All posts by Myles Johnson

Myles E. Johnson is originally from NY, New York and is now located in Atlanta, Georgia. He originally started his writing career with music journalism, holding countless interviews with musical acts and rising artists, as well as wardrobe-styling. Mr. Johnson thirsted for a literary platform that made it possible for him to be more expressive and daring, and ventured into writing narratives that were both personal and non-fiction, as well as surreal fictional narratives that both include his signature hyper-visual, sharp, and poetic style.

The Choking Kind: A Meditation on Black Queer Art

This round blue ball we call earth was stuck in my throat and my eyes were beginning to swell, and my hands were beginning to shake, and I was realizing that my death was swiftly approaching. My vision began to fade, and I could feel my body split into two. I was leaving. Like a bullet to the heart, like a shock to the brain, I was fading out of this earthly existence, and it hurt. I could feel people picking at my skin, one atom at a time, until there was nothing left of me. Dust! A few good stories and a smile, a couple of articles and a joke. With me looking the grim reaper in the eyes, my existence’s oversimplification felt like a terrorist threat, not simply some lazy oversight.

Toni Morrison never lied. I could feel every scream, every heartbreak, every call to war, every epiphany, every struggle be muddied with sun and bleach. I was going to die by the hands of this world, and this world was going to say that I enjoyed it. I should have told my story louder and more often and with more colors and shades, I thought.

In that moment, I woke up and the world escaped my throat and fell into my belly. I was alive. Not just alive with my heart and my eyes, my soul was thriving. I knew what I had to do. I had dreams to remember and stories to tell. This was the new prayer of my life. I desired to tell narratives that were more than black queer lullabies, I wanted my stories to explode and drip down to the Earth’s core. I wanted the world to choke on my essence, just like I had. I decided to be heard, and the world bent to my decision.

I no longer ran from the things that I declared ugly or disgraceful. I called on them for this new mission of my life like Santa Claus would call on reindeer. On, heartbreak! On, desperation! On, insecurity! On, redemption! On, divinity!

With that realization, I met life and she was in love with me, and I began to fall in love with the larger picture I was drawing. My life’s work is to do my part in making sure that black queer narratives are able to be expressed to their highest expression. My life and my talent are simply vehicles to ensure that black queer art is able to reach equity in a world that would rather us choke on it. Luckily, I am not the choking kind and I have been prepared for such challenges.

Myles is the author of “Large Fears,” an upcoming children’s book illustrated by artist Kendrick Daye. Click here to find out how you can help make this idea into a reality.

FAME KILLS: The Bette Parker Story

Trigger happy paparazzo surrounded me.

They think I’m insane. They think I’m ugly. They think I’m beautiful. I step into traffic with racing cars speeding by; even the cars slow down because I am that important. Flash, flash. This is lush, and I can see the man that loves me front and center taking the photographs more thoughtfully than all of the others, and suddenly this is no longer just an exchange between the celebrity and the paparazzi. This is Da Vinci crafting Mona Lisa. I must pose and back up a little, so he can see all of me. This portrait shan’t go unfinished. He photographs me warmly. How he photographs me, I know its love. One paparazzo screams, “Miss Bette, Miss Bette Parker, you’re going to get hit by a car. Please, get out of the street!” Another paparazzo screams back, “Let her get hit, man.” Click, flash, click, flash. How sweet, they want me to be Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson. No PR agent could book this kind of love.

Destiny was a friend of mine that followed me around since I was just a little girl. I used to think destiny was a benevolent pal of mine, but I think she was always secretly jealous. She always had to tag along and give me what I want, but she wanted what I had, so she would soil all of my kismet moments that she gave me. Destiny resented that her one purpose was to ensure that my life unfolded in the most magical way possible. Destiny didn’t want to introduce me to Hollywood, she had to introduce me to Hollywood, and that bitch did everything she could do to make sure that Hollywood ate me alive.

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Scene 1: All of these girls are ugly, and desperate. You can smell it on them. The sun glimpses through the windows and they’re all memorizing their lines, and some are even wearing wigs to ensure that they look as believable as the character they’re gunning for. The director comes out, “Ms. Better Parker? You’re up first.” I better not blow it, I thought. I walk in his office with the script. I observe his warm eyebrows and strong fingers observing me from over his desk. My pussy begins to drip wet. Even my pussy knows I want to be a star. I put down the script, I heighten my skirt, I direct his hands to feel how bad me and my pussy want to see our names in light, and then in order to not blow it, I blow it. I blow him and I get the part of a lifetime. No wig necessary.

Scene 2: Red carpets are fun, and I love wearing Italian and French things that cascade down my back and thighs that will ensure to get me talked about tomorrow morning as long as that Sir Mercury boy doesn’t try to steal the show with his alleged performance art. Strategic nudity is a type of performance art too, isn’t it? I step outside of the black limousine on to the velvet blood that ran down the floor before me and the cameras begin to rejoice. “Miss Parker, is it true you’re dating Sir Mercury?” No, Sir Mercury is a fag. “Miss Parker, do you think you’ll take home the gold tonight?” Probably not, I didn’t blow anybody on the academy yet. “Bette Parker, what’s next?” I answer, “What’s next is not a question for the celebrity or artist to answer, dear. That’s a question for the beautiful public to decide. I am just glad to be now.” I love answering questions. I decide who I want to channel, and they eat it up. I sound like I am reading off of an script, and they call it old Hollywood. I didn’t take home the award, but I was talked about the next morning for my barely there leather couture creation from Italy. All’s fair in love and fame.

Scene 3: She’s going to ask me the most personal questions, and my publicist tells me to just answer because this is a landmark interview. I’m stuffed inside of a pencil skirt, with a sweater tucked in, with a high bun, a big gold watch for a touch of masculinity. The men to need to want to fuck me and the women need to want to, well, fuck me too. Nobody can second guess my desirability, but I must look like a viable option, not a threat. I must be likeable. This time, I must stay in character.

“Bette Parker, you have the world. How amazing is it being you?”
“Well, I must say, I feel like I deserve it.”
“You feel like you deserve it?”
“Well, yes.”
The audience doesn’t desire me, they envy me. I messed up.
“That sounds a bit entitled.”
“Entitled?”
“Yes, entitled.”

 

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Scene 4: My career is over.

Scene 5: Everyone has their favorite drugs for different reasons, but I love weed with some cocaine sprinkled on top. It softens up my imagination and helps me be able to mold back into the superstar I once was, if only in my mind. The beautiful thing about rock bottom is that it helps you discover what really feeds you because that’s the first thing you reach for. Some reach for food, or security, I reached for the fame. I called the paparazzi every evening and told them where I’d be and I’d wear things that only an alien whore would find appropriate, and I found love for a few moments every evening. One photog in particular reminded me of that fateful day in the casting director’s office that the bitch, Destiny, set up for me. His fingers were strong, his eyebrows were warm, and my pussy still salivated by the idea of the chance of stardom.

Scene 6: He swam inside of me over satin covers and his dick was a camera that was interested only in the “authentic”, “real” me like a Mario Testino portrait. Half of me thought I was sleeping with the devil. The other half knew that I was sleeping with the man that gave me this fame I’ve always hoped for. I was disgusted. I was enthralled, and he was having an orgasm, and recording.

He says, “You fuck me like you’re on stage.”

“I am. It’s funny, when I first came to Hollywood, I was a twit thirsty for attention, and I got that attention by any means necessary.” He recorded me with eyes and I could tell I wasn’t have a conversation, I was recording for my documentary special. Maybe, a feature film release or maybe something intimate like a HBO special.
“But, maintaining the attention, then losing the attention and then fighting for the attention made me an artist. It turned me into a real performance artist of the new millennium. You know, being deliciously private in public because all you do, even what you do privately, is somehow designed to feed your adoring public. Oh, how I love the adoring public.”

Intermission: Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Better Parker. My mother wanted me to be a star, so she named me just like those Hollywood gals she grew up adoring. The night fell and my father didn’t see his little girl, I just know it, he saw one of those women in one of those glamorous films. He didn’t see missing teeth, pajamas, and immature eyes. He saw red lipstick, sequins, fur, and readiness. So, he whisked me away and took away my innocence and made a marquee out of me. I didn’t have any time to comprehend my new found stardom because that was the morning Princess Diana died and I couldn’t risk my tears smothering the flame of the torch that was obviously being passed down to me.

 

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Scene 7: They found my home. I can hear the flashes from outside of my door, and I think if I were normal, I wouldn’t have heard it, but I’m the superhuman of reality. I’m a celebrity. So, I can hear my friends snapping and hustling in bushes. They love me so, even when the world rejects me. One is from Rolling Stone, I can tell by rhythm in his camera clicks. I invite him in.

“I’m from Rolling Stone.” I know. “I wanted to see if I can interview you for my piece. It’s a think-piece on you, I think you are one of the most important celebrities of our times, you know. I’d love for your perspective to be shared in this.” Of course, you can interview me, I think.

I say, “No.” He pleads, I pretend to ponder. I say, “Yes.” He asks me questions. The lot of them are boring, except the last one.

“What’s something someone wouldn’t know about you?”

“I feel useless when I eat fruit. Cut me, I only bleed. Cut the fruit and they pour sweetness and vitamins. I think my chase for celebrity has been me trying to compete with fruit.”

“I think you’re sweet,” he said.

We fucked. I fell in love, he wrote a story. I became even more of a train wreck, he was established as even more of a genius, and secretly, we became lovers.

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Scene 8: The cars zipped by. “Miss Bette Parker, you’re going to get hit by a car,” one paparazzo said. “Let her get hit, man,” my man, my lover, my fruit said.

One car with headlights almost as bright as me made a legend out of me. It only took fifteen minutes for me to escape my famous fleshy body. I would never shop at Forever21, but as my heart beat slowed, I became ecstatic to be merchandised in Forever27 next to Amy Winehouse t-shirts and River Phoenix mugs.

It was grand, even the fall, in retrospect. I was the superstar, a crashing light that everyone marvels and envies, and all superstars know that one day it will one day fall like everyone else. It’s an existential brand of excellence that goes great with lobster and champagne, and I got to dine with this spectacular brand of ridiculousness that is stardom, even if just for a brief moment.

Perfect Nonsense

You sit on your couch while looking out of a window that is as big as your dreams and fears.

And think when will it all make perfect sense. You think, reasonably, maybe it’ll never make sense. Maybe, this world is meant to make perfect nonsense. The concrete buildings that used to excite you in this big city of yours now bore you, and you fixate your eyes on the beautiful orange tree that has obviously been swallowed up by the times. It is autumn. It is the season of change, and you’ve never felt so still. You’re still just like the tall, tall, tall buildings you observe.

You sip your coffee, black with sugar, and no cream. Your sweatshirt is comfortable, and everything excluding your mind is calm and mild.

Between the buildings, that gorgeous death-soaked tree, you spot an eye. A reptilian eye surrounded by rough reptilian skin. An eye so large that it seemed to be competing with the sun and your heart dropped because your heart knew, along with your mind, that it will never get a chance to dive again. The eye soon became a face, it was a sort of enlarged angler fish with teeth as sharp as knives, and just as you observed its mouth, it took a bite out the building that you were marveling in all of your boredom. The building was eaten alive. Now, it’s your turn. The monstrous angler fish comes closer to your building and eats your big window, but left the dreams and fear. You see the flashlight on its head and both of those ugly eyes are eyeing you. You’re paralyzed with fear, and the angler fish opens its mouth and swallows you whole.

Miraculously, your body misses every knife that the angler fish is passing off as teeth and it simply swallows you in one gulp. Horrified and petrified, seem like appropriate words. You feel the pressure of the insides, soft and squishy, digesting your flesh and your comfortable sweatshirt. What’s there left to do, you think. You can hear screams of the citizens of your city as they meet their demise, you hear the unsettling sounds of buildings collapsing and you swim in the stomach acid of the beast as you notice your body is disintegrating, limb by limb. You watch your feet disappear, and then calves, then thighs, then hips, then your stomach, then you can’t breathe. Then, your heart vanishes. Then, you can’t speak. Finally, your brain, the thing that brought you this experience begins to melt away in this monster’s stomach. It’s lunch, your funeral. Consciousness is lost, but not before thinking one final thought: That at least you died knowing that anything is possible.

Beauty Rots

 

In this strange place, ants eat cigarette buds to stay alive, instead of rotted fruit.

What a cruel sanctuary we’ve made for ourselves. I respect these critters because they adapt with no complaints, they just figure it out and crawl. I see these ants eating cigarettes on my way back and forth from work each day. Even today, when my route has changed from my job where I stack boxes on top of each other for a company that stacks worries on top of me. Today, I missed that howling train and had to take the long way back home. The only thing that keeps me going during this long way home is paradoxically the fact that I am tired, and my cold and lonely bed is singing blues, waiting for me to arrive and make it black once again.

Starless skies and a moon fully dressed with nowhere to go, has me observing this town in a way that I hadn’t before. This town is possessed, even down to the tobacco-addicted ants. There is a tale they tell the children about the men in hard hats with guns on their backs that monitor them closely. They use this tale to explain missing children and adults that go away, and come back and act strange. So it goes, the town was swallowed by demons and ghosts. Everything is fine during the day, but once that clumsy time of day we refer to as night falls, there’s an evil that comes to play. So it goes, the children and adults that have disappeared were actually ghosts and demons, and the men with hard hats, leather boots, and big guns saved us from eventual damnation. God bless those steel-faced cops, according to the tale.

I am almost home. I should be fine. I landed parallel to the street of the street I would be on if I wasn’t taking the long way home. Across the street, I see me. I see me, but I am here. How can this be? I must be exhausted or mistaken, and I get a glimpse of the face of the man pretending to be me, and my flesh freezes. We never see our true selves in mirrors or lakes, just mere reflections, but here I got a glimpse of myself in a way that was almost as horrific as it was terrific. I follow him, or myself, as I observe him walk the street that I’d be walking on if I didn’t walk the long way home because of that damned train. I follow him all the way to my home, and watch him climb the stairs and open the door. I was in my house. I was outside of my house in the street, blood running cold and flesh crawling like those tobacco-addicted ants. If sunflowers could smile and cook, they would be her. He plucked her from the garden when she was just sixteen, and kept her watered with lots of sun. However, there would be other courters that would want to handle her and her thorns, and he’d fight them off. One by one, sometimes with words or fists, he’d protect his sacred flower. She never knew anything, but him, and he made sure of it. They grew old and sometimes while he took out the garbage and she cleaned the dishes, she’d reflect how perfect her love was and how empty she found perfect. Her heart was weak because it never stretched those long distances or had to lift the heavy loads of lonely nights. Her well of desires were dry because she never swam in the pools of disillusionment or love unrequited. He protected her.

While breaking suds on the back of dishes in her sink, she would build resentment. He asked, “What was wrong?” She got the broom and dustpan to clean her mess. “Nothing, nothing at all. My hands shake and my eyesight isn’t as sharp, just a simple mistake.” She changed the subject, “Would you believe it, while at the grocery store, a young man said he could tell that I used to be beautiful.” He said, “What grocery store? Who was he? I’ll tell him to respect his elders. I’ll kill him, I swear.” Her eyes began to swell and her heart began to bend, “No, it was harmless.” A helpless feeling resonated in the rib that he gave her. “You’ve kept me safe for years. I am old. I am ugly. I can taste death’s potency with each passing day. Why must you ensure you don’t lose me like this still? You have me. I am yours. I have been yours for forever, and I don’t know anything else. It was harmless.” He looked blankly into the corner. He said, “No matter, I will straighten him out.” She must’ve had some youth left in her fingertips because she threw a plate at the wall, and as the plate broke, she heard something fall like a stack of dominos, one by one.

She went to the wall, he looked on silently and she banged and more dominos fell. She banged until she broke the wall. There were no dominos, just bones. So many bones and skulls, and she began to scream and cry. Sadness and fear played inside of her throat, trading between screams and cries. He looked on, stood, approached his hysterical sunflower, and placed his hands on her neck. “I just wanted to protect you from men like me.” Life ran out of her face, the sunshine left her eyes, and the resistance poured on the floor like the blood of the other women that couldn’t die with as much dignity, grace, or perfection. She was gone; he had officially killed every woman he thought was beautiful. It only took some few decades.

He sat in the living room with his lifeless sunflower in his arms and lap. He cried one single tear, but that wasn’t enough to water her back to life, so he gently rocked. He kept her in his arms for years, and he never removed her or himself from that chair. The wood would cry and creek from the years of pressure, but he was used to the sounds of agony that women made when he would cut up open their flesh, so the cries of a tired wooden chair didn’t move him, emotionally or physically. The older he grew the more heinous and decrepit she transformed into as death had his way with her mortal form. Not a smell or hungry worm could entice him to let her go.

The legend says that his Saturn returned at least a dozen times, until one night a bit past midnight during that time of day where witches play with hourglasses and wolves howl envious at the cows that jump over the moon, there was a body like no other that came through the door. Ravenous like only heaven could be, the glowing woman body whispered, “Let me go.” Two chills galloped in behind the woman’s body, one for his spine and one for the room. The man felt his fingers finally loose grip out of fear of what he was seeing before him, but he was stubborn. So, he rocked. Pieces of her rotted body fell on the floor, and he began to be haunted by the cobwebs that formed at the door. Still, he told himself that he would love her until he was no more. So, hold. So, rock. So, love, he did.

The luminous female body began to be infuriated and screamed, “let me go!” No please. It wasn’t as much of a request as it was a command. Horrified, the man did as he was told and dropped, dropped, dropped his rotted wife. Floored, he was to finally have witnessed his wife’s body out of his arms. The luminous body, satisfied, came closer to the man and the man began to realize once he peeked over his cataracts that the glowing body was, indeed, his wife. It was her ghost or spirit, at least, and what he was holding was just worm food. She, translucent with silver lining, gleefully floated out of the door. She was new and more beautiful than ever before. He now had a new memory to hold on to for the rest of time, until it was time for him to rot and be beautiful like his perfect sunflower turned authoritative ghost.

Bats, owls, wolves, and the full moon stared as I decided what to do, as I stood at the driveway of my home, wondering how this ghost of me exists. Such fairytales is the stuff that nightmares are made out of and are used to chill blood. My body was split in half; one half ran to where it was sunnier, blissful, and ignorant. The other side of my body was brave and marched inside ready to die and fight. Truthfully, the whole of me stood still. My identical twin, my reflection, my ghost came on to the balcony and looked down at me, and spoke. “Son, please come up for some tea. I want to finally tell you about your mother and me. I want to tell you how I killed her with love and drugged women with deceit and stuffed them in walls.” ‘Twas my long dead father, finally ready to tell me who he really was.

Mood Ring: Myles Johnson

I have always been noticed by my name, specifically my first name. Myles, especially when said and not read, reminds almost everyone immediately of the great jazz musician, Miles Davis. I’ve always worshipped the idea that my name instantaneously reminds so many of music, specifically great jazz music. Of course, my musical palette ventures beyond jazz, but my name is a reminder of where I come from; my dad is a jazz musician-slash-painter-slash-druggie and my mom is a soul and rock ‘n roll advocate-slash-superwoman. To come up with my most beloved songs that start with the first letter of my name was a kind of spiritual and musical journey that at times felt like a crossword puzzle, but most often felt like soul-digging, and pop-digging, and rock ‘n roll digging, and of course, jazz-digging. So it goes:

 

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(M)e & Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin

This song is a spiritual battle cry for me. “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” This song is as severely political as it is romantic, and that is a definitive characteristic of who I am. I’m constantly mixing things, because I think it’s beautiful and powerful. Sex, politics, love, food, art, humor, technology, freedom. They’re all ingredients to revolution.

 

 

 

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(Y)ou Go to My Head – Sarah Vaughn

Even in Sarah Vaughn’s depression or angst, there was such power and elegance. This jazz tune is the perfect example of what I believe is my biggest perpetual lesson being taught by life. Balance! Balance as in being aware of and owning your sadness, but not drowning in it. Balance, as in acknowledging your pain and demons, but not being a slave to them. Sarah Vaughn, even at her lowest, sounds like an all-knowing ocean wave that isn’t any more disturbed when she is crashing against shores, than when she is tranquilly sitting underneath the moon.

 

 

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(L)andslide – Fleetwood Mac

Quality of life and wisdom are my greed. Some people love money, sex, drugs, fame, or a juicy steak, but I’ve always been obsessed with peace and wisdom, and how to gather as much of it as possible. This song speaks to it. I’ll cry to this song and soak myself in this bohemian brand of wisdom after a hard day of life.

 

 

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(E)verybody Has an Aura – Chaka Khan & Rufus

This funky jam talks about how everyone is a unique, subjective expression of divinity with their own story and lessons which is a base spiritual belief of mine. Seldom can you get your spirit affirmed while dancing in the dark, but alas, Chaka Khan and Rufus made the impossible, possible.

 

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(S)ummer Soft – Stevie Wonder

Change, evolution, that consistent promise that life offers is something I’ve leaned into. Reinventing who I am and taking risks is the cornerstone of my life experience, and this song feels like the blanket that comforts me on this magic carpet ride that we refer to as existence. Stevie Wonder talks about the uncertainty of life and the uncertainty of evolution, and the melody and lyrics replace all of my fears and worries with gratitude and bravery.

5 Things to Remember While Being a Superstar & Working a Regular Job

The cold cruel facts are that this world was not designed for superstars like you. It is made to take all of your abstract shapes, and dull the vibrant colors and round all of your sharp edges. You know this place. You are exhausted from your nine-to-five, and you have no more energy to pour into what you really want to do. You’ve seen the thirty or forty something that used to have big dreams, but all of that fire has been fed into a machine and now they’re all 401k, promotions, and lunch breaks while reminiscing about the dreams of yesterdays and what they used to want to do. We know this person. You might even be this person, but fret not. I’ve come up with a simple how-to list on how to navigate this anti-bohemian society while not starving, until you become rich enough to be the superstar you really are by day and night.

 

1.) ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

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We forget how we used to think when we were kids, filled with wonderment and infinite possibilities. Somewhere along that road we have began to be more pragmatic and realistic. Fight off of this intrusive idea of reality like the knights fight off dragons. This is not just simply “growing up,” this is a war on your imagination and the manifestation of all of your dreams. You must believe in magic, deny any proof that it doesn’t exist. You must believe in the wonderful things that are unexplainable, or have been explained, but the fairytale version just seems so much more poetic. You must honor your imagination and the belief that anything is possible. You must worship that idea that one second, you are working to make ends meet and the next second, by inexplicable miracle, your whole world is tossed upside down and all of your work is finally being seen in the light you have always desired. This isn’t just daydreaming, this is your duty as an artist. Bills are real. Food is real. That annoying coworker is real. However, there is something even more real and more possible, your talent and the magical nature of this world we inhabit. Anything is possible.

 

2.) MORE MONEY MEANS MORE WORK

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Corporations and big businesses know the basic human greed. The greed is comfort. Not having to worry about anything for the rest of your life. Bills? Conquered. Rent? No problem. That beautiful pair of shoes? Got it. So, jobs will offer you more money and the silent promise is that all worries will vanish. Beware, artists. If you are offered more money or some type of promotion at your job, this without doubt means a lot more work. Not just work, but it’s a trade-in. They want all of your fire, passion, and energy to go into sustaining a big business’ dreams rather than having any to go into your decided destiny. Make sure that you know this and you are sure that you take this into account before taking that promise of financial comfort. It starts swell with bills paid on time and fancy clothes, but you’ll be tired and procrastinate on what you love and before you know it, you’ll wake up and realize that there was no amount of comfort that was worth you turning your dream into a seasonal or part-time job, if you even have the energy to pursue it at all. Mind you, your dreams will never leave you. Your job, however, can decide you are obsolete and fire you, and leave you with a severance package and eventual financial insecurity. Don’t be afraid of the uncertainty or the discomfort that comes from doing what your soul tells you that you should do.

 

3.) YOUR VISION IS FOR YOU TO SEE

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Your vision isn’t just given for you to see it, but to be it. You are given ideas not just to let them play in the back of your mind, but for them to drop out of your eyeballs on to the ground and to watch them grow in front of you. If you can conceive something, you sentient piece of meat, you can surely create and become it. Know that nothing is too radical, too fantastical, or too unrealistic because as long as your brain was able to conjure it up, rest in the fact that it isn’t just a dream. It was a blueprint.

 

4.) THIS TOO IS PERFECTION

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Artists, for good reason tend to romanticize the end of their journey and dismiss their current position as simply an obstacle. Artists, you must learn how to think objectively. What is a diamond without cuts? Even where you are right now, riddled with struggle, worry, and rejection is perfection. The ultimate expression of artistry is the idea that you can create something so you that it transcends you, and resonates with the world. With that being said, you must know some of the pains of the world to be able to soulfully connect with people on a level that will resonate with them. Also, success doesn’t make things easier. It makes things different, and sometimes harder. These tough times are you planting your roots and building your muscles for a world that is cruel. This is boot camp, but be assured that this is absolutely perfect, despite the lack of jewels and comfort.

 

5.) EXCELLENCE IS YOUR BITCH

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A manager at my mundane job once told me, “I want you to be able to tap into your excellence and greatness, not just when you are comfortable, but when you need to.” That sentiment changed my life and perspective intensely. For a while, I would need tea, a cigarette, dim lighting, light French music, and twenty-minute meditations in order to offer anything of worth. However, once I was told that, I began to not be a slave to my comfort, and I began to exercise the idea that I should be able to tap into my greatness at the most unexpected times because that is the stuff winners are made out of. Now, every day is an attempt to create a relationship with my excellence where I’m not only able to tap into it when everything is ordered, but when everything is array and scary, but the light is on me and it is showtime. Creatives, make excellence your bitch that you can control and bring out in the rain and fire, not just on sunny, seventy-five degree days.

Secrets to The Diamond Life

It’s not shocking to discover that my world got rocked by letters…

there were not too many, there were just three. D, M, T. I hardly knew it worked until I noticed all of reality and all that was left was clouds and the sky, and I was asked to make my own reality, and all I wanted in the moment was a friend.

That’s when Lucy appeared like a majestic benevolent penpal that I finally got to see for the first time. She dropped gems. Specifically, she dropped diamonds. She said, “Look around and you will notice the dance that life has created for us, and our job is simply to be in rhythm. As winter has faith in the melody of spring, we are consistently two-stepping with the laws that the universe has provided. However, for a lot of us, we have found a scratch in the cosmic record that we are all dancing to. Metaphorically, our summers are colder and are winters are hotter, we are out of sync, and we can’t seem to find the beat.

We feel it in our toes and veins. We are multidimensional expressions of the universe, seemingly living this 2D experience and we have the lost track of the magic that we have decidedly danced to. Hopeless, we wander in silence, waiting for the melody to come back and inspire us to move, but the silence is too deafening so we fill the silent room with things that have proven poisonous to us, time and time again. We fill it with information that is meaningless, foods that are empty, and we are then only able to produce ideas that are just as inconsequential.

This, thankfully, is just an illusion. There is no silence or pause on the universe; we have just chosen to put this cosmic music on mute, but be sure, that it continues to play. Not only does it play, but it invites us to dance with it perpetually. We are always being invited to gracefully sink back into all that we are and all that is, even in this physical expression of our infinite spirit. How do you fall back into sync? You bite into what already is in sync.

Yes, pay attention to the seasons and how they all annually express themselves. Rise with the sun’s shine and show gratitude with the moon’s glow. Bite into the harvest that grows from this very ground that you walk, and let it swim in your body. Sooner than you might expect, you’ll notice the music that life has always intended for you to hear. This is holistic living, beyond existing just what is seen, but living inside what is felt. It is consistently honoring the patterns and rhythm that life has created. It is mindfully observing the pool of imagination and joy that life is, and diving in, so that you too might dance for eternity.”

I came down and started turning those fluffy clouds into hard bricks of reality, and soon enough I aligned back into the universe that I ventured away from for the moment, but I came back with new wisdom; Nothing’s gonna change my world.

The Fairytale of Graham Knoxx of DEADRIGHT: Pop’s Next Princess

From the time I was exposed to poison apples and magic mirrors, I was pushed to believe in the magical. I was pushed to believe in things that that started once upon a time and ended happily ever after, and it took something as harsh and random as life to disturb those fairytales. On this magic carpet ride through harsh reality and sour truths, I witnessed a fairytale like one that I didn’t know before. I witnessed a fairytale that even after all of the logic I had accumulated, I was convinced was wrong, but it wasn’t wrong. It was Dead Right.

I chatted with the psychedelic Cinderella, Graham Knoxx, who is one-half of nouveau-pop duo, DEADRIGHT. Miss Knoxx has managed to turn being ostracized into a stage and transform tears into melodies with the magical thread being music. The fairytale starts in the dirty, dirty south. That would be Atlanta, to be specific. Not feeling quite as accepted as the other cool reindeer, our sultry Rudolph went where the tides rode higher and the breeze felt warmer. “I didn’t know many people in Atlanta. I worked in an architecture firm.” Knoxx expounds on her move from Atlanta to California, “Atlanta is the type of place where you can do something great, and suddenly everyone in Atlanta knows you. I wasn’t ready for that.” She continues, “The producers I want to work with are not in Atlanta. People who are gonna understand my aesthetic, my direction, and my influences are not in Atlanta.”

During this time, before the clock struck midnight in Atlanta, heartbreak threw Knoxx’s mind into a wonderland. “I was so in love, I would’ve done anything. He wanted someone to support him and go with him on his travels.” Graham reveals, “Valentine’s Day, two years ago, I was in the darkest place in my life.” The ending of a long-term romantic relationship, a clique-ish Atlanta, and the surprise buzz from the song “Dollar” produced by Alex Goose led Graham Knoxx into her own kind of dark oz. “[I was like] I am lost. I am broken. I don’t have a job. I moved back home for six months.”

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Collage by GREATeclectic

It was home where Graham Knoxx began to refine and define her lyrical prowess she is known for. “I recorded them in my closet, in the dark in the room I lived in as a kid.” She continues, “By the end of those six months, I cut my hair off. I dyed it. I worked as a stylist. I needed something to free my mind and let my mind go, and take off the pressure.” This growth and exploration began her move to L.A. and rekindling her relationship with her musical partner, Alex Goose. Now, it seems as though what was some gothic drama is turning into fantasy drizzled with disco melodies. “I’m ready to take on the world again.” Along with the world takeover birthed a move to L.A. where she know lives. “Closing that chapter of struggle, it’s been amazing getting here. Everyone gets it. What we’re doing isn’t weird, it’s refreshing.”

Taking over the whole world is precisely what’s happening, since DEADRIGHT has now been adopted by a management company, touring agency and they performed on the Nylon magazine stage at SXSW, the takeover is as whimsical as it is imminent. Now, prepping their debut project, “Youth Maladies”, the stakes are high and the magic wands are even higher. “Sonically, we use a lot of analog and synths. There’s this blend of this old psychedelic feel. Alex started in hip-hop. It has more hip-hop influences and there’s a song that sounds like Pink Flydd. It all makes sense together, but it’s unexpected. It’s a retro psychedelic feeling to 70’s rock to hip-hop. It just feels really good.”

The core message of the new music is to not avoid the darkness and to come to terms with the mistakes that were necessary to grow in your youth. “I live in a constant state of thanks. Going through what I went through helped me see that. I had to get comfortable with things not always going through plan. You have to be more fluid, you have to let life flow through you. Being true to myself and just allowing the energy I project to come back to me when it is supposed to. “ Unlike most fairytales, the happily ever after doesn’t seem like the end for Graham Knoxx or Dead Right, it seems like the beginning of a wondrous adventure on a brick road paved with cosmic-tinged music and striking visuals.

Cosmic Confessions From A Celestial Cunt

In a galaxy far, far away, there was a divorce. He was a mad Martian, I suppose. I was a celestial cunt, I’d say. Our arguments would dry up the Milky Way, and at night we’d stargaze and create our very own twilight. All the love we made while spreading the moon on crackers would just explode into constellations. We were playing space battleship! We’d return to our hearts, instead of Saturn. Star wars! We both won, until we both lost.

I should’ve known this pattern of exploding, volatile stars and serene space travel couldn’t last forever. Fighting, then making up couldn’t be all that I and my space cowboy could do. Soon enough during one of Mercury’s retrogrades, I’m sure, he decided that I was not the astronaut for him, leaving a heartbroken earthling out of me. I suppose, he was leaving me with just the world, no space. He was leaving me with just the dirt, no stars. He was leaving me as just a boy, not the universe. He took the universe right from underneath my feet, leaving me nothing but earth, not even that Neptune sound.

For a while, I dwelled on earth as if nothing happened. I certainly did give up what I loved so much, and I refused to even look at the sky, in fear it would remind me of a love loss. I purposely trekked only jungles, woodsy and concrete, but nothing celestial, nothing cosmic!

“No, no! The cosmos are no place for a boy like you!” my reflection would shout from my mirror, sometime last year. I agreed, plus, the world is vast. It is wide and big and magical. Who needed outer space when you had mother earth to walk on? “An artist of the 21st century!” my reflection would shout one night with a change of heart and appearance, sometime in October when the moon looked especially delectable. My reflection, one starry night, was no longer a heartbroken boy. My reflection was Venus, and I was able to make love and admiration just by what spilled out of my vanity mirror. Stardust! It was then; I realized the universe never left.

The universe was always right inside of me making the world that much bigger, that much wider, and that much more magical. I could only abandon it in the same way that the sun could attempt to abandon its own flames, to only realize the impossibility of the entire attempt. My starless time on earth was simply just a stop on my space odyssey. He, that alien to love, took nothing. I decided to hide everything. But now, liberation! Now, I realize I am more than a space oddity; I’m the whole goddamn galaxy. No need for me to ask to be taken to your leader because I now see, in that vanity mirror that holds Venus, that the leader is me, I am he. And everything else too and I am absolutely in love with astronomy, myself, and sci-fi one again. Star-struck!

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Venus in Vegas

She, sautéed in all of my neurosis, was delicious. She fed me and made up my bed, she was something like my mother. Until, she got on top of me and rode me at midnight, even when I’d rather sleep. I’m gay, I’d think. Then, I’d orgasm. The aftermath of our collision might with some other woman be met with confusion or struggle, but with her, it was just met with relief. She was my muse. So, her satisfaction didn’t rely on my erection. Her satisfaction leaned on my art, my creativity, the great wet hole in my mind called imagination. She was the inspiration, she was the light bulb on top of my head, and she was the lightning that struck my kite. Once she would strike, like the kite, I flew. I flew right next to greatness. She’d tip me over and pour me into my work, and then she’d ready me to be poured into the universe. I was a teacup, short and spout, that with her touch would turn into a flask, big and filled with poison.

One night, and I don’t know whether to curse or bless it, she ran away. My mistress of thought left me. She left for Las Vegas, more specifically, she left for love. She left for the travel. She left because she felt I didn’t need her anymore. She said she never wanted love, until she went to Las Vegas and eloped. How was I supposed to make things without her? How was I supposed to understand who I was if she wasn’t there ripping out the pages and stuffing them in my salivating mouth? One conversation I remember mostly because it was her last musing to me.
I’d told her, “I miss you.”
She responded, “I miss you too.”
I said, “Come back, please?”
She said, “Never.”
I said, “Why?”
She said, “I’m married now.”
I said, “To whom?”
She said, “To a Venus flytrap, named Venus.”

She wasted no time telling me how in love she was with this plant. Knowing her, marrying the Venus flytrap was really her marrying a mirror, or marrying herself. Still, selfishness prevented me from seeing what I now know. I selfishly asked, “And who am I to love now?” She answered selflessly, “Yourself.”

In that moment, I discovered what inspiration really was. I discovered that my muse, in all of her knowledge, left me open. She left me tilted to the side, and pouring. She left me to be my own muse. She left me as not only Leonardo Da Vinci, she left me as the Mona Lisa. She, sautéed in all of my brilliance, left me complete. Now, in mad matrimony with myself or my own carnivorous piece of a garden or the goddamn mirror, I am the alpha and omega of my art, my world, my culture. My worth is appraised by me. In the grand finale curated by my muse, I became the art that I so desperately wanted to create. I am my new definition of inspiration.

Ghastly Greatness

I can feel it right underneath me as I lay on my back, underneath my bed lies my greatness, growling. Underneath my bed, my greatness is salivating and sharpening its teeth waiting to devour me. My greatness, this sadistic virtuosic monster underneath my bed, is waiting to fold my bed in half and crush my body, and spit me up like a volcano. The lava, of course would just be my blood and fear. Doubt and guts on the wall. There are intestines and mediocrity dripping from the ceiling, just to drip down on my ruined sheets. Greatness, that beast that lives underneath the sheets, is trying to get the absolute best of me.

I didn’t always know that it was greatness that I feared in the dark when left alone without a nightlight. I just knew that the heat from the fur was smothering and the snarls were undeniable. He, she, it, the greatness was content with me living completely petrified for as long as it took. He, she, it, the greatness was completely satisfied with me living a state of complete fear, until I decided to recognize the greatness. Not just recognize the greatness, but acknowledge the mass amount of fear I had for it. The only thing scarier than the fear of greatness was the fear in and of itself. It’s the horrific thought that I was doubling as the victim, and the demonic monster underneath the bed. It’s the even more horrific thought that my flesh would never be any match for the greatness that was roaring, underneath my belly.

I see myself running out of the castle on top of the hill, and in mid-run, I realize that this haunted ghastly castle was the mansion I always dreamed of. The ghosts inside are the inspiration necessary to stay a resident inside of my own greatness. So, I stop running and I do what most heroes do which is be afraid, but still decide to turn around. I decide to open the door of that old ghastly castle and let the cool breeze tickle my earlobes. I go back to my room and lie on the floor, and see those red eyes of the greatness that I prayed for and simultaneously abhor. He takes his index finger of his fury and metallic claws, and sets it underneath my chin, reels me in, and eats me piece by piece. Although, it was painful as hell, I didn’t shriek, resist, or yell. I let him break, smash, and consume every one of my limbs.

Here I am, just a handsome ghost of a man that is now just living inside of his own greatness. I implore all the cowardly creators, that live in ghastly castles on top of hills with fogs and dreams, to not run. To get on your knees as if to give a blowjob or to pray, and climb next to that monster and let him devour you inch by inch. Let it scare you. Let it eat all your worries and doubt. Be crazy and monstrous. Be doubtful about nothing because you’re not scared any longer of silly childish things like failure or death because your greatness has already made a ghost of you.

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Lonely Seas

I didn’t even notice that it was just me. I didn’t even know that I was alone. I was always too busy creating. I was building things that were much like people, but with more movement. I was too preoccupied with making things like love, but with more loyalty. I didn’t know I was lonely, until I was told I was lonely. I was told that my paradise was a prison, and one day I’ll be saved from it. But I never wanted to be in love, I just wanted to be the sea. I was told by people that my desires were not to be and I was not to be the sea, but just loved dearly. The idea of never being the sea and just being loved felt like loneliness to me.

My friends that spoke about the relief of my loneliness, and with more conversation felt like my enemies, carried me to a place I never wanted to be. I was away from home. I was at sea, with these lost souls, dying for someone to accompany me. I was mimicking the tragedy of the mentality that they had, and I almost started to believe it. I almost started to worship and pray to it, but my art wouldn’t allow me to worship anything other than words and fate. My fate was to use words, while alone and in company, to come closer to the person I am destined to be. My fate was never to coast the foggy seas with lost souls, hoping someone would love me. My fate, indeed, was to be the sea.

You can’t shake certain feelings that you might have, even if they were given to you without request. So, even with me being alone and writing, desperately trying to become the sea, I couldn’t quite rinse of this fear of lonely. However, it was not the same fear of lonely that my sailor friends would capsize their ships for. It was fear that I might find a man, some company, another soul and I’d miss my lonely. I’d miss creating everything around me out of nothing. I became petrified of the idea of having something. Because with that something, I thought, I’d always have to wonder if I was happy because I created it, or happy because he was there. Was I satisfied because I made it, or was I satisfied because he was there? Was I the sea because it was destined to be, or was

I just the sea because he decided to pour into me?

In my loneliness, I created every laugh I decided to chuckle. All the joy that I felt encompassing me was due to me. Most importantly, all of the art was me. Some, inspired by Salvador Dali, but it was all made by me. I thought, as I floated on the sea trying to become one with it, that I would miss this solitude. I opened my eyes, blinked, and saw a lighthouse. I thought, as the stars glowed on the water I so desperately wanted to be, that I will incredibly miss being lonely. I blinked once more and I saw the moon glowed alone in the sky as if she was taunting me, or perhaps teaching me. In that moment, I stretched my limbs across the sea, and reveled in the fact that there was no one there. There was nothing there, or was it not nothing, but just enough space to create everything? I blinked, I prayed. I prayed to be the loneliest sea.

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What Would Yeezus Do?

Everything in this world seems to be so concrete, so serious, so intense, so dark, and so real. The joke gets good when you realize that in this life, we all die. So, that same darkness that you cherished and took so serious is the same darkness that makes this very existence laughable at worst and a rather light-hearted experience at best. This is what I took away from Kanye West’s latest effort, Yeezus.

“New Slaves” bounces in with references to the Civil Rights era, rather preachy lyrics, and menacing production. “New Slaves” is so serious that you can almost hear Yeezy slurping Huey P. Newton’s dick in the background, but as soon as you put your leather trousers on and prepare yourself to march, West goes on a rant about fucking your Hampton spouse and cumming on her Hampton blouse. Wait, maybe this isn’t supposed to be taken that seriously. Then, you remember that Kanye West also references the DEA and CCA, and their privately owned prison. So, maybe it is supposed to be that serious. Sonically, however, I’m thrilled by Kanye’s “I’m gonna tell mama on you” flow and the menacing electronic production that explodes into Kanye’s signature soul samples.

This album is confusing. It’s a dark, twisted, heart-breaking piece of confusion. I’m in love with where the artist is going, but I don’t know where he’s taking me and if I should be scared or excited. I don’t know whether I should be upset or laugh. I don’t know if these jokes are crude slices of satire or Chuck-D style vitriol that took a detour in New York’s Lower East Side. This album in certain spaces feels like a sex joke in church.

“On Sight,” the album’s first track, plays laser tag with your eardrums. Kanye West bounces compliments back and forth to himself about himself. It sounds like it could be a more mature take on the sounds he explored on the Graduation LP. The album skips into the post-punk, new-age tirade entitled “Black Skinhead.” Here, we find Kanye West being extremely serious again, but not really. The punk production, references to leather black jeans, and the screwed vocals makes you feel something very poignant and serious is happening. Then, I listen, and I hear “three-hundred bitches with the Trojans.” So, I realize nothing is really being said. No information is really being computed to the listener. This all sounds good, but nothing sounds like education. The track concludes with Kanye West saying “God” repeatedly in a frustrated tone that at first sounds gothic and disturbed, but as he says it continuously it just sounds like a spoiled valley girl who didn’t get her way.

Speed into “I Am a God (feat. God).” This for all intents and purposes could have been Kanye West’s chance to be sincerely sadistically sensational. This could have been his chance to be utterly dark, arrogant, and make the listener deliciously uncomfortable. He declines that offer and instead makes a rather catchy rap tune with a doom and gloom beat. He even utters the words, “I am a God, even though I am a man of God.” The line, to me, sounds like it was solely written to pacify the more theistic listeners from becoming too uncomfortable with the idea of Kanye calling himself a God. Even the horror film-style screams at the end can’t quite reach your spine to tingle it because you revisit Kanye West telling a waiter to “hurry up with his damn croissants.” So, all you can really do at the end of the song is put it on repeat because it sounds great and chuckle at this now familiar arrogance Mr. West is known for.

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When the album gets really dark, twisted, and serious is with the songs that might be made for the clubs. It’s when Kanye West isn’t necessarily trying to be his deepest, most social, most spiritual self is when something eerily brilliant and happens. “Hold My Liquor” catches Kanye West playing a Frankenstein’s monster in a narrative about an old love. His voice erupts and borderlines screams, and you can feel West. You can feel all of the darkness rumbling in his belly and rushing to the tip of his tongue, and Yeezus for a quick while stops seeming like dark comedy, and just feels dark. Newcomer Chief Keef, slurs an anthem about being as uncontrollable as your environment and vices that serves as the metallic black lining of this cloud of club banger.

“Blood on the Leaves” does the same emotional tightrope between raw and earnest, and emotional and a bit unsettling. Then, the on-going joke that is Yeezus resurfaces. Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” a song about lynched black folks, is being sung right next to Kanye West singing about trying his first molly with an ex-girlfriend. This is hilarious, and thrilling, and sounds fucking fantastic. “I’m In It” and “Guilt Trip” take similar turns. “I’m In It” is essentially Kanye West illustrating a sexual encounter over industrial noises dipped in reggae, but if imagined, it sounds like a monster devouring prey. Kanye West references eating ass, adding sweet and sour sauce to vagina, and fisting a girl all in the same song, and it’s as disgusting as it is addicting. “Guilt Trip” is a space-age psychedelic trip that rides smoothly with autotuned vocals that bleed into a scathing verse from Kanye that feels like the emotions visited on “Blood on My Leaves” or “I’m In It,” but more scenic. It sounds like Kanye might have replaced the cocaine with a Xanax.

Oh, yeah. “Send It Up” happened. It’s the closest thing to an filler the album has, and seems to have been added just to intensify the atmosphere of the whole project since it follows the same pattern of dancehall versus industrial sounds that the whole album plays with.

The album concludes with “Bound 2” that sounds the closest to this coveted and overrated “old Kanye” that some West fans seem to miss so dearly. But, even with soul samples and quirky verses, it’s obvious that old Kanye West is gone for good. This new Kanye West is a joke. He’s a great, talented, brilliant joke. He is an anti-materialism, militant dipped in expensive leather that is in a relationship with Mrs. Materialism. He has declared himself a minimalist, yet leads a lavish lifestyle and displays his face on the side of buildings to promote his new songs. This Kanye West is a brilliant joke, but not the kind you can just laugh off and repeat to a friend or use to be break an awkward moment. He’s a poignant, polarizing George Carlin joke that even after the laughter settles down, there’s something about the joke that sticks with you. You don’t know what it is, but the hysteria resonates. That’s the funny thing about Kanye West, you can’t quite laugh his brilliance off and you can’t really take his antics too seriously. You just have to listen and enjoy the darkness of it all, and try to see if any of the ridiculousness resonates with you. Regardless of what does or does not resonate, Yeezus sounds really, really great.

Breaking Up With Cigarettes

Usually, I love the skin I am in. However, sometimes my skin crawls, my heart pounds, and my mind may wander. I think this is true for a lot of people. I think the coping mechanisms just have always been different depending on whom you observe. The way we decide to deal with the pressure is how we define our uniqueness. How did I define my uniqueness? I smoked. I didn’t smoke weed. I smoked cigarettes. I inhale my problems, and exhale the stress. My skin starts to go still, my heart slows, and my mind fixates.

During my smoking breaks, I’d have the chance to think. I’d have the chance to contemplate things that I might not think about if I didn’t give myself time to be secluded from the non-smoking world. I’d think about stuff like who I am and mortality. I’d think about the good stuff. I’d think about the heavy stuff. I’d think about the stuff that the non-smokers don’t think about because they’re too busy trying to impress each other and breathe in fresh-air to ever genuinely stop and think.

After a while, I stopped to think and realized what cigarettes do to a person. They kill a person. They harm a person. Smoking cigarettes is a daring thing for someone so utterly scared of death like me to do because it speeds up the process, according to studies. I decided to quit. Then, I’d smoke. I decided to quit again. Then, I’d break up with a boy. Then, I’d smoke. I decided to quit once more. Then, my job got stressful. Then, I would smoke. Now, I decided to quit for no other reason, but because I realized that cigarettes have been my first long term relationship and the relationship had expired. So far in life, cigarettes have been the only thing I’ve been loyal to. Cigarettes have been the only thing I constantly wrapped my lips around and kept in my back pocket, and that realization for me cleared up things.

I realize, now, that instead of quitting cigarettes, I needed to break up with cigarettes. I needed to acknowledge the beautiful times we’ve shared, but know that cigarettes aren’t good for me and it’s time to let go. I needed to thank cigarettes. I needed to thank cigarettes for creating a man that’s not afraid of being alone. A man that’s not afraid to go outside in the cold to get what he wants. Cigarettes turned me into a man that watches the rain drop, and matches the pattern of his breathing with the wind. Cigarettes turned me into an individual unafraid of himself because when you face the loneliness of a smoking section, you realize you’ll never really feel ostracized as long as you can smoke a cigarette.

Granted, I’m not trying to romanticize smoking cigarettes. I’ve coughed extremely hard and it has hurt. I don’t know if those coughs have hurt as bad as that man pouring sour vitriol down my throat and that elixir of hate speeding up my metabolism to be able to digest every piece of poison he was feeding me, but the coughs hurt. Not only did they hurt, but I was the reason because I was puff-puff-puffing. I’m not just deciding to quit smoking cigarettes; I’ve decided to stop being the reason for my own pain or my imminent demise. I may not be able to control others, but I can control my fingers, and that lighter, and that paper wrapped with sweet nicotine.

Today, I choose life over a smoking solitude. I chose to see if I can create peace and sanctuary without nicotine. I need to see if I can step on the patio and enjoy the sun without a box of cancer sticks and a lighter. I must discover if I am a man that can take the pressure of life without a vice, or a break. Today, I must feel what independence is because I’ve been relying on cigarettes for entirely too long. I need to fall and feel it, not smoke it. It makes me nervous and sick to think that I won’t be with them anymore, but I have to do this for me and my lungs, and my sanity, and my phobia of death, and my skin. I must do it for this skin that I need to remain tough, but get smooth.

Perhaps, in the far future, I’ll be drunk. I’ll meet a cigarette that was offered to me, and I’ll smoke it. The moonlight will tiptoe across my clear skin. It won’t be to rekindle the love affair we once had, but it will be to revisit who I used to be. I’m anxious for that moment. The moment where something I did to survive everyday life becomes something I just do when I’m drunk. For now, I must blow kisses to blowing smoke, until those little paper men are out of my system.

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The Waiting…

Microwaves, computer applications, internet hook-ups, ten minute meals; it seems our generation is hardwired to want everything instantly. The now is even too late. We want everything yesterday with the fastest wireless connection possible. To call it a condition is fair, but to call it our pathos is more accurate, especially when our wants don’t align to the rules with how life works.

Artists for all of our awareness, and conscious thinking and creating, have fallen victim to this too. We want to be Picasso before Pablo; we want The Factory before exploring being Andy. Even more vicious, the wanting kills us. Well, not physically, it kills the art we can create. We want to get straight to the wine sipping, Kanye West handshakes and art galas, and just skip over the wanting. The hunger is what even gives us a story to tell. The wanting is what even helps people connect to the work and feel like they need it. The wanting is the process. The wanting is where we begin to create the more amazing work. I say ‘more amazing’ with purpose because I’m not here to say you can’t or won’t be content, successful, and still making mind blowing art, but there is a bit of a trick to it. One can’t really know success without being familiar with being impoverished. One can’t really understand beauty without knowing ugly. The connotation of those words and what it really means are different things. Impoverished shouldn’t be associated with shame, and ugly shouldn’t be linked with unattractive. It’s just the gritty stuff, the ugly stuff that gives your art character and your chuck taylors a bit of personality.

Why do you think Jay-Z goes back to his crack days or why Basquiat found solace in painting primitive characters and ideas from childhood? The ugly period is many times the most inspiring period. Not just inspiring, but truly paramount when we discuss who are you going to be as an artist. What is it that you believed in and couldn’t live without when you couldn’t make a living off of creating you art? What subjects repeated in your brain as you repeatedly consumed ramen noodle soup? Those are the questions that a great artist has to know to be a great artist for a great amount of time. There’s not much science to life or success, but that’s a common rule.

We want to tell a story, a hardship, but somehow not have to actually live that hardship. It sounds plain silly when I say it plain, but our wants aren’t quite inline to what we need if we get what we want. We need to be able to talk about something, to hurt about something, to feel about something. Imagine a Janis Joplin with no heart-break or Bob Dylan penning “Like A Rolling Stone” while living a lavish life. That’s simply not how creativity and inspiration works.

The challenge I present you, myself, and everyone else with a creative mind that yearns for sweet success, and those Type-A personalities that can hardly wait to tell your Algebra teacher, “I told you I would never need this” is to sleep, live, and love your wanting. Live with the fact that every struggle, rejection, and set-back is the different in hue that you need to make your story a story. The desire can feel like a bubbling kryptonite in your stomach, I know, but what I’m telling you it is once you’re on stage, on a wall, in a speaker, in a book (God, I hope, I’m in a book); it’s going to be the wanting that gives you something to talk about and a reason to get better. Marry the want of your dream because when your dream is a reality, you’ll realize the desire is what kept you asleep and numb to realities that could have woke you up all along. Oh, and drink and smoke a lot more. That helps too.

Midnight in Los Angeles: Getting Honest & Clean with Kevin Michael

In Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris, a character says how there’s no such thing as bad literature as long as the prose are clean and honest. I drenched my notebooks in bleach and conciseness, but the lack of honesty wasn’t as easily remedied. I needed a subject to be honest with me and I hadn’t had a clue who that could be. Just like most dilemmas seem to do, my dilemma worked itself out with a bit of idle waiting and mandatory work. The idle waiting consisted of a lot of cigarette smoking and thinking of something that I could produce in my writing that was clean and honest. The mandatory work was the fact that I was enlisted to talk to one of the greatest voices of our generation, in my opinion, Kevin Michael for the cover story of Art Nouveau’s Skin issue.

Unbeknownst to Kevin Michael, he was under a tremendous amount of pressure. I didn’t just want him to give me clean and honest answers to my questions, but I wanted him to inspire me to write the most honest thing I have ever written. So, naturally, I wanted to delve into the darkest part of anyone’s lifetime; their childhood. “I didn’t grow up in a household with many rules. My father was kind of a ghetto celebrity. As a kid you don’t know any better.” Little Kevin Michael was being snuck into bars and hidden behind speakers that towered over him that left him born into not just rock ‘n roll, but the lifestyle accompanied with it thanks to his father who is a musician. He was never totally drowned into the deviant lifestyle Drew Barrymore-style, but it did leave him longing for something peculiar, especially upon artistic types. “In hindsight, I wish I had more discipline and structure.”

Kevin’s house was filled with music, but even houses filled with music can’t take responsibility for Kevin’s miraculous-like gift. Kevin’s voice is capable of doing gymnastic-like summersaults between a deep funky, raspy tone to a falsetto that could inspire dogs to cry and redirect butterflies off their course. That voice landed Kevin Michael his first stab at fame being positioned as neo-soul’s mullatto-next-door with a very big voice. “I never received any training. I hope to when I go out on the road. I have been told I have a five octave range. I wasn’t raised in the church, though I love gospel music. I listened and mimicked.” One piece of vocal training he did receive was in the form of advice. “I received some of the greatest pieces of advice which was ‘Kevin, the best thing you can do for yourself is sing every single day.” And since the age of twelve, Kevin has pushed from his diaphragm and manipulated his voice to compete with angels every single day.

Since Kevin Michael’s emergence at the ripe age of twenty, he has gone under a total artistic overhaul. When artists go under this kind of makeover, it’s hard to tell if it’s due to marketing or more of an intrinsic need to change. So, in my quest for honesty, I decided to ask about this transformation. “All I can really say is it’s me growing up and maturing. My taste kind of changed. My knowledge of music has grown quite a bit. When I first I had a deal, I was a singer. I was a young kid. I was twenty. I was so gassed that I was about to be on. I didn’t have any thought other than I get to sing now.” Then, once he was pushed into the limelight, a different set of realities set in for the crooner. “Once your music is out, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. That person took ten or fifteen dollars to buy your CD.” Then, voila, Mr. Michael had a clear vision and a new set of standards once he realized his art wasn’t really his own. “Great artists have messages, they stand for something. They change the world around them. The piece of the world they got to touch, they have a piece of that. That clicked for me. From this point on, if it’s not artistic, pushing boundaries, if it’s not propelling us forward, if it’s not something people can talk about, I’m not interested in it anymore.” A powerful revelation? Yes. A clean and honest detailing about where Kevin Michael, and maybe more importantly, Kevin Michael’s state of mind about his art is? Hell yes.

It became clear that Kevin Michael had spoken the most honest thing he could ever say to me, and it wasn’t a surprise that it was centered on his music. Kevin Michael is equipped with hair so high that is rivals the Empire State building, a voice as majestic and dynamic as a traveling elephant, and ideas and sounds bubbling in his head as sweet to listen to as it is provocative and innovative. More importantly, Kevin Michael isn’t a groomed marketing machine, he’s honest. Most important, Kevin Michael is on a quest to find his niche in this world, so he can change it. “I believe there’s an end of an era coming. I’ve been getting into the higher self, the soul. The part of you that you may not know exists. I’m trying to feed people in baby steps.”

Because I always think I can top myself, even in the search for bloody brutal honesty, I wanted to know what disappointed Kevin. “The internet is a double-edge sword. It gives a platform to anyone. The good part is the internet is giving anyone shine, but the bad part is the internet is giving anyone shine. Right now, there are more young people population-wise than older people […] We’re the gatekeepers of art.”

My mission was accomplished, so my line of questioning became less concise and sillier. I asked about his ‘fro and if he ever hides items in it. He reveals in a moment scrubbed with truth and Lysol that he doesn’t actually hide anything in his hair, but he does hide his hair when he wants to hide himself. He uses his hair as a part of his stage act. Even more interesting, he hides his hair when he wants to gain some kind of normality and anonymity.

I questioned him about the one thing he’d like for God to not find out if the rapture were to come tomorrow. His answer was quick and to the point: “My porn collection.” Alas, even trying to change the world calls for a break and some recreational time.

Kevin and I’s conversation dwindled and transformed from being a Q&A and more into a conversation where we discussed art, people we might have in common, and plans for 2013. As we were speaking, my brain did some multitasking and I could feel the most honest thing I’ve ever thought to write emerge. The thought was: Even if the world was perfect, I’d still want to change it. I didn’t have the guts to ask Kevin Michael if he sometimes felt like he was on a quest to change the world just to say he changed it, and not necessarily to fix it. I suppose that’s what follow-up interviews are for.

You can read this talk with Kevin Michael and more in the latest issue of Art Nouveau Magazine. Click here to get your copy of Issue 9: SKIN.

It’s something so bizarre and kismet like a summer fling

The end of the summer always gets me down and to protect my spirit, I decide to just go numb. All of the heat slips away and with every leaf that is about to fall, I feel as if I could fall with it. A brisk breeze reminds me that change is inevitable and death is imminent. Autumn is near, and I make it my business to not feel any of it. The sky goes orange and my emotions go black, and I don’t reminisce on days by the pool and fruity drinks on a rooftop, I reminisce on how it used to be when I used to be able feel something. Reminisce on when you can feel something so intense that it can’t be ignored like the blazing sun.

It’s something so bizarre and kismet like a summer fling and sweat trickling on your forehead, preparing to fall on top of your brows, and you wonder how your body can handle all the heat, but it does. The threat of cooler days and cold nights has always motivated me to put all of my heart in hibernation. Autumn won’t get the best of me because the better part of me is under lock and key, but who can live a season without feeling anything?

The pattern of me numbing myself just feels off-trend, unlike hounds tooth and I wanted this to be the first fall that I feel it all. So, I decided to rely on what I know will always break the seal of being emotionally void; drugs and music. First, you pick the drug, and then the music comes naturally. Marijuana was too much of a downer and cocaine would have me living a lie. I needed something that would crack the concrete block that I drenched my feelings in. I told my friends about my dilemma and they suggested the drug, molly.


Illustration by Nicole Stradiotto

Like an impressionable child, I took their advice and opened the plastic capsule filled with small shards of crystals and my first reaction was disgust. It tasted like bitter salt dropped on the urine-drenched streets of New York. I still felt nothing. That is until I started to feel everything. The strings of a Beethoven symphony lined my spine and gave me a love story to create. Then, I smoked a cigarette. The crackling of the leaves sounded like acid jazz missing a tap-dancer. Then, I smoked another cigarette. When I thought about the past, I didn’t think about it, I re-experienced it. All the heartbreak, disappointment, cherished moment, and excitement was mine to relive in a way, and all I could do was smile. Then, I lit another cigarette. The cinderblock around my heart was crumbling before me and was being protected by fairies totting endorphins and serotonin. I’d let my fingertips cruise through my hair and it felt like I was touching the burning bush referred to in the holy book before it got set on flame; my head was full of potential and wonder. Also, no one around me knew what I was capable of and it was alright because I finally had a secret. I was stoned. My head was capable of catching fire and telling the future in ancient Hebrew tongues. I was high, happy, and feeling everything including autumn.

The dusk turned into dawn and I stayed up looking at the sky with my eyes wide open, soaking in all the details that I never got to see before. I fell asleep and I wasn’t hung-over. I had not a bit of a headache or regret, just memories. I remembered Janis Joplin begging me to cry, baby. I recalled Fiona Apple telling me about a star she saw in the sky that turned out to be a paper bag. Joni Mitchell and I discussed the idea of nothing and if we can ever genuinely experience nothing while we’re still something. We held conversations like this ‘til the drug was gone. I was sober, but I was still changed. Pure MDMA made it so I could feel the morning after, minus the pain, but plus all the stuff I usually avoid during the season of change. So, naturally, I smoked another cigarette, just to find I was still high. Maybe, shards of crystals and falling leaves are the only thing I need to bravely feel everything.

‘Cause I does what I does: #TheRapture On Moments of Clarity between the funk and Fiona Apple’s “Every Single Night”

I’m sitting in Panera Bread feeling plum crazy.  I don’t know if it’s the whirlwind of daily chaos or my excitement of hearing Fiona Apple’s new song, “Every Single Night.” I don’t know what it is, but I do know I feel crazy. As I have learned, feeling something and being something isn’t the same thing. Although, I’ve also learned being and feeling is not that far of a discrepancy.

Continue reading ‘Cause I does what I does: #TheRapture On Moments of Clarity between the funk and Fiona Apple’s “Every Single Night”

High Off An Overtly Fun Disposition, AB Soto Is Like A Piece Of Pop Art Come To Life

Dig if you will, a Hip-Hop culture not glued together by patriarchy or bravado, but actually making good music and having fun. Maybe, the idea is too demanding, but Ab Soto is hell-bent on making sure that he’s there when the Berlin wall of homophobia and the glass-ceiling of urban music comes crumbling down. Of course, most musicians that are sexually diverse have their own sob stories, but this is what it sounds like when AB Soto cries. It’s surprisingly cheerful, and not-so surprisingly thoughtful.

Continue reading High Off An Overtly Fun Disposition, AB Soto Is Like A Piece Of Pop Art Come To Life