JOURNAL

  • Would You Like A Tour?

    Pretty modest name, right? Yeah, no. Hip hop culture is not about the downplay, the humility, or the safe zone. Never has been. This tour is huge, the fans are one high-heeled step away from seizure at all times, or at least one shreiking scream away from an aneurysm. (I love that, btw). And all the excesses that Drake & Future, and even Miguel, sing and rap and chant about are totally being lived out on the nightly. I heard the other day that Future has a dude who will tie his shoe for him should he need it (yeah, if it was a 'bad bitch' that'd be cooler, I was thinking that too...). And every night, Drake is somewhere hosting an afterparty and being everybody's dream after having already ripped a 2 hour show. I suppose if everyone was at the club celebrating me I'd be able to stand it, but as we're 2 months into this daily routine and they are not paying me so much attention behind the 18 bottles of Ciroc and bustier'd waitresses that dart so determinedly between gorilla-sized security guards, I'm sort of a big fan of the tour bus party at this point. I'm actually a huge fan of the 'let's go roll a joint and watch a movie on the bus' method of after party right now, haha. But mostly because Christmas is 10 days away and I'm so down to just wear pajamas all day for a while.

    Being born affected with wanderlust yet having a totally real affinity for my 2 homes (Mom's house in Baltimore and the Launch Pad in LA) is a curious limbo. Whenever I'm home and working on records or just hanging with my nephews, I fully cannot wait to get back on the road and onstage and into the cyclone. And when I have been on the road and onstage for about 56 nights in a row, and the buses are slowly winding their way back to the Mid-Atlantic, I really cannot wait to get off the damn train, plant my feet firmly on the ground, and not play anything but acoustic guitar for nobody all day long. In a sense I suppose it is a real blessing, that for as completely bi-polar as the 2 sides of my career are, I pine away for both of them equally.

    The part I need to always be getting better at (most of us do, I'm convinced) is the being all the way stoked for now. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, or plain ridiculous, because my life is very good; my art is highly-favored, my family is chillin, and my youth has stuck it out with me. I am very aware that my right now is pretty regularly awesome as hell. But even still, there is generally a notion of looking forward to something. By the time that something gets here, I damn near always catch myself looking forward to the next thing. I am quite certain that most of it stems from an insatiable appetite for progression and productivity; that what I have is surely worth having but that being content feels like stasis to me and I have a very real need for movement. But all that is to say: the times in my adulthood where I felt like I was really smelling the roses were times when I was doing a lot of writing, just like this. I have books & journals full of random occurences and daily accounts of whateverness, and I go through seasons where I am filling them regularly or abandoning them completely. But it is those times where I give myself 20 minutes to write each night that I am made to see how good a day it really was. Also to make record of what actually happened as all the pieces and people and places continue to zoom by at warp speed. I am pretty much writing all this right now as a reminder to myself to do it more often, for me, and for whomever digs me enough to want to check up on me here (Hi Mom D! See you next week!;)

    Oh yeah, some people were probably hoping for more of an exposé on the Would You Like A Tour shenanigans. Well, Dallas and Portland were the livest crowds; Sacramento and Portland were the best stops because Monomaniac showed up and we shot music videos between shows; Drake is a great dude & totally worthy of his accolades; Miguel is again nominated for some Grammys and is even more worthy of it (I am not nominated this year, but check for me in 2014;) Philly was one of the most fun stops because we played a secret show for 100 people and it was lowkey totally my idea because I love that shit; and TOPSZN is the new regime, if you hadn't heard...;) My brother @mr_clandestine has put together some incredible tour videos from all of our stops and Miguel will probably roll those out soonly so you all can see firsthand whatever the hell it is we think we are doing. Til then, listen to a ton of music, read a few books, say hello to strangers and to your estranged brother or father or whoever did you wrong back in 2003, and have an awesome holiday filled with comfort and familiarity.

  • Little Arrivals

    I'm at CenterStaging studios in Burbank, CA, laying down on a stage deck & keeping myself amused while Miguel plays his song 'Pussy is Mine' at full volume just to my left and a crew of our production engineer friends control stage lights that erupt & fade with epileptic intensity from all angles. We are preparing for the start of this fall's 'Would You Like A Tour?' featuring Drake and Miguel, and safe to say it's a Production with a capital 'P'. It's dope though, we love doing this stuff, we love doing it huge, we love rehearsing it incessantly to be huge and then getting to the stage and going even bigger. 

    Even being here at CenterStage is an arrival unto itself. This place is hallowed ground. I used to come here for auditions and terrible little TV shows I was on that you'll never see (all legit reasons to be anywhere, but not quite the 'belonging' that you feel when you aren't auditioning anymore and the show you are on doesn't suck). I would walk down the halls listening to the spillover of whatever world class bands were tucked away in it's catacombs, yearning for the day when I could skip around as casually as they did, not worried IF I was gonna get the gig or if this show was my ONE shot to make it (note: in my experience you very rarely get only one shot. Life is full of little turning points, don't trip about the temporary & fleeting nature of them). I remember one of my first times at CenterStaging, I don't recall what I was auditioning for, but I remember the hallway, where all the expectant musicians were lined up, unsure wether to upkeep the charade of competitive coldness or to bond and brother up with a bunch of other dudes who all had everything in common with one another. And the hall was particularly cramped that day because all of Nine Inch Nails stage props were lying about: jagged trees and industrial lighting, barbed wire and rows of huge road cases that used to be filled with whatever huge soundsystem Trent's voice was bellowing through around the corner. I didn't get the gig, but I remember thinking one day I'll be back and I won't be worrying about proving myself.

    I've been back many times since, most often to visit the showroom of the guitar manufacturers whom I work with & love (Paul Reed Smith: www.prsguitars.com), or to rehearse with Will.I.Am, play for the voice, visit Usher's band when they are in town rehearsing, and to make some waves with my brother Miguel. Each of those was a little arrival, and while I don't feel as if the work is done, I feel better about where my place is in it all. The other small arrival was meeting our new stage manager, Yeti Ward. I knew I recognized this dude when we shook hands and he handed me a box of strings and picks he had brought for me (still not sure how he knew what size and brand I play). It wasn't until a day or 2 into rehearsal that I realized he was the same Yeti I had seen on all the behind the scenes 311 tour videos when I was a kid (my favorite band growing up, btw, next to Rage Against the Machine). He was there for all of the early shit and has since toured with and tech'd for Foo Fighters, Limp Bizkit, R. Kelly, heck he's been behind so many incredible shows since first growing up with 311, and now he's behind our show and hands me my guitars probably much the same way he handed Timothy J. Mahoney his all those years. He will go on to have Tim leave me a good luck voicemail on the first night of tour. Now there's a little arrival for sure...I'm down for the unity.

  • Not Insomnia, but something like it

    I don't know why I love the nighttime so much. And a particular time of nighttime; the real late part. I don't even care so much for the early part of it, nightfall, because I quite like the daytime too and I hate seeing it fade away everyday wondering if I'd done anything of value. Also because in the beginning of the night you are always preparing for wherever you will be in the thick of the night, and I'm always late and feeling rushed about it. People close to me think it's a diva syndrome, me taking awhile to get out the house, but it's really just that my time hasn't come yet.

    It's 4am and this is my favorite part of it: the phone doesn't much ring, the traffic subsides for about five minutes, and the old day is long enough gone to have let go any anxiety of underacheivement while the new day is far enough in the distance to feel like you can still prepare for it. This is not insomnia. I don't have insomnia, because I can sleep anywhere, damn near anytime if I feel up to it. That practice has been slowly & precisely honed by unsubsiding months on the road, spending nights in airplane economy cabins and napping away afternoons on empty road cases backstage just waiting to soundcheck. No, this is different than insomnia, because this is a will not to sleep, almost like a satisfaction in overcoming everyone else's predictable and conformist 'routine'. Haha, so punk rock.

    But no I'm not really angsty about staying up late, like I was when I was angsty about everything...I get the most creative work done at this time. I really need the time & space to do my best shit, and particularly if someone is here in the studio working with me and keeping a watchful, or even a distracted eye over me. Believe me I can get caught up in a wikipedia hole, searching for who produced my favorite rock records to how Bruce Lee died to whatever happened to Jesse the MTV VJ (FYI: it doesn't end well) like it's nobody's business. But if some artist I'm working with or one of my bandmates or my girlfriend can bear that grisly transition between 'it's late' and 'it's early' with me, then I'm really at my best. Consequently nobody is here tonight, probably why I'm writing in this journal instead of writing songs, ha.

    Anyway, coming off of 2 days rehearsal for the upcoming Drake/Miguel 'Would You Like A Tour?'. Miguel's band is killin', we are gonna give Drake's show a motherfucking run for his money every single night. And I hope he does the same, but seriously we're going for blood. No disrespect, "that's the competitive spirit of hip hop." (-R.A. the Rugged Man http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrktwQys-wQ). Monomaniac also brought a new producer, the first other than myself and Ryan, into the fold last night at a dope meeting full of all the things I could have wanted. I'd like to tell you all about it but there's nothing to tell yet, except that these songs will get sung, strummed and heard, and now they'll sound even doper than expected or than I could have done on my own. That's the update, and it's 5am.

  • Sweet Home Cali

    Day 2 of the Sweet Home California video shoot: In an RV tearing up the 5 freeway in the middle of the night. We were supposed to be wrapped and heading back to LA by now but instead we are driving away from it, north to San Francisco, our original itinerary dashed after a tire blowout last night had us more or less stranded overnight in a desert parking lot. We made the most of it though. There are 6 of us, and enough booze to drown 10 men and enough space in this Winnebago to have a legitimate house party. We still shot bits for the video all through the night, even if we were supposed to be waking up in SF. Instead we came to on that same stretch of desert and waited while the AAA extra special unit rerimmed and tired our weary automobile: Mobile Command Station Pluto Mars (or MobCom PluMar)

    First we headed south deeper into the Indio desert, back to a destination we had given up on the night before on account of having run out of sunlight, but which we decided to double back to in an attempt to make a silver lining out of our broken down night. We're all glad we did because Leonard Knight's Salvation Mountain is unreal. When we release the video in a few months you'll see what I mean. San Francisco is far away, especially traveling at the new reasonable speeds we've adopted since the near-death scare last night. But we'll get there in the morning in time to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Fest which happens to be this weekend, and all types of other shit in one of the hippest cities in the world. I love the Bay Area. When we're done we'll head back down the coast, get in the ocean, start a bonfire, and basically rage all the way back to LA. Can't wait to shoot, see & share the new Smashtronauts video. Right now I have to play navigator because I'm riding shotgun in Mobcom Plumar and our driver DJ Kick Mix wants to find some good food somewhere in this desert expanse. Sweet home Cali indeed:)

  • Vegas at 4am

    This city is more hype & alive at 4am than most cities are at rush hour. Not that everybody who is contributing to the hype is not a total hot mess or fully ridiculous, but I'm not! And I'm here! Actually I don't know, maybe I am a ridiculous mess, Vegas just makes you think that it's a good thing. 

    Just wrapped the iHeartRadio festival with Miguel. The lineup tonight was insane. Too good, really, for consumption in such a small period of time. It's like if all your favorites restaurants delivered your favorite meal at the same time; I mean they all smell great, but some of them are going in the fridge for later. Anyway, Paul McCartney, Zedd, Miley, Phoenix, 30 Seconds to Bruno Mars (both of em), us, Ke$ha, Drake, Justin Timberlake. People will undoubtedly ask who was best, and that's just a ridiculous question. 

    Sometimes I miss this city, other times it makes me insane. But I have a flight to catch at 9am and a looooong ass video shoot tomorrow with Smashtronauts starting at noon. So I'm trying to decide wether I should answer my phone, which is ringing off the hook as I write this. I'm not that popular, I just make a lot of empty promises when running aroun a festival in Vegas filled with tons of people I halfway know who are trying, however helplessly, to have THE time of their life tonight. Maybe I can help, but you're probably all on your own;)

  • Practice, Perfect, etc.

    I've been in or around LA for 2 solid weeks! Longer than it's been all year! I love this city. Everybody gives it a hard time, but they're just not pretentious and superficial enough to understand;)

    I went to San Diego for the weekend to watch the Ravens game with like 35 Maryland immigrants who live in SoCal now. We shipped crabs over night from the Chesapeake Bay, started drinking at 10am, and won the football game. San Diego is amazing and beautiful, and somehow there is ALWAYS a reason to just party absolutely all day long. Never fails. 

    Right now I am sitting in SIR Hollywood, taking 5 from Miguel rehearsal with me & my 4 brothers. We are preparing music for the upcoming tour with Drake next month. Safe to say there is a little spirit of healthy competition in here. We wanna show everybody up on this tour, which is pretty consistent with how we always feel. We wrap in 45 and will head down the street to Tender Greens for lunch like we always do. The Happy Vegan plate is delicious and incredible and just as pretentious as it sounds;)

  • Chill

    We got in to Sydney, Australia at 6am this morning. We left Friday and today's Sunday so Saturday literally didn't exist, haha. Good thing I gave up on time, calendars and schedules long ago, like 3 years or something, or else that might rattle me. Anyway I'm here with Miguel, we played a television show today that is the #1 show in australia, but I can't tell you what it is yet because it's some sort of secret reveal at the end of the season. Who knows, show business is retarded when it comes to who knows what, cuz mostly nobody knows anything. Or at least, the more you act like you know shit, the more you are fully fronting haha. At least I can admit I'm winging it;)

    Anyway, I'm in australia, where I've never been before, and it occurred to me: it takes me coming to a place where I literally know nobody to finally take a breath and do what I'm doing all night right now. Watching TV & playing my guitar in bed. Seriously, never do this anymore. It's totally ok, but tomorrow we'll probably have to get back to warp speed and I'm ok with that.

  • Turn Off Your Mobile Devices...

    I'm sitting on a plane to australia. I have a window seat & a hash lollipop & good ass headphones to kisten to mad foreign films. I've never been to Australia, in fact it'll be the most west I've ever been, and so far the whole westerly manifest destiny thing has been really good to me, I'm sure this'll be no different. It's a little bitter sweet leaving my home and studio in LA (the Launch Pad). I've been holed up there the past week with a bunch of my friends coming through creating records day and night. I was actually hoping to have 4 of them done by the time I left town today, but deadlines are a bitch and I guess I'm a perfectionist? I dont know, they are close though! I'm sitting on the plane listening to rough mixes and sending notes back and forth to my conspirators. It's fun, it's just as fun as touring really, even if way more predictable, haha. Anyway, australia for a week then back to LA for a day, then Philly for Made In America (I'm out of the loop but my sister is coming up from Baltimore because she says its a big deal), then the real deal, LABORAGER on the Baltimore harbor for my bday:) Lots of traveling ahead, I promise to get these records done to share with whoever's listening. Oh, also we got the first edit back of the new Smashtronauts lyric video. Lots of editing and colorizing and techy stuff to do for that too, it's gonna be beautiful though. I'll keep in touch w myself about it right here from the outback:) I'll probably write a new song while I'm there too, new places do that to me.

  • Mom

    My Mom just sent me a text that she checked out my website (a week after it was launched, she's a busy lady;) and that she hopes I'll keep up with the journal, because she knows I tend not to slow down for these things. It's 6am and I've just finished a monster marathon studio session with Monomaniac (the song is called Something More Comfortable, more on that later...) and am gonna get about 3hrs rest before 10am rehearsal with Miguel for the upcoming Drake tour. And she's right, I for sure was not gonna write anything because I've been writing all day. But the new song is hype! There's other news too that I should mention before I pass out & forget to post this entirely...

    We shot the first Smashtronauts video last week, I'll be seeing first edits by late this week. The shoot was crazy fun and I want to direct the next one. I went home to Baltimore for 2 days last week to surprise my little sister for her birthday, which is actually today consequently. She was surprised and I love home, I saw my homie DJ Rainier and we drank beers &  rode jet skis. Finally felt like summertime after all this travel and work (Woe is me haha). Anyway here ya go Mom, the sun is up now. Goodnight, I'll be posting new music soon:)

  • Sweden.

    I got to Sweden today for Way Out West Festival with Miguel. We left LA yesterday at 1:30p, finally getting to the hotel today at 1:30p. It's exactly the reason why once you really start touring, it's not even worth it to count the days anymore. Sometimes they go by with dizzying speed, other times you're 5 days into a particular run and it feels like you've been gone a month. I manage to do a lot of fun things by not particularly caring what time or day it is. 

    Tonight should be fun, we play at 9:30p. It will probably still be light outside because that's how this part of the world gets down. Scandinavia as a whole gang is pretty awesome. The women are beautiful (albeit too tall for my taste, but fun to watch from the stage), the men still kinda look like Vikings, and the whole vibe here is welcoming and less Hollywood than London or Paris or some place that knows its cool because it's on everyone's tshirts. Also, Rodriguez is playing tonight. I watched Searching For Sugarman on a flight a while back and it's the first time a flick has made me cry since I don't know.