the force

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 30 – Your Favorite Song At This Time Last Year


I spent a whole morning examining my iTunes catalog and mixtape playlists, trying to figure out just what my favorite song was at this time of last year.

The 30 Day Song Challenge

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 29 – A Song From Your Childhood


As a kid at the age of single digit years, I was a fan of anything and everything that was Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.


The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 26 – A Song You Can Play On An Instrument


Allow me to start by saying I personally can’t play the song at hand. Figuring you’d rather not read about Chris Brown’s “Forever” or "Chopsticks," I opted instead to share a quick story about an old friend of mine and the way he picked up girls with 2Pac. During my tenure in high school, I associated with damn near everyone. Whether you rocked Warn-A-Brother t-shirts or tape on your glasses, if you had manners, you were pretty much guaranteed a hello from BEWARE. One hombre that became more than just a courtesy nod was my friend Mike; who became strictly known as Bake Dog, once his upperclassman cold shoulder wore off and we became cool. A year older than I and much more seasoned in his extra-curricular activities, Bake Dog was a good person to know. Aside from serving up my first taste of goods, this hoodlum with a heart made you part of the crew with alliterated nicknames and occasionally unwanted advice, all due to his overall-inclusive nature on life in general. However, he also carried some Bruce Banner qualities. Despite being a typically mild-mannered guy, Bake Dog was down for the get down at all times and could tend to be a loose cannon. But, like I said, he was a good person to know. In the midst of getting acquainted, there was one night specifically when I realized there was much more to his Jekyll & Hyde persona than let on. While at a house party turned Jim-Beam-sleepover, I watched Bake Dog game a young, initially unimpressed female in a way neither of us saw coming. Instead of putting his arm around her or dropping the “You must be tired” line, this tamed Pitbull Terrier sat down at the living room’s underused, grand piano and began effortlessly playing 2Pac’s “I Ain’t Mad At Cha.” In memory, whether or not he got the girl or could even play any other songs is irrelevant. What enlightened me at that moment was how much someone's personality shines through when given the right opportunity. At school and during social events, Bake Dog was always depicted as a troublemaker, so he gave the people what they wanted. He played that role and, more often than not, the resolution ended against his favor. But in situations like this, when others’ judgement were last on his priority list, a gentleman emerged. A talented one at that. The spotlight shown on this multi-dimensional character at that point emphasized the old book cover adage for me. Not only at that moment, but every time I hear the Blackstreet-esque keys on this All Eyez On Me disc one single. Sadly, as much as I’d love to send him a link to this written cheers, Bake Dogg passed away last year at the blossoming age of 27. During a tour in Iraq for his beloved Marine Corps, the then-Sgt. Baker developed an extremely rare form of cancer with 20-syllables causing the last few years of his life to be filled with chemotherapy and (un)radical surgeries. Thankfully, a baby daughter and new wife helped balance out the uncertainties. Truth be told, the last time I saw Mike, I didn’t even recognize the guy because of bandages covering his face. Not until afterward did I find out he’d been in the building. Actually, I still feel pretty bad about not getting to go up and say hello for old times’ sake. Knowing him, though, he probably wouldn’t care either way. Just as long as ‘Pac got played and his loved ones got props. Previously: Day 25 -- A Song That Makes You Laugh.

The 30 Day Song Challenge

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 23 – A Song That You Want To Play At Your Wedding


New Orleans may be the only city in the continental United States that I love more than Detroit, and if I lived any closer than a country-length away I would get married there.

Welcome To Jamrock

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 22 – A Song You Listen To When You’re Sad


As far as my musical leanings go, I’m pretty one dimensional and rarely venture off into reggae. However, all rules have exceptions. Every so often, I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and find myself popping Damian Marley and Nas’ 2005 masterpiece, “Road to Zion” in the deck. The two musicians carry the track with God’s Son easily spitting one of his greatest politically charged sixteens and Junior Gong’s melodious verses maintain stride. The two artists show the first inklings of a considerably interconnected chemistry together, a connection that would later manifest into a full-fledged LP. But sometimes, it’s the words that aren’t said that have the most impact. For one, Stephen Marley’s somber, gloomy production captures the mood and sets the perfect stage for the headlining two to deliver their rhymes. But it’s the tiniest of chords that really bring the song home and make it what it is to me. The gentle, soothing humming that starts it off and then takes the passenger seat as the backdrop to the vocals absolutely hits the mark and elevates the record from great to classic. “Road to Zion” is definitely not something that I listen to get myself out of a funk, but rather it encapsulates any negative emotion I may be feeling. Words can’t exactly explain how, but it brings me into a state of calm and helps me explore my sentiments. The youngest Marley’s smooth verses mixed in with a brilliant feature from Esco take me into a zone, while the resounding production and subtle elements give me a platform to step back and see things from an objective view. And all these elements combine to make the Welcome To Jamrock gem one of my absolutely favorite tracks I’ve ever heard. Damian Marley Feat. Nas - "Road To Zion" (Prod. By Stephen Marley) Previously: Day 21 – A Song You Listen To When You’re Happy.

The 30 Day Song Challenge

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 18 – A Song That You Wish You Heard On The Radio


After spending years on the West Coast underground circuit, Strong Arm Steady broke through in 2007 with their debut studio album Deep Hearted. It was also during this time that my musical taste, that once bumped nothing but Top 40, had begun its transformation towards the present. Our two colliding paths met in the form of “One Step,” the signature song from the collection and one of the essential Steady Gang records. It was sort of a compromise between the two worlds, as I was beginning to scratch the surface of the underground and they were recently emerging from being a local act. The track itself had almost everything a radio station would consider desirable and just about nothing that a hardcore S.A.S. fan would have expected to hear from them. Catchy, melodic hook? Simple, easily repeatable verses? Soft, silky-smooth beat? Check on all accounts. Unfortunately, the fact that the joint had meaningful lyrics automatically took it out of radio contention. Their standards are just too damn high! This one was gift-wrapped for the airwaves, but for whatever reason it just didn’t catch on. Maybe it was because the track was about living a righteous life and stopping the violence, not popping Patron or Nuvo. Possibly it was because playing a song by this relatively unknown group would have risked hurting their ratings. Or perhaps the DJs themselves hadn’t even heard the record. Realistically, the song's failure to latch on was probably some combination of the three and it just goes to show that once again the popular way is not always the best way. Because while most of my G-Unit wearing peers were tuned in to The Bay's WILD 94.9 rolling out of school to “This Is Why I’m Hot,” there were still those niches of low-profile heads digging through the crates for something deeper. Strong Arm Steady Feat. Talib Kweli - "One Step" (Prod. by Blaqtoven) Previously: Day 17 – A Song That You Hear Often On The Radio.

The 30 Day Song Challenge

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 15 – A Song That Describes You


The cliché rapper line has always been "my life is a movie," but most who choose to rap don't star in the film day-to-day.

The 30 Day Song Challenge

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 14 – A Song That No One Would Expect You To Love


Back in sixth grade, I formed my first crush. The feeling was not mutual. One-sided as it may have been, the song which enhanced that adolescent itch was Alanis Morissette's "Head Over Feet," from her 1996 ROY album Jagged Little Pill. While this Canadian songstress was busy winning Grammy's with one hand in her pocket, a new blond girl with a Southern accent and cute face strutted into school, quickly hipping me to how cool cooties could be. However, as the pale kid with a bowl cut and entire back-catalog of Wizard magazine, I never had the guts to take our minor league friendship to first-base. However, my best friend had the buzzcut and athletic rep so, of course, he ended up dating her amidst my wide eyes, one-upping his homie without even knowing it. A conundrum that he probably never even knew about to this day. Alas, during that year of my longing behind the scenes, the fifth single from Alanis’ highy-touted debut became the soundtrack to those now frivolous memories for a few reasons. Aside from simply being everywhere during that senior year of elementary school, the now world-renown singer's up-front and unfamiliar approach toward an unripe relationship is the obvious reason I associate it with my lost teenage love. At the time, the freshness fit for both of us. Another reason it stuck - and one I only figured a few years ago- is how dope the beat is. On top of successfully being laced with scale-cascading, guitar melodies and harmonica grooves, the song’s contrasting live drum kit is actually packed with the open-hats, steady-hi's and off-beat snare-stabs associated with today's current rap-hop sound. So much so, it could and probably would suffice on a J. Cole or Freddie record right now (with slightly different instruments around it, of course). That backtrack coupled with super-glue-like, four-bar verses from the then Miss Morrissette make this song - and inevitably her music in general - well worth the minor asterisk placed next to this personal favorite every season it comes back around. After all, I’ve been listening to Alanis for damn near 15 years. The blondie with the twang? My man dumped her as soon as we hit junior high and saw the district flood gates open. Previously: Day 13 – A Song That’s A Guilty Pleasure.

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