4 recommended reads from my 2021 reading list

The ever-growing collection: if you can’t see the title I haven’t read it yet. With only one left, I’m gonna need some more books soon.

If you happened to read my last post (shame on you if you have not), you’ll remember me referencing reading quite a bit. This cannibalizes my writing time, but to hone your craft of combining words, reading is the tried and true practice. Read all sorts of different books. Read all sorts of writing styles. Fiction. Non-fiction. First person. Third person. You get the idea. 

I like to think I might have some books on the shelf that those who read this blog might enjoy. Some recommendations from friends. Some I found on my own. All sorts of literature crammed together spine to spine. I decided to tee up a couple books you might want to consider opening: 

RAW by LAMONT HAWKINS

(https://www.amazon.com/Raw-My-Journey-into-Wu-Tang/dp/1250191173/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=raw+lamont&qid=1628609529&sr=8-1)

For my rap fans and biography junkies. This tells the tale of Lamont “U God” Hawkins, a kid growing up in Staten Island that would help create one of the most famous rap groups in history: the Wu Tang Clan. It’s just one of those books once you pick it up it is hard to put down. Also, you might feel a little extra fortunate about your upbringing-not having to deal with some of the same struggles Lamont dealt with.

(ALSO READ: LENNY KRAVITZ LET LOVE RULE– A similar tale of a star’s rise to success.)

THE ART OF RESILIENCE by ROSS EDGLEY

(https://www.amazon.com/Art-Resilience-Strategies-Unbreakable-Mind/dp/0008356939/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=ross+edgley&qid=1628609711&sr=8-2)

I picked this book up after hearing Ross talk on a podcast during one of my workdays. Here’s the skinny- the guy swam around Great Britain. You can only imagine the amount of problems one can run into while swimming 1780 miles at sea. A great story about never giving up and doing the unthinkable.

(ALSO READ: DAVID GOGGINS CAN’T HURT ME– Another strong minded individual [and much more known than Edgley].)

EGO IS THE ENEMY by RYAN HOLIDAY

(https://www.amazon.com/Ego-Enemy-Ryan-Holiday/dp/1591847818/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=ego+is+the+enemy&qid=1628609782&sr=8-1)

Everyone’s head inflates a little at some point in their life. Ryan explains the many benefits of putting hard-headedness to the side and embracing the underdog role. There’s a big difference between ego and confidence-and this book helps draw the line. 

(ALSO READ: RYAN HOLIDAY THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY– Kinda the sequel to ego is the enemy, it again hones in on perspective and the best way to embrace challenges.)

7 SPIRITUAL LAWS by DEEPAK CHOPRA

(https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Spiritual-Laws-Success-Fulfillment/dp/1878424114/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=7+spiritual+laws+deepak&qid=1628609841&sr=8-3)

One of my favorite books on my bookshelf. A quick, easy read that you can tailor to whatever situation in life you may find yourself. Read it quickly-read it often.

(ALSO READ: DEEPAK CHOPRA 7 SPIRITUAL LAWS AGAIN- It’s one of those books worth revisiting after a little time has gone by.)

MY NEW FRIEND LARRY

So I might have a new favorite rapper. If this was a youtube video, the title would for sure be clickbait. I don’t think I’ll ever have a favorite rapper other than A$AP Rocky. But I do constantly have a rotation of new and old acts alike flowing through the airwaves. Sometimes I might listen to a ton of more artists than Rocky, but I just know he has lasted the test of time and always will be. But finding a new sound that you really mesh with is something special.

I have a pretty funny music group DM that fires on all cylinders just about everyday (I am apart of the problem). There is constantly someone dropping something in there that almost everyone scopes and has an opinion on. I can definitely say I’ve been put on to a slew of good music from the people in the chat. Anyway, if someone really is giving someone high praise and is ten toes down with an artist, I feel obliged to give it a go. I had someone who definitely meshes with most of the sounds I like (shoutout Tom) mention a guy by the name “Larry June.” He was claiming Larry was his best friend.

I was so confused, but had a little drive queued up so I took a playlist he made me and let it rip front to back. If I really am interested, it’s not hard to lock in and listen. And I usually give it a solid go if I am going to bother. I was about to listen to the whole 40 song playlist, no skips. By the time I was 5 songs in I was on it. This dude was sliding over the crispiest beats. I was so floored. This was going to be easy and enjoyable. As time went on, I figured out details that made sense why his sounds appealed to me so much and needed to call Tom to profess my love for Mr. June. 

There are two aspects of his music that REALLY make me ride with Larry June. And this is the first one: lyrical content. The things Larry raps about are things both so similar yet so distant to me that it is almost comical. Definitely a street dude that is rapping about cars, watches, money, and so on, there is a whole other side to his lyrics. Larry is pretty much a health coach to some extent. Adlibs like “Good Job Larry” or You’re Doing Great” are positive affirmations he is telling himself, something no rapper would be so vulnerable about. You also can gas yourself up off them as well. To double down, he raps about more literal health. Green juices, all organic, and smoothies often grace his beats. Going back to him rapping about money, Larry completes the wellness triangle with the third health: finances. Larry raps about how important having a good credit score is. He raps about owning property and business. He raps about worrying about making money rather than spending it frivolously. Larry is your health coach with some twang. He tells it to you in a language we understand and digest so easily: music. 

The second aspect are his beat selections. Larry has roots from both ATL and SF, two hip-hop areas of dominance. That’s the mix of beats and delivery that sounds so good paired with his bars. The producers he works with are some of my favorites. To sidestep, I grew up on Wiz Khalifa, so around the second listen of Larry I looked at the credits and it made sense. Cardo, Sledgren, and Harry Fraud. It’s been a while since I heard wiz on a beat by some of them, and I think it’s because Larry has been swooping them up. The songs sound so good in the car, as I am sure Larry made this a point as he loves cruising around. The beats also lend heavily to his features. It’s not uncommon to find fellow west coaster Dom Kennedy or equally-as-chill Curren$y on the track. 

Speaking of chill, the way Larry lays the bars over the beat is so chilled out and easy to listen to. Never is Larry rushing through the bars or losing the pocket of the beat. It sounds almost too easy to him. He really lets the beat breath. I think a way he can pull this off also are his array of awesome adlibs. After a couple songs you get the ad libs stuck in your head, and in the funny delivery in which Larry sends them to you. Larry loves to eat good. Larry loves mojitos. Larry loves to take girls to Benihannas. Larry loves Tito’s Vodka. And I love Larry. After listening to him for the whole forty songs, I knew exactly what Tom was talking about. Larry is also one of my best friends now. I think our friendship is meant to last. 

Use this time wisely

As I penned the opening bit to my last piece, I was dwelling on the fact that 2020 was the start of a new decade and one that was often romanticized about as “the future”. I lightly touched upon “…a virus spreading…” just as a casual reference to something that has clearly blown up since I originally mentioned it. Never would I think the next couple days would play out the way they have. With the cancellation of all and any events and asking people to gather in groups no larger than 10, it seems like a quarantined world is looming eerily upon us and for our own good there isn’t much we can do about it. With how rapidly this virus has spread and the media hyping it up more and more, it seems like following the “social distancing” protocol isn’t a terrible idea. Many things will take hits while others might be able to blossom. I think the outlook we need to have on this situation is one of untapped potential rather than forced confinement. Some of the things that might take a toll: social life, sanity lost due to being confined to your house for both work and leisure, and much, much, more. While many will view this confinement as extremely negative (in reality, it is, as no one should shield themselves from the outside world and not engage in social norms [also, the situation with the actual virus is extremely negative]). But let’s shine light on some of the positives we can establish from this. This is a great time to work on yourself. Whether that is expanding your taste in certain areas, gaining more knowledge (from any outlet you may find), picking up things you don’t do nearly as often or have never done before, or just critical thinking about your past, present, or future. Now is a great time for reflection. Try not to dwell on the negative too much. Keep it positive and inspirational, rather than dismal and down. Also try not to be down thinking about the things you could be doing if you were not on quarantine. There is no way around it, and disregarding what is seen as best policy puts you and also others at an extreme risk. And you should be thinking about others more than yourself. Most of the people reading this are not the ones worrying. As age grows, so does concern and wariness. While improving on yourself, you should stimulate your mind and social skills while reaching out to people you might not speak to as much. Your social circle is going to be small and repetitive for quite some time, so reaching out to friendly faces far and wide will help cope with the stress and current state of affairs. Talk more with your roommates. Learn more about the people you care about. With technology, we have communication at our fingertips. Use it (just not in over abundance, and if you need tips on how to reduce screen time, check this out [TLDR: read, write, practice something analog, exercise])! Although we will be inside a lot more than typical, get outside. Sit on a deck (if you have one), go for a morning or sunset walk, surf (which cannot be stopped, and I am pretty stoked to just surf a shit ton while on quarantine), or even just sitting outdoors and in the sun will feel a lot better than inside walls. Take this post as just tips and tricks to stay sane in this wild and erratic time. People will spin it many ways, some truthful and others far from it. Thinking in a positive and rational mindset will give you the most success and clarity. It is a strange time in all of our lives, young and old. But it will all work out. It always does.

A Great Way To Spend A Sunday: Feasting

Image result for mother india costa mesa

The end of the weekend was upon us. The impending Monday was looming it’s ugly head over the group of us. It was Sunday, and the sun had set. Some had worked. Some had surfed. Some were feeling great. Most were in rough shape. As we all sat in a semi-circle on a vintage couch, it was only destiny that all of us share one last supper with each other before the first full work week of 2020 slapped us in the face. After this pow wow we would split, and potentially not reconvene until the Friday that was miles away.  I already had an idea as to which meal was coming down the pipeline. All of us in need of something that is truly a treat for our taste buds. It was a meal my roommate and I typically used as a crutch to seal off the weekend in a delicious and flavorful way. It was off the beaten path, and required a short trip in a vehicle to get to. But the fruits of the labor would be worth it. 

As we crowded around the coffee table and mapped our orders, I knew calling it in would be a real treat for the lucky friend that would pick up the phone and dial. With all sorts of unorthodox names coupled with the person on the other line may not hear you clearly, sometimes it could be a challenge. We would dread calling it in. We decided on a trade-off system in which whoever called it in would not have to go pick it up. When push came to shove, someone had finally stepped up. Luckily, he was able to pronounce all the dishes correctly and just like that our order was put in. 20 minutes, said the lady on the other side of the line. It’s on. Looking back, calling it in was an easy task. But couple being tired and hungover and any small task can feel like a Herculean effort. We would play a couple more rounds of COD before we departed for the promised land. I would join my pal as copilot to steer him in the direction of deliciousness. 

I’ve done this pickup route many times. It takes at most 10 minutes to get there, usually is just a 5 minute pickup, and then another 10 to get back. A fraction of time to get to the source of the yums and enjoy a tasty dinner. This time was a little different. Nothing was looking out of the ordinary at first. We would make it to the restaurant in the usual amount of time. No clogging on the freeway and an easy exit lead us there in no time. Upon parking and entering,I noticed there was a family sitting down and eating inside. Typically, I have never seen more than 1 family inside eating in, and this is no different. The food is so damn good, but I can’t say we don’t think it is a little weird that out of the ~10 times we have picked up food here, we have never seen more than 5 humans inside. But I digress. All I cared about was the grab and go of the dishes we ordered. 

What went sideways was the wait for the food. We would enter the restaurant, and only see the family dining. No one greeting us at the door. No one in the kitchen. It was quiet. This isn’t particularly atypical, but usually someone would hear the door and emerge from the kitchen. When no one emerged from the kitchen, we would begin to hear some noise in the kitchen. It just sounded like the chef preparing the takeout meals. Surely someone would come out to check on the table eating in a reasonable time, I assured myself. A couple minutes go by and nothing. At this point the young boy at the table was having a ball watching me take different angles to look into the kitchen and see who was there to help us. I couldn’t see anyone, and wasn’t really feeling like walking back in the kitchen, so we waited. 

By the time someone had finally came out to greet us, we had shuffled through 3 of the bizarre songs accustomed to the restaurant, I became friends with the toddler at the table eating, and the smell of spices was starting to stick to my clothes. We had never had to wait this long, but also never placed such a large order. I joked with my buddies that we should eat in, but after sitting in there I am pretty happy that someone talked us out of sitting down. Something in there just isn’t right, and it only took me sitting in there for longer than 5 minutes to notice that. Finally, the food would arrive wrapped up and plenty hot. We would pay and carefully carry the bag out from the bottom. It was a ton of food, but everyone was pretty hungry. Back onto the freeway we went and in a moments time we were back to the comfort of my home. Before we could eat, I had to retell the story of the delay and the strange intricacies of the restaurant to those who have never been. But it was time to each. 

Chicken Korma. Chicken Vindaloo. Two Tikka Masalas. Two Garlic Naans. Tons of rice. It was time for the boys to feast. A quick 10 minutes of silence would go by as we all fiercely munched down on our meals. Everyone was clearly feeling better after eating, as we all were pretty laggy and unenthusiastic the whole time leading up to this moment. Sometimes all you need is a good meal. And sometimes all you need is good company. I challenge everyone to at least once a week host a slew of your pals in one place and chow down on some good eats. Doing it on the weekend sometimes ensures comical stories from the nights on the town or days sans work. Laughs will be had, stories shared, and bellies filled. A grand end to the first weekend of 2020. 

JACKBOYS Vibes

*I couldn’t get the Spotify sharing, so we are Sans HITR remix and Gatti

I’ve always been a fan of Travis Scott. Early on, I was hesitant to admit it, because for some weird reason you couldn’t be an A$AP Rocky fan AND a Travis Scott fan. They had some weird beef and people claimed Travis jacked his sound and rode away with it. Nonetheless, I would be lying if I said Travis Scott was not in my top 5 artists. I feel as though he kind of filled the void of A$AP Rocky music when he was quiet from 2013 to 2018. With Days Before Rodeo in 2014, Rodeo in 2015, and Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight in 2016, there was a lot of music to unpack in those times. Both of them have a similar sound, and really tend to go outside the box as far as beat selection and melodies. Plenty of artists passed on the Goosebumps beat, but Travis took it and ran. Recently, as we are gearing up for a new Travis album following his grammy nominated Astrowolrd, Travis teased a new “pack” featuring artists he has been putting on and have signed to his label cactus Jack. It is himself, his DJ Chase B, Sheck Wes, Don Toliver. It happened to drop over the Holiday weekend, and I was listening to it in the headphones and while driving. Here goes a song-by-song breakdown of the 7-song pack.

Highest in the Room Remix (feat. Rosalia and Lil Baby)

I’m going to keep it a buck: I probably won’t be bumping this remix more than the original. I really liked the second verse from Travis on the original. And as much as I love Lil Baby, he really didn’t fit the song. Having someone a little more vibey (this is a cringe worthy adjective) like a Cudi or Quavo or even keeping it in the label with Don Toliver would be a better fit in my eyes. The Rosalia feature also does not do much for me. We all have heard this song so I won’t beat a dead horse.

Jack Boys (Intro/Instrumental)

It’s an instrumental. I don’t want to dive too deep into something so short and simple. But it does provide a ~vibe~ that is felt throughout the project. Kind of ominous and anxious. Definitely a little bit of a bummer though, since this is one of the 7 songs on the tape. It is really a 6-song pack. It does blend well into Gang Gang.

Gang Gang (The Posse Cut)

I am not the biggest fan of Sheck Wes. Something tells me I’m not the only one that feels this way, so a song in which he sings the chorus could be a little painful to get through. However, this posse-cut-esque song that features all the JACKBOYS jumping in and is really the core of this project. Just some guys vibing off each other and sound excited to be apart of the same team. Going back in forth with no warning and going off each others flows.

Had Enough (feat. Quavo and Offset)

Don Toliver is definitely my standout on the whole pack. He was first really thrown into the scene with his feature on CAN’T SAY off of Astroworld. Sounding reminiscent of a new age T-Pain, he can sing with the best of them and also bar out. We hear him deliver the chorus on this song, and then spit some lines to flex the versatility. The beat is a nice touch, just as bit casual as catchy. Quavo and Offset come in and offer their star-studded features to give the song a nice twist. Both are similar to the flow of Don, and all 3 compliment each other, auto-tune and all.

Out West (feat. Young Thug)

This is for sure the standout track on the tape. And if it wasn’t we would for sure have a problem on hands. Travis and Thug together don’t really miss. Think of Pick Up the Phone or even more recently the HOT Remix just for evidence. The beat has a heavy bass and features Thugger on the hook. Add in a verse from Travis and Thug and it’s a hit. No more than 3 minutes long, it is the high point of the tape but goes by quite quickly.

What To Do (feat. Don Toliver)

Don comes in again on this song, with Travis as company. Travis sings the first part of the chorus, offering a drug-induced cry for help, while Don piggybacks off of this. This beat is similar to Had Enough, and compliments Don nicely. Travis can do it all, as he offers a slower paced verse similar to Stop Trying to be God or Skeletons. These two mesh together well with their tones and flows throughout this song in conjunction with the beat. This song much like CAN’T SAY is one people will surely enjoy and come back to.

Gatti (feat. Pop Smoke)

I am a big fan of Pop Smoke at the moment. From his hit Dior to his whole album Meet the Woo, I really like his voice and bars. They are very gritty and gruesome, much like his delivery on his songs. This song features a hard-hitting beat that you typically find Pop Smoke delivering verses over. We then get a Travis verse over this style of beat, and it sounds great. To me this was definitely more of a Pop Smoke song with a Travis feature. I am stoked he is getting some recognition, and surely will gain a couple more fans from this track.