A Name To Remember
When Mike bounced the track for the last time I was met with a combination of relief and uncertainty.
I was relieved because a year after being written we had finally heard the potential of our home recording, for the second time that is. I'll explain that in a minute. But first, I must tell you about the seed from which this flower grew.
About a year ago, August 2016, Shaheim had made use of a beat I had found. We wrote a song to it months prior, but was unsatisfied with it. We didn’t think we would use the beat again. Until Shaheim came to me, and came correct, with an orchestrated idea. First giving me a background story on George Stiney.
“Who the hell is George Stinney?” I instantly thought. He said the name so casually, I thought I should know him as equally as we know other martyrs like Emmitt Till.
I rather not go into detail about Stinney's story. I’d rather have you slyly look him up as I did when I was first introduced to him.
“His story is sad enough, I want the song to be made in a different light, a different vibe,” is what Shaheim told me, right before he provided me a taste of what he cooked up:
“Blow me blowin smoke, tell me relax/Fo heads and fifths comin at my 6-pack..”
The lyrics had no beat at the time, but had weight. He needed time to find a beat that would fit the vibe. So I wait. And like I mentioned, the beat ended up being the throwaway.
Once it was put together it was a perfect match. Vibrant beat, energetic flow, informative but yet fun– this a celebration! I understood what he was looking for.
“That’s too raw jo! Eeee we about to kill!” is what I said and felt so confidently. I really didn’t know what my approach would be; but I never really know until I sit, think and write. Business as usual.
Good thing I always date my verses. August 16, 2016 was the day I put the pen to the paper. I go through my process of creativity:
Turn on the beat,
That's followed by me playing the beat over and over, and then the first line hit me. “Same words just a different tone, back then said I wish I was grown!”
Boooyyyy I tell you, after that the rest of the verse flowed like a river. Only thing I was unsure of was my flow and delivery for the verse.
We hit our home studio up and laid down the song. Always looking to improve, Shaheim used resources to land us a potential singer, let her listen and vibe to it, gave her some direction and she laid down some vocals. I cant lie it felt good, but something told me it wouldn’t be our last revisit.
We wrote and recorded this song with a cluster of other songs, one of which we took to a studio to get mixed. There, after we booked and purchased a session, is where we found out we had been recording at home too loud. It felt like a waste of money, but it was a blessing in disguise. This revelation forced us to rerecord our whole archive and become more strategic with our process.
So we ended up not hitting this song again until 2017. Even when we worked on other songs our mentor never let us forget about George Stinney.
“When y’all releasing George Stinney?” “Y’all going to record George Stinney?” “George Stinney should come after backwards.” “Okay, what can I do to help y’all record George Stinney?” She would request the song in a continuos loop, like a song on repeat.
We had to do it. We had to let it out soon. We heard it but didn’t agree with it. We felt like we should focus on projects we scheduled ahead of it: On The Floor, Initiative, Humble Beginnings. Names that’ll come with a face in the future. But we decided to go with the flow. What is a schedule for an independent artists anyway? They’re arbitrary. We had someone making a request for the first time ever, we couldn’t let them down.
The idea was to release the song on October 21st, the day of George Stinney’s birth. I agreed with it. The approach was time sensitive. We had less than 3 weeks to schedule studio time with our preferred engineer (and its always hard booking him), record over again, incorporate a new singer and oh yeah actually find somewhere to do all of this. Our original home studio was under reconstruction. The challenge was scheduling, balancing out my full-time work schedule at my new job, matching up off days between three different people, and being comfortable with our results before going to the studio.
I was always down for the down-to-the-wire finishes we pull off. My partner was on it, found a place to record, Destiny was committed to singing and I just knew I had to improve my verse. It couldn't be the same.
I practiced mainly in the car, on my way to and from work, recording myself. As my recording day got closer I felt the pressure, growing more unsatisfied with my verse, not so much the lyrics but the way I would execute it. We're getting mixed Sunday and I’m recording the Wednesday before…. Never really cut it this close, so I only had that one chance to get it right. To be honest, I didn't know how I was going to perform this verse until Tuesday, the day before recording. I just knew I had to embrace what I know best. Let out my pure natural emotion. And the end result I will live with.
I arrive to Shaheim house that Wednesday knowing this would be a success. Within an hour I was done and liked what I laid down. Neither of us could believe I finished so quickly. I was also able to hear Destiny go crazy especially on that intro. She executed the plan perfectly. “We're blessed".
The day of the mixing session I was hit with another surprise, new adjustments were made to the chorus the day of! I heard it and instantly heard improvements. It was a soulful subtle chorus with great harmony and humility balanced out with the signature energy from my partner and a heavenly aura from Destiny.
Mike did his regular. We were used to the engineering process. Hearing the song and all of its parts being played over and over. Ideas, collaboration, trial and error, and the vision of the man at the control board merging with our ideas on wax. I always loved this process. My girl and my daughter was there to cheer us on and Destiny's first experience in the studio felt like déjà vu.
So as Mike found his groove the picture became clearer in my eyes - this song dope! There lives my relief. But now I was uncertain.
Now I worry if it would be perceived and ingested as carefully as we created it. Making every lyric count, every fluctuation in voice, every dub every element serve a purpose. Not only the sound but the message we wanted to get through as it is repeated in the chorus. Get it while you young, let the youth lead the renaissance. Did you get it? You dancing and singing it means a lot but you getting up and living it with us would mean a whole lot more. The youth is a target because they have the energy to carry out change and the capability to influence lives. Fast forward, 73 years later we remember George Stinney and the events of his life as a symbol to enjoy life, and make use of our youthfulness – it doesn’t last forever.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GEORGE STINNEY!