Life Tyson

In life, you hear people say “you know, just roll with the punches.” Well, life for me feels like going toe to toe with the 1988 version of Mike Tyson. Now those that know boxing, know that Mike was a bad muthafucka for majority of his career but in ’88, that man was GODLY. The man was ruthless in the ring. As soon as the bell rung, he’d be on your ass like stank on shit. I mean, right hooks to the body to suck the wind out of you then a right uppercut to the chin to knock you out cold.

A little over a year ago, the company that I worked 9 years for decided to let me go…..right hook. I was not prepared for this bout AT ALL. I’ve never been without a job before. Hell, the day that I turned 16 my mother took me to a job interview. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I ended up trying to be too smart for my own good.

Initially, I looked at me getting fired as a blessing. I have all of this free time now to do whatever I wanted. I figured that I’d do some work for myself. I can finally do the things that make me happy that I didn’t have the time to do while I was working. Shit is gonna be sweet, right?

WRONG AS FUCK. Life Tyson was giving me the sweetest science. I’m talking about punch combinations that I had never seen before. 
“Oh you thought you were gonna pay rent, ha?” *LEFT HOOK TO THE BODY*
“You thought you were going to be motivated, ha?”
*RIGHT CROSS TO THE JAW*
“Where do you think you’re going to drive that car today,ha?”
*LEFT JAB TO THE ALTERNATOR THEN RIGHT UPPERCUT TO THE ENGINE*

DOWN GOES EASTWOOD
*crowd goes wild*

But…I got up from that. It was a standing 8 count but dammit, I’m up. I’m ready to continue the fight. I get my confidence up and say to myself that I’m going to find a job doing the things that I love. I fill out app after app. I take trips to NYC with my resume hoping that I’ll meet the right person that can help open a door for me. I meet people, good people. I’m feeling optimistic about everything and then….nothing. Complete silence. No response from any of those applications or people that I had spoke with. It’s like I got hit by a shadow punch. You know, the one that’s so quick that you don’t see it coming. Fortunately, this one isn’t enough to knock me down but it definitely hurt me enough to start effecting my entire body. I got a cut over my so that I can’t focus…..relationship issues. My knees are pretty wobbly….no money for food. I can barely hold my hands up to defend myself….depression.

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Life Tyson is funny. Sometimes he just likes to make you suffer. He’ll beat you within an inch of death only so that you can stay alive long enough for him to beat you some more. But, the way that I see it, this is his downfall. He underestimates the will of fighter. Hell…after taking a beating like that, some folks would have thrown in the towel. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve even thought about it. You know, it’d be easy to stop the bleeding. There’s a million ways that I could have done it. Quick and easy ways, slow and painful ways. You name it, I’ve thought about it. I’ve also thought about how that would effect those who support me. Those who no matter how bad Life Tyson beats me down, they just want to see me stand up and keep fighting. Those people are the reason that I do what I do.

Lastly, I don’t want folks to think that Life can’t be beaten. He’s one bad muthafucka but he’s not invincible. The longer that you fight him, the smarter and stronger you become. You start to maneuver in the ring with finesse. You duck, dodge, and counter with precision. You’re stamina increases allowing you to stay on your toes longer. The key to winning is simply this: keep fighting. Even when the fight seems unbearable, never, ever throw in the towel. You’ll be battered and bruised, but not defeated. Eventually, you’ll be Buster Douglas. All you gotta do is just, you know, roll with the punches.

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Gumbo From The Soul: The Recipe For Hip-Hop

To me, good music and good food go hand in hand. In my home, Sunday morning’s main priority is what are we going to listen to while we eat breakfast. The music has to match whatever I’m cooking. If it’s something light like a stack of pancakes, I might play some Miles Davis or Coltrane. You know, something as easy on the ears as pancakes are easy on the stomach. If I’m cooking something heavy like steak, eggs, potatoes, grits, & toast with some OJ on the side; yes, your mans gets down like that on Sundays, then I’ll play some Fela. I need that heavy, afro beat to get me through that kind of meal.

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I grew up knowing that dinner was family time. I spent many summers living with my grandmother in Gaston, North Carolina. This woman had raised and raised 11 children and countless grand children in her lifetime. She dealt with the good, the bad, and the ugly. She was the kind of woman who cooked dinner every night and made sure that whoever was around the house at the time, sat at the table together and ate. It was somewhat of a meeting to reflect on the day with your loved ones. Dinner was your time to relieve whatever frustrations and stresses that you had that day. Your elders would provide advice and guidance so that tomorrow comes around, you’d be better prepared to deal with whatever came your way.

 Grandma Bayo's home in Gaston, NC

Grandma Bayo's home in Gaston, NC

Now for me, music served this same purpose. It has always been my personal form of therapy. My iTunes library is my recipe book filled with delicious meals to feed my soul and rid me of transgressions. It’s packed with almost 30,000 “ingredients” from all over the world. I have soulful, deep fried meals from artists like Al Green, Bobby Womack, & Isaac Hayes. Man, I got some funky joints from the JBs, Parliament, and Sly Stone that will piss your neighbors off. I got some smooth, creamy meals like the Isley Brothers and Marvin for when I am blessed enough to have the company of a woman. Oh, and for those times that a woman leaves me too love sick to even eat, I inherited my father’s brown liquor cabinet full of the blues from Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Take my advice though, drink responsibly.

 Heavyweight Funk

Heavyweight Funk

I have to say though, the best recipe that I have is my gumbo. Gumbo, to me, is the most beautiful mixture of flavors that could be created. The list of ingredients is EXTENSIVE. You can have an endless mixture of seafood, pork, chicken, veggies, grains, herbs, and spices all thrown together in a big black pot. It takes patience to cook this meal. You have to prepare all of your ingredients and slow cook them to ensure that all of the flavors are just right. Don’t let that scare you, though. You have to embrace that challenge because when it’s done and its time eat, Lord have mercy. 
That’s how I feel about Hip Hop. It is the perfect concoction made from all genres of music. You got funky drum breaks, chopped up soul samples, the lyrical content of the blues, and the gritty attitudes of rock music all served up for our enjoyment.

You have plenty of master chefs in hip hop who have spent years mastering their craft and blessing us consumers. You got guys with heavy, boom bap recipes like Premo & Pete Rock. You got more mild, smooth cats like Q-Tip & Ohbliv. Then you got guys that might throw a whole chicken foot in the pot like Madlib. You might look at it like it’s wild but give it a taste and I bet you’ll love it. You got sous chefs, the rappers, that will take those recipes and add their own herbs and spices to mix that take the whole pot to the next level. One of my favorites is Raekwon. Man, he’s always cooking up some marvelous shit to make ya mouth water.

 Madlib recipes

Madlib recipes

Gumbo is somewhat of a MacGyver meal. Folks will take scraps, bits, and pieces of things that are just laying around, throw them together and make a delicious “trash pot.” That’s what makes it genius. Hip Hop is exactly like gumbo. It is an art form that takes the scraps or under appreciated parts of music and re-purposes them, makes them brand new. That kind of innovation deserves to be commended. It’s nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. Don’t believe me? Grab your special Bonita Applebum and let A Tribe Called Quest serve you guys Ham N’ Eggs, some buttered verses from Phife, with some of Q-Tip’s soul on ice. You’ll most definitely be ready for some electric relaxation afterwards.