I’m a producer and a DJ.
Not in the ways that you think though.
I’ve never actually created a song by building upon a bass line that had been thumping in my head. Nor have I rocked a party with two turntables and a mic. Truth: I have tried to scratch and spin. Let’s just say my hand coordination ain’t where it needs to be. Respect to those who make it look effortless.
See, I’m a life DJ and producer. I sample, remix and replay inspiration, lessons, wisdom, and themes from the world around me – be it from books, film, events, mentors – all in an effort to create my life’s soundtrack to help me navigate, maneuver, overcome and ultimately triumph.
My muse of choice?
Oh, the form is ripe with all the inspiration we need to get by and get over.
Since I was born into the world when Sugar Hill Gang changed the game, and have remained fascinated with hip-hop as creative expression ever since, I pull heavily from it. Whether it’s revisiting a track like Kanye West’s “Welcome to Heartbreak” to contemplate my own challenges with realizing my dreams or remembering to do, instead of pose, with the help of Run-DMC’s “You Talk Too Much.” Just like our finest DJs, I cue up the necessary lyric or song to play in my mind or on my iPod at the precise moment. I allow my soundtrack to remain fluid, just like this existence where change is the only constant.
I chronicled a number of these songs of stimulation in my book The Message: Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs, which will be published later this month by NBC. Consider it a literary mixtape for life. I included a number of MCs from, indie cats to the usual suspects. I went East. West. Dirty South. Gutter. Clean. And in between. The goal: reflect the shades of life.
I always tell people that if they were to write The Message, their version would be totally different, with different songs and different interpretations. That’s the beauty of music; it individualizes itself to the listener, providing a unique experience for each of us.
Since this is Black Music Month, theGrio invites you to play producer and DJ. Share and discuss the songs and lyrics not just from hip-hop, but across genres, that you sample and rock because they have had an impact on you, make your day a little brighter, get you pumped while you run for your life on the treadmill, or hey, stop you from going off on a coworker.
Join us on Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #themessage) to talk music. Inspiration. Lessons. Life.