Kind of Red

June 8, 2009

Rhyme and Reason

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Painted One @ 12:36 pm

For those who may have stumbled upon this blog unawares, aside from spiraling my thoughts across the globe on this blog, from time to time I put words together that rhyme and set them to a distinct rhythm.  Some call it rapping, I call it making music.  Presently I am working to complete an album.  Overall, I envision the music containing heavy fusions of jazz, the blues, rock and soul, and yet still ring true of hip-hop.  The content will tackle some of the more compelling issues of our day-conversion, the intersection of race and faith, overzealous religious fervor, unity of mankind, the search for love, satisfaction and purpose–all neatly packaged into great music.  Below are links to some preliminary recordings of some of that material along with an explanation for the concept and or the song’s origins.  Feel free to listen to the songs, read the reason behind the rhyme and share  your thoughts with me in the comments section.

The (Real) Good Life

Biblical References: Psalm 16:11; 35:9; 51:12; 66:1; 100:1, Habakkuk 3:18, John 3:15-21; 10:10; 15:11, Romans 14:7-8, 17, I Thessalonians 5:16, I Peter 1:18

You may listen to The (Real) Good Life by clicking here, then clicking on the audio page.

Simply put, The (Real) Good Life is a jubilant celebration of life as it should be, and a rejection of the destructive forces that our culture freely endorses.  The music was written and produced by “Freek van Workum” for 3 Fifths Multimedia-www.3-fifths.com.  God gave me the concept for the song serendipitously.  My wife and I initially heard the music while I was visiting the website for 3-fifths Multimedia. I was combing through the archives endeavoring to find music to fit some of my new material, and in the process, we heard the music for what is now The (Real Good) Life.   We both were drawn to it almost immediately.

Particularly, we both loved the mood and feel of the instrumentation, yet we both concluded it did not fit any of my then-existing material. We listened some more, and discussed the potential of me purchasing the exclusive rights to the instrumentation.  I wondered aloud what to call it if I were to do so, and she blurted out, “Why not call it, ‘The Good Life.’”  I told her I had been considering calling the song virtually the same thing—The (Real) Good Life.  We agreed that was confirmation and made arrangements to purchase the music.  Before long, she began singing what would become the chorus, and I later wrote verses to accompany it.

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It would seem as though we have no shortage of musing on the good life.  Nevertheless, most of those reflections describe tales revolving around “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” rather than affixing its sights on matters of eternal significance. That remains precisely the reason for the line, “We like to say the revolution’s not televised,” which also simultaneously serves as fairly obvious allusion to Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.  Suffice to say, our culture glorifies behavior that literally tears apart the very fabric of our society, and it requires a revolution of sorts to combat it.  As believers there is just certain behavior we cannot partake, and in shunning it we find a brand of freedom that only God could give.  In short, “The [life] that we’re living is very different.”  We believers walk by faith and not by sight, which was the inspiration for the line, “It’s kind of like Braille, you cannot see it, but you feel it.”

The second verse begins with an allusion to DMX’s (featuring Sisqo) second verse of What These [Expletive] Want from a [Expletive].  In it, he tastelessly provides the listener with a fanciful list of his most recent sexual conquests. While those ascribing to such ways may find immediate gratification (and almost certainly some other unwanted reminders of their romps), there never has, nor ever will be, fulfillment or true gratification in such living.  More specifically, that is why I say such things as: Some think game is a matter for bragging/I tell them, “Games are for children and professional athletes’” True men do not objectify women and use them as a means to appease their insatiable sexual appetites.  True men love their women, marry them and rear godly children with them.

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Life is Beautiful

Biblical References: Job 7:6-7; 14:1, Psalm 8:4; 88:3; 91: 16, 103:4; 118:24, Proverbs 8:33-35; 14:27, Ecclesiastes 12:1, Matthew 6:25-34, I Thessalonians 5:16, James 4:13-15

You may listen to Life is Beautiful by clicking here, then clicking on the audio page.

On a September evening of 2005, I took a moment to begin completing what would become the last verse for Life is Beautiful. I struggled mightily in the process.  As I labored to complete that last verse, it occurred to me that I was writing about the beauty of life while sitting at my desk in my office rather than watching the sun set at the end of a gorgeous day.  I decided to venture outside, and watched the sunset as I wrote.  Needless to say, I received much of the inspiration I needed to put together the words you just heard. God gave me the words for Life is Beautiful nearly four years ago, but I was just blessed with the opportunity to put those words to music recently.  Dave P. Stevens Jr., an accomplished musician in his own right, composed the exquisite instrumentation you hear, and did an extraordinary job of putting to notes what I did in words.  We solicited the assistance of a brilliant drummer—Wardell Pearson Jr.—to further enhance the mood (the three of us joined forces again in A Black and White Affair).  My dear friend Tomeka Carroll blessed the song in a way in which only she could.  Those components together made the song you heard.

Brother and sisterly love

On its face, Life is Beautiful may appear as a nostalgic retrospective that is moving in its sentimentality; however, its introduction takes tremendous strides in explaining the song’s overall concept.  Quite simply, the world most certainly has become more troubled in the nearly three decades since I have been on the planet (in fact the globe has become more troubled in the last decade, e.g.: the resurgence of nuclear proliferation, climate change, a global economic crisis, a perpetual state of war across the globe, AIDS threatening to reach pandemic proportions, natural disasters, the threat of international terror coupled with the ever-present concern of global imperialism, etc.), yet a large reason for that hinges upon me taking more notice of such trouble during my adult years. One cannot evade such an occurrence oftentimes, it is a rite of passage for becoming a responsible adult—taking note of the world in which you live.

Nonetheless, much can be said of the youthful innocence that adorned us as children.  For that very reason Jesus admonished his disciples to allow people to bring little children to him while he was teaching on the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan, saying, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus further declares, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” Scholars have commented that in this moment Christ teaches us that to enter into the kingdom of Heaven we must humble ourselves as children and trust God to direct us and provide for us.  Unfortunately, we typically trust in our own devices, and consequently “for the sake of making a living, [we] forsake that [we’re] living,” as I say in the last verse.  We let this beautiful life pass us by with our “meetings after meetings, appointments, agendas/We miss the beauty of this life when the point is its splendor.”  Most certainly our days are “few and full of trouble,” but we should enjoy the days we have, and fret about tomorrow if and when it comes.  Life is beautiful.

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A Black and White Affair

Biblical References: Genesis 1:28; 5:1, Acts 10:9-35; 17:26, Romans 2:11; 8:14, II Corinthians 5:17, Galatians3:26-29, Colossians 3:11, James 2:1, 9; 3:5-8, I Peter 1:17, Revelation 7:9-10

You may listen to A Black and White Affair by clicking here, then clicking on the audio page.

It has been more than a century since William Edward Burghardt Du Bois mused in his acclaimed work, The Souls of Black Folk, “[t]he problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line . . .” Though our progress as a nation since Du Bois made his statement is remarkable, as Dr. Du Bois prophetically opined more than a century ago, America, still grapples with the problem of “the relation of the darker to the lighter races.”  In turn, much has been written concerning the plight of Africans in America, their interaction with whites, and their subsequent quest to ascertain their status within the quagmire that is the racial caste system in America.

As an African American reared below the Mason Dixon, I find significant portions of the arc of my own personal narrative bends along that color line.  The stories you heard in A Black and White Affair are true; I became aware of the way in which the world viewed me, and that “Black,” was the name it would call me during an enrichment activity in my very first year of formal education.  I was told to draw a self portrait using crayons or markers.  I tried to use the color I believed most closely matched my pigmentation, and grabbed a peach.  Much to my chagrin, a classmate showed me the error of my ways by saying, “You’re not white, why are you using peach?”  He then handed me a black crayon and said, “You’re black.”  In later years when my mode of speech, style of dress and scholastic endeavors did not conform to what those around me readily associated with “Black,” they did not hesitate in calling me “White.”

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This undoubtedly created an internal struggle of sorts. Disturbed by such occurrences, “measuring my soul by the tape of the world,” initially I made it my goal to develop my personality into the antithesis of all stereotypes of blackness.  For example, if stereotypes proclaimed blacks possess lower levels of intelligence, then I strived for academic excellence and prided myself in attaining it.  Or if blacks were stereotyped to have greater levels of athletic prowess, then my goal became to display as little athletic ability as possible.  I later took great pride in all things “Black” and adopted a sense of self-pride that could be unfruitful at times.  This vicious cycle of running from my ascribed racial identity began to define my existence for quite some time.  As time progressed I began to see not only were such practices impractical, but also in altering my identity in an effort to negate stereotypes, once again I succeeded in allowing another to define who I am and what I become.

Many have wrestled with similar struggles, and what I offer to the dialogue is,  “The Father is my definer long before the color line was.” I am graced with the revelation that I am child of the living God created to fulfill His purpose, and define my life’s existence in that realization.  Race, as we understand is a social construct, a means in which people define themselves and those around them.  God created mankind in His image and likeness.  He is no respecter of persons, He values no children of His less than others. It is our own social conventions that continue to divide us along the color line, and we may escape its boundaries if we choose to do so.  That is why I “color my response with this reaction, I am a man of God the world wants to call a black man.”

Have Plenty

Biblical References: Psalm 23, 31:1, 37:1-5, 73; 119:36; Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 3:7-9; 4:5-13; I Timothy 6:6-8; Hebrews 13:5; James 5:1-8

You may listen to Have Plenty by clicking here, then clicking on the audio page.

Of the songs that will complete my upcoming album, Have Plenty is one I wrote more recently.  Many who hear it now will more than likely remind me that it is easy to say, “I have plenty with a new wife, new home, new degree and new job,” but I wrote much of this song not too long after I was sleeping on the floor of my little apartment in Philadelphia.  It was shortly after I trekked nearly eight hundred miles from the place I called home in order to begin my pursuit of a juris doctorate.  As the mention of sleeping on the floor would suggest, there were struggles along the way.  During that time, I came to understand “how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Regardless of the state, I know that when I have the Father, I have everything that I need.  My wife wrote the chorus, and is singing background vocals along with a great friend of ours Karena Sheppard (who also joins us with her sister, Nakeesha Benson, on The (Real) Good Life).  Tomeka Carroll again blessed us with a masterful performance on the song, and the instrumentation was written and produced by 3 Fifths Multimedia-www.3-fifths.com.  Dave Stevens added live instrumentation on the acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electic bass and Wardell Pearson played the drums to help embellish the composition.

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In his book, The Search for Satisfaction, Pastor David H. McKinley boldly declares “A new religion has emerged during the past two decades in America . . . each week, thousands of patrons make their weekly pilgrimage to the growing number of temples built across the scrawling landscape of our cities and suburbs.” Pastor McKinley is not referencing a new age faith, he is referencing our search for satisfaction and how that search fuels our insatiable desire for more.  He further discusses how such a search (and failed remedy for that matter) is not new, our longing for fulfillment have existed for as long as we have.   Have Plenty revolves around similar thoughts.  So often, “The life we want most is the one we don’t live . . .”  We rarely find contentment in  “whatsoever state [we are], therewith . . .” Rather we continue to reach to add more to our lot, and in so doing, “We may get what we reached for, but we lose what we had.” When more is never enough we become “imprisoned in picket fences.” The prayer is that we will see through them long enough to understand we do not have to remain confined by them.

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4 Comments »

  1. […] You may read the concept behind A Black and White Affair by clicking here. […]

    Pingback by A Black and White Affair :: Painted Red — January 19, 2011 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

  2. […] You may read the concept behind Life is Beautiful feat. Tomeka Caroll by clicking here. […]

    Pingback by Life is Beautiful feat. Tomeka Carroll :: Painted Red — January 19, 2011 @ 5:01 pm | Reply

  3. […] To read the concept behind Have Plenty feat. Tomeka Carroll, please click here. […]

    Pingback by Have Plenty feat. Tomeka Carroll :: Painted Red — January 19, 2011 @ 5:31 pm | Reply

  4. […] would seem to be no shortage of musings on life, death and aging.  I have even contributed to the discussion.  Aging seems to fascinate us in ways few other phenomena can.  The inevitable descent of our […]

    Pingback by 30 for 30 « Kind of Red — May 10, 2012 @ 12:20 pm | Reply


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