Capturing the culture that makes Detroit what it is.

My 18th Birthday

in My Detroit Story by

When Madonna struck a vogue I was 8 years old/ My family was the Cosby’s round broken homes/ Me and my sister Dara stuck together and rolled,” Music Picture written by K Frazier May 2013 Unreleased

There are so many people I can thank and honor, beginning most with my immediate family. From 1997 – 2006 I’d spend hours dreaming, creating and planning my life as a hip-hop artist. The summer of 2000 was significant in my growth as an artist. I began recording music consistently.

I worked the inaugural season for Comerica Park. I devoted most of every pay check to studio time. (In 1999 I bought a Radio Shack Concertmate keyboard from monies made working at Burger King. I’ve worked for many quick service restaurants).

That summer of 2000 I recorded music on the Eastside at Bruce Banner’s studio. I was introduced to Bruce Banner through DJ Illusions (Mr. Nice Guy). I met DJ Illusions at Tyrone Bradley’s hip-hop Summit earlier that year at the St. Regis Hotel.

I traveled from Dexter & Davison to Chandler Park Dr. with my rap partner Mario ‘Mad Talent’ Tatum (Wadi Tatum-El). We couldn’t be more excited. I planned everything in advance for our first visit to Bruce Banner’s studio. Too bad plans changed. Entering the studio I immediately set up my Concertmate keyboard and played the music for Bruce Banner. He started laughing at my music as he passed a blunt to Keylo Parker. “That shit ain’t even quantized. What type of bullshit keyboard is that,” Bruce Banner. I responded. I told him it was a Concertmate from Radio Shack. His laughter carried on. Making matters worse, I had no idea what quantization was. I should have been embarrassed. I was focused on if this time he spent chiefing (smoking marijuana) and laughing at my music would cost against the $50 for 2 hours of studio time … it did. Bruce offered a deal to provide a beat, and 2 hours of studio time for $200. I agreed to the deal. We came back to the studio 2 weeks later. I had my next check. For our next visit we filled the studio with all my friends that wanted to come (Loren Braxton, Brandon Williams and Thomas Fountain). Mario recorded his verse with ease. I stumbled through a sloppy rap (I did not know what a bar was at the time). We loved the song. Leaving the studio Bruce Banner agreed to re-create each of my beats from the Concertmate with better equipment for $100 each.

We played the song over and over again that night. Heading back to the Westside closing our travels at Dexter Coney Island we came to a consensus, we needed the music. I called Bruce Banner in the morning, and told him to give me a month to earn 2 checks to recreate 5 of my beats. THAT MONTH, working at Comerica Park my generally lackadaisical attitude (towards everything but rap) was inspired. If you happened to visit my Italian sausage cart in section 116 the summer of 2000 you got great food and better service. I made enough in tips to cover the $500 in 3 weeks, and paid Bruce Banner the morning I had the cash. 2 days later, Bruce had the music. Mario and I eagerly went to hear the music. It was nothing like the music I made. Disappointed, but focused on rapping we selected the 2 best beats of the 5. Bruce agreed to let us record those songs for no additional costs. It was obvious I needed better equipment myself.

I visited the best producer I knew at the time, Paul Hemphill. I asked him what equipment to buy? Paul suggested a Triton. I would often go to Guitar Center in Southfield MI, but never with particular equipment in mind (Guitar Center is a store that carries music equipment). Guitar Center carried the Triton at a cost of $2,500. At 17 years old I felt like a hedge fund manager having $500. $2,500 was immeasurable. Never in my life have I seen so much cash. The Tiger’s season was ending, school was coming up, and I had one option to get a better keyboard. Ask my parents.

I felt $2,500 was too much to ask for. I asked for $1,500 instead. $1,500 was the cost to buy a Roland XP60. Though Paul suggested a Triton, he owned a Roland XP80. Paul made the best music I ever heard at the time (he eventually went on to ghost produce some of Mario Winans’ Bad Boy music). The difference between the XP80 and XP60 was $300 in cost and 20 keys on the keyboard. I had no formal musical training, so I cared less about 20 keys and more about having access to the sounds Paul used.

That night I pleaded with my parents to sign up and get a Guitar Center credit card to buy a XP60. My Dad began laughing at the cost as my Mom joined in the laughter saying, “you can buy a car for that!” They both turned to me and asked how much did I want the XP60? I told them “the Neptunes, Timbaland and Hi-Tek all use a XP60 and I NEED IT!” My parents looked at me dumbfounded by who I mentioned. I was dumbfounded by them not knowing who they were. My Dad said, “No you got a job. Figure it out.”

I was so depressed from not convincing my parents to buy a XP60 that starting my senior year at Northwestern HS, I stopped rapping. Because I stopped rapping; for the first time since pre-school (finger paint & recess) I actually gave effort to school work. I earned a 4.5 GPA with honors (honestly, Northwestern HS ain’t exactly Harvard, but a 4.5 with honors is note worthy). My Mom and Grandmother were ecstatic. My Mom paid the money to list me in the ‘Who’s Who in American HS Students’ year book. I was glad to see them both happy. Not so long ago I earned a 1.0 GPA at King HS (hence the transfer to Northwestern).

Leading into Christmas the night of my birthday (December 23rd 2000) my family surprised me. My Mom and I picked up my big Sister Dara from the train station (this was the start of her college Christmas vacation). After we got Dara, my Mom drove to Southfield under the premise of getting Long John Silver’s. She suggested we visit Guitar Center for my birthday. Walking into Guitar Center with my Mom she asked ‘what did I want?’ I marched into the Pro Audio section like the cartoon image of the emperor during the parade of ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes.’ I asked for a Roland XP60. It wasn’t in stock. Disappointed, I pleaded with my Mom to go to Mars Music (at the time there were 2 music stores for Pro Audio in Southfield MI). She agreed to visit Mars Music. The XP60 was out of stock there as well. I was upset. I felt the forces of the world were working against me again.

My Mom continued to speak with the salesman at Mars Music. He suggested the Korg Triton workstation. I never entertained owning a Triton because it cost so much money. The Triton cost $2,800 at Mars Music. My Mom said she was only going to spend $1,500. As my Mom and the salesman talked, my Sister pulled out her Freshman college credit card to cover the $1,300 cost difference. I almost cried. I couldn’t believe my Mom, Dad and Dara all collectively supported me getting something I wanted.

On the ride home my Mom told me to thank my Dad as well. When I got home I thanked the three of them like Vondie Lee Curtis meeting Eddie Murphy in ‘Coming to America.’ Words can’t describe the way I felt setting up equipment in my junky bedroom. I owned equipment the Neptunes made Jay-Z records with. That night my family shared Long John Silver’s and stories of my childhood. The smile on my face was only off set by the smiles of my Mom, Dad and Sister wishing me a happy 18th birthday.

In retrospect my Father was correct. I should have gotten a car. It took months for me to figure out how to use the Triton.

KORG Triton
KORG Triton

It’s humbling that my whole life I’ve had the uncompromising support and love from the first three people I’ve ever known. My immediate family has encouraged me through the many misunderstandings I’ve given them.

For so long I’ve carried a chip on my shoulder. I know why I’ve burned so many personal bridges. My ‘Big 3’ (Mom, Dad and Dara) having unconditional love for me. This has humbled me over time. They’ve all recognized my downfalls when I haven’t, and stayed committed to me.

I’ve been very unappreciative to the blessings of life. It’s sad that material possessions and extrinsic experiences have made me acknowledge this.

The Detroit parallel I can make is the way we take our water for granted. Detroiters badger Detroit more than any home-towners I know. Albeit we don’t acknowledge the blessings of an abundance of nature’s life blood.

Love you Mom, Love you Dad, Love you Dara, Love you Detroit

WAE Music A copy

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