My Kids as Pokemon

 

Inspired by my two girls love for Pokemon and having just watched Detective Pokemon, I had the idea to create Pokemon characters of each of my girls and do some sketches of them.

The first one (left image) is “Ezzybear”which is my youngest, and is actually her nickname. I did a bear Pokemon who can harness power from the round chamber in her stomach, known as “the powerhouse” which is also a nickname for my daughter based on her short, strong, and powerful stature.

The second one, (right image) is my oldest, and I call this Pokemon, “Noodella”.  My oldest girl has a longer, skinnier stature, and a penchent for eating noodles of all kind, so her nickname, we call her is noodles. For this Pokemon, I made her entirely of noodles and her power is wrapping her opponent up or turning into a ball of noodles that can roll over her enemy.

Size Ain’t S@#t!…R.I.P. Bushwick Bill

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Rumors of Bushwick Bill’s demise were greatly exaggerated, the morning of June 9th when social media had prematurely reported that he passed from his battle with Cancer only to be disspelled by his family members, as still alive and fighting for over the next 24 hours.  He did eventually lose his battle on the evening of June 10th, but I thought it was only fitting given this man’s career and character.

As a fellow, long time hip hop musician, if you ask me what is the greatest rap album and my favorite music album of all time is, I often refer to the early nineteen ninetees Rick Rubin and Def American, produced “Geto Boys”, self titled album.  The Geto Boys were a Houston Texas based gangster rap group that Bushwick Bill was part of and that released this self titled album when gangter rap as a musical genre and cultural phenomenon was rising to prominence with groups like NWA and artists like Ice T and Ice Cube.  This album and this group was particularly unique not just because of the music, but because of the motley crew of group members.  Bushwick Bill was literally a midget who used this physical stature to create a unique persona and perspective that fit so naturally into the insane nature of this group and it’s music.

One of the singles on the album, and a Bushwick Bill solo effort, “Size ain’t S@#t”, summed it up best.  He proclaimed that he “might be short but wasn’t taking no shorts”, which epitomized his mentality and his fight for the disenfranchised, oppressed minority community he came from and the fight out of the deplorable conditions he grew up in.  Having referred to the myriad of physical conflicts he encountered in his life for being a small person, he turned his stature from small to large, both metaphorically with this kind of music and lyrics, and physically as a member of a historic, multi platinum selling music group.

I remember having viewed the cover of the album, and the black and white mugshot was not telling enough to surmise Bushwick’s physical size, and the attitude and aggression of the music itself made this fact even harder to determine.  It wasn’t until other pictures and interviews took place, as the group gained mainstream notoriety, and then subtle references in his music to his size, could be gathered, that I shockingly discovered this about Bushwick Bill.  It was when I found out this fact, that I was not only more intrigued about this artist, this group, and this music, but that I was also inspired.

As a volatile and impressionable teenager around the time of this music, I too felt challenged by the “big world” around me.  As an ethnic minority myself and having grown up in a place that challenged this fact in many different ways, I could relate to Bushwick, who had grown up on the receiving end of constant challenges.  I was fascinated by his unapologetic, demand to disregard these so called limitations and fight to be treated as an equal.  His references to getting respect one way or the other, although many times violent, and proving his belonging to a world much bigger than him, was in inspiration to me.  His courage not to back down or be type cast and forge his way with unbridled ferocity, grit, and toughness helped show me a way through my own life challenges. His fiery disposition and big energy that came across in his music helped fuel my own music and creativety.

It wasn’t just his ferociousness that defined him and his music.  Bushwick had a huge amount of charisma and crazy wrapped up in a small package.  Whether it was his macabre, cinematic story telling or violent, dark humor, in interviews and his music, he was always so intriguing and original, especially when you consider the manufactured image of most of his fellow gangster rap comtemporaries.  His music and style was always unique, with horror movie references like Chucky and Phantom of the Opera, eye patches, braids, overalls, and just strange dark tropes that he would espouse.

When the Geto Boys dropped their most commercially successful album, “We Can’t be Stopped” and the cover was a real picture of Bushwick being rushed to the emergency room having shot his own eye out, we got a glimpse into the chaos and darkness of this man’s life. This kind of emotional vulnerability that came from a suicide attempt was unheard of in the often guarded, bravado, and posturing personas tha existed in gangster rap music.  At the height of his commercial success as a musician we got to hear through interviews and in his actual music, stories of a troubled soul that had faced the ultimate adversity of nearly losing his life, and then later we got to hear of his redemption and rise again.

And at 52 when he passed fighting cancer long after it was diagnosed and announced publicly, we saw the short man live a long, fruitful life and create a legacy that will be remembered for a very long time.

R.I.P. Bushwick Bill… pound for pound, inch for inch, on of the baddest motherf@#kers that existed on the earth!

 

Creative Theory Part 1:Overcoming Fear and Excuses and Beginning the Creative Process.

“The hardest part of creativity is just getting started.  We tell ourselves why we shouldn’t write the words, or stroke the brush, or play the note.  We tell ourselves that we don’t have this or enough of that in order to become the author, the artist, or the musician we might seeourselves becoming. We tell ourselves that we don’t have any business being part of the creative world because we are not worthy, or not good enough, or skilled enough.  We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t even try because we will only get hurt and humiliated, and that we should stick with what we know. Our creative craft never gets better, because it never begins, because of these fears and excuses. “

I recently had a conversation with someone close to me and we were talking about the challenge of overcoming the fear and resistance that meets one before the creative process even takes place.  I had told them that I was attempting to write my first novel (more on that later), and how daunting the idea of this was, having been new to the novel writing process.  The fear and daunting nature of this creative endeveor were comprised of a few things.

One, this being a new venture and medium for me, I quickly began to think about those experienced writers out there, educated, fully immersed, and well versed in this specific creative medium.  I thought about the very best and the legends of, and at the height of this trade, and those with the peak refinement of their craft.  I began to compare my novice self to their expert level of skill and their credentials and I quickly began to be discouraged.  I started to tell myself that I have a lot of audacity to even want to try my hand at this, given the well established names that exist in this world and the historical relevance of this particular medium, i.e. writing books.  This fear of not being worthy or skilled enough compared to those who were, discouraged me from even trying my hand at it.

A second form of resistance surfaced, when considering the idea of writing my first book.  This was a scarcity of resources that I began telling myself , existed, and were reasons why it was futile to even try.  This scarcity of resources, were things like, I don’t have a person in the literary world to help my writing, proofreading, and to bounce ideas off of.  I don’t have an educational background in this thing.  I don’t have the means or adequate research tools to validate my writing.  Things like, who is going to listen to little old me, that is not a professional expert in what he is writing about.  Again, it was more excuses on why not to try, and in this case it was because I don’t have enough of this or that.

The third barrier that confronted me before I even started to write my first word, was comfort and complacentcy.  There were things that I was comfortable with, had invested a lot of time in, and decent enough at, specifically in the creative world, that had me telling myself that I should stick with what I know or am good at and not try anything new, like writing. If I were to try something new and uncertain, I risk failure or risk finding out that I might not be good at it.  By leaving the comfort zone of what I know I can do and am familiar with, I were to risk facing criticism and rejection from others.  And again, it was more excuses on why I shouldn’t try, because this wasn’t in my wheelhouse and wasn’t something that I was use to, or knew I could be good at it.

Good news is that despite all of this resistance and excuses, I decided to plow forward and try my hand at writing a book.  After unpacking all these excuses I was telling myself, I realized they were nothing more than excuses born from my fear of failure and uncertainty.  I thought a lot about my other creative endeveaors and skills and I realized that with those, I was once in this exact starting position of fear and apprehension. It wasn’t until I discarded these kind of excuses and just started the creative process before I gained any kind of confidence, momentum, or refinement.  I also thought about other creative endeveours that were failed, and how with many  of them I didn’t learn that I truly disliked them or decided to cease  doing them until after I began the process, or tried my hand at them. I thought about the growth process and refinement of creative craft and how it can only take place after that first stroke of the brush or first note is played.  Sure, misstrokes take place and bad notes are played along the way, but they are part and partial of the learning and growth of the creative process.

By silencing our internal chatter and diving in and then fully immersing ourselves in the creative process and not worrying about the background or baggage, beforehand, and not focusing on the results or outcome that take place after, we allow ourselves to begin the creative process and truly see the creative process all the way thru its life cycle.  The authenticity that comes from being fully immersed and indulgent in the creative process itself and not focused on the external before and after, of the process, makes us worthy of any of our creative comtemporaries, regardless of status , accolades, or accomplishments.  This is because the process itself is everything and we must put everything into beginning and completing the process itself.

 

 

The Emulation Theory : A Chiptune Adventure – Programmed by Sickman VC

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Here it is, a new EP, compliments of yours truly.  This is quite a departure from my normal hip hop stylings but listeners will definitely hear the hip hop influence, even in this chip tune experiment. Family duties and just being a responsible adult take away from my indulgence, but video games have been, since I was young, and still remain a regular part of my life.  That said, my childhood began with Atari and Arcades but really peaked as a kid from the Nintendo 8 bit era all the way thru the 16 bit Sega Genesis days.  Haven taken long lapses, but ultimately coming back to gaming, I have kept my eyes on nearly every iterations of gaming, all the way up to the current generation.  Finding myself playing a lot of retro games as well as modern games created in the retro format, and being a lifetime as a musician, I found myself obsessed with some of the retro gaming music.  Notably, Yuzo Koshiro as well as the classic gaming tunes of Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania, and Super Mario.  This obsession even led to following and listening to chip tune music, i.e. Anamanaguchi, as well as the soundtracks to modern games.

So for this experimental project, I took my current gear and setup (for those who have kept up with my journey, will recall that I finally got my setup down so I can focus on creating new music instead of experimenting with different gear and tweaking the setup) and I wanted to take a break from hip hop, just to see what I could do.  Of all the experiments I considered, video game music felt the most organic and comfortable genre.  I could easily recall the sounds and the style of my favorite video game tunes over the years and having recently gotten comfortable with the command of the music tools at my disposal, this was a quick, fun, and light project for me.  I used much of the knowledge I’ve acquired over years of hip hop production, composition, and song writing and was able to apply it to making these relatively simple chip tune instrumental tracks.

Since this was a fun, side project for me, I didn’t spend much time, tweaking each instrument and sound and adding effects and doing intricate, methodical mixing like I would for my hip hop records.  After all, retro video game music was very limited as far as audio tools at the composers disposal so I did not want to depart from that simplistic sensibility, even if in my case, it was not a limitation that forced the decision to go basic.

As far as the instruments and sounds go, I tried to use sounds, especially at the top end, having an 8 bit retro feel, with bright synths, and bleeps and bips for bass, and low bit rate strings and pianos.  I even filtered the final two track stereo mixes of each song with the infamous 12 bit SP1200 drum machine sound to give it a more vintage feel and pay homage to my bread and butter, hip hop.  Speaking of, with a lot of the drums and percussion,the hip hop producer in me used more hi fi sounds and drum kits, but I think this worked out. I wanted to encapsulate both the 8 bit and 16 bit eras since they were both the impressionable gaming eras of my childhood.  The 16 bit era marked better sound chips in gaming consoles and gave a more hi fi sound experience to video games as well as the birth of CD Rom gaming introduced live recorded CD audio tracks with no instrument and sound limitations, per say.  Since the highs and mids on most of this EPS songs were inspired by 8 bit gaming, the more hi fi drum sounds paid homage to the 16 bit era.  This better low end also made for a more palatable and versatile  listening experience, especially in the modern landscape of music, rather than being relegated and limited to a novel, but throw away retro gaming music experiment.

When making this music, I tried to imagine an entire video game from beginning to end.  This way, the listener has a theme and title screen song at the beginning, and then the listener can follow the gaming protagonist as they journey through various game levels, until finally, the journey comes to a close and the final ending song takes place. Each stage of the game had a fully imagined environment, mood, and atmosphere which inspired the sounds and music notes.

As for the name of this EP, it was a fun play on the popular, ultra modern, “simulation theory”, but since it was a tribute to retro gaming, I called it Emulation which represents emulations of retro games. Lastly, the pixel art is compliments of my designer extraordinaire, wife, and is meant to look like an 8 bit video game title screen, with the only thing missing, the “press start” and ” options”!

This one was short and sweet, and a blast, no pun intended, to make, so I hope all my listeners, even my hardcore hip hop heads, enjoy!

The Emulation Theory: A Chiptune Adventure- Programmed by Sickman VC (tracklist)

01_The Heroes Journey (75 bpm)

 

02_First Encounter (120 bpm)

 

03_Digging Deep (75 bpm)

 

04_The Overworld (55 bpm)

 

05_Platformance (57 bpm)

 

06_Adversity (110 bpm)

 

07_The Road to Victory (90 bpm)

 

 

Goodbye My Friend…

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It’s with a very heavy heart that I share the news that a best friend, family member, and bringer of joy in my life has passed. My beloved English Bulldog, Boodha has left this world at twelve and a half years of age.

I don’t know where to begin as far as describing his role in my life and the lives of my family. In his twelve plus years of existence, not a day passed in which I didn’t pour love, affection, and attention into him and he always reciprocated it in spades by bringing joy, humor, and drama in my life.

He fit every stereotype of his bulldog breed; tough, stubborn, powerful, and dignified. Tough, all the way up to his  last dying moments when his heart appeared to be quitting on him but he kept snapping back into consciousness and fighting the surrender until it was no more.  Stubborn, when he would fight tooth in nail, in defiance to go on long daily walks only to eventually enjoy them, once I could get him started. Powerful, like when he was playing tug a war with two fully grown pitbulls at the dog park and pulling both of them, mouth bloody, and refusing to let go, until I intervened.  And lastly, dignified as he stood proudly at my wedding looking on this momentous occasion with a regal tuxedo tie on, and chin up in the air, as if he knew his rightful place in this moment.

He also fit the alpha, K-9, archetype written about in the pages of books and projected on the silver screen. He was fiercely loyal, protective, and tender and gentle with our family, aka his pack. So loyal, always by my side, when in the midst of large crowds at the many events and festivals we frequented with him, or at the beach, or at dog parks, never straying too far, with a watchful eye. Never did I have to worry about him escaping his leash and fleeing like some sort of fugitive of justice. The rare times he wasn’t with me, he showed his loyalty when our time apart ended in a sort of rejoiced, reunion, that he would show in his own unique and subtle style, but not in the “jump up on you and lick your face” variety.  Protective, when he would bark at the sights and sounds of a tv screen, at percieved threats such as dogs, bears, etc., especially in the prescence of my wife. With Boodhas powerful prescence I always had the feeling of safety and  security and the understanding that he would do whatever it takes to protect me and the family from any physical threats. Was he a guard dog? Far from it, but aside from the toungue and cheek, “beware of dog” sign we posted, if you were a stranger and you entered the house, one look at him at the top of the stairs and believe you me, you might want to go the other way.  Like the time he got loose outside and lunged at a cable installer working on our neighbors house, or the time he lunged at my friends face, when they decided to get down on his level while playing fetch with him.  Finally, Boodha was always tender and gentle to his pack aka our family. Whether with our often annoying cat who liked to pick on him, or with my pregnent wife, or with our two daughters, he always showed a soft and gentle side to them, never doing more than sniffing them, and never displaying jealous, excitable  or hostile behavior towards them. We won’t count the time he nipped my daughters hand during a 4th of July celebration , since it was a clear attempt to protect the pack by extinguishing the fireworks. Never once do I recall having to worry or correct him for inflicting harm on the physically  vunerable members of the family. As a matter of fact, I had to correct the family members instead of him because I had the sense that he would never harm them even if he was at the receiving end of their provocation.

My beloved Boodha also defied plenty of conventions. Despite his breed and the shorter life span and known health issues, he lived five years beyond the average age of his contemporaries and never had the myriad of health issues so synonymous with these dogs. As a matter of fact, despite the powerful build, he would always surprise me with his speed, agility, and stamina, whether that was the long hikes we would take with him, playing with other dogs, or playing tug a war with his favorite rubber  rings, or fetch with his favorite green ball. Even when he was old and half blind he approached fetch with the same intensity as in his youth and even partaked in this favorite game of his, with me, on his very last day alive.  As for his health, besides chronic skin issues from time to time, frequent and potent flatulence, and a few, close overheating scares, he was a model of health and vitality that defied the odds. He always kept a healthy appetite and was mobile all the way up to the night  of his passing.  Despite his “meat head”, lumbering, appearance, he was no dimwit either. His ability to follow commands and know what you were asking of him were second to none. Whether that was training him to go up and down stairs in a specific manner and position or training him to sit on command before receiving a treat, his ability to pick it up quickly was uncanny. Now once he learned something, whether he chose to listen or comply was a whole another story!

Lastly, even though he wasn’t a human companion, he defied my expectations of what a true bond and friendship could be. He was unconditional about everything he did for me and his only concern seemed to be showing his love and bringing joy in my life. Sure, he made me mad sometimes, and he made me cry like right now, and he also made me laugh all the time, but most importantly, my quality of life was better with him.

So in his passing I have to go back to his last moments on this earth because it epitomizes how his life and our relationship was:

After a routine day with Boodha that culminated in his favorite game of fetch with his cherished green ball, with me in our man cave, while watching sports, he uncharacteristically clamored to go outside and proceeded to behave very strangely. At that point, I had the suspicious feeling it might be time. So late at night, as he lied on the ground with me and my wife, and I watched him close his eyes for the last time and drift away forever, I thought to myself how I would so dearly miss my friend. However, I also rejoiced and sought solace that he lived a fulfilling life and gave me a fulfilling life in return. He got to leave this world in my arms, a way so  fitting for him, with so much grace, dignity, and beauty, without pain and suffering.

And so I say, “Boodha, I will forever remember you, and you will be missed my best friend and family member. I am eternally grateful for the gift of joy that you brought me and my family and the lessons of unconditional love that you taught me.”

 

The 2018 Sasquatch Sketch Collection

This was the entire collection of sasquatch sketches I did last year, over the course of 2018. Most of these were very rough sketches and very gesture driven just to experiment with different poses, creature anatomy, and habitat, and establish some basic light and shadow. I am considering taking my favorite ones or favorite aspects from this collection and doing refined versions of them.

 

“Ashitaka vs The Boar Demon”- Day Three from 3-15-19

This is day 3’s progress on “Ashitaka vs The Boar Demon” from my fantasy art, Studio Ghibli inspired drawing series.  This might be my final touches but i focused on making the darks heavier and subtracted subtle lighting with an eraser. I added fidelity primarily to the boar including his mame. I also defined its tentacles and main body shape.  I still wanted this one to have a rougher sketchier  feel as compared to the previous cleaner more fine detail focused drawings from this same series.

 

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