Sunday, July 15, 2012

Friday Night/Saturday Morning in Brooklyn

Dominican Republic flags hang from wires that cross the rugged pavement below.  A mix of merengue & salsa plays in my mind, but not in the world outside my head.  The sun slowly creeps over the shoulders of the sky, like an assassin moving in for the kill.

I'm new to this experience but it feels equal parts surreal & cliche.  An after party...after the underground club, brings forth a gathering on the rooftop.  I suddenly realize that I've made my way from subterranean areas like the subway & clubs, far below 'ground level' to the rooftops of Brooklyn, practically tasting the sky upon my lips.  Far too susceptible to vertigo from the heights of this gothic landscape, I choose not to dangle my legs over the ledge, selecting a folding chair to be my vantage point.  The experience is far different than the various scenarios my imagination created since my adolescence, for it's tangible & dangerous.

Drunken souls discuss the hard truth consequences of a base jump from the roof top, immediately followed by the outlandish posits of jumping from rooftop to rooftop.  A part of me fears the inebriated adventurer.  One that fails to realize the limits of one's delusions of invincibility (especially lubricated on alcohol), but a larger part of me knows it's not likely to happen.

Yet in still, here we sit, waiting to greet the sun.  "Home" @ least for the moment, is 3/4 of mile away, & I feel like breakfast & a brisk walk is in order, better yet, oh so necessary.

All that I see is illuminated.  A new day has dawn, with more promise than I have ever known before.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Random thoughts on the view from the passenger window.

Riding along IH-71 North, viewing parts of America never before seen in my 30 years of existence...elevated terrain & lush greenery, somewhat unlike that of my homestate, Texas.  Along the way, we drive past a sign that reads, "Site of fatal bus crash--May 14th, 1988".

I was all of six years & five months on that date, & would remain unaware of said tragedy for another twenty-four years. Suddenly, in that moment, I became filled with equal parts gratitude, for each breath is a blessing, & regret that such an unfortunate event took place. Much is made of 'arrivals' that it's easy to take the trip, itself, for granted. I find it a bit sad when you consider that some of us never make it to our desired destination--but it doesn't make the path we take along the way any less beautiful.

This is nothing like a revelation, but something similar to gaining perspective.  Prayers for safe travels to all on this journey called life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Race Against Time

What Up World!!!

I need to keep up with this blogging, so here's another entry. I've had a few minor revelations and a lot of provoked thoughts due to some substantial experiences that I'd like to share. My subject for this isn't necessarily a "race against time" but more an exploration into time itself & issues of race in society.

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend an entire week at home in Houston, TX. It was the perfect situation as my band was set to play the House of Blues the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so I was able to perform (what I love to do most of all) & spend some time with the family for the holiday. It was a momentous occasion that I desperately needed. I had the chance to reconnect with friends that I haven't seen in a while, & in one circumstance, I learned that someone near & dear to me still had a poem that I had wrote for her over 10 years ago. She asked me if I remembered it, to which my honesty urged me to reply, "...actually, I can't say that I do." The fact remained that I was touched by the fact that something that I created so long ago with the most sincere & genuine intentions was still, in some way, cherished...remembered...& appreciated. Just thinking about it stirs my soul.

Even with the six days spent home, I felt like I was pressed for time to catch up with everyone. I tried to incorporate & invite everyone that I could to concerts, bars, restaurants, etc. that I attended in order to spend time with everyone I had the chance to kick it with. Regardless of this challenge, no situation felt like a chore. As much as it got hectic planning & driving (I is Houston) every experience was more fun than I could imagine. I played "bags" or "cornhole" for the first time. I visited the sports lounge that my 10 yr. high school reunion (that I unfortunately missed) was held at a week before. I attended a Bruno Mars concert (totally spur of the moment). Checked a totally obscure yet ill spot called "The Flat" that a friend of a friend was spinning at. I sat in with some musicians I've never met or performed with at a chill bar in Spring. I got the opportunity to "check in" via a finger scan at another 24 hr. Fitness other than my usual spot in Dallas (...and it worked). I ate some sushi (it had been far too long). I played with my family dog (she & I both needed the exercise). I got the opportunity to do all of this & more, but what I learned was that it didn't matter how I spent my time. What truly mattered was who I was spending my time with...& it is this truth that I will never forget.

Upon my return to Dallas, I got to perform with Darth Vato @ SoundClash 2010. This experience coupled with a Nevada victory over Boise State made for a momentous Friday. I also learned the intensity of my addiction to Netflix, being away from it for over a week. It was so easy to jump back into streaming on my PS3 & trying to whittle away at my extended queue of documentary, horror, classic drama, & action films. The first order of business was a doc entitled "Afro-Punk". It was a very interesting film about the issues that arise being an African-American that identifies with punk culture. Granted, being a bi-racial man of African-American decent, I was captivated by the many things presented within this film.

The documentary began with a dedication to, "...every black kid who was ever called a nigger, & to every white kid who thinks they know what that means". Instantly, I was engaged. It's hard not to be curious when such a polarizing word is invoked. I can't summarize the film within a few paragraphs, for my ultimate point is, essentially, the black experience is far too complicated to be defined within a film or blog entry, & that is the beauty of the film itself. It doesn't provide an answer or absolute definition of "blackness". It simply exhibits various experiences, perspectives, etc. to provide the viewer with a peek into the lives of those they may know, yet not fully understand. That was what is so refreshing about documentaries such as "Afro Punk" or "The Heart is a Drum Machine", for I feel that all art, in its purest form, will not provide answers, but, to the contrary, inspire more questions or provoke more thought. Yet in still, I'm also of the ilk to believe that the black experience can't be defined, & in many ways I desire to not be defined by it whatsoever, though I know there is no escaping it.

Viewing such musical luminaries as Angelo Moore & Kyp Malone, musicians that I not only admire but identify with, discussing performing music that is more popular within anglo circles than african-american communities was interesting, for I never thought upon my entrance into "rock" music that I was outside the norm. Granted, as I've grown older & wiser, I'm more aware of how my rearing as a child wasn't the usual upbringing. In some ways I've resented the lack of strong cultural influences within my childhood, but I've grown to understand and admire my parents for bringing me up to be truly "post-racial". Despite this experience I have, & in many ways still do, confront the usual scrutiny in being a minority in America. It was these discussions that intrigued me most, the examination of what & who defines "black culture".

Regardless of the good intent of my parents to raise my sister & I to identify ourselves as members of the human race rather than merely black or latino, there were times where programmed social constructs reared their ugly head. I can remember the numerous Corey Haim posters on my sister's walls when I was younger, so the experience my sister & I had growing up contradicted the scenario painted within the movie "Mo' Betta Blues" in which Spike Lee's character spoke of a situation where his brother was beaten for having Betty & Veronica posted on his walls...simply because they were white. Despite this, I clearly recall my freshman year at TCU during parents weekend. I remember being worried that I was going to catch some flack for sporting diamond studs in my ears, but instead my dad, looking around campus on the way to the football game told me, "looks like slim pickins' son." I laughed it off, unaware of the weight of his words, responding with a simple, "yeah right."

I was pleased to see the film take the time to touch upon interracial relationships & how complicated they can be (if you let them). The purported novelty of dating a black man/woman was explored, but it was a situation expressed by one young lady who spoke of how her mother once said, "...perhaps it's better that you don't date a black man, because they all do drugs, have bad credit, & can't support you" that struck me like a ton of bricks. Similar as it was to the sentiment my father expressed, his words didn't contain the venom of bigotry in identifying with unfounded stereotypes. My father simply may have thought that I didn't find white girls attractive & here I was attending a school full of white girls (he obviously had no clue...HA!), but it was the situation in the film that provoked more thought as to who truly perpetuates these ridiculous notions. How many limits do we place upon our own culture, & who carries on these ideals? I suffered the scrutiny of my very own friends back home when I attended TCU. In many ways it may have been simple teasing or resentment for being away from home so much, but I was accused of being "whitewashed" on numerous occasions during my time in college. Perhaps that was what my father was trying to tell me. "Slim pickins' son...because either you'll be the guy to piss off daddy, the "safe" negro, or the fodder for your friends gossip...but chances are things won't ever be the same again."

Well, they weren't, but all things must change with time. I've even spoken with some older musical mentors who have told me when learning of my background, "your parents must be real courageous & cool, because having a relationship like theirs & bringing you & your sister into this world when they did, wasn't common or necessarily celebrated." Honestly, I would have to say that my parents were not only brave but a success, because they absolutely accomplished their goal of rearing my sister & I "post-racially". As much as we are fully aware and celebrate our cultures, we never feel deeply affected by the limitations that others (including our own people) place upon us. I'm actually surprised by how many times racially sensitive situations fly over my head or how I never thought twice when it comes to my desire to write and perform rock music. Accusations of being "whitewashed" never hurt me, because I was fully aware of who I was, as I am to this day. I am the son of David & Frances Hardaway. I'm a self-avowed "Blaxican" (or blaxicano if you like). I will not be defined by other people's standards or ideals, & for that I will always be grateful to my parents & love them for it (even though I still wish my mom taught me to speak spanish when I was younger...HA!).

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Hey young world, the world is yours!

It's been awhile, but I'm back & I'll try to keep this up a bit more regularly. I know I'm in need of getting some things off of my chest because status updates aren't big enough to contain these thoughts runnin' thru my head. Today's, in 2 parts.

1) - Duty Calls

I feel that I must preface this discussion with the admission that I'm not a Kobe Bryant fan by any means. As a fan of the game of basketball, I respect his prowess, but I can't bring myself to root for him. He's that polarizing of a figure, but when you play for a team like the Lakers, the Yankees, or the Cowboys, it's not a difficult feat to pull off. Anywho, despite my spite, I couldn't help but t0 come to his defense (@ least within this forum) over a brewing controversy that stems from his appearance in a commercial for the new Call of Duty: Black-Ops video game. Within the article linked below you'll find numerous activists, journalists, commentators, etc. that are blowing something so trivial out of proportion, making allegations that these war games make light of the reality of war violence, & as a "role model" he should be ashamed!!!

You can read all about it here....

Everyone's so touchy over a video game commercial??? C'mon meow!!! I thought this ad campaign was awesome. I've played many "war games" since the Atari 5200 days to the Sega Genesis era to my current PS3 play, from games like General Chaos to the COD Series & regardless of this fact, I'm not senselessly blasting away @ people in real life. I love horror movies. I enjoy action films. Yet in still, I don't commit murders or assault people for fun on the weekends. The "blame television/movies/music/video games" argument is so tired. You think by now everyone would know better than to continue to make mountains out of mole hills.

All these folks butt hurt over a silly game need to chill. These ESPN folks complain because they've got nothing better to do other than instigate controversy & the rest of these fools are offended because they just like to be outraged. I mean, how else will they get any attention or have "news" to report? If any of these decent people were seriously concerned about gun violence or the human casualty of war, they would be activists for stricter gun regulation domestically & pushing for ending military actions abroad that put American lives in danger. Maybe, they'd simply get more involved in their children's lives so that they could be more aware of whether or not their kids are at risk of acting out or suffering from gun violence...but no, it's far more easier to simply complain and target a high profile celebrity to be an example rather than being a living example themselves.

All this hub-bub reminds me, I need to get my hands on a copy of Black-Ops for PS3. (No such thing as bad press...yay marketing!)

2) - The Music Industry Game

Recently, I got hipped up to a discussion (available on YouTube, of course) between Percussionist, Songwriter, Producer James Mtume & Jazz Critic Stanley Crouch over the genius or purported "selling out" of Miles Davis. If you know me, then you know I dig Miles Davis. I won't rehash the entire argument between these gentlemen, but I will make it clear...Mtume was a collaborator with Miles, directly involved with the crafting of his music during the "Electric Era"...Crouch is a critic. I'm sure you can guess who's accusing who of being a sell out. Though this video displayed a lot of thought provoking arguments (mostly by Mtume because it was edited that way), the foundation of the debate comes from the allegation that Clive Davis "forced" Miles to move into another direction.

Critics. Label Heads. Producers. All of these people play their part in this music game. I often wonder where my muse comes from. I mean, I know what inspires me to write certain things, but is it pure creation or am I subject to the influence that our current media age wields? I'm currently an independent artist, & though I aspire to bigger opportunities and avenues for my music to be distributed, disseminated, & hopefully celebrated, I still revel in my independence. I do not take for granted the time and freedom that is granted when you are solely responsible for your output. Time tables. Image constructs. Performing material written for you, not by you. These are the prevalent ideals within the current state of the music industry.

Don't get me wrong, I know of how Marvin Gaye didn't want to record "Heard it Thru the Grapevine". I'm aware that it was Otis Redding who penned "Respect" though popular thought identifies that song with Aretha. There are performers, & then there are artists. For some performers, who are on that virtuosic level, their artistry lies in their performance ability. Yet, lately when I listen to current music, I can't help but to feel like so many "artists" are replaceable. The similarities within pop music are so pervasive I can't tell one act from another. The game ain't the same, but the players are. I don't view myself as a genius on Miles' level whatsoever, but I can only imagine the scrutiny he must've received for continuing to be forward thinking. James Mtume agreed that the music Miles made during his electric period, alienated a lot of his traditional fan base, but those compositions weren't made for that group of people. It was made for the next generation. That is the definition of artistry, & it's a level that I aspire to achieve.

Despite my denouncement of the homogenized pop music landscape, Mtume also questioned why once something becomes popular or mainstream it is often swiftly attacked or cannot contain any form of artistic merit. This is another phenomenon that continually perplexes me. I feel as though God is the ultimate creator. I believe that God is love. As a creative person, I can identify with the love that a creator has for what he creates. That is how I feel God's love in every living thing on earth, but though I may see beauty within even the most mundane of things within this world, there are others who see past it or don't even recognize it at all. They may want to change it for many motives...convenience, commerce, vanity, etc. Yet, they don't create anything, so how can one expect them to understand it? Gives a whole new meaning to the saying that everyone's a critic...right???

I guess, all in all, it's simply the game of life. We all have a part to play to keep everything moving & make things somewhat interesting. So, play it cool, ice it cool.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Words Choose Themselves....(Sub-Clear-Un-Conscious Musings, Part II)

What Up World!!! It's me again, ready to share some more "poetry" of mine. Stumbling across these gems in some of my old notebooks was a trip! I had a good time typing them up & making small adjustments. They exhibit my romanticism (despite what my friends may say I am, at heart, a hopeless romantic), my constant battles with the ideals of permanence, & my perspectives on being Black in America.....hope you dig.

En - AMOR - ed

I wish my words could stir your soul.

Act as a longing gaze you would dare not break.

An intensely inviting, yet inquisitive stare.

I wish my words could be a soft caress when I'm not there.

Or a symphony of sweet nothings whispering gently in your ear.

Inspiring smiles that start each new day in song,

& mark every evening with a lullaby that soothes you to sleep.

For I watch you lie in beauty softly, & think that this all must be a dream.

I listen to the rain, beat gently against the window pane,

& faintly hear Coltrane's "A Love Supreme"

Holding you, I wish I could join you, in sweet surrender for a while.

I close my eyes & pull you closer to me,

& to calm my restless state I simply picture your smile.

Oh, captivating beauty, how you intrigue me so.

All that makes the mystery of creation so beautiful.

Inspiration lies in the contours of your body.

Fascination lives inside your eyes.

Nurturing lover...sister, daughter, are the essence of life.

Sultry seductress of my soul, I am but a slave to your will.

A simple touch...a single smile...are all evidence that God is real.

To Make A Memory

Moments always fade so quickly,

like the words we forget to say.

Fleeting with the feelings we tend to take for granted,

when foolish pride gets in the way.

Drinking in each moment isn't always easy.

At times it seems you're more likely to drown.

For in a lucid life, sober is safe...but no idea is sound.

We all know that time waits for no one,

& things often never go as planned.

But if you brunt the risk to reach out for someone,

be sure to hold on as tight as you can.

A Black Militant Message To An Endangered Species

We once said...fists up, eyes open, power 2 the people.

We fighting for freedom elsewhere when our rights aren't equal?

I saw the (sur)reality of Katrina & I ain't waiting for the sequel.

Politics are a circus, just look at how they treat you.

Politicians are all the same & their gimmicks are see-thru.

Lobbyists are now their base, so they act like they don't need you.

Strange that ignorance is bliss, but power lies in knowledge.

Ever wonder why there's more black men in prison than in college?

Former felons can't vote or hold public office.

How about we take a closer look at the projects?

View it as a project in institutionalized slavery,

a psychological study in what behavior will be,

when living in poverty with more probablys than possiblys,

a skewed media image, & stereotypes infinite.

Second class citizen, it's their world that you're living in.

Broke, but got to make the rent?

What a sad predicament.

Caught in a trap, they set knowing that crime pays.

When you're expected to survive on $5.25...

until they get you in the system working for 35 cents a day.

Now that sounds like slave wages.

Just turn back the pages.

Peep all the stages,

of how they have made us,

niggers & killers...

prostitutes & pimps.

Conquered by the divide into Bloods & Crips.

(Ain't that some shit?!?!?)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Moving On

What up world?!?!?!?

-It's been far too long since my last post. I've missed you, but to be completely honest, the break was rather nice. I feel as though not sharing everything via written (or typed) word, I was able to save a little bit for new musical compositions, & boy, are there some new compositions in the works. It's wild how things work out within the arts. Lately, I've added music instructor to the many hats I wear, & the process of teaching others has opened up new creative avenues in my own process. Perhaps it's growth from sharing my knowledge with another, or simply inspiration from the excitement & appreciation that my young students exhibit with each lesson. All I can say is that it's been highly enjoyable & has immensely influenced my outlook on life as of late.

These are the moments I love to relish in. When I can't objectively notice, but yet in still feel creative strides being made. Completing the Boss Level EP has been a trip & a half. Lord knows it's been a long journey, but with that chapter coming to a close, new opportunities presenting themselves, and how the band has been flourishing @ our live shows & in rehearsals, I'm excited for what's next.....whatever that may be.

It's been 5 years here in Dallas. I've seen many friends move on and out to new cities, new jobs, new relationships. It's wild when you take a step back and attempt to take it all in. I know there are many there in the world to like to quantify their life within certain spans of time. "Where do I see myself in 10 years?" Questions like these are prevalent within surveys, personality quizzes, and many people's minds. I feel like I've always been one of those souls that is far more concerned with where am I now than the hypothetical musings of my imagination. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for goal set mindsets, but none of us can predict who or what will come into our lives and shake things up, even the ideal future that our hearts desire & our minds dream of. I hustle hard, but it's never for a material or tangible purpose. I do it for the love, & though that may seem so cliché's true.

I still remain focused. I desire to be a better musician, artist, writer, & human being. I hunger for more knowledge. I long to inspire & be inspired. It's these things that motivate me far more than money.....far more than fame. I'm just thrilled that things are falling into place, that I'm fully open to more growth.....and all that comes with it.

Each & every one of us have dreams.....let's make 'em realities!!!

(I promise I'll keep in touch more often.....salud!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some Words Choose Themselves....(Sub-Clear-Un-Conscious Musings, Part I)

{...from the Catholic Encyclopdia}

-Consciousness:(Latin conscientia; Ger. Bewusstsein) cannot, strictly speaking, be defined. In its widest sense it includes all our sensations, thoughts, feelings, and volitions--in fact the sum total of our mental life.

{...from Mirriam-Webster's Dictionary}

-Conscious: Perceiving, apprehending, or noticing with a degree of controlled thought or observation - sharing another's knowledge or awareness of an inward state or outward fact.

What follows are a few words that came from within my own consciousness about my perception about everything from the cliche (love) to current events (the artistic merit of popular music culture). Many of these works stem from failed attempts to write lyrics for songs that were works in progress & somewhere along the line my focus shifted. I'm a big proponent of "if it don't fit, don't force it," so sometimes I write just to be writing, all the while hoping that the release would generate something greater or give light to something else around the corner, in my mind, that I was waiting to discover. I guess it's what many would many consider poetry, but I just think of them as expressive thoughts that I held in what feels like a long time ago. I hope you dig.

MUSE: First Movement

As I journey through this land of thieves & cutthroats,

I summoned the "Queen of Hearts Within All Art(ist)s" for help...& hope.

It was rhymes that she wrote.

Not Murder.

Because in a world so wide, why not try to free one's mind in order fly further.

For shouldn't we all know by now why the caged bird sings?

You can pick to kick tragic tales of street dreams gone awry. When hopes that sky skyscrapers...all in the name of love of for that paper, tempt you to taste the sweet sins that sugar the American Pie.

But not I.

I'm far too busy trying to build wings out of words.

MUSE: Second Movement

I intensely search my mind, so I can find...just the right words to construct my lines.

To speak of powers greater than what you feel with a 9' or 32's, for true fools think that guns save you.

Or that tecs bless any context...& can grant you the respect that you seek.

That's why I attempt to infect & affect the minds of the blind that treat statements suspect as sustenance for the mental.

Can't you see that the situation is critical?

My essence is independent, but you label me a liberal.

Since my beliefs, individual, lean to the left...perhaps I'm just not quite right.

But aren't we all...not...quite...right???

Perfect imperfections that say that "it is" because we say so.

Yeah, I'm left. Left handed. A left-handed thinker, so I guess that makes me right brained.

Or is it left?

Looks like I'm not quite right.....again.

Though I scour my mind for lyrics.

The essentially absurd adjectives & adverbs speak spoken word.

Do not fear it.

For it is the fear, the pain, & the simply be, that manifested itself in words, compelling me to express.

Febuary 14th

I refuse to settle.

Though I may wear my heart on my sleeve, it shouldn't be difficult to believe.

Cause this is me.

And when love, actually, isn't anything that it used to be...I feel like I've gone crazy.

To have faith that butterflies may signify all that can only be revealed in each other's eyes, for these windows to the soul hold no prejudice for whom they leave exposed. So, I plead for them to let me know that the feeling is mutual.

I mean, it's already so hard to communicate in this breathless state that you I give pause to let our eyes to the talking.

Still...I refuse to settle.

To settle for a notion in my pants that speaks of lust to pass for love.

To settle for falling in love with the ideal of what one "could be" rather than who they really are.

I refuse to settle.

And I refuse to give in & give up the search for that true connection...but that's just me.

And upon further inspection it's as clear as day to see...that I'm just like any ordinary hopeless romantic.