How do you know when your moment in the sun is beginning to come to an end?
I can remember a time when everything catered to my fashion and musical tastes. Shopping was a breeze, and finding music on the radio was a cinch. I was part of that golden demographic that companies bent over backward to appease. God, I miss those days.
During a recent trip to New York, I realized that, unbeknownst to me, I’ve begun to adopt a get-off-my-lawn state of mind. Musically, I find myself unable to rap/sing along to any of the latest songs on the radio. Fashion-wise, the people closest to me have staged multiple interventions to try and separate me from my beloved cargo pants.
Have I given up on life? What’s happening to me?!
I guess if I’m honest with myself, I saw this coming years ago.
That “It” Factor
Once upon a time, I used to conduct interviews and write editorials for various music outlets such as the Hip Hop News Letter and Streetcred.com. There were others, but those two defunct sites were always my favorites. I feel proud that some of my interviews with those two particular outlets have withstood the test of time and still have copies floating around the internet somewhere. I smile when I see that I’m a footnote on a Hip-Hop Wikipedia page.
Looking back on these memories, I feel as though I’ve been teleported back in time. I can see myself sitting in front of the laptop excitedly pounding on the keys while putting the finishing touches on an article. I remember the feeling of enthusiasm that allowed me to lose entire days sitting in front of that computer screen.
So why did I stop writing? The simple answer is that I stopped writing because I started to lose “it”.
The loss of it wasn’t something immediate or instantaneous. It was a gradual process. I went from pumping out editorials and interviewing major artists regularly to grappling with writer’s block and turning down interviews. I always knew that I couldn’t dedicate myself to something I didn’t believe in, but I never thought it would affect me the way it did.
My editors wanted me to develop features the way I did with the likes of Fabolous, MC Shan, The Elephant Man, Chamillionaire, Dinco D, etc, but they wanted me to do it for MC Joe Schmo from the block who was only capable of delivering the usual lyrical drivel (sex, drugs, money, and murder). That’s never really been my thing.
When I accepted assignments to artists with music I didn’t like, or flat-out hated, the quality of my work suffered. I was losing my ability to deliver unbiased, high-quality copy, and it was killing me. The more I turned down interview requests and album review opportunities, the more I realized I needed to step away from the music scene as a writer. The love just wasn’t there.
I had grown to the point where I was gathering a following. Handlers were offering to fly me out to cover events, video shoots, etc. I no longer had that fire in my gut for it, so I knew I couldn’t do quality work. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin whatever reputation I had built, so I decided it was best to fade away. I still regret that decision!
When I started interviewing, writing articles, and covering events, I had a zest and a zeal for Hip-Hop that was second to none. I appreciated bars, metaphors, and slick word-play over beat production. Storytellers and conscious rappers were/are my absolute favorite, and they were definitely in short supply at that point. At the time of my breakup with Hip-Hop, the musical landscape was becoming littered with ringtone rap, snap music, and one-hit wonders, and I wasn’t here for any of that.
I considered myself a Hip-Hop purist, so to someone like me, having to listen to that music was like taking an icepick to the eardrum. Nas was screaming that Hip-Hop is dead, and he was partially right. My love for it had died, and with it went my ability to churn out my art.
Once my love for the genre started to fade, I didn’t feel as though I belonged anymore. Writing felt more like work than like my passion, and I always told myself I’d stop if I ever reached that point. If I ever became the guy who could only criticize and reminisce about the good old days, it was time to take my ball and go home.
An Emptiness Inside
Here I am all these years later, and I still find myself screaming into the creative void. It has been screaming back at me begging to be filled, and that’s what Jaded ’80s Baby was created to do. For years, I refused to start writing again. I couldn’t recapture the excitement I used to feel back when I’d submit an article to an editor. It’d be impossible to regain the satisfying feeling of receiving an e-mail from an editor who wanted to work together.
If I couldn’t write about music, what would I possibly write about that could come close to matching any of that?
I tried writing about my personal experiences with relationships for a time, but that wasn’t my style. Then, I dabbled in politics and sports, but neither felt quite right. I tried a variety of things to satiate my artistic hunger, but all I found was that I wasn’t being true to myself. I knew that I wanted to write, but writing is pretty damn difficult when you have no muse.
One of my flaws is that I’m a huge procrastinator. From college term-papers to pursuing my personal and professional goals, I have always put things off to the last minute.
I didn’t completely abandon the idea of writing. I’ve always kept a notepad full of topics, website ideas, events, etc. The problem wasn’t generating ideas. My problem was that I was missing the spark. Needing something to reignite that spark, I was on a quest for fire.
I spent years trying to find a natural accelerant to keep my creativity from going on ice. Luckily, I found inspiration once I ventured outside of the U.S. It’s funny how the most elusive answers in life can often be the simplest ones.
Once I traveled a bit and was able to experience life from the perspective of a foreigner, it opened my mind to another world of creative possibilities.
I realized that I could do more than merely focus on the American Hip-Hop scene. I could give a first-hand account of my musical experiences in different countries. Even better, I could branch out from music and talk about my travels, the cuisine, living abroad, etc. There was a host of material floating around out there.
Here I am 3 years into my journey abroad, and I have a notebook full of material waiting for me to finish writing it. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, and I’ve missed that feeling. I have loved every minute of this process of rediscovering and reactivating my creativity, and I will not be putting it away this time.
There’s no telling what the future brings, but I do know that there’s no point in wasting time because none of us are getting any younger and there’s no worse question to try and answer than “what if?”
Strike while that creative iron is hot and keep on swingin’.
A Jaded ’80s Baby