Is it possible to make up your own mind?

We are saturated with advertisements, reviews, polls, pundits. Our peripheral is always being bombarded with information, telling us what to think, what to buy, what is good. Before we can decide if we actually like something, we read several reviews of what other people think first. What this means is that we almost never get to approach anything new in life with a clean slate of WHAT WE ACTUALLY THINK!

It ok to like what you like! Say it, I like it like that!


I like it like that- Pete Rodriguez

No matter what, we take into account what we have heard, or read, or the headline that we saw in passing. It is very difficult to separate your opinion these messages. Hype is a beast. When Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp A Butterfly was leaked, it came out to unbelievable praise. There were album of the year cries almost immediately.

I actually did not get to listen to it until about a week after its official release. That is seven days of Facebook, twitter, and Instagram posts, seven days of opening up streaming browsers with it prominently featured. Overhearing conversations, hearing it on the radio, essentially you are hearing that it is a great album all around. Which it is, but based upon everything I heard about it. I had preconceived notions about what to expect before I even got to hear it for myself.

I do genuinely love the album. Sonically it is everything I would like to hear. It’s Hip hop, jazz, funk, soul, spoken word all wrapped up in  the anger of oppressed youth.  It is also extremely honest and challenging mentally. I would say it is for deep close listening and absorption. Not for background enjoyment.


Kendrick Lamar- King Kunta

After Good Kid M.A.A.D City killed the game in 2012, To Pimp a Butterfly was a highly anticipated release. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pull the cellophane off of an album that you are looking forward to hearing, play it and decide for yourself if it’s fire. Without having someone else tell it sucks or that it is amazing.

Modern listening does not even allow the average listener to really choose what they want to hear. Streaming services tell you what they think you should hear as soon as you open the application. There is a top 10 waiting for you, a list of WHATS’ HOT! Even if its only luke warm. However if you hear it 20 times a day, and Funk flex tells you its hot, the message starts to seep into your psyche. They have decided for you.

As a working DJ I can tell that most people use these lists as a guide for what to listen to. All the requests are the same as what is on the hot 97 or you tube, or spotify top 40.

As an experiment for yourself. Buy a new album legally. Try not to read any reviews on it, or ask any one about. Just put it on, play it and judge for yourself. Ask your self.

Does it sound good?

Does it feel good?

If you listen and answer yes, then it’s good. No matter the genre, or release date.

Do the same experiment with a movie. Just pick a movie and watch it. Don’t read the blurb, don’t look at how many stars. Just  watch it, and decide for yourself if you like it.

It is difficult to go against the grain. When something is very popular and “trending” to say you don’t like it can ostracize you. Do the best you can be true to what you really feel.

Wether it is music, or books or movies. You don’t have to follow the trend. You get decide what you like, and how it makes you feel.

Just because you do not like something does not mean you are a hater. It’s ok to make choices on a case by case basis.

“If I don’t like it I don’t like, that don’t mean that I’m hating”. – Common (The 6th Sense)




Listen and decide for yourself.

I was inspired to write this piece based up two articles that came out this week.


The above article discusses how it became faux pas to say that you don’t like everything about Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp a Butterfly. I don’t agree with the overall message, especially when he questions why Kendrick would make a spoken word, funk jazz album in 2015. (Because he doing something different, and that is what we need) However, it did make me think about how the bandwagon of an album or artist gets going, then all of a sudden he/she is gods gift.


2 dope boyz

The above article is a rebuttal to the piece from Complex, but also a critique modern music journalism. I must say I agree with the overall message of the 2 dope boyz piece more.


Of course we have some beats to accompany.

Life is just a moment, so you better enjoy it.



Roy Ayers- Life is just a moment



Alabama Shakes- Don’t Wanna Fight  (No reason to be conflicted and fight within yourself, listen and decide)


What’s the flavor in your ear?


Brooklyn, if it were an independent city would be the 4th largest city in the United States. Brooklyn represents cultures from all over the world. West Indian, Russian, Jewish, Puerto Rican, African, Brazilian, Irish, Italian. All of these cultures plus many more have helped to build the fabric of life in Brooklyn.

The goal of Brooklyn Beats is to learn more about what Brooklynites are listening to and why. In my travels I will stop people with headphones on, ask them what they are listening to, and why they chose to listen to the artist/genere etc.

Music touches all people, but in different ways. If I can learn from the people what they love and why. I can not only put together DJ sets that move the crowd, but also learn the history and culture of the music. The deeper the knowledge base, the more creative the set. Plus I am a super nerd for learning the details of different forms of music the world over.


For the first installment of Brooklyn Beats we are starting close to home. You have probably seen some pics of Aaliyah and Lola around the site. Now let’s talk to my wife Pilar.

An amazing mother of two with excellent taste in music. Being with her has shaped my listening in such great ways. She has turned me on to so many great artists and albums. One thing I really love about her listening patterns, is that she loves “album cuts” She hardly ever plays the top singles from each album, she like the deep inner cuts. Pilar plays ATLiens by OUTKAST all the time (another reason to love her) her favorite song is Jazzy Belle, not Atliens, and not Elevators. I was drawn to that.

Pilar works with the Middle School Quality Initiative, a literacy initiative that works with public middle schools across all five Boroughs of New York City.

Number one Pilar is a Brooklyn native, with impeccable taste, also she is all over the city, sometimes riding the train for two hours or more a day. That’s a lot of listening time.

Let’s find out what she has been listening to.



Pilar, whats the flavor in your ear?

Artist– Blackalicious

Album/Compilation– Imani Vol I.

What made you choose that today?-

It’s been 10 years since Blazing Arrow was released. That album provided me with a lot of listening pleasure.

Does it have any special meaning for you?

Blazing Arrow made me think, bob my head, and blasted from both my home and car speakers on many occasions. I listened to the new album in hopes it would elicit similar experiences.

What do you like about it?

I love hearing the evolution of artists as they grow and change to make their music relevant to the current times. Their musical progression makes me that much more conscious of my own evolution.


Twist of Time- by Blackalicious- Imani Vol. I



This is the source of the Me and my arrow sample. Pretty sure I saw this when I was teaching in the Bronx some years back. I heard it, and immediately connected it to Blackalicious. Ringo Starr is the narrarator


Rocking with DJ Bamboo

For this edition of Brooklyn Beats we go to East New York, Starrett City. This is my man DJ Bamboo. We met working at the Scratch DJ Academy. Now you can catch him at H & M Times Square M-F 12-5

This guy is a master at blending  trap, old school hip hop, breaks, Classics, dance music and reggae all into one banging set. Every time I show up to spin a set after him, he is on fire. Just live remixing, or rocking doubles, or killing a sample set. Always something fresh and official.


Brooklyn Beats-

DJ Bamboo

What are you rocking currently? – Milo Mills

What made you choose that? –  I love the beat selection and production work.

What track to do reccomened?- Rocky



Rocky- By Milo Mills


Check out his soundcloud


Cultural Continuity Vol. I

f Slave Quarters, Louisiana, 1861-65 Adolf Carlsson Warberg, Skizzer fran Nord-Amerikanska Kriget, 1861-1865_maxresdefaultimages


Ok, so a major part of this site is going to be about listening for and finding the connections between styles/genres of music throughout history.

It has been said that the best artists can mimic their influences and then add their own flavors to make it original. Wether it is painting, or writing, or playing basketball, people use the work of previous generations to help create something new and special.

Recently there has been a surge of talk about “What is Original” The Blurred Lines vs. Got to give it up controversy sparked everything.

I’ll say it again.  “Artists are influenced by Art” You see a painting, you hear a drum break, you watch a movie, talk to a friend, read a book. These experiences build the art you create. We should be free to use those influences freely (as long as we acknowledge them) to move creativity forward.

One of the most essential needs of creativity is a lack of self consciousness while performing and creating. I’m not talking about “knowledge of self”. I am talking about not thinking to much about what you are playing, or writing, or drawing. It is a fact that the best work is done once you hit the “Zone” a place where you are not even thinking, your muscle memory, soul, and surroundings are leading you. The second you begin to think, “I am playing the right notes”  “Is this a good color” “No, I cant play that”   “Is this the right way” the “Zone” is gone.

Creativity and originality come from being free in a creative moment, not hesitant because you think it may sound like Marvin Gaye. Which in my opinion is a good person to sound like.

Pharrell Williams is getting a lot of heat for the Blurred Lines controversy. I personally think the song is good. It just got so much bad press, that it became a witch hunt. When I first heard it, before any public opinion entered my brain, I liked it. There were articles saying it was the worst song ever written, C’mon, really?

Pharrell admitted to wanting to make a song the sounded like “Got to give it up” He acknowledges the influence.

So many artists take the songs they love and do exactly what Williams did with Blurred Lines. They also do it in even more obvious ways.

Ray Charles, Buddy Holly and Kanye West will be the focus of this session of

Cultural Continuity

Gospel to Blues/Soul,  Rock to Hip Hop.  We will follow the connection between these styles



It Must be Jesus is a gospel song written by Bob King in 1954. Bob King was a Blues influenced guitar player, who was the original guitar player for Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. He wrote  this song and sang lead for the Southern Tones. Peep the track below.

Listen Closely to the Vocal Intro, melody, the “Oh yeah” and the arrangement. This is foundation of this series of songs.


It Must Be Jesus- The Southern Tones




“It must be Jesus” was written in 1954, Ray Charles wrote and composed “I Got a Woman” in 1954 as well. What do you think he was listening to? His creativity was being influenced by gospel. Listen to the melody, and the “Oh Yeah” even the vocal intro is the taken from “It must be Jesus”.  Weeeeellllllll, I got a woman.  Ray Charles sped up the song overall and made it about a woman instead of Jesus. Musically he added blues inflected chords and changes, as well as a sax solo.

“I Got a Woman”  by Ray Charles



Four years later in 1958  Buddy Holly recorded “Early in the morning” An early Rock song that sounds very similar to “I Got a Woman”

Listen to the way the melody builds. He even repeats a Ray Charles lyric (Early in the Morning) Holly opens the tune with a Weeeeellllll, and then we hear the ode to Charles. He also give the “Oh yeah” at the end of each stanza.

Throughout the song there is even more gospel influence as he does call and response with the background vocalists. The Rhythm section is playing a shuffle feel, just like the Charles version, however the bass is much more prominent. There is even a saxophone solo after the second chorus, the same place as in the Ray Charles version.

Early in the Morning by Buddy Holly






Now we come to 2005, Hip hop adds to the cultural continuity of “It Must be Jesus”

Kanye West produced and wrote “Gold Digger” along with Jaime Foxx for his 2005 album Late Registration.

On Gold Digger West has Jaime Foxx  sing an interpolation of Ray Charles from “I Got Woman”.

They change the lyric from “She gives me money when I’m in need” to “She Take my money, when I’m in need” Switching the theme of the song significantly.

Within the verses you hear “She give me money” and “when I’m in need ” sung in the background entering and exiting every measure.

So West was influenced by watching Jamie Foxx play Ray Charles in RAY. Then he picked “I gotta woman to sample. Then he created the whole beat, a theme and rhyme scheme. Then laid down some  banging drums, with scratches by A-Trak. All of sudden a whole new song is created.

Gold Digger- By Kanye West and Jaime Foxx



Now we have seen how artists are influenced by art. We have followed Gospel flowing into Blues, and Blues growing into Rock. Most recently Hip Hop as a genre becoming an extension of all three. We have listened to the cultural continuity of music and how artists take from what they love and make something new. Now ask the question.


What is original?


Related Links:






They call it JUNGLE MUSIC: Oh yeah, I’m the biggest hypocrite in 2015



I’m spinning a wedding in Brooklyn, New York . The couple talked to me about their playlist. A lot of 90’s hip hop, top 40, plus some indie rock. I was killing it, blended all those genres in an out, everyone was having a great time. Except for one old white guy. He asked me once to “Turn down the bass”.

My friend Ricardo and I always laugh at that, because it happened to us so often.  Actually it went more like, “It’s not the music, I like the music, it’s just, can you turn down the bass” So I did, it was dinner, whatever.  Nothing special about that story right?

Well, fast forward 30 min or so. Same older guy comes up to me. Puts his finger in my face and begins to berate me and the music I was playing. He asked me who told me this was music. I replied that the bride and groom did, the people you came here to celebrate.

He then says, I told you to you turn it down! (finger in face, extremely angry). As soon as this began I immediately explained to him that he cannot speak to me like that, he is not in control, I am. He kind of flew off the handle after that.

A few quotes

“It’s Jungle music, and you know it”

“I know you know about Jungle music”

“You are only talking to me like this because you are hiding behind a table, like you all always do”

“Turn down the Jungle Music”

I went through all of the feelings really quickly. Anger, hatred, sadness, confusion, bitterness.

The party was going well, and I did not want to be there anymore. They did not deserve what I was providing.

I was upset, I wanted to press stop and just leave. I didn’t, this is my profession and I want to keep it that way.

Some ignorant bigot cannot deter me. I love this job, and I am blessed to be able to live out my passion. So, after I calmed down. Thought about it. I realized something.

One thing  about “Jungle Music” is that I usually freaking love it. Anything that gets the stigma of “Jungle Music” usually holds close to my heart.

Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington to Chuck Berry and James Brown, and of course Wu-Tang, Outkast and the Roots. All technically “Jungle Music”.

A jungle where the vines connect in the most  beautiful patterns, that never repeat. A jungle where the thunder claps boom from sp and technic 1200’s. A jungle where the oppressed inhabitants sing together for healing and strength. A jungle where the rhythms are natural and cyclical, they get played with, shifted at times, but they always come back home.

Jeru said it best.

“It started on sands of the land of the mother, word to mother. King like my father. My sound survive slave ships, whips and chains, hardships, still through all this. The praise roll off my lips.”

That is the power of music of the African Diaspora. Circumstances no matter how dire cannot change it. It cannot be tied down, it cannot be suppressed, or ignored. It fought it’s way from the bottom of ships to being sung from the highest cliffs.

So the next time I get a “Jungle music” comment, I’ll just say

“You think this jungle music?  Yesssss, I love jungle music, I’ll turn the bass up for you.



Musical Time Stamps- Great examples of “Jungle Music”

Jungle Music- by Jeru the Damaja


This is the theme song for this post. Jeru gives us a history of how black music began, and how it hold strong today. Even in the face of those who hate it, and in turn hate us.


Blacker the Berry- Kendrick Lamar

As this racist rant was happening to me this is how I felt, this is what I wanted to say.

You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture
You’re fuckin’ evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey
You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me
And this is more than confession
I mean I might press the button so you know my discretion
I’m guardin’ my feelin’s, I know that you feel it
You sabotage my community, makin’ a killin’
You made me a killer, emancipation of a real nigga




Duke Ellington- Didjeridoo (Afro- Eurasin Eclipse album)


Ellington often got the stigma of Jungle Music, however he is now known as possibly the greatest American composer. This is some of his later work.

Black Brown and Beige is my favorite Ellington album.



Hammer Ring- Texas Prison Songs


This is an example of Work Song. These tunes have roots in the slave fields of the deep south. Slaves sang songs like this to pass the time, communicate with one another, and to uplift their spirits. Sometimes with praise, sometimes with sorrow. Music like this is the precursor to what we call THE BLUES



ATLiens- Outkast


One thing I wonder about Outkast is. Would all the mainstream listeners who only know The Love Below and Speakerboxx really like Outkast if they heard SoutherPlayalisticadillacmusik, ATLiens and Aquemini? Please leave a comment below.

Welcome to Beats, Times and Life


Music is a part of my everyday routine. Every where I go and everything I do has a soundtrack. What’s important about this soundtrack is not just the music, but also the experiences that accompany it.

I actively search out new music several times per week. However the greatest joy is when great music finds me.

Very often I will be going about my normal day and I over hear a car at a light, or push shuffle on my computer. I’ll eat in a restaurant or chill with my daughters. I’ll practice bass guitar or roam the internet. During these activities a song will present itself and put a stamp on that experience. Creating a musical accompaniment for the moment.

It is proven that triggers to our senses can transport us back in time. Certain smells and tastes remind you of select times of your life. Music can do the same thing.

As a father of two incredible daughters, (Aaliyah and Lola) and the husband of the most special woman on the planet (Pilar Ramos). I know that they are experiencing life right along with me. All the music I hear, they hear, Everywhere I go they go. We are experiencing BEATS, TIMES, and LIFE together. I want to create new musical experiences that will build triggers to different times in our lives. Creating not only the playlist of a lifetime, but creating sustainable memories. so we can vividly remember the experiences that go along with it.

The content of this site will chronicle my experiences as a father, husband, DJ, and educator. All through the lens of a music lover. We will use the sound track of life to better understand the past and the present.

So welcome! This is going to be a fun journey.


Right now we have two theme songs

Music is my Sanctuary- Gary Bartz




Music is my way of life – Patti Labelle


Listen close you’ll hear what I’m about “Jay-Z”

Live if you really want to.

Aaliyah, Clementine, Nina and Mo-Mo. This past week we spent a lot of time with our friends (as always). I took Aaliyah and Lola to Cumbe dance center. We met Clementine, Nina, and Mo-Mo (Morris) there.  I have taken Aaliyah to Cumbe before for Jaime Philbert’s class. She is amazing, but so was this crew.


photo 5

This is Funmi and Olatunji. Olatunji on the Djembe and Funmi was the dance leader. They incorporate African dance, creative movement and  Call and response to create a really fun class. The kids had a great time. Also the music was on point. Check the breakdown below.




photo 3

Aaliyah  Bang, Bang, Bang on the drum baby, BAAAANG BAAAAANG!

What I really love about these classes in general is that the kids are really letting go and expressing themselves with no inhibitions.

As children we were almost immune to any kind of criticism.  As adults we worry a lot about what others think, and try to fit into what society thinks is acceptable.

This feat can keep us from really reaching our dreams.  Stepping out on a limb that seems unsteady is scary. That limb could break and you may  fall. Or you may reach your destination if you are careful.

But you will never know until you let go and try.


Big ups to

Olatunji Ore-

Funmilayo Chesney-


Live your life!

Musical Time Stamps

imgresLive your Life by YUNA


The class after ours was an adult movement class. It began with this song. I heard it as I was putting Aaliyah’s shoes on and had to know what it was. I found it truly beautiful, and a really nice wind down tune for us on our way out.

images      Cristo Redentor – Donald Byrd