September 12, 2016
I’ll start with a warning, this entry is one of my few ventures away from verse and a repost of something I put up on Facebook a while back. Its straight from the heart because every once in a while you get the opportunity to be a part of something special. I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple such opportunities. One in particular is worth mentioning on this day.
– – –
So, the year after, I got a call from one of my best friends on the planet, Johnny Lindo; saying he’d like me to come help with a project he was working on. Being one of my long time best dudes, Lindo has the privilege of hitting me whenever for whatever. I met him down at the Union Square subway station as requested and linked up with several other kids, some members from CMU’s coolest graduates and others just the coolest.
Age range: somewhat varied, ethnicity: very varied, religion, orientation, you get the idea…it didn’t matter.
We were all there to support our homeboy and his project.
My dude proceeded to give us instructions along with several sheets of translucent stickers, each containing one single name. He explained that he’d been walking down this hallway a few weeks earlier and had noticed all of these staggered white subway tiles. He’d counted the rows and columns and determined that if you placed one 9/11 victim’s name on one tile, you could span across one designated stretch of the hallway.
We all have our stories from that day and we all (especially New Yorkers) most likely have that two or three degrees of separation from (slash connection to) someone who passed away on this day in 2001. But its when you see all the names written at once or take the time to listen to a roll call of all the names that you get hit with the full magnitude of the event itself.
The assembled team went to work, as John meticulously made sure everyone was putting the stickers in the middle of the tiles and not screwing up the alphabetical order and we were there for hours. All of us were straight sweating through our clothes a half hour in but the thing is, no one complained. A bunch of friends, new and old; just went about their business trying our best to get it as our homie had envisioned.
Several times through the evening, people stopped by to see what we were doing. We’d explain the project and they’d nod and walk off. Some would stop and hang for a couple minutes and then move on. A couple times, officers would come out of the Union Square police station and approach us – I think one even asked if we had permission or something like that. We didn’t but it didn’t matter. They’d see the list of names going up, give that somber NYPD officer nod and move on.
Oddly enough, that’s one of the coolest things I remember about that evening. The cops got it. They got us and they let us do our thing even though it may not have been 100% by the book or sanctioned by the City or to the letter of the law.
At any rate, we all stood back once the last name was placed and took it all in. For me (and for all of us I suppose) it was almost the same feeling as I got when I went to visit the 9/11 Memorial (could only do that once to date – hard to describe the magnitude of emotion and the scope of damage so I’ll just say Damn!). Then I took some pictures, jumped in a couple group hugs with my friends, new and old; gave my homie Johnny Lindo a pound & profound thanks and hopped on the train back to Brooklyn…
My Dude’s project still stands.
The stickers are a little faded now and have peeling edges but Our project still stands. And now, if you walk down that Union Square hallway, you’ll notice something beyond just stickers with names. Thirteen years later, you can see other tributes added like dried flowers taped to the wall and hand drawn crosses and last messages left to the lost loved ones.
Thirteen years of character.
So on this 9/11 anniversary, I’ll send a shout out to my boy Johnny Lindo (and BTW I think only myself and members of Little Egypt can call him that). I’m proud to be one of the ones chosen to be a part of what I truly consider one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done.
Salute, my Dude.
August 31, 2016
So, I just got some sad news. Found out that one of my favorite professors from Carnegie Mellon passed away last weekend.
I’ve often told coworkers and friends stories about Mr. Larry Cartwright being one of the most influential people in my life. Outside of the complex mathematics, moment arms and force calculations Larry taught me that we as engineers don’t all have to be stuffy, high & mighty and elitist.
Once I found out ‘The Dude’ was retiring I decided to write him a letter telling him how I felt about him and his influence on the professional Me. That letter is attached below.
The thing that I (and all of us loved about you) was your accessibility both during and after our CMU years. On my many return visits you’d joke about my hair getting longer as I pointed out the right angle sideburns accompanying that one of a kind stash getting sharper.
True to form, you wrote me back a couple days later. Your reply is not attached because it was between two engineers/friends. One with a little experience under his belt now and one with enough experience to fill a classroom full of engineers.
Except for those end of the year Civ E challenges and hands-on senior projects (ahem, which my group won my senior year…) I know you weren’t one for the fanfare so I’ll wrap this up.
Professor Cartwright, I hope you know how lucky I feel that we had the chance to reconnect one last time before your Transition. And I hope when we meet again on the next level that I get to be the one giving out the impossible-to-solve problem sets…although probably not.
You’ll always be The Dude in my eyes and I love you bro.
Enjoy the Island.
Subject: A letter from Brooklyn’s own
April 25th, 2014
First things first, congratulations!! You, along with anybody else who has reached that retirement milestone, are now officially my hero.
As such, I wanted to take the time out to send you a good old fashioned Brooklyn type shout out and let you know how much you meant to me and I’m sure the countless scores of new (and now old) Civ E’s out there.
As is too often the norm, we don’t keep in touch with most of the people that we probably should as “real life” gets all in the way but know that I do hold a special room in my heart and memory that I visit periodically for mirth, guidance and most of all, many stories.
Over the course of my almost twenty years (whoa.) working post-Carnegie-Mellon, I’ve often rehashed the legendary tales of the “lumberjack-looking Professor” from back in my school days. I tell the “young ones” that every great Civil Engineer I’ve met along the road has been a little…well, off the beaten path. Specifically, I mean you and Sunil Saigal, probably two sides of the same coin.
Both great teachers who have had profound influence on my life as a civil engineer and as a human being.
In addition to calculating static & live loads and learning how to build a bridge without adhesives or nails, one of the other things I took from my years at CMU was to always walk to the beat of your own drum. I want to thank you for always letting me be me without pause, without sideways glances, and without prejudice.
Even after graduation when I’d stop by and visit, you’d pause your graduate class and let those guys know “this is what happens to your hair when you work too long on bridges”. Of course, the only possible reply was “this is what happens to your beard when you work too long with grad students…” The warm and enthusiastic handshake and hug that always followed was entirely genuine and something I hope you felt in return.
The way you are able to move through the most complex calculations while making our craft fun, exciting and endlessly interesting is something that I strive for every day when I find myself in a teaching capacity for some of the budding new generation of “whatever they want to be’s”.
Hopefully, I can continue to uphold the tradition of teaching with patience, passion and dedication to the art of learning.
Big man (a sincere compliment around these parts), enjoy your Island!!!
J. “Wild-Man” S.
And yes, the dreds are still here, just a little grayer…attached is the reason I couldn’t make it out to the Burgh for your retirement party – a new Civil Engineer on the block??? Maybe…
March 20, 2016
As promised, I’m including the liner notes for our newest labor of love, The Calendar
Serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
As a rule of sorts, I do not use the term “I am blessed” when describing fortunate events or circumstance. That’s basically because I choose to believe that for the most part, we all are. It’s simply a natural part of being on this plane of existence.
And therefore I’m choosing to dedicate this album to serendipity.
As I’m sure many of you are aware, my home team; Little Egypt, has been on an extended hiatus to put it mildly. I’d pretty much resigned myself to not going hard on the tunes any more and just doing the domestic home life thing. Thanks to several serendipitous events and the persistence of my Wife (much gratitude for that btw…) I find myself back on the boards. And once again, deep in the composition notebooks.
Somewhat random events came into play to find my Wife and I at a Melanie Stormm (ever-present friend to the room) performance. I now look back at this event as The Intervention as by the end of the night my Wife and Melanie both were barking at me (in stereo) for not being in the studio making music.
My Wife will tell you that she’d been urging me to get back in the lab for years before that – definitely true, but this is the first time maybe that I’d heard it in stereo…
Flash forward a bit to find me writing a little something for a single Melanie put out later that year. After listening to that butter little track 1000s of times and getting some love we began conceptualizing a collaborative project – look out for it soon (and that’s the Phase 1 of my own Intervention Ms. Stormm!!).
And the cap was once again off the pen.
Happy Mother’s Day was the first song completed chronologically. In fact, it was written before the album was even a distant thought. I basically wrote the song as a way to pay homage to single moms I’ve known and to give thanks to the fact that my Brothers and I were lucky enough to have a solid family life coming up with both parents actively involved in our well being, education and development into adults.
Conceptualized and framed the track during a random get up with Khordz (hardest working man in NYC these days) and then got some (much needed) soul input, revamping, paprika sprinkles and a touch of oregano on the track from my man Trae Sevn (Tracrobats fool!!).
Definitely need to take the time here to send a shout out to the enigmatic and incredibly talented Madd Mary who blesses HMD with her intro vocals. An Intervention is already planned for you Ms. Mary, you are way, waaaaay too skilled not to be out here grinding.
And I really can’t thank you guys (the fans) enough for all the love you’ve shown me for that track. Whenever I get letters/emails/shouts from people (especially outright hardcore Hip-Hop heads) saying they were moved to near tears (or just to call their Moms) by something I put on a page, it really does mean a hell of a lot.
Real serendipity also accounts for me running into a cat who has since become my “main mix dude” (Noble Sense) during one of my morning trips to a Starbuck over in Greenpoint. It’s all about how some dude randomly hears you talking to a co-worker and sets it off by asking “Do you do stuff?” Big thanks cousin for adding, subtracting, hemming and basically handling all that behind the scenes musical tailoring that my mind is way too cluttered to focus on these days. And more importantly, for handling it all with vigor and enthusiasm.
Same goes for one of the more recent friends to the room; Steve Sperry, who I’ve yet to officially meet and break bread with but is responsible for the magic that is Return of the Classic. I’ll tell yall the full story behind that at a later date but suffice it to say I look forward to hearing the mixtape and working together more in the future dude. And I’m using you as a bit of a catalyst to organize a Little Egypt reup of sorts…I’ll keep you posted – you keep those tracks coming fam.
Shouts also to Wordsworth (a fellow long timer) – not only for blessing the album with bars but for the constant pep talk and words of wisdom (I know, horrible, unintentional pun…). I mean it when I say you dudes are crazy inspiration for a brother.
And big thanks go out FERA, PNO, Aliano (we gotta actually meet and break bread one day fam) & my man Seb-El for their short notice contributions reppin all corners of the globe. Much appreciated for real.
Johnny Lindo…for always, always making the artwork jump (did you catch the second shout out yet fam??).
Before I forget, the concept for the album itself gets credited to my Brother Forge who actually came up with the idea of expanding the Mother’s Day song into an entire year’s worth of holiday magic. I know, now I’m sprinkling paprika and oregano around…but real talk, much thanks to you Big Forge and to the unstoppable, highly prolific one, Taajwar the God.
Taaj, my dude. You have no idea how much listening to your joints keeps me on my game making sure my sword stays sharp.
Big things seen on the horizon fellas!!
(Yall have no idea…)
So all that being said, thanks to serendipity, randomness as well as focus and the relentless dedication of people out here that still want to hear/make that Boom Bap, head nodding Hip-Hop filled with lyrics that can only be found in composition notebooks, on napkins and the back of receipts and scraps of paper carried around in non-descript backpacks.
I’ll keep trying to do you all justice.
And to my Wife and A.C.S. – You both continue to be my earthbound Muses and constant sources of inspiration & joy. It always has been and always will be, Love.
Click to buy
February 29, 2016
I’ll be performing at Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s Celebrate Black Leadership event – the event will be held on Monday February 29th at 929 Broadway (@ Melrose Street) from 6PM to 8PM – see you there!!
February 9, 2016
January 18, 2016
Caught this post from my Brother Forge and figured I’d share it with you guys – some real depth for the day fam – Peace
January 5, 2016
A couple cats have asked me to post lyrics to different joints along this journey so (finally) listening to the masses in 2016 – here’s a little something for you to listen to/read – Peace.
A LITTLE WHILE IN (by Visual Poetics)
In a little while…
There’ll be another gun tragedy
Cops’ll roll up on scene with everything but the cavalry
Later, a new President consoles grieving families
While the NRA kicks back and pleads insanity
Sounds crazy right? But that’s the new reality
People starving for action and we keep feeding em’ anarchy
(Go on and come after me)
In A Little While…
There’ll be rioters in the streets filled with unhappy civilians
Cause their holy men are so obsessed with talkin’ – they cannot listen
Right up to the point when you catch em slippin’
How many committed crimes that should land em in prison?
How many died cause their beliefs didn’t match the mission?
And its the same for Muslims, Jews, Catholic and Christians
But that’s a game that’s probably best left to the statisticians
I believe in a most high – guess I’m just anti-religion
Something sinister when ministers are living like rockstars
Padding their pockets for years and You still ain’t got far
That’s whether you hold rosary beads or you Allah-U-Akbar
In Roman cathedrals or the place where the mosques are
Flashing lights – go from cameras to squad cars
When the masses start turning and flipping off the top bar
No more running thru the forest blind
And that kind of thing’ll get you stuck like a porcupine
Nine to Fivers – going hard on that four-quarter grind
As their IRA shrinks like the California waterline
Where do we draw the line? Need to rethink your focus kid
Yall need to protest out where the shady loaners live
Capsizing the dream of home ownership
While the middle class gets caught out there like homelessness
And the crooks make off with seven figure bonuses
Call it out for bogusness and what, now I’m a Socialist?
(but I’ve been called worse – and I will again, in a little while)
I can’t speak any clearer…
That dude the cops shot looks like the one I used to see in the mirror
Another me reduced to a moment of silence
Another child singled out for their cultural alliance
The media spreads hate and fear like a cold or a virus
Politicians – claim ignorance of the notion of science
While pro-lifers condone the electric chair – Texas to Delaware –
Like no one’s ever been arrested unfair
Same ones screaming justice for everywhere
Won’t lift a finger to support universal medical care
Yall better prepare…
(Cause in a Little While – We Will Wake Up)
In a Little While…
We’ll forget about all the sadness and the loss
When my daughter comes in – asking me to feed her some applesauce
Later, we’ll hit the beach like David Hasslehoff
We’re going to turn these lights and these cameras off
Eventually, when the shouting stops and the fans don’t come around a lot
When the essence calls – saying its time to bounce from this spot
Either by natural causes or a thousand shots
I just hope I’m ready to meet my grandparents at the mountaintop
I’m getting all emotional now…
But feel more sorry for those of us that don’t know how
Been goin’ for a while, but hold on child
Still crossing oceans now with this old man style
If you’re progressive – you’re more than free to rock with me
But know this big homie – I don’t believe in mediocrity
I do believe its only we that’s stopping we
And my philosophy game could probably compete with Socrates
I’ll hear something soon to bring me back to Earth again
And I’ll just reup – start all over like First and Ten
And on that note, my Cleveland Browns will be superb again
What?…You heard me right – I said it
Flows kinetic – need no revision and no edits
If I put something on a track, then I probably don’t regret it
So go ahead and roll the credits…
Cause in a Little While – Its all gon’ be copacetic
March 7, 2015
Let me explain exactly what happened…
Boy went to School – Girl went to school
Boy thought she was cute – Girl though He was cool
And that was true – he was the Hip-Hop dude on campus
Moving stanzas like Picasso drew on a canvas
Both thrived in college – travelling different circles
She – a social butterfly – He – balled and spit the verbals
Still, they caught up on a regular – for deep conversations
It was the type of friendship where you don’t have to seek confirmation
Never, crossed any lines – ain’t no secrets there
But their bond grew deeper past the collegiate years
Cause…Boy had a steady – Girl had a steady
Both long term and solid but not really marriage ready
Now, sometimes fate moves players across the tapestry
Without an explanation – just a complicated strategy
Patience, my Dear…
March 7, 2015
From time to time, I’ll be posting different verses here so cats can go back, catch some hidden meaning or double entendre (yes, I said entendre…) or just vibe along – while I do realize this may be somewhat egotistical, its my website, so there.
Kidding. But if you were ever wondering what I meant in that one part of that one verse and its been keeping you up at night, you can find it here – if you want me to post any lyrics, feel free to get at me and I’ll do my best to accommodate.
Before I start though, please relax in this section only on the edits – I’m going to chalk most of them up to Poetics’ License (see what I did right there??) – and I know, sometimes the actual recording doesn’t match what’s on the page – you try fitting some of these thoughts into 2 bars at 96BPM…
Peace fam – thanks for reading.
February 16, 2015
I know, nowadays, in general nobody reads liner notes anymore. and maybe that’s because nobody really buys CDs anymore but I don’t care. I put actual time and thought into them along with everything else I pen down so I’ll be including my liner notes as they come right here. And that starts with the old liner notes from Little Egypt’s second full length release:
The Crown Heights Affair – Notes
This project can actually trace its roots back 10 years ago. All the way to the back bedroom in Mom & Pop’s crib that used to double as L.E.’s first recording “studio”. If memory serves me right, we were kicking back admiring the newest, semi-experimental jewel to blow out of the ASR-10 (Ensoniq) and the little Radio Shack speaker that was our only monitor back then.
I hit the crew up with the consummate Hip-Hop lyricist’s plea for approval, “fellas, check this out…” and proceeded to spit 10 quick lines of yet another in the long line of stories I was working out and framing. Usually, nobody but me, the shower curtain and the Most High get to hear lyrics-in-progress but I really wanted to know if I should continue working on this piece (aka I was kinda stuck).
My man Diop (ATL!!!) is the first one that hit me with the consummate NYC Hip-Hop lyricist seal of approval “Yo, that’s kinda hot!!! Where’s the rest?” And then it came to me.
“You guys finish it.”
The rest (depending on whether or not you read liner notes before or after listening to a CD) you know.
I really have to give a lot of credit for the framing of the project as a whole to Diop again as he’s the one who conceived what was going to originally be Part II in our newly formed movie-song saga. It was called “Medina” and its Diop doing his thing. While it didn’t make this project, if you ever do come across it, hope you dig it. Not only is it a jewel in the rough but it’s also Johnny Lindo’s inspiration for the cover (BTW – Thanks Erik, Damian, Emma & Darla).
While I try to love all my “children” equally, I have to concede the third song is my personal favorite. Mostly cause it’s blazing and completely unique conceptually but I also vividly remember the day it was born. I had a track ready and waiting on the VS-880 (Roland) and a concept already started. Brave and Taaj rolled into the crib and we got to work.
I’m guessing only those that have been blessed with the opportunity to build, play sports or those who’ve gone to war with likeminded cats can relate to the special magic of a cypher. We all wrote our parts independently from the others but it was one of those days when I could just look around the room and know where they were going with their “chapters”. Just in the way everything fell into place I could tell they felt it too.
Recording the preliminary version was the usual mayhem. Taaj in the corner juggling one verse across four or five pieces of paper while Brave would drop his piece with that patented start-stop style as he struggled to read the three different verses he’d crammed on half a sheet of loose leaf. This one was a natural.
Since those simpler, humble, hungry days, a lot has changed with the team as it does with all crews. People grow in separate directions and travel different roads as life dictates. ASR-10s, Tascam 8-track recorders, floppy disks and 1200s transform into Reason, Cubase, backup hard drives and 1200s (tell em’ Big Wiz!!!). Skills mature and you find your “spot”.
The other three joints were given life more recently in the new back bedroom of the new crib that has been permanently transformed into our new favorite recording spot, The Crimson Pyramid. It was here that we decided to resurrect the entire project, rerecord outdated takes and finish things up. So you guys get the full gambit. Some of the old and some of the new (for lack of a better cliché).
I promised on the last one to not be so long-winded with the shout outs and such so I tried to bury as many as I could into these liner notes. (All) that being said, much love goes out to all of our family, friends and fans (past, present and future). Thanks for always sticking by us and for making us get back on our grind in the studio and on stage.
Enjoy the adventure!!!
…and Peace from the Planet of Brooklyn!!!