I’m learning that a lot of my writing, although I say it’s not from personal experiences, it always is because it comes from thoughts and memories, paradigms, whatever it is, already planted in your head. It's all just stored up there. You’re just pulling from this database.
My latest album, The Living Room Chronicles, Vol.1, is basically just songs I did in my living room, so that’s how I came up with the name. But as a songwriter, I’m always working. When it came time to release some music as my own artist, a couple people were like, “Man, you haven’t released anything in a while,” because my last album as an artist was released in 2011.
For this project, I was like ok, well let me just kinda get some songs together that I may have done. It was just going to be five or six songs. I’m sitting up here piecing it together and there’s like 30, 40 songs. I’m like oh, man. So I just kinda took some songs I did as favors and I did a few new ones. I reached out to the producers and everybody was just real cool ‘cause we have working relationships on the writing end and just formed an album out of what I already had.
One of those songs was “Worth It,” which I released as a video. What’s crazy is that the song is not about what the video depicts, my ex’s battle with opioid use and how it affected our relationship. Like I said, I don’t really write from personal experience, which is weird. I just write off of vibes. So the song was written a couple years ago as just a demo, just for whoever, but it ended up being mine. Well, my ex who’s featured in the video, heard the song and was like, “Hey, I got an idea for the video. I love that song.” I was like, “Oh, well I’m not shooting a video for that, but let me know what you got.” She basically said, “I want to tell our story and my story,” because she’s been clean for two years, she wanted to just to bring awareness and spark conversation.
And she was not lying. If I told you just how many little DMs and texts I’ve gotten and then basically people break down, “Yo, my mom’s actually suffering,” “Hey, my wife’s going through it,” or “I’m addicted.” And these are people I would have never known were going through this. So it creates dialogue for me to refer them to my brother-in-law — he’s the VP of a rehab company — or to another service or try to tell them how to get help.
Opioid addiction is horrible. There’s just so much of it going on. It’s pretty bad. There was several moments where we are shooting the video and we’re laughing and joking, but the seriousness of it, he brought the tears multiple times. Man, I keep remembering, this is real, this actually happened. This girl was actually found dead. Yeah, two or three times. That’s how I found out. I never knew about her addiction. The way I found out was just getting a call that she had been found dead. I was like what? I thought I was being pranked. Then when someone tells you no, they OD’d. It’s like no, wrong person, she’s not on drugs. But it’s a silent killer. A lot of people who are on pills, it’s impossible to detect that they’re on it until it’s brought to your attention and you know what signs to look for.
We try to bring awareness to the fact that, I mean you talk about a pandemic with the coronavirus, so many people are dying from opioid addiction it’s just crazy. I’ve never suffered from drug addiction, but a lot of people who are close to me have. Direct family members and friends and people that’s very close to me, it’s just crazy. A lot of them have died, I’ve seen a lot of people OD and it just changes their entire life. We make the mistake of thinking if we don’t hear that it’s crack or heroine, oh it’s just pills. Cause I did it. I said, oh, it’s just pills. It’s some pills, you can stop that. But the pills are worse. I always tell people, you might see a “crack head” that’s 70, 80 years old, but you’re not going to see a pill addict that age because they’re going to be dead probably prior to 50. I had my brother-in-law educate me and he told me it’s one of the highest causes of death for people under 50. And I’ve done research on it and just to put it in perspective, let’s say we’ve got 20,000 deaths of the coronavirus or whatever that number is, well I think last year alone almost 700,000 people died from opioid addiction. But it’s ignored because it’s a booming business. So you’re only going to see the commercials at 2,3 o’clock in the morning or late at night, “Do you suffer from opioid addiction? Call this hotline.” But you don’t see it during the day, nobody’s really voicing the seriousness of it because of the amount of money the pharmaceutical companies are making off of it.
So that’s one of the powerful pieces that came out of The Living Room Chronicles, Vol.1. Listening to the album myself, some stuff I just had to make it rhyme, or you finish it off with maybe a verse or maybe a chorus. But several of the songs I could pinpoint who that was about. And it’s not always me.
There’s a song on there called “Turquoise” and I didn’t know where that came from because I was talking about the colors, the makeup, turquoise and using each color to describe an emotion or a feeling. It’s real deep, but I found out it was my aunt and her story and her life and her marriage and her abuse and what she went through. And her favorite color is turquoise. But I didn’t think of any of that when I made the song. I just made the song. Then when I heard it back, I was like, man this is Aunt Francis and I called her and told her about it and showed it to her and she loved it. I would love to say I just got inspired and wrote the song about it, but it was more of a post-inspiration.
Before this project, I had basically checked out of the artist side of things. I’ve really been functioning more as a songwriter. Obviously when you’re a writer, sometimes you might write a hook for a rap artist or something and they just keep you on. So I have had these pop-up songs for certain projects. But I’ve been focusing on more sync licensing like TV and film, doing stuff for Netflix, stuff like that. I wasn’t really thinking I would do any music as an artist again.
But I ended up on the road with one of my friends who’s a major promoter on the West Coast. He’s like, "Yeah, man, I need you to come perform with an artist at this show in our hometown cause we have a lot of songs with you." I’m like, "Oh ok alright, cool, man," thinking I’ll come perform a chorus or two. So he flys me out, I’m thinking it’s going to be a little small local show. And it was like a Lil Wayne tour. I was like, "What?!" I was like, "Bruh, you gotta tell me this kinda stuff. I’ve been off of this artist stuff." So it was like 8,000 or 9,000 people there. The original artist ended up not performing. I was just supposed to come out and do a song or two with him. I got stuck with the whole opening set. So I had to perform songs I had just written and I hadn’t performed in probably five, six years. It went good. I ended up staying on the tour for six more cities. Lil Wayne kept me on the tour. And that’s when it was like ok, this is not making sense to keep doing shows and not having any content, any new content for people to be able to at least reference. So that’s where the idea came to do an album.
My success on that tour and later shows speaks to just good values. This promoter, coincidentally who’s now my business partner, was just an artist from the West Coast. Back in 2007, I had a record deal with Bad Boy South. Even though I was signed, I released some music independently. I’ve always moved independent. I got tired of being shelved, so I just put some music out. I had two singles at the same time. One was "Tic Toc" with Rick Ross and another one was called "Nobody Gotta Know" with Gorilla Zoe 'cause he’s my labelmate. I didn’t really have the money to really promote them.
So one kinda floated on out to the West Coast the other one was playing more in the South. This guy who I had never met before heard me on the radio in Washington state. That’s the promoter I was talking about earlier who got me on the Lil Wayne tour. But he was an artist then. So he went from paying me to do hooks, top dollar — because I didn’t know him — to we became friends. I now know his whole family, his kids, I’ve even been to one of his family reunions. So the irony of that is someone who's in position to help me was somebody who was paying for my services at one point. It’s just crazy. He says he always remembers how cool I was. He’s just like, “You was always so nice. I never forgot that.”
I’m very intentional with how I do business and how I present my music. All my music’s clean, which has always been a challenge because people say, oh, if it’s gonna be clean why don’t you just do Gospel music? But it’s just clean music. All the music from the ‘70s, the majority of it was clean. Motown, it was music the whole family could listen to, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good music. So I just take the same vibes and the same energy into where music is and I use my writing ability to keep it more clever. Most people don’t even realize it’s clean until I tell them. Then they go back and listen to the song and they’re like oh yeah! There’s no cussing. There’s no bottle popping and drug references and this and that. A lot of people don’t even notice it until I mention it. It can be a struggle at times in trying to keep your morals. But that’s not even debatable for me. So I just made that decision a long time ago. I’ma do it this way or no way.
I’m a PK, my father’s a minister, been a preacher over 50 years. So initially, if I’m being honest, I made clean music because I didn’t want to get in trouble. I didn’t want my dad to hear something and come looking for me. And as a respect, you don’t want to embarrass your parents. A lot of people who’ve never experienced that can’t really understand, when you are a PK, a pastor's kid, you live your whole life under a magnifying glass. Something as simple as taking a picture in some swim trunks, they’re gonna go, "Oh your son posted a picture he was half naked." It’s like, "No, he was at the beach. What are you talking about?" "Yeah right, he was just trying to stunt." You grow up learning every single thing you do is being watched. So I started off knowing if I was doing secular music, I was gonna have to do it a certain way out of respect for my parents. But as I grew up and obviously I can do whatever I want now, I just took a liking to the challenge of putting better content in the atmosphere. Because there’s so much of the other stuff that I don’t really feel like is moving people forward or the culture forward. I just would rather my music come from a different perspective. So that’s become my personal niche. And it’s a challenge being in the room writing for one of these street artists, can you still write a song that’s relevant to their style without leaning into what they would do? I’ve been able to do that.
I tell people when you’re a PK, you go to church because you don’t have a choice. And that’s how I started making clean music, because I didn't have a choice. You go to Bible study because you don’t have a choice. It quickly becomes routine. So of course when you become an adult, you still go because that’s what you did every Sunday for the last 18 years of your life. So there was several years of my life where if I’m being honest, I really just went through the motions of going to church and maybe Bible study here and there and saying oh yeah, yeah I believe in God. But I wasn’t really ever studying or really having a relationship with God personally until I think I really got more serious about that in the last six or seven years, definitely over the last five years heavily just making it my own. I do a devotional every day, I read my Bible every day. I think I’m on like two, three years on the Bible app. That’s just mandatory. It helps me keep a certain character and deal with things a certain type of way. The industry is cutthroat. It’s a lot of bad people, I call it the devil’s playground. So if you’re not equipped with a certain type of spirituality and a certain mindset, you can’t even deal with people in this industry without it resulting in drug addiction and crime and wanting to do all the vices that we have access to in the industry.
As I’ve come into my own as an artist, I’m grateful for all the lives I’ve touched either through the “Worth It” video, from parents thanking me for making clean music they can enjoy with their kids or my natural ability to write. I’m very humble, so with me talking about writing, it’s a real gift, but I do not know how to draw a straight line. So if that makes anybody feel better, my handwriting sucks and I can’t draw a straight line. If I draw a person it’s going to be a stick figure.
Listen to The Living Room Chronicles, Vol.1 below.