A notebook was like my cellphone when I was a kid. It was my obsessive compulsive distraction. I was constantly staring down at it.
I hope doctors are wrong when they predict we’ll all have neck problems from staring at our phones, because mine will set in early.
My grandmother told me to keep my head up. Who knew that jewel would prove to be prophetic?
If these stories are my confessions then it’s only right I tell you, writing wasn’t my first love, it was music.
I don’t know if it’s due to our innate ability to comprehend sound before written language, but music was where it all started for me.
Wherever I am, and a song I love comes on, it takes me with it. I’ve become one with anyone who’s ever felt like the beat is making me feel. The lyrics prove I’m not the only one to have gone through what I’ve gone through. Not only that, it makes me proud for having gone through it.
It’s a reminder that with all the bullshit I’ve faced, I’m still here and atrophy hasn’t been able fulfill it’s conspiracy against me. Not yet.
Music was the internet before the internet. It connected you. Especially hip-hop, it let you know what was going on in the world.
Embarrassingly, my first favorite rapper was Vanilla Ice. In my defense, I was 7. When you’re that young and you hear that beat drop and Ice Ice Baby Too Cold Too Cold come on, it’s fire.
My next favorite rappers weren’t much better; Kriss Kross. But being a 9 year old listening to albums made by 10 year olds, it’s special. It inspired me. That’s when I started what’s become a life long passion; writing, rhymes specifically.
I can only remember the last line of the first rhyme I wrote…. boy… I’m as tough – as an android! Bars.
In Chapter 1 I talked about my dad having record producer aspirations in New York. He produced at least one album, I know because the vinyl with him on the cover is still in the basement of my mom’s house.
How he had access to a full studio in Wheeling West Virginia though is a mystery. But that’s where he took me, to Fat Cat Studios, when it was time for the 3rd grade talent show.
So my first rap wasn’t just scribbled down somewhere, it was mixed, mastered, and recorded.
After rapping it in front of my class to roaring applause, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Months later Kriss Kross came to Pittsburgh and my dad bought me tickets that came with one caveat. I had to take his best friend’s son, James. He was older than me but this was his first show. I had already seen Michael Jackson so I was basically a concert connoisseur.
I wore my clothes backwards to the show to emulate the rappers, but James just wore a batman tee-shirt tucked into his tight jeans. I clowned him for it then and let’s be honest. The only reason I’m writing about this now, is to clown him for it again.
And while I’ve been tough on my father for most of the story up to this point, he always encouraged me to pursue artistic endeavors. He was really cool when he wanted to be.
He was also in touch with the streets.
James’ family ran Martins Ferry at the time. These family ties would prove valuable in my adolescence. First I would have to go through a slight war with them, perhaps to gain their respect, but we’ll get to that.
On the last day of school I thought I was going suffer the embarrassment of being held back. I had gotten way too many Fs. No one got Fs in the 4th grade. Except me. I had gotten into fights in the middle of class. I spent more time on punishment than any other kid.
Surely they had to realize holding me back a grade was the only logical thing to do. If not, next came 5th grade, middle school, the same location as the high school! It would be a major transition.
Surely they could see I wasn’t ready. These were respectable, enlightened teachers who were compassionate enough to not just push a kid through so they wouldn’t have to deal with him twice. Right?
Of course not. I’m just fucking with you. They passed me right into the 5th grade. They didn’t give a fuck. They wanted me out of there.