stream of consciousness.1

An individual life is a jigsaw puzzle. We start with the corners and define the edges, then begin working our way inward until we have a familiar, completed scene.

As we grow we begin to cultivate passions, we develop tastes, we embrace our individuality. These characteristics are our corners and borders. When we use these traits to create, we begin to flesh out the innards of our puzzle and our completed scene is left as a piece for others to use as inspiration and example.

My puzzle pieces aren’t fitting.

I’ve lived in the same city for 15 years (shouts out to the 314, the only home I’ve ever known, all love.) I’ve grown immensely here. I’ve experienced the utmost joy and sorrow here. My family is here. I have a steady career here. My friends are just a few hours driving distance from me. I live comfortably here…

I am empty.


“The sea always seems to put me at e
ase.”
image1

I visited California recently, the Golden State, Pacific Ocean. As soon as the water washed over my feet, I knew I was home. As soon as the crashing wave pierced my ears, I knew I was truly home.

I saw mountains and immediately said “I can climb that.” I saw the hills, the trees, EVERYTHING. Nowhere is perfect, but it was so, so close.

All of my puzzle pieces started fitting, one at a time, everything fell into place.

“You wonder if you’ll ever find your dreams?”

This is an honest stream of consciousness. I’ve found it’s the best way to say everything I want and need to say in order to keep from bottling it up. That’s why there are odd breaks in my writing. That’s why it isn’t all grammatically accurate, (I didn’t forget all my writing lessons from college.)

If I’m not honest with myself first how can I be honest with anyone else? I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling negatively for thinking I don’t belong here.

The latter quote is almost a mantra for me. It means to live what you love.

Everyone should find their dreams.

Sincerely,

Troy

p.s. you’re beautiful

p.s.s. here’s all of the songs I used quotes from.

Being As An Ocean – The Sea Always Seems to Put Me at Ease

Kanye West – I Wonder

22. A Reflection.

I am 22 years old. I shouldn’t even be here. This isn’t even music related. I haven’t written for S&S in a year or more.

The first thing that came to mind for me today was lyrics to a Wu-Tang Clan song: “It’s been 22 long hard years and still strugglin’.”

With every passing year I’m slowly realizing the important and unimportant things in life. I’m certainly not the same person I was five years ago, man, not even close to the same person I was a year ago.

21 was a year of growth for me. A year of conquering fear. A year of forward progress. A year of embracing my humanity.

A year of conquering fear: I conquered my fear of being alone. This was the first year of my life in the past five years that I haven’t been in an active romantic relationship. I took trips, went to shows, saw movies, and did a ton of other things just because I wanted to. That feels really good. It’s a feeling of security. I like feeling secure.

A year of forward progress: I’ve moved from Customer Service Representative of a store 45 minutes from where I live to General Manager of my own store in less than a year’s time. I’ve grown in my spiritual relationship. I’ve built stronger friendships with the people who are closest to me. I’ve dug deeper into my own passions while also learning and becoming a more cultured individual.

A year of embracing my humanity: Over the past year I’ve been trying to preach and practice a doctrine of loving others. Life is fleeting, every day the clock is ticking, and I’m confident all that really matters when I move on from this world is how much I loved people. As long as that shows through my words and actions I am happy and content with the life I’ve lived. That’s all I want to be remembered for, if I’m remembered at all.

However, I am imperfect. I face many internal struggles and demons daily. But I will continue to grow and progress and that is the key to success.

My goal is to do this every year. To take the time to reflect on what I did over the past year of my life and all of the events that took place, good and bad.

So here’s to 22. First stop, the Golden State. From there? Who knows.

I’d like to leave you all with this, kinda sums up what I’ve been trying to say:

“Hello my Only One.”

Many words have been used to describe Kanye Omari West: Visionary, god, polarizing, jackass, (etc.) One adjective I rarely hear though is “relatable.” Honestly, that’s not hard to believe… the man is hard to relate to. Have you ever told your girl to “Get the Porsche out the d*** garage?” Have you ever said to yourself, “One day I’m gonna marry a porn star?” Over the past decade the most relatable Kanye West has ever been to the average person was on his debut, The College Dropout where he rapped about his life as it was before getting a deal. Some of the realest things he ever said were on that record. I’m getting off track here so don’t get it twisted but how many people can say they relate to who Kanye West is today? How many people can really say they relate to someone of that magnitude, making the case that they share a deeper connection than just appreciating music with him or her. I can.

At 12:00 AM on January 1, 2015, West dropped “Only One.” featuring Paul McCartney of The Beatles. I listened to it over and over again until I was shedding tears. I had to regain my composure quickly but this song literally shook me to my very core. Not like the stadium-status of Graduation, the grandiose My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, or the hellish Yeezus, but in a way that literally felt like the words spoken were spoken directly to me.When asked about the track West said that his late mother, Donda West actually spoke through him and to him on this song as he was recording it. Here’s the crazy part… I heard my mother speaking to me too.

Hello ‘Mari, how you doin’? I think the storm ran out of rain, the clouds are movin’.”

I lost my beautiful mother, Rachael, when I was three months old to complications from Cystic Fibrosis and double pneumonia. She was 21. I have went my entire life listening to stories of the strong, powerful, courageous and wonderful woman that she was. I have a list of questions I would ask her if I only had the chance. But the worst thing is I’ve went my entire life wondering if she would truly be proud of who I’ve been and who I’m going to be.

Hello my only one. Just like the morning sun, you’ll keep on rising until the sky knows your name.
Hello my only one. Remember who you are, no you’re not perfect but you’re not your mistakes.”

When I heard “Only One” I immediately had answers I’ve been asking for years. I heard my mother’s voice in my heart, singing this to me. I’m shedding tears now as I write just knowing how much she truly loves me. It brings me a joy I’ve never known until now. At the time I’m writing this I am five days from turning 21. She gave birth to a happy baby, fulfilled her biggest goal in life, having a family, and is watching that boy grow into a successful man.

And if you knew how proud I was, you’d never shed a tear, have a fear, no you wouldn’t do that.
And though I didn’t pick the day to turn the page, I know it’s not the end.”

I wish I could have known my mother better, made amazing memories with her, visited her in her old age and brought her cookies, given her everything like every son should, but I can’t. I’m envious of the men who know their mothers and have that opportunity. But every time I hear this song I see her smiling face and hear her beautiful voice in my heart, singing along with me.

So hear me out, I won’t go. No goodbyes, just hellos.
And when you cry, I will cry. And when you smile, I will smile.
And next time when I look in your eyes, we’ll have wings and we’ll fly.”

It’s an understatement to say I’m looking forward to the day I finally get to say hello to my mom. When I visit some beautiful new place I always jokingly say “Hey mom, I made it.” A part of me knows she’s smiling and saying “I know son, I’m proud.” “Only One” is confirmation of that, confirmation I’ve desperately needed for so very long. Don’t get me wrong, I love living, but I’d be lying if I said this hadn’t crossed my mind a thousand times.

So say what you will about Kanye West. All adjectives used to describe him may or may not be true based on the opinion of the person speaking them, that’s one of the beautiful things about words. I’ve been a longtime fan and will continue to be supportive of his mission to spread a message of self-confidence, achieving your biggest goals and never letting anyone silence your ambitions. But on top of all that, it’s amazing seeing an introspective piece of art like this make such a connection to you in a way you never knew art could.

Only One” is literally the soundtrack, the anthem, to my relationship with my mom. It brought me to a point of peace with the question “What would mom think of me?” And for that I am so very thankful.

I love you mommy. Thinking of you tonight.

image via @kanyewest on twitter.

image via @kanyewest on twitter.

S&S’s Top Albums of 2014

2014 has been another insane year for music. We saw “Tuesday” become everyone’s new favorite day of the week, we saw the Grammy’s once again fail immensely at being “in the know” in regards to album quality in their nominating process, we saw the return of D’Angelo out of nowhere, we saw the Cash Money records empire slowly start deteriorating, we saw Vine become a new platform for breakout artists, and so much more. These are just some of the highlights of 2014… there were so many moments that we’ll speak about for years to come.

Here at S&S we’ve been extremely patient and quiet about our opinions of the top albums of the year and now as we close this chapter we’d like to use our top list as a bookmark we can use to revisit this year again and again. Of course, this is an opinionated piece that holds little-to-no critical relevance, and there was a lot of great music that came out this year. These are just our highlights. Enjoy.

Image via Wikipedia

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

In 2013, Killer Mike and El-P took the industry by storm with Run the Jewels, a dark, gritty, booming album produced entirely by El-P himself. The album was praised for the production and unusual chemistry of the duo. The bars and beats came correct every single time and ended up on numerous year end list’s “Honorable mention” section. Now it’s 2014 and RTJ have come back with their second effort, Run the Jewels 2, which shoots for far more than just an “honorable mention.” This is the grittiest album of the year, hands down. Sonically, the album is so dark you have to listen to it with the lights on in order to feel safe from the vicious bars that P and Mike spit like venom.

The topics on this album range from social issues like police brutality to completely unrealistic, fictionalized scenarios regarding just about every sickening topic imaginable, and there is not one second or tone of voice that shows remorse. The versatility of these two emcees is unmatched lyrically, endlessly and flawlessly weaving themselves in and out of each others verses while the attack the mic like it was wearing the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood.

And we the type to greet your preacher with a grin and a gun.

This line sums up RTJ as a whole. They literally don’t care, it’s almost a flat-out refusal to listen to anyone but themselves. RTJ as a project is one of the most creative forces we’ve seen in hip-hop over the last few years and we’re excited for RTJ3 already (as El-P has already confirmed it’s coming.) And we’re saying a prayer that they never change. As said on “Oh My Darling, Don’t Cry,run the jewels or lose your fingers.

Image via Wikipedia.

††† – Crosses

 ††† (Crosses) is the musical side project of Deftones frontman Chino Moreno. With Crosses we hear a lot more experimental and electronic influences in their music. When I first heard their EP’s in 2013 I wasn’t really finding a uniqueness about them that differed band’s respective main projects. I quickly changed my opinion once I heard their self-titled debut. Crosses find themselves in a perfect medium between the heaviness of Deftones and the emotion of Far. Chino’s vocals smoothly glide over electronic tinged production while Shaun Lopez’s guitars provide a soft, almost harmonic background.

I’ve been waiting for you to say the words… as we sail across the universe.

Chino’s songwriting style has always been metaphorical. Throughout his tenure with Deftones and this album he finds a way to say what he’s thinking in the most poetic of ways. Crosses has also given us a softer side of his vocals, with less shrieking and more actual melody. From the album’s booming, synth-tinged opener “This is a Trick” to the closing words in “Death Bell” the album cohesively covers topics ranging from love, sex, to religion in a solemn, poetic way. It doesn’t overwork itself but rather lets you sink in to an atmosphere that says “I’m going to take your breath away for a moment, but don’t worry, I’ll give it back when I’m done.”

Image via Wikipedia.

Tinashe – Aquarius

Can we just take a minute to thank the powers that be that The Stunners disbanded? If they hadn’t, we might never have been graced with a Tinashe solo album of this magnitude. Riding the success of my personal song of the summer, “2 On“, a party anthem for the ages, Tinashe was tasked with creating a solo album that not only kept similar vibes, but would show a deeper side of her that painted her as more than just another pop star getting ratchet. She delivered. “Aquarius,” is a groundbreaking album for R&B. Taking obvious influence from Devonté Hynes’ 2013 project “Blood Orange,” Tinashe finds herself fusing lush guitars with her beautiful harmonizing before heading into rapping over Boi-1da and DJ Mustard production. We see every side of Tinashe on this album and there’s not a bad one to be found. It’s hard to find someone with so much soul and artistic capability who can also make radio hits like the A$AP Rocky featuring “Pretend.” This album has something for everyone, and is nowhere near a typical “play it safe” pop star album. Tinashe is the real deal, she’s here to stay, and she’s taking over. Best said on album opener Aquarius; “Welcome to my world.”

Image via 2DopeBoyz

Jon Waltz – Alyss

I’ve been following Jon Waltz since Pigeons and Planes first posted his phenomenal single “Bang (Left My Home)” on their website. I was immediately fascinated and hungry to devour all of this guy’s music, as were many of my friends. He became a staple in all of our playlists, all of us hungry to see what he’d do next. Still, after all of the internet hype, Waltz remained relatively elusive, sporadically releasing tracks and drenching himself in mystery. Then, in October 2014, the Memphis native shocked the internet and everyone that had been following him with a seven-track EP that suddenly gave us answers to questions we’d been asking for months. That answer was one word: “Alyss.”

“Left my home with a dream and a cigarette.”

Alyss sets a new bar for young rappers on the come-up these days. Waltz graces every track with powerful flows and lyricism, but most importantly cohesively telling a powerful, suspenseful, and twisted tale inspired by the classic Alice in Wonderland. The quality of the project is represented by just how much work truly went into it. Waltz not only has masterfully created a cohesive, flowing story while maintaining a high level of production and lyrical quality. His melodies match his flow flawlessly. Every single aspect of the album was carefully crafted and chosen, down to the visual aid on his website. This EP gave me hope for the next generation of hip-hop and you should listen to it.

Image via Wikipedia

PARTYNEXTDOOR – PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO

The last album to grace this list is none other than PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “PND2.” What can I say? This album is dope. I’m a blunt individual, I get my point across and I continue. As much as I love poetry and when someone is poetic with their words, I also love it when someone says exactly what they want without fear of what others may think. Party does that continuously throughout his second studio effort. He powerfully crafts stories and scenarios portraying fantasy and reality and on occasion fusing them into one. What we get from all of this is a style of experimental R&B that screams “I really don’t love you, but I’ll make you think I do. Ultimately, I’m about me.” Whether singing or rapping his way through his own production he shines brightly. Another one of my favorite things about this album is that Party doesn’t rely on anyone to help carry the album, having a lone Drake feature (and at that, a very strong Drake feature) on his album while he croons his way through the rest. Sonically, the album is pleasing and powerful, forcing you to rethink all you know about love, relationships, yourself, and your own desire.

Dope: Mick Jenkins – “Healer (feat. Jean Deaux)”

Image via: DatPiff

Image via: DatPiff

The Chi-town boy Meek Jenkins dropped his new mixtape “The Water[s]” last month and it’s been on the playlists here at S&S for a while now. The highlight for me though is definitely the Jean Deaux featuring “Healer“. Everything from the bluesy, soulful feature from Jean to the powerful yet simple metaphors that Mick spits is just perfect. Literally, the flow is like water.

She called my vices.
We was at Starbucks gettin’ lost in these caramel apple spices
Conversation all but priceless, topics ranged from the innermost thoughts to all the trifling s*** on WorldStar”

These are my favorite lines from the track. Mick paints takes small talk between friends and paints it into a vivid depiction of a blossoming relationship between the healer and the healed. Every bar resonates louder than the one before it and it never stops. It makes you stop and think about how you’re listening to the next André 3000.

No one ever said loudness equaled power. Sometimes the most subtle delivery can be the strongest and Mick shows this. He showcases storytelling skills reminiscent of Biggie. Coming from Chi-Raq, Drillinois, Mick is not the average product of his environment, he’s a healer for Chi-Raw, and for the state of hip-hop music.

Follow Mick Jenkins on Twitter (@FreeMickJenkins) and download his latest mixtape “The Water[s]” from DatPiff.

Track Review: Juicy J – “Low (feat. Nicki Minaj, Young Thug & Lil Bibby)”

Image via iTunes

Image via iTunes

Welcome to the very first ever song of the day. Today’s selection is Juicy J’s new banger “Low.” There are so many reasons why Juicy J is an amazing artist and I can’t think of one to explain why he’s as underrated as he is. From Three Six to Taylor Gang he’s always put out solid work. His flow is impeccable, he has great chemistry with artists you’d never expect to hear him with (we’re looking at you, Justin Timberlake and The Weeknd), and he stunts like he’s 20 at 40 years old.

I fly to Cancun on a Sunday, land in France on Monday

How are you going to compete with that? Listening to Juicy J bend words is probably one of my favorite things about his music. He’ll find a way to stop one bar at the perfect moment and pick it right back up seamlessly, even if it’s in the middle of a word. Juicy J is indisputably one of the most technical rappers in the game today.

Furthermore, he’s got two of the hottest artists in the game featuring on this track with him. Young Thug who the world can’t seem to get enough of yelps his way through a bridge and harmonizes his faded, auto-tuned self through the remainder of the track, which is all fine and dandy because let’s be real you either love Thugger Thugger or you hate him, so this is a love it or hate it track simply due to the boy.

Next you have Nicki Minaj who comes through with another tight feature. Coming off the “No Flex Zone“, “Stoner“, and “Flawless***” remixes she’s been on quite the hot streak when it comes to features.

Then after you think the song is pretty much over due to all the awesome you just had infiltrate your ears you suddenly have Lil Bibby come out of nowhere with a monster verse as well. Bibby came hungry like he really had something to prove and he truly came through.

Check out the music video for “Low” on YouTube and download the track on iTunes. Also be on the lookout for Juicy’s new album “THC: The Hustle Continues” coming sometime this September.

Progression.

Hello to the faithful readers at S&S.

You may have been fervently waiting for a new post over the past year and wondering when the glorious day would come that you would see a new review, Mixtape Monday, or just a few words… well I’m proud to announce to you that day has come.

This is a progress update on my personal life, love, and pursuit of happiness. After being busy with those I’ve put off one of my greatest passions, and after a lot of inquiry I’ve begun to regret not enjoying that passion over the past year. There’s been somuch that’s happened in music, fashion, and life that I have simply neglected to say anything about.

I have graduated college with a B.A. in Communication Arts, emphasis in Audio/Visual Production, and now have a full-time job as a Customer Service Representative at a well-established title loan company.

But I am here to tell you that I am back. Prepare.

Troy.