So I have decided to ditch the weaves and rock my natural hair. It was something that I had been considering for a long time but I naively loved the variety of wearing weaves, not realizing I could achieve a better variety with my own hair. Prior to cutting my hair last year, I had not had a relaxer in my head for more than two years. I foolishly let that ghetto-ass hair salon (not saying any names or pointing any elbows) put a relaxer in my hair before giving me the hair cut and style that I DID NOT ask for. Once I started letting my hair grow back and became serious about going natural, I looked absolutely ridiculous. The top of my hair was mostly straight but the back and most of the sides was thick, kinky and tightly curled. I looked like Samuel Jackson from Unbreakable with like three different styles in my head at once. That was not going to fly. I could have did a long transition but to me it was just trifling looking, so I cut all of the relaxer out of my head. That made my hair super short and there was no way I was going to walk around looking like some little boy. So back to the weaves. First I began sewing them in (as best I could considering how short my hair was) and my hair was growing back rather quickly with the products I was using (Shea Moisture). But upon taking one of the sew ins out of my head, I accidentally cut some of my hair in the back of my head. After all of my hard work! So sew ins were OUT! I began wearing weave caps with my hair braided underneath and sometimes I would do an invisible part. But that damn glue was doing more harm than good. So no more invisible parts no matter how nice they looked. Then I just began wearing the caps with my hair still braided underneath and using the Shea Moisture products to keep my hair moisturized. My hair grew very quickly. Upon taking my last weave cap out (which was a fabulous short cut) I noticed that my hair had grown to be exceptionally long considering the big chop I had done ten months prior. So I washed and conditioned my hair, blow dried it and combed and brushed it into a pretty Afro. I looked amazing, like a little African Princess. I knew at that moment that it would be a minute and a half before I went back to weaves again.
I will admit, it is a lot of work to maintain my hair as it is very thick, sometimes it gets extremely dry and I have to try out various products to keep my hair healthy and looking good. I sometimes spend at least three hours just untangling, washing and conditioning my hair before I twist it up to wear it in a kinky-curly Fro-style. But it is well worth it. Of course I am given strange stares because too many people think "nappy" hair is unattractive. They've been conditioned to believe that their natural beauty isn't real beauty at all and to obtain what the masses see as "real beauty" is to slap a relaxer in to make it bone straight, put a weave in to make it super long, dye it, fry it and slick it to the side. That is false, false, false. To me, nothing is more beautiful than a well kept, healthy Afro, or kinky-curly styled hair, big hair, twisted blow out hair; it is absolutely gorgeous! I have gone from this-
I am definitely keeping the last one. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing wrong with weaves, if you're wearing it because you like wearing weaves. But if you're wearing it because you think it enhances your beauty, you have some serious soul searching to do and are in dire need of some self-esteem uplifting. Love the skin you're in. I do! Peace!Read More
Since late November, 2012, I have been teaching my daughter how to play the piano and one of the first songs we wanted to learn to play was Diary by Alicia Keys. It has a beautiful melody. I knew it would be complex especially since neither one of us can read music. With the help of a Youtube video, I was able to learn how to play the full song as well as her freestyle at the end and then pass the lesson onto my daughter, Destiny who is shown in the video. She picked up on the notes rather quickly. It was almost like the way Nick Cannon picked up on Drum beats in the movie Drumline where he would watch the person's hands to see how he played and then mimic the drum beat afterwards. Because my daughter played so beautifully at my mother's house on her piano, she wanted to try out for the school's talent show.
Destiny is one of those really smart children who unfortunately is picked on. She's a sweet kid, though she is no angel. But her good outweighs her bad. Unfortunately, since she has gotten into trouble a few times, she was already stereotyped as "one of those kids", which is really a shame. The day of the tryout, her former third grade teacher along with another staff member saw that she was going to be trying out and I guess they expected her to get on stage and dance around acting simple on some "whip my hair back and forth foolishness". And the look of suspicion and doubt on their faces when she said she was going to play the piano was so disappointing. However, my daughter shut them all up. She sat at the piano and looked back at me for my approval and I gave her a head nod to let her know to do her thing. The looks on the faces of the people conducting the tryouts when she broke out in Diary on the piano in a smooth and flawless manner was PRICELESS. I still remember one lady in particular, Ms. Campbell say- "Wait a minute, Miss Destiny has talent! Little Miss Destiny can really play the piano!" Yes, Little Miss Destiny and a lot of other kids are much more than too many write them off to be. Not only did they accept her into the talent show, but they made her the encore performance.
I watched the way the talent show was conducted and what I found to be very disappointing was the lack of respect that the student body had for their fellow peers as they performed. Though nobody boo'ed, thankfully, the talking and laughing while students performed was just sad. And the lack of control the adults including the principal had over those children was even more sad. When I was a student at John F. Reynolds (which unfortunately will be one of the schools closing at the end of the term), my old principal Dr. Harvey was a force to be reckoned with. And when she wasn't the MC of an assembly but Ms. Stuckey was, nobody DARED to utter a sound when someone was on the stage because they didn't want to find themselves on the receiving end of her yard stick. At Pennypacker, the adults put little to no effort into quieting those students down until Destiny took the stage.
Ms. Campbell was sure to quiet the students down and had them give Destiny their undivided attention. She went onto say how she and Destiny had their difficulties and that she never would have guessed that Destiny was as talented as she was. A few students began their chitter-chatter at first but when they heard the first few notes to Diary by Alicia Keys and recognized what she was playing, everyone quieted down and my girl did her thing! At the end she received a standing ovation. Passing through the hallways afterwards, she was given so much praise and when the principal saw me, she gave me a thumbs up.
Seeing the kind of talent that my daughter has as well as some of the students in the talent show is a major reason why we have to invest in our children. We have to show interest in the things that interest them and do our best to let them indulge in various activities to help them shine. If their talent is wasted, or they aren't allowed to tap into that talent, that could be a factor that causes them to fail in life.
Destiny is still playing the piano. Since the talent show, I have taught her how to play Girl on Fire & Unlock Yourself by Alicia Keys. I am also trying to learn Circles by Marques Houston as well as Apologize by One Republic so Destiny can learn those songs as well. Children who are perceived as "bad" really aren't all bad. They just need an outlet, something to do that is of interest to them. Idle minds lead to the Devil's work and that's something we must never forget when raising our children. Below is the video from Destiny's school talent show performance. I hope you enjoy! It's a little shaky at the end because my hands began trembling. Not because I was nervous, but because I was so proud!
May 2, 2013 Respect
Mac Daddy: "Don't try to compare us to another bad little fad
I'm the Mac and I'm bad give you something that you never had
I'll make ya Jump Jump wiggle and shake your rump
Cause I'll be kicking the flavor that makes you wanna Jump
How high? Real high
Cause I'm just so fly
A young loveable, huggable type of guy
And everything is the back with a little slack
Cuz inside-out is wiggida wiggida wack
I come stompin' with somethin' pumpin' to keep you jumpin'
R&B, Rap, and Bullcrap is what I'm dumpin'
And ain't something about Kris Kross we all that'
So when they ask do they rock
Say believe that" - Jump Lyrics Courtesy of eLyrics.net
I believe I was in the 2nd grade when this rap duo hit the scene and I just thought they were the BOMB.COM!! Every time the song came on Power 99FM, I turned the radio up as loud as my mother would allow me to and rapped along as I bopped around the kitchen in our old home in Blumberg Projects. I never got the whole wearing the pants backwards thing and I can still remember my mother saying: "That's stupid. How the hell do they go to the bathroom. I guess that's why they're pants are hanging off their ass they can just "jump jump" out of them" LOL! I didn't really dig the diss that they made against Another Bad Creation (ABC) but I still loved the song and thought they were so cool.
Though they kinda fell off the Hip-Hop radar, Jump Jump still remained a popular song in my eyes and I still managed to remember the lyrics. And the NBA keeps me rapping along with it when it is played while players "jump ball". Not to mention Justin Timberlake's character being teased in the movie Friends With Benefits and rapping along to the song as it played.
It saddened me to hear that Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly passed away in his ATL home yesterday. He was only 34. What saddens me even more is reading reports that it was an alleged overdose yet no autopsy had been performed. Would it kill the media to have a little respect for the dead as well as the family? Until an autopsy proves that he died of an overdose, don't smear his name in the papers or on blogs giving his fans the impression that he was a drug addict or succumb to a drug addiction. Wait until you have the facts before you begin throwing speculation. So since this is throwback Thursday, for those who have not seen the "Jump, Jump" video before or it's been a while, let's do a little Blake Griffin time traveling back to 1992 and let the robust lyrics of Kriss Kross' "Jump, Jump" flow through your brain. Peace!Read More
Hello readers and fellow Black African American Urban Fiction and Street Lit authors! I wanted to share some information that maybe helpful for authors in Philly and/or the tri-state area who want to network, promote and get their name out there so readers can be conscious of their efforts, talent and hard work! Spring has arrived with sunshine and warm weather which means more opportunities for outdoor activities such as Black Book Expos, Black Book Festivals, Black Author Festivals and so much more. If you are an author hoping to gain exposure and expand your readership, you may want to look into the following events and see if you can arrange your schedule and be in attendance. Below you will see what events are coming up and in the future, if anything changes with these events or if new events are discovered, I will definitely update this blog post to keep my fellow authors and readers informed!
Starting with my home town, there is a Philly Urban Book Festival happening on June 8th 2013 from 12PM-4PM located at the African American Museum 701 Arch Street Philadelphia Pa 19106. For more information on this event or if you would like to attend as an author or reader in search of some great material, Click Here!
There is a Baltimore Urban Book Festival coming up on July 14th 2013 from 12PM-6PM. Authors who want to expand on their readers as well as promote their work should grab a table quick, fast and in a hurry! Author vending tables are $180. For more information Click Here!
Also in July is the Harlem Book Fair on July 20th 2013 which from my understanding is THEE event new published and self published authors want to attend to help get their name out there. For more information on the Harlem Book Fair or if you would like to be an exhibitor Click Here!
In August, there will be a Los Angeles Black Book Expo on August 17th 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center located at 1201 South Figueroa Street, Los Anegeles CA, 90015. This event will also be from 12PM-6PM PST. For more information on this event for any authors who are interested in attending to expand their readership and gain more exposure, Click Here!
In October, there will be the National Black Book Festival in Houston Texas from October 24th-26th. It is the 6th anniversary of this great event and also something authors do not want to miss. For more information on the National Black Book Festival for any authors interested in attending, Click Here!
That is all for now. Please, if there are any events that I have not mention that anyone feels would be beneficial, comment below and I will add that event as well. I hope to see some of my fellow authors at some (if not all) of these events. Have a wonderful day everyone!Read More
Hello everyone. Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog. Recently, I have been doing a strand of interviews with various artists around Philly and my latest was with a lyrical mad man by the name of Mel Love. I personally think he has serious flow game and he demonstrated his freestyle and lyrical ability at the end of our interview which you will be able to check out on here as well as on my YouTube Channel. Mel spoke candidly on how he began rapping as well as who he would like to collaborate with if given the opportunity and gave his personal views on hip-hop and the state of the popular music genre right now. Mel Love has worked with Meek Mill previously and appeared on quite a few mix tapes. You can get "The Silencer" on Datpiff.com I personally rated it 5 stars and can't wait to see what else this amazing artist will be bringing to the table in the near future. Follow Mel Love on twitter @mel_love215 as well as on Instagram @mellove215. Do NOT sleep on this artist!Read More
March 7, 2013 Respect
- I normally don't get personal on my blog but, I figured I would step outside of the box to help cope with a very recent loss my family and I are experiencing. Last night, I received the devastating news that my maternal Grandmother, Ida Sanders-Cooper had passed away. Though I knew it was coming because the only thing guaranteed in this life is death, it did not ease the hurt over losing her. I saw her Tuesday night while she was in the hospital and it broke my heart to see her laying in the hospital bed as she was: unable to talk outside of a prayerful mumble. Seeing her reduced from the strong, thick-boned woman who struck fear in the hearts of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to this frail shell of a woman shattered me. I knew when I touched her arm and whispered "Goodnight Grandma" before leaving to take my mother home that it would be the last time I saw her alive. I received the call from my mother a little after 8:30PM Wednesday evening letting me know that she had passed on. I can't describe what happened next. I remember screaming, I remember my bluetooth falling from my ear and gathering my daughter, son and nephew up so we could drive back to my mother's house to console her. I think there is no greater loss outside of burying your own child than losing your mother. Especially if she was a good mother. I won't say my grandma was perfect because that is far from the truth. She was flawed just as we all are. But my God that woman was funny. The stories she used to tell from her youth and from my mother's youth would have you in tears. Her voice, the raspy sound and the way she would curl her mouth when she heard someone speak foolishly, I swear she was the originator of the "c'mon son" face. LOL! I will miss hearing my mother call her to ask her what the number was. I will miss hearing my grandmother call me to ask me to check online to see what the number was. Man, she played her lottery faithfully almost every day and would hit the lottery at least two to three times a month. She baked a mean pie, and gave out even meaner ass whippings LOL.The last conversation that I had with her in January before she became very ill, she said to me: "Don't let anybody wear you down, or wear you out. Don't let anybody aggravate you. Don't extend yourself more than you have to. Make sure you take care of yourself and take care of your babies because that's what's more important." RIP Grandma Ester. You are going to be missed more than you could possibly imagine...Read More
The flavorful blog, Hottest Urban Fiction Reviews by Ericka Strafford was kind enough to publish a review for my novel A Thug's Redemption. To read her review in its entirety, Click Here It's always an honor to have someone share their views and enthusiasm about my work as well as help spread the word about this awesome story. Ericka was also kind enough to do an interview with me as well. Read her Author Spotlight on Yani by Clicking Here. Insightful and probing. Her style is indeed refreshing. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Ericka! Peace!Read More
I have noticed a trend with a lot of street fiction that is becoming appalling to me when it comes to portraying Black women. In too many of these stories, the roles are always the same; Black women who are trying to get ahead in life so they link up with the most successful hustler or baller so they can be taken care of; Black women who are setting our black men up for failure or to be killed; Black women who are struggling to survive and think the only way out is to either fuck their way to the top, strip or hustle. I once was told that literature is about writing what you know. But is that all that a lot of these authors know? Is that all that Black women in inner cities are seen as? Is that really what the imagination of a lot of authors have been limited to? Or is it a way to cash in on the drama and foolishness seen every day on Jerry Springer, Maury Povich and Cheaters? Whatever the reason is, I find it appalling and disgusting.
Black women are so much more than that. As I was going over my character details in all three of my books, "A Thug's Redemption", "A Thug's Redemption 2: Jamal's Return", and "Obsessive Intimacies", I was happy to see that I did not write my leading women in an exploitative fashion. Each and every one of the Black women in my novels were strong individuals with goals. They aspired for greatness and set out for such. They weren't the Ms. Independent that is misconstrued in today's society who believe they can make it without a man and spent their time tearing down the self-esteem of Black men while emasculating them, yet they did not allow themselves to be at their mercy either. They stood behind their men in my stories, had their backs, supported them and uplifted them as a Black woman should when it comes to sustaining a healthy relationship with a Black man. Some may say, "That's not realistic". I beg to differ. I have quite a few female friends who demonstrate these characteristics and that is the reason why their relationship will stand the tests of times. Kudos to Mrs. Quattlebaum.
I hope that my stories can motivate young Black women and show them that there are greater ways to get ahead in life and experience the finer things. I will never portray a Black woman in my stories as a needy, clingy chick with devious scandals and scams to get over in life (unless she learns the follies of her ways and turns her life around in the story and even then...probably not). There will never be a female in my story portrayed in any fashion as I described above because I know Black Women are so much better than that. If that is what readers are looking for, you have been forewarned that you will not find that kind of foolery in my books.Read More
As I sit writing this blog post, I am listening to President Barack Obama's acceptance speech after winning the election and securing his RIGHTFULLY EARNED position as the 44th President of the United States. I missed it last night, battling a headache brought on by anxiety, hope, fear, edginess and other emotions that many others were probably feeling as well. I kept reminding myself, as long as we get Florida, Ohio, Virgina and California, we've got this in the bag. But even those thoughts of comfort could not ease my mind. Just like in 2008, my daughter begged me to stay up and watch the results of the election so that she could witness history. She made it to 10:30pm before passing out on the couch. But upon sending her to bed, she said to me just as she said four years ago, "Mommy, can you let me know who wins?" Except this time she added (after seeing Romney winning so many states and not fully understanding the importance of the "battle ground states" that needed to be won)-"I got a feeling it's about to get real." I promised her that I would. But just like in 2008, I too nodded off for a brief moment and was awakened by neighbors cheering and screaming because Barack Obama had been projected the winner of the 2012 Presidential Election. Upon receiving that news...I exhaled.There are people who do not believe President Obama should have won. They claim he is not fit for the position. They think he is going to send this country to hell in a hand basket. They think the incompetence of the many US Citizens who voted for him only voted for him because he is Black. Oh how wrong too many of you are. Of course there are some who voted for him because he is "One of us". Just like there are people who voted against him because he is "one of us". I chalk that up to ignorance. But unlike many of the people who could not support their beliefs on why they felt Obama is the wrong man for the job, there were two times as many who could state why he is THE RIGHT MAN for the job with indisputable facts. One of the reasons I voted for Barack Obama because he was once apart of the 47 percent. He came from a background similar to mines as well as the people I know. He may not have grown up in the projects, but does that make his struggle to rise to the position he is in any different than mine or those struggling to make it? There are those who say he has not done anything for the Black Community. There are those who say he shouldn't be expected to single handedly repair the Black Community and the only reason people expect that of him is because he is Black. I agree on both sides (partially). There are issues crippling the Black Community that I believe Obama should focus on; such as poverty, lack of resources, violence. I believe he should focus on these issues not because he's Black and "we're" Black, but because a good portion of his support comes from such communities and that is a way to insure us that he has our back just like we have his. BUT, I also believe we need to do our part as a unit to fix these crippling aspects of our communities. How often do we participate in City Council Meetings and discuss ways to better the neighborhoods and support our children's hunger for knowledge? How often do parents attend back to school night and actually stick around to hear the plan the principals and teachers have outlined for the school year? How many parents challenge the curriculum and make it known that inner city kids should have the same quality of education that suburban children have? Raise your hands!! Before we can say outloud what Obama should be doing for "our communities", how about we stop whispering about it in dark corners, Facebooking about it and actually move together as a unit to show that "WE" are serious about change. People look back at the Civil Rights Movement and say, "well there are no more Martin Luther Kings, no more Malcolm Xs, no more Rosa Parks." Each and everyone of us have the capability to be one of them if not better, but instead we're looking around waiting for someone else to take the lead. "Niggas are scare of Revolution". I believe all together, Obama can make this country better for us all. But he can't do it alone.Like it or not Barack Obama-The Sequel is here. If you didn't vote because you believed it wouldn't make a difference, what exempts you from the problem of allowing our fate to be in the hands of other people, or the wrong people? I don't agree with everything he has done, but I look at what he is trying to accomplish, what he has accomplished and then I look at Mitt Romney. I'm not rich. I'm not white. I am a college student who does not come from a family that can cut me a check to pay for school out of pocket. I am a Black woman and I am a single mother. That makes me apart of the 47 percent, according to Mitt Romney. Therefore, he is not the right choice for me. Barack Obama-the sequel...that has a ring to it. (Thanks Sharmon!) Four More Years! They didn't give us our 40 acres and a mule. So we took 50 states and The White House...AGAIN!!!Read More
Feature Friday is among us again, folks! This week is a special week for me because I have the honor of featuring my older brother, Victor. In my PSYCH class on Wednesday, my professor stated that it is quite possible for a parent to have a favorite child. Well, I have a favorite sibling. I love all of my siblings equally, but it was always something about Victor that made me take to him more.
We grew up in Blumberg Projects, and I can remember so many days where my brother would sit on our porch under the yellow awning and draw. I remember watching him and saying "I wanna do that, too". I remember Saturday mornings he would wake me up early and bring me into his room. He had posters of almost every cartoon and video game you could imagine: Mega Man, Metroid, Mario Brothers, Transformers, Sonic, ThunderCats. And he had this old air hockey table that he converted into his space to draw on. He would sit me down, give me some of his sketch pad paper, point to something on his wall and say "Draw that." When I started out, I was heavey handed; dark lines in my sketches that left a residue behind no matter how hard I erased. He would say, "What are you doing? Man..." and then throw the paper in the trash and hold my hand to show me how to sketch lightly so the dark residue wouldn't be left behind whenever I needed to erase. I used to get frustrated because my work didn't look like his. But he would still tell me that my drawings were good and encourage me to keep going. I remember the first AWESOME sketch I did was of Mario jumping in the air with the mushroom power up in his hand and it looked JUST LIKE HIS POSTER!! (It was a little slanted lol but my talent had advanced far beyond that of a typical 8 year old) From then on, I kept drawing. If he drew something, I would sneak a look into his sketch pad when he wasn't around and try to draw it too. Not recognizing my talent, I stopped drawing because my work didn't look like his. It was almost as good as his, but not quite, so I stopped, not realizing my brother had been drawing longer than I had been alive, so of course his work would be better than mine. I didn't get it then. But I get it now.
To me, this blog post is the most inspirational and informative that I've done so far. I only wish that my brother and I could have spoken so the conversation could be recorded like my previous posts, because I know without a shadow of a doubt that the conversation would have been what a lot of people need to hear. Though my brother is very busy, he was kind enough to do the Q&A via email, as well as send me links to the music that he's done and samples of his art work.
Yani: How old were you when you knew for certain that drawing was something you wanted to indulge in?
Victor: I started when I was 7 or 8 years old. My father was teaching my brother how to illustrate and I was watching from a few feet away. Unfortunately, our household was typically dysfunctional and the times when my father wasn't there I'd look at his old sketchbooks. My father inspired me to learn to draw even though he never taught me anything first hand.
Yani: Where would you say your creativity comes from?
Victor: My creativity comes from the world around me and sometimes, it comes from what the world could be as opposed to what it is. It also comes from the desire to master one's craft. Many artists are struggling to find their own immortality. They want to be commended for their work while they're still alive and praised for it long after they're dead. My focus on these ideas were heavy in past, to a lesser extent, they still apply. But these days, my creativity is definitely fueled more by the desire to master the craft. The more I learn, the more I want to learn.
Yani: What inspired you to pursue animation in college?
Victor: I used to love Japanese Animation. That was a definite inspiration. I always believed that Animation was the next logical step after comic book illustration and video games design. But Animation wasn't mainstream during those times as it is today. It was a niche field of study and only a few schools offered courses for it. Fortunately, University of the Arts (UArts), here in Philadelphia, offers a four year degree in Animation so I jumped on the opportunity. By comparison, I also had the option to attend The Art Institute for Animation, but UArts offered so much more; not just in terms of the course study, but in terms of the university as a whole. So my choice was clear. The negative of pursuing Animation in college is I almost completely lost my love for Japanese Animation. Understand, Animation students are making their own animated shorts in class. Creating the characters, the concepts, the motion...the whole process, using some of the same tools that are standard in industry. Once you learn how to do this and learn it well, it becomes very easy to see the lack of quality in many anime. It was an eye opening experience.
Yani: What are some of your favorite software programs to use for graphic design and why?
Victor: I use many industry standards that one would expect; Adobe CS series of creative applications, Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign etc, are the tools that many firms use by default. There's not too much a person can't do using these tools. But the applications are cost prohibitive for the average artist/designer to own independently. So, for less extensive work, I use Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop Touch, Google Docs and Polaris on Android tablets. I also use Pixlr Editor, Sumo Paint, Google Docs and Harmony on Chrome OS. There's also a level of convenience of being able to work directly from my tablet as opposed to carrying a cumbersome laptop and extra power supplies. I've learned that sometimes it's better to not reveal which tools were used to create a piece. A high quality product that was created using software that's not industry standard will sometimes be viewed negatively. I've met those that believe that the technology is the end all-be all of a person's talent as opposed to understanding true talent being used in combination with the technology. A horrible product doesn't suddenly become excellent because it was made using a $3,000 creative suite. Skilled designers can still create great work without the $3,000 creative suite.
Yani: When did you begin to develop your musical talents?
Victor: I was very lucky growing up. My family lived in a bad part of Philadelphia. But it was during a time when there were many opportunities for kids to participate in after school activities. In the mid 80's, Ms. Virginia Lam was a teacher at my elementary school, John F. Reynolds in North Philadelphia. She produced musical productions and plays starring local kids. These productions taught kids many of the fundamentals of music production. It caused the spark so to speak, as the productions became big media covered affairs after a time. As with most things, these productions ultimately came to an end. But the spark was still there.
Growing up, I listened to the radio like everyone else. Hip hop, Pop and R&B were the standards. But I grew tired of most of it because it all started to sound the same, so I branched out and started listening to Rock, New Age, Jungle. I was looking for compositions that were different, sounded different, but still well thought out. I joined the school band while attending Robert Vaux Jr. High. There I learned to read music and I learned to perform on stage as second clarinet under Mr. Dubin. This helped strengthen my foundation. When I arrived in high school, I hit a wall. I still listened to music but I no longer played. Coming from a poor family, there was no money for instruments and there was no mental encouragement for the pursuit of music or art outside of school. Even though my father has a great love of music, he wasn't around. My mother didn't really understand the point of pursuing any of it, so I was on my own.In 1992 or 93, I heard Echoes Radio for the first time and I was awe-struck. Its exactly what I was looking for in terms of feel and library of sounds used to create. Echoes played alternative music that one would never hear on mainstream stations... Ambient, New Age, hard to describe music. Shortly thereafter, I was given an Amiga 500 computer for my birthday. Ahead of its time in terms of music production and graphics, I used it to explore digital sound in a way that wasn't possible on any other platform at the time and listened to Echoes in conjunction. This kept me going until I arrived at University of the Arts where the real fun began. In my freshman year, I met a student named John Bowles. We shared a lot of the same love for graphics, animation, computer technology, and gaming. We spent the next four years piecing together digital music equipment and sharing ideas. It was fantastic times. We came up with some excellent songs even though our gear was extremely limited. My first major purchase was a Boss DR-5 drum machine from 8th Street Music that I later used with a Korg - 05RW sound module through MIDI. I've been producing my own music ever since.
Yani: What music groups or bands influenced your own musical style?
Victor: I still have an appreciation for older Jazz, Blues, Rock, Funk, Soul from the 60's, 70's and 80's, but these days, my main influences would be Solar Fields, Vincent Diamante, Vince Dicola, Austin Wintory, Hans Zimmer, Graeme Revell, Clint Mansell, Yoko Kanno, Meshell Ndegeocello, Prince, Marcomé, Lisa Gerard, Dead Can Dance, Recoil, Future Sound of London, Themroc, Gein, Tripnotix and many others.
Yani: What are some of your favorite music instruments that you like to use when making music (ie: keyboards, drum machines etc)?
Victor: Currently, I'm having a love affair with the Roland Fantom G6. I bought it a little over a year ago and it is a truly amazing keyboard. My prior favorite was the Roland XP-50, which I still own. The XP series of keyboards have very steep learning curves but they were some of the best during their time. Using the Fantom G6 after using the XP can be a bit overwhelming at times because of the increased power and flexibility the board gives when playing parts, mixing, remixing and just from general use. It's so robust that I don't feel the need to use anything else really. It's not perfect of course, but if a person is struggling to get results with a Fantom, then they're just not trying.
Yani: Do you think creativity is lacking in todays music such as hip-hop and R&B?
Victor: Yes. Without a doubt. As I mentioned before, I stopped listening to Hip Hop and R&B on a regular basis many years ago because it just all started to sound the same; or worse, when producers would sample someone else's music while still claiming their song is original. I've never been a fan of sampling the way it's used in Hip-Hop and R&B. There's no skill in it. Sample weird sounds, unique sounds to be played later, but wholesale rip offs of other songs are pathetic. Even when it comes to remixes, the only exception to the rule is if a person's remix is better than the original. If a remix can't do the original justice, then what's the point? Rhymes aren't creatively written anymore on average. Hip-Hop used to be a creative outlet that featured well written verses and urban poetry that carried a message in a powerful way. Today, more often than not, it's a man or woman rambling about nonsense on the mic for an hour with a featured list that's as long as movie credits. In some cases, Hip-Hop doesn't even rhyme anymore, which is just sad.
Yani: Could you see yourself doing music for films, plays or cartoons?
Victor: Of course. If you look at some of my favorite artists, many of them have produced albums and soundtracks for films, animation and games. It allows for more creativity and freedom than doing the usual mainstream genre releases. Soundtracks have inspired me for many years.
Yani: For a young boy who is heavy into drawing, graphic design, music and animation but lacks resources and support, what advice would you give him?
Victor: Keep practicing and try to surround themselves with people of similar interest. They have to become strong enough to defend their craft against the "crabs in a barrel" scenario. Meaning, some people would rather destroy a person with talent than see them realize their potential and succeed. The saddest part about a lot of kids interested in these creative fields are, their parents/families have no interest or understanding of them. They refuse to take the time to learn enough to be supportive of their kids and simply leave them to their own devices. There's no nurturing or support, so a lot of kids will ultimately just give up. The logic being, "my own family doesn't care, so why should I?" Just as in the "crabs in a barrel" situation I mentioned, some families will even revel in a talented kid's failure. To see a young family member strive to excel is believed as making the other members of the family look bad because their parents gave up on their dreams or never had similar talent. Maybe the siblings aren't as talented or they just hate the attention the dedicated sibling receives. Whatever the reasoning, the result is the same, no support. The laws of comparison can be damning and the concept of families being more destructive and vile than enemies on the street still holds true in some cases.So a young boy or girl that has a strong interest in creative fields but has no support, has to develop the tenacity to continue to practice and learn despite the lack of support. Learn to do more with less. Find people of similar interest and be willing to learn as much as possible about their craft. When the support isn't there, these kids have to understand the importance of being self sufficient in gathering their own knowledge and inspiration. Depending on family or people that aren't supportive will only lead to disappointment and failure. Through it all, they have to practice. It's the only way to get better. There's no shortcut for this.I want to thank my brother Victor for allowing me to feature him on my blog, Philly Support Philly. To check out his music as well as his art work, click the links on the right side of the widget.This has been another Feature Friday brought to you by Anitbeet Productions and Philly Support Philly. Let's continue to support each other, uplift one another and keep Philly in a positive light. Thanks for reading! Have a safe, positive and productive weekend! PEACE!!Read More