30 December 2009

Being a Real Man? Job vs. Career

Being a Real Man? Job vs. Career

I recently saw a definition to a word that made me sit back and think. The word was job. Job is defined by Google’s online dictionary as occupation: the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money” That made me think again. What was the definition of career? Well funny enough, career is defined by the aforementioned lexicon as “the general progression of your working or professional life”. Yes I checked other definitions, and of course I checked other dictionaries. These two were the most widely accepted explanations of these two distinct words. As is the English language, both definitions are circular. You can’t have one without the other…right?

Let me back track some. What led me to the point that I would be wasting away perfect beer drinking time daydreaming about anything other than a pair of double D’s? Well, it all started because of a conversation with my dear old dad. For a long time I had been struggling with my “job” I wasn’t from a lack of performance, not lack of pay, not because it was too hard; just plain old lack of interest. You see, I had been one of those people who fooled themselves into the American dream being my dream. I was a senior in High School and my parents were breathing down my throat about college. I’m no dead beat; I wanted to go to college too. I mean, who the hell wants to turn down college babes, beer binges and irresponsible keg stand fraternity nights? The only problem was, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I surely didn’t want to be one of those people who waste a fortune in tuition studying liberal arts. If you are a liberal arts kind of person, then by all means go for it. But let’s be honest, for most, it’s a cop out. So I was faced with the most important choice of my existence before the age of 18; what did I want to do with the rest of my life? Looking back on it now, it’s hardly fair. You can’t even legally drink in this country by that age. So I did what any self respecting alpha male would have done. I chose something where I could use my hands, but not labor every day. I went to college and majored in Architecture.

Was there something else I would have rather done? Of course! I wanted to be a musician. Travel the open road, wake up with a new groupie in my bed or tour bus every day. Puke out last night’s drugs and alcohol, and do it all over again. But what father (or mother for that matter) would encourage their child to be a musician? In my parents mind, I would spend half of my life starving, and then the other half stuck in the mail room. I also wanted to be a writer, but they thought that I would spend my life in dark rooms living on coffee and scotch with tons of scratch paper and no real life. (Well in their defense they were right once) So they never encouraged me in any of the things that I actually liked.

To make a very long story short, off I go after graduation into the rat race. I get a decent job at a respectable firm. I worked my way up from an intern to a junior designer. I switched firms, got a raise, and got promoted to senior designer. I spent 50 hours a week in the office, behind a desk. The other hours in the day where dedicated to trying to blow off steam at a local club or bar, and then on a local chick or three. I was young, I was making money, had a respectable job, and I was miserable. All of this suffering was because I didn’t understand the real difference between a job and a career.

So now, let’s throw out that girly definition that Google provided us with and get real. A job is something you do to get a paycheck. It can be anything, and it doesn't have to be something you like. The only reason you do it is because beer and cigarette money has to come from somewhere. Chicks dig shiny cars and you can’t pay your Porsche note with unemployment checks. It’s something that we drag our ass out of bed in the morning to do, just for money. This is what most of us have. There are often two categories that we all fall into. Category one is filled with guys who actually thought their field was “the” thing they wanted to do. It was only after college that they realized it blowed. Category two is filled with pansies like me; “men” who had a real passion for something, but feared failure or poverty. So we all took a job.

A career, my friends, is much different. You see, a career is that thing we envy guys like Hugh Heffner for. It is a passion. It is a living breathing animal that hunts down its prey, drags it back to the hut, and then gets laid by all the village virgins. It is a real man’s pursuit. A career is something that you never stop doing, no matter the hour of night or day. It is a lifelong road of travel, that doesn’t stop when the check stops. And it is never only for the check. A career will make you miss lunch and not care; it will keep you up until 4 am just to be out the door at 6am. This is what we all dream of. Chasing that thing we love the most, and being successful at it.

So what prevents us from doing this? One word; Fear. We fear not being rich. Hell, it’s the American way. We like our cars, houses and tits big. All those things cost a lot of money. We fear what society might think of us if we haven’t acquired some material possessions by a certain age, or reached certain milestones in our daily monetary lives. We fear not being able to hold on to Ms. Right or Ms. Right now because of our stature. What you do seems to define who you are. At least that is what you think.

All of this struck me one day while I was sitting in my 9 to whenever, safe, statured, weekly job. I was recently engaged to Ms. Right. I had it all and I was miserable. I knew this for some time. My job (the thing that consumes most of my living and breathing day) was making me absolutely unhappy. Finally, I said to myself, this is complete nonsense. Who the hell does something every single day that makes them unhappy? Only the insane, or people with desperate situations do things like this knowingly, right? I wanted to quit. I wanted to chase my dreams. But I had responsibilities now. I was getting married, thinking of buying my first home, getting a family car, blah blah blah. So as any man would do when he wants advice on being a man, I called my father. (Remember this article started off with a conversation with my dad? I’ll give you a minute to reread the beginning and catch up)

After I finished whining to my father for three beers and 3 minutes, he says: “Son, you have responsibilities now. You don’t have to love what you do; it just has to pay the bills. That is what being a real man is all about.” I expected nothing less. My father was a retired military man, who ended up working in the Post Office until he retired again. He always did what he had to do. He worked every Christmas to make overtime money to cover the loss on gifts and extra electricity consumption. He never bought a new car. He sacrificed until he bought his first home, then his second, and then his third. He didn’t care what he did to make money; as long as it was legal, and it was being made.

He closed the conversation by saying, “You have a long life and successful career ahead of you. Don’t blow it on some sort of early mid-life crisis.” That is when it hit me. I had no career. I was only doing enough to get by. Sure I was good at my job, but I never tried to excel past where the paycheck would support my current bills and habits. I never pursued learning more, or being involved in it after work. I did my job, and went home. That is a far shot from a career. I looked over at my aging father, and my mind was set. I respected my dad, but I did not want to end up like him. He merely existed all these years. Now he was a retired man with nothing to do. I was his biggest accomplishment. (and probably, biggest disappointment)

The following day, I went to work and knew it would be my last. I looked around the office and the midst cleared. It was like waking up in the Matrix and being offered to choose between the red or blue pill. I looked at all of my co-workers and subordinates. No one was smiling, no one was interested in what they were doing. Everyone was just on auto-pilot, getting by. As a matter of fact, the one guy who was always happy was probably the best employee I had at that place. But he really loved architecture. That was the difference.

So my friends, let’s stop fooling ourselves. Most of you are probably sneaking to read this article from work. Most guys are on some social networking site, blog, sports or porn site all day. If it’s not the internet, it is some other distraction. Did you ever stop to think the kind of time you could be investing in something you love, instead of what you were investing trying to be distracted from your job? 40 hours is a lot of hours! That doesn’t include the travel to and from the office, or the time you spend the night before preparing for your day. So it’s really more like 40-60 hours. If you can afford to, let go of that fear. Being a man is really about looking fear in the eye and breaking his jaw. Being a man is about doing what is the hardest and succeeding.

Unfortunately, most of us come to this realization when it’s a bit too late. We have a wife, kids and drinking habit to support. There is just no time to stop now and start over. Well to you naysayers I say, find a way. Be a man. Grow some balls. I know we all have to do what we have to do at the end of the day. But there is night. Build whatever it is you have to build until you can do it with your day too. You can never succeed at something you are not passionate about. You will only get by. Do you really want to wake up in your late 60’s and ask yourself what did you do with your life? Stop existing and start living my friends. There is more happiness to be found in a career, than there is money to be found in a job. After all, some dude wanted to do nothing but sit on the internet all day eavesdropping on his college buddies’ girl pics. He was passionate about it. Today Facebook is one of the most visited destinations on the net worldwide.

I did quit the day job. I never looked back. Since then I have become a semi-successful writer and a starving musician. Ms. Right is still here, and will be Mrs. Right very soon. It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes I don’t know where the mortgage money is coming from. But I will tell you this; waking up with peace of mind everyday and doing what I love with my day has improved my life in ways that money never could have. It’s noticeable. I smile again, even when I’m not drunk. So, for me, the struggle is worth it. My passion will make me money because I will only continue to learn and excel. Finally I am a real man. And guess what? My father just went back to get a college degree for the first time in his life. I guess he knew his own advice was half good and half bullshit. Just a little food for thought. Cheers.

24 November 2009

New Patterns in Dancehall Music..Daggering and Lock The Block

It's no secret, music has always been a copycat business. As soon as one particular style, pattern, chord progression or piece of equipment becomes popular, everyone else hops on the bandwagon to try and emulate the success of the creator. I used to loath this lack of creativity in the music business, but now I have just accepted it as part of the everyday life. I don't have to remind any of you of the Autotune craze that is still at the forefront of pop culture today.

Dancehall has been no exception for this rule. Around 2004 with the growing popularity of riddims produced by the likes of Stephen Di Genius McGregor and Don Corleon, dancehall took on a completely new format. Heavily autotuned vocals, trance style syth progressions, and military drum rolls permeated the genre and captivated the dedicated dancehall listeners. It was an exciting and welcomed change as the genre had felt stagnant for quite some time. But then, as all new patterns go, it was heavily imitated, sampled and duplicated. Let's be honest...every artist releasing music right now is either trying to sound, or does sound like a Vybz Kartel/Movado clone. It has left a lot of real music appreciators in turmoil, jumping over the reggae isle to more soulful music the likes of Jah Cure and Gyptian.

But of course, there are still some originators out there and this essay is dedicated to those new releases that have taken dancehall back to a heavy drum, bass and music driven genre. First on the list is the new daggering music. Even though I think you have to be insane to enjoy that dance style, there were a few producers and artists who saw the value of blending soca and reggae together to make a wilder kind of cross culture music. (Big ups to Traffic Ent, Charlie Blacks, Alfonso Splendid and so many others). This music has not only revolutionized the dancehall scene, it has turned the dance floor into a Hollywood stunt stage!

And of course, there are those releases that almost fall on deaf ears because of the lack of star power on the track. One of the most interesting I have heard lately comes out of the Mad Architect Music camp. The track is called "Lock The Block" (performed by Zeego Zarro featuring Viper) and can be heard on their website at the time of writing this article on this link (http:///www.madarchitectmusic.com/latestrelease.html). I don't know if it is because of the experience of everyone involved in the creation of this track, or the fact that the producer is from Trinidad and working with Jamaican artist who have been living in the US for a while. But this track definitely stands out as different, authentic and a breath of fresh air to the dancehall community. The track is almost a storyline of a Jamaican hustler experience, with a party like feel. It's really weird actually to hear a hardcore track that makes you want to dance and not kill someone. The bassline is sick! Reminiscent of The Metric Riddim with its over processed feel. And the best part..NO AUTOTUNE ON THE VOCALS.

Two brand new voices also help bring this track to life. Zeego Zarro has a straight up voice that doesn't sound like anyone else in the business. His dj style is unique and his delivery is at the level of the pro's. Viper has a voice very similar to Mega Banton. It is not so similar as to confuse you (he definitely has his own sound and style), but it's just enough to make you say, "Doesn't he sound like such and such." His lyrical ability is enough for an entirely new article. Let's just leave it at impressive.

The only place this track falls short is a lot of lyrical references to things specific to New York. Most people outside of New York just won't get it. But then again, one listen to the heavy bass and instrumentation of the riddim, and those who cannot appeal to the words will definitely be moving to the thump of the bass.

04 May 2009

Soca vs. Reggae? Who wins?

Growing up in the Caribbean, or another part of the world where Caribbean culture is very apparent, we have all run into this argument. Both sides claim credit as being the best party music, both claim to be the most original, and both have created a unique culture amongst it's indigenous and foreign fans.

If we were to base it off of worldwide influence, who could we say claimed the title? Dancehall has made its way to commercial radio limelight outside of Jamaica for over the last 20 years at least. Now claiming fans of all colors, races and ethnicities, it would be a fair assessment that it has claimed its space in the forefront of world music. Hell, its an official genre and recognized by the American culmination of "good" music, The Grammy's. Soca is not. But, most forget one thing...CARNIVAL..That is right, carnival in Trinidad and Tobago (as well as the other leeward and windward islands) is probably the biggest attraction of any celebration in the world, earning a cult like following from all islands, continents and corners of the globe. Is it the music? Probably more like the atmosphere that the music creates. But at the end of the day, a shining star in a clear glass case that dancehall cannot claim.

I believe for years the "Soca vs. Dancehall" debate was really an inherent "whose island is better" argument, which spilled over into the Caribbean's most popular and recognizable trait...Music.. But in these times it seems we are on the cusp of a major change. For the generation of the late 70's through 90's (my generation) we have had many, many cross over artists. The biggest in my mind to date is a toss up between Byron Lee, and Beenie Man's number one soca hit, "Jump and Wine." Since then, we have seen an influx of reggae and soca artist collaborating and musical masterworks, with sayings, nuances and dances crossing the cultural borders. Even the BPM's of some reggae songs of late can rival that of a Groovy soca song. So it just seemed fitting that eventually, along would come a spider, and spin a web of fusionary bliss between the two.

Yet, that attempt has only helped to add fuel to the argumentative fire. Tony "The Mad Architects" debut riddim, entitled "The Major Riddim" was supposed to be the beacon light, symbolizing the union of two cultures, ideals and musical styles. But it has turned into a bigger competition from both sides of the musical isle. (Yes "isle" is purposely misspelled, clever I know). This fusionary music style (name of genre still pending) has sounded the call from soca and dancehall artists, squaring off of the riddim to settle the argument. However, fortunately, and unfortunately, it doesn't seem like we are any closer to settling the beef. The soca artists have come up with some songstry ballads that are sure fire hits; while the dancehall side has stringed together some lightening like lyrics, along with well placed punch lines and hooks, placing them amongst the top of this riddim's elite.

So who will win this epic battle? Who has taken the lead? Seemingly this will be and endless saga that will never end with a clear victory. But it sure is fun to witness!