Next, acquire information. Take time to research the historical figures that paved the way for you. Possibly an African American leader created something essential to your life or stood for a message you’re in agreement with.
Find out who these people are.
Lastly, spread the love. Pay it forward, and do what you can to educate others on black history, black culture, and black excellence.
You wouldn’t know who Rosa Parks was unless someone taught you about her. It’s only right you teach someone about her as well.
I hope that’s what I’m accomplishing with this piece.
And I’m not saying you have to take my advice. They’re merely suggestions at the end of the day.
However, it doesn’t hurt to try. You never know the impact you may have on someone’s life.
Nonetheless, those are some of my thoughts on Black History Month. I hope you enjoyed reading my open diary on this topic.
Be sure to check out those quotes I mentioned earlier in the writing. There were some really insightful answers to the question I asked.
The peak of that first stretch had to be my piece following the death of Kobe Bryant & his daughter. Up in the wee hours of the morning writing that tribute, the reception to what I wrote felt so rewarding.
It felt good to be a comforting spirit in the wake of tragedy.
One of my favorite artists, I spent two days writing a piece about the role he played in my life, and within the hip-hop industry.
To this day, that’s still my most-viewed article. Surpassing almost eight-thousand reads, I was reaping the benefits of my hard work while doing something I loved, writing.
If I continued on this uphill trajectory, then 2020 would be MY year for sure, I told myself.
But March came around, and then the COVID-19 shutdown began. And for some time, things appeared bleak.
The beginning of quarantine had its highs & lows. Highs being, a couple of dope pieces on experiences I enjoyed the year prior, and an article about the docu-series “the Last Dance” that’s still being read months later.
That piece, although a great idea, in actuality, was completed poorly on my behalf.
I rushed it to completion and noticed several crucial errors after its release. I also didn’t like the feeling of bashing Pop’s work.
And to add insult to injury, around that time I was running out of topics to write about. For the first time, I felt stagnant, worrying about the outlook of the blog in the back of my head, because I felt as if it had run its course.
If the Clippers managed to win the NBA title, Sta had to give me a piece of Fearless Boyz merchandise, at a discounted price.
If the Lakers managed to win the NBA title, I’d have to write an article, dedicated to Sta, supporting his theory that the NBA was rigged.
We ended our conversation shortly after agreeing to these terms.
About fifteen minutes later, he texted me again, asking to change the conditions of our bet.
I was willing to hear him out.
He said that if the Lakers managed to win the NBA title, I’d have to give him and Mike, the CEO of Fearless Boyz, an interview, with a coinciding article.
I thought about it for a second. I was immediately intrigued by the idea, whether it came in the form of a bet or not.
Our conversation felt like a perfect storm of events. As the concept began forming in my head, my excitement grew when I thought about the heights I’d potentially reach.
By interviewing rising black influencers & sharing their stories on my blog, I could give back to the African-American community by supporting amazing individuals, while building relationships with entertainers or brands I have an affinity for.
I let Sta know of my interest in interviewing him & Mike and gave them a date for us to meet.
I presented the idea to Roki & she was on board. She helped me work out the kinks in regards to how we went about performing these pieces.
After we got situated with the format of this project, all we needed was a title for this new “series” of articles we’d now be crafting.
We went to the drawing board. I asked Roki to brainstorm some potential names, and I did the same.
A day later she gave me a list of titles she came up with. There were some good candidates but one stood out to me amongst the rest.
I loved how it sounded. The name effectively summed up the goal we aimed to accomplish: utilizing our blog as a platform for inner-city minorities to strut their stuff and promote their talents.
Everything was slowly coming together. This marked a new, clean state for “Andy’s Buckets.”
In August we conducted our first official interview, with the Fearless Boyz, and it was a major success.
It was cool interacting with Mike & Sta on a personal level while learning fascinating details about their brand’s origins.
And the reception to the article, once it was released: unbelievable. Readers were entertained with how I shared their story, and others were wondering how they could be featured next on our blog.
September 1, 2020, the day that piece was published, is one I’ll remember forever.
For the first time since Andy’s Buckets creation, or “Da Hood Journal” I should say, the blog carried an identity that was fresh, and sustainable. I was confident that this new beginning would help the journal grow into something beautiful.
Hello everyone! This piece will be the sixth installment of my series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.
Awa Stylez: “I started doing hair in 8th grade, but I wasn’t really trying to take it seriously because I was playing basketball. Then I got into high school & I stopped playing basketball. I started focusing on hair more.
I started braiding because I figured out that you could make money off it, doing hair. You could promote people in the school running businesses, and I started realizing that I could make my own business myself.
Awa: “Growing up I never really asked for much, because you couldn’t really ask for a lot. I wound up just doing everything on my own. I was just very considerate of other people.
You didn’t want to bother them or stress them out. That’s how considerate I was. I always put others before myself. I started thinking, I’m going to just do it on my own.
That’s how I really built my character up. I just started handling things on my own.”
Roki: “How’d you get the name Awa Stylez?”
Awa: “My sister helped me pick out my name. She said it needs to be creative, and then, I couldn’t really put anything together. I saw “styles” (name of hairstylists) everywhere, with an “S” at the end. I said why not do Awa Stylez with a “Z” at the end, so it could be different.”
Roki: “What’s the best & worst part about doing hair?”
Awa: “The most difficult part is balancing the time you do hair, and your schoolwork, and your personal life. Finding time to manage all of those things because hair is very time-consuming.
It’s not one, two, three. You have to dedicate a whole day to doing hair. The hardest thing is organizing your schedule to make time for everything.”
Roki: “How’d you perfect your craft?”
Awa: “I practiced on myself & mainly my sister. Then I started practicing with other friends, asking them if I can do their hair because I was still trying to learn. I would do my friends without charging, and then practice on my sisters, and then practice on myself.”
Roki: “Where’d you gain your knowledge of hair from?”
Awa: “Definitely YouTube.”
Roki: “You see yourself adding someone to your team in the future, or carrying on the one-man show?”
Awa: “With braiding, I plan on doing this by myself, only because I feel I can already handle it. But in the future, I plan to stop braiding & doing other stuff like running a shop.
Of course, when I run a shop I’m going to have other people helping me, other people working for me. But as of right now, I like working by myself because I know my schedule.”
Awa: “That is another side business for me to get into, what I really want to do. I really want to make stuff, and invest in things and sell them, because that’s what I always wanted to do.
I’m doing that with braiding, so when I get bigger, everybody already knows I sell stuff, I do hair, I’m running different stuff. They already know, it’s all the same brand. It’s all Awa Stylez, but in different things.”
Roki: “You’ve transitioned from a home-based hairstylist to having your own salon. What’s that been like?”
Awa: “It was a good thing that I changed from the salon & home, because now I offer more services, like washing people’s hair or doing boy braids. I could expand.
At the same time, it’s more comfortable at home. It’s kind of different because when I’m at the shop, I have to leave, I have to go to the shop, I have to braid there, I have to pay a commission. I’m not getting all the money that’s earned for my work.
I like doing hair in my house. But at the same time, the shop creates different opportunities I wouldn’t be able to have in my own home.”
Roki: “Where do you see Awa Stylez in five years?”
Awa: “In five years I see my brand, not me doing hair, I see it as a shop, a salon. I see myself selling more stuff because, during that time, I’m going to be in college and stuff, working on bigger things. I’m not going to be based in, where I’m from. I’m not going to be New York-based. Hopefully.
I’m trying to go to a bigger place. Expand much bigger. Have people working for me instead of working for myself. And being a big boss.”
Roki: “What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?”
Awa: “The best part about what I’m doing is I’m very independent. I’m making my own name, I’m making my own money. I’m buying all the stuff I need. The best part of it is I build myself. And also how happy I make clients.
Because when you do people’s hair, and they love it, when you transform somebody’s hair and they start smiling, it makes you feel good. I gave her that extra confidence, I’m doing her hair, and she’s happy. It’s not all about how I build myself up.
I love how I help people out, and being reasonable with my prices so they love coming to me, and perfecting my craft.”
Roki: “Why do you charge clients less than the competition?”
Awa: “It’s mainly because you don’t want to go to the salon, and pay $150 to do your hair. You wanted that to go towards other things. You didn’t always have $150 to go do your braids. Especially if you have siblings.
Another main reason I started doing hair is so I could take that extra cash off of other people, and just do it for myself, for way cheaper. When I started doing hair, I used to talk to my mom about my prices. She told me don’t charge too much, because you got to remember if that were you would you want to be charged that much?
It’s like why not make that easier for people. And it’s not like I provide the hair and stuff. I gotta be reasonable. I gotta think about everything and how they getting hair, how they getting back the hair.
Because even though braiding is really time-consuming, and it’s really tiring, it’s still worth it because what you’re doing is making them happy.”
Roki: “Compared to your start & where you are now, what’s been the biggest improvement in your work?”
Awa: “Parting. My parting is really nice now. Before it wasn’t as neat as it could’ve been. But now I really put pride in my parts and stuff like that.”
Roki: “What’s your number one style of hair?’
Awa: “I’d say my knotless braids. Because that’s something I do a lot. It’s on my page a lot. That’s something people really say about me. That’s a popular style now. And I don’t charge much for it.”
Roki: “What’s something you’re clients can say you pride yourself on?”
Awa: “I hold a lot of pride in how neat my work is, and how I perfect it. Even though I’m not the best yet, I know I put my effort into my work. Nobody can I say I rushed their head. Nobody can say I was rude doing their hair.
When my clients sit down I make sure I perfect their work, and I make sure I make them feel comfortable. I don’t let them just sit there quietly, I make sure they’re comfortable, have what they need, charging their phone, everything.
I make sure they set when they get their hair done. They can always say that my service is professional and comfortable.”
Roki: “Ever been a time where a client didn’t like your work?
Awa: “I never really had issues with clients but I do recall one time I did somebody’s hair.
You know how your braids are not set, how it is loose and stuff, she told me & I handled the situation professionally. I told her instead of me redoing that one braid you come back and I could give her a new style.
It was the right thing for me to do because when I did her hair I was modeling her for a new style I never did. I couldn’t get mad that the style wasn’t perfect, because I never did it before.
When that situation happened the best thing for me to do was do another style. I knew how to do it, which is box braids and knotless and I gave her that so she could be happy, and so I can have more stuff to post.”
Roki: “Ever been a moment where you considered not doing hair anymore?
Awa: “There were definitely times where I wanted to stop doing hair & running businesses because it’s too much, especially when school started again. It was too overwhelming.
But one thing you need while running a business is somebody to talk to, somebody to give you good advice. Somebody to tell you you need to get going, and I have that. Somebody who really helps me out.
It’s not like you can handle a business by yourself strictly. Because you have to really be strong mentally, and physically to be doing that. You really need somebody to talk to. You can’t just hold it in.
If you are tired you need to give yourself a break. If you need somebody to talk to, you need to talk to somebody you trust and someone that’s going to give you good advice.
And also you can’t hang around people that give up easily. Once you are around them you are going to have that mindset. You have to be around people that keep going no matter what.”
Roki: “How’d you describe yourself to someone that’s never met you?”
Awa: “I would describe myself as very strong-minded. I would describe myself as very considerate, or very kind, and caring. Last thing I would describe myself as is independent.
I say I’m very independent because I make sure I’m able to handle everything myself.
I run my business alone, I get everything I need alone, I invest in my businesses alone. Every day even if I’m not braiding, business-wise I’m very independent. I do everything on my own.”
Roki: “How’d you describe your family’s support of your business?”
Awa: “They’re very supportive. I know they get tired of me being in the living room so much doing hair. But they’re very supportive of what I do. They help me out a lot.
They give me space for me to do hair and stuff. My sisters, it’s good to express how tiring it is to do hair to them. They somebody you want to complain to. Like “oh my god I’m so tired I don’t want to do nothing.” They’re just people you can talk to about anything.”
Roki: “What would you say to the young ladies interested in becoming hairstylists?
Awa: “What I would say about upcoming stylists in New York City is that it’s very competitive. People aren’t as considerate as you might be. People want to always just be ahead of you.
What I’ll say to you is just make sure you’re determined in what you’re doing. You have to be very determined or you’re going to want to give up. You see too many people doing it, or you think she’s doing it better than you.
Or see she’s got more followers than you. You can’t look at people having followers, you can’t look at the clout. You can’t look at stuff like that. You have to look within yourself.
Do you really want to do this? Are you going to love doing this? Do you see yourself doing it for a long time? Think about that. You can’t be doing it because other people are doing it. You have to do it because you want to do it”
What I would tell myself is to just stay who I am. Not get overwhelmed in becoming bigger. And just always stay Awa Stylez.”
Hello everyone! This piece will be the fifth installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy & please share it with your friends.
This piece is dedicated to, in James’s words, all the people watching, but that’s not saying anything.
Andy: “Tell me about your childhood.”
James Esco: “My childhood was interesting, I ain’t going to lie. It was fun, but at the same time, it was really hard. I had a lot of traumatic moments, just growing up in the household I did, and in my family. A lot of the stuff at the time didn’t affect me, because I didn’t really know what was happening because I was a kid.
As I got older, it ended up affecting me a lot more & really shaped me into the person I am today. I would describe my childhood as fun, but also a tough experience.”
Andy: “Let’s talk about your family.”
James: “I have a Dominican family. My mom & dad were both born in D.R. & immigrated (to the U.S) in ‘96, ‘97. My family is very separated in a sense, but they’re also very connected. They’re definitely charismatic, but problematic.”
Andy: “What role do they play in your life?”
James: “Growing up, there were a lot of problems between my mom & dad. My dad was abusive towards her, so seeing that was really hard. I don’t talk to my dad anymore, even though we were close.
The role they played, just makes me want to go harder, I don’t want to go through no shit like that. I know if I ever was to start a family, I definitely wouldn’t want to put my family through it. I definitely wouldn’t want to leave my kids & have them not talk to me. It’s definitely a motivating factor in my life.”
Andy: “Which point of life did your father’s mistakes impact you most?”
James: “I’d say my 6th-grade year & 10th-grade year. My 6th-grade year is when my mom finally kicked him out of the house. She was really going through a depressed-like stage because they were in a relationship for 22 years.
My 10th-grade year really affected me the most, because me & my dad were really close. My 10th-grade year is when I became depressed. Everything I went through started crashing down on me & everything that was happening to people in my family. I was trying to figure it all out, I was trying to figure myself out.”
Andy: “When you start writing & making music?”
James: “The summer of 2018, so June of 2018. I always used to write from time to time, but it was so bad when I first started out. Then one time, in June of 2018 I was in the park with Kwame & my friend Imanol, and we were talking about one of our friends who was making music. So I said, what would y’all think if I started making music. They said go for it.
That same night we were on a PS4 party (party chat) and I wrote a song & I rapped it to them over the mic. They said it was fire. Ever since then I’ve been writing.”
Andy: “Why’d you start writing?”
James: “Besides from my friends really inspiring me, being able to write & getting a good review from the first thing that I actually tried to write, it encouraged me to keep going. I was also enjoying what I was writing, it wasn’t a feeling that I had before.”
Andy: “What’s the first song you ever recorded?”
James: “I don’t even know, the first time that I ever went to the studio, I don’t remember the name. It was a personal song, but I sounded so bad that day, I was so nervous. It was my first time rapping on the mic, I got so discouraged after that day I said “bro I don’t even think I’m a rap anymore.
That whole day I was just thinking about it. Then the next day I just went in & I said I have to do this. I went in with confidence & I actually recorded the first song I ever dropped, which is Tate Ave.”
Andy: “How’d you get the stage name, James Esco?”
James: “So my full name is James Escolastico. My last name has 11 letters in it, so I wasn’t going to put that in my name.
When I first started rapping I was just thinking, I’m just be called James, but that was plain & boring, no one was going to listen to me. So I just thought of James Esco, added a little flavor to it.”
Andy: “What role did the neighborhood (Highbridge) play in your upbringing & music.”
James: “It played a huge role. Growing up I seen some crazy shit. You hear a lot of crazy shit. You see a lot of crazy shit. I try to bring it up in my music as much as I can but in a positive way. I just try to motivate people, tell them that they don’t have to be stuck in that environment forever.
Not only in my music, but it’s also played a part in making me the person I am today. I always have my head on a swivel. You never know what’s going to happen. It makes you a tougher person.”
Andy: “What’s the creative process when making a track?”
James: “I need my MacBook, I need YouTube, I just search up any type beat. Let’s say I’m looking for something, I’d look up a Drake, or Lil Durk type beat. I need to make sure my TV is on to a certain level so my mom can’t hear me.
If I find a beat, I usually know within the first four or five seconds of the track whether it’s going to be something I’m going to write to. But if I can just come up with a rhyme right away, then I know that beat is a good beat for me.”
Andy: “What’s been your most recent release?” (As of December 2020)
James: “Self Reflection, that was back in April”.
Andy: “Why’s it been so long since you’ve last released?”
James: “First, the pandemic kind of ruined everything. My mom had COVID, when it first came out, back in April, she almost died from it. I was her caretaker. Then I ended up getting it (COVID-19). It didn’t affect me as bad, it kind of affected me in a way. Also, it’s hard to get studio time & I was dealing with college stress. I was trying to commit, finding out what college I wanted to commit to.
When I did try to write, since I was distracted at home all the time, I didn’t really have any inspiration. It was really hard for me to come up with something that I was enjoying myself & that I would put out to the public.
Now that I’m back home (from college), I have a plan now. It’s much easier for me, I’m much more motivated.”
Andy: “Explain the meaning behind my favorite song of yours, Intro?”
James: For that song, I remember first finding that beat, I said “god damn, this the hardest shit I ever heard.” I said I really got spit fire on this because I really like rapping, that’s the 90’s side of me I guess, the influence of the 90’s music. Then everything just falls into place after that.
That’s why I talk about selling out shows & going overseas. Then I talk about my relationship with my mom a little bit, how me & her don’t always see eye to eye, but things are going to get better. I know there’s frustration & tension between us sometimes, but eventually, they’re gonna get better.”
Andy: “What’s been your favorite song to record?”
James: “I’ve had a few. The Esco Gang Freestyle was kind of funny because we were all high as hell in the studio. We were just laughing during the process & it was just an uptempo beat, so it was fun.”
Also “Phases” which is going to be the first single off of the project that I have coming up. I recorded that back in August. Making that song was crazy because I remember writing it & I finished writing it after four days, and that shit was lit. I know that’s the one.”
Andy: “What are studio sessions like?”
James: “They usually filled with my biggest friends. I usually try to get acquainted with the engineer. Most times it’s been really hard because the studio I go to, it’s kind of anti-social.
So it’s hard to really communicate with them sometimes. But yeah most of the time it’s fun. We all in a little space, whether it’s smoking, chilling, or whatever.”
Andy: “Is it easy, or difficult to balance school with the music?”
James: “It’s hard, I ain’t gonna lie. It’s much harder than I make it, it’s much harder than it should be definitely. Because in school, especially in college, the professors don’t really care, they just assign work.
Not really having your own space, your own room, not really having my own space to really write & shit, it’s just hard for me to write. It just makes it hard for me to really focus.”
Andy: “How does it feel when someone expresses their support for your work?”
James: “That shit feels great I ain’t gon lie. I be saying thank you because you ain’t have to say that. Even if you don’t mean it. You didn’t have to say it. It feels great. Whenever I get a comment from anybody, I just try to show them as much appreciation as I can. I say “Bro, thank you. I really appreciate it, you didn’t have to do it.”
Andy: “What’s a common misconception that people have about you & your music?”
James: “I think people, even before they hear my music, they see I have my music on SoundCloud & it’s not the most popular, it doesn’t get the most plays. I feel they say, I’m not even going to listen to him, he probably trash, he probably just another SoundCloud rapper.
I remember when I dropped my first song, some girl from my school, she hit me up, she said, I’m not going to lie I only clicked on it to see if it was trash, I was expecting it to be wack but it wasn’t. I knew that was the mindset that a lot of people would have.”
Andy: “What’s the hardest part about making music?”
James: “Writing. That shit will stress you out. Recording it too, because I’m a perfectionist in a way. Trying to make it sound how I want it to & how I hear it in my mind, and when it doesn’t come out the way I want it to, I just get discouraged for a moment.”
Andy: “Since becoming an artist what’s been your biggest accomplishment?”
James: “Just being able to keep it real. Not allowing my own thoughts & hate to stop me from doing what I want. Not letting my family discourage me. Not letting people discourage me. Just putting out music that I enjoy myself.”
Andy: “How does the family feel about the music?”
James: “My cousins, my brothers fuck with it. My mom doesn’t understand it. But the thing is, she doesn’t want me to do it, because she comes from a place, where she probably didn’t receive the support she deserved.
Along with other things, I just feel her family is not as supportive as they should’ve been, or not as loving as they should’ve been. She probably put that upon us, because that’s all she knew.
So she doesn’t really believe in following dreams, she just feels like you got to work. I understand her reaction towards it, she doesn’t want me to chase music & fail. But I tell her that as much as I love you, I don’t want to struggle like you.”
Andy: “At what point did you consider music a passion?
James: “Probably when I started writing. I knew right away once I dropped my first song. Because right after I dropped my first song I had an in-school performance, in front of a different school inside of the (Taft) campus. It was received well. I think performing is my favorite part.”
Andy: “Talk to me about your upcoming EP that’s dropping in a few months?”
James: “So basically with that, I’m just trying to give little pieces & bits of my story, while also trying to uplift people around me. Definitely, as far as right now, I have an estimation of probably January or February, February seems a little more realistic right now.
There are certain things that are kind of setting me back right now, but definitely February. If not even if it comes a little later, I’m just trying to make it as good as I can. Definitely excited about it.”
Andy: “How many songs are on the EP?”
James: “Right now, I have about 6. I’m thinking about 6. I have about 3 or 4 songs that I know are going to go on the project for sure.
Andy: “What should we expect from the (currently) untitled EP?”
James: “Consistency. Authentic material. Just a lot of gems.”
Andy: “What’s your ultimate goal in the music industry when it’s all said & done?”
James: “I’m trying to be considered as one of the greats. Even though that sounds so far-fetched, just thinking about it, we see people doing it but it just seems so far away.
Hopefully, when it’s all said & done, I want that to be what people think about me. I’m one of the greatest. One of the most real.”
Andy: “What do you want your legacy to be?”
James: I just want people to look back on me when I’m gone, to not even just mention the music but mention who I am as a person. When you die that’s the only thing people have, memories. Say “he was a good person, he was kind-hearted, good friend.” That’s really what I want my legacy to be.
I want people to feel like I always keep it real. I’m just a good person overall. With music, I just want to be remembered. I want my music to be timeless. I want people to listen to it whenever.”
Hello everyone! This piece will be the fourth installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.
This piece is dedicated to Diablo’s late father, Errol.
Creative. Passionate. Hard Headed. Quiet. Observative.
That’s how Tavion, a close friend of Diablo Wakefield, would describe the personality of the rising Bronx rapper, who he met, as Armani.
During our two-hour interview, which was conducted in Tavion’s car (an interesting experience!), he spoke proudly about the evolution of his friend’s sound.
Tavion described his music as energetic, lively, and from the heart. With each single, or project Armani releases, he, and fans from all walks of life, notice the improvement in his work.
And Armani, who is grateful for the support he’s received, isn’t surprised by the reception of his music.
When we spoke, he shared that he’d spend his last on music, and would rather work on tracks than eat, or even sleep.
That passion & commitment to the grind allows Armani to remain hungry in his pursuit of stardom.
Born on January 29, 2001, Armani lived on Anguilla Island, and Atlanta in his early years, before settling down in the Bronx at the age of nine.
In the borough, he moved to the neighborhood of Wakefield, where he still resides. Today he stays with his mom & his sisters.
His father, Errol wasn’t around much when he was young but always made his presence felt.
A notorious drug dealer, Errol spent multiple stints in jail. But when he was home, he’d buy his children gifts, and tell them they were special every chance he got.
Errol was important to his family, and their lives were impacted drastically after he passed away.
Midway through his sophomore year, Armani received news that blood had been found in his car and that he’d gone missing.
Errol, who was living in Jamaica at the time, had been deported a few years prior. Hearing about his father’s whereabouts, or lack thereof, left Armani mildly concerned.
He didn’t think much of it. He just assumed that Errol had gotten into some trouble and was handling business beneath the radar.
Armani felt like he had nothing to worry about, despite his concern slowly growing the longer he didn’t hear from him.
Unfortunately, before he knew it, his life would change forever.
One day while in school, Armani got a phone call from his mother, saying she’d pick him up.
An unusual occurrence, he knew something wasn’t right.
When his mother arrived, Armani bombarded her with questions, wondering why she was even there.
His mother pulled him to the side & delivered the devastating news.
Errol had been murdered in a gang-related crime in Jamaica.
Armani was hysterical. Struggling to control his emotions, he began crying non-stop.
Errol’s death left a large void in Armani’s life, and as a result, caused him to mature.
Refusing to follow in his father’s footsteps, he looked to use his free time productively, in an effort to stay out of trouble.
As he mourned this tragedy, Armani began to reminisce about the special moments the two spent together.
One of his dearest memories with Errol came while he was young. Armani recalls his father singing an array of different songs to him.
Moments like those are what he’ll cherish forever.
And these experiences, coinciding with Errol’s murder, would transform Armani into the person he’d eventually become.
With each performance, Diablo strives for his music to be both real and raw to the core.
For some, his sound isn’t necessarily relatable, but the average listener can appreciate the thrilling energy of his tracks.
A bit of that energy can be attributed to his alter ego, also known as “Lil A.”
“Lil A”, is a persona of Diablo’s, one where he feels indestructible, invincible, and untouchable.
It’s also the persona that produces some of his best work.
For Diablo, one of the reasons he enjoys making music is crafting songs he and his friends love.
Creating a track can take him between fifteen minutes to two hours. It all depends on his mood during the process.
But whenever he’s in the studio he rarely fools around. He goes into the booth, only with intentions to work. He takes that time very seriously.
Time is money after all.
While in the studio, Diablo prefers to freestyle on the majority of his tracks.
Visiting the studio every other day, he owns a catalog of unfinished songs, many that his friends are urging him to complete.
Usually in attendance during these sessions, his clique shares their critique here & there, but mostly keeps Diablo sane when he enters his work mode.
Another reason he enjoys the rap game is the support he receives from his growing audience. It motivates him whenever his music is reshared on social media, or when someone tells him they’re a fan of his work.
Instances like those place a smile on his face.
Life as a rapper isn’t all positives, however.
The difficult part of being an artist is the amount of time music consumes from his everyday life.
With hip-hop being his primary source of income, each week, he’s forced to find the best route to take musically, in order to subsidize his expenses.
That stress starts to build up fast.
He doesn’t allow that to halt the progression.
Since Diablo’s begun releasing music, the biggest difference he’s discovered is how comfortable he is entering the booth and recording.
He’s developed a business-like mentality with his craft.
And he emulated that same attention to near perfection in the past twelve months.
In January 2020, Diablo released his first EP titled “All 41.”
The twelve-minute long EP is named after a phrase he and friends live by (All for one, 4 to 1) and the main street that centers his Wakefield neighborhood (East 241 St).
He recorded the entire project in one studio session. The EP is where he discovered his trademark flow & distinctive sound. Tracks like “Hard to Love” & “Keep It True” were notable standouts.
That quality sound reached another level following the release of his first official mixtape “Goblins” which debuted on October 31st, 2020.
The nine-track mixtape features an impressive selection of beats, combined with that patented fast-paced delivery from Diablo.
While working on the project he saw the wordplay on his songs improving, as each succeeding track featured harder metaphors and punchlines.
The vocals on his tracks also sound super clear. Diablo does an exceptional job articulating his lyrics.
One day, he envisions his friend on the mainstream, being played on midday radio, performing in big shows across the world like Coachella and Rolling Loud, or at Dazzles, a popular lounge in Mount Vernon.
Diablo anticipates a similar ascent.
When it’s all said and done, Diablo wants to be remembered as a pivotal figure in the rap game, and a role model mentioned in the same breath as icons like Kobe Bryant & Tupac.
And he’s working relentlessly to put himself in a prime position to, in his own words, “conquer the world.”
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!
Hello everyone! This piece will be the third installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.
This piece is dedicated to Anyelina’s mother, and all her “Angeles”.
Esta pieza está dedicada a la madre de Angelina y a todos sus “Ángeles”.
When Anyelina was four years old, she helped save the life of a dying stranger, in her hometown of the Dominican Republic.
It was late in the evening, and she was traveling through the city alongside her mother.
Transporting on a motorcycle, Anyelina notices a trail of blood on this narrow, dirt road. Oozing with curiosity, she motioned for her mother to stop the vehicle so they could inspect the area.
As they parked, they heard the cries of someone groaning in pain.
Following the sound, they found the man with his leg caught in the barbed wire that surrounded the road. He had flown off his own vehicle minutes before.
Although alive, he was unconscious and bleeding slowly.
Calm at first, Anyelina became overwhelmed, feeling sympathetic for this stranger nearing his death.
As she weeps, her mother attempts to get the attention of traveling drivers & motorists, who ride past her.
From their location, the nearest hospital was ninety minutes away. The two begin to worry as this man waits in extreme discomfort.
Anyelina’s mother finally contacts her uncle, who lived nearby, for assistance. He quickly arrives at the scene.
Fed up with their pleas for help going ignored, the uncle stops one driver, who had no interest in pulling over.
As the driver steps out of the vehicle, the uncle explains to him that this dying man is in need of medical assistance.
Wanting to go about his day, he tunes the uncle out, not caring for the sob story.
As a last resort, the uncle threatens the driver with his gun, urging him once more to take this stranger to a hospital.
A young Anyelina witnessed this entire episode unfold. She forgot what happened next.
That evening was her first real look at the harsh realities of life.
She questioned why it took such extreme measures for someone to help a stranger dying in front of them.
Never knowing how naturally selfish humans were, from that point on, she dedicated her life to helping others.
Two years later, she crossed paths with the same stranger whose life she helped save.
As they spoke, he expressed his appreciation for the act of kindness she committed that night.
That conversation changed Anyelina’s life and planted the seeds for the person she’d grow to be.
Born in the Dominican Republic in 2001, Anyelina grew up with a large, tight-knit family, in the city of Santiago.
She was an active, free-spirited child, infatuated with nature and the animals that roamed the country.
The Dominican Republic is also where she developed her confidence.
Thin, and underweight for most of her childhood, she still walked with high spirits, despite being surrounded by beautiful, curvy women each day.
Anyelina learned many of the morals and values she lives by, from her biggest role model, her mother.
A fearless woman, her mother was someone that took every task in front of her head-on.
Well-rounded as a young adult, she owned a sandal shop, worked as a party planner, and coached a softball team for the girls in their community.
Armed with a hustling mentality, Anyelina admired her mother’s strong work ethic.
Anyelina would move several times from the Dominican Republic to New York City, where her father lived, ahead of her freshman year of high school.
She’s also sold lifestyle garments, like shorts and t-shirts for her loyal customers.
A nice touch, the brand’s official logo, a gold dragon, is a sign of honor to the Japanese culture.
Although Kaizen By A is an activewear brand, Anyelina says there lies a bigger picture behind the operation.
During our two-hour interview, she explained to me that clothing is a starting base that will eventually fund her plans for the future.
Just look at the brand’s official slogans:
“One percent better every day.”
“There’s always room to improve.“
“Kaizen.” (continuous improvement)
By reading them, you can easily sense the type of mindset Anyelina carries every single day.
You also notice it through the impressive goals she’s set out for herself.
Ultimately, her vision for Kaizen By A is a program that works with youth in the underprivileged neighborhoods where she grew up.
In ten years, she hopes to build athletic compounds across New York City, so its children have a safe place to play sports recreationally.
She also plans on building a school in the Dominican Republic, one that offers students creative freedom, and grants them the opportunity to explore different career fields after graduation, a luxury not common in the country.
Watching from a distance, I’ve seen the steps Anyelina has taken to achieve her goals. She’s the walking definition of Kaizen.
And, Anyelina is well aware of the time & energy she’s been exerting.
She admits that her lifestyle is difficult to maintain, as she enjoys completing multiple projects simultaneously.
Nonetheless, she assures me that she hasn’t reached this success alone.
She credits her accomplishments to an abundance of amazing people.
Hello everyone! This piece will be the second installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.
• This piece is dedicated to Kameron’s younger sister Shania, the most important person in his life.
The game of basketball has also allowed me to cross paths with some unbelievable people in my life.
Like my guy Kameron.
Or Kam, as I like to call him.
Kam, the mastermind behind the underground clothing brand Good Kid, Bad Intentions, and I, met three years ago while at basketball practice.
It was midway through our junior year. One day, my high school’s varsity-B squad was in the early stages of a two-hour workout.
Before sprinting drills, our coach introduced us to a student who’d recently transferred to Frederick Douglass Academy, my high school.
Being his first day there, he’d be joining us in the basketball program.
That student was Kam.
Hoping to make a good impression on the coach, I wanted to be the first player to befriend Kam, and show him what our program was all about.
Following the workout, I went to introduce myself.
Shy at first, Kam quickly demonstrated the infectious energy that still resonates with me today.
In our next time practice, while working on defensive techniques, Kam stole the show.
During the drill he slid his feet & was physical with other players, much to the delight of the coach.
After watching him go to work, he earned my respect with his hustle, and tenacity on the court.
Despite Kam leaving the basketball program shortly after we met. we managed to remain, friends, as time went on.
Still good buddies three years later, I’ve been blessed to see Kam reach the accomplishments he’s enjoying today.
Who knew that our friendship would be established after just one basketball practice?
And that’s not even the most important part of this story.
You might be asking, how did Kam, a Harlem resident, end up in FDA?
Well, because he got in trouble. I’ll explain in a few paragraphs.
See, Kam has never been a “bad” kid. There aren’t any hateful bones in his body. If anything, he’s misunderstood.
Kam is someone who cares about others and knows the difference between right and wrong.
In my eyes though, he’s always been a “good” kid.
However, occasionally when things aren’t unfolding how he envisioned, or, if people take advantage of his kindness, it could trigger some of his “bad intentions.”
Some people won’t ever understand that.
As you continue reading, you’ll notice that being a good kid, sometimes with bad intentions, seems to be the story of Kam’s life.
Born on Christmas Day in 2000, Kam lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his mother, who he describes as a hard-working and resilient woman, along with his aunt & younger sister.
Kam moved around frequently during his youth. His nomadic upbringing helped him build relationships across the country, which is crucial in his field of work.
He moved to Queens, New York when he turned seven, then moved again, this time to Atlanta, where he started fourth grade.
For Kam, living in Atlanta was an eye-opening experience. It’s the city where he discovered the game of football.
After seeing his friends play the sport in his neighborhood, he decided to give it a try.
His group tried out for the Norcross Blue Devils, a park league team in their neighborhood. It was Kam’s first opportunity to play the sport competitively.
Kam spent a couple of years suiting up for Norcross. Playing the cornerback & safety positions, he enhanced his skills, and built relationships with teammates on the field.
Around this time is also where Kam became enamored with the game of Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, his favorite football player & role model.
Despite the progress he made in the Peach State, Kam would move yet again, prior to his seventh-grade year.
He moved back to New York City, but would attend boarding school in Illinois to be closer to his grandparents, who lived nearby.
Kam yearned to spend more time with his elders, and this would be his chance.
Unfortunately, he found himself devoting more time than he wanted with his education.
The institution was extremely restrictive, as Kam felt cooped up, unable to live life as a youth should.
He despised that academy, but it wasn’t all negative.
Kam joined their football program, sticking around through high school.
As he grew older, Kam showed massive improvement on the field. He racked up statistics & team awards for his defensive talent.
Unfortunately, that athletic success came to a screeching halt in his junior year.
Although a blessing in disguise, this roadblock would change the course of his entire life.
One night, Kam was relaxing in the dormitory of his boarding school with his roommates.
Suffering from boredom, his roommates felt like smoking, an activity prohibited in the dorms.
The marijuana they’d be using was already in their possession, they just needed something to smoke it with.
Scavenging through Kameron’s room, they came across one lucky item, the mouthpiece to his trumpet, which they’d be using, in order to get high.
Kam wisely decided to sit out the festivities.
The next day, he took back his trumpet, to use for his music class.
Midway through that class period, Kam was playing the instrument like normal, when his music teacher noticed a peculiar smell.
The room reeked of marijuana.
The teacher halted instruction and searched his classroom for the culprit.
That smell of marijuana had been coming from the mouthpiece of Kam’s trumpet, the same one his friends used the previous night.
He was quickly sent to the principal office for questioning.
Despite Kam and his friend’s consistent pleas towards his innocence, it did nothing to sway the principals decision.
He would be expelled from the boarding school, and sent back home to New York City.
Do you notice that good kid, with the so called bad intentions?
Kam innocently allowed his friends to use his mouthpiece, only for it to be what got him kicked out of school.
His expulsion proved to be a bittersweet moment.
Yes, he was leaving the institution he initially dreaded, but he’d found his niche at the school and was improving as a football player.
Nonetheless, he was en route to Harlem, where he enrolled in FDA for the remainder of his high school career.
He chose the FDA amongst the many schools in the area, due to the academy’s strong football program.
Unfortunately, by the time he began his first day there, the football season was nearing its conclusion.
With the sport no longer being a viable option, Kam quickly needed to find an outlet where he could exert all his energy.
Anyone who takes the time to help Kam is near and dear to his heart. He’s an appreciative person.
That appreciation is what helped him find that outlet he was seeking: fashion.
Near the end of his junior year, Kam began attending a college preparatory program at Columbia University.
The program allowed him to network with professionals from several well-known companies, so he could figure out his plans following graduation.
One of those networking opportunities included participating in an internship with Adidas.
When he got news of this, Kam was ecstatic. Adidas was a brand he grew up wearing, especially while playing football.
Throughout his internship, he connected with Adidas representatives, and also created his own prototype basketball sneaker.
All in all, working with the brand offered Kam the hands-on action he craved.
This experience also opened his eyes, triggering his increasing interest in clothing.
As his senior year quickly approached, Kam became more assertive with his outfits, carefully selecting which pieces complimented each other.
He even engaged in a few modeling opportunities, including one with his friend Ella, creator of the streetwear brand The Series.
Kam’s closest friends, already involved in fashion, began noticing his evolving style. Those comrades, as well as a handful of strangers, would shower Kam with compliments.
For him, that was an unbelievable feeling.
Oozing with confidence, Kam felt obligated to step outside his comfort zone and share his imagination with the world.
After some thought, and with the encouragement of his friends, he decided to do something that seemed impossible over a year ago while in boarding school.
Hello everyone! This piece will be the first in my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.
And being one of the top athletes in my grade, I would cook most defenders with an array of moves driving to the rim, and a streaky, but steady, mid-range jumper.
However, there was one person I could never figure out.
My boy Moustapha.
Moustapha, or Sta as I call him, was by far my toughest competition.
Back then, he was this skinny & lanky kid who quickly moved down the court. He used his long wingspan to his advantage, and to my disadvantage.
Each time we went head-to-head, I would fail to get in a rhythm.
Sta blocked or altered all my attempts, and being underrated offensively, would finish every shot near the basket.
Despite my troubles, these were some of my favorite memories playing the sport.
As I got older, I discovered my niche outside of basketball, which is writing. I became aware of my passion for putting pen to paper, which led to this blog you’re reading today.
And, due to unforeseen circumstances, Sta would find his niche outside of basketball as well: clothing.
During his high school career, Sta attended multiple schools without a uniform policy, forcing him to assemble outfits each day.
Despite being outside his comfort zone at first, that time period is when he discovered his love for fashion.
He would attend school with the sole purpose of impressing classmates with his evolving wardrobe. Every day was a fashion show for him.
Those four years were crucial in helping Sta find his unique style.
Around this time is when he met Alex and Stefan, two aspiring fashion designers who were classmates of his while attending school in Connecticut.
The two encouraged Sta to begin designing clothing himself, and discover where that could lead him.
However, it wasn’t until he met this one person, where he realized the heights he could potentially reach.
It was a chilly February day in the Bronx.
For some time, Sta had been keeping tabs on someone who’d been making waves throughout the borough.
That someone was Michael, or Mike, as his friends refer to him.
Mike is a deep-voiced fellow, who’s smooth & laid back by nature. Once you get to know him, he’s the coolest guy you’ll ever meet.
He’s also the CEO of the clothing line titled “Fearless Boyz”, which began its inception in January 2020.
Sta, Mike, and I share the distinction of being Eagle Academy alums, despite not attending simultaneously.
On this February day, the two met through a mutual friend, so Sta could purchase a yellow hoodie, one of Mike’s earlier releases.
During the transaction, the two shared a lengthy dialogue. Mike was familiar with Sta’s social media and was intrigued by his style. Their conversation would spark the beginning of a strong friendship, & partnership.
Six months following that interaction, the Fearless Boyz brand is better than ever.
And formerly an admirer, Sta now finds himself as the line’s first & only brand ambassador.
Mike selected Sta because he believed in Sta’s growing potential, and ability to effectively promote the line.
The two were able to create a bond through their support for one another, & through clothing.
In spite of that, Mike’s life story began with hoop dreams as well.
Born in Queens, he lived in the infamous Queensbridge Houses until the age of nine, around the time his father passed away.
He moved around until landing in Soundview, where he still resides today.
With his father absent from his life, he credits the older heads in his neighborhood for playing a big-brother role in his life and helping him grow up faster than he wanted.
Throughout middle school, Mike was always taller than his peers. Even today, he stands at six feet five, the size of an NBA shooting guard.
Despite this, Mike never had serious aspirations of playing ball professionally, explaining why his tenure at Eagle Academy got off to a rocky start.
He enrolled at the school with the intention of playing varsity basketball, after being recruited by team coaches & friends.
However, early on in the season, he realized that competitive basketball wasn’t his passion. He preferred playing recreationally.
He left the squad midway through his freshman year, much to the dismay of his teammates.
Instead, his stint at Eagle is where he discovered his love for clothing. The school’s uniform gave him a chance to be versatile with complementary pieces like shoes, sweaters, & jackets.
Even during dress-down days, he’d attend school in subtle footwear that still caught the attention of envious students.
Today, Mike considers high school to be the best years of his life.
At Eagle, he felt comfortable in his own skin, which was important following his father’s death.
There, he was surrounded by several young men whom he considers brothers, cut from the same cloth as him.
Despite Eagle Academy helping him find his passion for clothing, Mike credits well-known celebrities like ASAP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert, & Young Thug, as inspirations behind his love for fashion.
Mike marvels at his spontaneous personality, the versatility of his pieces, and the confidence he carries in each of his outfits.
Bloody even inspired Mike to begin investing in stocks and finding different sources of income to subsidize his clothing.
The way Mike respects Bloody is exactly how Sta cherishes popular 80’s rock musician Billy Idol.
Billy is one of the few people Sta admires, both as an artist and a fashion icon. He adores how Idol was himself at all times and sought happiness in his life, rather than fame and fortune that came with his profession.
Idol was someone who didn’t care about the opinions of others and embodied the free, fearless lifestyle that Sta and Mike live each day.
The origins of Fearless Boyz stem from humble beginnings.
Mike’s vision for the brand came as a child. Growing up, he carried a notebook & jotted down sketches of any ideas he had, including ones for a potential clothing line in the future.
The inside of that book resembles the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. He still owns the book to this day and looks through it occasionally.
The notebook represents a time in Mike’s life where he remained to himself. He feared opening up to others and lived through the book.
Now, those same ideas are coming to life.
He still struggled to open up ahead of his first official release in January.
Mike was worried about the initial reception of his clothing, especially since he dedicated tons of money and resources to create his pieces.
That fear quickly left after his first drop sold out in a few hours. From thereon, the line has been trending up.
As he continues to establish himself, he intends to diversify his garment collection by releasing bubble jackets, sweatsuits, skullies, and more.
Sta is on a similar trajectory.
Despite being committed to the Fearless Boyz, he has plans on venturing into his own brand, specializing in denim jeans.
Sta was customizing denim before meeting Mike but went on hiatus to regain focus and add to his asset base, in order to improve the quality of his clothing.
Sta has some special ideas he’ll unveil to the world in the coming months. It appears he has something brewing on his clothing Instagram page…
In spite of the accomplishments of the Fearless Boyz, there are always roadblocks to the path of greatness.
For Mike, the toughest part of having a clothing line is finding the balance between devoting time to the brand and enjoying life as a young adult.
And with the brand’s ever-growing popularity, keeping up with orders can become overwhelming.
However, he recognizes that the energy he’s exerting will ultimately help him, and the Fearless Boyz reach their goals.
Sta realized this as well. Back in March, he left the Bronx Community College to further pursue his passion for clothing.
With the newfound free time, he’s using it to help Mike cook up new ideas for the brand, and create attire for himself.
Don’t be surprised when you see Fearless Boyz being worn across New York City. This duo is working diligently each day to make that happen.
During our three-hour interview, Sta explained that the reason he became Mike’s brand ambassador is because of the vision he saw for the line.
See, Sta carries himself like a prophet. He’s quick to notice something before anyone else, and he always voices his opinion.
He sensed the potential of the Fearless Boyz, & wanted to be a part of the journey.
And although it is recognized as a clothing line on the rise, this brand represents a lifestyle for Mike & Sta.
In their own definition, to be a “Fearless Boy” is to be weird, and do what you believe is cool, contrary to how the majority thinks.
As a result, the duo lives life freely, and without any fear.
Ultimately, Mike wants his legacy to be defined as being one of the most influential, and well-dressed people on the planet.
His goal is to put the Fearless Boyz on the mainstream, and when his name is firmly entrenched in the clothing industry, he’ll return to Soundview and give back to the residents of his neighborhood, who think highly of him.
For Sta, he plans on continuing his upward ascent. He’s not sure of what the future will hold but says that time will dictate what his legacy becomes.
However, he guarantees that his denim brand will be one of the most sought out brands in the world.
As far as the Fearless Boyz is concerned, in five years Mike and Sta envision the line being displayed at fashion shows, amongst illustrious streetwear brands like Off-White & VLONE.
They see their hard work resulting in a lavish lifestyle, filled with private jets, vacations, and lots of pampering.
With that being said, begin buying stock in the Fearless Boyz.
The year 2020 represents the beginning of a new era within the underground clothing industry, which prominently features Mike & Sta.
I could sense that hunger they have to destroy the competitors in there path.
After meeting with them, I left the interview with nothing but faith that the duo will surpass the marks that they’ve set out to reach.
Soon, all of New York City will rep “Fearless” across their body.
But in the meantime, from the words of Mike, get prepared for some real “weird shit.”
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!
At the time the NBA restart was announced, the African American community was still mourning the murder of George Floyd, and recovering from the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, amongst others.
Basketball, and sports in general, were secondary at the moment.
However, the NBA and its players have done an exceptional job utilizing their platform to advocate for social justice.
Next, I have Clippers big Montrezl Harrell the winning the 6MOY award.
He receives the nod because of potential voter’s fatigue towards teammate Lou Williams, and his importance to a Clippers squad that values his energy and interior scoring.
And for my final prediction, only nine Eastern Conference teams were invited to the NBA restart. And being more than five games behind for the eighth seed with eight games remaining, it’s virtually impossible for the ninth-seeded Wizards to make the playoffs at this point.
Safe to say, they won’t be in Orlando for long.
As for the predictions I would like to add, in no particular order:
There will be at least one fifty-point performance during the seeding games.
The Memphis Grizzlies will remain as the #8 seed in the West.
The Bucks will defeat the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Lakers will defeat the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals.
This year NBA Finals will feature the Lakers & Bucks.
To save time, I’ll only explain my Finals prediction.
A few months later, again at SUNY Oswego, there I was, eager to listen to Pop’s second mixtape “Meet The Woo, Vol 2”, ahead of its release.
Those two mixtapes share something in common, for me: that raw & gritty Pop Smoke aura. You feel the darkness, toughness, and aggression in his music. You notice his distinctive sound & voice throughout the tracks. And, I had the mixtapes on repeat for weeks.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with his latest & final project.
Let’s be clear, my opinion is in no way, disrespect towards the album’s executive producer, 50 Cent. After all, he has much more experience in the music industry than I.
This is simply MY opinion of the album, from a fan’s perspective, with a few other people’s sprinkled in.
With that being said, let’s begin with the album’s cover art.
It felt lazy, rushed, and completed without any passion.
Roki, a high school friend of mine, mentioned how the cover art should’ve told a story, & should’ve had more meaning behind it, highlighting A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s “Artist 2.0” as a prime example of that claim.
It felt as if Virgil missed the chance to further tell Pop’s story with both the original cover, and the current one.
But, as I dove deeper into the track-list, I grew a bit bored of listening. Tracks like “Gangstas”, “Creatures”, “Snitching”, & “West Coast Shit” featured a mixture of lackluster features and tracks without substance.
It’s a shame that we never got to see his true potential. Unfortunately, we’ll be left wondering, what could’ve been.
Nonetheless, let’s be thankful to have some Pop Smoke music to enjoy.
And with the “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” deluxe expected to release soon, it presents 50 Cent, and Pop’s camp the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, and provide fans with more exceptional music.