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Nigo, Basquiat & Virgil Abloh: Sampling & Cultural Archaeology Lifestyle

Updated: May 9

I had a great day today. I woke up, turned on my laptop to play Pharaoh Sanders Astral Traveling, Lonnie Liston Smiths Meditations, Alice Coltrane's Reflection on Creation and Space, then some John Coltrane ballads from a playlist, I turned on the tv & the ps4 in my bedroom to watch some Muhammad Ali motivational videos on YouTube, washed my hair, listened to the song purple rain, put on a grey t shirt, black leather jacket, black tuxedo pants, brown Timbs, & went for a walk in my neighbourhood to dry my hair.

I forgot my headphones at home but I didn't care because it was so beautiful out and people were out and kids were playing at the park & the ice cream truck was out so it just sounded & looked so serene. It was one of the first sunny days in a while, and it was so pretty out, I saw so many different kinds of red and brown birds, I literally stopped to smell these beautiful white flowers, i went into this little nature path, i went under a bridge to look at graffiti, I saw a creek and listened to the water flow, I walked by a church and stared at the architecture, then I came back home, listened to purple rain, when doves cry, & 1999 while i was painting, made a beat, then i had pizza with garlic dip, I drank some traditional Ethiopian coffee my mom made with my my parents and siblings, chilled in my room, made more beats, listened to some more music, now I’m here. 

Lifestyle has become my main priority these days. I wanted to be an artist for mad long, and as a kid I used to romanticize the whole struggling artist concept, and I’m definitely still a struggling artist, but I have a great quality of life because I prioritize it. I have a great day everyday. I know how to curate a vibe, and after all these years of reading about Basquiat and Warhol and all these people, I realized that the life you live outside of your actual creative output is the source of your creative output. 

Hip Hop is what led me here. I spend my days in alleys full of graffiti, doing graffiti, freestyling, I make beats every single day, I'm a prolific and relatively successful underground producer with hundreds of songs under his belt, I can’t help but rap about my life, I am the embodiment & evolution of Hip Hop, I know every part of it, and I am every part of it. 

The life of a beatmaker is like being an archaeologist of life, we have to dig for music, and digging for music means digging for sounds, for art, for scenes, for genres, for fashion, for videos, for movies, for locations, for movements, for feelings, for experiences, for political, social, & religious messaging, and that's how I live my life.

Not to sound conceited but I knew I was instantly good at music production as a kid, I knew what I liked to hear and I instantly started seeing success, I used to make money from djing parties when I was 14, and I’ve always grown up with my parents taking us around live music and bands so I always knew how to put sounds together & I knew what I liked and how to make it, the only things that gave me a hard time at first were some of the technical aspects of actually getting started but once I got the software's & figured it out, I quickly knew that I knew how to do it well, and I was eager to learn how to do it in the best ways, and hip hop gave me the perfect outlet through sampling.

I used to use my sisters macbook to get on garageband when I was 9 and it came to me naturally, I knew what collection of ingredients I needed to cook up and arrange the sounds I wanted to hear. I grew up mythologizing guys like J Dilla, Madlib, Ye, DJ Screw, Pharrell, Tyler The Creator, Rza, DJ Premier & Q Tip, and that's the lifestyle I've always wanted to emulate.

I've always wanted to become a michelin star chef level hip hop producer which means being a student of life. If you look at people like Nigo & Basquiat who both borrowed sampling from hip hop, what made them who they were was the lifestyle around the music and how curious they were about sampling from life. From their favourite movies, to their favourite artists, to records, to favourite designers & designs, they would just take it, incorporate it into their work and make it their own. From Nigo sampling the planet of the apes and the airforce 1 design to Basquiat sampling the Mona Lisa, Flash & Cy Twombly and mixing it with his own haitian and african expressions.

Virgil Abloh was someone who took this idea to its extremes with him fully taking entire Nike designs and Caravaggio paintings and only slightly changing them because everything was about the sentiment the product gave him, more than the need for originality, and the older I get as a hip hop producer the more I can see where he's coming from. I do that too, I'll go to an art galley and if I find something that relates to what I'm working on I just use the painting for an album cover.

Sometimes I want to break a sample down and make an entirely new song with multiple layers, especially when I was younger because people would try to downplay the art of sampling, but sometimes I have a really strong emotional connection to this one part of this song and I want to loop it so I can hear it over and over, and I don't want to change anything about it, and I don't care if you know where its from, I want you to know, if I lived in the categorical empirical copyright world then I would overthink it and force myself to create something I didn't like, which is something I used to do when I first started, but as a 25 year old man I realize that I just want to express, arrange and curate things that make me feel good, and that goes from music to how I live my life and the environments I'm in.

Today I am constantly living out my dreams. My dreads are grown out like I imagined so I can live my Basquiat dreams, every time we make a beat, paint, dj, hit a blunt, put on a pink polo, go skateboarding, or eat ice cream we’re living out our Pharrell, Ye, Tyler The Creator Awge, ice cream skate supreme bape dreams. 

When I was 22 I went to Paris for a week when I didn't have the money for it just so I can go to the different book stores, jazz clubs and museums from the louvre to the dali museum cause I knew that's what Miles Davis, Virgil & Ye did in their creative pursuits. I've spent my 20s trying to do everything that I wanted to do as a teenager but couldn’t do, anything I found even remotely cool that I wanted to imitate, I try to live out every music video & movie scene, every outfit & experience. I look for new experiences, things that inspire me or peak my interest, find rare movies and recordings of songs, wear things that inspire me, research history and philosophy, eat new things that taste good, meet & spend time with cool people, do things that feel good and have a great time.

The other day I had on brown timbs, green cargo pants, a grey polo shirt, under a black sweater, under a levis jean jacket, under a leather jacket, under a Canada Goose Jacket, I was doing graffiti in an alley, then I linked up with my favourite graffiti artist in the city for the second time in my life while he was actually doing graffiti, and I saw this incredible sketch artist that just chills on stoops and draws people all day. I was freestyling in the alley and I was certain this must be exactly how Biggie felt.

I went to the movie theater, watched Emma Stones Poor Things which was one of the craziest things I ever saw, I went to a thrift store and looked through racks of vintage clothes, then I went to the record store and looked at the new releases, then the 75 cent record section for different interesting album covers for samples, I got a buffalo chicken sandwich from my favourite diner and spoke to my favourite cashier.

I looked at the pink sunset and I philosophized on the world. I went to 5 clubs on the same street to hear the different types of music they’re playing inside, I saw a jazz concert, a country concert, a rap concert, and several dj’s that played everything from house music to Natasha Bedingfield to Tory Lanez, I dapped up my favourite bouncer, I talked to some of the musicians, I took some pictures and videos of the architecture, I took some fit pics for the gram, I met a really nice girl from Peru who told me she was from the city Kuzco which made us start talking about the emperors new school which was where I heard the name Kuzco, then I window shopped the stores on the street for things that peak my interest, from designs to books to architecture, anything that I find inspiring in any way or that relates to something about something I was thinking about or want to make,

I am in the process of crafting an album again, and it's a cycle I’ve gotten used to now. It happens by itself, I start making songs, certain themes show up in various pieces of art and situations, certain moments in my life coincide with concepts I’m looking into and the picture starts to form itself and before I know it I’m sitting on a whole new body of work.

I’ve been waking up everyday for the past 3 months listening to A love supreme, OK Computer, Bird and Diz, Thelonius Monks Underground, Miles Davis Kind of Blue, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Marvin Gayes What’s Going On, Bob Marley’s Exodus, Prince’s Purple Rain, and music & any album that has been remotely considered a classic, I’ve been making multiple beats every single day, painting, shadowboxing, trying new burger spots, going to art galleries and movie theatres, watching old boxing footage, looking into dragonball training camps and incorporating ideas into my life, looking into African & Ethiopian history and trying to make the greatest thing I ever made.

My life literally consists of watching movies, going to art galleries, clubs, thrift stores, new restaurants, hanging out, collecting stuff and making stuff. I just put on nice clothes, experience the world, compile a bunch of stuff, then make more art about it. I paint, make music, enjoy life then rap about it. 

I don't think life needs to be overthought, it just needs to be lived, & the more I trust the process and follow my inspirations, the better my life is, the more productive I am, the more value I produce, the more value I gain.

In the words of Master Roshi work hard, study well, & eat and sleep plenty, that's the turtle Hermits way to learn.

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