“Do You Remember the 21st Night of September?”

“Love was changin’ the minds of pretenders.” – Earth, Wind, & Fire

For Earth, Wind & Fire, there's always 'September'

I don’t think I ever realized that lead singer Maurice White was singing “the 21st night of September” in Earth, Wind, & Fire’s iconic song “September.” Apparently he is, and now I know. And now you know if you didn’t already.

I started this post three days prior on September 18th – my mom’s 74th birthday. I started writing this just hours after visiting her and my dad at their assisted living facility in Rogers, Arkansas. I brought her some birthday cake and flowers and a card and some funny stories to lighten the mood for 30 minutes. If you’ve read any past posts then you know my dad is 80 and not in great shape physically and not quite 100% mentally sharp either. On the other hand, my mom is in good physical shape, but she’s suffering from dementia and that. is. the. worst.

“The bell was ringing, aha. Our souls were singing. Do you remember? Never a cloudy day.

She doesn’t remember. Well, maybe she remembers some, but all of her days are cloudy now. It’s a brain cloud that refuses to let go its’ ugly grip and let the sun in. Whatever is stuck in there from the past remains in there for the time being. Names and faces of family and some longtime friends still reside in her brain. There are a few stories in there as well. She tries to hide her memory shortcomings by not saying much. I bet she remembers very little of these past three years since I moved them here from Norman, Oklahoma, and it’s sad. It’s heartbreaking. It’s frustrating. Dementia is fucking awful.

And my poor dad who has to witness the fits of anger, the uncontrollable crying, and the repetitive questions minute after minute, hour after hour, twenty-four hours a day. It must be exhausting, and I know from my conversations with him that it is. I can hear it in his voice every time we speak on the phone. I can see it in his eyes the few times we’ve actually been together since the pandemic starting shutting things down.

COVID prevents me from going over whenever I want, which just adds to the hardship. It was only recently that I was even allowed to visit which helps a little, but I can’t really do anything. I can schedule a 45 minute appointment to visit them in a common area within the facility on one of three days every week. I have to tell my mom five or ten times that ‘yes, I’ve seen their apartment, and no, I can’t go up and see it until it’s safer.’ I can see the confusion on her face. I think masks and COVID are a new thing everyday. I can also travel and meet them at doctor appointments, but the point is that it has been a hard time on all of us since everything went crazy in mid-March.

“Ba de ya – say do you remember
Ba de ya – dancing in September
Ba de ya – golden dreams were shiny days”

I know this isn’t an 80’s song, but it’s upbeat and fun, and hell this would be the most depressing post of all-time if I decided on Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years,” or Echo and the Bunnymen with “The Killing Moon,” or how about Chicago’s “Look Away.” My goal is not to make you think about dementia and then want to kill yourself. My only goal is to release some of the pent up pain within which maybe some of you can relate to. I can put a pretty, happy bow at the end of a post. I can’t do the same thing in real life.

My sympathies to those of you that have already travelled my road, are just starting the journey, or are somewhere in between like me. There cannot be many worse things I can think of than slowly losing your mind, but on the list is definitely those caretakers that have to helplessly watch it occur.

So free your mind for the next three minutes and thirty-five seconds. Enjoy the funky 70’s clothing, the late 70’s psychedelic graphics and a song that features some nonsensical lyrics like “Ba de ya” and “ba duda, ba duda, ba duda ba duda.” Enjoy the cooler temps if you’re in a part of the world like I am where fall is starting to show its’ loveliness, and just reflect on some golden dreams and shiny days of past Septembers as you groove to this November 1978 release that made it to #1 on the R&B charts and #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 – “September.”

Thanks for reading and let’s find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Mom and I, birthday time September 1978 or 79.
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“Step Inside. Walk This Way”

You and me babe. Hey! Hey!” – Def Leppard

Sometimes these little combinations of letters that form words can be insufficient.  I wish I could adequately describe how I see you.  At this stage of life, you’re more beautiful than ever.  Of course, I see you right now – bashfully shaking your head in objection, asking why I would say that, trying to deflect the compliment, thinking of all the things you haven’t done right.  But you represent a beautiful portrayal for a life, for my life.  You’re an unwavering soul of God’s love poured out into this world.  Perfect?  None of us fit that description, but your imperfection is what makes life with you so worthwhile.   

Time can feel like a rapid descent down a children’s slide.  While some only focus on the rapidly approaching destination, you enjoy the ride – hands raised and free.  You live in the moment, and I love that about you.  For over 20 years that I have known you, you never miss an opportunity to say I love you or an opportunity to say something nice to someone.  You never miss an opportunity to impart some words of comfort, to show empathy, or even to instruct others.  You go out of your way and you love unselfishly hard.  You are unapologetically affectionate.  You hurt just as hard too.  You feel.  Your emotions tag along on the surface and match your intensity.   

Slide, slide, slippity-slide.

But you have this wonderful smile.  A perfect smile.  It’s a smile that says I’m happy; that says I see you.  A smile that says you make me happy and one that says welcome.  You have these ocean blue eyes that I’m convinced can see into souls.  They may not like what they see, but they look for the best in people.  Those same eyes also pierce hearts and reflect everyday beauty.   

You have passion.  Passion for your husband and daughter.  Passion for your friends and family.  Just being you is enough.  It may not feel like it sometimes.  Your occasional feelings of unworthiness and unbelonging are deceptive lies.  I see your contributions to marriage, to parenthood, to friendship, to family, to society and I appreciate them as do others. 

You’re strange and quirky and cool and nerdy.  You’re fashionable and sexy, fun and adventurous.  You have your mom’s servant spirit and your dad’s boldness.  You love your Jesus and He loves you.  Thank you for your heart and your eyes and your smile and your soul.  Words are not always sufficient at timeline points in our lives, but I know one thing – you are.     

“Listen! red light, yellow light, green-a-light go! Crazy little woman in a one man show”

Now, my wife is well aware of my affinity for 80’s music and I’ve won her over on quite a bit of the stuff I listened to growing up including this English rock band formed in 1977. We’ve seen them twice in concert over the years including two years ago in Denver. So, to celebrate my crazy little woman, here is one our favorites – Def Leppard’s 1987 #2 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 – “Pour Some Sugar on Me”

And here is the 2018 sing-along version with my wife and I on the field at Coors Field in Denver, CO on a beautiful July evening.

Happy birthday to my wife!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Lately I’ve Been Running on Faith”

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“What else is a poor boy to do?” – Eric Clapton

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “Mere Christianity” that “faith is the ability to hold onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” Changing moods may be the theme of 2020. I know my moods have swung from pure joy to head-shaking grief. From anger and fear and disgust to love and grace and empathy. And like any normal person, those moods can change from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

Mere Christianity” is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ll pick it up from time to time and just a read a chapter or two. I’d highly recommend it if you’ve never read it before and especially if you’re struggling or have ever struggled spiritually. Recently, I was drawn into chapters 11 & 12 again, which are both on the topic of faith.

Faith requires energy and intentionality and effort. It’s a constant battle, and the battle, to quote Mr. Lewis again, “is between faith and reason on one side, and emotion and imagination on the other.” Lewis even makes a point that it takes energy and effort to have faith as an atheist (of which he was one for part of his life); to remain true to your beliefs as an atheist against signs and wonders and historical facts that Christians point to in their case for Christianity.

“Lately I’ve been talking in my sleep. I can’t imagine what I’d have to say.”

For someone that has over 100 posts on this site, it’s hard for me to imagine that I have much to say, but maybe I do. Granted some of my posts are fluff pieces or just reiterations of stories from the past, but I’m also not going to knock my persistence or my ability to churn out pieces especially when I didn’t feel like writing. There are certainly those times I’m banging away at the keyboard that help me grow as an individual like the recent six-part Summer Mixtape Revisited series which was intended to amplify the struggles, thoughts, and aspirations of our fellow black brothers and sisters.

Of course there are times when my faith is tested or when it feels like it is in neutral – lacking that energy and intentionality I mentioned earlier. Shame creeps in asking why I don’t have more faith. It is those times that I am thankful for my wife and my family and my friends and my God. It’s them who brings that light into the darkness, is the sign on the road, or just the inspiration to draw from. For that I am extremely thankful.

I’m sure I’m not alone in running on faith during this time. Hell, it takes faith just to go to the grocery store during Covid 2020, and I know that it’s going to continue to take effort and time and focus to refill that faith tank as we approach the last quarter of the year. I hope you have something or someone that helps refill your faith tank during this time be it friends or faith or maybe it’s just a song by Eric Clapton. God knows we all need it.

“Then we’d go running on faith. All of our dreams would come true. And our world will be right when love comes over me and you.”

Unless you’re a big Eric Clapton fan, not many will realize this song was released in November of 1989 off of his “Journeyman” album. For me (and probably countless others), it entered my consciousness in 1992 when Eric Clapton appeared on MTV and subsequently released his “Eric Clapton Unplugged” album. That album sold over 26 million worldwide and earned Clapton six Grammy awards including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year (Tears in Heaven), Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Rock Male Vocal Performance and Best Rock Song. The dude killed it with this album further solidifying himself as one of the greatest musicians of all time.

I remember being a sophomore in college in 1991 as my friend Trey, holding an Eric Clapton poster in his hands, stared directly into my old VHS camcorder while emphatically announcing “Clapton is a god!” From the MTV unplugged early days circa 1992, here is that guitar slaying god running on faith then, and most surely in 2020 as well.

Thanks for reading, and our world may never be perfect, but it’s always much better when love comes over me and you.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Reading from The Good Book, Christmas time early 80’s.
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“Feeding on Your Hungry Eyes”

“I bet you’re not so civilized.” – Patty Smyth (Scandal)

Scandal Feat. Patty Smyth: The Warrior (Video 1984) - IMDb

Warning:  A post for “old people.”  Seriously.  When you start reading this you’re going to say ‘he was right,’ and then think to yourself ‘how old is this guy?’  But chances are if you’re reading this then you’re right in the perfect wheelhouse age-wise, or maybe you just accidentally stumbled across it going down an internet rabbit-hole.  Hold that animal theme, and here’s why:

I have a recent fascination with birds (see I told you – old people post dead ahead).  Over the last month, I have purchased four bird feeders.  I have purchased numerous amounts of feed.  I’ve studied different types of seed and feeders – colors, designs, materials.  I’ve read articles about bird feeders and food, and downloaded apps (two of them) onto my iPhone to help identify birds.  One app has a feature like Shazam (the app that listens to a song and identifies the name and artist) and will identify the bird by listening to it sing/chirp.  Tell me that’s not cool!  I dare you.  So this is where you’re free to join my wife and daughter and yell “bird nerd!”  Well, I for one am about to crack open a beer and tell Alexa to play “Freebird.”  So go right ahead reader – scoff if you must.

But I tell you this – bird watching is relaxing.  It’s peaceful.  It’s fascinating.  We have blue jays and cardinals and mourning doves, and thrashers and sparrows and a whole city of wrens that come visit.  They have their own unique sounds and hierarchy and movements.  We have four hummingbird feeders as well just for good measure.  Those four help feed one very happy hummer who’s going to be the size of a Turdus migratorius when it’s time to migrate further south for the winter.  Oh, and that’s just a fancy way (or is it? Turdus?) of saying American Robin.

“Oh, who’s the hunter, who’s the game.  I feel the beat call your name.” 

Well every good bird story is not without its’ antagonist(s).  And in

I felt someone watching me. Looked up from my computer and saw a ...

this case, there are a few to this story.  It’s the occasional feral cat creeping through the bushes and pouncing on an unsuspecting blue jay for a late afternoon snack.  Sometimes it’s the neighborhood raccoon under cover of night stealing the apparently delicious black oil sunflower seeds I set out.  I see you raccoon.  I have a security camera.

Mostly though it’s the band of four-legged, furry-tailed punks (you punks stay off my lawn!) that have no manners nor respect for property.  They are sometimes referred to as “cute” and “clever.”  But you know what?  They’re neither.  They’re sneaky little devils traipsing across the top of my fence leisurely like acrobats practicing on high wires.  They rob the birds of the food I paid for.  Hey you little scavengers, I didn’t buy you food!

And it’s those little furry beasts that led me to Walmart to purchase my very first official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.  So, yes, I sit out on my back porch mornings and evenings just waiting for those little gremlins to come crawling over the fence in search of the delicious black oil sunflower seeds so I can pop them like little Ralphie shooting Black Bart in “A Christmas Story.”       Red Ryder Christmas Story Quotes. QuotesGram | 1 Quotes

 

They like to leap from the fence onto our “bird condo” (below left) that my wife purchased a few years ago.  I call it a condo, because look how big it is!  It’s where the larger birds go to feast.  I even had to chase a cat out of there one day who was just hanging out sunning himself.  I learned that we placed our bird condo too close to the fence, but it’s not moving anytime soon.  I cemented that post into the ground so that sucker is not going anywhere.  We also provide housing as you can see below right.

So to recap:  I like birds.  I watch them eat and fly and frolic in the yard.  I listen to them communicate and I observe as they land on the feeders I’ve laid out for them, and watch them feast on the seed I’ve provided.    

The squirrels are my sworn enemy.  Bunch of little Johnny Ringo’s with tails running around taking what they please.  Well, squirrels, I’m your Huckleberry.  

kkshootemup

“Shooting at the walls of heartache bang, bang.  I am the warrior.”

Sure, if this website was sincerelythe90s, I would probably be featuring the Squirrel Nut Zippers band instead.  But, it’s the glorious 80’s and this post was a good reason for me to feature one of my all-time favorite 80’s songs.

If you like videos that resemble strange apocalyptic ballets then maybe this is right in your lane.  It’s a bizarre video sure, but Patty Smyth rocks despite all the weird clothes and paint on her face.  A couple of interesting facts about Smyth that most 80’s music lovers know:  1. Smyth is married to former tennis great/badboy John McEnroe since 1997.  2. She earned an invite to be the lead singer of Van Halen by Eddie Van Halen himself after David Lee Roth’s departure.

Patty Smyth Regrets Turning Down Offer To Join Van Halen

She turned Eddie and the band down (regretfully).  But this song featured today remains one of the quintessential 80’s classics.  Released 36 years ago this month and peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, it is Scandal featuring Patty Smyth with “The Warrior.”

“Yes, I am the warrior.  And victory is mine…” (squirrels)

sincerely the 80’s

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“Seventeen Has Turned 35”

“I’m surprised that we’re still living.” – John Mellencamp

The Most Important Songs From John Mellencamp - I Love Classic Rock

This particular lyric has always stood out to me, and has been one of my favorite John Mellencamp lyrics.  It’s a nostalgic line at its’ core.  For many, myself included, the lyric and the song invokes memories of days gone by and how quickly those days turn into weeks, months, and years.  It’s simple and pure.  There’s another similar line in the song that says “the winter days they last forever, and the weekends went by so quick.”  True when you’re 17, but when you’re older it’s easier to amend that to the years went by so quick.

I think the line stood out to me in particular because I would turn 17 just five months after the release of this song in October of 1987.  John Mellencamp had just turned 36 by the time this song was released as a single (he was 35 though when the album “The Lonesome Jubilee” was released).  John was one of those artists that was a little older before he really broke into mainstream success.  It was 1982’s “American Fool” album when he was already 31 that turned him a household name as John “Cougar” with the hit singles “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane.”

I always wondered what I would be like at 35.  Would I be surprised that I was still living?  Would I have a wife and kids?  Would I think back on my high school years like John was when he wrote this song?  Hell, 17 has turned 35 has turned 49.  I’m not surprised that I’m still living, but I could have never imagined that I would be living in Arkansas sitting on my back porch on a Saturday morning waxing nostalgia on a strange little contraption called a laptop computer to “post” on an equally fascinating thing called a “website.”  That’s the point.  We never know where we’re going to end up or how things will turn out.

“That’s when a sport was a sport, and groovin’ was groovin’.  And dancin’ meant everything.  We were young and we were improvin’.”

Sure the chorus is little dated with the line “and groovin’ was groovin’.”  You can tell John was from a different era as his school days would have consisted of the 60’s and early 70’s, and he loved his sports and his dances.  I was definitely into sports, but I was never much for school dances.  It was the fear of looking like a complete fool that held me back.  That and the fact that, you know, you had to talk to girls (insert scared emoji face right here).  That’s dumb sure, but it wasn’t for insecure teenagers everywhere, and I know I wasn’t alone in that category.

So I didn’t attend any school dances save my senior prom in 1989.  That’s pretty amazing actually.  Not one school dance until then.  Funny thing is since high school I’ve taken dance lessons with my wife (twice), been to numerous weddings, birthdays, clubs, bars, etc. where I’ve been a dancing machine!  Ok, so not really a machine, but I did dance.

“One night me with my big mouth.  A couple guys had to put me in my place.  When I see those guys these days we just laugh and say do you remember when?”

I never got into any fights growing up in the 80’s either.  The one time I was in one I didn’t actually know that’s what it was supposed to be.  It was early 80’s.  I was probably in 5th or 6th grade, and I was in elementary school at Northwood Elementary in Seminole, Oklahoma.  For some reason I thought it would be funny to tell the kid behind me in class to shut up every time he asked me a question about an assignment we were currently working on.  Apparently he didn’t think that was too funny and as I was on my way walking home (I lived right across the street from the school), he called my name to come see him over by this small little storage building on the school property.  So I went over there where he proceeded to grab me and then tried to pull me backwards and make me trip over his leg.  I stumbled over his leg but didn’t fall and decided to just keep on going right across the street into my house.  That was it.  We were friends after that.  I never told him to shut up again.

“If we’ve done any wrong, I hope that we’re forgiven.”

Another line that should always ring true as we mature and reflect back on the memories of life.  As for Mr. Mellencamp, well he’s gone from 17 to 35 to quickly approaching 69.  He’s still pumping out music and is always pretty vocal about his politics.  As for what the future holds for him or for us, well, we just don’t know.  But what we’ll always have are the memories.

“Outside the club “Cherry Bomb,” our hearts were really pumpin'”

Cherry Bomb, John Mellencamp playing the autoharp (With images ...

John received a lot of hate mail for this particular video after its release in 1987, and only because it features a young black male and white female dancing together.  Just goes to show you that people were stupid in 1987 too.  My favorite thing in this video (besides John’s suspenders) is John rocking the autoharp on a beach that is nowhere near his home of Indiana.  Just something funny about that scene.  With a title based upon John’s teenage club hangout in the basement of a church called “The Last Exit Teen Club,” here is the pride of Seymour, Indiana with “Cherry Bomb…”

Say yeah yeah yeah.  Say yeah yeah yeah

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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The Summer Mixtape Interviews Recap

I’d be remiss if I didn’t reflect on the past three weeks and the incredible conversations I had with the six talented and well-spoken artists leading to the previous six posts.  I have over three and half hours of recorded phone conversations that produced thousands of words used on this little blog.

First and foremost, my sincerest and heartfelt thanks can never be enough but nonetheless are being extended to Bijoux Pighee, SeanFresh, Jeremiah “BAANG” Pickett, Dazzmin Murry, Kabrelyn “Brie” Boyce, and Lawrence Jamal.

None of this would have been possible without their complete honesty, openness, and full cooperation.  Not once did they “pull any punches” nor take any easy roads with their thoughts or words.  But I didn’t expect them to, and that in itself should speak volumes about the type of individuals they are.  It should give rise to hope for future generations, not only black and minority populations, but also to future white generations.  These are talented individuals with good hearts and a passion for what they do and what they say.

75 Maya Angelou Quotes On Love, Life, Courage And Women

I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to read some or all of the previous six posts labeled “The Summer Mixtape Revisited.”  I didn’t write a single word.  All I had to do was listen, transcribe and edit because the interviews wrote themselves.  This was indeed a labor of love for me during a tumultuous time in our history, and I will be forever grateful to those that helped turn a little spark of a concept into a flame.

Personally, I want to continue to encourage each of them to grind away at their professions and towards their goals, because I believe in each of them, and I believe they have beautiful futures ahead.  And I would also continue to encourage each of them to speak in the truth, love, and grace that each one of them so generously extended to me as I stammered my way through a difficult topic.  But it’s through those words and that dialogue that we can find commonalities and truths in which we can stand on together.

My thanks also to Bike Rack Brewing Co., and the creation of the Bike Rack Records label.  Without that creation, I would have never had the chance to meet and learn about (and from) these artists.

Sincerely the 80’s has been a labor of love for over four years, and has really been about my memories, feelings, and a dedication of sorts to friends and family all while weaving in my musical appreciations and fascinations with certain songs, lyrics, and artists (particularly those of 80’s origin).  I’ve also felt the heavy weight at times to produce something a little more meaningful, something more insightful, and I feel like maybe I took some steps in that direction with these interviews.

It was the protests and demonstrations following the horrific deaths of Breonna Taylor and of George Floyd most notably that this idea was laid on my heart by an unwavering and unbreakable power from above.  The timing just happened to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape  upon which these artists performed.  The anniversary gave me an opportunity and an opening to reach back out to these six, but I don’t think it was by happenstance.  I believe God orchestrated this piece long before the idea bore into my soul.

Rosa Parks Day 2018: Inspirational Quotes & Sayings - Second Nexus

I had spoken to each of them either in person or over the phone one year ago to discuss their careers and their music on the Mixtape EP.  I have seen each of them perform on a stage before a live audience at least once in person, and I’ve also been able to follow their careers via social media as well.  But this time, and for these conversations, the opportunity was there to discuss not only the past year in their industry and the changes COVID-19 was inflicting, but to also take a much deeper dive into more important issues that are and have affected basic humanity at its’ core for hundreds of years.

During each interview there were always numerous thoughts and words that struck me.  Those were the ones I would narrow down later during my editing process while shaking my head in amazement,  agreement, and silently thinking “that’s good right there.”  I would later impose that particular quote on top of the photo of the artist, and the beginning of each post was born.  And speaking of photos, the photographs (all supplied by the artists) were amazing, and proper photo credits were attributed to all of the powerful images used throughout the six parts.  (If you’re a fan of photography, you shouldn’t hesitate to follow the photographers as well – names and links below)

What I was hoping to accomplish was:  1) to promote and amplify intelligent black voices that represent our future.  2) I also wanted to show that white people and black people of different ages, backgrounds, thoughts, and ideas could dialogue about difficult issues.  And selfishly, 3) I wanted to address a personal fear of having difficult conversations with those of different backgrounds so I could grow to be a better person.  Did we solve the world’s problems?  No, but this broken world will never be fully healed.  Were the conversations comfortable and easy?  No.  Did I ramble too much at times through the interviews and/or not ask the right questions?  Of course.  But once again, thank God for grace.  Finally, did I grow as a human being?  How could I have not.

I would ask you dear reader to keep in mind that if you decide to embark on tough conversations, and it is going to involve the topic of racism, then please remember racism is not a new topic.  It was mentioned over and over throughout these interviews.

Also please be aware enough to know that it is not a black person’s job to teach you about racism.  It’s your job to learn about it.  Learn about slavery and abolition and about Harriet Tubman and Dred Scott.   Teach yourself about the Freedom Riders, the Greenwood District, and the Civil Rights Movement.  Learn who Emmett Till was and Rosa Parks, and who Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were and what they stood for.  Study “redlining,” and “the Jim Crow laws,” and the Black Panthers.  You should know the stories of Rodney King, and about the recent deaths of Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd (among many others).

Do the work.  Open your heart and ears and your mind, and enter the conversation with sincerity, humility and humbleness and you might be pleased with what transpires in and from you.  I was.

Quote For Strong Women 1000 Images About A Strong Woman On ...

Thank you for reading, spending some time getting to know these amazing artists, and remember to take some Maya Angelou with you into whatever difficulties lie ahead in life, and rise like air.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

The Summer Mixtape Revisited series photographers:
Joshua Asante
Dominique Benedict
Dacori Jones
Alex Kennedy
Bailey Melancon
Mike Morris
Dazzmin Murry
Milson Phoenix
Sydney Rasche
Jake Ruth
Cameraman Stan
Christian West
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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 6: Lawrence Jamal

lawrence jamal 01photo creds:  Bailey Melancon

(This is the final installment of a six-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This interview features Dallas-based musician and rapper Lawrence Jamal.) 

The move from NWA to Big D…

I’ve done a lot in the past year.  Man, I can’t believe it’s been a year!  I had long hair at the time (last summer).  I’ve been to another country.  I’ve been stranded in another country because I lost my passport and I didn’t have access to my banking information.  I dropped a single, and then started working on an album, and then COVID hit.  I moved to Dallas for employment opportunities where I’m planting roots with my little brother in a major city and planning to release an album.  The major cities make things a little more accessible and makes for more opportunities to do business.  Northwest Arkansas is home, but it just doesn’t have those connections yet. 

Dallas is a great place to go corporate, make connections, and build resources, and when the world opens back up, then (I’ll) execute on what I’ve been working on.  The reason I’m working so hard on this album is so that I can put a solid product in my hands and then I can go focus on something else.  I don’t want to be torn when it’s time to do the next thing.  The COVID summer break is coming to an end.  

The Hot 16…

“The Hot 16” is a series I’ve been doing to keep content in front of people.  To break it down in hip-hop, there’s no rules to music, but there are 16 bars to each verse.  I just branded it in a way to make it seem exclusive but really it’s not.  There’s been a lot of “Hot 16 challenges” but the way I make it look, I make it look like a broadcast from a radio station.  I want it to be like a broadcast because what’s going to happen is as I evolve as a person and as an artist, the content itself will evolve in quality and I’ll have more money to invest in the future for production.  I’m looking forward to where this goes from grass roots.      

Carrying on right now…

The way I see it – I’m carrying on as if nothing has happened.  It’s been all about the music.  What you have to understand right now what’s happening in the world is almost normal especially for people of color if that makes sense.  There are a lot of people calling minorities in general and letting them know that ‘I love you’ and ‘I support you,’ and we see what’s going on and I do receive that, but the reality is that people have been dealing with this for years. 

You gotta understand I was frisk searched by a cop when I was 18 in a parking lot next to a park, and was so scared I almost fainted.  I’ve been slammed up against a car by the police because I answered a question when he asked me if I had anything to drink and I said I had one beer and I asked him if he had any, and he slammed me up against the car – this big swole up former Marine.   

I learned to respect authority, but I can’t allow those events and watching George Floyd have a knee to his neck til he dies.  That brought a lot of emotions that I don’t think a lot of people are ready to deal with that we need to talk about and that we are talking about – anger, betrayal, confusion, sadness.   

Being in the ATL recently…

I was in Atlanta four days after Rayshard Brooks was killed and I was riding in a car listening to one of the hottest radio stations in Atlanta 107.9 , and it was almost like I was in the mix.  It was different being in Atlanta, because Atlanta is predominantly black.  You get to see it from a different lens.  We’re almost in our own little bubbles across the world.  

I was at an Atlanta church playing (a show), and I had lunch with the pastor and we talked about Christian hip-hop and what that means, and it’s not what it seems.  I’m too real.  I’m not about being fake today.  We’ll see what happens.  My message is not changing.  I’m still going to be positive.  You’re not going to have to bleep out any of my words right now.  I’m good.  I’ve got to find other ways to build the kingdom.  I don’t know if my music lives up to that if you feel me?  It’s hard to manufacture that.   I’m taking care of my heart and keeping my heart healthy and everything else will flow from it. 

photo creds:  Bailey Melancon

Breaking down the walls…

What I see as a black man is the white evangelical church tearing each other apart because they’re not responding the way one person says is necessary.  It’s a lot.  I feel weird going to the church I came up in.  I don’t even want to be around certain environments right now. 

So all this going on, I called a minister I know and I asked him how should I be thinking about all of this because I need wisdom, and he said that on the other side of this what people are going to be looking for is that example and that changed man.  That black man that kept his head up and kept his integrity up because there is a lot of people putting in their afro pick right now with their fist high.   

I’m hoping to break down the four walls.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t want to entertain church people the rest of my life.  I don’t want to put on display how righteous I am because I know it’s ‘bs,’ and I’m not relatable at that point.  People can call me whatever but I’m just trying to reach people.  SoEverything Freedom” is still a mission.  It’s still a label.  But the way I see it, and the name of my album coming out August 1st is called “Don’t Play This at Church,” because I don’t want people to think I’m giving them another church album because I’m putting things in there that shouldn’t be played at church. 

Unification…

We have to hang onto unity, because unity commands blessing. So, we have to stay unified across colors, across borders.  It’s not about black or white.  It’s about the human race at this point.  I’ve experienced it, but ultimately I’m hopeful there will be change, but I’m also not excited to jump on the bandwagon on social media posts either. 

I’m actually moved by the support that the black community is getting from the outside.  I think the reason I’m so torn about people being at each other’s throats about not being anti-racist enough is not to give any of my friends a pat on the back like you did enough, but I think I really get to see people’s hearts through all this.  I get to see people that are about bringing a change in their community.  It’s almost like seeing a child walk and then run.  I guess what I’m saying is I’m encouraged to see how much support has been put together just through people unifying because if we can unify about this than anything is possible. 

Revisit Lawrence’s single “No Time Soon” from the 2019 Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape EP and follow him on Spotify.

Check out his “Hot 16” series and connect with Lawrence on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter

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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 5: Kabrelyn “Brie” Boyce

Brie2photo creds: Joshua Asante

(This is the fifth part of a six-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This interview features singer, songwriter, musician, and one half of the rock and soul band Dazz & Brie – Kabrelyn Boyce.)  

It’s a human life thing…

I won’t say it’s not entirely a black – white thing, but it’s more of a human life thing.  Color does matter, but what I mean by that is I’m not asking you to not be Democratic or Republican.  I’m asking you to recognize that we are human beings and our lives are just as precious as yours and your family.  That being such a hard concept for people to grasp is very frustrating to me.  I just want acknowledgement that this is happening and it’s not ok.

I try to be diplomatic and I try to be a peacemaker.  Even though I’m argumentative at times I still try make it where I leave a space for people especially if they’re ignorant about certain issues, but I’ve been getting very very exhausted.  Lately I’m just tired of explaining.  There are so many resources out there for people who may be confused.  But at this point some people are just choosing to be ignorant because it’s uncomfortable, and I just don’t have the space for that anymore.  There are always other truths out there, but I’m just having a hard time seeing the other side of this.

The Little Rock protests…

I went out to one (protest) in Little Rock.  I had to be a little careful about going out because my grandma still lives with my parents and she suffers from COPD and asthma – lung issues, so I had to be very careful and selective as to what I was doing, but I did get to one.

photo creds:  Milson Phoenix

Uncomfortable conversations…

One of my mom’s friends who is also my friend by default because we all work together sent us both a text message and you could tell she didn’t know what to say, which is an issue for a lot of white people right now. They just don’t know what to say. They don’t want to offend us, and they also don’t want to make light of it but they don’t know how to talk about it either so the conversations can be awkward.  She just said ‘I miss you all and I love you.’  My mom replied ‘I’m not ok,’ and she (our friend) texted back a scripture.  That could have been your window right there.  It’s sweet to respond with scripture, but it’s not the right tool to use right now.  There are times for that, but talk to me about it right now. 

If you have little kids then you know Mickey Mouse has the “Mousekatools” and you wouldn’t use a screwdriver to dig a hole. So, I feel like we have to figure out what’s the tool we need to use right now for this moment.

The age of enlightenment…

I believe we’re in the age of enlightenment, and for the first time I see black people being informed and thirsty for information that hasn’t been easily accessible to us in the past.  I’m seeing more and more threads about history.  I’m seeing things about this is what you were told in your history class, but this is actually what was going on.  You learned about “The New Deal,” but you didn’t learn about “redlining.”  You learned about Martin Luther King, but not about Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.  So I’m hopeful because people (myself included) are finally fed up enough to ask what is it that we need to be doing to shift this mentality, to shift this time.

But I do feel fearful about certain organizers, certain names.  I’m fearful because they now have a target on their backs.  There are also several reports about black people being hanged around the country that are being ruled as suicides, and I don’t feel like they’re suicides.  I just don’t believe that.  It’s just too coincidental and that makes me a little afraid.  I’m heading back to L.A. soon and it will just be two women driving and I’m a little apprehensive as to what to expect if we get stopped.  I got stopped the other day for speeding and I was a little nervous.

I won’t lie and say we’ll hold hands and there will be world peace anytime soon because there are still those fears and that apprehension.  We’ve seen a lot so I am both hopeful and afraid.

The future and the past of Dazz and Brie…

I don’t want to speak for Dazz, but I know I’ll be going back and forth between Arkansas and Los Angeles in the future.  It’s kind of bittersweet because we’ve been working very very hard to establish ourselves and our band.  We have shows where we call people by name in the audience.  We’ve created a family unit with Dazz and Brie and so that’s going to always be there.  We’ll continue to do those shows but just not as frequently.  L.A. is like being a little fish in a big ocean.  It’s a little like starting over again, and I’m trying to get comfortable with that idea.  I know that expansion is sometimes necessary for growth.

  photo creds (left): Dominique Benedict (right top): Cameraman Stan, (bottom right):  Sydney Rasche

(Starting out), we mashed together some covers and not very good ones.  Afropunk was our first official show, because that was the first time we put together our songs that we wrote.  Before that we had done two block parties – one in Atlanta, Texas where I’m from and another in Texarkana, Texas which is right up the street and I think we did some Bruno Mars, but it wasn’t a good song like “24k Magic.”  It was something like “If I Was Your Man,” or something.  They were not good songs to cover.  They were just songs we actually knew so we definitely made some rookie mistakes.

Tough times…

Tough times are not new to us.  My family has always been about helping one another out.  The only reason it feels like a pandemic right now is because I haven’t been able to go out and make money like I normally do.

I realize that I relied heavily on my band mates to get my voice out, so I’ve started dabbling in production recently.  I can’t get to the studio and I have these song ideas but they’re (bandmates) busy doing their own things.  So I had to get over myself and my ego for a minute.  Creating and experimenting has helped get me through this as well.  I’ve had a MacBook for years and literally all I’ve ever done is just type letters and check email so now Dazz has been telling me ‘use your computer, get this app, and start working.’  So I’ve had a little tough love from Dazz the producer, but I’ve done about four or five songs just in the last week or so including “That’s How it Be.”  My creativity has been overflowing lately and I’m so grateful for it.   It’s made my mood so much better.

Revisit Dazz & Brie’s single “Concept 2.0” from the 2019 Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape EP on Spotify.

Check out Dazz & Brie on their website, and on Facebook 

Connect with Brie on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter

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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 4: Dazzmin Murry

Dazz1photo creds:  Joshua Asante

(This is the fourth part of a six-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This post features my recent interview with Dazzmin Murry, a Little Rock-based producer, song-writer, photographer, and one-half of the rock and soul group Dazz & Brie.)

Changes…

I’m trying to stay active during the times and switching a lot of things over virtually and trying to keep things moving.  It has definitely been a huge change for me as far as recording and working with other artists and playing shows.  Playing shows is basically a thing of the past right now.  I’m trying to make that switch over to virtual and I’m trying to figure out how to keep that energy that we love to bring at our shows alive and well through a screen.  So, it’s a trial and error roller coaster right now.   

Going back to Cali…

This February Brie and I had actually taken the leap to L.A. to do more studio work, production, and songwriting, because I think it’s difficult being an Arkansas artist when you want to focus on songwriting and producing – more of the studio work.  You have musical hubs like Atlanta, New York, Nashville, and L.A. where that energy circulates so much that it’s just inevitable that you’ll meet someone or run into someone who will help catapult your career or to play a venue where a lot of artists or talent managers frequently go.  So that’s just some of the things we don’t have here right now.  Little Rock isn’t much of a scouting hub yet, but I feel like it’s on the incline. 

We actually moved in February to work with a company, and then we had to come back to Arkansas for a show in mid-March, and the week we came home, COVID-19 cases were on a rapid rise and it wasn’t safe to travel back.  That project has definitely come to a halt for us for now.   

Dazzdoesphotograpy…

Photography has actually been my saving grace right now.  It has helped me still work with clients, and it has been oddly increasing during this time.  When everything else has shut down, it has given me the time and space to learn more, and it’s given me a steady clientele to work with which is a blessing during this time.   

Going forward I really want to focus on lifestyle and fashion photography, so I’ve been able to do some of that with photoshoots for birthdays or family photos.  I still want to incorporate a creative flare and keep my perspective in those regardless of whatever event it is with my photography. 

Protesting in Little Rock…

The protests were eye-opening.  I had never participated in a racial or social injustice protest before.  It felt somewhat surreal to be there in that moment.  Learning about the Civil Rights Movement when I was younger, and then learning more as an adult about what we’re not taught in school.  To be there in that moment, and to be part of the same issue that has been here in America since the start of this country was just surreal.  I also feel an obligation as an artist to be hands-on and to document and make sure an accurate representation from a black perspective is being presented. 

 

photo creds:  Dazzmin Murry

Current events…

I recently spoke with Rah Howard about all of the events going on and the pandemic taking place simultaneously, and how it affects us as humans, and as artists – especially as black artists during this time.  There is still a duty to document and speak up, but also fighting through the daily artist struggles of overthinking and lack of access to resources and trying to figure out how to redirect our careers because a lot of creative avenues require human contact or events that require to be there for you to make a living.  So, it’s just having this whirlwind of disaster and trying to figure it out day by day.   

For me, it’s brought a lot of my work to a halt without the resources to do the work and having the motivation to do the work and the support to complete it.  If it’s a good day and you’re feeling motivated to do the work, then sometimes you feel guilty not focusing on the rise in racial tension.  With racism so apparent now and so many people home, I feel like people are unable to ignore it.  Racism is not something that is new.  It’s just something that’s being publicized so much more and from different perspectives whereas we would usually have a media perspective of crimes and racism or incidents that happened, but now having those perspectives from people who are there in real time.  The black narrative being so apparent as well.  It’s one heck of a time right now… a big boiling pot.   

Tough times don’t last…

Getting through tough times I like to focus on solutions.  I like to focus on my strengths and what I’m able to do and what I feel may be a healthy solution for whatever situation I’m in.  Again, by being back home and not being able to perform or have as many studio sessions as often it has caused me to focus on the resources I would like to have here at home.  So the reason why we felt like L.A. may be a better move to achieve some of our goals 

Dazzcreatorsvillage

I have a 501c3 non-profit called Creators’ Village and working on phase two of a program rollout to create more opportunities for all artist to be inclusive of all artists – multi-genre, men, women, people of color.  So figuring out how to gather those resources and distribute those resources equally throughout the state has been a healthy project I’ve been working on.  So, focusing on a solution not only for myself but for other artists that are facing similar issues.  In phase one I partnered with a local non-profit called Brandon House that I’ve done workshops and camps with for high school kids.  The next rollout will focus more on artists like me to help support artists financially and creatively.   

Hope…

I honestly don’t know a word to describe my feelings for what is happening now.  I would like to hope that things would change but being honest about the fact that this isn’t a new issue.  I don’t believe that people were not aware.  I just think it was easier to ignore when it wasn’t in your face.  It’s not like we’ve provided new information to people to help bring a new awareness.  It’s just bringing something to your face that you’ve already been aware of and you knowing now that we’re looking to see if it makes a difference in your actions or if people decide to change.     

It’s a feeling of I would like for this to happen but I’m not sure if I’m hopeful that it will because it’s not a new topic. 

Revisit Dazz & Brie’s single “Concept 2.0” from the 2019 Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape EP on Spotify.

Check out Dazz & Brie on their website, and on Facebook 

Aunt to the adorably photogenic “Chunka,” you can connect with Dazz on Facebook or Instagram or with @Dazzdoesphotography on Instagram.

 

 

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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 3: BAANG

BAANG4photo creds: Alex Kennedy

(This is the third part of a multiple-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This post features my recent interview with Fayetteville-based musical artist Jeremiah Pickett, aka:  BAANG – Believe Aspire Achieve Now Go)

Music during a pandemic…

It’s been a very very interesting challenge trying to navigate being an artist in general.  Releasing and dropping stuff right now, because on one hand if you think about it – do I even want to promote or put anything out?  On the other hand, you kind of realize that art is the thing that brings us together.  It’s the medium that’s most successful when pushing for anything.  So it’s been tough actually releasing stuff but I’m also encouraged because I’ve been inspired enough to create and inspired enough to work so when the time comes and I feel like that voice needs to be heard I’ve got some stuff I’m excited about sharing with people.   

BLM…

I’m naturally a glass half full type of guy, but I’m also a realist.  So I try to be honest if nothing else with myself.  I try to avoid pacifying myself in blind hopefulness.  I wanted everything to be rooted in some level of truth.  I am hopeful for the future when I see things like this – right now is the only time in history where all 50 states have protested one single event, and in this case it’s injustice.  There are people in Norway chanting ‘Black Lives Matter!’  I don’t know if there’s even black people in Norway.   

People keep saying COVID is a disease and it is, and it should be paid attention to and it’s claiming lives.  Equally as important is the disease of racism that’s plagued this country since the beginning of its’ time.  We’ve shut down school and restaurants for COVID.  We’ve ain’t never shut nothing for racism, but I think we need to pay that same level of attention to it.  I’m hopeful when I think about the fact that conversations are going forward.  I’m hopeful that the people who are much smarter than me who know to say yes there are injustices in this country and yes there are issues, and this is how we can tackle it.  This is how we can dismantle the systems that were created.   

I’m seeing a lot of young people that are educated and intelligent and zealous and full of energy and fearlessness, but some of the young people I’m seeing are very strategic.  They are not too quick to jump in front of a bullet, but they also have the knowledge to know that energy and passion are nothing without organization.  It’s encouraging because there’s something you can grasp onto as we move forward.  

Opening eyes…

I’m seeing a lot of people either speaking out or not speaking out because it’s uncomfortable or can challenge our norms or our paradigms that protect us, but it’s really really cool and encouraging for those who have the choice to seclude themselves, but instead they are using their voice and platform to advocate and push for change and to learn.  People should be encouraged, because there is no point of arrival with this stuff.  We’re always going working towards and pushing forward.  

I’ve been in a very interesting space.  People have been asking me how I feel and my response is the same way I’ve been feeling the past 26 years.  This stuff is a trend right now and is popular.  It (racial tension, social injustice) has gained international attention.  It’s the topic of conversation now so a lot of people are just now being enlightened and awakened to this disease.  I’m black, and I’m black in the south.  None of this is news to me.   I don’t say that in a prideful or rude way.  I’m just saying I feel the way I’ve always felt.  This is opening other people’s eyes.  Definitely when we see an unarmed man killed, or excessive force used on women of color – yes it shocks and pains us and deeply grieves us.  That’s the harsh reality that comes with being a person of color.   

IMG_0126 photo creds: Jake Ruth

Personal challenges…

It’s been challenging trying to be intentional with tapping in and consuming information, and also trying to protect my peace.  There’s an agenda to discourage and to cripple using tactics of fear.  If the media can push all of these negative narratives and all of these tragic, disgusting, hideous videos and continue to feed us this stuff then it can get to a point of now, there’s no hope.  It’s like it doesn’t matter what I say or what I do, things won’t get better.  But I think there’s a healthy amount of information that we do need to see and we do need to be plugged into.  That’s been a personal challenge – trying to find the balance of being engaged and detaching for my own mental health. 

Finding that voice…

Finding my voice in the midst of all of this has also been challenging and trying to use my voice most effectively.  Personally, I’m a delayed internal processor, so when stuff is happening (COVID, protests, race riots, hangings) instead of engaging immediately it takes me a little while before I can internalize and start to break down things.    

It’s a challenge for me.  Typically, I shrink as more intention is paid to me.  I’ve never once told myself I wanted to be an artist or wanted to be in any position of influence where people thought that I was this unobtainable larger-than-life figure.  I think as a kid it was just rooted in me watching their (famous artists) lives change once they reached a certain level of influence.  This was off-putting to me because I’m a private guy and I think when people meet me, and they see my personality, they automatically assume I would like to do this or that.  And I’m also a very willing person because I’ll do whatever you ask me.  I’d rather set up the tables and chairs and clean up after the event, but if you need someone to host it – ok, I’ll do that.   

I gain energy from recharging alone and being by myself.  I’m learning to embrace the influence that God has given me and trying to learn how to steward it.  It’s not going to go anywhere no matter how much I engage it or keep it at bay.   

Being thankful…

All of this stuff that is happening in the world has forced me to come to terms with what I value.  I compare that with what’s really important.  I’m thankful for having to spend a lot of intentional time with family.  I think that’s why I can honestly say with all that’s going on that yes, I’m feeling all the feels and all the emotions and yes I went for a jog after Ahmaud Arbery was killed, and broke down crying from just the weight of everything that’s happening.  And still there’s this constant presence of joy and I know it’s God-given and joy’s not circumstantial, but you can be joyous in the midst of crisis.  I think a lot of that joy is intentional from whom I’m getting to spend time with.  Hanging out with my brothers has been so fulfilling but by no means does it make you forget what’s going on.   

My buddy told me that healing takes place in the context of community, so we mourn together and grieve together, but we also celebrate and rejoice and eat breakfast together.  Surrounding myself with people who can encourage and uplift, and also hear, and be a shoulder has been my saving grace in these times honestly.  

It’s a broken world…

You know I have to take you to church one time.  My hope doesn’t come from this world.  I subscribe to the faith of Christ so I believe that this is a broken world full of broken people in need of a savior.  I believe that.  Not only was I taught that, because honestly I don’t believe everything I was taught.  I believe that from experience.  I’m broken.  I have a wicked heart.  I’m sinful by nature and still to this day there’s a million things I need to work on and fix, but I’ve seen God show up in my life countless times.  And so that’s where my hope is.  It’s in knowing that God is not mocked and that he’s not a liar and that he’ll be back.  His plan is to restore us completely and fully and so right now while we walk around weary and we’re hard pressed on every side but not crushed (2 Cor. 4:8).  It’s our job to push for change, to fight for truth, to advocate for people.  That’s our job.  Some people take the stance of ‘God’s going to fix it.’ Yeah, He is, through us from the people he put here to carry out what he called us to do.  We can’t just be passive and take the back seat.  So, yeah, God’s going to fix it and you need to stop being racist.  God’s going to fix it and you need to stop perpetuating white supremacy.  We can’t just be dismissive and passively bow out.   

 I’m hopeful from what I see and I’m encouraged by the people putting stuff in place.  I’m mainly rooted in that this is a broken world full of broken people and one day a perfect God is going to see us through. 

Check out BAANG’s 2019 Bike Rack Records release “Never Goin’ Back” on Spotify.

You can find more of his original music on Soundcloud 

Connect with BAANG on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram  

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