I didn’t love Danny Brown at first. It took me a couple of years to hear his genius before playing XXX and Black and Brown on repeat and getting some of his lyrics tattooed (so just a super chill fan now).
Same with Count Bass D. I scored a Pre-Life Crisis CD at a used shop and at first shied away from the record’s intense originality, eventually singing every song and discovering more of his work like Art for Sale and soon, the crew classic, Dwight Spitz.
It even happened with DOOM. I vividly remember holding Operation DOOMSDAY in my hand dozens of times at music stores as a kid and for some reason not buying it. I couldn’t stop being drawn to the art but I wasn’t up for the challenge. I was buying what I already knew to stay comfy (and unafraid) like De La, Del, Tribe, Wu, Beasties, and Biz.
My harmful self-protection (aka fear) kept me from experiencing DOOM for years. This part of me that wanted to avoid harm was trying it’s best to help but failing huge.
The art testing (harming) me let me know I have a ton of work to do to 1) sound anything like these cats or, even better, 2) be ok with their genius without needing the sound to come from me. Ego all-round.
This stuff challenges the ‘white man with the answers’ ideology engrained in me via society from day one. Combine that with a suburb kiddo doing everything they could to wear the right stuff to fit in and you get a big ole pile o’ fear.
Even into my 20’s, when I heard new stuff I would sometimes throw shade because it was either so different from what I was doing or — more often — because it sounded like what I might be capable of with a scary amount of work. Instead of spending hours practicing I could protect my ego by hating.
I’m so happy to call these vibes out and grateful to be able to see it happening more clearly now. This can be what practicing growing looks like. We can give ourselves props for recognizing wack patterns and not letting them detour our listening, learning, and building as artists and people.
It’s OK to look back and be like, “WTF old me?!” There’s no way for us to have the perspective we do now as youth. But if growth is the goal, It’s not OK to move forward without responding when we notice we’re protecting our ego and hiding from things we’re likely to love deeply if we can let go of fear.
You could argue my old boss wasn’t setting himself up to live his best life most days. Drinking beer with breakfast (not at the airport or in Europe), usually stoned and feeling like the world was out to get him, and always repping the “Everyone else is so crazy” vibe.
He had his good qualities too. I still kind of love his anarchist self-righteousness. When he overheard a kid talking shit about a woman’s body at The 24hr Taco Shop in Tucson, in one motion, he opened up his untouched burrito and threw the entire thing at the kid’s face, telling him to have some respect. Not sure if this lesson was necessarily heard, but still! He apologized to the staff, put $20 in the tip jar, and took off on his bike.
He and I had an unexpected falling out when I (surprise!) took a new job. He went as far as questioning if I had been a spy the entire time, and made up a story about a police report he filed against me.
This was hard. I live in a smallish town and would still be seeing him around. Instead of blaming him for the lingering wack feelings, I’d work on what I could try to control – myself.
I go to a weekly mediation class on Saturdays to practice the metta karuna bhavana or loving-kindness meditation. You choose 3 people: one annoying, one neutral, and one friend or fam, and wish them all (along with yourself) happiness, health, peace, and safety. It’s online, let me know if you’d ever like to join.
He was my chosen annoying person for weeks, months even.
I slowly started to realize my old boss just wanted to be happy too, and remember the day when he moved from annoying person to neutral – that person you see at the grocery store or on walks but don’t really interact with. It felt like a pretty big accomplishment. In the next couple days, we even passed each other on bikes and my wave was returned with a little mini-wave. Progress!
“Even if you do want to feel angry toward another, it’s the person’s deluded mind you should be upset with, not their physical body. Their mind is uncontrolled; they have no choice. When they attack you, they’re being driven by uncontrolled attachment or anger; thats what you should be angry at.”
Politicians and shitty news folk are def the hardest for me here. How can we send someone who is destroying people love? I guess they just want to be happy too and happen to have a convoluted way of doing it. The issue being their “uncontrolled mind.” They’re way out of touch and, unfortunately, create real consequences because of it. So get them the fuck out of office, and then get them in therapy.
Think of bro that hosts that InfoWars show (sorry). John Oliver shared this clip of him claiming he would eat his neighbors if need be. Obviously this is total BS, completely an act. He is just confused, dangerous, and stuck in a cycle of his happiness tied into him saying horrible shit. Sounds terrible to me, and that (I’m gonna say), brings out a bit of… compassion for him? (🤢 vs 🧘🏻♂️ )
Compassion for my old boss, for wack politicians or influencers, for all “enemies” 100% better serves me to rep for me, and that always ripples out to my crew and community. It makes us happier and healthier, and I’m proud they don’t get to take that away from us.
“Check up: visualize all universal living beings around you and realize that equally, just like you, they all want happiness and don’t want unhappiness. Therefore, there’s no reason to make the pychological distinction between friend and enemy, wanting to help the friend with extreme attachment, and wanting to give up on the bothersome, conflict-generating enemy with extreme dislike.”
5 different times the other day, I noticed friends and I challenged by doing what we know is right in our hearts and resorting to zombie apologies. These hollow offerings usually come from a place of kindness, but how kind are we being to ourselves while apologizing for the way we live?
Happy to say I also witnessed the opposite, where confidently leading by example squashes any need to feel even artificially bad about it.
Crew is realizing they don’t need to apologize for owning a home. A simple space to work and live. A sanctuary to recharge and do the dope stuff they love to do. They are so compassionate and giving it’s been challenging to get to this point, to realize this space is deserved and OK. To recognize this space as how they’ll be able to keep being their best self for the work they do in the community.
Friends who they would usually spend weekends helping with projects and don’t have time for right now offer hype and support when they hear the news. They want to reciprocate the years and years of selfless love.
Crew doesn’t need to apologize for laying low and being off the radar for a bit. For staying mostly of social media. For concentrating on their mental health. It’s a pandemic, they bought a house this year after years of searching, and are finishing learning a skill they love in school. These are choices to be proud of, and it’s OK to openly own them. They are different choices than being more visible but one isn’t better than the other.
A phone call talking with crew about unconsciously dropping apologies in emails. Catching ourselves replying with a “Sorry for the delay” when an email is 5 hours old. Working against wack norms and expectations like believing our response must be late and we should be sorry for that. Our time is no less valuable than the person on the other end of the email. Instead, we can offer a thoughtful, confident reply even days later, leading by example and being part of the movement to remove this expectation.
I’ve been trying to turn zombie apologies into gratitude.
A good bud invites me on bike rides, camping trips, park hangs, and hikes. I rarely go. Right now I’m focussed on my art, house, fam, and repping for laying low during COVID — especially having experienced the reality of COVID in our house. I’m also trying to make sure these aren’t excuses, but trusting them as heartfelt decisions I can own fully.
He doesn’t get on my case for laying low and I’m always grateful for the invites. I wanted to acknowledge him without apologizing so I sent this text. It was one of those texts that had been on the brain for a while and it felt good to finally send. Like most things that get overly built up in our heads, sending it felt great and their response was full of love and hype.
How to kill a zombie apology.
My wife confidently lives by example. She didn’t apologize for recognizing in me a pattern of speech having an impact I didn’t intend. She thoughtfully and plainly let me know. It wasn’t easy to hear. I’m feeling grateful to be in a relationship where this type of honest growth is expected and encouraged. Part of that is being OK with sitting with it in the fire. Unapologetically learning.
Where can we get in front of our zombie apologies and catch ourselves before falling into unconsciously offering one up?
Where do we unintentionally cater to a culture of unwarranted apologizing?
We can skip being sorry for leaning into the explicit, experience-based choices we make to be us. It might be awkward for a half-second when we don’t go the regular route, but we might inspire the person on the other end to think about doing the same, and we’ll definitely feel better not questioning who we are.
The other day I woke up to a surprise text from a friend that sent my mind going all sorts of ways.
I usually try not to look at my phone before being awake for at least a couple of hours. Too many times I go for a quick check and get pulled into work or news my brain def didn’t need to see yet. I use a cheap trippy-light alarm clock and get up hours before needing to start work, so my phone can stay hidden away charging until I’m open for biz.
But this day I wanted to check the weather to see if it was a good morning to make a fire.
The text was my friend asking if he could hire me as a hype/job coach. They wanted help building a resume, recognizing strengths, and talking through next steps re: power moves.
I love doing all this stuff for friends so the answer is abso yes! But I sat with it. I took it with me to my Morning Pages, then to a quick 15-min sit, and then to my morning 1-hour of writing.
It got me thinking about being open to our paths, to the signals that pop up on it, to paying attention. I started writing and realized I was basically writing an update to this post from January 5th, 2020.
In that post, alongside some siiick Gravediggaz art I made inserting myself and LUG on their 6 Feet Deep album cover, I shared a couple of quotes about paying attention, and what was coming up for me in life that felt important to pay attention to at the time.
Follow your heart and pay attention.
My Buddha-Mom Susan
Looking at what’s happening in this moment as a window to see our path, and recognizing the truth in our heart. This type of clarity comes and goes, so when we feel it it’s important to trust fully and maybe even write it down somewhere.
So often things feel more abstract and the inner-hater/voice of doubt creeps in letting you know you should probably just stay the same forever. Here we can go back to that time when we saw the truth.
Maybe writing a list will help? Here’s my list of things I’m currently paying attention to.
My dog LUG (currently asleep in front of the fire)
The coolest, the smoothest, the rapper with the most effortless vibe left us a few days ago. Double K from People Under The Stairs (PUTS).
Probably my most rapped-along-with MC of all time. I legit wanted to be this man in so many ways. He could rap like an old school vet and step back to crush the turntables, all while having the most fun. He’s a hero. He took me back to wanting to be MJ as a kid playing basketball — but did it as an adult.
Taught me to speak in techniques and never critique A DJ with no rhythm just pull the plug and be out Get some records from that fool that’s what I’m talking about
He taught us endlessly about having fun, rapping and DJing with love, and not worrying about labels, identities, or beef. He and Thes One showed us what a brotherhood in a rap group looks like — pretty uncommon as time goes in hip-hop. They were the soundtrack for an unforgettable era of our crew. When fun completely ruled.
Now Double K is teaching us about living, from how he stayed in the moment to his leaving us to rep for him to the future.
Party people live long because it’s just begun Gather in the space place just to have some fun
I first heard these lines on a forklift in SE MPLS. I worked in a warehouse full of pool chemicals we shipped to Walmarts around the country. My boss rigged a small portable radio to turn on automatically when you drove the forklift and I had the dial on 770am Radio K.
I remember so clearly near the end of a shift on a Friday afternoon, jamming Hang Loose while loading up the last trucks of the day. The song made the whole situation feel ok (pretty big props when you’re talking about breathing in chemicals for Walmart!)
Hang Loose became one of my favs for the next many years and still is. It spoke to, and speaks to, the person inside me that just wants to have a blast. It’s not a typical rap beat and both Double K and Thes One go in unapologetically like old school rap heroes. Plays well to somebody who grew up staying up late to watch YO!
In an era where a lot of underground rap sounded dark, PUTS came with the brightness of FUN. Thinking of other well-known underground rap in the late 90’s-early 2000s like Atmosphere in MPLS, Project Blowed in LA, and Def Jux, and more Premiere-esc stuff on the East Coast. The difference is stark. Not to take anything away from all these artists— more a shout-out to the P for owning their style fully.
PUTS also speak on racism, poverty, addiction, drug dealing, street life— but with a poignant discretion. When they do, you hear it. And one of my favorite things about hip-hop is it’s ALL political. You don’t need to be overt to express these vibes. Hip-Hop IS resistance at its core. From Biz Markie to Immortal Technique. Whether you’re rapping about hanging with crew or impeaching the prez. It’s valid and necessary.
I’m never hamster using I’m crossfader cruising Slip mats and hard liquors be the tools that I’m using
As a DJ, Double K taught me to just go without ego or identity. I still love the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and the whole turntablist movement — such amazing weirdos! What Double K did was make it OK to walk up to the tables and just start cutting.
He helped me get away from perfection and needing to master a certain scratch, and I remember a couple of times weirding out other DJs with this motivation to rock. Without it, I would have been afraid to cut given my crab wasn’t perfect on the 4 yet and I never learned to rock hamster. I always imagined Double K would shrug that off, put a record on, and cut.
All good things must come to an end.
My wife Abigail said something like when a hero like Double K leaves us, it makes them human.
He was always so larger than life to me, even when seeing him at a show or in-store. He still is and forever will be. But he’s also human. He’s a symbol of what humans are capable of. He taught us that life is short and to enjoy the f out of it.
Double K left us at 43. What are we doing y’all??
Are we living and loving every minute or at least putting the intention there and enjoying what we get? I’m making this another reason to rep for myself and the crew like it’s the only choice I’ve got.
Peace to the real crews defacing walls on backstreets In the city of set, porch, halls, and swap meets
So much love to Thes One, all of Double K’s fam, and all the super fans like me. Let’s go right the f ahead and rep his vibe moving forward. Always and still. For the fun and for the real. Rest in hype Double K <3 LA
PS: Highly recommend reading Thes One’s recent Instagram posts for some deep insights into Double K including some mind blowers for me like how much he loved nature, water, and sunsets. <3
Had 4 ridiculously inspiring and surprising-in-the-best-way messages over email and Discord from crew focussing on health, crushing creative moves, building community, and being inspired by books like Gucci Mane’s autobiography (haven’t read, will peep!)
These legit fueled me all day gang. THANK YOU!
Top this off with some other shit I abso love:
Friend lets you know they bought the book they asked you about
Friend receives the book you mailed them
Friends flood crew chat with new tunes to hear
I sat there blown away at the end of the day. So happy. Without thinking I started DJing and had a blast playing some PUTS and DOOM tracks – settling on bumping the first PUTS record The Next Step for dinner while nook-dancing and reading a bit more about the group.
So grateful to be down with friends that reach out like this. I hope they know it—and I hope this re-reminds you what it feels like to be on the receiving end (aka please share your greatness!)
Thanks for inspiring me to stay on the hype path. Know everything y’all do ripples out. It challenges us all to honor whats possible in ourselves.