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Nas — It Ain’t Hard To Tell (From the Leafs Remix)

Because nobody ever gets mad about Nas, right?

This is my: ‘fuck you and all your bullshit‘ tune for today. It’s a classy remix of Nas‘ classic “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” that’s perfect for a classy Friday. Tonight I shall be wining and dining with a gorgeous girl in one of the city’s swankier setups and painting the town red with her heels. I can already picture the entire night with this tune as the soundtrack to its dope backdrop. Cabs, kisses, delicious glasses of red vino and the cold crisp NYC winter air that makes men and women more beautiful with furs and long topcoats, shiny diamond earrings, elegant evening gloves, suspenders and sneakers, and bright city lights.

This  From the Leafs Remix presents a jazzy take on the legendary lyricist’s street poetry and it’s quite the perfect tune for a perfectly freezing NYC day.

I leave ‘em froze like her-on in your nose
Nas’ll rock well, it ain’t hard to tell”

Hit play below, sit back and enjoy as you work, get dressed for dinner, or just wind down from a long week at the office.

Charles Bradley – Why Is It So Hard (live on KEXP)


Then I moved to Brooklyn, New York
Had hard times…But sometimes I hold on…

Some days I feel pretty weary; there’s only so much a human can do for other people before she breaks. Grown up responsibilities got me down this week. Not enough time for the work I love and for the brain stretching I require on a daily basis. Sure, 3+ freelance gigs got me feeling a bit more confident in my ability to ‘make a living’, but there’s something soul crushing about the exhaustion that results from mind numbing and / or passionless work. It’s not that I’m ungrateful— it’s good to feel like I’m contributing to society and helping others yadda yadda altruism blah blah pay my taxes bullshit yeah, but it ain’t nothing compared to the renewable exhaustion that arises after having allowed myself to indulge in a full day of doing the work I love— I’m talking about the kind of shit that defines me as a creative being kicking it on a pretty blue dot in space; out of the body & into the ether where time ceases to exist and the spark is unremitting. Cause disguise the limit, and that’s where you’ll find me. Eventually. For now, I take solace in the words of Walt Whitman: “these are the days that must happen to you.” Gotta keep on keepin’ on and maybe listen to this song. Ladies and gents, Charles Bradley. 

TEEMID & Joie Tan – Crazy (Gnarls Barkley Cover)

There was something so pleasant about that place

Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” is one of the most memorable songs of my teenage years. I first discovered it as a freshman in high school. I went to visit my childhood best friend in England and she had just bought “St. Elsewhere”. So we listened to it incessantly and had a great laugh dancing along to the energetic tracks. “Crazy” stuck out the most though, and even today when I hear the original it makes me think of that weekend at Jenny’s.

I love that about music… how it can transport you through time- to your past self. Even listening to the TEEMID & Joie Tan cover brought my mind back to Jenny. The weird thing is, when I first listened to this cover, I was in an entirely different mindset. I was in the beginning stages of a relationship, and this song was the first piece of music we discussed. I asked him if his friends thought he was crazy (for coming to visit me, someone he barely knew), and I just happened to be listening to this song. Little occurrences of coincidence give me a kick! So, every time this song pops up on my iPod, my mind wanders to this guy, this conversation, and ultimately what didn’t sprout from his visit. Maybe we were crazy to be so brash… but when has love ever played by the rules?

Whatever this song conjures up in your mind, this version will probably lead your mind down another path than the original. It’s mellow, and Joie Tan’s voice adds to the delicate atmosphere. The repetition of vocals alongside the rising momentum of the instrumentals transport me to a soothing place. Next time you’re driving alone, put this on. Road rage? Not possible when this is playing. I’ve also found it a good prompt for introspection on a long drive.

Mos Def – Umi Says

Sometimes I find myself with little to no desire to be a functioning bolt in the money machine that rules in the 3rd dimension. Sometimes I just want to be an artist, fully engaged in the place the mind goes to when listening to an amazing song, when writing poetry, when emerged in romance, when overtaken by the power of nature. Sometimes I want to be a scientist or a business man, seeing all details, executing, making and developing. Sometimes I want to zone out in meditation, sometimes I want to be with someone, sometimes I want to be alone. Sometimes I want to hear a song and cry, indifferent to how my expression is perceived. Sometimes I want to be myself without having to explain myself…

A flower instinctively goes toward the light. It doesn’t spend time worrying if people will mistake it for a weed or if it’s taking too much sun. It wisely and simply follows it’s primal flower gut instincts to attain it’s highest level of flowerosity.”

Sometimes I don’t want to feel like my capacity to love should be limited to one thing or one person, sometimes I feel like everything is everything and there’s no distinction between anything, sometimes I can’t see the distinction between a person and a tree. Sometimes I want to see reality beyond physical form. Sometimes I want to put my heart into something just because, sometimes I don’t need a reason, I don’t need a reward, I don’t need expectations. Sometimes I think history isn’t what we know, sometimes I think everything that’s happened in the world, our entire lineage, all the knowledge of the world is written and passed down not by books or stories but in our DNA. Sometimes I wanna be a kid riding my BMX like a madman through SoHo, a man curating the sounds of the world, a son learning from his father, a father teaching his children, all at the same damn time. Sometimes I wanna be formless, free from this body, a timeless time-traveler. Sometimes I want to be more than me, sometimes I don’t want to know what me means, what “I” means, what self means, what anything means. Sometimes I just wanna feel, sometimes just I wanna tell you how I feel…

Made In Heights — Murakami

It’s just a story though
Is it a story though?
I can’t tell if it happened cause it felt impossible
Don’t know whether it was real or a dream
Imagination playing tricks on me”

For a while after the divorce of my last relationship, I could feel those exact words that you just read above in quotes as if Made In Heights read my own mind and created these lyrics from it. I lost a girl from my dreams and one of the greatest loves of my life to severe depression. No, she did not pass away or commit suicide, but to be honest it felt as if she had.

We tried living on the Amalfi Coast for a while because ‘why would heaven on earth not be able to cure anyone?’, I thought. But it was as if I was living there by myself with a ghost most of the time. The girl that once gave me back my inspiration was gone, and there was nothing that I could say or do to pull her out of it. I knew, after some time, that there was no room in her broken heart for me. She was mourning and grieving the death of a parent that she loved more than life itself, and I had to either just wait for her to get over it while myself dying slowly in the process, or, I had to leave her be.

Back in NYC I had to learn to breathe on my own again. You see, in my culture it is taboo to speak about your problems to others, especially because everyone else has their own problems to deal with, and why should we so selfishly burden others. We don’t seek therapy in other people who don’t know much better than us, no. We seek the answers to our problems within ourselves, and so that’s what I did. I decided to figure out what else life has in store for me, and slowly, I moved on.

I hear the bells I hear the wind
I hear a song in my heart again
In the tenderness moves all things
Like a poltergeist in the streets”

Today I realize that life is truly a gift, and that wasting away that gift doing anything else but enjoying the moment is an assumption about life that I’m not willing to bet on because I really don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I do know that love will always follow me, and that those loves will always continue to be of the best kinds. I do still catch glimpses of her in my dreams which all feel very real, but my heart started cranking up again and spinning so profoundly that I just can’t afford to let it die once more.

What’s the difference in my love or scheme?
The difference in what you say what you mean?
What you mean you don’t really know?
I’m losing touch with the physical
I’m showing up in the future like I’ve been here before
Ain’t that a story though?
Like you ain’t even know
Somebody switching the digits up on my Casio
Don’t know whether this is real or a dream
Imagination playing tricks on me”

The 2 Bears – The Night is Young

Multi-tasking is no easy task. I’m trying to do five things at once right now and I feel like I’m stuck in a bubble going up a hill. It takes patience, know-how, confidence, and of course, time. Sometimes, it feel easier to just give up on them all and rip my bong. At other times, I try to do all five at once. Neither strategy works.

So artists with two successful and innovative projects amaze me. The ability to create diverse musical sounds with diverse amounts of people is a skill I imagine you’re born with. It’s not easy being Clark Kent one minute and throwing on the cape a minute later.

And by day, Joe Goddard is best known for his efforts in Hot Chip. By night, Joe Goddard is half of The 2 Bears. The dude has skills.

Goddard’s day job (of which I’m minimally acquainted) comes with more critical acclaim and renown, but it’s the latter project’s time to shine. And with all due respect to Hot ChipThe 2 Bears’ sound offers far more intrigue and range, at least for me.

If you’re into genres, you can describe The 2 Bears sound as “Comfort House” to your friends. At its core, Goddard and partner Raf Rundell deliver relaxing house music–“house” with a knowing soul and a kind backbone. It’s a sound that’s increasingly difficult to find when discussing “electronic dance music” or as we once called it: House.

Two weeks ago, they released The Night is Young, and it doesn’t seem like enough people have noticed the stellar follow-up to Be Strong (also very nice). That’s probably because like the men behind the album, The Night is Young features a ton of exciting artists you won’t see on billboards and likely have never heard of.

It also probably definitely lacks a hardcore, major ($$$) marketing campaign from a mainstream label, as it’s out on the independent but always stellar Southern Fried Records.

But as noted earlier, this album has got what a lot of today’s electronic music lacks: roots and passion. Goddard and Rundell will take you to the wild jungle one song, the tranquil train station the next, and then to an enclaved beach party.

The iTunes description for the album notes African roots, and it’s obvious these guys draw from a wide variety of influences, from the tribal to the funky to the all-out housey.

And that’s fitting for a duo that formed as an homage to the godfathers of house.

Despite the “Bears” image portrayed, both Goddard and Rundell are heterosexual. The name honors house music’s gay roots, of which “Bear” is an associated term.

With an effort like this, you have to think the house lords like Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles (both openly gay) are smiling down upon this effort as they bop their heads in heaven.

I’m kind of amazing the title track doesn’t have more plays. Pure balearic melody and musical melatonin, it deserves your attention and more of the internet’s:

This modern reggae interpretation may be the coolest track on the album:

“Not This Time” is the catchiest tune on the album and perhaps the oddest music video you’ll see all year.

Mozambo x Pakem x Kungs x Julia Church – Soulmate

I usually go into detail about the elements of the songs I’m writing about. But not today. All you really need to know about this song is you should listen to it. Let it consume you for a few minutes.

Now, the important part- the content. Not only is it presented in a pleasurable way (that sultry voice!), but it conjures up thoughts in my mind that other songs can’t quite possibly. I used to have a notion of a “soulmate”- that one person I was destined to meet. Now I’m a skeptic. Thank you, men that have been in my love life. Thank you, college, for my first “soulmate” (or so I thought). I’m not saying I was extremely crushed, but I felt an intense connection, one that has not since been replicated, and it makes me wonder WHY this one person had such an impact on my love life. What was this “connection”? Was it innate, or did it evolve? What was it about just a simple kiss that transported my soul to another universe? A universe with just this moment, and him. I wanted so very badly to believe a connection is the sign of a soulmate, but the realistic side of me wants to brush the notion of a “soulmate” from my consciousness.

Is a “connection” enough? A lot of other factors are forced, by nature, into the mix. Maybe I was naive in college and believed that those forces were mere details. ‘We have a connection, that must mean something, right?’ Thoughts like this kept me going back to the possibility of an us. My idyllic views have changed slightly since this encounter, yet I stay optimistic about the idea of someone out there who fits me just right, whose quirks I find cute and not annoying, and with whom I feel a prolonged spark.

For now, my quest for a life partner continues…

Vanic X K.Flay – Can’t Sleep

The most common word used to be “fine” when someone was asked how they are. If you think about anytime you are learning parts of a new language, one of the first things you learn is how to answer to your name and respond to ‘how are you’.

More recently, however the most common word to respond to ‘how are you’ is now busy. The collective shift from fine to busy has occurred in the recent years. The constant treadmill of daily life, riddled with gadgets and apps that are supposed to help us organise better, work more efficiently, remember to meditate are now just adding more clutter than there was before, but because we make it through our stacks of work and emails faster, we just fill the time with more stacks and email.

I thought more on this as a recent FaceTime with my Mom which generally starts with a pleasant “Love you/Miss you” was punctuated with more of a concerned “You look tired”.

“Maybe I been freaking out, moving quick, burning the wick at both ends. Screaming loud, stupid shit, scaring all of my old friends. Fell down on Bedford, hope that it’s not broken.”

During this conversation we also talked about old friends as she ran into one who was working at the local supermarket in town. She has two kids and the same job she had when we were in high school. We used to be inseparable. I remember there was switch that went off before I left home to go to school. I wanted to live anywhere else in a faster life. I didn’t want to be bored anymore, but never quite learned how to stop adding to the lifestyle. Never saying no.

I spoke to a friend in London here the other day who was saying the same thing about going home and seeing old friends, the bit of guilt you feel when you say anything about your life you built. They built theirs too, but there is the constant sliding doors feeling, like all of the choices you have made, what-ifs. At the end of this talk, and after both of us working long hours in long meetings. Who has the better life? She seemed happy. She had a house and lifestyle she was surviving in. And was content.

Perhaps we are those who are not content. Who can’t stop once you see the next step up. Once you get a few stamps in a passport, you will save all you have and apply to everything you can to get to the next location or position. We can’t sleep.

“My mother told me that the world has got its plans. I wanna hold until it burn right through my hands.”

This mix comes from Vanic, of Vancouver. The perfect mix of dark lyrics and dancey tunes.

Kero Kero Bonito – Flamingo

Black, white, green or blue. Show off your natural hue. 

Here’s something interesting for you. A song that embraces our differences- the “flamingo” in all of us! Sarah, Gus, and Jamie, the trio that make up Kero Kero Bonito put diversity into a very positive light in “Flamingo”. They also mix English and Japanese lyrics throughout the song. I was pleasantly suprised by this, and liked how it further exemplifies the message the band is spreading.

If you’re multicolored that’s cool too

In addition to the positive message, the elements and tempo tie together to produce a kick-ass song. From the pan-flute before the first verse, to the disco-like interlude after the second, this song screams “random”! (In a good way). Randomness of life is what makes it exciting. I didn’t remember much from statistics class, but I vividly remember my professor stating that “Life is random”. So simple, yet absolutely true. Life is composed of randomness; randomness is nature.

As the result of mult-cultural parents, I have been forced to embrace differences in life, and at the same time, accept that not everyone is so open to such diversity. I was quite a shy child, but as I grew up and went to college, I was able to be around people who reveled in my differences- a weird trans-atlantic accent, crazy curly hair, and a zany sense of humor. I could BE myself, and found people who let me! The diversity that college brought me enabled me to find myself without restriction. Now, several years later, I care much less about what outsiders “think” of me.

I hope you can find positive people to be around so that you’re able to find yourself without restraint. BE weird and DON’T apologize for it!!

Feist – Caught A Long Wind (Nicolas Jaar edit)

jaar 2

Nicolas Jaar‘s essential mix never gets old. It’s been over two years since its release and it still gives me the chills. To me it still completely reeks of Autumn 2012, one of the most intense seasons I’ve yet to endure— Hurricane Sandy and the End of the World all in the span of a couple months, say what? I was living in downtown Manhattan at the time, surrounded by constant stimulation and sleeping hardly at all finishing up my last semester of undergrad. Needless to say, it was already set and setting super conducive to the cray, but Sandy took the intensity to a whole new level…

This Feist track from the mix specifically conjures up memories of my hurricane tribe and the vibe we had going in our makeshift refugee camp (my apartment). There were 7 or 8 of us, mostly my Ave C homies who rolled by last minute to escape their flood zone-age. None of us realized the impending zombie apocalyptic doom we were to face in the aftermath of dear Sandy. We were in the dark. Literally and metaphorically.

Caught me a long wind
Where will we go?
Keep ourselves afloat

Venturing outside after the storm was a trip and a half. Everything was dark, much more dark than I could have ever imagined. The city that never sleeps, knocked out and unconscious for days. Blacked out beyond belief. I couldn’t be more grateful for the group I was with at the time, all creative artsy weird types. We totally thrived on the lack of electricity. I remember my friends drawing by candle light while I played my sax. Writing poetry on my typewriter, Exquisite Corpse style was something I’ll never forget. Highly recommended. In short, it was fucking cold and the most real of times. Waking up to that which endures beyond the scurf of daily existence– whether in the form of values or things, is a fucking invaluable experience. Being stripped to the bare bones of existence, you’ve no choice but to channel that inner strength in all its inexhaustible glory; survival mode does wonders for eliminating the distractions.