The only thing better than good music is good live music. Whether it’s live from the stage of a sold out show, the studio, or from the sidewalk (re: Lake Street Dive), few things trump the feeling of seeing/hearing live instruments being played underneath real, non-computer-assisted vocals. It’s like watching a painter fill a canvas with a familiar masterpiece. Or seeing a sculptor recreate intricate features of a famous face down to the freckles that usually go unnoticed. As if music wasn’t powerful enough, a live performance can take an artist from likable to legendary. It exposes an artist – for better or for worse.
This Two’s Day, we salute live talent. Raw vocals. Instrumentation. Music.
Bilal – Is This Love (Bob Marley cover)
This is probably my third time posting this…yes, it’s that dope!
Hiatus Kaiyote – Shaolin Monk Motherfunk
If you don’t know them yet, please make yourself familiar
What have been some of your favorite live performances? Who would you like to see perform live?
February marks the start of historical celebration. A celebration of evolution and growth. Creation and invention. Birth and rebirth. Divergence and desegregation. A month-long tip-of-the-hat to the contributions Black people have made to the world. Of those many contributions, music is one of the most significant and consistent. From the Negro spirituals of the plantations to Mississippi down home Blues to Motown and hip hop, music has been connected to the heart of the Black experience. A heart that pumps through its veins pain, love, courage, strength, victory, oppression, consciousness. Life. A heart that pushes all of these experiences to every part of the global body.
The beautiful thing about music is regardless of the language, place of origin, or era of creation, its universal. It has crossed lines that journalists and commentators and great debaters have, at times, not been able to cross. It has opened doors and established relationships that otherwise would have been virtually unthinkable. It has created the soundtrack (and fuel) for movements of liberation and love. It speaks directly to the soul. And we’ve been communicating with the world through song for thousands of years. From our cues, artists have constructed entire genres of music that have changed lives. And although we haven’t always gotten the recognition that’s due, our influence is undeniable and irrevocable.
Common – I Am Music
“…you can feel me all over, I’m live. I help cultures survive, I’ve opened the eyes of many…”
Duke Ellington and John Coltrane – In a Sentimental Mood
What would you add to the playlist? What songs represent our impact on the culture?
What does home mean to you? Is it just the place where you get your mail? Just an address – a group of numbers or street signs? They say it’s where the heart is. The place you were raised. The one place where all of your baby pictures are. If home to you is nothing more than the four walls, floor, and ceiling where you go to sleep and wake up, you’re missing out.
Home is everywhere. It’s beyond a physical, tangible coordinate on Google Maps. Most people live their lives unaware of where home is. Not because they’re lost or without shelter, but because they have no concept of what it means to truly be at home. To be at home is to be at peace. It’s the place where you are the most authentic version of yourself. The place where even your confusion is comprehended. Home is being among the people who bring the best out of you. The same people who give you their absolute best.
It’s not confined to one specific address either. Like I said, it’s everywhere. Contrary to what you may believe, it’s possible to have multiple homes at once, none of which have to be where you physically live. Some teachers feel “at home” in the classroom. Accountants feel “at home” when dealing with numbers. Athletes feel “at home” on the field. That’s not just cliché or figurative. It’s reality. It’s spiritual and mental. It’s anywhere and everywhere. It’s the place you retreat to where peace is the norm. The people you surround yourself with to calm chaos. The idea of home is transcendent. You don’t live in it, it lives within you.
Kanye West – Homecoming (Original)
“…I told her in my heart that’s where she’ll always be…”
Mos Def – Priority
“Peace before everything. God before anything. Love before anything. Real before everything. HOME before any place…”
What songs remind you of home? What would you add to the playlist?
The first quarter of the new year is usually riddled with remnants of broken resolutions. On December 31st, we all make grand declarations of what we’re going to do different. Start going to the gym. Drink more water. Drink less Hennessey. Cut down on the 6-piece combos from Harold’s. January is good. February is a little tough. March is pretty frustrating. And by April, we’re back in the line at Popeye’s ordering chicken by the bucket.
The reality is we set ourselves up for failure. We start off all wrong. We live recklessly for 364 days in anticipation of New Year’s Eve. We convince ourselves that after the clock strikes midnight, all of our bad decisions over the last 12 months will be deleted. We get trapped in the fairy tale thinking – but instead of the carriage turning into a pumpkin, our cravings for cupcakes will turn into cravings for celery.
I recently listened to the latest episode of The No 4Play podcast and one of the hosts (I believe it was the big homie Ant P) said it best – don’t wait until the last and first days of the year to acknowledge and address your issues. Reassess and readjust still the point of recognition. You knew you were overweight before the 31st of December. You were very aware that you were out of shape before the gym offered that top of the year discounted membership. You knew your eating habits were terrible and that donuts were not a part of a complete breakfast. This year, let’s avoid temporary resolutions and pursue permanent lifestyle changes. Let’s start working out to increase our life expectancy and not just to decrease our waistline for the summer. Let’s eat healthy to improve our way of living and not just to earn cool points from our sophisticated friends for shopping at Whole Foods.
And it doesn’t just start and stop at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table. It’s not just about physical health. Be careful about what you feed your mind and spirit as well. Be conscious of what you allow in your space. If there’s any truth to the adage “you are what you eat”, it’s especially true as it relates to the things we consume mentally. When you feed off negative energy and binge on all the junk “food” society has to offer, you become internally rotten. You start to develop mental cavities. But instead of toothaches, that pain is manifested through the energy you put out towards others. It shows itself in the way you react to life’s challenges. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying we should all strive to be walking Wikipedia pages, but we should all be aware of what we ingest and the impact it will have on us. Exercise your thoughts. Exercise your imagination. Stretch your faith. Think beyond your comfort zone.
Dead Prez – Be Healthy
“true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…we gotta start taking better care of ourselves…”
Nas ft. Busta Rhymes – Fried Chicken
“Fried chicken. Fly vixen. Give me heart disease but I need you in my kitchen…you gon’ be a n*gga’s death”
What’s on your playlist?
This weekend was a weekend of unspeakable tragedy. The type of tragedy that leaves a lasting impression on your heart and in your mind. The type of tragedy that renders you speechless and momentarily breathless. A catastrophe of such drastic proportion that it’s complicated to see any silver lining, bright side, sunshine, or any hope of healing.
Although it’s not blatantly visible, there is a lesson to be learned in all of this. Beyond the politics and debates about citizens and their rights to own, hoard, carry, conceal, or whatever else they’d like to do with guns, beyond the discussion about the recognition, diagnosis, and cure of mental health issues – there is bigger perspective to gain and bigger questions to answer.
What are you doing to add value to the lives of those around you? What are you doing to add value to your own life? Are you happy? Many people try to place a box around “happy”. They want to give it one definitive definition. They say happiness is only acquired by success and profit. They lead you to believe it’s only attainable through constant pursuit of greatness (and we already discussed how dangerous that can be). Today, I challenge you to define your own happiness. I dare you to track down your happiness and embrace it. I encourage you to take a break from the man-made demand of your profession and focus on the God-ordained peace of your purpose. Recognize that you weren’t created to stress or fear or waste time. You were designed to prosper and to love and to live a happy life.
Even when we are aware of what we were created for, we tend to dilute the strength of revelation with the notion that we have unlimited time. Although we were created to be happy, we were not created to live forever. So while you’re here, you have a choice – be hurried or be happy. What is happy for you? Define it and find it. Even if you’re there for only a minute, make it there before it’s too late. Enjoy what God has placed in front of you. Be present. Be open to new experiences. Be purpose driven. Be happy.
The Foreign Exchange – Happiness
“…good people, good loving, good music in my life – that makes me happy…”
Frankie Beverly and Maze – Happy Feelings
“…these happy feelings…I’ll spread them all over the world”
What’s on your playlist?
Good is often a very lonely adjective. In a society that has a healthy obsession with “great”, few people ever want to claim it. No one ever wants to just be good at anything. Or have a good day. Or do a good deed. If it’s not exceptionally great, it’s as if it doesn’t count at all. We spend countless hours in search of perfection. We self-proclaim our excellence and expertise over popular topics. We completely ignore small victories when they fall short of absolute dominance. Small, incremental progression becomes unacceptable. We want to be the ‘Michael Jordan’ of our profession and the ‘Mercedes Benz’ of our past-time. Winning the war isn’t enough if the battle record isn’t immaculate and without blemish.
In most cases, we applaud, admire, and encourage those that chase greatness. But like anything done to the extreme and beyond moderation, complications sometimes arise. The problem with this aggressive pursuit of greatness is that we sometimes forget to just be good. We develop a tunnel vision that blocks out anything and everything we may encounter on our climb to the summit. Cheers of accomplishments are drowned out by the voice in our head telling us that good just isn’t good enough.
When we deprive the world of our good, we potentially hinder someone else’s great. When we don’t take the time to recognize our own good, we tend to miss our true value. We give a blind eye to all of the good things we’ve accomplished, learned, taught, etc., that lend themselves to our overall greatness. So today, take a break from your journey to greatness and just be good. Take a minute to appreciate that good and imperfect things around you. Do something good for someone around you. Don’t worry about the extremes, the absolute, the flawless. Just be in the now…with the good.
Schoolboy Q ft. BJ the Chicago Kid and Punch I’m Good
“I know I’m not perfect…and I know what you see ain’t what it’s gon be cause I know my worth”
Slakah the Beatchild ft. Drake Share
“…take what you want, but you gotta share it with the world”
What’s in your playlist?
“Every dark cloud has a silver lining”
For over 400 years, this phrase has often been thrown about thoughtlessly as a gesture of empathy. It’s usually directed at someone who’s at their wit’s end, on the brink of surrendering. And it’s usually delivered with the utmost sincerity. But we use the phrase so frequently that I believe we’ve been somewhat desensitized to the true power of what we’re saying.
The cliche was first introduced in 1634 by John Milton in a poem titled Comus. Its meaning then was the exact same as its meaning now. The poet’s silver lining represented the good part of a not-so-good situation. At face value, it’s a fairly simple concept to grasp. And when you take a closer look, it doesn’t become more complicated…it actually becomes more significant.
“Every dark cloud has a silver lining”. The key word here is every. By definition, it encompasses everything. Every situation. Every cloud. Every obstacle. Everything. Whatever you’re going through, however dark it gets, there is an ever-present silver lining. It’s so easy to overlook or downplay the silver lining’s presence, especially when the clouds are so massive that the lining may be out of our immediate scope of vision. When clouds move in and start to soften the glow of our sunshine or moonlight, we start to lose faith in the sun or the moon. We give undeserved power to the clouds. We tend to lend the permanent nature of the sun and moon to the temporary presence of the clouds that cover them. We forget that regardless of density, darkness, or duration, those clouds are designed with an expiration date. They aren’t meant to last forever.
We must learn to see the shine beyond the shade. We have to recognize the value of our silver linings. Their presence alone reminds us that the storm has an ending. They exist to provide a glimpse into the future. They let us know that what we see isn’t what we’ve sown…it’s just an inevitable part of the journey. We ought not allow the climate to dictate our confidence. In the midst of the darkest clouds, know that the sun still shines.
PJ Morton – Mountains and Molehills
“…making mountains out of molehills when they’re not even real…”
Daley – Those Who Wait
“Take your time…I know I’m gonna be next in line to claim my prize and be all that I want to be…”
What’s on your playlist?
Confession: I’m a serial hoarder of potential. I store it up and live off the recognition that it does exist. I wear it like a “Hello, my name is…” sticker. And even if I don’t have the name tag on, the stench follows me wherever I go. People recognize and acknowledge it. And I use that acknowledgement as fuel…to keep potential on me at all times. Sounds crazy, right? I know.
Potential has proven to be both a gift and a curse. Don’t get me wrong, having it is awesome. It signifies future promise and progression. But having too much of it (stored up and unused) for too long signifies procrastination and a lack of vision relating to your purpose.
So what does all this mean? The answer is fairly simple: Move! Do something. Because doing something is far better than the alternative. Make a move. Move away from fear. Move towards your dreams. Listen to the compass that is your heart and move where it guides you. If you fail, so be it. Make another move. This isn’t like the video games where you run out of moves or have to collect thousands of digital coins to cash in for more moves. As long as you have breath to breathe, you have a move to make. Take that potential you’ve been hoarding and turn it into promotion. Allow it to escape that cocoon of uncertainty and fear and spread its wings. Allow it to take flight! Allow the beauty of your potential to be seen and admired.
Happy Two’s Day and cheers to your (and my) potential.
Mos Def – Umi Say
“…tomorrow may never appear. You better hold this very moment very close to you…don’t be afraid to let it shine”
The Roots ft. John Legend – The Fire
“You can’t escape the history that you were meant to make…”
What’s on your playlist?
There’s a short list of things in life that are, both, guaranteed and inevitable. Among them is change.
Change is one of the most constant and consistent occurrences that I know of. In all forms, change is unavoidable. At times, it occurs without warning and imposes on our complacency. Other times it comes unexpectedly to our front doors to escort us away from our comfort zone. It’s one of those things you never really know how to properly prepare for. Regardless of how prepared you are, change will find you. It will, for lack of a better word, change you. It will introduce you to new experiences by turning you from old ones. It will show new dreams and bigger visions by waking you up from the nightmares that keep you sleep. It will introduce you to yourself. Over and over again. It forces you to grow. To move. To reconsider and readjust.
Change motivates. It inspires. And sometimes it even scares you to death. But with it comes new beginnings. At the end of an old chapter, change represents a fresh canvas for your new chapter to begin.
When change comes, appreciate and embrace it. Take that blank page and create your work of art.
Nina Simone – Feeling Good
“…it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me…and I’m feeling good”
Georgia Anne Muldrow – Roses
Draw some roses…and imagine happiness
What’s on your playlist?
I had a revelation recently that led me to the conclusion that sometimes your journey is far more important than your destination. Yes, knowing where you’re going is critical. Having a destination, i.e. goals, is extremely significant. I can’t deny or downplay that fact. But the moment you’ve determined where you’re going (whether through divine purpose or personal determination) you have to actually get there. And that’s the hard part.
To better illustrate, think about one of your goals. Imagine you had a “life” GPS where you could enter that goal and get immediate turn-by-turn directions. Just like the GPS app on your smartphone, it gives you landmarks and shortcuts and several alternate routes. Seems simple. But the true journey is in what that GPS doesn’t provide. It doesn’t tell you about the potholes or road closures. It doesn’t mention the rush hour traffic or speed bumps. Doesn’t warn you about the turbulence or how your vehicle will handle difficult terrains.
Once your destination is set in your mind, you have to prepare for the journey. The journey is where character is built and tested. The journey is where you have the opportunity to apply lessons learned from past experiences. The journey is where you realize how patient (or for impatient) you really are. It’s where the value of your principles is appraised. Will you lash out at slow moving traffic or will you take the opportunity to enjoy the scenery? Will you recognize the rain or the rainbow?
So today, here’s two for the journey! Happy Two’s Day!
Common ft. Cee-Lo – G.O.D. (Gaining One’s Definition)
PJ Morton – Mountains and Molehills
What’s on your journey playlist? What songs motivate you to face your journey?