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This Is My Rifle: Fighting to Keep the Hip-Hop Dream AlivePosted by Jason James on 09/05/12 | Filed under Opinion, This Is My Rifle
Our journeys came complete with soundtracks; tapes that we would steal from the local record store and make duplicates of in case we were unfortunate enough to lose one. We had no money but we loved this new thing called Hip Hop to such a degree that we would concoct elaborate schemes in order to peek through the window of the culture. Every new expedition was paired with a different tape. Nas, Mic Geronimo, Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A., 2pac, South Central Cartel, Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg were just a few of the artists who brought color to our missions. We had no idea what these guys were talking about but the music brought a heightened level of excitement to our lives. The world was opening up to us and it was a powerful feeling.
Eventually my backpack would also be home to pens and spray cans and later on would expand further to include a notepad. As my town grew into a city, and as the parks, forests and rivers disappeared, my adventures became experiments on concrete; complicated forms of self-expression thrown against walls and train cars. They were like sudden explosions of paint wrapping themselves around the cold surfaces that surrounded me detailing my innermost thoughts. And when my ideas were too personal to convey publicly, I would turn to my notepad and write it all down. Language, especially the art of rhyming, was something that came naturally and fascinated me deeply. I imagined a time when I would stand on stage and move a crowd. I watched Russell Simmons' "The Show" documentary and envisioned myself rocking a packed club right next to Biggie Smalls and Craig Mac. My passion told me to look beyond my city and encouraged me to exercise my creativity. No matter what anybody said, I was determined to make my dreams a reality.
In retrospect, I get a warm feeling when remembering those early experiences. For the first 20 years of my life everything I did was in some shape or form attached to Hip Hop, and as the years roll by I find myself becoming distanced from my days of discovery. According to society I'm a man now and it's time to let the sun set on childish things. It's now my obligation to turn my back on the possibilities and accept reality; that life is a 48 hour period only deserved by those who spend 5 days pushing through with all of their might to earn it.
Some days I stare out of the window of my office and wonder how I got here. I watch as the sun hangs in the sky, beckoning me outside and inviting me to join it in what will surely be time well spent, only to turn back to my computer screen and stare into the infinite sea of numbers. I focus my eyes as I open spreadsheets and sales figures swirl around in front of me waiting to be adjusted and manipulated. A few times a day words will string themselves together in my mind and fall into a pattern I haven't thought of before. I say, "Yeah, yeah that's a good one" and I scribble them down on a loose piece of paper before the numbers in front of me can force them out of my brain and they're lost forever. Jason James does not exist here. Here I am Jason Wilton (James is my middle name), a corporate machine entrusted with millions of dollars to purchase the latest cellular phones, which I distribute across the country to meet the needs of the consumer while consequentially increasing the company's stock value for our shareholders. I am not an artist here. I am not a writer here. I am barely myself.
I live when time allows it. I listen as day in and day out my co-workers count down to Friday. They're not alone in this; I as well glare at the clock and will the minutes off of my life. Every day I engage it in battle until finally at 4:00 it relents and I am free from it's grasp temporarily. I then make my way to the gym to exercise, ironically working to keep my heart beating so I can ensure that I will live on to fight the clock for years to come, and I look down at those pieces of paper. Trails of fragmented thoughts scattered beneath the depths of financial stability; remnants of a hopeful child on a summer afternoon.
I once read a comment on one of my articles from a reader who ridiculed me for not having released any music for the past 2 years. I never responded because I couldn't find the words to explain why I've been a ghost on the musical landscape until now. To put it in laymen’s terms- shit is real for me. Really, really, really fucking real. I'm 29-years-old and I can see the fork in the road beginning to appear. I had to be patient while recording this next album and create something damn near perfect simply because time is no longer on my side. I cannot afford to release subpar music in an attempt to grab your attention. I need something extraordinary to come out of this one or else this may just well be the point where I am forced to make a decision that would close the curtains on my dream forever. In my heart I believe that I am one of the best alive at what I do, now I have to make you all believe it and somehow turn it into an income. It’s no easy feat, trust me.
So to all of you out there I would like to say, if you want something fight until your lungs are on fire and your legs feel like rubber. Face adversity head on and find happiness through the struggle and pain. I have no answers as to how we got here, but some of us are trapped inside the hamster wheel and we have to find a way out. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll gladly say it again:
DIE HARD & LIVE PASSIONATELY
(Jason James is an artist, freelance columnist and writer for RefinedHype.com. You can listen/download his most recent album, "Marvelous World Of Color", here and you can contact him here and here.)
See Also: This Is My Rifle: They Say They Want a Revolution