For "Long Live," I started dissecting the relationships I have with my family that I value the most and that helped shape me to be the artist that I am. My mom and step-dad, my uncle, my brothers. They’re all important figures in my life. With those pillars that they set, I wanted to uphold those and make a song that said long live these ideas, these morals, these values. These are things I want to uphold and pass onto my kids and I want to represent me.
The first verse is inspired by a lot of my step-dad. At the time, his dad was sick. In the verse, I say I saw my step-dad give his dad his last haircut. That’s a real thing. He had a stroke and he hit his head and then he was bedridden. He was in bed for eight days until they pulled the plug. My step-grandfather set a lot of standards too for upholding family to the highest stage. Family was the most important thing to him. I’m looking at him, my step-dad, people that I mentioned prior, they set those values for me as a man. So they really set that inspiration.
My step-dad came into my life when I was nine or ten. He was the primary father figure, definitely who I would call my old man. I didn’t like him at first. He was real strict, real militant. He instilled a lot of discipline in my life that I needed. I hated that I was always stuck doing chores when my friends were outside. But it definitely helped make me more responsible, manage my time efficiently to do what I needed to do, to do what I wanted to do. There were a lot of punishments, but it definitely taught me a lot. He changed my life.
But then I had to learn integrity for myself when I was in high school and on the basketball team. Senior year. Starting point guard. I’m about to really finally get off. I was training the whole summer. Shot was right. Stamina. I was in great condition. I get to the pre-season, I made like eight three-pointers in a game.
But during the beginning of the school year, my homie brought a credit card number to school and he was going online and buying stuff. He gave me the number, like “Try it.” I went and tried it out. We’re using school computers to do it. It worked and I bought a few things for myself, not thinking much of it.
It was credit card fraud. Somebody ended up snitching on us and we all got in trouble. My homies got kicked out of school. Administration kept me because I was a scholar-athlete, but I got suspended for half the season. That crushed a lot of my basketball dreams.
It crushed me morally, a little spiritually. I was like oh, man, I worked so hard, and now this opportunity is taken away from me. Right then and there I knew that integrity would have saved me. Had I known to not take this card and try to get something for free, I would have been hooping. I woulda been probably the MVP of the season. That was taken away from me for not having integrity. That’s when I knew, alright, I gotta maintain this for the rest of my life.
As a father, I’m definitely trying to teach my kids those same pillars that people like my step-dad taught me. I want my kids to be strong individuals through:
Discipline. I’m teaching them to be careful with their mouth. They’re real creative kids and I don’t want to put too much limitations on them, but it is structure that’s needed for kids to kind of exist and not think they have more say than their parents. I instill a little bit of discipline in them, teach them to be respectful of their elders and respectful of their peers. You have to treat people how you want to be treated and sometimes do things that you’re not going to expect back. But you maintain these actions just so you can find who you are and you’re consistent about who you are.
Leadership. I teach my kids not to just be followers. Teach them to always think for themselves and to make the best decision that benefits them and their family because at the end of the day, they have to answer to me and their mom.
Communication. I always try to push my daughter. She gets cooped up in her room reading her books and getting on her iPad. So I’m always trying to teach her to make time to communicate what’s happening in her life, how she feels about certain things that have happened. She’s an athlete, so she’s playing a lot of club soccer right now. We just always talk about things that she values and things that she needs to work on and I want her to tell me and analyze herself what she can do better at and what she wants me to help her on. Instilling those values of communication in her so she can always speak up for herself and be assertive and not be dictated by anybody.
Integrity. It goes along with leadership, but just really doing the right thing. So you can sleep at night! I always sleep good at night knowing that I gave my best effort and treated people right and was the person that I would want somebody to be towards me.
Although my basketball dream was crushed, I’m grateful to have found a career in music and apply those lessons I learned. That's what making music like "Long Live" is all about. I got a batch of beats from Jake One and I was sitting at the studio. A lot of my friends had went to this dinner party and I stayed back and that’s when I came up with the song. I was like, “I kinda just wanna work guys, y’all go ahead. I’m gonna sit back.” I just started analyzing relationships and for me, relationships are the currency of the world. They reflect every industry and every facet of life is based on relationships. So I feel like that’s the biggest currency you can have.
Having integrity and letting the heart lead in certain actions has definitely brought me in rooms that I didn’t think I’d have access to had I not had those values. If I didn’t follow-up with people or keep it a buck with a lot of people and be genuine, I probably wouldn’t be in a lot of different studios or rooms or got an opportunity that I got. Integrity still affects me to this day. Life has come full circle in maintaining that and allowing me to be more visible, have opportunities to perfect my craft even more and be received well. I’m just trying to build that up to the next level.
Watch the "Long Live" video above or stream the song below.