All We Wanna Do is Take the Chains Off

“Be Free” by J Cole isn’t a song I listen to that often.  The truth is: I can’t. Nowadays, whenever I hear the lines:

All we want to do is be free
All we want to do is be free

I hear the (slightly paraphrased) last words of Eric Garner:

All I know is I can’t breathe
All I know is I can’t breathe

It makes me think of his wife and his video death and it’s just so god-damn depressing.  The song leaves me very nervous, weary and reminds me how hopelessly out-of-touch I am with real world problems.

If there’s one thing I will take away from 2014: it’s that this world is so fucked.  Between disappearing airlines; kidnapped Nigerian school girls, Malala, and the litany of racially charged shootings of young black men in the U.S.  I have never felt so simultaneously lucky and guilty that I was graced with the good fortune to live on this temperate, sleepy Island while my brethren trying to go to school in Nigeria or Pakistan are being persecuted, kidnapped, shot and raped. Or are being choked to death on the streets of New York; or shot in the back in the suburbs of Missouri; or on a subway platform in San Francisco; or on a playground in Cleveland; or a hundred other places and times young, unarmed black men have been shot by authorities in the last year or two.

It’s embarrassing.  I actually can’t stand to read about it, because I’m embarrassed that people still react like that in this day and age.  It’s disgusting to watch the media and politicians try to rationalize or subjugate this type of behaviour – this type of epidemic.

And I’m in denial
And it don’t take no x-ray to see right through my smile
I know

All year, I saw the stories about young black men being shot pop up and I would devour the information like a nebulous made-for-tv movie.  I’d skim the stories, read the social media hashtags,  scan the photos, but I couldn’t sit and really absorb the information. I couldn’t watch the sobbing parents nervously reading prepared speeches to angry mobs outside of courtrooms and pundits calling for cooler heads to prevail over the calamities of injustice.  I didn’t want to.  I’m not a racist.  I know these shooting are bad.  Why do I have to know all these details?

It took me a while to realize why the details matter.  Why everyone should have an image of these boys and men when they hear the names Michael Smith, Travyon Martin, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and the hundreds of other unarmed, young black men that were shot to death by authorities. It’s because this is real and happening right under our noses. If we don’t pay attention and really work to understand why this is happening –  it will be happening on our doorsteps next.

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I was re-reading one of my favourite books, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley that I was reminded of one of my favourite quotes, by Black Panthers leaders Eldridge Cleaver:

There is no more neutrality in the world.
You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.

It may seem a bit far-fetched to feel that up here in Canada, in my self-exiled bubble of kisses, unicorns and giggles, I can help stop police brutality against young black males in the United States but I really believe, in a small, minuscule way, it’s true.  I have to.  Otherwise, what’s the point of caring?

Please give me a chance
I don’t wanna dance
Something’s got me down
I will stand my ground.  

It’s so easy to be apathetic.  I loathe apathy. Even Kurt Cobain was disgusted with his predicament having become the poster child for apathy when I believe it was his hyper over-sensitivity and cripplingly insecurity that was perceived as apathy by the media.  I understand apathy  is a natural part of growing up, but adults without opinions or adults who are too lazy or too preoccupied with their own mundane lives to educate themselves and develop some sort of understanding on the greater crises facing our world today are the worst.

J Cole is anything but apathetic.  He’s travelled throughout Ferguson.  He uses his music, interviews, social media and image to give a voice to the struggles that he remains connected to.

Ooh, I’m letting you know
That it ain’t no gun they make that can kill my soul
Oh, no

So what do can we do about the persecution of young black men in the United States?  It starts within yourself.  You can begin by examining your own stereotypes about all races and types of peoples and coming to terms with how they evolved and how they impact the ways you interact with people.  You can educate yourself. You can educate others.  You can donate to charities that support causes that are important to you.  You can volunteer.  You can write your politicians.  You can create art that is inspired by things that matter to you.  You don’t have to drive to Ferguson and join a riot to show your support for the families of these fallen men.  You can live your life in a way that honours their memories and help create a generation that does not fear young black men or police or tolerate injustice.

All we want to do is be free
All we want to do is be free
All we want to do is take the chains off
All we want to do is break the chains off.  


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The Best Music from Seven Seasons of Sons of Anarchy

With the Sons of Anarchy series finale coming up on December 9th, it’s hard to not get nostalgic over the last seven seasons of mayhem, machismo, brotherhood, love, dysfunction, loyalty and betrayal. Instead of getting depressed over the end of Jax Teller, I thought I would remember one of the things that surprised me the most about this show:  the music.  Nobody does a musical montage like SOA. Kurt Sutter and Bob Thiele have found a way to weave new or re-interpretated music into some of the most pivotal scenes of the show. The music on Sons of Anarchy elevates the drama, the lyrics provide a deeper prospective to the turmoil on screen and the musicians chosen are rarely known beyond their smaller, niche markets.  I would have never heard of The Forest Rangers, White Buffalo, Noah Gundersen, Joshua James or Greg Holden without Sons of Anarchy and now all these artist are in heavy rotation on my iTunes.

I’m dreading the series finale on Tuesday but I’m super curious to see what song Kurt chooses for his last SOA musical montage.

12. Lullaby for a Solider – Maggie Siff. This song is from Season 6, episode 9, “John 8:32.” Juxtaposed with all the anxiety and stress of the episode which culminates with a terrifying scene between Jax and Lowen when Jax finally realizes what Tara has done.  Maggie’s sweet voice reads like a collective sigh for the audience.  Something wicked this way comes.  She’s resigned to it.  It’s extremely sad and somewhat haunting.  What more can the caged bird do but sing.  She sings for her hopes, her mistakes and her sons.

May you always be brave in the shadows
‘Till the sun shines upon you again
Hear this prayer in my heart, and we’ll ne’er be apart
May you stay in the arms of the angels

11.  Till It’s Gone – Yelawolf  This song was in the Season 7 premiere, “Black Widower.” SOA has featured Yelawolf before, but I was so happy to hear this newest song on my favourite show.  The beat is like Jax’s frenetic heartbeat.  Hard and fast – driven by a deep-rooted pain and thirst for revenge that he can’t comprehend.  Jax thinks he is being a man by trying to avenge Tara’s death but he is too clouded by his pain to realize that he is basically being  coward- avoiding his kids; avoiding his wife’s grave and suppressing his feelings with violent bravado and rash decisions.

You handle your own when you become a man And become a man when you handle your own Ain’t much I can do, but I do what I can But what can I do if I do till it’s gone? Oh oh

10. Forever Young – Audra Mae.  It’s so rare to see a happy moment in Sons of Anarchy but this cover of the Bob Dylan classic was used in the beginning of Season 1, episode 12, the “Sleep of Babes.”  Baby Abel is finally coming home from the hospital, Clay and Gemma are being all cute in the kitchen; Tara tells Jax she loves him sleepily – Jax is worried and stressed but you can’t have everyone happy at the same moment – this is Sons of Anarchy after all. I love this cover because the singer’s voice is angelic but also a bit gritty and sleepy.  This song humanizes the SOA family because it illustrates that despite the extreme lives they live; they still want the same fundamental things for their children.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you. 

To be honest, I never really thought about the lyrics of Forever Young before I heard this cover on SOA.  Jax obviously wants his newborn son Abel, to grow up surrounded by love, be strong, righteous and true.  But as the series unfolds, we see that Jax’s pursuit of the truth about his club, about Tara,  and about his Father lead him to make some terrible, terrible choices.  Ultimately, the truths break him.

09. Family – Noah Gundersen. This song was used for the musical montage at the end of  Season 4, episode 6, “With an X. There’s a lot that happens: Jax beats up Ima, Unser leaves a death threat in Tara’s car; Juice is a fucking mess.  But everything that everyone is doing is in the name of their “family,” either their biological family or their chosen family.

And someone lies bleeding
Someone got violent and did not think twice
And I watched you my brother
Making a fool of the moon tonight

If you don’t know Noah Gundersen, I strongly urge you to get into him. He writes some of the most heartbreaking and truthful lyrics  I have ever heard.  I know this song is the same music as Day is Gone, but it’s a testament to how beautifully painful this song is to me that I’ve basically included it twice.  For me, this song is about how family can be so cruel, and reckless and crazy, but you stay with them because you feel it’s the right thing to do or you’re scared to forge ahead alone. So you numb yourself to dull the pain and pass the time until it’s all over.

8. Can’t Make it Through the Night – Deadstring Brothers. This song is from Season 2, episode 11, “Service.”  I can’t find anything about this band online; I’m not even sure if they are still together.  Actually when I first heard this song, which plays when Clay and Gemma get it on at the Teller-Morrow office, I thought it was the Rolling Stones.

She hold me close and life looks easy
Well, Im still cropped by her sight
The pain never leaves me
And I still can’t make it through the night.

I love this song so much because the lyrics are so straightforward and it sounds like something someone would get up to sing after a few to many drinks and a rowdy drunken fight with your partner.

7.  Goodbye Dear Friend – Deer Tick. Technically this song is not from a Sons of Anarchy episode but since the cast seems to blur the lines between their real lives and their acting lives, I will too.  I first learned about this song from this Goodbye Opie video, that still makes me cry every time I watch it.  Deer Tick wrote this song about a friend that died in a house fire.  For me, it makes me think about a certain friend, who was one of my closest friends for a brief but intense period of my life.  She didn’t die or anything but we just burned out of each others lives.  But sometimes, I’ll see an old photo or hear an old song and think about her and how inseparable we were and now I’m not sure I would recognize her if she was standing right in front of me.

Some stories break your heart
And some with such applaud
Buried deep inside, where it’s ok to cry
Some boys won’t shed a tear
Oh, but I tell it like this here
It can break down and get me where it hurts the most

Deer Tick is a pretty amazing rock band. They even have a Nirvana cover band called Deervana.  The lead singer’s voice is so gravelly and solemn that I was pretty surprised to discover that the band does a lot of cool, happy, rockabilly songs too. One of my favourites is called In Our Time, which is about how cool they used to be before they had kids and responsibilities.

6.  John the Revelator – The Forest Rangers.   This song is featured in Season 1, episode 13, “The Revelator,” and is arguably the most iconic song from the series.  I don’t know much about the Bible so this song was completely new to me when I heard it on the show.  I was instantly intrigued.  The melody and the bluesy twang are basically begging you to tramp around your house failing your arms around looking for John the Revelator. What I really love about the song is the sense of defiance in the delivery of the lyrics. It mirrors the defiance in Jax, who now knows what Clay and Tig have done.

5. The Lost Boy – Greg Holden. This song is from Season 5, episode 4, “Stolen Huffy.”  This is the episode with Opie’s funeral.  It’s sad but in true SOA fashion, the main storyline is  juxtaposed with some random car chases, fights and a random guest starring turn for Disney princess, Ashley Tisdale.   It’s a testament to how perfect this song fits the character of Opie,that I have read two books about the Lost Boys of Sudanread countless articles, watched the documentary, and still this song, which was written about the Lost Boys of Sudan, makes me think of Opie’s skull getting crushed; Jax’s horrified reaction; that old photo of Jax and Opie that Jax places in Opie’s kutte pocket and not the real heroes that actually inspired this beautiful song.  Oh you beautiful manipulative bastard, Kurt Sutter!

A hero into the masses, to those born without chances
There’s a freedom that everyone deserves
I know there’s greed and there’s corruption
I’ve seen death and mass destruction
But I’m telling you, and I hope that I’m heard

4. Come Healing – Leonard Cohen.  This song was used in the musical montage at the end of Season 6, episode 1, Straw. I got into Sons of Anarchy a bit late- I think Season five was airing and we were given the season 1 DVD which we devoured in like two days.  Then we bought all the DVDs and were embarrassingly hooked.  So much so, that I started getting my BF to shave his beard like Jax and he ‘suggested’ I get highlights and wear my boots more often.  Season six was the first season we watched live and to be honest, I didn’t realize how popular it was.  But when I heard this Leonard Cohen song in the episode (which is one of my favourite Cohen songs of all time), I was shocked. First I was surprised that Leonard Cohen let his music be on Sons of Anarchy.  Then I was shocked that SOA could afford to get the rights to his music.  He’s probably the most famous person to have his music on the show (not including artists who have allowed their music to be covered). This song is so beautiful and poignant that it helps the audience understand (somewhat) why Jax cheats on Tara.  He is not doing it out of malice or lust or bitterness.  He is looking for solace in the midst of the chaos of his life.  He needs healing.

Oh gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow 

3. Make it Rain – Ed Sheeran. This song is from the musical montage at the end of Season 7, episode 12, “Red Rose.”  I don’t know if there’s another song that so succinctly conveys the emotional turmoil woven throughout the whole series.   I love Ed Sheeran but had no idea that he could be so bluesy.  I had never heard of Foy Vance (the songwriter) but I can say definitively that I am now a fan.  After an emotionally tumultuous episode that saw the death of three major characters, this song was a catharsis. This rain is a baptism on my soul, anyone?

Well I know there can come tears from their eyes
But they may as well be in vain
Even though I know these tears come with pain
Even so, I’m just the same.

2. Day is Gone – Noah Gundersen.  This song is really too sad for me to listen to that much.  It is from season 6, episode 13, “A Mother’s Work.”  There is a beautiful cover of this song by Brittany Myers that I listen to more than the original because it doesn’t make me as sad.     This song is about regrets the lyrics are so painstakingly honest and so true to what Jax must have been feeling.  I find this song so sad because although I’ve never come across my partner murdered on my kitchen floor; I have been confronted with the pain I’ve caused to someone I love.  I’ve hurt people sometimes due to rash decisions; sometimes due to petty grudges I can’t seem to shake; sometimes due to my own closed-mindedness or unwillingness to listen.  To face that truth can be life altering.  Nobody wants to see the people they love in pain, and when you know it’s because of your actions, it’s impossible to stomach.

But its too late, to go back.
I can see the darkness, through the cracks. 
Daylight fading, I curse the breaking. 
The day is gone.

1.  Crash This Train – Joshua James.  This song is from Season 6, episode 7, “Sweet and Vaded.” I relate to this song so much.  The way it plays in this SOA episode is like a train wreck.  Tara plays Unser; fakes her miscarriage; manipulates Jax.  It’s all too much to take.   Tara was the morale centre of the show and now she has become what she despised.  It’s inevitable that all her lies will come crashing down around her.  Even she shows signs of wavering when she watches Jax from her hospital bed; when she makes eye contact with Unser in her office.  But she can’t stop now.  She can’t crash the train.  She’s on it now and there’s nothing anyone can do to help her.

To the mothers and to the fathers who’ve done the best they could.
Cuz raisin’ youngins in a messed up world, it ain’t so understood.
So I’ll cover my ears, and my eyes, pretend that love’s the same.
Cuz with one court’s signature, it all becomes erased.


There you have it.  Thanks Kurt and co. for the memories.  I’ll miss SOA for sure, but the music I found through the show, will keep it on my mind and in my heart always!

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Your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen

There’s not much I love more than a good, slow-dance worthy ballad.  Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud is perfectly swoon-worthy.  His words, cadences and that sweeping melody makes me long for a time when earnestness and gigantic overtones were admired not met with incredulous eye-rolls.   He must have known this song was meant to be danced, because Nappy Tabs choreographed the video with a So You Think You Can Dance worthy number than cements his place as both a timeless lyricist and one of the top balladeers of the day.

This song makes me think of Victorian times.  I’ve romanticized that time period since I first read Jane Eyre when I was 13, although I know I would have been a slave at that time.  I just can’t help but imagine a life filled with opulent and constricting clothes and a social calendar filled with formal engagements and chaste but sensual affairs that consisted of little more than hushed rendezvouses in the gardens and carriage rides.  And fainting, oh I would love to faint in some Lord’s arms because he held my gaze for five seconds longer than was comfortable.

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart

I was born in the wrong time period.  My mind is always filled with grandiose declarations and over-the top sentiments that I know I need to hold back. Most of the time, I don’t  even feel like that.  I just think of them.  But I’ve learned it’s bad form to tell someone your windows ache for them like an empty house and then not return their phone calls for two weeks because you accidentally opened your mouth amidst a deep Pablo Neruda hole and really don’t want to go out anymore.  I think I read to much Shakespeare, Dickens and Bronte sisters at a young age and I just can’t shake those grandiose themes of all-encompassing love and social inequality and the dearth of loneliness.

And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Well, me—I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

Like most women I enviously covet those girlfriends with the sweet, “locked eyes across a crowded party” stories of how their met their partners.  Those stories are so few and far between.  I mean, we’re never going to see a You’ve Got Mail or Notebook worthy first meeting story based on Plenty of Fish or drunken nights at karaoke bars.  That’s life in the modern world, I guess.  But sometimes, I imagine myself in some 1980s power suit riding an escalator when my hand touches someone riding the escalator the opposite way and it’s  kismet (or like those old deodorant commercials). I long for the time when love happened anywhere and everywhere, not through online compatibility tests, hook-ups apps or last call.

I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you’ll understand

Whatever way people fall in love, whether in the 1900s, the 1980s, nowadays or 50 years in the future, that experience remains universal.  All living things experience love.  They fall in and out of love. They make mistakes and develop life-altering connections over and over again.  It’s beautiful, meaningful, tragic and gut-wretching.

Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?
And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70
And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23

When you are really happy it’s hard  not to worry about when things will change; the inevitable other shoe drop.  Will you still feel the same about each other in 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years? I don’t know for sure. But it’s definitely something to strive for.

Cause honey your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory

This is my favourite lyric in this song. Like no matter how old you get, how much your body, your interests and your personality changes, your partner will still see you as young, vivacious and fascinating as when you first met.  Your relationship might change but your soul, your spirit, will remain captured in his heart, eternally engaging and cherished.

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Gotta Kiss Myself I’m So Pretty

I can not explain with mere words just how many feels this song gives me.  It is called Uptown Funk and is by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. It’s the lead single from Mark’s much-anticipated fourth studio album.

It’s heavily inspired by James Brown and Motown and begs for listeners to indulge in a little of what I like to call Cosby dancing.

ilehdfi Although I guess it’s better known as stank-face dancing.  Whatever you call it, this song makes me want to move.  It’s delicious and indulgent and oh so infectious.

I’ve been a big fan of Mark Ronson since Version came out in 2007.  I loved every song on that CD and still listen to Valerie and Just at least once a week.  Bruno Mars is the perfect person to sing a song like this.  He has a beautiful voice and the old school vibe and bravado that’s needed to pull off a song with this much spirit.

If you ever have the chance to see Bruno Mars live, I highly recommend  you do it.  I saw him almost a year ago and still think about that concert often.  Although to be honest, it’s mostly because I remember dancing around with one hand on my top because I was really worried that my boobs were going to pop out.

As much as Uptown Funk has an undeniable old school vibe, the lyrics are so cute and current.

Livin’ it up in the city
Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent
Got kiss myself I’m so pretty 

This is so funny to me and oh so #Normcore. I also love the lyric below.

If we show up, we gon’ show out
Smoother than a fresh jar of skippy

Come on, there’s nothing smoother than skippy!

If you sexy than flaunt it
If you freaky than own it
Don’t brag about it, come show me

This is where your Bill Cosby dancing skills must be revealed. Bruno Mars crones it so.

I don’t have much else to say about this song, except I love and you’re welcome!

If you’re as into this song as I am, catch Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars perform it live on Saturday Night Live on November 22.

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Are We in the Clear Yet, Good!

Technically, I guess you could call me a Swiftie.  I love me some Taylor Swift.  I own all her music. I know all the lyrics and can’t help but relish every tidbit about her musical prowess and famous fans with searing envy.  The greatest writers are the ones that make the ordinary extraordinary and that’s what Taylor does so effortlessly.  Her lyrics are simple but steeped in a commonality that touches even the most cynical and disassociated.

She wrote Out of the Woods, with Jack Antonoff, of Fun, the Bleachers, and being Lena Dunham‘s boyfriend fame.  As soon as I heard the beat, I knew it was going to be one of my favourites off 1989 and two weeks later it is definitely one of my top three songs on the CD (for the record, I also love Blank Space, Bad Blood and Wildest Dreams).

What I like most about this song is that it reminds me of the beginning of a relationship, when everything seems to happen either in slow motion or a faster than you can compute; when insignificant things seem so poignant and telling.  But as the relationship grows those moments just become a part of life and you barely register the way he holds his nose when he downs his dandelion shot every morning – something you swore was the most precious thing you had ever seen when you first witnessed the sacred ritual.

You took a Polaroid of us
Then discovered 
The rest of the world was black and white
But we were in screaming colour

There’s pros and cons to being out of the woods.  Obviously a pro is that both people know each other better; like each other still; feel comfortable with each other and want to pursue the relationship further.  All great things.  That’s not to say there’s not some great things about being in the woods.  Everything is new, unknown, exciting and dramatic.   The anticipation of every step is like an aphrodisiac.

Looking at it now
Last December 
We were built to fall apart
Then fall back together. 

I’m a bit too old for the drama of those tears and tantrum type relationships.  But I am emotionally-stunted and Indian so I do have a deep appreciate for the theatrics of relationships.  I often look on in envy when I see those couples having shouting whisper fights in the streets on a Saturday night.  I can’t yell at anyone to save my life but I wish I could.   I wish I could throw a drink in someone’s face.  I wish I could write a clever song about my ex and have half the world know all the lyrics in two weeks.  But that’s not me.

So I choose to live vicariously through Taylor Swift and remember what’s it’s like to be young and dating and consumed with your social life not your calorie intake; your RRSPs and your parents’ deteriorating health.

Remember when we couldn’t take the heat
I walked out and said, “I’m settin’ you free,”
But the monsters turned out to be just trees
And when the sun came up, you were lookin’ at me. 

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A Wicked Gale I Am, my Darling

There’s is nothing better to listen to right now, when you’re feeling a bit hungover, a little anti-social and even more than tired than the new You+Me CD “rose ave.”  You+Me is a folky side project from Dallas Green and Pink. It’s seems like a strange combination and an even weirder name that could be seen as either a slight or salute to the other high profile folksy duo du jour She & Him which consists of Zoey Deschanel and M. Ward.

Whatever their intentions, rose ave is beautiful and melancholic and reflective.  All things that are quite conducive to hiding in your bed in your pyjamas with the heat cranked for half the day trying to remember where your life went.

My favourite song on the CD is Capsized. Dallas Green and Pink’s voices blend together so beautifully. The melody is so pretty and the bass line is something that sticks with you long after the song finishes like a dull ache that you don’t realize you had until it’s gone.

We were two ships in the night
Hellbent on trying to survive and capsized

Not many people would accuse me of trying too hard.  It’s not that I don’t care.  I care a lot.   Too much probably; so much so that it is often paralyzing.  I get uncomfortable when strangers watch me unless I’m singing or dancing.  I can’t make big promises. I can’t stick to long term plans.  I often can’t say what I feel in the heat of the moment.  I would rather capsize than be haunted by my own perceived humiliation.  But I’ve learned trying hard doesn’t necessarily mean standing your ground and fighting for what you want.  Sometimes, it also means withstanding.  Staying when you feel like running; listening when you feel like talking or moving past it when you know deep down it will always make you sad.

Don’t fight the tides, they rise
Give in and float awhile, my darlin’

I can’t help but look back.  It’s my nature to second guess everything.  It can be debilitating or liberating depending on which side of the bed you wake up on that morning.  Your life will take you places and guide you to people. Sometimes it seems like to world is trying to guide you away from someone, like maybe that relationship has run it’s course.  But if it had run it’s course, it would be over.  The ebbs and flows of life are impossible to predict and even harder to combat.  All you can do is react as truthfully and honesty as you can in the moment.

I’ve known this all along
A wicked gale I am, my darlin’
And you can’t save me

 You may see your relationship as two ships trying to weather the sea of life while your partner may see you as a safe haven from a storm that will one day pass.  It’s this incongruity in perception that makes relationships so challenging and rewarding.  If everyone saw everything the same the world would be a bleak, boring place.  But when two people in love see things in each other and themselves so differently, that’s the beauty and sorrow of relationships.

Sometimes these differences make the world  magical and sometimes they make it capsize.


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I Love Myself and I’m Still a G

When Kendrick Lamar dropped “I”  last month, I didn’t even believe it was him.  It’s a far cry from the dark, hard-hitting lyrics he dropped on his instant classic  Good Kid, M.A.D.D. City.  But the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me.  Now I find myself doodling the images from the powerful lyric video and singing the chorus to myself almost every time someone says “I” with that particular hooded, Kendrick inflection. If anyone expected him to deliver Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, part 2, they were sorely mistaken.

Kendrick is one of the greatest rappers in the game right now and for him to take a chance and drop a feel-good jam with a singsongy hook for his first single in over two years takes balls. It’s not a classic radio-friendly single.  It’s too poppy for hip hop radio; too dark for Top 40 and has too many rhythm changes for indie or rap stations. But Kendrick has made a career off street buzz and mixtape fervour.  He never needed radio before and he doesn’t  need it now.

With its Isley Brothers sample and poppy beat, “I”  brings some much-needed levity and optimism to a genre that needs an injection of something socially and politically relevant especially in the heated racially divided climate of the U.S.

I love the chorus.  I imagine this is the mantra that Kayne and Kendrick say to themselves daily.

I love myself
But it can do what it want whenever it wants and I don’t mind
I love myself
He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide
I love myself
One day at the time, sun gon’ shine

Although it’s kind of tongue and cheek; it doesn’t need to be.  If you don’t love yourself no one else will.  If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.  Hip hop is all about boastfulness.  Sometimes it’s meant literally and sometimes it’s not.  Do I think Kendrick loves himself, yes.  I remember reading a quote from him where he said “Nobody takes what I do as seriously as me.” He knows he has a gift and it’s his mission to share that gift with as many people as he can.

So Kendrick has decided to put on a clinic. His fans got a glimpse of the hardships he faced growing up in Compton in Good Kid and Section.80.  Now he’s ready to share his takeaways from that experience with the people.  He loves himself and in doing so on such a public platform with millions of fans listening to his every word; he’s teaching you to love yourself too.

Give my story to the children and the lesson they can read
And the glory to the feeling of the only unseen
Seen enough, make a motherfucker scream, “I love myself!” 

Despite it’s cheerful chorus, Kendrick remains brutally honest about his own struggles.

I’ve been dealing with depression ever since an adolescent
Duckin’ every other blessin’, l can never see the message
I can never take the lead, I can never bob and weave. 

I can’t wait to see what Kendrick drops next.  Although his much-anticipated next CD has been postponed at least three times so far, I think his fans, myself included are willing to wait for him to be happy with the final product.

Until then, I guess we can just, love ourselves.

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