Friday, November 27, 2009

The Wetworks


As some of you know, for the past three years I've made music and djed under the moniker of The Wetworks. Since I've spent the majority of the year writing and performing poetry, I've largely put music on the back burner for the time being. To be completely candid, I rarely check my music myspace page anymore these days.

However, recently I was talking to a good friend and great musician named Ryan Oyer about doing a remix of one of his songs in the vein of the Gorillaz. A few weeks ago I started writing lyrics in my head, and in about a week's time, I'd come up with two verses and a hook (which may or may not make the completed product, but we'll see). Anyway, a few nights ago, the thought hit me to actually construct a little something to let Ryan hear and give me something to practice the verses over. So, the tinkering began.

I realized as I was working on the track that I haven't made anything production wise in at least six months, if not longer. It felt good to be back in the swing of things, arranging, working out drum patterns, layering, etc. Last night I quickly threw a working demo together to present to Ryan, and fortunately, he enjoyed what he heard.

Through performing this year, I've had the immense honor of meeting a wide array of musicians and artists. It dawned on me for the first time that they have no idea about other things that I've been involved with, so hopefully this remix will be a good introduction for those who have only seen me in one light.

While talking with Ryan last night, I told him about my experience as Wetworks and some of the projects I've done. I told him that last year, I put out a record called Government Air. Having a little bit of time today, I found a review of the project that you guys and girls can check out. My computer crashed earlier this year, so I lost the songs, but I might search the Internet and see what I can scrounge up to present you guys with something you can hear in its entirety. In the meantime, if you want to hear some of the stuff I've done, you can check out

Here's the review:

Government Air Review

Recently, I was presented with music from an underground artist to review. Being that I do enjoy such occasions being thrown into my lap, I accepted the offer for the reviewing of the material. Oddly enough, it was music from a source that I recently learned of earlier this year. Apparently, it's a really small world(even smaller online, I've noticed). With the opportunity to review the new music from The Wetworks, I rolled up my sleeves, turned up my headphones and let the music roll. The Wetworks is best described as the American leg of the ever growing Dubstep subgenre of electronic music more than just a Drum & Bass act. If you're not familiar with Dubstep music, but do find yourself enjoying good electronic music that ranges from slow and eerily ambient to reggae-inspired hip moving driven basslines then that is the music for you. Being that I'm not only a fan of said genre, but also, as I've already stated, a fan of The Wetworks, I was very comfortable with this album.

The album is titled Government Air, which to most seems like it's going to be filled with a bunch of politically charged music. But, such is not the case, here. For the track "Shift," you won't find any left or right wing propaganda lurking within the pulsating bass drops or the haunting synths that seem to call out to some dark side of yourself. Don't think this is going to turn out to be some Teargas & Plateglass material. No sir. Once the drums kick in, you're wondering if Prodigy and Burial made some sort of pact to team up under this moniker. The drum hits are fast enough to urge you call the cops to report broken speed limits. The funniest factor of the song for me kicks in when Wetworks pulls out the Street Fighet punch sound effect for the song. When I heard it, my mind instantly recognized it and I had the strangest feeling to perform a Hadouken fireball. The song is one second shy of hitting the 6 & 1/2 minute mark. The addition of sounds that gets thrown in is just mindboggling. Wetworks doesn't seem to want to take anything out. Instead, the sound goes like G.W. Bush for oil territory(MORE!!! MORE!!!). What's even more shocking is the fact that everything fits. At one point, there are so many musical tracks going off that it's nearly impossible to sit there and count them all. But, as I said, they all fit into the song. That's skill right there, folks.

The song "Thievery" houses the same soundbite that Mobb Deep used for their intro of the album Murda Muzik. Featuring Soundtype 23, the song jumps and gallops while a vocal looping ends up sounding like ancient druid chanting. There are a wide assortment of sound effects throughout the entire song. It seemed like the folks just went into a garage and used whatever they could find, recorded it hitting against things, and then looped it. To say that it's awesome would be an understatement towards it. At one point, there is a looping of electronic sounds where it sounds like phazers, a teleporter, and other weird noises from an episode of Star Trek. If they are samples from such, then Trekkies are now something to fear in music . . . and not in a negative way.

On the track "Savior," The Wetworks sounds strikingly similar to Shackleton of Skull Disco Dubstep music. That could be the use of African drums for the song. But, I will admit that the comparisons start to quickly evaporate around the 2 minute mark. The Wetworks works back into their soundbite clips, rapidfire drumming, and star hopping synth sounds. There is no staying in place for this music, here. It is across the board, but not in a dangerous and unforgiven sort of way. Around the 5:38 mark, you even hear horns included for the mix. It's subtle and brief, but it's a quick nod to the jazz roots of music, which birthed a lot of these fast attacks and intricate time signatures.

"Strange Powers," the album closer, comes on like a rush of steam through a hollow pipe. And, I'm not using that as a simile. It really sounds like a rush of steam coming through a hollow pipe. It's intelligent, but at some point it becomes a bit overbearing. And that could be because it's primarily happening in the left channel of your speaker/headphone system. It's quite distracting, especially in headphones. If there was ever a time where you wouldn't mind the canceling of a sound in one of these songs, that would be the case. It's a good introduction piece for the song, but past the introduction point it hogs up a lot of the listeners attention and makes them sort of ignore the other amazing parts that are going on within the song.

"Alpha," the album opener, comes on like an intergalactic air raid alarm sounding off. Though it is interesting and quite different, it's a tad bit too far left field. Or, that could be due to the intro of the song lasting almost a minute long. In today's ADHD world, most folks wouldn't be able to sit through the whole thing to experience what comes after. And, oddly, after the intro, the song becomes very much so enjoyable and entertaining. I could say that it's like the music that is played when the hero steps into the picture to save the day from the attack. It has that heroic and softly bold aura going on with it.

Being only eight (8) songs in length, you would think that it's not that long. But, the album comes close to forty (40) minutes in length. Being that I had no expectations from the album except for the desire to listen to the entire album it allowed me to be completely open for what was to come. I do believe that The Wetworks should add in the label of "Dubstep" to the music. The genre fits the music like a tailor made shoe. Government Air is a wonderful album. Aside from the two missteps, it's solid offering. Fans of Kode9, Teargas & Plateglass, and even Distance should give this album a spin. If you're American, you might have found your Dubstep champion to hold up. Notable Tracks are: Shift, Thievery and Dracula.

Friday, November 20, 2009


It's hard to believe that seven months have passed since the debut of Breathless version 2.0. In late March, I put together a benefit for a local church. One of my performers happened to be Gabriel Newell. In the parking lot of the venue, I casually threw the idea out there that he should let me jump on his song as I helped him load in. Gabriel said he'd be game, and then I think we both concentrated on the matter at hand. However, this, essentially, was the beginning of the journey.

The very next day, I was on my way to Atlanta and all of a sudden, this verse hit me in the middle of traffic. Those of you who know me know that I write in my head a lot, so I started putting it together and editing on the road, and maybe an hour or two later, I had a solid sixteen bars.

This took place on a Saturday, and the following Tuesday, I told Gabriel that I had a part ready to go. He got up to perform later in the evening, and he put me on the spot by calling me up. He also called up Megan Howard, who is an incredible musician as well. You can peep her here:

While up there, we briefly talked about who would come in where and what cues would be given. Shortly thereafter, we executed, and one of my personal highlights of this year was born. The feeling from performing the piece that first time was amazing and still gives me goosebumps when I think back on it.

Since that time, I added another part at the very beginning of the song at the urging of Rick Rushing. I don't have video of us performing the version we have now, but I do have some video of the first time we performed the piece together. You can find it here:

Also, here's a video of me performing my part live at the Bessie Smith Strut in June:

If you're curious as to what I'm saying, here's the text to the song:

Honey, you leave me
restless as the sea
reckless as can be
& I'm losing sleep.
I can't keep
doing this
I'm pussyfooting making all attempts not to ruin this.
I'm new to this
kind of vibrant experience
I'm curious to be baring witness
to how far we could be taking this.
I'm willing to be making this
known to the cosmos
that you are the most awing star to grace the dark.
I want to trace the constellations of your beauty marks.
Baby girl, your beauty marks the mind.
Intelligence is the most striking kind
of sexiness that I could hope to find.
I want to make my move but, see, I'm trapped within this bind,
& you have no idea what you're doing to me
I believe you cast some sort of spell
& now your voodoo is moving me.
I'm breathless --
& no shame can claim me
It's plain to see I'm breathless...
& baby doll, you're the cause of it all.

You leave me breathless like
the first time I saw the day
begin to bleed its way
into the face of the night,
making new morning & new beginnings.
Now new feelings are
forming deep within me
forcing me to stop pretending
your divinity
doesn't interest me.
When you speak to me,
my demeanor's hard for me to try to keep,
like water in an open palm.
If I surrendered my facade
I'd give poetry
as a dowry
to your God,
but I'm breathless.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Inspiration: Yusef Komunyakaa

Earlier in the month I posted an entry on inspiration, and I think that will be a constant theme on this blog. With that said, anyone who's known me over the years knows how much I love the works of Yusef Komunyakaa. I got up on his stuff back in 2001 when I bought Neon Vernacular in Toronto.

Honestly, when I first read it, I hated it. In hindsight, I realize that I just wasn't ready for the book at that time. A lot of times with art, we have to be in the right frame of mind to get the full impact. For me, that didn't happen until 2004. When I finally came around, everything became clear and it was like getting punched in the chest by a Buick.

Recently, I came across a writer's series in which Yusef's reading a number of his poems. I encourage everybody who stumbles across this blog to check it out. You can find the mp3s of the reading here:

Also, if you're unfamiliar with his works, here are some things to get you acquainted.


My Father's Love Letters
On Fridays he'd open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
& ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men. He would beg,
Promising to never beat her
Again. Somehow I was happy
She had gone, & sometimes wanted
To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou
Williams' "Polka Dots & Moonbeams"
Never made the swelling go down.
His carpenter's apron always bulged
With old nails, a claw hammer
Looped at his side & extension cords
Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure
Of my ballpoint: Love,
Baby, Honey, Please.
We sat in the quiet brutality
Of voltage meters & pipe threaders,
Lost between sentences . . .
The gleam of a five-pound wedge
On the concrete floor
Pulled a sunset
Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed
& held them over a gas burner.
My father could only sign
His name, but he'd look at blueprints
& say how many bricks
Formed each wall. This man,
Who stole roses & hyacinth
For his yard, would stand there
With eyes closed & fists balled,
Laboring over a simple word, almost
Redeemed by what he tried to say.

Facing It
My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

Tu Do Street
Music divides the evening.
I close my eyes & can see
men drawing lines in the dust.
America pushes through the membrane
of mist & smoke, & I'm a small boy
again in Bogalusa. White Only
signs & Hank Snow. But tonight
I walk into a place where bar girls
fade like tropical birds. When
I order a beer, the mama-san
behind the counter acts as if she
can't understand, while her eyes
skirt each white face, as Hank Williams
calls from the psychedelic jukebox.
We have played Judas where
only machine-gun fire brings us
together. Down the street
black GIs hold to their turf also.
An off-limits sign pulls me
deeper into alleys, as I look
for a softness behind these voices
wounded by their beauty & war.
Back in the bush at Dak To
& Khe Sanh, we fought
the brothers of these women
we now run to hold in our arms.
There's more than a nation
inside us, as black & white
soldiers touch the same lovers
minutes apart, tasting
each other's breath,
without knowing these rooms
run into each other like tunnels
leading to the underworld.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Give 5 pt. 2

I'm honored to be one of the artists performing in next month's Give 5 benefit. If you're unfamiliar with it, feel free to check out the brief documentary I posted a few days back or check out

I, myself, have gone through A LOT this year, both good and bad. Emerging from all of that though has definitely made me even more appreciative of the opportunity to help give back in this capacity, and to be able to use my craft to partially do so. I'm not much of a betting man, but I'll venture to say that all of the artists who will be in attendance on December 13th feel the same way.

I strongly encourage as many of you as possible to come out and help us raise money for a fantastic cause. I'll be raising the price of my chapbook and donating 50% of the sales to the families. I'm looking forward to benefit, and I certainly hope to see a huge turnout. If you read this blog and come on out, don't be afraid to grab some face time with me.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ghosts & Echoes

February 6th was a really big day for me. Aside from performing at the Tremont Tavern for the first time (which has become a home away from home since), I published my second chapbook on that Tuesday ten months ago. I'm sure that you can gather it's called Ghosts & Echoes.

The book really was the result of performing live. A lot of times after I get off a stage, someone will ask me if I have a CD or any other products that I'm selling. After years of saying no, I wanted to change that. I've been working on a poetry manuscript for four years now, so I decided to take some of those pieces and combine them with some of the most popular poems I perform in my live repertoire. Thus, Ghosts & Echoes was born.

I'm happy to announce that I SOLD OUT of the initial run a few months ago. That was just one of the many blessings that have found me this year. With that said, I'm also very pleased to announce that the second printing is only a matter of days away.

I wanted to post a few of the poems you can find in the book. If you enjoy them, let me know, and if you're interested in buying a book, I can definitely let you know how we can make that happen. Hopefully, this second printing will open more doors and keep me out and about like the first one did. As is the case with most things in life, time's going to be the determining factor with this one.


Miracle Worker
Mama Dear is up before
the day, filling this house
with the smell of breakfast.
Lean strips of bacon scream.
A cube of butter sinks into
the navel of grits. The roaches
have become shadows behind
doors, underneath the couch
& television, & like a spell,
the house is blooming with life.
My uncles gather around
the crowded ebony table,
their eyes bloodshot, dry-rose lips hungry
for the weight of the day’s first cigarette.
The black ink is shaking out the sky
& we can forget that money seldom
stays here. For now, we have this meal
to share & carry in the maroon chapels
of our stomachs, & Mama Dear
has woven her magic again.

Moonlight rests in the brunette
garland of your hair. Outside,
the first cool hours of morning
have arrived & your eyelids are moving
to meet one another & shut.
As I watch sleep summon you,
every damp organ inside me screams
for you to stay & dream beside me.
My clumsy mouth knows no incantations
to keep you in this bed. I know that soon
you will rise to traipse out into that black,
cloud-speckled haze alone, leaving the space
between these ivory-painted walls silent.
How hungry I am to trade my warmth
with you, to barter with you, to feed
comfort to your still body. How my heart’s song
wants to soften into a light massage,
a steady feather stroke against the muscles
in your back. Look at us – you are nestled
comfortably on the bulk of my pillows, drifting
on the hilly bodies of my blankets,
eyes hidden behind the beige curtains
of your flesh, & here I am awake,
carrying this want in the milk of my bones,
& with these weary, bloodshot, open eyes
I am dreaming of you.

The Sea
Even the silence
has tumbled out of this room
making its exodus underneath
the heavy ivory door.
It is just you & I on the cusp of sleep.
My hand against the beach
that is your stomach, brushing over warm skin.
For this moment your breath, your covered ribs,
your bone & body are partially mine.
I press my fingers against your abdomen.
The tide is rising behind these muscles.
The sea in you is singing my name,
each syllable aloft in melody.
My desire is a wildfire – untamed, enveloped
in its longing to drop anchor inside you
& holler back at the Heavens
that this is where I belong.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Inspiration: Ian Kamau

The older I get, the more music I listen to, but it's rare that I come across artists or cohesive projects that speak to me. About a month ago, I saw a video (which I'll post here) of an artist from Toronto named Ian Kamau.

Ian's been around for a while, and I've heard him on a few projects over the years (all the while, I was unaware of who he was), but he was always a guest artist. This was the first time I just got to hear him go off on his own accord, and I was very impressed.

Kamau, "Home" from on Vimeo.

A short time later, I discovered that he'd released a mixtape on his own for free, and I quickly downloaded it. I'm not big on mixtapes, honestly, but I decided to give this one a chance because it was the most extensive solo material of his that I could find. My download of faith really paid off, and I loved every track off the first volume of his Sept. 9 mixtape.

On (you guessed it) Sept. 9th, he released volume 2, and I've been bumping it on a daily basis. I strongly encourage everybody to download both volumes, especially if you like lyrical Hip-Hop, spoken word, etc. Let me know what you good people out there think. I'd like to try to get Ian to make a trip down South for the Speakeasy, but time's going to have to be the determining factor with that. In the meantime, enjoy!