Legend has it that if you listen closely to the sound of the train whistling down the tracks in the middle of the night, you can hear the screams of a thousand widows who waved goodbye to their soldiers one last time. Knowing all too well what can happen while living life on the road, Mos Def and DJ Honda created one of the most honest and captivating journeyman anthems ever for the “Travellin’ Man,” originally released in 1998 on the DJ’s HII album. Whether by bike, train, plane or boat, spending any amount of time away from your loved ones will guarantee that this song touches a sensitive place in your chest.
Of particular importance is the hook, which immortalizes the memories we create with the people we may or may not remember from the road. Sometimes the best stories come from new friends in new places because we know that tomorrow we will be on another plane, to another city and may never see these friends again. The tiny probability of another encounter seems to dissolve any inhibitions and reservations to create an environment ripe for disastrous and hilarious shenanigans.
Anybody who has been on a multi-leg trip will want to tattoo the start of the second verse on their throats as it rings true every single time. Bleeding through from the hook with “I’m leaving/ But God Willing, I’ll be back home/ To drop these heavy ass bags up off my backbone,” the physical and metaphorical weights being lifted from your shoulders mark the end of a journey and the start of relaxation. Whether it’s time for a brew, a Backwood or a blowj… well, whatever your homely routine consist of, nothing feels better than settling in with some old vices.
DJ Honda should be more ubiquitous after joints like this but instead, his name pops up in conspicuous settings but always next to heavyweights. It would be hard to figure out his connection to Sean Price, but again, as a traveling man, these connections should be taken as serendipitous and remembered as paths crossing for a reason. In this instance, the reason includes creating a Hip-Hop encyclopedia of drugs but the brutal honesty of the production and P’s vocals guarantee their hearts and minds were in the “right place.”
Next time you pack a bag, don’t forget to put your smartphone at the bottom with the battery pulled so that you can soak in the time you spend around new people and in new places. It’s surprising what can come from devoting your full attention to the revolving door of faces and conversations happening all around you every day – even more so in new places. Once you get a taste for it, you might want to get that passport updated because a traveling man is hard to pin down.