So I skipped last weeks soliloquy simply because the Christmas cheer was so strong and potent that I couldn’t find my way to my CPU. Today I almost skipped it because I’m forgetful.
Today is the first day of 2017. That means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For me, it means the end of my second year of teaching (in June) and the beginning of my last year of public school teaching (I hope and for now – in August). It also means 9 months of my Jordan Year and three months of my Kobe year. It means new and stronger relationships with old and new friends and people. It means new challenges. It means about 120 former and current students taking their next step in the life that they’re living. It means a Trump Presidency. It means more direct action from activists all over America. It means more studying. More research. More philosophy. More opportunity. It means possibilities.
Musically, at least for me, it means a new album. That’s actually what I’m really going to focus on in today’s soliloquy. What is next in store for the artist formerly known as Cervant now known as Rafi?
Despite having started recording music during my senior year of high school (it’ll be seven years in February or March), I feel like I’ve come to a place of greater maturity. Due to an unforeseen circumstance I really had the chance to listen to some of my musical progression in order.
Sadly, a few weeks ago my grandma went into the hospital with an infection called cellulitis. On the day we originally thought she was going to be discharged, she was too weak to even get from her hospital bed to the wheelchair that would bring her to our car. It took roughly four hours for them to decide that she wasn’t coming home that day. In that time period I got to sit and wait in the car and listen to a few of my own projects: Redfist’s Religious Candles and Rationalizations and my own Intrastellar. In the process, I realized how much my (and Baz’s) music has developed and progressed in the two years between those projects.
Even though I get writer’s block more frequently, the results when I really put pen to page and focus on a song is much stronger. I’ve been thinking a lot more about how rhymes don’t come as easily in the moment of writing, but I’ve also been much less concerned about rhymes. In a lot of my previous projects, I would rhyme words to transfer from one bar to another, wasting many a rhyme. In my rough drafts I still see this….lol. However, I’m just much more aware of that filler now. If it does actually make it to the final product, I know it’s because those were the best words for that moment. The actual writing and performance of my music has come along way, even though it’s not as easy (to get started), it’s become a lot more fulfilling.
Another major facet that’s changed for me is style. I intentionally call the music that I do art rap. Not because I’m trying to be pretentious; not because I don’t think that other rap is art, but simply because I want people to experience the rap that I make in whatever form it is provided.
In philosophy and aesthetics, there’s a concept called an aesthetic experience. Basically, where something that you see visually fully engages your mind and gives you a higher experience. In many ways this relates to Roland Barthes’ concept of the punctum, where something minor triggers a major effect on a person due to expectations and presentation. This comes from his short, yet dense book Camera Lucida. Finally, socially we have something that we call the feels. Basically, when something triggers deeper emotions than we expected. Normally, we use it to talk about nostalgic or sad feels, but it can be anything. (I’ve also called it vibes…or heard other people say it’s vibes).
In one way, shape, or form, I want people to listen to a song and get vibes. You can’t force vibes, and everyone’s different, so it’s not about making every moment and every bar vibe. But when you take a look at the whole picture, the whole song, your eye, your ear, should pick up on something that hits you. Maybe not hard. Maybe not emotionally, but it hits. The beat might give you vibes so you then catch a vibe from the flow. The flow might give you vibes you catch the hook or catch a deeper lyric. A lyric might give you vibes so you rewind or re-listen. A video or a performance…album art. Any part of the project and the song should be able to guide someone to their vibe. It might not get everyone, because art cannot try to be universal. But it should get someone. And that’s art rap in a nutshell.
Art can get old for you. Art can be refreshed for you. Art can be cut up and re-interpreted. Art can be very personal yet can then be applied to many people’s lives. Art has an original. Art is displayed. Art is complex, yet simple.
When I say I make art rap, I don’t mean that my music is pretentious. Though I have to admit that my music is kind of white collar at times. When I say I make art rap, I don’t mean that it is necessarily for creative minds. When I say I make art rap, I mean that I am trying to build an experience, through concept, through craft, through performance, and through production. Deeper than having a dope flow, or telling the right story, or making the beat swing, it’s about making a work that is greater than the sum of its parts out of minor works that are greater than the sum of their parts. I think that’s a major reason why I’ve shifted away from doing singles for projects. It’s hard to get that sense with just one track.
So sometime this year, look out for the next piece by Rafi. I’m not going to spoil the name. I can’t really tell you what it’s about…though I might talk about a few of the central concepts over the next few weeks. Just know that it’s personal, conceptual, and will be the most well-crafted work that I’ve released yet. I’ve got a few collaborators who are making sure of it.
Have a happy new year! Make this year the best year of your life (so far)! And stay tuned. See y’all next week!