicity and much like Keats wrote, "a thing of beauty is a joy forever." 

          In conclusion, we can make fun of rap all we want; and certainly to hear tough dudes talking about tilapia, it should be well-deserved. But perhaps the goal sometimes is to evoke laughter. There is nothing shallow about making another person see the lightness of their light's heavy lifting. There is nothing deeper than bringing a smile to another's face. 

          There is far too much emphasis placed on music "meaning something." So much emphasis in fact, that I've seen artists spend more time trying to "mean something" than "being someone" or even simply just "being." More people need to be true to themselves in order to inspire genuine authenticity in a world where, although authenticity is praised, it is too much effort for most people.
    
          The race to be the next Bob Dylan is really more of a pissing contest to be perceived as such. 

          The race should be more of trot, against no one besides yourself. You should be stopping to smell the flowers, stopping to pick up other people's miller lite cans (why are there always so many of these on the ground?), and perhaps you should be stopping to smile and chuckle. You should respect and admire that which and whom makes you laugh. 

          And after this race, make sure you eat some Tilapia!

rap on maine,
benjamin  





Thursday, February 20, 2014

SESH BRO


          Lately my musical life has been mainly focused on practicing singing like a madman, teaching my awesome students, or recording sessions. 

Will Dollinger took this photo

           My recording history has been pretty consistent for a while with a HUGE spike in work last winter. I was blessed with a fantastic opportunity to learn a lot in a short period of time. My musicianship improved beyond measure, and thankfully so did my social skills as a collaborator. You just had to go in there and do your thing, no matter what malfunctioned. It truly helped me learn how to believe in myself. 

           A lot of people tell me that they dig how I smile for most of the time of perform. It's because the performance is the culmination of a lot of hard work practicing and studying. It truly is a reward, and its so fun to experience the power of rhythm in harmony with a big group of people. I don't really agree with most kinds of people on most kinds of things; but on this, we are together one. It's really fun for me, so I act a fool and goober up. This is what we call natural expression. 



           But having a recording session feels far more consequential. This is the chance to go inward and confront myself as a musician. Think of it as a phycological analysis almost, where I am in the chair and on the sofa. And sometimes both of us indulge in cigars. 

           Recording music has always reminded me of leaving little flakes of my soul in the past to be experienced new again in the future. It is my chance to make a resounding impact on people with no histrionics, just music. Just my expression. This is a fairly deep connection, and although not a true connection in reality, it is pure. 

          Of course I still maintain a joyous attitude because recording sessions are, for the most part, collaboration sessions. It's a mistake to really take group work too far beyond this fact, I believe. Relationships are collaboration sessions, and if you are a good collaborator, it is far easier to do anything. 

          In truth, I approach recording with a bit more fear, because your true expression and ability is often under a microscope with a bias lens. Fear is simply switched with excitement, and I'm ready with my senses heightened. Because of this, I probably tend to take a bit more of a spiritual approach. As such, I really like to have a routine to how I get ready and set everything up. The French call this "mise en place." 

          "Mise en Bass" seems more appropriate for our purposes. Try out your own pun. 

          I like doing certain things the same way; like an archer hitting his mark or a surgeon arranging his materials before a bypass. There is no better feeling to me than doing things in an easy order to ramp up. Do it right; right makes light. 

          The chord charts get made the same way. The cables are un-coiled in the same fashion. I even find myself taking the same amount of coffee sips between each prepared activity. I can notice all these things easily because I do them the same way each time; it really helps assuage my body and mind to notice all the new details much more easily as well. Eventually it, or you, is all there. 

          Perhaps this is why recording feels like leaving parts of my soul behind. More than a snapshot of who I am in a precise moment of time, recorded baselines are pristine conservations of who I am exactly then in a way that is indescribable by words. You can only access that way thru using your ears, using your mind, and using your heart. All at once. 

       off to leave musical dandruff that even head n shoulders couldn't help with,
benjamin 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy Your Excitement

          I wanted to write a blog about how to enjoy our own excitement. Hopefully it would help me work thru some issues I have pertaining to why my stomach ties up in paralyzing knots when I'm to do basically anything besides performing or playing music. Whenever I'm engaged in one of those activities, my nerves are still there, but they only feel intensified towards my goal. Things feel stronger; I feel things more strongly; I feel stronger, in all ways of interpretation.



          From all my lessons in music from my many excellent teachers, it has been revealed to me that when we are afraid, we are simply experiencing a sensation that really is excitement. Even this simple reframing did wonders for me. Performing and playing music always seemed to feel good, even before I was particularly good at it. Some of others aspects of my life, however, hardly ever seemed to feel good. Like figuring out how to work an entertainment system...



          This is obviously something that everyone experiences; self-doubt, being unsure. This is the natural experience that some of us have to moments of importance or greatness. I was an absolute mess as a test taker; I still am. Last year, when I reenrolled in university to complete my math requirement, I lost sleep constantly on nights before tests. It's unfortunate, however, that so many people equate moments of nervousness before great events as crippling anxieties. This is quintessentially having someone judge you according to a strict criteria. Fortunately for me, playing bass cannot be judged according to a strict criteria.

          Fortunately for us, life cannot be judged that way either. If we can learn to appreciate and even love our fear, it can be channeled towards our heightened selves. Like preworkout.

          Great events are opportunities to be great; we all know this. But nervousness is our body revealing to itself that is it ready to be great. These nervous feelings leave us excited, which is anticipation to be at the state of a most heightened awareness. I write a lot about being mindful and being in the moment; this is exactly what excitement precludes, if we let it. If we let our energy flow thru, it can fill us with the right stuff for what is to come. I believe that our body intelligence surpasses that of our mind's and in this case, I believe we should trust our bodies.

          When I think of my greatest moments, there are always sickening moments of nervousness followed by my follow thru. And with practice it has become a habit loop for me; feel nervous, enjoy it, feel relaxed, feel heightened.



           It all comes back to reacting to what our bodies tells us. We cannot ignore how feel beneath the surface, because this can be our greatest indicator. Like every other positive lesson I glean, I am much better at taking advantage of these feelings in my musical life. Nevertheless, I am striving towards responding to that sickly nervous feeling in my stomach with feelings of love and readiness. Bring it on.


          always keep turning up,
benjamin