“I had to roam so I picked up the phone
Dialed Ali up to see what was going down
Told him I pick him up so we could drive around
Took the Dodge Dart, a ’74
My mother left a yard but I needed one more
Shaheed had me covered with a hundred greenbacks
So we left Brooklyn and we made big tracks
Drove down the Belt, got on the Conduit
Came to a toll, and paid and went through it
Had no destination, we was on a quest
Ali laid in the back so he can get rest
Drove down the road for two-days-and-a-half
The sun had just risen on a dusty path
Just then a figure had caught my eye
A man with a sombrero who was 4 feet high”
I Left My Wallet in El Segundo – A Tribe Called Quest
Until recently, I’d say the last six or seven years, music was something that I would consume on a very personal, individual basis. The exception would be when I would have people in my car, and an iron-grip-of-control on the music coming from the speakers. Music was always setting the mood, providing the soundtrack, and willing me to be my best.
It wasn’t until the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, that I considered driving a long way to get to the music. Normally, the music travelled with me; and it was always accessible. That night in Cleveland was a wake up call and a reminder that we have a finite time to witness live shows and memorable performances. It was the night we found out Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch would not be in attendance. He would not be performing with his two band mates and friends, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz.
I have written about that night, in my ‘Mission: Chuck D’ piece, but I have also been ruminating on the embryonic nature of the event. It presented to me, with much clarity, the finiteness of life and how we choose to live it.
I was glad to have been there, and made up my mind to be present in generating and enjoying my own experiences. I came home a changed man.
What has followed is a newly developed alter ego. For forty years, I had always been boringly rational, safe, and responsible. With the exception of a few bumpy years in high school, I was exceedingly predictable, often relying on my friends to provide spontaneity and adventure. It’s not to say that I am irresponsible now – that’s why I use the term ‘alter ego’. During the day, I’m still reliable and consistent.
Now, however, I throw caution to the wind. I make attempts to put myself in positions where interesting things will happen.
“But if leading the perfect life is unlikely, it is still entirely possible to lead an interesting life – and I would maintain (as my modest contribution to art theory) that if you lead an interesting life you are on track to make interesting art. Your job is to put yourself on an intercept path with interesting experiences.” – The Studio Door | Ted Orland
Since 2012, I have used my artwork as a ticket for adventure. I hide behind it, and I wield it as my confidence and nerve. So much so, that the act of bringing my artwork to live events has become my art. It’s a bit of a performance, with the finale being written by the cast of characters who dip in and out of the scenes; and ultimately by the subjects of my paintings and drawings. This blog serves as an archive of these unscripted experiences.
The friendships and connections that have been forged, as a result of these new adventures, are life-long and gratifying. I relish each new relationship and the stories that inevitably result in meeting new people and traveling to new places.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Masta Ace, a criminally underrated and slept-on MC. It was a wonderful experience, made even more memorable because I was surrounded by my new friends when it happened. When we regrouped after the meeting, and Ace had gone on his way, we began casually joking around about driving to Adelphi University, to see Chuck D deliver a speech on the history of Hip-Hop. The event was something we wished was closer, but we still wanted to be there to support Chuck. Assuming that we were all busy that day, I quickly forgot about the idea. Two days later, the day of the event, my friend Myron sent me a text – 1:34pm “Still thinking about Adelphi fellas?”
The die was cast. The gauntlet was thrown down. We decided that we could make it up there – just in time.
We made it up to Adelphi University, on New York’s Strong Island, with 15 minutes to spare before showtime. Via text, we let Chuck know that we were in the house, and found seats in the middle of the small theatre space. As I sat there, flanked by my two new friends (and Dinco D from Leaders of the New School), I realized how fortunate I am. I have been able to fall in with people who have the same curiosity and thirst for knowledge as I do. They want to immerse themselves in experience, history, culture, and tribute. They want to retell the same stories and have the same debates over and over again.
“Who is in your Top 5? Ok, Who are your Top 5 groups? Did I ever tell you about the time I rapped with Run DMC? How about the time I took the train to NYC to see Tribe open for Kanye West (and skipped the Kanye West part)”. To friends, these stories never get old. If they do, they are too polite to tell me.
Although I’m way behind, I wanted to share some of the road trip stories here. Recently, we drove to Philly to see the Beastie Boys book tour – We drove to New York one Sunday, to attend Bumpy Knuckles birthday celebration (that was an incredible night!) – We went to Brooklyn to clean up Adam Yauch Park, when some playground equipment had been defaced – We drove up and back to the Tribe 25th Anniversary show in NYC – We went to Philly to see a Public Enemy / Stetsasonic / Chubb Rock show – We always made it to Brooklyn to celebrate MCA Day – and we have been in and around the DC Hip-Hop scene for several years.
It’s difficult to summarize these trips and missions (as I call them). There are countless hours of waiting, joking, talking, debating, and laughing. I’m already looking forward to the new adventures that will arise in the coming months. Fortunately, my good friend Malcolm Riddle has documented several of these road trips on his ‘American Riddle’ podcast. I’m going to leave them here. Let me (and Malcolm) know what you think:
‘Move as a team, never move alone’
Welcome to the Terrordome