In the past week, roughly 608 thousand people supported Eminem and bought the shiny plastic disc known to the world as Relapse. Leading up to the album’s release, the question everyone asked was, will it outsell Lil Wayne’s The Carter 3?
Record sales aside, the question to ask is, to the general public, have Wayne and Eminem traded places?
Eminem hasn’t had a worthwhile project out in five years, and in a music industry climate (hell, maybe even an entire country) that resembles the terrain in Terminator Salvation, 608k is a LOT of records. The guy has been out of the public eye completely.
Then in mid April, XXL leaked their June covers to Rap Radar, and all of a sudden Em was back. Nobody had heard any music at all, (other than “Crack a Bottle,” which apparently was a big record, but I admit, never even heard it before the album dropped) but he was back. “We Made You” dropped, and MTV, which abandoned videos for original programming long ago, somehow found it in the network’s Interscope’s best interest to premiere the music video on their channel, in prime time no less.
The response to the hokey jokey video was, hey what is this crap? He’s doing this same pop culture reference shit he’s done his whole career, and we’re supposed to care? Critics pondered, is Eminem still relevant?
The numbers are in (and I’m not even going to address the myriad other ways besides record sales- which are prehistoric- to quantify “relevance” in ’09), and the answer is a resounding, “yes!”
But it seemed like most fans and critics alike were betting that Em would struggle to outsell the million plus copies that Wayne’s The Carter 3 sold last June. In all fairness, the odds of Em outselling Wayne were slim to none. Actually, it was impossible.
Lil Wayne appeared on what seemed like at least two dozen records from other artists leading up to The Carter 3 dropping. Pretty much everything that dropped, he was on. He dropped mixtape after mixtape, hundreds of songs literally floating out there for free in cyberspace. Every two days there was a new Lil Wayne track popping up. Carter 3 songs were leaking left and right. On top of that, he was on magazine covers galore. Every music and pop culture rag in existence had his tattooed mug all over it.
Wayne also had a lot of controversy surrounding him. He had this mysterious penchant for kissing his record label CEO-turned-foster parent, Baby, on the lips (“Ewww, how gay”). There was the styrofoam cup (“What’s in it- Cough syrup? Coke Zero? Soy Machiato from Starbucks?”). Then his relationship status (“Who’s he dating- Superhead? Trina? Nivea? Oprah?”). This guy would get a tape recorder put in front of him and just say the most outlandish shit possible (“I’m the greatest rapper alive.” “I’m a martian.” “Treat me like Martin Luther King.”)
Compare Eminem with Wayne in the month since he’s been back out, and well, Shady’s been pretty tame.
Let’s watch him on Jimmy Kimmel, a week prior to his album dropping.
Nothing even remotely outlandish about that appearance. In interviews, he’s talked about his sobriety, how he was struggling with drug addiction and depression, and how he lost a lot of weight running on a treadmill. There’s no scandal there. He didn’t even become anorexic to drop that poundage. He even went to far as to admit that he’s been chatting it up about addiction with his once sworn enemy,
the leader of the gays English pianoman, Elton John.
Look at young Eminem, he’s all grown up now. Such a role model.
That drug problem? Oh, that’s Wayne’s styrofoam cup. Relationship problems with Mariah and Kim? That’s Wayne’s Nivea, Trina, Superhead issues. Legal problems? All Wayne’s. Eminem used to sell a million records in a week, now Wayne does. They’ve traded places.
And finally, if last night’s Drake performance in NYC is any testament, Wayne’s protege is shaping up to be his proverbial 50 Cent. The only things missing are Drake’s weed carriers, a crafty catch phrase, and perhaps some beef with another storied record label.
Meanwhile, Eminem’s still talking about his Mom. And Mariah. And nobody seems to care besides Nick Cannon, who in fact, may not even care anymore. Dr. Dre’s production, while serviceable and head-knod worthy, only seems to work because Eminem is just that good. And Relapse, thematically, exists in its own space, its horrorcore ethos echoing an early 90s aesthetic that hasn’t been heard since…well… the early 90s. In short order, Eminem made Relapse not for his fans or for a rap audience that is hungry for its next microwaved movement, but for himself.
That may be the biggest trade Eminem and Wayne have made with each other. While Em walked into the game already having found his voice (Em’s first 3 LPs), then losing it (Encore), then finding it again (Relapse), Wayne’s made a steady progression towards that goal, culimating in The Carter 3, and everything that has dropped after it.
Who do you think has the upper hand right now?
My name is Arthur Pitt.
I entered the music business just when it was making its curve towards the digital world. Perfect timing. This is not to say anything was easy. Over the years, I spent countless hours on Myspace learning the best ways to add “friends” manually. As exciting and fast as the digital world might seem to the outside eye, building your database and contacts is quite the contrary. It is a hustle of its own. It takes a relentless push forward and great product to spin. But it is the future. Luckily I had both to start.
A lot of the early marketing development of the first artist I worked with, Wiz Khalifa, was done on Myspace. We didn’t have a huge budget to get Wiz on the radio right away or a hot 16 from Jay Z. We were simply a grassroots teams with major label dreams.
I soon came to find out there was more than Myspace. Youtube was an effective tool for an artist. The Youtube hits and street videos we shot for Wiz soon led to him being featured on some of the top hip hop sites in the country. Before I knew it, I was servicing Wiz’s records to AllHipHop and XXLmag.com without a major label deal. My hustle was relentless and people were taking notice of our team. My guerilla style marketing tactics turned some off, but there was always someone standing beside a person who thought I was too much that would cosign for me. I was breaking into the business fast.
Sometime around 2007, the major labels started to notice us. We had been to places where no one from my hometown of Pittsburgh had been. With that said, a lot of these unchartered territories were places like Allhiphop, Nahright, and XXLmag.com. MTV, BET, and major radio airplay were in the works for Wiz. However, by utilizing the digital world first, we were doing things the right way. By June 2007, we had signed with Warner Bros. Records. Wiz was only 19. I had only been in the business for two years.
So what am I getting at? Can you have a meteoric rise with the right grind and product in this game? You bet. Can you quickly fall if you don’t respect the future and study what’s around the corner? You bet. Can you set yourself up for failure if you compare yourself to everything going around you? You bet.
Don’t waste your time trying to be the next Diddy or Jay Z. There will never be two like them. Do I study their words and how they achieved success? Of course. Do I compare my artists with who they have signed with their multi-million dollar budgets and contacts? Yes and no. I do it because I have to understand what type of music I am competing against. But it stops there. My sense of urgency kicks in. I know that it is pointless to compare myself or my artists/clients to an Irv Gotti’s or Jay Z’s latest signee. I have to focus on using what resources I have. I have to try to outwork them, put out better music, and utilize what I know better than them.
When my good friend Paul and I discussed me writing a column for this site, I wanted to share some of my early experiences with readers and my fellow music industry colleagues.
This past month has really been an amazing time for me. Wiz Khalifa’s latest mixtape Flight School has been downloaded over 90,000 times for free. Besides all the touring and promotion he does, Wiz has grasped the importance of the net. Just last week, he started to broadcast himself via his Twitter account. Before we knew it, he was a “Trending Topic” next to the Swine Flu and Grey’s Anatomy. Wiz understands the curve.
Another artist of mine, Boaz, a 22 year old MC from Pittsburgh was featured on the front page of Myspace Music and iTunes Music within a week. The staff at Apple loved his album so much they made him the “Featured Artist of the Week.” Boaz is a street savvy kid from the hood in Pittsburgh with a relentless grind to match mine. He can now fully grasp the importance of the net. I am proud to say that I have been a major part in showing him the future of the business. Boaz knows that while the majors can be a great avenue, it’s not the only way to make money in music.
Whether you know my name now or whom I represent you will soon. I am a huge part of the future of this business. No matter what, I will continue to go hard and put my artists up against companies with staffs and departments. I will compete against people who have longer money than we might have. I will always do my best to win. I am the future of this shit. Be inspired. Be focused. Believe. From Larimer to iTunes. What up Boaz!!
Arthur Pitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
In part 2 of my interview with David Banner, he explains how before he began working out and getting in shape, he was known for his excessive drinking. Now? Not so much. He says:
“That’s what I was known for, drinking a half a gallon of Hennessy every two days. But now, by the time I work out, that takes me an hour… it takes me a half hour to get ready, a half hour to an hour to get home, wash up and start my day. It’s like, you don’t have time for no bull.”
This is an important aspect of getting in shape or getting “healthy” that people often overlook. It’s this idea of how your process affects other so-called lifestyle choices, like drinking. If you’re in the entertainment business, this is almost triple fold, as our business relies heavily on the drink for, well, everything. You go to a recording studio, there’s generally alcohol around. You go to a listening event, liquor available. Afterwork meet-up with friends, drinks abound. Dinner meeting, I’ll have a glass of red wine with my meal. Hipster bar in Williamsburg to see a new band, ah what the hell, when in Rome, give me a Pabst.
Before you know it, you’re drinking damn near every night of the week. You may not be a raging alcoholic, heck you may not even drink much at all. But there are a lot of calories in alcohol, and on top of that, usually the ingredients that alcohol is mixed with are high in sugar- whether it be juices, sour mix, soda or whatever.
It’s not the worst thing in the world to have a drink from time to time, but think about all the additional calories you’re consuming as a result. And is it all worth it?
That’s debatable. You want to put in face time, that’s for sure. But these days, when a lot of people are telecommuting and such, and it’s all about skill and productivity, you may find yourself opting out of a lot of social engagements and commitments that don’t directly impact you in some very real and identifiable way. Like, showing up for that listening party (and drinking at it, no less) may not get you another assignment from an editor. But getting the proper 8 hours of rest at night, and making sure you’re bright and attentive at 9am, thinking clearly and sending out pitches will.
Your diet and exercise efforts will subconsciously put this all in perspective for you as you move along.
In part 1 of my exclusive interview with David Banner, he talks about the myriad health problems that were caused by his being overweight. He says his doctor told him if he didn’t lose weight, he might die. That news sent him straight to the salad bar.
He used to look like this.
Now he looks like
It’s no secret that the hip-hop lifestyle isn’t exactly the healthiest. One look at a guy like Rick Ross- man boobs and all- could very well send you straight to the gym.
Rappers and producers spend their nights in studios eating take out food. If they’re on the road, they’re eating fast food and junk. In clubs, they’re sipping expensive, but carbohydrate laden, alcohol.
Folks better start getting their health right, especially now with the music industry in the toilet. All you really have is your health, as that old saying goes.
Keep checking back for more about fitness with David Banner.
I’d heard through the grapevine years ago that Pimp C had been dissing me every chance he got for the review I wrote of his compilation LP, The Pimpalation, back in an issue of XXL that came out in the summer of 2006. I believe I first got word of it when a friend called and told me he was on Kay Slay’s HOT97 show talking all reckless about me back when that issue first dropped. I never heard it though. I wish I had that audio.
This new thing I got (Pimpalation) probably be out by the time this thing go to press. It’s a compilation record. I just read a review on it and the dude was talkin about it was too many people on the album—you dumb motherfucker, don’t you know it’s a compilation record? You stupid motherfucker, you don’t get compilation from Pimpalation? C’mon, man. It was XXL, too, I’ll go on and tell you, I don’t have the dude’s name right in front of me but he’s an asshole, you know what I mean. He gave the record a large but the motherfucker was like “I’m a guest artist on my own record.” And motherfucker it’s a comp…you dumb motherfucker, how dumb can you get, man? Where do they find these people? Back in the day the people reviewing the albums was really fans of the music.
Now obviously Pimp C has passed on, and I don’t want to belabor the issue too much, because the man has no opportunity to respond, and a record from 2006 is like an eternity ago in the internet era of rap. But I will take this opportunity to address what he had to say, just for the sake of clarity.
First of all, regarding the fact that the LP was a compilation album, appropriately dubbed Pimpalation. Maybe I’m stupid, and I probably am, but he’s right, I actually didn’t get that it was a compilation directly from the title Pimpalation. When I was asked to review the album, it was billed as Pimp C’s solo record. This was his first solo album after being released from jail, bottom line. There was no discussion of the title, or it being a compilation album, although in my review I mentioned that it comes off sounding like a compilation, and I remember being in the listening session for the project thinking, why didn’t he just make this a compilation album? Duh! That’s what it was. But again, it wasn’t billed that way by the people in his camp, people’s whose responsibility it was to provide that information, not assume that it was implied by the title. That’s your publicists job. I’m a writer, not a mind reader, even if Pimp may have thought that it was glaringly obvious what it was.
Secondly, this assumption that “back in the day” people were really fans of the music implies that because I’m of the current generation, I’m not a UGK fan or something. Like I didn’t give Bun B a glowing review and an XL for his album, Trill, a year earlier because it was just that good. Perhaps he’s right; though I’m a fan, I don’t eat, sleep and breathe UGK. Maybe that makes me less credible to review the album. Maybe it makes me more credible, as I can be more objective about it since I’m not a fan that’ll give him a great review just because.
For the most part though, me not just using some common sense about the title of the album was an inexcusable mistake, one I regret quite a bit, considering just how valuable a good review in XXL meant back then. I guess I’m a “dumb motherfucker” then. I can point fingers at publicists and editors all day, but the reality is I take the blame.
The question then is, would the fact that it was a compilation LP and not a proper solo project have bumped the review from an L to an XL? Probably not. Regardless of anything, the project was good, just not great. An L is a good rating in my opinion. An XL just means it’s pretty damn good. An XXL is great. Even an M is not that bad. There wasn’t much taken away from the review of the album because there were so many features on it. It’s not like he lost many points because of that. Maybe a few, but not many. And still, this was his first project since returning home from prison. That was the main sticking point of the review. You’ve been locked up all these years, there’s this big “Free Pimp C” campaign going. What do you have to say about all of that? For the most part, I felt like he didn’t have much to say. Compilation or not, this is your opportunity to speak. So speak!
He never really did. And that’s why the album got an L. People have their own way of twisting words into meaning what they want them to mean, and maybe all he saw was me making that blunder about the project being a compilation, and thought that’s why it got an L. But in reality that was just a small piece of the puzzle. Project just wasn’t great, end of story.
Still, I would love to have gotten the opportunity to speak to him one on one about it. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Bun a few times, real good dude. I know Pimp had a tenuous relationship with the press and whatnot, but I’m sure man to man he would have respected where I was coming from, as I did him.
When it comes to exercising on treadmills, I generally find that people don’t know what they’re doing. You think every time you’re on the treadmill you need to be jogging 4 miles straight for a half hour. That couldn’t be any more counterproductive to what you’re trying to accomplish, which is to burn fat, lose weight, and build lean muscle mass.
To do that you don’t need to be running at a 9-10 mph pace for a half hour on a flat incline. Remember, you’re overweight as is, how are you going to run at that speed for 30 minutes without killing yourself? What’s going to happen is, if you’re lucky you’ll be able to run a mile, maybe a mile and a half. Then you’re going to get tired, but your “Rocky” mode will click on, and you won’t want to give up, so you’ll sweat it out. Tomorrow you’ll be able to do the same thing. After a day or two though, you will subconsciously dread getting on the treadmill. Why? Because you’re killing yourself.
What you need is a 30 minute treadmill program that keeps your heart rate in a decent range for fat burn, typically around 65%. To get that rate, subtract your age from 220, now multiply it by .65
Mine is 125.45. What’s yours? Use the heart rate calculator if you’re having trouble.
That means I basically need to keep my heart rate above 125.45 to keep burning fat. Fat burn takes place during lower intensity exercises that occur over longer periods of time. So that guy you see in the gym who’s been barely moving on the elliptical for an hour, while you’ve been damn near hyperventilating trying to run an 8 minute mile on the treadmill, he’s burning more fat than you. It’s like the old tortoise and the hair story, slow and steady wins the race.
Truth is, there’s a lot more to heart rate and fat burning zones, cardio zones, etc. I’ll get into all that in a later post. Odds are if you’re out of shape, just getting your heart rate over 100 should do the trick. Usually the machines in the gym have heart rate monitors on them. They’re not always accurate so you may want to get a heart rate monitor. At the very least you can feel like Edward Nortion in the Incredible Hulk.
So now that you’ve got being a marathon runner out of your mind (at least until we get you in better shape), you’re going to want to try this 30 minute low intensity workout. Combined with a diet, this workout is guaranteed to yield results if you do it 4 days a week minimum. It’s so easy that you have no excuse not to do it. I advise you to print this out and take it to the gym with you. It’s a little bit of a pain adjusting the treadmill every minute, but it’s just a minor inconvenience for a new body. If you have a treadmill at home you can most likely program it right in.
minute 1- speed 2.0, incline 0
minute 2- speed 2.0, incline 0
minute 3- speed 2.5, incline 0
minute 4- speed 2.5, incline 0
minute 5- speed 3.0, incline 3
minute 6- speed 3.0, incline 4
minute 7- speed 3.0, incline 5
minute 8- speed 3.0, incline 3
minute 9- speed 3.0, incline 4
minute 10- speed 3.0, incline 3
minute 11- speed 3.5, incline 5
minute 12- speed 3.5, incline 6
minute 13- speed 3.5, incline 4
minute 14- speed 3.5, incline 7
minute 15- speed 3.5, incline 8
minute 16- speed 3.0, incline 7
minute 17- speed 3.0, incline 8
minute 18- speed 3.0, incline 7
minute 19- speed 3.0, incline 8
minute 20- speed 3.0, incline 5
minute 21- speed 3.5, incline 4
minute 22- speed 3.5, incline 3
minute 23- speed 3.5, incline 6
minute 24- speed 3.5, incline 7
minute 25- speed 3.5, incline 8
minute 26- speed 3.0, incline 7
minute 27- speed 3.0, incline 8
minute 28- speed 2.5, incline 0
minute 29- speed 2.5, incline 0
minute 30- speed 2.0, incline 0
What you’ll very quickly notice is that there is no running involved.
What? How could that be? I thought the treadmill was for running. Walking is for old people at retirement homes.
Yeah, and it’s for people who want to get in shape as well, no matter what the age. Walking is the healthiest exercise there is, period. It is the most primitive form of a workout, and it still works exactly as it did for cavemem. When’s the last time you saw a picture of an overweight caveman? You wanna get in shape, you’ve got to get all primitive with it.
When you get comfortable with this workout, and walking at that max pace of 3.5mph starts to not feel like it’s not doing much, increase the speed to 4.5 in that little 5 minute where you would ordinarily be at 3.5. That’ll probably be feel like a fast walk or light jog. Once you’re comfortable, increase the speed a half mile per hour.
It should take about 2 weeks for you to feel like a speed increase is in order. Do this exercise 5 days a week if you can. Put a sweatshirt on while doing it, two sweatshirts if you can.
When you’re really comfortable with it, you can start taking this beyond 30 minutes. But you’ve got to crawl before you walk, walk before you run, run before you jump… ah well, you get the picture.
During the weekend of May 16th-18th, I had the pleasure of attending Sha Money XL’s One Stop Shop producer conference, which took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.
I’d originally ventured to the conference under the pretense that I’d be moderating one of the variety of panel discussions, but wound up as a panelist on the management/A&R panel. Why? Your guess is probably as good as mine, but I imagine it had something to do with Sha Money wanting a 3rd party perspective up there with the A&Rs, someone to sort of balance out whatever information they might be giving. I was on the panel with Gene Nelson from Atlantic Records, Step Johnson Jr. from Interscope Records, Serge who’s an A&R with Jermaine Dupri’s publishing company, Dre McKenzie from G-Unit and a few other folks who– pardon me– I just can’t remember at the moment (my mind’s going blank in my ripe old age ha!).
The highlight of the event was having the opportunity to meet and share a few words with The Rza.
Too often in the music business, people who work in the game tend to spend their time grandstanding and not wanting to show love. I’m guilty of that myself, considering that, admittedly, I don’t have nearly as much respect for the newer acts as the older ones. I mean, I’m just not impressed by these guys. They don’t move me.
Rza moves me.
Maybe not as much as he once did, perhaps maybe not at all right now. But most of my desire to even want to make music comes from being that kid in junior high school, headphones on during the bus ride home, bumping Wu-Tang songs I taped off the radio. Wu-Tang was and still is the illest shit I’ve ever heard in music, period. At the time, I thought Rza was a grand scientist with the beats. It wasn’t until later on in my own production career, when I realized a lot of those incredible beats he was “making,” were in fact just loops he’d expertly dug up from a dusty record bin nobody else was looking in. There’s something to be said for that though. Wikipedia defines a genius as:
…an individual who successfully applies a previously unknown technique in the production of a work of art, science, or calculation, or who masters and personalizes a known technique. A genius typically possesses great intelligence or remarkable abilities in a specific subject, or shows an exceptional natural capacity of intellect and/or ability, especially in the production of creative and original work, something that has never been seen or evaluated previously. Traits often associated with genius include strong individuality, imagination, uniqueness, and innovative drive.
Suffice it to say, I’ve admired his craftiness for all these years. I remember arguing with kids in high school about the first Bobby Digital album, how it was far superior to whatever Ruff Ryders material they were bumping. It was that classic backpack vs. underground war, and the late 90s was when it was in heavy bloom.
Rza and Wu-Tang, in a lot of ways, defined what I wanted my hip-hop to sound like. If it wasn’t Wu-Tang, at a certain point, I just didn’t want to hear it anymore. Their sound was so in its own lane, in its own pocket, in its own little world.
And then my own production career started. I’d been making beats since back before I had even hit double digits in age. I figured out multi-track recording techniques by simply using the microphone portion of a boom box my dad had. I would play a drum pattern out with a juice bottle, record it through the mic on a blank tape. Then I’d take that tape, play it in another boom box, while I was tapping out another pattern, and record the two sounds now playing at once back on the original boom box. *Sigh* My how far we’ve come with the technology, to the point where all I ever wanted to do back then was loop something up, and now all I want to do is figure out how to NOT loop something.
But I digress.
As I entered college in the year 2000, I got more serious about being a producer. Because my girlfriend at the time didn’t get into the same college I got into, I decided to stay local for school. Back then, I still rapped. I was actually pretty good, although I could never get over my tiny white guy voice, which always made me rather unconvincing, no matter how ill the punchlines were. I didn’t really want to rap though, I just wanted to produce. Making the music itself was more aligned with my interests back when I was a quiet 18-year old college student, who spent his free time listening to avant-garde jazz records and reading Herman Hesse novels in my spare time.
That I would go on to work with some of the guys from Wu-Tang was beyond me at the time. But lo and behold, a few years later I was cutting records with Rza’s brother, 9th Prince, of Killarmy, which at the time was one of my favorite offshoots of the Wu brand. I also produced a few songs on Shyheim’s “Greatest Story Never Told.” Raekwon spent some time in the studio I co-owned with my partner at the time, recording “Castle to Castle” with DJ Doo Wop, and I even wound up engineering a recording session for Raekwon in his house some time around 2004. I produced a song called “Shine” for U-God, and he did most of his Hillside Scramblers album in my studio as well, working with my then partner Cue. The Wu-Tang guys would come and go, one day it was Cappadonna, the next it was Inspectah Deck and so on. I have stories for days.
Still, I’d never met Rza.
People would come through to my studio, say they had tracks of his, but you could never tell what was what. I seriously doubt anyone ever came through with an authentic Rza track. I imagine most of what was labeled as Rza stuff was just a collection of tracks that someone swiped from the hard drive at the old 36 Chambers studio.
Ah yes, 36 Chambers. Which is now called something else– the name escapes me at the moment– and at last check, was being leased to Swizz Beats.
Before it became Swizz’s spot, I even put some time in over there, working on some records with various people. Still, no Rza.
When I went the Wu offices that used to be on 34th street and the west side highway (the “new” 36 Chambers) a few years ago, my close buddy, former Trackmasters A&R (read: 50 Cent’s A&R) Gello Jones and I kicked it with Rza’s other brother, Divine. We were meeting to try to come up with a mixtape marketing plan for, you guessed it, Raekwon’s OB4CL2. This was 2005!! Four years, the album is now finally set to drop. Divine even came to my 2nd studio, Lifestyle, when he was trying to buy a building from my business partner, William Martin. To hear him tell it, he wanted to buy a building, put a new studio in it, offices, and so on, raise the Wu flag, and call it a day. Never happened.
Still, hadn’t met Rza.
To go back in time just a bit, there was a brief moment where Rza and I did meet, although it wasn’t anything formal. It was backstage at the Wu concert, at Continental Airlines Arena, the day before ODB died. I remember that concert like it was yesterday because earlier that day I was staring at a computer terminal, taking the GRE exam, which would determine a lot about where I was going to head to grad school. See, I was out of college for roughly 6 months back then, and it was a trying time. I’d lost my mother about a year prior, and although I’d just received my first paid placement (on Freeway presents Ice City: Welcome to the Hood), and was beginning to write here and there for XXL, I wasn’t making much money, and was still living at home. You think post-college, and a lot of times all that is on your mind is getting out there in the world, starting your career, your life and so on. And that wasn’t really happening for me. My partner had bounced to Florida, we closed our studio, and I was back at square 1. So here I am, months in advance, trying to prep for the GRE, studying math and things that I hadn’t looked at in years (god forbid I were to take that exam again now, yikes!), pondering my future and wondering what the next was going to be.
And so I walked into that exam room, not as well-prepared as I would have liked (read: no study), and took the test. It was pouring that day. It was quite depressing actually. I didn’t think I did too well (ended up with a 1090, 6 out of 6 on the writing part though, go figure), and to blow off some steam I decided to hit up the Wu-Tang concert.
If there were any doubt in my mind as to what I was going to do with my life, Wu-Tang cleared it all up that night. All I needed to do was see a sea of heads bobbing in unison to “C.R.E.A.M.” and my mind was set.
Hip-Hop was going to pay the bills.
Backstage Rza gave me a pound real quickly, a little head nod, and kept it moving. That was it. I don’t even think at the time I could really reflect like I’m doing right now. Maybe the moment didn’t mean as much to me five years ago. I wound up in Ghostface’s little corner of the dressing area, chilling with his manager Lord Mike, Trife and the rest of the Theodore Unit dudes, who I obviously knew from cutting records with them.
We had one other moment where we briefly exchanged head nods as well, after a press junket for the H20 Hip-Hop Odyssey Film Awards, where he was also being honored. Again, no real convo though.
Fast forward to a week and a half ago, and here’s Rza on stage, being honored at the One Stop Shop. Tall and wiry, he’s wearing a shirt that says “The New Negro,” and has on his customary black-rimmed glasses. He’s on a panel with production luminaries such as Just Blaze, Hi-Tek, 9th Wonder, Pete Rock, Needlez, Nottz, Don Cannon and Drumma Boy, but to me, he just sorta sticks out amongst the crowd up there. It’s like he doesn’t belong, like he’s in his own class. And that’s no disrespect to anyone else that was up there. I just feel like he fathered a lot of people’s styles. Even Pete Rock’s work, to some extent, started sounding all Wu-Tang-ish in the late 90s (“Strange Fruit” anyone?). It felt like he needed a panel of his own. A friend of mine said he had seen Rza deftly breeze through the lobby the day before, almost unidentifiable. He wasn’t seen again until this panel. Whereas everyone else was mingling with others for the whole weekend, he off on his own, maybe too cool, maybe too accomplished, maybe just too tired, to socialize.
When the panel was over, I walked up to him and said:
“I’m Gooch, the producer from Staten Island.”
His eyes lit up.
“Oh, you from the island? That’s peace.”
“Yeah, I produced a bunch of the songs on your brother 9th’s new album [“Prince of New York“], the one that just dropped on Babygrande.”
“No doubt, he told me about you. Good shit.”
“What’s been going on with you though?”
“Shit, I’m chillin.”
We took a picture, and our conversation ended.
I met Rza.
me on the A&R/Management panel
I haven’t written anything in this space in almost a year. Honestly I can’t even remember when I last blogged about weight loss and fitness, not that it’s been far from my mind or anything like that. I’d post some pictures if I were a more liberal kinda guy, but who wants to see me anyway?
For the past year I’ve made fitness and a decent diet part of my every day life. I’ve used Dr. Ian Smith’s 90 day Fat Smash Diet as the foundation, and tinkered with some of the portion sizes, tried a few new food items (veggie burgers, whole wheat/multi-grain wraps, etc), and stayed in the gym as much as I can. I think I held off from blogging about weight loss and getting in shape because after I dropped 55+ lbs (later, 70+ lbs), I wasn’t entirely comfortable with myself just yet. I wasn’t really aware of how the world saw me.
There are two main reasons for this.
One is that I’ve been making most of my money primarily in the online space for the past two years. And while that’s a blessing because I can work from home and create a schedule that fits my lifestyle, it also doesn’t put me in contact with people I might ordinarily see on a day to day basis, like co-workers and random strangers I’d meet in a bar after leaving the office or studio.
Two is because when I started this life-changing diet, I was in the midst of a blogging job that I was being contracted by MTV.com to write. That was the Sucker Free blog. Though I enjoyed writing that blog, and mostly enjoyed working with MTV, there was a bit of brain drain that came from slogging through 8 hours a day of RSS feeds on artists and news that I may not have personally cared much about. Not to say I don’t care about hip-hop music or what’s going in the culture, but the shenanigans that often need to be blogged and reported on can begin to weigh on you after a while. Especially coming from the print world, with a journalism degree, and beyond that, the music world, with records in stores and all that goes into that neverending grind.
That said, when the recession began to rear its ugly head, I decided that when the blogging job ended, I was going to pursue something more high maintenance– namely, television– or nothing at all. I went to LA in June of last year, about a month after I’d departed the fold at MTV, and met with a very high profile reality television production company. The development executives who I’d been primarily dealing with at the company departed in the midst of our work.
So I continued writing my Scratch blog for XXLMag.com, wrote many pieces for XXL, and did a 50 Cent interview for Complex.com. There may be something else of interest, or perhaps something more high profile in the midst of all of that, but honestly I’m just drawing a blank right now.
I mainly bring all these things up because for years prior to this I had been ripping and running everywhere, taking meetings, doing interviews, chasing money, and so on. Typically I would eat very poorly while doing that, and my weight ballooned as a result. There was an obvious weight gain that started around the time I entered my final semester of college. I recently saw a picture that my aunt took of me at graduation, it was startling to say the least. I thought I was in decent shape back then (May 2004). But once you get above 230 pounds, trust me, you’re just plain ol’ fat. Dropping or adding 10 pounds will do little to change that.
Let me not digress. With blogging, I was making money, basically, sitting on my ass all day. Not literally, but figuratively. I’ve got a phone, I’ve got internet, I’ve got a blackberry, I’ve got contacts. The entire world was (and still is) at my fingertips, so let me stop stressing so much, lower my expectations, work smarter, not harder, be more disciplined with time management and deadlines, and just live life.
And that simple paragraph that you just read has allowed me, even in the recession, to kind of maintain a level head about things, particularly dieting and staying in shape.
In the past, I might have lost some weight, and then when something earth-shattering happened I’d let it affect my whole lifestyle. I’d let it throw me out of wack, lose all sense of discipline and start eating fast food, stay up late drinking soda and eating chips, and basically become completely unhealthy in the process.
Reality is, things are definitely not going great in the midst of the recession. A year and change later, there are tons of opportunities out there to do things, but the money has been slower. You have to do about 50 times the amount of work to make even less than you were making before. It’s pretty depressing. I won’t even address the music side of my life. If media has you doing 50 times the amount of work, music has you doing 300 times the amount of work, and you’re lucky if you EVER even see a dime.
Still, I haven’t let that throw my fitness and diet to the wind. I’m in the gym five days a week, lifting weights, hitting the treadmill, the elliptical, stairmaster, and so on. When I’m not in the gym, I’m either at home running on my treadmill, running stairs in my building, doing p90x workouts, or going for 6 mile runs through my neighborhood in Staten Island (which isn’t the safest thing in the world, rest assured). Sometimes I play basketball, but I’ve found that it doesn’t really give me the workout I need.
I admit, I probably don’t eat as well as I should. I eat sometimes as many as 10 times a day, and snack a lot. And when I snack, it’s not always the healthy stuff. Late nights you can still catch me eating 3-4 bags of Baked Lays, Doritos, pretzels, and so on. I drink a lot of diet soda. I eat a pint of Haagen Dazs frozen yogurt almost daily. Sometimes I swap the yogurt for ice cream, straight up. It’s not uncommon for me to eat an entire box of cereal in one sitting, or drink a complete pint of milk (2% tho).
But I don’t eat anything fried. I NEVER eat fast food. Once in a while I eat some candy, but it’s rare. And if I do, it’s never a chocolate bar. More like a few Twizzlers. I keep all types of oil and butter out of my diet completely. I consume very little in the way of bread products. I mean, there are weeks that go by without bread even entering my system at all. The only time I can remember eating any pasta was when I stage managed the Red Bull Snow Scrapers Event on the East River. It was 10 degrees in February, and there was nothing else to eat. It was die, or eat pasta. What choice do you think I made?
I keep the refrigerator overstocked with fruits, mostly apples (granny smith, red and golden delicious) and grapes (red and green, seedless). I also make my own salads- lettuce, peppers, carrots, an assortment of beans and lentils, mixed with some grilled chicken. Since I’m home more often than not, I try to cook for myself, keep everything I eat relatively natural. For dinner it’s a lot of brown rice, steamed vegetables, and more grilled chicken.
In all honesty, my diet is a little boring. But I’m single and live by myself. I’m also not big on taking hours to prepare things. A lot of times I just want something quick and easy to make. In a lot of ways, I need the healthy diet I keep now to mimic fast food. I was raised on burgers and fries. Not exactly Debbie Does Salad, as my former journalism professor, Frederick Kaufman, once so eloquently put it in Harper’s magazine.
And now that you’ve finally made it to the end of this longwinded post, the point of it all was to say this– once you rewire your system, as I did with the Fat Smash Diet, you should be relatively good to go from there. You could very possibly eat poorly for a few weeks and still be quite alright, not gain any real weight back. I certainly don’t feel like I’m the best eater in the world right now, but I have a healthy relationship with exercise and the gym, and though I certainly feel better working out when I am eating properly, as long as I’m active I feel alright.
So roughly a year later, so-so eating and all, I’m 190 pounds. From the range of 255-260. I run a mile in less than 7 minutes, and can keep that pace for an hour. Went from barely benching 50 pounds to 130 (since December ’08, basically). Oh yeah, and I can drop another 10-15 pounds any time I feel like it. But alas, that’s a post for another day.
I was out in Phoenix, Arizona for Sha Money XL’s One Stop Shop Producer Conference last weekend. I spoke on the A&R/Management panel on Sunday afternoon, even though I’m not an A&R or a manager, per se. But whatever, it was cool to kick the the truth to the youth. Caught up with Just Blaze for a while, hadn’t seen the dude in a minute. Read more