Surviving the Process: 3 out of 7 ain’t bad…


Starting a weekly blog that explains my days and my process of making music. Got to capture 3 of the 7 days, that ain't bad...

MARCH 9, 2018

Prelude: So yesterday I told folks on social media what I’ve been working for the past two years, Accidental Masterpiece. Told them I’m trying to gather money to complete it too. Not sure if I should’ve done that? Folks that I know, know that we ran a successful kickstarter for beats n bars last year, so I don’t want to seem like I’m over doing it. Not sure if people know it’s two separate pots of money that none of which are for me personally, but for the projects. I’m an artist, at least I consider myself as one, and only these contract gigs are how I survive, not from BnB. Hopefully one day that’ll be the case, and then I’ll be able to give back financially to the next artists who’re working hard and on something big. People should pay for art. We’re providing a service just like any other consumer based business. My time is a resource, and my equipment is an expense, my intellectual property promotes the community positively and in doing so increasing its value. Can’t buy happiness but you sure can pay to feel good. I digress...

6:15am alarm went off (SNOOZED IT) today started off like I wasn’t going to be doing anything! Took some time to get off the couch. Looking at my phone seeing what others were up to made me sick of what I was currently doing so I figured I’d get up to face the day.

9:45am Walked down to Cocoa Cinnamon to be able finish up this Mary B. Ragan grant I’m applying for. It's a Community Artist Residency grant and was going to utilize “Accidental Masterpiece” at the project to propose. After talking yesterday with Carly Jones in the NC Arts department I got some really awesome feedback on the wording. So I took the time today to make those revisions, sent it back, crossing my fingers and anything else that bends! 

12:ishpm While at CC I saw Victoria Bouloubasis who told me about a shoot they were having up at the street. Seeing as I’ve never been to this Durham landmark and wanted to be around some creative folks, I finished up the grant and walked up a few blocks to the Saltbox Seafood Joint. 

There I saw Shirlette Ammons, DJ Forge, Ned Phillips, Victoria (of course) and Saleem Reshamwala, pretty dope squad. They were shooting something that’s top secret right now but it seems like it’s gonna be pretty dope. I had the hush honeys!!! Cuuuuuuuuuud!!!! 

There we talked about liquor houses in Durham, restaurants, the construction and the Tullis and debate on Twitter about Art of Cool being bought or nah. I do have the inside scoop on this being that I do do a festival in Durham but being close to Cicely, the owner of AOC, that’s her place to discuss. So I sat there with the stale face.

2pm Rode with Forge back to Cocoa Cinnamon to where I had a Mati and saw Jason Clary, the King of Sol himself! We talked about Kooley High and congratulated him on all the artwork that’s they’ve been dropping since he’s the one that did it! Man’s super talented.

Note:  he’s doing a workshop on his creative process first Friday of April in Raleigh! Gotta go.

Started working more on my year break down of launching Accidental Masterpiece. Still have to finish rewriting half the album cuz my head is in a different place right now. It’s turned into a completely different narrative than what I originally thought of two years ago. I think it’s a way better story that represents and effects me directly.

Note: remember you Have a studio session next week, 3/14 2:30, at playground, find a way there!

5:30pm Couldn’t focus anymore around all those people in CC and needed a cigarette anyways. Walking back to the office to mix down some beats.

7:30pm Finished writing about the first half of the day and started working on a beat I called grim reefer. Which is funny cuz I don’t even smoke... that much. I would describe the beat as a dark version of Happy Days, that’s been kinda the on going them of almost everything I’ve been producing as of late. Sending mixed singles. It’s like it wants to be happy but there’s still a dark cloud it just can’t get past... kinda similar to my life. That got dark fast... sheesh...

ANYWHO... I start by arranging the keys. I found this sick sound with an eerie pad but arpeggio twinkles on top of it, yeah that’s it. Mixed in a heavy long bass tone that quickly rises up an octave occasionally just to fall back to the long C note. Needed thumpy kicks to give it a heartbeat and a thwappy 9th Wonder type snare to keep the tempo. The high hats are everywhere, no real distinct cadence. This shit knocks! Gotta add some quick stabbing keys to bring in when the dark twinkles aren’t going. They’ll be heard during the verse, 16 bars. A hook: go up a half octave change the keys around just a bit. Chorus: just mixed all the layers of the track in there, but only enough it doesn’t seem too busy. This is a solid stopping point.

8:30pm now I gotta write... shit. What exactly is this beat saying and does it fall in line with the overall theme of the project? I like to start with the cadence of the chorus first. I would like people to be able to repeat it back to me when it’s performed, so it can’t be too complicated. But it can’t be shallow either. It’s gotta be quick and catchy but deep enough it’s sticks in your head even if the song isn’t playing. Needed a cigarette. I put too much pressure on myself sometimes. And that was it! “Pressure , I’m sayin, when will it let up. When it’s coming down, how can you keep your head up? sayin pressure, (2x) but even diamonds need a lil pressure.” Something like that... now I can run with this for the verse. 

Keep your head up, Tu Pac... that’s a good starting point. “Been listening to Tu Pac 

To let the truth knock. (Hmm.) Jehovah witness holdin pictures of olda women in tube socks. (Figuratively balls up paper...) These holy scriptures needs prescription cuz I can’t make out what you’ve got. (backspace...) Jews got shafted back then, unfinished resentment. (balls-up paper...) truth needs a new prescription, because what was once good now has a slight resemblance of sinning” (hmmm...)


MARCH 10, 2018

6:45am Woke up fairly motivated today! Not really having an idea where it came from or nothing really to focus the motivation on... But there’s always something. 

8:00am Walked my ass to grab a tuna melt on everything bagel at Bagel Bar and a Americano, 4 shots of espresso should help... 😒. Made my way to Bull City Learning next door. I like to switch up locations when I need to do busy work. Plus it’s quiet in there. 

11:10am after getting lost in the sea of social media, Today’s task was to develop a social media marketing campaign around Accidental Masterpiece. I had a general layout already, but it needed specifics. Making sure that each planned posts stuck to the theme and felt natural. Came up with:

Instagram (FB)/Twitter:

Day - Time: (Subject)

Monday -7am, Lunch: Racial Unity & Motivation/ (2x)

Tuesday -7am: engage the audience (Mixed Kid Problems Tues quiz) (1x)

Wednesday -7am, Lunch: Mixed Beautiful People  & hip hop events throughout NC

Thursday -7am, Lunch: Equality History (1x)

Friday -7am: #fbf pictures from throughout the week (1x)

Saturday -7am: I love #mySelfie Saturday (1x)


Day - Time: (Subject)

Fridays - 7am:  Release week’s recap Journal “Surviving The Process”


Day - Time: (Subject)

Fridays - 7:30am:  Release week’s recap Journal “Surviving The Process”


Day - Time: (Subject)

Fridays - 12pm:  Me reading the website’s recap Journal - Podcast Journal

(Definitely just copy and pasted all that lol, wasn’t about to type it again)

Seems fairly solid...

Note: talk to Bry and Jamila about it.

1:00pm Went ahead and launched myselfie Saturday... since today is Saturday. NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT! Downloaded a beat I made a couple of days ago called “down by the Beyu” and found a photo in my Dropbox that Daré shot during my performance at BnB. 

I used the app called... wait a minute... that’s for me, gotta keep some stuff secret lol. But it has this cool exploding effect I can apply to sections of the pic. Added the beat to it. Recorded my screen, and boomski! Looks pretty cool and weird... like me... more towards the weird side. 

2:30pm decided to go for a walk downtown to clear my mind. Took some pics of that monstrosity that’s by CCB Plaza.

RANT: Although that’s the beginning of what has been called new Durham, I like how they kept the brick and feel of Parish st as well as Main st. Kudos to thinking about that... but still... 1.5Ms just for a loft at the top... stupid. AND apparently they’re putting a dog park on the roof... that’s some white people shit... sorry dad. Not sure if that last part is true, but if it is... sheeesh. 

Starting making my way to 5 points and I heard some music from that direction as I was passing the old Dames chicken and waffles spot. Came upon a colorful dance party to say the least behind Bull McCabe in the outside area. It was lit AF! and Ethnic AF! A mix of Latinx, Bhangra and the Cupid shuffle and that dust kinda paint was everywhere! More of that please!!!

4:30pm gotta call from my son who saw the IG post. Told me he liked it and can’t wait till Monday. We’re going to the Memorial for Jehovah witnesses.

Note: service starts at 6:30, sunset). Dress nice.

After talking about his week of school and the movie Ready Player One that’s coming out at the end of the month,

Note: get tickets early.

Then he had to go slay some folks on the game. Love that kid.

5:30ish hopped on the Bull City Connector back to Golden Belt. Had something to add to the "down by the Beyu" beat after hearing it from the IG post!

Half time! Currently the beat's snares falls on the 2s and 4s, traditionally, but I want that bish to switch when you think the song is over! Half time! Made another sequence using the main parts of the chorus and started taking away layers. Placed the snares on the 3s and only on the 3s. And added some triple high hats leading up to the hit of the snare! THAT SHIT IS FUNKY!

6:00pm Shit! Writing time! I mumble different cadences aloud for a few minutes to pick a couple of good ones. All the while mimicking how I'd preform it on stage. (If these walls could talk.) Going thru cadences, I totally hear Lil bob and Defacto on this track! Lyrics that play to the high hats! That would be sick. Again start with a chorus to building everything off of... it’s my process and workflow, don’t judge. 

MARCH 14, 2018

The past couple of days have been kinda redundant.  Woke up. Drank coffee. Hit up potential sponsors  Woke up. Drank coffee. Hit up potential sponsors. Worked on the grant some more. Talked to the kids.  Woke up. Had a chicken biscuit. Hit up potential sponsors. Drank coffee

and so on... Was looking forward to some company yesterday... but that fell through.

(sigh) any who... Today was a lil different!  After having 2 large Americanos totaling 8 shots of espresso, the day was MINE TO BE HAD!  After hitting up potential sponsors, I sent off the "down by the Beyu" beat to Defacto and Bob... they fux with it.  I think they're gonna kill it! Gotta make sure my verse is up to par.  I ran a couple of laps in the parking lot behind Beyu, to use up some of this damn espresso that made its way to my heart! 

Then made my way to Playground Studios for a session to record "The Monk".  I recorded a performance version of it back in September, the DAY OF me performing it live at Beats n Bars Fest lol.  So I finally got a chance to revisit it after some generous donors made some contributions through the website!


A performance version of the song just consists of the vocals to the chorus, hook, and a few adlibs and voice FXs to play behind me as I performed the track.  Not really big on having the entire verse played while I’m performing... kinda loses that "on the spot" feeling and its kinda like a cheat. Also it's a totally different emotion given when performing live, opposed to drowning in the pre recorded words.  If you lose your breath though during a performance, and it happens, that’s what the adlibs are there for, to catch you, or to add more OOMF to a punch line, but that’s all they should be there for... in my opinion.  So today was full verse day, and I was still undecided on how I wanted to approach the verses to be honest. The first verse I wrote was in a sing songy rap fashion. While the second verse goes hard and is very fast paced on some parts, no time to try to carry a tune.  But doing it those ways initially, it didn't jive well... felt like 2 different feelings. So we had to find a middle ground.  First way through I recorded it in a deep voice, sing songy... ehh. Snores.  The second time through, I recorded it an octave higher, sing songy... it added more energy to the track but... ehh... the soup was too hot!  The third time through, I went in the middle. Kinda mid range, took out the singing for the most part, and gave it a raspier, grungier, harder take... THAT WORKED (to finished off my 3 bears scenario).  Still utilizing both high and low voices to serve as background vocals, only to punch in at certain words or phrases, which balanced out the track... I started to feel way better at this time.

Then... FXs. my favorite part!

Basically, you just go HAM! But in moderation, lol.  Throw sound effects via words or onomatopoeias after certain words or phrases that make sense, but during the brief empty spaces of the verse.  I try to avoid layering the FX track over my words of the verse, so that the verse can be understandable to the listener.  But some words like... CHA CHING, really need that cash register feels... Ha (shout out to the homie CASH) 

After all the layers were done, Chaka started working his magic!  Balancing out the levels. Boosting and rounding out the bass, adding more thump to the kicks and more snap to the snares.  I'm working on frequencies and depth for the instruments to try to make my beats more full and surround like... still a work in progress.  But Chaka is a beast! And he knows almost every time how I want the beat to feel!  Not just sonically either, but literally emotionally.  I want folk to smell their 6th grade PE class when they hear a track, if that's the energy I’m going for.  I want them to remember the clothes they were wearing when they experienced their first heartbreak.  I think any good record should do that... or at least when you hear the track again years later, remembering where and what you were doing when you initially heard it the first time... at least that’s the plan crosses fingers.  Ended the session, left it in Chaka's very capable hands,

NOTE: follow up session, this Friday, 3/16 @ 3.  Can’t be too long though. Going to Greensboro with Toon aka Professor aka Lord Fess aka @LXRDFESS... to be DJ Just John.

Got back to the office, turned in the grant after receiving a letter of recommendation.  But There's still more work to be done on the album. 

Till next time.