Mr. Jones and Me

“Everything must eventually come to an end, so try to savor the moment, cuz time flies don’t it? The beauty of life, you gotta make it last for the better, cuz nothin’ lasts forever” -Nasir Jones

It was the Fall of my freshman year in college. After two and a half short weeks of attending Fordham University in the Bronx and living across the hall from a nun, I transferred to my state school. I felt so lost and alone, and to make matters worse, the only housing available so late in the semester was in a sorority house. My sister had also transferred, so she arranged for me to come live as a boarder in the same house she was staying in. In total, there were four girls living in our room. I was in the bottom bunk of a bunk bed that was so low that I hit my head every morning when I tried to get out of bed. My sister enrolled me in the only classes available so late into the semester, including an 8am literature class that I dreaded getting up for. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it turned out to be one of the biggest blessings.

One day our teacher assigned us an oral report on a form of literature. People chose poetry, short stories, biographies, etc. One of the students got up to do his report and said, “the form of literature I’d like to talk about today is Nas.” I was waiting for the teacher to tell him he misunderstood the assignment, but she didn’t say a word. And thank God for my sake, she didn’t. The student went on to give an impressive presentation on Nas, dissecting his lyrics, his metaphors, and his message. His dissection of “Dr. Knockboot” stands out to me the most, as I was shocked to hear someone break down a song about sex in a freshman lit class.

I had always been a huge fan of hip hop, especially east coast hip hop, since the music that trickled down to us was mainly from New York. I grew up big on Biggie, Jay, Big L, Big Pun, The Lox, Mobb Deep, Dipset, etc. , and was a fan of Nas, but had yet to delve deep into his music. Feeling alone on a campus of thousands, I turned to the one constant I had had in my life that always made me happy, hip hop. This student had given me the gift of Nas and my curiosity led me back through all of his albums. From that moment on, he was in my ears daily. I had always loved Foxy, but got heavy in to AZ around this time as well. I couldn’t believe how incredible these artists were, and I was so surprised they didn’t get more mainstream recognition. I remember when Street’s Disciple came out and I bumped it for months straight. Every guy that got in my car  was so hyped on it, and would ask me to burn them CD’s. The cool thing about falling in love with an artist later in their career is that you have a whole catalogue to go back through, similar to catching on to a hot show in it’s last season, you’re able to get a marathon session in. Continue reading

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Picture Me Rollin’

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My good friends Caitlin and Reggie encouraged me to do a photo shoot for the better part of the last year. They kept telling me that I belonged in front of a camera, even though I’ve always preferred to be behind the scenes. I kept putting it off until finally one day, I decided to face my fear. The first several shots felt super awkward, but after a little while it became pretty natural. Caitlin was telling me about these old, behind the scenes photos she had seen of Marilyn Monroe. She said that for every amazing picture of Marilyn, there were at least 30 around it that were not as good. There could be several hundred photos taken, but often just a few make the final cut.

Caitlin explained why so many people feel like they look bad in pictures. If you just take someone’s photo once or twice, oftentimes they are not comfortable yet. So when they look at the photos and see their awkwardness, they often write themselves off as not being photogenic. Social media adds extra pressure to feel perfect. A friend of mine took a photo the other day of three of us and before anyone could really see it, she had cropped the bottom half out because she thought her leg looked fat. I’ve never seen someone edit a photo so fast in my life, but that’s the norm these days. Many people take a photo, stare at it, dissect their flaws, then delete or edit it beyond recognition. My photo shoot experience was just the opposite, as Caitlin had the sense not to let me look at any photos until the shoot was over. I was shocked at how many photos I loved. I know a huge part of it was not getting all in my head about it. There were several pics that were awkward, but I could also tell when I was in my zone. When I was having fun, listening to music, and dancing around, you can see the genuine smile on my face. When I was trying to do too much, it was obvious as well. Caitlin was able to capture me in a way that I had never seen myself before and I am so grateful for that. I realized that to change the way you see things, sometimes you have to change the way you see yourself.