This album is very personal and I wanted to share the stories behind each song. This is sort of like a "behind the scenes" of Hip-Hop for the Soul. I hope you enjoy!
The Voice (Intro)-
The album was originally going to be called “Voice of the People,” but I decided otherwise because I wanted the title to better describe the feel of the music. This motivating intro represents the people for whom this album was created. It provides a voice for the underdog, the regular, common, overlooked, everyday people and heroes with regular problems and stresses. It’s time for this voice to finally be heard and channeled. This voice is, in fact, the majority, yet sits silenced by idealistic images, idols, and political agendas. Now the voice has the main stage, but who will listen?
Everyday Like It’s My Last-
I wrote this song on my first plane trip to New York City after September 11. Though it was a few years after 2001, the emotion was raw as though the disastrous events just happened. I reflected on that day and how race, color, class, and political affiliations didn’t matter. We were all Americans. I was (and still am) proud of the service women and men who are fighting and dying for the U.S.
Those events put us in check that life as we knew it would never be the same. This sense of security we had as a country was to be gone forever. The attacks were a reminder that you don’t know when the last time might be that you’ll step out of your house and not return. I was compelled to create a song to motivate myself and others to start doing something with your life and live each day like your last.
This song was originally going to be on the Below Tha Surface album with C-Rel. His spoken word at the end added a nice element to the message of the song. The beat was created by Vision, who presented me with several rock-inspired beats after watching 28 Days Later. I loved this beat the best. After hearing it, I got with a local musician to play live guitar on the song. It came out amazing!
Can’t Give Up –
This is the song that really set the tone for my solo project. C-Rel and I needed to get our song “New War” mixed for a Below Tha Surface video shoot. My homeboy Vision’s business partner, Ced Solo, had a good studio set up and talent to mix songs. When I went to Ced’s studio, he let me check out some of his beats. After his recent success with Anthony Hamilton, I wanted to hear some other soulful tracks because I was going to begin piecing together my solo album and I wanted a different sound.
The soul and bluesy funk of this beat really hooked me. The instrumental told the story that “Can’t Give Up” became. I ended up writing “Can’t Give Up” in about an hour. I was at a point of questioning whether to walk away from music because I needed to provide for my son and music wasn’t making money. It’s a hard choice that so many musicians have to make at one point or another of their lives. I felt I had so much more to say and hoped that maybe I could even inspire some lives on some level.
This song became the cornerstone, foundation, and my own inspiration to complete my solo project. Whenever I was faced with self-doubt, I would play this song and remember all I sacrificed by leaving home (in Oklahoma) by moving to Atlanta and the talent I felt God blessed me with. That was all the push I needed to continue this project and keep moving.
Scrap Book –
Keeping in line with transparency on this album, I strived to create music and songs that exposed my thoughts, soul, heart, spirituality, and character. That said, I had been sitting on the beat for Scrap Book for about 3 years, but wasn’t sure what type of lyrics would accompany it. Relationships have a way of inspiring though. I came up with the chorus for Scrap Book, then the verses just poured onto the paper.
The song is really about meeting somebody new that moves from a perfect stranger to becoming such a central, important part of your life. It’s a love song about finding that person you can settle down with. You go through that infatuation phase where everything they do is beautiful, even eating and sleeping. The relationship matures and you’re committed to that person. You forget about the relationships of the past and create new memories with the new love of your life. You do things that your friends would call you a “sucka” for doing, like creating scrap books and referring to them as ridiculous made up pet names.
Welcome To My Dream-
This is another instrumental I got from Ced Solo that night in the studio. The way this music starts reminds me of the beginning of a cinematic dream sequence when someone is falling asleep or into hypnosis. I thought to myself, “what would my ultimate dream be?” If the world could be perfect and free of sin, what would I want that to look like? I imagined a perfect world enriched with joy and absent of pain. I picture going back into the Garden of Eden, and aborting the birth of original sin, setting off a chain of events that created a different future for mankind.
Last Pew –
The last pew is a metaphor for being close, yet far from God. It’s about being in church, wanting to receive his word, but having feelings of guilt due to sin or imperfection that act as a spiritual barrier.
The first verse displays a spiritual warfare that many can relate to. It’s about knowing and trusting God, yet still allowing free will to control aspects of life. The second verse is a true story about events surrounding my mother’s aneurysm. The third verse is a more introspective look at self and recognizing how God can utilize our imperfections to impact the lives of others.
I Won’t Think About You –
This beat was originally for an R&B artist and at a much slower tempo. I wrote a song to it, but didn’t like how it came out. I decided to scrap the original concept and lyrics, speed the beat up and try again. The melody of the music seemed to be saying “I won’t think about you no more.” I decided to run with that concept, channeling a good relationship gone bad. I wanted this song to be more of a poetic piece, evoking imagery that related to nature. I guess that was the Sade influence ☺
Interesting fact about this song: I was in the studio recording this song and something freaked out Cali (the dog) and she barked. When I played the song back, she actually barked on beat, so I kept it and added it throughout the song. To me, it added another interesting element of a man sulking over a broken relationship with only his dog as his companion now. The classic tale of man and his best friend! ☺
Long Night, Long Day –
When I was in the process of creating “Hip-Hop for the Soul,” I narrowed it down to about 20 instrumentals that would serve as the backdrop for the album songs. This instrumental came one night in my car during a long drive home. It was raining outside and I had a lot on my mind. The music understood my day and I started freestyling to it, recording it into my phone. The chorus and much of the last verse came as a result of the freestyle.
When I sat down to finish the song, I thought about some stories in my life of other people I came across who were carrying burdens. The first verse is a true story about a guy I met one day while I was getting lunch in downtown Atlanta. He shared his story, we ate, then went our separate ways. You never know what people are really going through until you take a moment to connect with them!
He Was She Was –
This is a love story, based loosely on real people. Only the names and some of the details have been changed to protect the innocent ☺ So the first verse is all about the ambitious, talented, loved, stubborn, and overlooked character called “He Was.” The second verse is about an intelligent, resilient, beautiful, fragile, and strong willed character “She Was.”
He Was and She Was came from different worlds, but had many similarities and personality traits that eventually allowed them to cross paths. They realized that the voids each had in their lives were fulfilled by the other. The end.
Glory To God –
The title pretty much says it all. I was inspired by the Christian rock song of the same title. I wanted to make a Hip-Hop version and inject my own testimonial in it.
The first verse points to struggle, but also keeping faith through trials. Though burdens are difficult to carry, some more so than others, they make us stronger individuals if we persevere. Verse 2 celebrates God and reminds us that he’s in control and has never left us. This song helps keep me motivated and grounded.
The End -
This song has gone through MANY transformations from it’s original version. If you’ve known me personally, then you may have known this song was in my catalog for many many years. This solo project finally allowed me the avenue to bring it out.
Let’s start with the music. James Bryant, my early music production mentor created this instrumental. The first time he played it for me, I literally got chills. We must’ve listened to it in his studio on repeat for about an hour and a half. From the first time I heard it, the book for Revelations stood at the foreground of this musical canvas. The winds of Armageddon, the sorrow and drama of the strings, the battle of the horn blasts, the fury of the guitar run, and the rumbling thunder of the bass. The biggest pressure was for me to put the right lyrics to it that would be as captivating as the music. It had to be as important and powerful song.
The first and second verses gives an eye witness account literally as the world begins its ending. It explores inner dialogue, the events depicted in Revelations, why the world ended, and questions about where my destiny may lie.
The last verse was mostly written (and originally recorded) by Sev-Leven. If you bought the Below Tha Surface album, then you already know about his creativity. This verse has me landing in a place that I’m not sure is heaven or hell. I end up being interrogated by God about my misdeeds. I begin arguing with him to prove that he’s wrongly accusing me. Listen to the song to find out how it ends! Note to the reader: You’ll never win an argument with God.