Treating my first like my last.

Music and writing have been an integral part of my life for as far back as I can remember.  One of my earliest memories is riding around with my father and making regular stops at a local bar called Allison’s.  My dad would take me there to handle business transactions and to socialize.  I found great merriment in dancing to whatever played on the jukebox for pork rinds and what I call “pocket candy”.  In hindsight, it is socially unacceptable for a child to be hanging out in bars but I had the time of my life in that space.  Plus, my father wasn’t known to follow rules or abide by social norms.

My dad played a huge part in my love of music.  He was an avid listener of classic funk groups like The S.O.S. Band, Tower of Power, and Con-Funk-Shun.  My father also loved r&b/soul music and could be heard playing some combination of these genres a mile away in the warmer months.  He was the first person to introduce me to music and for that I am eternally grateful.

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A few cassettes that survived.

My interest in writing didn’t peak until later in life. (Although, I did win first place in a poetry contest in elementary school).  Reading was as is important to me as music but the act of writing didn’t move me until middle school.  By eighth grade I was transcribing song lyrics from tapes that I had recorded from the radio and getting suspended for Eminem inspired raps that my teacher found during class.  In high school, I wrote my first album review for Chamillionaire’s The Sound of Revenge.

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I still want to know who’s responsible for the misspelling of my name.

 I obsessed over that album review, fretted over every sentence and was extremely gratified when it was published in my school’s newspaper.  There was something special about seeing my name in print and knowing that I could share my thoughts with a large audience. That was the first time I had considered writing about music as something I enjoyed.

Around this time, I also started to use writing as a form of self-help.  I was a wayward teen who had problems coping with my emotions and expressing myself constructively.  When I felt like no one understood me I could always count on music and writing for consolation.  To date I haven’t found anything that makes me feel as emboldened as hearing a great song the first time or seeing an artist perform.

I have been sleeping on how much of an importance music has played in my life and even though I never left the music I did abandon writing.  Over the past few months I have been feeling suppressed by the monotony of working my 9-5 for a paycheck instead of pursuing my passion.  So here I am harvesting that same feeling I use to get reciting my transcribed raps from spiral notebooks in my bedroom and sharing the same feeling I get when I see artists perform live.

It’s my life, it’s my pain and my struggle
The songs that I sing to you is my everything
Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first
And my thirst is the same as when I came
It’s my joy and my tears
And the laughter it brings to me, it’s my everything
Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first
And my thirst like the first song I sang

-Jay-Z (excerpt from “My 1st song” )

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R.I.P. to my father Steven E. Smallwood 9/24/1955 – 3/31/17
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