My Kobe Bryant Story: Muse On

I started watching Kobe play late in the 99-00 season. I was 15, eager to watch and learn the game to improve. I had just relocated back to my hometown of Harrisburg, PA, anxiously awaiting to try out for the vaunted Harrisburg High basketball team. I had transferred school late, and with the season already started I had to wait until the following school year. I was an OK player at the time, but I knew I needed to get a whole lot better to make the team. Playing on the basketball team in Harrisburg meant more than just playing the game. It was a right of passage. District and state championships were not only to be strived for, but expected to be won. If you played everybody knew you. You were respected, loved, and admired. I had to make the team next year. This dream had to come true.

It’s February 20, 2000 and the Lakers are playing the Sixers. I actually had turned on the game to watch AI (Allen Iverson) and Shaq, unaware of the type of player Kobe had became. Of course, I was familiar with him before this game, hearing how he mesmerized the crowd in ’97 at All-Star Weekend winning the Slam Dunk Contest. Then, how he elicited the crowd the next year at All-Star Weekend, being selected as a starter in his first All-Star game, going toe to toe with Jordan and showing the world what was to come. So, I knew the guy could play, but watching him in this game against the Sixers in 2000, I noticed something different about him. There was a different aura within him. The confidence was still there, as it always had been, but it was a much more relaxed, controlled confidence. In previous years, Kobe had been much maligned for being a showboat and too cocky, and if that wasn’t enough he tossed up a few air-balls in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz, adding fuel to that opinion. However, in this game, I’m beholding a much more mature player in all facets of the game. The overall skill level – low-post, mid-range, three pointers, recognizing defensive schemes and tactics, court awareness, footwork. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! It’s one thing to be dedicated to the game and getting better, but this was different. This wasn’t just improvement, but this was improvement with a purpose. I could see it in his eyes. He wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone anymore. Well, maybe it was a little bit of that. This was a man on a mission, who had a goal, and wasn’t going to be stopped. I was inspired, to say the least. He instantly became my favorite player, as I tried to model my game after him the best I could. I seen something more in him than basketball that day I didn’t see in any other player at the time. The Lakers would go on to win the championship that year, the first in an eventual three peat, and the rest is history. However, some questions need to be asked and answered. How did he do it? What drove him to be not just good, but great? What fueled him, in just a short period of time, to go from cocky young baller shooting air-balls to NBA champion?

As we were welcomed to Musecage inside Kobe’s Canvas City, I watched intently, chuckling to myself. I wasn’t laughing at Little Mamba, the light-hearted, funny puppet Kobe introduced us to. Although comical, I understood the Little Mamba element to make it kid-friendly and easy to understand, which is great within itself. However, I was chuckling at the hidden genius of it all, wondering if people got the essence of what Kobe is really saying and teaching. It’s truly amazing and genuine, and while some people understand it’s more than basketball, I don’t think most are aware of how personal it is. Canvas City, light and dark muses and muse-cages, Hero-Villain. It’s all there. The answers to the previously asked questions, How did he do it? What drove him? What fueled him? are all there, shared in a creative way to inspire the next generation. To see what Kobe is doing and how he is finding his purpose post career is simply amazing. He is still inspiring me, from the 15 year old kid watching that game in 2000 to a 32 year old man watching Musecage. It’s the same spirit, focus, and drive, just not on a basketball court anymore. You see Kobe wasn’t my favorite player just because he was great, scored a lot of points, and won 5 NBA championships. He was my favorite player and one of my favorite people because he overcame obstacles in a unique, invigorating way and had the courage to leave a legacy on the game he loves, in turn making an impact on those who love him. Only when you have the will to be great and the courage to overcome can you inspire others and leave a lasting legacy. Kobe, thank you for teaching us the game of basketball. Thank you for teaching us the game of life. Muse on.

Application and Implementation

Throughout my journey of life I have come to learn two very different but equally important things: application and implementation. The great business philosopher and personal development master Jim Rohn stated, “If you want things to change, you have to change.” Very true. It all starts with you and in you. Then, the question begs to be asked “What does it take to change?” Desire. You have to want to. You have to be willing to. You have to have enough reasons to. It starts with desire, but it doesn’t end there. Desire is a good starting point, but of course it takes more to start seeing fruitful results. A couple years ago I started a business. I had (and still have) desire – good, but I didn’t have knowledge – bad. I was ignorant to the fact of needing to know. I’m a little impatient too, which made some of my learning curves a little longer in various things, but we’ll talk about impatience another time. So, desire is good but you need to know. Which then leads to application – applying what you know and have come to learn. Very important.

It’s totally pointless and meaningless to learn things, acquire knowledge, but never apply it to your life for positive results. Reading is good, but applying what you read is better. Learning is good, but applying what you learned is far better. It’s always good to know, but never good to JUST know. Make that note. What are you doing with your knowledge? It’s the application of knowledge that’s key. The application of knowledge leads to wisdom – revealing you not only know, but you understand what you know. You understand how to use what you learned effectively. That’s wisdom. In turn, wisdom should lead to implementation. Make that note. Knowledge should lead to application and wisdom leads to implementation. Very important.

Application and implementation. Two very different things, but of equal importance. We figured out wisdom leads to implementation. You understand what you know, now how do you implement it? Another word you can substitute for implement is execute. Desire, knowledge, application, wisdom, now execution. How can you execute what you’ve come to know and understand? Good question. For many the answer might be relative. What I could need to do to implement may be different from what you need to do. However, the one thing which would be good for all is strategy. You have to plan a strategy. A method of implementing what you understand. And of course, that’s relative. We all won’t have the same strategy, and that’s good. We all don’t have the same ideas, so different strategies are needed. So, developing a strategy, a method is the key. Very important. Guess what? It still doesn’t end there. You won’t be done and have it all figured out, but you’ll be on the right path. However, a path desired, known, understood, applied, planned and executed is a good path. All these things work together to remain on and reap the rewards of the good path. Apply then implement. To our success.

Born Leader

Full of Life

I recorded and put out Full of Life in June 2013, not long after Me, Myself, And I. Musically, I was in a great space and I felt like I had written and put out a great song. Personally and internally, I was still hurting, crying out for help even, but I wanted to express my gratitude to God. Although I was hurting I was happy. I was confused, but blessed. I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet, but it felt like I was. I was feeling good, but I still had questions. What do I do? Where do I go? These were legitimate questions I was asking somebody, anybody to answer for me, not just lyrics to fill in a blank space in a song. Full of Life is a mixture of a wide-range of emotions, caught somewhere between carnal reality and spiritual bliss.

When I first recorded and listened to Full of Life I thought, “Man, this is the one.” This is before anyone else heard it. I thought it was a good song because of the beat and mood, but the lyrics took it over the top for me. The words were so real and poignant. My past, present, and future is all in this song. You ever hear someone tell a joke and everybody thinks it’s really funny except you? It’s not because the joke may not be funny, but it could be you weren’t there to witness the origin of the joke. To the people who were there the re-telling of the joke is hilarious. For you, maybe not so much. You weren’t there. It’s kind of how this song is, and my music in general. You would have to know me, my life, my story to appreciate what these words in my music mean to me. I cried after putting out this song. I had mentioned my grandmother in the second verse and I began to think about her. She was such an amazing person. I thought about how proud she would be of me, or even was she proud of me at all. Subconsciously, I think a lot of what I do is to make sure she’s looking down from heaven smiling on me.

The music video for Full of Life was supposed to originally come out in 2013, not long after I released the song. I paid for it, shot the video, but "the person" never gave it to me, released it, or anything. I kept reaching out to him, but he would just lie. Essentially, he took my money and ran. I didn't know what to do. It was good I didn't know where he lived, and for the sake of my love for Jesus and people, I'll leave it at that. However, I found it interesting to go from one dynamic feeling to the polar opposite, in a short amount of time. Making Full of Life I was at a place of euphoria, triumph, the spiritual bliss I mentioned. Then, to go through something so disrespectful to the degree of someone lying and stealing money from you just sucks the life right out you. How could you be "full of life" after that? But, when you think about it, that's all life is. Ups and downs, highs and lows, success and failures, carnal realities and spiritual bliss. It's easy to be or feel full of life when everything is good. The question is can you REMAIN full of life when everything is not? To truly experience life in full you first have to be full of the person who is LIFE. This was my message throughout the song. Yes, it's hard. Yes, I'm hurting. Yes, I'm confused. I'm angry Lord. But I have You. I have Life. I'm blessed. I'm grateful. Full of Life.

Note: Full of Life music video was re-shot, produced, and directed by Darren Stokes of Stokes Entertainment. It would be released in January 2014.

Time Now Records

February 2013 I took another gigantic leap of faith. In addition to going full throttle with creating music I figured I should start a record company to “represent” me, so to speak. As I said I never expected to get signed or anything. It just wasn’t realistic. I was comfortable with that, so I decided I was better suited to start my own. I was always professional in my approach no matter what I was doing, and I always envisioned myself as some sort of businessman, so it just made sense. I would literally dream and could see myself dressed up in a suit, phone in one hand, briefcase in another. I guess those dreams and visions birthed my entrepreneurial spirit.

The name “Time Now” came from a burning desire in my soul. As mentioned above, I always had dreams, vision, and aspirations to be great at something. When I was a kid I had hoop dreams, thoughts of the NBA or NFL. However, I didn’t just dream about it. I practiced and prepared for it. I’ve always been that way. Even though I didn’t make it to the NBA or NFL, it doesn’t negate the work I put in. It doesn’t nullify my desire to be great or my attention to detail. It was time for me to do something. It was time for me to be something. It was time for me to see if I could be the person I always felt and knew I was. It was my time, so Time Now it was.

Starting and managing a business has been extremely difficult, mentally and emotionally draining, and time consuming, and that’s putting it lightly. I have learned a ton, but it’s not for everybody and I would advise for anyone not to start a business if you don’t have partners, friends, relationships, etc. I started mine without the aforementioned, so take it from me – DO NOT DO IT. Take your time. Focus on your craft. Build relationships. However, everybody is different and if you do not have any mentors and/or teachers than you’re going to make mistakes. And that’s ok. Mistakes are great learning experiences. A few months ago I seriously considered pulling the plug on Time Now. Too much time, money, and other things needed, especially in the realm of music. I’ve since changed my mind, to a certain extent. I’ve done too much to just…stop. Besides, even if there is no Time Now or even a music career for that matter, it doesn’t negate the work I put in. It doesn’t nullify the desire to be great or my attention to detail. It just means it didn’t happen. And that’s ok too. Time Now.

Me, Myself, And I

I was upset. I was angry. I was confused. The younger me probably would have lashed out, verbally or even physically depending on the situation. I just got done working my tail off – sacrificing time away from my family, spending money, energy, and effort on my dream only to release Beautiful Day, Beautiful Life and feel like no one cared. I mean it wasn’t like anybody helped me in the making of the project. The least “they” could do was support it right? I needed to vent. This is Me, Myself, And I.

My anger and frustration wasn’t directed at fans. It couldn’t have been. I didn’t have any. I was just branching out, trying to build and grow. I was mad at so-called family and friends. I felt like they didn’t do anything. I felt like they didn’t understand me or how important this was to me. “I wasn’t even trying to get signed,” I would lament in the first verse. I wasn’t trying to be this big, famous artist signed to a big name label. I loved music. I was good at it. I just wanted to express myself and share my life, thoughts, and experiences. I thought that should’ve been supported and celebrated. It wasn’t, or at least it didn’t feel like it was to me. When I ventured out on a music career I didn’t expect fans, a deal, or anything. It was too far-fetched to me. I was a nobody, a ghetto kid from the inner cities of Harrisburg and Chester, PA. However, I did expect family and friends to ride with me.

I was able to find triumph at the end. Nobody but God brought me through this time of transition, anger, and confusion. Through my strong faith in Jesus I was able to lean on Him for understanding. He revealed some things to me about myself and others. I've wrote some pretty touching, emotional songs over the years but this one tops them all. It still hurts to listen to. Brings those emotions right back. It was real and something I needed to do for me. In saying Me, Myself, And I, I wasn't saying "screw everybody I'm doing it on my own." I was saying with God you can triumph over the trials and tribulations of life. Sometimes people won't meet your expectations, but God will always be there to help you surpass what you never thought you could.

Beautiful Day, Beautiful Life

I officially started my music career in January 2012. After years of starts and stops coupled with being at a pivotal point in my life, I decided to take my passion of music seriously and see where it would take me. I didn’t have much money, but I had desire and I was ready to go. I was referred to a studio owner who didn’t charge a lot for recording, so it was a good fit for me at the time. I hit the studio and recorded a few songs. I was excited about finally just being able to record, so I kept going back and before you know it I had about ten songs or so. Since I was ecstatic about recording and my desire was so strong, I decided to put everything out at once, anxious to see what people would think of it and what kind of response it would get.

I entitled it Beautiful Day, Beautiful Life because it summed up my mood and outlook on life. In late 2010 I moved my family from Pennsylvania to Georgia to be closer to my parents who had moved down a year earlier. In Georgia we went through some rough times, so we decided to move back home late 2011. Upon the return home we were able to “get back on our feet” so to speak, although a few months after coming back my wife had our third child and endured some pretty serious health problems. After the move back, moving into our own place, having the baby, working two jobs non-stop and dealing with health scares, I felt blessed because only God could bring us through all of those situations. Everything was beautiful to me. Even when it rained, snowed, sleeted, etc., it was still beautiful. I took nothing for granted and thanked the Lord for sustaining me and my family.

The project was not a success musically. It was rushed, and the sound quality was below standards. A few people bought it and showed support. I was grateful, but nothing happened to suggest I was on my way to a music career. It was tough, and I experienced a melting pot of emotions. I never looked at music as just music. I think that’s one of the reasons (among others) why I never stopped. On Beautiful Day, Beautiful Life I shared my life, my thoughts, my experiences. I shared the beauty of life in the midst of pain, hurt, and struggle. The project wasn’t perfect as aforementioned, but it represented progress and the desire to make something of myself. I’m proud of it, even though I cringe at the glaring missteps. You live. You learn. You grow. Beautiful Day, Beautiful Life.

Check out a studio session freestyle during the recording of Beautiful Day, Beautiful Life: