I’ve been through mad different phases like mazes to find my way / And now I know that happy days are not far away
Everyone in life is connected. Six degrees of separation is true for physical connections, but with music, only one degree is required for a lifelong connection between the artist and listener.
Why is it every move I make turns out to be a bad one? / Where’s my guardian angel? Need one, wish I had one
I was 23 in 1998. I had just entered the corporate world after a failed stint in Hollywood: it’s really all about who you know. The move was intended to be temporary; I wanted no parts of cubicles and org charts. But I was looking forward to the training: the company sent everyone to upstate New York for two weeks. It gave me a rare chance, living in Los Angeles, to see my east coast fam, especially my grandmother, whom I hadn’t seen since in years. It was 16 months prior that I graduated from college, an accomplishment I shared virtually with my Grandma as my biggest cheerleader. This was our chance to celebrate in person. On the weekend break in training, one of my newfound co-workers drove me from Rochester to Newark, where my grandmother stayed. Brick city.
Went to grandma for the answer and she told me that God had it / So now here I am, confused and full of questions / Am I born to lose or is this just a lesson?
My grandmother was always overly generous and loving towards me. At times it was overwhelming, but she always told me, “just accept it and say thank you.” This visit was no exception: she went all out to entertain me, cooked day and night, even gave me some spending money to buy the latest Enyce and FUBU gear in NYC with my aunt. It was the first time I was able to sit and talk with Grandma without an audience, just me and her. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I will never forget how those conversations made me feel.
But I’ve never known love like this before / It’s a wonderful feeling to get away from the pain / And up under the ceiling, I get away from the rain / And the strain that I feel when I’m here is gone / I know real, so I wipe away the tear, it’s on
My trip to New York also introduced me to a quickly emerging rapper: DMX. Being from California, I was slow to get on the DMX bandwagon. When “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot” dropped a few months prior, I bought Jay-Z (“Streets Is Watching”) instead. But from Buffalo to Newark, there was no escaping Dark Man X. Everywhere I went, I heard his barks and growls. This was Onyx with Outkast introspection. Snoop’s storytelling with Wu-Tang grime. I was hooked. His lyrics were raw, urgent, and spoke to me as someone at a crossroads in life. DMX provided the soundtrack to tackling this new life as a dream deferred.
I will spend mad time in one spot, plotting my next move / Tryin’ figure out – why is it, that X do what X do / Some questions go unanswered, that’s what I’m afraid of / Sometimes I can’t show, but I know what I’m made of
When I got back to LA, after training, and a week removed from seeing my Newark family, I received a call from my Mom. Grandma went to the hospital for a routine procedure and never woke up from the anesthesia. I instantly blamed myself, I pushed her too hard when I was with her. I got back on the cross-country flight to Newark. The first flight was about beginnings and reunions, now a trip of closure and regret, to see my grandmother laid to rest. DMX was the only CD I listened to at the airport and during the flight, his voice now providing comfort and nostalgia, as I struggled to reconcile the past couple of weeks.
And now you mean to tell me that after all this time / It was you that kept the dog from going out of his mind? / It was you that breathed life into my lungs when I was born? / And it was you that let me know what was right from what was wrong? / And it was you that let me do, what I knew what could be done? / And it was you that gave me a good wife and a beautiful son? / And it’s been you speaking to me inside my mind? / And it’s been you who has forgiven time after time? / It was you who opened my eyes so I could see? / It was you that shined your light on me
I think Grandma would’ve liked DMX. His message of resilience was with me as I transitioned into the business world with a force she would’ve been proud of. His prayer tracks reminded me to pray when I didn’t know my next move. And every time I listen to his debut album, I’m transported back to that feeling I had talking with her, the smell of her food, the sound of her laughter. Let me fly.
Either let me fly or give me death / Let my soul rest, take my breath / If I don’t fly I’ma die anyway / I’ma live on, but I’ll be gone any day
Rest In Peace DMX.
Rest In Peace Grandma.