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Imagine if the thing that could calm you in the middle of Armageddon was the same thing that could stress you out on a Sunday morning when you’re wrapped up in blankets with your dog next to your bed and nothing to do all day; if the thing that pushed you forward when life’s hurricane was coming right at you was the same thing that pulled you back when you were one step away from untroubledville. You might have this type of dysfunctional relationship with a drug or a woman, I have recently developed it with Music.

The process of making an album is one of my favorite things in the world but as I expect more from my music the whole thing becomes increasingly more complicated. In order to improve the quality of my sound I have reached out to the people I’m closest to and respect the most. In turn I have partially lost control of the thing that controls me. While I know this is essential to my growth as an artist it is still hard to come to terms with.

Where is Smoothie? Didn’t you have an album release party for it six months ago? Is this going to turn into Detox?

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about quitting. Every night when I’m in that self-searching place between comparing the darkness of the room to the darkness of my closed eyes I think about this album. I think about what is missing, how I’m going to promote it, how I’m going to make the money I spent on it back, and if it will live up to what it is in my mind. I think about how I can motivate the people I’m depending on to finish it. I wish I had enough money to make my project their priority. I hate bugging people who are doing me favors.

I also think about the stories behind the songs. I think about how fun each one was to make and how talented each person that contributed is. I envision people listening to it in their car while they drive to work on a cold day and in their earphones as they breakthrough clouds flying to whatever place waits for them. I think about my friends calling and writing to tell me how much they enjoy it and strangers shaking my hand after a show. I love hip hop so much.

I just spent over a year in Colombia making music for a living and a month after getting back to the states have already been asked to do the same in Rwanda. I could create music and see the world… it’s what I always wanted. At the same time I can’t help but feel like I’m giving up by abandoning the almighty quest to become famous. Is this where my yellow brick road has been heading all along? Thoughts bounce across the walls of my mind until I finally drift into the sleep I have been patiently waiting for.

Love it or hate it, the reality is I’m addicted to it. So you can go back to living your life and I’ll return to being pinky and the brain for however many nights it takes to finish this. Once the album comes out I’ll live carefree for a few months and then I’ll start the whole thing over again. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? It absolutely is

but God I love it.

Most people tried to sprint there I took the scenic, and learned the man who knows he knows nothing is the genius.

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The Tradition Of Christmas

Lights shine through the darkness like stars, leading up a tree that once was believed to be sacred because it could live through the winter, to one larger star at the top. A family that usually watches TV every night now sits around this tree, in a room they rarely go into, reminiscing while flipping through old pictures. The radio sings Christmas songs and even though we can’t stand the cheesy monologs from the radio host Delilah, we listen and make fun of her… every year. The world doesn’t reach past our living room tonight. This is what we do, there is nothing to question, yet this year I find myself picking this tranquility apart.

Where did these traditions come from, what do they symbolize, and why do I find myself so attached to them? Do traditions become such because they have meaning or do we assign the meaning to them?

Tradition: the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation

I have found various stories about the origins of the holiday traditions we follow. The most commonly accepted documentation puts the birth of the Christmas tree in Germany around the 15th century. People would put apples on trees to represent the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden and wafers to represent the body of Christ. Later candles were used to decorate trees to represent the spirit of Christ. The type of evergreen used was selected because of its shape; the triangle was viewed as a representation of the trinity. An evergreen, being a tree that can live through the winter, also represented life. One can see the connection between the selection of this tree and the meaning of the holiday.

I think the simple answer to why the traditions of Christmas are so important to ME is that they all involve the gathering of family. To dig deeper, I think it involves the desire to make my parents happy. As the holiday approaches the excitement from them can fill a room. They want to see us hang ornaments on the tree, stockings from the fireplace, and wake up with an eagerness to see what’s under the tree. It could be because their families instilled the importance of carrying on these traditions, but I think it has more to do with our family staying the same; A way to freeze time in a world that spins too fast too often. The dynamic of our family has changed over the years. Family vacations now involve planning around four people’s schedules instead of two. Doing the things that came natural when we were younger now involve a great deal of planning and sacrifice, however, we all know that when Christmas comes we will be together and happy.

As the years go on and we start our own families we will most likely not be able to spend every holiday together. The desire to make my parents happy will be replaced by the desire to make my children happy. The tradition of being together, no matter how it is executed, will be carried on.




Charles Elmore Myers- Chapter 1

Charles Elmore Myers, my grandfather, is a natural storyteller. He is the type of person that will make friends with anyone, and given enough time, share his life story with great detail. So I decided to point a camera at him and give you the opportunity to virtually share a room with one of the most prominent male figures in my life. In this first chapter he describes being born and growing up on a farm in the depression with five siblings and a father who fell victim to the misfortune of dire times.

“We were dirt poor people but my father had a good profession, it’s just that things weren’t working out for him right away.”


As Christmas approaches and we go out to buy gifts for the ones we love, he describes how his family came together to make the holiday possible.

“It might have been when I was 4 or 5… my brothers went out through garbage cans scavenging for broken toys and things like that. They came back, painted them, repaired them and whatnot, and that’s where Christmas came from for sis and I… our older brothers got it out of garbage cans, and that wasn’t too uncommon.”

The next chapter will start with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the impact it had on the family.



Old Soul

I hope people play my new album, when we finally put it out, like I have been playing L’Orange’s new project Old Soul. Every song on this instrumental tape samples Billie Holiday, one of LO’s biggest influences. The more I get to know him the more I see that influence.

“I hate straight singing. I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That’s all I know.” -Billie Holiday

LO is different. He has a lane of his own, a style of his own, and a control over his craft that is rare. He and I talked frequently on skype while I was in Barranquilla, sharing music and bouncing ideas off each other. I didn’t understand every beat he sent me, or every reference he made, but that’s why I enjoy talking to him and listening to his music. He is constantly challenging me.

“No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music.” -Billie Holiday

Like it because it’s great, respect it because it’s unique, download it because your ears deserve something new… plus it’s free and today is his birthday! Download Old Soul here–>



The Transition

Life is different now. It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different. Things here in Chapel Hill are comfortable. My neighborhood is quiet, my bed is soft, and my friends still have the same numbers. My cat still can’t hear and my car still makes noises it shouldn’t. Nothing changed, and yet everything has.

The things that took months to adjust to when I first moved to Colombia are now strange to live without. The farmers riding past my window early every morning sitting on a cart pulled by a donkey and yelling avocado have been replaced by deer tiptoeing through my wooded backyard. The faint sound of the neighborhood watchman’s whistle as he patrolled the streets with his old dog every night has been replaced by ESPN highlights I already saw twice that day. Not better or worse, just different.    

I hope I don’t get any more used to packing up and leaving things behind as I already am. I have done it three times now in my adult life. I seem to get so wrapped up in the things I am doing at the moment I rarely miss something to the point it gets me sad. Writing can be dangerous because it makes that impossible, which is why I have avoided doing this until now.

Having said that, I am cherishing the time I am spending with my family right now. My mom, dad, brother and I are going to the gym, playing tennis, and going out to dinner together multiple times a week. I think our relationship is rare and extraordinary. I’m sure I will look back at this transitional phase of my life with a smile.

“Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten… making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful.” –Plato

My plan is to go back to graduate school and build off my experience of making music for educational purposes. I’m sitting here at a coffee shop across from my old elementary school with a stack of GRE vocabulary flash cards realizing… it’s okay that I didn’t master Spanish in the last year; I still got a lot of English to learn!  

I moved to another country, to a city where I knew no one, and built a life that was as rewarding as it was fun. Then, as fast as everything seemed to happen, I was gone. I hope my friends know that I will never lose contact with them, and I will come back to visit as often as I can. To all my musician friends, know that I didn’t bug you about making music all the time for personal gain. Pictures capture memories, songs do much more. A chapter written, a new chapter to write… characters that will live on forever.




Cherry Pop: International Soccer Game

This week I had the chance to see my first two international soccer games- Colombia vs. Venezuela & Colombia vs. Argentina. The stadium was a sea of yellow jerseys, honking horns, and people eager to see their team take down two of their most disliked rivals. The crowd got pretty routy… beers were only 3 mil (1.50 USD)!


For the first game against Venezuela I sat up in the higher level by myself. I quickly made friends with the old, drunk guys sitting beside me. While I feel like my spanish has improved to a point I can understand and communicate fairly well, these guys humbled me. They would say a bunch of stuff in an unhappy tone, look at me and say “SI O QUE?!” Whenever I heard that I would throw my arms up and say “SI!” That got me through the game without anyone knowing I had no idea what they were saying. We went into halftime up 1-0, but gave away a goal in the second half to tie… a loss to the people in Colombia, and along with the rain enough reason to cancel the cumbia festival later that night.

I had second row seats for the second game against Argentina, giving me a great opportunity to see just how short Messi is. I was sitting right next to the team mascots, reporters, and a youth soccer team fully dressed and ready to get called in to the game. We once again went into half time up 1-0, and then let the lead slip away and ended up losing 1-2. Messi looked like he was giving 50% throughout the game, but still had a number of fancy foot moves, assists, and almost scored on a one on one break away with the keeper. After the game a reporter from Fox Sports came up to the Sarmiento brothers and I and interviewed us. I didn’t say anything but I was behind the mascot cheesing and chanting Co-lom-bia, Co-lom-bia!


If you ever find yourself at a Colombian soccer game there are three expressions that you will need to know: errrrrdddaaaa, nojoddaaaaa, and hijueputa. Use them carefully!



Un Año En Barranquilla

A year ago today a non-Spanish speaking gringo stepped out of the Barranquilla airport for the first time. He fought his way through a crowd of people looking for someone holding a sign with his name on it, but he saw no one. That young scraper walked right passed the three young women waiting to pick him up and got into a cab. He handed the cab driver a business card he was given before leaving that had the directions to his hotel on the back. “Por favor, aqui,” he said.

He stared out the window in amazement as the cab drove through some of the poorest and most dangerous areas to get to the center of the city. This was after all his first time in another country, not including a trip to Canada with the North Carolina Boys Choir and the time he stepped over the Rio Grande into Mexico with his grandfather and brother for a few seconds just to say they were there. After a thirty minute drive the cab stopped in front of what appeared to be a bar not yet open, it was only 9 am. “Estamos aqui compadre,” the driver said. The young gringo looked out the window in confusion. Could this really be the place he was supposed to sleep? There were beer bottles all over the patio and a large group of people sitting outside on the stoop.

“Amgio, ¿este es un hotel?” the gringo said.

“No, esta es La Troja! Un lugar para bailar salsa,” he replied while mimicking the dance. The cab driver then held up the La Troja business card and showed the confused passenger. The gringo took the card, turned it around, and pointed to the written directions on the back.

When they finally arrived at the hotel there was a man that looked like a cartoon character waiting outside. The gringo had been given descriptions of the people he would be working with and knew for sure this had to be the project manager, Gustavo. He didn’t take two steps out of the car until the man approached him.

“Are you Mike?” he asked.

“Yes, are you Gustavo?” the gringo replied.

“Where were you at the airport? There were three girls from the university waiting for you. You are late, we need to hurry up and get to the studio. Give your bags to the door man and let’s go,” he said in not quite fluent English.

The gringo was surprised to arrive at a house; he had imagined the studio being in some building or on the university campus. Instead it was tucked behind this cozy house, with tall walls surrounding it and a full family living inside. It was small but fully equipped.  The gringo walked into the room and felt the eyes of a small crowd looking him over. They had been waiting a week for this man to walk through the door, most of them picturing an overweight, older gringo stomping into the room eating a corndog. They were taken back by how young and handsome he was… jaja

The gringo was immediately put on the spot. He was asked to sing; to record the voice of Mike, one of the main characters on the radio show they would be creating; and in an unexpected turn of events asked to be the voice of Lola, the female parrot in the show. The first few hours of recording were shaky. The gringo was nervous and the people in the studio expected great things from him, after all he did come all the way from Washington, D.C. because he was an expert. Right? It took a few days for everyone to get comfortable working together, but once they did they made magic.

Today the gringo and his friends/colleges are one week away from finishing that radio project. In all, they have made three years worth of material for primary schools to use. The gringo has done and learned many things since that day he stumbled around the city for the first time. While he is sad he will have to leave this amazing country in less than a month, the thought that the songs he has created will be played in schools every week for years to come makes him happy. It is as if he never will leave…



Runway Rap

Q: Why am I on a runway with a bunch of Colombian models?

A: Rap!


When Larry and I first started this rap thing we were just interested to see what we could create. We were both very into hip hop, Motown, and any music that had substance (musically or lyrically). We would put together mixes of all types of music, from Bone Thugs to The Eagles. They were called chill mixes. At the time all I wanted to do was make a song good enough for a Chill Mix. Innocence!

Finding the software to create music ourselves was like being invited to play in a game you’ve watched for years but never lased up for. Once we started making songs we thought were good, we ran with the idea of living the dream. Every person in the crew had a role: beat maker, rapper, manager, all the way to bus driver. It was in our minds, as all things are, very much in reach.

Years later I’m rapping on a runway in Colombia, playing frogger with models walking passsed me in both directions. A few stop to dance with me, and as I look up at them like a puppy does someone holding a piece of steak I realize… I’ve made the Chill Mix.

If I never get signed and get to live like a rock star, cool, I still got to rap on a runway with a bunch of Colombian models. As long as stuff like that keeps happening I will continue to live by my motto, follow the music, and refuse to see my career as a rapper as anything but successful.




Before I came to Colombia my only knowledge of Medellin came from stories of Pablo Escobar, really just what I saw in Entourage. I’m happy to say that I have broadened my horizons.

Medellin lies in a valley completely surrounded by mountains that reach high enough to break through the lowest layer of clouds. I was able to make it to the top of one of the mountains early enough to see the sun rise, reach over the summit, and shine down on the city in a progressing line. It was like watching God pull the curtains open on a new day.

The majority of the houses are built on the sides of these mountains. I was told it was too dangerous to venture into these areas, but I was able to take a cable lift over them and get a good look at the living conditions: identical red brick houses for as far as the eye could see, many of which built on top of rock foundations that looked ready to slide with the next rainfall. I saw neighborhoods where kids played soccer on roads that were as steep as they were narrow, a hard way to learn not to miss the goal. The higher you go up the worse the conditions become, until you reach the top where three large, beautiful black buildings look over the city- their library. We rode the lift over the houses, past the summit, and another mile or so over a forest until we reached a park. It was advertised as a place to enjoy over 60 extreme sports. Unfortunately, it started raining as soon as we strapped on our helmets and we were unable to have our adventure.

Within the city you can find parks filled with famous sculptures and water spouts where families gather. The night life is amazing with a number of downtown areas filled with bars and restaurants. I was told before I came that the women of Medellin are notoriously gorgeous. This was accurate information, however, as in any big city for every attractive woman there are a handful of people walking faster than I run while simultaneously conducting an imaginary orchestra, or some type of crackheadish activity.

Even though it rained for part of every day we were there I would still say the weather is much nicer than Barranquilla’s. It feels like early fall there, hot when the suns out and a little chilly when it’s gone. If you get the chance to go you should check out a club called Mango’s, all types of crazy stuff went down there.




Listen To The Beat, Write The Story

I have a problem. I love to listen to music but I find it hard to concentrate on anything else but the music when it’s playing. This used to make it impossible for me to study and listen to music at the same time, now it makes it hard to grade papers and listen. I look at songs like mini-movies, where the beat is the setting and the artist tells the story. If done right it requires my full attention. Sometimes I like my music to give me the setting but let me decide the story, pick the characters, and figure out how they make it through the 3 minute journey. This is why I love hip hop instrumental projects. Two producers that I met in Wilmington, NC, have recently put out instrumental tapes that do this extremely well:

1. Kon Sci (of Mindsone): Pizza And a Movie

[bandcamp album=706761593  bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Yesterday I had a chance to play “Pizza And a Movie” from title to credits. The idea and how it is executed is really dope! He uses clips from movies such as Shawshank, The Big Lebowski, and The Shining, to give you just enough to picture where you are. Then he steps back and sets you free inside boom bap beats that are soulful and smooth. Even the beats themselves have an airy feel, filled with pockets that allow your mind to settle into the rhythm and give you more room for exploration within the sounds. I hope he prints some vinyls of this, I want it on my record player when I come home.

1. L’Orange: The Manipulation EP

[bandcamp album=1907519873  bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

This project is more experimental with the samples it picks. It also uses more vocal samples within the beats, which L’O does so well at times you forget you are listening to an instrumental project. The beats have a 40’s gangster feel (to me at least). They are often dark and seem to make perfect progressions out of imperfect notes. I picture life through the eyes of someone less fortunate when I listen to this album; stories of pain and hardship are often the hardest to digest yet most intriguing. The Manipulation sets the setting for this while still giving you the room to create your own world within the boundaries.

If you are feigning for more check out Damu The Fudgemonk’s tape “How It Should Sound”