CalmandStrong

Nothing is More Powerful Than a Made up Mind

Nas: Stillmatic (2001)

When Nas’ Stillmatic album came out and it gave me hope, strength to move on and changed my life. 


I remember the first time I listened to “Stillmatic (The Intro)” off the album. This song single handedly inspired me to believe I could beat cancer. 


At the beginning of the song, Nas said, “The Brother’s Stillmatic. I crawled up out of that grave, wiping the dirt, cleaning my shirt, they thought I’d make another “Illmatic.” But it’s always forward I’m moving, never backwards stupid here’s another classic.”


Nas also said, “This is the rebirth. I know the streets thirst for water like Moses, walking through the hot desert, searching to be free. This is my ending and new beginning – nostalgia. Alpha and Omega places, it’s like a glitch in “The Matrix.”


“Let my words guide you, get inside you, from Crips to Pirus, this is survival.”


At the end of the song, Nas chants, “Blood of a Slave, Heart of a King.” When I heard this song for the first time, I felt like I could conquer anything.  


I didn't completely understand what Nas was talking about when he said "Blood of a Slave, Heart of a King." It wasn't until I took Africana Studies classes at California State University, Long Beach when I finally understood what he was talking about.


Nas was talking about bridging the gap between African American and African history. For instance, "Blood of a Slave" means Africans who were forced to be taken from their homeland of Africa and forced into slavery in the United States of America.


"Heart of a King" means Africans who were ancient kings before being forced into slavery in the United States.


Once I understood what Nas was talking about. The words "Blood of a Slave, Heart of a King" became more powerful to me because I come from African ancestors who were forced into slavery in the United States, and I come from ancient African kings from Africa. 


Stillmatic (The Intro) is the ultimate redemption song about accepting the things that happened in your past, but also moving forward and believing that better days are ahead in the future.


“One Mic” was another song that captured how I was feeling. At the time, my emotions were all over the place because I was going through something I had no control over. 


During the song, Nas sounded like he was going crazy because he was changing his vocal tone from high to low throughout the song.


I remember I had the Stillmatic album on repeat while I was in the hospital doing my chemotherapy treatment regimen. Nas’ Stillmatic album is my favorite album of all time.

Nas: Stillmatic (The Intro)                Nas: One Mic

 

The Pharcyde: Labcabincalifornia (1995)

From 2004-2008, I attended Victor Valley College and was listening to a lot of Lupe Fiasco when his debut album Food & Liquor was released in 2006.


I was on YouTube looking at an interview about him talking about his album: Food & Liquor.


The interviewer said it seems that Lupe is bringing back that A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and The Pharcyde vibe back into Hip-Hop. 


When I heard the interviewer say “The Pharcyde” it was like a light bulb went off in my head. At the time, I was looking for Hip-Hop music that was different because everything sounded the same to me at that time. 


I looked up The Pharcyde on YouTube, and watched their video for “Runnin'." I couldn’t believe what I just heard, it was amazing!!! 


On their song, Runnin’, The Pharcyde members: FatLip, Slimkid Tre and Imani described their different experiences and perspectives about dealing with peer pressure, fame and how important it is to be yourself.  


I immediately bought The Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia album and I couldn’t believe the chemistry all four members had with each other. 


Their Labcabincalifornia album showed me how to be authentic with everything I decide to do in life. They instantly became my favorite group after finding out about them many years later. 


The Pharcyde had been broken up since the late 90’s and they haven’t performed together in years. In 2008, all four members: Imani, Bootie Brown, FatLip and Slimkid Tre of The Pharcyde reunited and was the featured guest to perform at the Rock the Bells festival in San Bernardino, CA. 


I went to the concert and it was beautiful to see all four members on stage preforming their songs together. Also, Nas was the headliner for the festival, which made it a concert that I would never forget. 

The Pharcyde: Runnin'

 

The Pharcyde: Humboldt Beginnings (2004)

The Pharcyde disintegrated when members FatLip and Slimkid Tre decided to leave the group, and the two remaining members Imani and Bootie Brown were forced to keep carrying on the torch.


Humboldt Beginnings in my opinion was a big change in direction, vibe and sound. 


The Pharcyde's previous releases were heavily influenced by jazz and soul samples, and I understand as artists they wanted to grow and not repeat what they did in the past.


My history with The Pharcyde started when I became a fan in 2008, (I knew of them in the 90's, but never got into their music) and they instantly became my favorite group of all time.


After listening to their Labcabincalifornia album, I bought their whole discography. Although I thought their Humboldt Beginnings album was good, but it didn’t have to same vibes as their older albums because it was evident that the circle of four that made up The Pharcyde was broken.


One of my favorite songs from Humboldt Beginnings is an instrumental track entitled, “Clouds.” 


On the song, there are no vocals from The Pharcyde, but it reminded me of the jazzy-soulful sound and feel from their older tracks from their classic debut album “Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde” and their underrated slept on classic album “Labcabincalifornia.”


When I’m listening to “Clouds.” It changes my mood and I just sit back, relax and vibe to The Pharcyde…

The Pharcyde: Clouds

When I became a fan of The Pharcyde in 2008, the group got back together and preformed as four at the Rock the Bells festival. Unfortunately, they disintegrated again when FatLip and Slimkid Tre left the group. 


Fans watching this unfold for the second time just killed all hope for the possibility of another Pharcyde album.


I am considered a new fan because I found out about the group in 2008, and I can’t even imagine how fans since their debut album must feel because they only had two albums as a fully functioning group (Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, 1992 and Labcabincalifornia, 1995).


One of my goals is to help put The Pharcyde back together through my inspirational speeches, because in my PowerPoint Presentation I use their songs, “Runnin,’ " and "Clouds" to help tell my story.


The Pharcyde is the only group in Hip-Hop where I love each member equally. I also want to share how positive, powerful, important and relevant their music is to me and others.

Blu & Exile: Below The Heavens (2007)

My favorite Blu & Exile album is “Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them.” 


After I listened to that album. I became a fan and bought most of Blu’s music discography and gave “Below The Heavens” a thorough listen.


The album was good, but it didn’t affect me the same way the Give Me My Flowers LP did. The one song in particular that affected me the most off the album was “Below The Heavens Pt. I.” 


In the song, Blu expresses the lessons that his reverend Father taught him didn’t help because he had to be his own man and learn the lessons by experiencing life.


Blu also talked about his definition of dealing with stress. For instance, he said, “Understand first hell is what you choose to call the present. That’s why you are going through it, I just choose to call it stressin’. To tell you fools the truth, I don’t feel that’s why I’m destined. So you could call it hell, but bruh… I can say I’m below the heavens.”


This quote from Blu will always stay with me, because there is a lot of truth in those words and it was easily relatable. This song helped me realize that stressful situations in my life won’t last forever and it is simply just a learning experience to help me grow.


“Below The Heavens Pt. I” captures Blu’s life from his past and present so vividly that I felt like I was with him while he was telling his story. Exile’s soulful beat-selection for this song was perfect for Blu to be introspective and express himself lyrically.

Blu & Exile: Below The Heavens Pt. 1

 

Blu & Exile: Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them (2012)

In 2011, I was on Facebook and Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 album just came out. I was talking to a friend and we were talking about how good the album was. 


Then he told me that he wanted to listen to somebody else besides “Blu.” When he said that, it was like another light bulb when off in my head again and I went to YouTube to check out Blu's music. 


In 2012, Blu & Exile were set to release their second album “Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them,” and I bought it and it blew my mind. 


I connected with the overall theme of the album, the poetry, the lyricism and Exile’s beautiful atmosphere of beats. 


I connected to what Blu was talking about with the content and substance behind his songs. On this album, I felt Blu was opening up about his life experiences, which became very relatable to me.


The song I connected to the most off the album was “More Out Of Life.” The song helped me realize that if I want my situation to be better, I have to do something about it because we all want more out of life. 


This album helped me be thankful for what God has done for me and to be proud of my accomplishments. 

Blu & Exile: More Out Of Life