Categories
Advice Me and Life.

“Aye God if you want me to be a nun…just say dat!” (2/3)

I have stopped and started this post at least 30 times over the past two…now three months. I’ve tried to come at it at different angles. I’ve talked to my friends about it. I’ve even tried to make it a generic post when in reality this is supposed to be a place where my writing is supposed to be one of kind; it’s supposed to be authentic.

The irony of it all is it sounds exactly like my dating/love life.


I first experienced love, an unapologetic love, from my parents and the second time would be with my girlfriends who I am 1000% sure are my soulmates. These relationships are unique, they are dynamic and some of the most sacred and beautiful relationships I have in my life. Things just click and I rarely have to review the terms and conditions (because they don’t exist) and they have given back to me tenfold LIKE THIS SHIT IS BETTER THAN BITCOIN. There’s no anxiety, “peace” is guaranteed and I never ever ever ever have to question whether I can text, call, zoom (whatever the hell we doing now in a panorama) because there is an understood/mutual agreement to access. So with these solid examples of reciprocated love and healthy relationships you would think that I would understand and know how to apply it to other types of relationships right?

Fam you couldn’t be more wrong.

When I think about how I’ve approached liking/loving, dating and relationships in the past I truly laugh (to keep from crying from embarrassment). At one point in my adult life I was completely oblivious to the communication required to maintain a relationship. Like I somehow understood how communication worked with my friends but not my romantic entanglements. I was so nonchalant that I made a guy feel like he was an afterthought…his words not mine. I mean I guess I just assumed everything was fine without checking in (mistake number one…I was doing the bare minimum but in my defense I didn’t have unlimited text messaging so really, my guy, what did you want me to do)?!

I went through another phase where I used my goals as an excuse for why I couldn’t commit. I was enthralled with my studies and blog at the time that I didn’t even take the guy seriously. This man fell in love with me and I was very much so unavailable. So much so that when he finally came to his senses he jokingly said “I think you were the man in this relationship” and I didn’t flinch (mistake number two I wasn’t present…he may or may not speak to me to this day).

Ok now if you thought I had range with those two examples here is a third one for you – me overcompensating because all of sudden I GOT TIME. I had done a complete 180 where I’m like “ok dating is important” lemme go figure out this vulnerability thing right quick, laugh at the mans jokes and get my shit together. HA!

Putting on my smarter than you glasses to spit this free game.

These phases and many other personal and professional life experiences have brought me to where I am now. So here I am to impart my wisdom upon you all because I, too, was one of Lori Harvey’s foot soldiers but enough is enough thou shall not run the streets for all of eternity. We are all here trying to figure it out (well actually some of you because the two friends I know reading this already got mans dem on lock *waves hi friends*).

Here is what I’ve learned and I am continuing to learn:

  1. Liking/loving/dating requires a decision. If you have ever hung out with me you know I am the most indecisive person on this planet. Nothing gives me more anxiety than deciding. If horoscopes are your thing I’m a Libra, so yeah, do with that what you will. What I have learned is that relationships just don’t happen and they don’t miraculously sustain themselves. Being with someone means actively choosing them day in and day out. Go figure! Another thing to keep in mind is that decisions are not permanent, decisions can change at anytime but if you don’t make a decision you will never know peace. Take it from me who struggles to decide on a nail polish color…now throw in a man holding the nail polish bish I might as well roll over and die.
  2. Unfiltered communication and active listening skills are key. You’re probably like “wow groundbreaking stuff Aster…say it again.” And I get it. There are a million and one Cosmopolitan articles on the internet about communication and guess what?! Here goes a million and two because we are still f’ing this part up. For example, I can callout my girlfriends on their BS anytime and anywhere but swap my girlfriends out for a guy and all of a sudden I’m overthinking, journaling, stating my affirmations and calling in my council on how to broach a subject. My best friend one time even pulled out the sage to smudge our apartment! LOL. It ain’t cute…stressed Aster just ain’t cute. So yeah speak up, speak up often and if you aren’t able to then that should be something you reassess because who wants to be in something where they don’t feel like they can say what they need to say when they need to say it. Right? (All this applies to listening as well).
  3. Trust your gut. You know you. That is it. If you feel something is off then it probably is…my gut is right 99.9% of the time (I would say 100% but I’m working on being humble). Now I don’t want you to confuse this with thoughts stemming from insecurities. This is more so that feeling that you can’t shake because you know what is in front of you truly isn’t adding up. The math ain’t mathing and you have every right to act, rationally (of course), on it.
  4. It should be easy. This is my favorite tid-bit and I’m willing to die on this hill. When I used to work for the Mayor’s office back in 2014 -ish I met this woman, who is now my mentor, and she unintentionally taught me everything I needed to know about a happy and healthy relationship. While working I had met her husband and hung out with them a couple times at art events around the city and every time I would catch myself starring in awe at how they just fit. Of course, I only saw what they showed me but my curiosity, during one of our coffee dates, led me to ask her how is it being married. She picked up her cup of coffee, smiled and said “It is easy Asteriye.” I sipped the rest of my coffee like damn sis is that all I get?! Is this what I’m supposed to run back and tell my constituents, village, my tribe aka my girlfriends?!?! I was stressed. But now that I am older I know exactly what she was getting at and I wholeheartedly agree it should be easy. I can also already see you all shaking your heads and before you get your panties in a bunch let me clarify. Relationships take effort yes, relationships require work yes BUT relationships should not leave you drained, tired and/or spent. Think about your friendships – they are relatively easy otherwise why the hell are you friends with them!? I don’t know what is it but something happens when we go into dating mode. It’s like this added pressure makes us think romantic relationships are supposed to have ups, downs, and drama when in reality you (I) want it to mimic some of your closest friendships but with a little extra fun so yeah it should be easy and if it isn’t, make it and if you can’t…leave it.

Whew that was a lot of free game. To unlock all 10 key elements of a successful relationship please pre-order my ebook that will be hitting Amazon this summer titled “Make it Last Forever and Ever: Suggestions From a Fine Ass Single Girl.” (Hehe for my premium content check out my onlyFans). LOL in all seriousness take my advice with a grain of salt because I am a hypocrite and because deciding on people whether romantic or platonic is a very important decision. I’ve had great experiences and met amazing people but bottom line is a person should bring you peace, make you feel good, challenge you and push you to be the best version of you and that’s on what? Mary had a little lamb.

Stay Down,

Astu

Categories
Interview Music Weekend Sum Up

Meet Ras Nebyu

Disclaimer:

This past weekend, I attended the taping of the single “No Love” with every intention of siting down and interviewing the musically inclined Ambessa* himself: Ras Nebyu. Just five minutes into production, I realized there were two stories here – not one.

So, with that being said this article will be a two part installation. The first, obviously, highlighting the artist Ras Nebyu and his video shoot and the second examining the Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora’s role in going hard for its’ members and contributing to the arts.

 Enjoy.

Meet Ras Nebyu

“I need everyone to go upstairs…”

“Wait, lets do that one more time…”

“Sshhhh…”

These phrases and more were in rotation, this past Saturday, as Ras Nebyu and his team directed scenes for the filming of his song “No Love.”

When I arrived, I walked right into a creative whirlwind. Girls hovering around the door, kitchen filled with the necessary libations, people running up and down the stairs, camera man working on lighting, and Nebyu’s song pumping through the sound system. Everything about the atmosphere, screamed house party but the twist here was everyone was working.

Having debut back in April of 2015, the song “No Love” was produced by Casito Del Fresco and mixed by Arckitech. When asked what the song meant Nebyu had this to say:

Basically…”No Love” is about young adults going through relationships and their variations of no love – so whether it’s being heart broken or being the heart-breaker it’s a song from different perspectives. The video concept adds a little comedic twist….like a romantic comedy. [The comedic twist he is referring to is Filmon “Gergish” Yohannes, an Eritrean-American comedian who participated in the video.]

After listening to the lyrics and watching Nebyu perform the song it was obvious that he’s not new to this. With more than 20+ tracks under his belt, a couple sold out shows, and a faithful fan base accompanied with his hardworking team the “Washington Slizzards” – Nebyu is putting on for his city.

Much of Nebyu’s influences can be attributed to his desire to stay true to his culture which is an amalgamation of both Rastafarian and Pan-African philosophy. (Being a part of the large DMV Habesha network has also been a major factor in his musical career – a factor to be later examined.) His music is a blend of, what Africology Media best described as, “socially conscious content and leisure listening.” Nebyu’s “woke-ness” is probably most visible in his hit song “Washington Slizzards” and is reaffirmed by his Manager Beteley Solomon who says “you’ll never find Nebyu insulting women or just rapping about anything.” (Which, to me, is to be praised in a world where a lot of our jams are plagued with raunchiness and catchy hooks that make no sense. No shade here just facts, my friend.)

To listen to “No Love” see SoundCloud link below and for all things Ras Nebyu visit these links: Facebook, SoundCloud, and you can find him on social media by searching @RasNebyu. To book him or connect with his management please email: Rasnebyubiz@gmail.com.

Video Release Date: TBA

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Artist Adonay G., MC Ras Nebyu, Manager Beteley S.

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Ras Nebyu on set of “No Love”

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Chop N Shoot Video Production directing Ras Nebyu’s “No Love”

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Washington Slizzards X SDBUP

Pictures provided by Kedest Photography

*Ambessa – the Amharic word for Lion.

Stay Down Blaze Up,

Astu Mengesha

Categories
Entrepreneur

The 10 Year Anniversary of Kanye West’s Late Registration

     The subjectivity of music creates some of the most difficult questions to answer. John Lennon or Paul McCartney? What’s the greatest hip-hop group of all time? *NSYNC or The Backstreet Boys? Certainly there are no wrong answers… but if you didn’t answer Lennon, Outkast, or Backstreet Boys then you, just like Sway, do not have the right answers, but never mind that! When Chicago rapper Kanye West isn’t spazzing on radio personalities or designing sneakers, he’s creating monumental albums that always seem to modify the trajectory of current urban music. The debate of which of Kanye’s six studio solo albums are better could have you sleeping on the couch. And while they all serve different purposes, the 10th anniversary of Late Registration has arrived still marveling as his crowing achievement.

      What truly makes Kanye so special is that the depth of his personality oozes into his multifaceted artistry. There’s socially aware Kanye, arrogant Kanye, producer-extraordinaire Kanye, experimental Kanye and so on and so forth. An in-depth analysis of the superstars catalog shows that Late Registration best embodies Kanye’s presentation.

     Following one of the most impressive debut albums of all time, Kanye uses this album to leap from ya auntie nem’ favorites rapper to genius level artist. Wanting you to know that as soon as you press play on track one, “Heard ‘Em Say” is accented by the first “That white boy can sing” of the new millennium, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. In today’s landscape, a pop rap collaboration isn’t exactly earth shattering, but in 2005 there weren’t too many rappers afforded the luxury of collaborating with a pop star of the opposite race. But his most exciting collaboration had to be with actor/comedian Jamie Foxx on “Gold Digger.” Fresh off Foxx’s Oscar winning performance of music legend Ray Charles, the track interpolates Charles ‘s “I Got a Woman” straddling the fine line of catchy and corny landing Kanye’s biggest hit to date selling over 3 million records.

     But the hit records aren’t focal points for listeners on the sophomore LP. It’s the detailed attention of producer Jon Brion, whose claim to fame was masterfully crafting Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine the same year. Kanye’s willingness to be produced acquaints him to the world of orchestration, which has never carried the bulk of a hip-hop project like on Late Registration.

Kanye x Jon Brion x A-Trak
Kanye x A-Trak x Jon Brion

“Touch the Sky”, the only track not produced by West or Brion, samples the horns of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” giving the predominantly moody album a dash of triumph. The project is Kanye’s first attempt at being emotive without having to lyrically stress the emotion. The drums on “Crack Music” are abrasive enough to convince you that the world is collapsing. The magic between West and Brion as collaborative instrumentalist is that they are able to guide you to empathy on essentially every song on the album.

     The lyrics of Late Registration serve as the perfect endorsement for the dark undertone of the album. As his other albums tend to lean on Kanye’s braggadocio, this album revolves primarily around the Chicago emcee’s skepticism. “Dog, I was having nervous breakdowns, like “man these n*ggas that much better than me?”” is more vulnerable than most rappers are willing to admit to. From the jealousy filled story on “Drive Slow”, to the alluring metaphors about a dying grandmother on “Roses”, to the brutally honest social commentary of “Crack Music” Kanye uses different avenues to conjure imagery completing the prism of who he truly is.

     For an album that is such a sobering listen, Late Registration does give you glimpses of bliss and lightheartedness. At its release, a virtually unknown DeeRay Davis exerts comic relief with skits that double as threading from track to track. On “Skit #3” DeeRay tells a joke about his mother not being able to afford a Christmas tree so she dressed up as one for her family. The skit abruptly transitions into “Hey Mama,” which was the most joyous song on the album until the passing of Kanye’s mother in 2007.

     Due to unfortunate circumstances and bitter breakups, people assume that 808’s & Heartbreaks is Kanye’s most transparent album, but Late Registration is musically a better embodiment of all aspects of what we like and dislike about producer turned rapper. Ten years after its release, the album still qualifies as a snapshot of the past, but modern enough to have an obligation in the future to make us think, laugh, dance, and cry. What more could we ask fo’ from the International Asshole?

Dequan Huggins is a writer living in Virginia. Follow him on Twitter here

Categories
Entrepreneur Xtradope

The Black Excellence of Jaden Smith: Let Freedom Ring

Seriously, how envious are you that you aren’t the offspring of Will and Jada Smith? Like your fathers arguably the most talented black man of all time, and your mother is a beautiful ultra creative. Essentially, life is set up on a silver platter for you served by your butler named Geoffrey. The money your father makes alone has literally bought you the opportunity to do nothing the rest of your privileged life. This may define the majority of lethargic Hollywood tweens, but not 17-year-old musician, actor, and philanthropist Jaden Smith.

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Ghetty Images

Strolling down different creative avenues of expression, Jaden has exhibited promise in each of his multi-talents. In 2010, Jaden gave us glimpse of his musical inheritance on Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never.” Okay, he was 12, but through a series of trial and error in mixtapes and videos, Jaden was able to find his niche as a perplexing stream of conscious rapper.

Following in the footsteps of his parents, Jaden got his first taste of the silver screen in 2006 alongside his father in the film The Pursuit of Happyness. The performance was solid enough to land him a staring role in the rebooted Karate Kid series in 2010. The film grossed over 300 million worldwide; which positions him for future summer blockbusters, if he chooses to wholeheartedly pursue acting.

Jaden Smith in Karate Kid in 2010
Jaden Smith in Karate Kid in 2010

As the awkward preteen years have passed, the thirst for individuality is discovered. Starting first with appearance– tight animal print pants, a Batman costume at KimYe’s wedding, his attempt to break gender norms with dresses– Jaden has shown rules clearly don’t apply to him. But appearance is only surface deep, and Jaden’s intelligence may be his most unique set of skills. As social media becomes the epicenter of the world, Jaden has chosen Twitter as his display case. The tweets are the perfect proportion of wisdom, common sense, and WTF that leave no other option but thought provocation.

Recently, an impromptu video surfaced of Jaden discussing the importance of finding yourself at any expense. Jaden’s monologue veers on a tangent highlighting how important it is to live vicariously through your idols– citing Kanye, Drake, and Tyler, the creator as his inspiration. He essentially wants what all creatives want– the opportunity to learn and live with as little creative control as possible. Certainly this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this — I mean two years ago Kanye dropped about fiftyleven of these. And as Kanye gets older… and daddy-er, his willingness to shatter every glass ceiling diminishes leaving room for the young to study and surpass. Social media hasn’t been the most friendly to young Jaden’s honesty. It’s either panned as hyperbolic genius or common sense, as if common sense is a bad thing…as if it warrants skepticism of your intelligence. Judgment can be painful, especially during your teenage years, but Jaden’s pursuit of freedom and creativity sync with his privilege making him one of the most important black children of all time.

What if the advantages of being the spawn of black excellence are the same as the disadvantages? The Smiths may be the second most important modern black family behind the Obamas (watch out for the Currys with the shot boy!). One of the most beautiful ideologies in the world is universal black admiration, but how convenient is that luxury at the expense of freedom? Being different can put your last name in jeopardy if you’ve strayed to far from the nest of comfort. With 24-hour “news” coverage, the media has essentially made it impossible for a famous 20-something year old to be a 20-something year old. And with Jaden and Malia approaching the age of exploration, its interesting to see how the how much leeway will be given to the first children of the black upper class.

Being misunderstood can be uncomfortable. Having the courage to get knocked down by a ruthless world, dust yourself off, and re-present what you think is your best creative self exemplifies gumption. His music and tweets are discounted as gibberish that is fake-deep and half-baked, but when listening with an open mind it emotes all the endless insecure ambitions your young adult brain will allow. Jaden ventures from idea to idea knowing the destination is to be as creatively free as possible– even if he isn’t sure which vehicle to use. Deep down, all of us live through Jaden and the optimistic youth just like him who are aware that the odds are against them, but blissfully ignorant enough to bet on themselves anyway.

Dequan Huggins is a writer living in Virginia. Follow him on Twitter here 

Categories
Clothes . . . Entrepreneur Interview

Broccoli, Broccoli, Broccoli Fest

Broccoli Fest hit DC, this past weekend, and it was mind-blowing. It brought creative souls from every corner of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia to the East Gateway Pavilion located in South East DC. The festival included what every great festival considers essential; artsy vendors, food trucks, couple of hula hoopers and a performance line up that ensured a good time.

The organization, Broccoli, was launched in 2009 by Brandon McEachern as an effort to “develop innovative strategies on living healthier and more sustainable lifestyles, while empowering communities to make informed decisions about their health and environment.”   Just about everything at BCFest incorporated the theme of green: in the VIP room you could find mason jars with broccoli stems poking out from the top and signs on trash cans asking attendees to recycle. Overall it was a well thought out and executed event.

I was super excited to be there but even more excited to meet the masterminds behind some of the pop-up shops. I talked with a lot of people but two specific vendors stood out the most.

Meet Phillip Loken aka OG Swagg Jesus the Don II

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He was sitting on a table minding his own business when of course I came and disturbed the peace! Here is what you should know about the Don: He is a student at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he currently runs a mens fashion blog called Cool and Well Dressed that highlights up and coming clothing lines, and he is an artist that works with all mediums. Don was at the festival with a clothing line that he works closely with Avant Garde. Expect to see more from SDBUP on OG Swagg Jesus the Don II. In the meantime follow him here: KingPhill_ and read more about him here http://newsandfeatures.uncg.edu/phillip-loken-fashion-blog-uncg/#sthash.74IKrleJ.dpbs

Meet Ryan Lindsay

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The event was full of clothing lines. Some of them good some of them bad, in my opinion, I had to have met at least two or three designers all preaching about their lifestyle brand but none of them struck a chord with me like Gloss Rags “And Counting” tee. I saw the controversial names listed on a black tee and thought to myself who would have the audacity to print these names on a tee and it all came full circle when I met Ryan Lindsay. Here is what she had to say about her involvement with #BCFEST and her tee.

Astu: “How did you find out about the festival?”

Ryan: “I found out about BCFest through a couple of my friends who are a part of Rock Creek Social.”

Astu: “Explain the shirt for me.”

Ryan: “The shirt came as an idea after having attended the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. I was making signs with a youth organization called GapBusters and these names really stuck to me, this was back in August, and to think that the list started at 5 and all of a sudden I had to add Jordan. That is where the name ‘And Counting’ comes from…power, passion, purpose – I’m sure you will get stares or stopped when you wear this shirt but it is worth it.”

Follow her on instagram: @randigloss and visit her site: http://www.glossrags.bigcartel.com

 

 

All in all, the event was eye-opening and I do plan on attending many more BC Fests!

Shout out to our honorary camera woman Kedest Firdaweke.

Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up