Last Saturday night and on into the early morning Sunday was one of the best — and worst — nights of my life. The night was replete with psychedelic highs and muddy dub step lows, simply brought on by the music. The only weed I consumed was second-hand, hotbox-delivered dankness that was shockingly prevalent in that fairly small room. Yes, this was my first real hiphop show and there is no doubt I was the oldest person in the room. For every one of the many reasons I was glad I was there, there are at least three for the sweet knowledge that I’ll never have to do it again. All in though, I would not have missed this show for anything. I got to see one of our sons launch from being a regionally well-known DJ into the outer edges of hiphop stardom. After all, he was standing toe-to-toe with hiphop mega-star, Chuck D, of Public Enemy fame and DJ Lord, whose turntable talents have helped craft Public Enemy’s sound since the late ’90s.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I call it like I see it, boldly owning it when I’ve done something I shouldn’t have done. Let’s rewind the tape back to some time in 2006, and a phone conversation I was having with our son, Adam. The one when he told me he wanted to pursue a music career after getting some kind of a music degree in college. That was back in my unenlightened days when being a DJ meant spinning records on the radio. I knew Adam didn’t play any type of instrument and I never had heard him exhibit any noteworthy singing ability, so I started to form the words, “Don’t you have to have some kind of musical talent to have a music career?” Somewhere in the middle of that ill-contrived and woefully knee-jerk sentence was when Jill started miming a slicing motion across her throat, wild-eyed and willing me to shut-the-hell-up.
I knew Adam had been working on developing his DJ skills and I should have realized just how serious he was about collecting vinyl record albums and using them to deliver his art. Adam and I went down to our barn one day and I presented him with my entire, well-taken-care of album collection, consisting of a few hundred pristine vinyl records. I thought he was going to cry, he was so overcome with joy and appreciation. I remember thinking, “Damn, he really does love these records!” and I really had no idea what he was doing with them. Since that day, and up until Saturday night, I have seen Adam perform a few times. I get what music mixing is all about. How you can take a Tammy Wynette song that meters 85 beats per minute and mix it with an Ozzie Osbourne song, also at 85 beats per minute. And, when you come out the other end, the whole is bigger than the sum of those two parts. I get all of that.
What I didn’t see was how he was ever going to make a career out of this. How was he ever going to make any money, have a great health insurance policy, a 401k, a pension plan or a paid vacation? All I could see in my future crystal ball was a 40-something man still waiting tables and trying to juggle family commitments. It just didn’t compute for me. Thankfully, Adam is one of the least money-motivated people I know. His wants to be happy. He wants to be surrounded by people he loves. He has an easy smile and a big heart. All these characteristics are to be cherished. He also has a shiny, 24-karat work ethic. He has kept his nose to the hiphop grindstone for well over ten years, perfecting his turntable skills, writing lyrics and beats and trying to find a way to be in the right place at the right time.
This article in Creative Loafing Atlanta tells the story about how the planets aligned to make this past Saturday possible. All the hard work. All the sacrifice. All the creative juice, the calendar and the place — ALL lined up. I’m reminded of a quote I once read, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Being lucky is a good thing in the music world, I’ve found.
Here are my take aways from the show:
• Even though this is my first hiphop show, I now can tell the difference between sophomoric rap (the first opening act) and really good, sharp, percussive rap (like the kind Adam does).
• I heard the word “fuck” used more times than you’d hear it used in one of Dr. Carlton Savory’s operating rooms.
• I was shocked that 90% of the audience was caucasian. Turns out old school R&B shows are highly frequented by African-American audiences and hiphop shows are primarily attended by white folks. Who knew?
• Although it was loud in there (and I came prepared by taking my Hearos), the sound was really quite great.