“Everyone has the power for greatness—not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
When I was a senior in college, I used to download music all day, every day. I would click on an artist I liked and download hundreds of their songs, CD’s, and remixes. I was downloading Trey Songz one day when I stumbled upon “Replacement Girl.” I listened and heard an unfamiliar voice laying an incredible verse and I immediately needed to know who it was.I saw that it was Drake, and immediately found him on MySpace. I had never written to an artist, but I felt the need to encourage this kid to keep putting music out. I sent him a message telling him how incredible I thought he was and that he needed to keep following his dreams. Looks like he really needed that. LOL When he blew up with “So Far Gone,” I felt so happy and proud.
When “So Far Gone” dropped, I was living in Atlanta, doing Americorps, which is basically like the PeaceCorps, but in the states. I hated it and many things about my situation at the time, but the music was, as it always has been, an overwhelmingly enjoyable escape. We bumped that mixtape so hard the entire summer. I remember pulling up at QuickTrip, or “Club QT” as they called it, bumping the tape and having several bystanders giving me head nods and thumbs up. Everybody was rocking with it. I loved the whole mixtape but remember having a love/hate relationship with “Successful.” It evoked in me the desire to be successful, and not necessary in the terms he was referring to, but it also made me feel like maybe it would never happen.
After a tumultuous time in Atlanta and a brief stay in NYC, I headed home back to my Mom’s house, feeling depleted, defeated, and depressed. I had been through so much in the last year and I needed a safe place to rebuild. I couldn’t get out of bed for months and seriously doubted that I would ever make anything of myself, much less make the move I had always wanted to Los Angeles. Thank God for my little sister Julia, who was also living at home at the time while attending college. She is a workout fanatic and encouraged me in my depression to do the Insanity workout with her. I agreed, but only if I could choose the music. “Thank Me Later,” had just dropped, and I played it nonstop during our workouts. My jaw dropped the first time I heard “The Resistance,” when Drake rapped, “It’s happening Penny Lane, just like you said.” Penny Lane had been my nickname and in all my glory, I had run around yelling “It’s All Happening.” I used to say that quote from Almost Famous constantly, reminding myself that all my dreams are coming true and will continue to do so. When I heard Drake say it, who had such a special place in my heart from when I “discovered” him, I knew it was a sign that I had to keep going and pursue my dream. My Mom was being as supportive as possible and tried to sway me towards more “acceptable” pursuits than running off to California to work with rappers. I made up my mind that I would not get an acceptable 9-5 as she encouraged, but would waitress until I had enough money to make my dreams a reality. A year and a half and 35 grand in tips later, I was ready to make the move.
“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.