Studio Campfire Stories: The "SunStorm" Edition "SunStorm" and "If I Could Tell You No"

7. SunStorm (feat. YahZarah)
I started teaching back in the summer of 2006 and the first summer that I took off wasn’t until 2008. I was so damn excited about having an entire summer to myself that as soon as I got home from the school on the last day, I went to work in the studio. The FIRST joint that I put together wound up being the music for the title track of this album… “SunStorm.” Once again, the drums were done first and they resulted from me being in such a happy ass mood, I can’t really describe it any other way. The drum pattern made this music what it wound up becoming. The feeling that I got from it was one of ‘freedom’ and ‘fun’. With that being said, I distinctively remember figuring out a synth bassline that was very busy while keeping the fun and free elements in that music. And just like 95% of the music that I make, I played that synth bassline part all the way through the entire song. I think that when you actually play all the way through your piece, you are able to capture MUCH more of a feeling than that of a looped track. I don’t think that the bassline should hit the same way in the first 8 bars of the song as it does coming out of the first hook, for example. The second half is what put it over the top… I made sure to send it to Phonte as soon as I was finished. He hit me with a text back, “I’ma MURK this joint!!” He was originally going to keep this one for himself… but ended up sitting on it after writing about 50 different things to it and not feeling satisfied with anything – I understand that pain FULLY (wait ’til you read the “This Could Be the Night” story).

Enter YahZarah… Now, I’m gonna tell y’all this right now. This is as straight up as it gets. When it comes to vocalists… Not female vocalists… When it comes to VOCALISTS. YahZarah is the best vocalist that I know, personally. She’s just absolutely unfair. Plus, the fact that she’s sitting a lotta people DOWN live makes her a threat to a lotta folks …..and I love her to death! Phonte and I talked about having her cut the song because…hell, it seemed like a perfect fit. She ended up gettin up with Phonte and recording her vocals and I’ll just say this… When Phonte sent it to me, we knew we had something – not just with the song, but with the entire album. This was the song that made us kinda look at each other like, “This is gonna be something crazy.” It was STRONG and perfect as the title track. And let me just say that my favorite part of this song comes during the second hook at about 3:55 when Yahz hits the, “WHOOOOO!!!!!” I get goosebumps EVERY TIME I hear that.. Why?! Because that is raw emotion displayed in a recording and to have captured that is priceless to me. Also, when someone busts out with ‘WHOOO!!’ that means something was so good that NO other adjectives worked in that space… It’s just a great moment that was captured and I’m glad it happened on my album. …Oh and for the record, YahZarah recorded her vocals sitting down. That’s a bad woman….

The second half of the song where Phonte comes in was actually supposed to have a few kats on it. It was gonna be Phonte, Jesse Boykins III, Darien Brockington, and another favorite vocalist of mine Ab. But sometimes, you listen to a song that if it is changed, no matter what the change is it probably will not work like that original take. That was the case here. The original take felt so good and came off so correctly that it was not changed. Darien did however complete the final two lines AND you can hear Jesse’s adlibs over top of “You can lay me down…”

8. If I Could Tell You No (feat. Jesse Boykins III)
This was actually the only joint on the album that Phonte and I worked on together from scratch. Back in November 2008 when The Foreign Exchange first started touring Leave It All Behind, we did a date in D.C. Anytime kats are in town, we normally take advantage of that time and get in the studio to do SOMETHING… It doesn’t matte if it’s a full song, a demo, a couple of ideas… Something is getting done. This time around, he told me he had an idea to do a jazzy joint, which I was all for because I hadn’t done anything like that yet. So, I loaded up a new Pro Tools session, set the mic up for Phonte, sat down at the keys, programmed some ‘dummy drums’ just for tempo and arrangement’s sake and we got to work. The demo version is actually rather entertaining. There’s a part where I went to a change before he was expecting me to do so and right in the middle of singing the melody he says, “Awwww man, you fucked me up!” LMAO!!! Classic material right there. The chords from the demo are basically the same as the finished product, the arrangement is different, but you could tell what direction the song was headed into. We actually held off moving on the joint for awhile… No reason in particular, we just didn’t get to it.

Finally, Phonte was hittin me up saying that he had gotten in contact with Jesse Boykins III and needed me to record a music reference so that he could reference the vocals for Jesse to sing… So I sent him the song with the same dummy drum track from the original demo, but I relaid the piano and bass parts for a more ‘official’ reference (the piano part I recorded for that particular reference actually lived long enough to see the final cut). When he sent me the vocals back, I was like, “WOW.” It was kinda of the same feeling I got when he first sent me vocals back for our “Africa” remake for the 80’s album because again before my very eyes, I saw Phonte expand as an artist. I mean, dude was doing jazz riffs! The hell? It sounded great… And we ALMOST kept Phonte on the joint. But the feel that we wanted for the song was a smoother sounding voice and delivery. So we passed the song on to Jesse and he hurt that joint! It was EXACTLY what was needed… His tone and voice fit the music perfectly – and for his version I finally re-recorded some live drums, which remained on the final cut. With Jesse’s singing and the addition of trumpet player Stan Graham, the feel of the music placed me in a classy jazz club circa the 1940s, where folks thought it looked cool to smoke cigarettes and once this song came on, people began to “make eyes at one another ‘cross the room.” It was a well designed curveball for the album and something that I haven’t seen done on a project of mine. Overall, it was great to have everything come together as beautifully as it did…

Studio Campfire Stories: The "SunStorm" Edition – "Be Your Man" and "Free Your Mind"

5. Be Your Man (feat Darien Brockington)
Musically, the instrumental for “Be Your Man” was one of those joints that just kinda came to me. I vividly remember arranging the drum track first because at the time my intention was to lay something slower and also very simple… So I laid a simple ‘one-two’ or ‘march’ pattern for the drums at first. But in playing around with the pattern a little more, I ended up bringing the rimshot in simply for the additional nod factor and purposely left the hi-hat out (I actually experimented with an eighth note hi-hat pattern but hated how it sounded, it didn’t work at all). The chord progression was something that I worked out through playing around on the keys, it wasn’t planned… It was definitely a feeling, and I liked how it moved – pretty, but contrastingly dark. Once the progression was found and practiced, I played the chord stabs and allowed them to act as the eighth-note hi-hat rhythm instead of using an actual hi-hat. The live bass served as the glue for the music and the spacey sounding pad was the additional ‘candy’ and it was to my liking… still simple and now more mysterious. Once I sent this piece to Phonte and we got on the phone about it, he already had in his head that D. Brock was the man for the job, which completely worked since at that point Brock didn’t have a feature on the album yet.

Now, I wasn’t there for the writing process and recording session that took place for “Be Your Man” but according to Phonte, he and Darien were able to return to their circa 2003-2004 writing form by locking themselves in the studio for a night and knocking out a masterpiece. I mean if you listen, the vocal arrangement and harmonies are vintage Darien and Phonte. When he told me that, my mind immediately went to their writing efforts for FE’s “Come Around.” Understanding how much I dig that song, it made me proud beyond words as a producer to have had a hand in bringing Phonte and Darien Brockington back to their co-writing comfort zone they had abandoned for a few years. Phonte sent the the joint attached to a message that simply read, “Hit me back when you check this.” Of course, once I got the song back with D’s vocals on it… I hit Phonte back with the ever-so-popular, “The-hell-were-y’all-DOING-in-the-studio?!-DAMN!!” phone call.

6. Free Your Mind (feat. Lady Alma)
Lady Alma and I have a history that dates back to the good ole MySpace days. We would correspond off and on as early as 2005, always saying that we should be getting together to work on something soon… Fast forward to September 2009, she happened to have a gig in D.C. and The ELs were the band that was set to back her up for it. We had a rehearsal scheduled up at Rock Creek Academy (the school where I teach music) and while we were getting set up and running through a couple of her joints, Alma happened to be running pretty late. Now, the primary reason why I knew we would get along so well was pretty simple. For the entire duration of our rehearsal, I was lacing her with direct and indirect jokes about being so late… Because in my slightly twisted opinion, if I can joke with you and on you at a rehearsal even when we first meet, then you’re alright with me – that is definitely a gauge that I utilize. And low and behold ever since that day of rehearsal, we’ve been good friends.

On top of being a great person… Lady Alma can SAING …YES… SAING, with an “I”. This was extremely evident once we hit that stage with her the following night at Station 9 in D.C. The band consisted of Biscuit on the drums, Omar Hunter on bass, myself on keys, and Lady A on vocals, jokes, ackkin a fool and entertainment. She was all over that space during her performance all while singing her ASS off. I remember calling Phonte sometime that week and telling him that I needed to get her to do something for the album. As a matter of fact, Alma and I talked that weekend and I told her that I would construct something especially for her that would be intended for SunStorm. Since I had a drum pattern in my head already at that time, it didn’t take too much longer to put the music together for her. After recording it, I sent it through to Phonte just to get another opinion on it, and sent it to Lady Alma – We actually started tweeting each other about my sending the song to her. I remember her calling me and saying that I was ADD because of all of the different changes contained in the piece. LOL Once she recorded the joint and sent is back to me, I was thoroughly satisfied and she was just as humble as anyone I’ve ever worked with. After sending the draft version of the song, she was texting me asking my opinion… almost nervously! I got her on the phone and assured her that she had absolutely NOTHING to worry about, I mean damn… vocally, she showed no mercy on that song. Another thing that I LOVE about her performance on the song is that the first time I heard it, I said to myself… “Welp, that’s Lady Alma.” Meaning, her personality is all spilling over in this joint… “Let me lay it back a lil bit…” <— THAT’S Alma. “Plus I know you wanna hear a little bit of this, Zo”…then she just starts scatting. Word? THAT’S Alma! I was able to vividly picture her performing this song live as I was listening to it – now that’s a great performance.

Once again, as a producer I felt accomplished because she stated that the track really made her work (hence the “Zo…. I’ma get you for this one” line in the song). It is an awesome feeling to be able to stretch artists’ abilities who are already experienced and extremely talented with my music…

Studio Campfire Stories: The "SunStorm" Edition – "Say How You Feel" and "For Leslie"

3. Say How You Feel (feat. Phonte & Carlitta Durand)
In April of 2009, Phonte and Carlitta were both in town for a video shoot with my brovah and good friend, DJ Roddy Rod. If I remember correctly, the shoot was on a Saturday and I was mad that I couldn’t make it to the group video shoot at night because I had a two shows with The ELs scheduled on the same day. But when Sunday came around, the two of them made sure to stop by the house to hang out for a little while. The day was interesting because being that I lived in a 17-story building, the apartments didn’t have thermostats that controlled ‘heat’ and ‘air conditioning’. So therefore, the entire building would have to be ‘switched over’ to heat when the weather typically got cold (around Oct/Nov) and would switch to a/c when the weather typically warmed up, which was normally around April. Well… the air conditioning had not yet switched over to a/c and the day that Phonte and Carlitta decided to come over, the temperature was in the upper-90’s… and I lived on the 15th floor. So the heat in the apartment that day was damn near unbearable, the humidity was up, and it was just plain uncomfortable. Realizing this, I stopped up at Target in order to get a fan big enough to accommodate kats… The problem was, OTHER folks in the area had the same idea that I did, which equated to a “late arrival” (about 1pm). When I got to Target, the big floor fans were GONE and the only fans they had left were a couple of small joints that were gonna do NO good in the heat we were gonna be smothered in. But, I bought one of them anyway and took it back home. By the time I got there, Phonte and Carlitta were already in the spot and sitting in the living room. We plugged in the fan, sat very still and checked out a couple of movies… aaaaand as expected, that little ass fan was moving NO air around in the apartment.

I decided to take them back into the studio to listen to a newer joint that I was in the middle of working on that was still sitting in the sequencer. I pulled the joint up and played the four-bar loop that I demoed and Phonte sat down, said, “Let’s do it then” and proceeded to start humming basic harmony lines to himself…. Well, that was easy. After that, I tracked everything out in Pro Tools and recorded the bass and re-recorded the basic keyboard parts right then and there while they waited just to have some type of reference. Once the music was recorded, the three of us gathered around the instrument mic that I have in the studio and recorded about three and a half minutes worth of handclaps. This is not a big deal in room temperature conditions, but in 90-degrees?! We finished recording handclaps lookin like we were training for a damn 50K race. So after a water break, the two of them dug in and began to write. The writing process wasn’t too long and tiresome, it was the actual recording process that proved to be the energy drainer. I can still see Carlitta sitting down on the floor of the studio with the fan sitting directly in front of her hot as hell… But she ended up baring down and knocking all of her parts out after Phonte laid his vocals down. A little later on in the night, we ordered pizza from Papa John’s in a sad attempt to rejuvenate, but in the long run, I think it just managed to increase levels of ‘itis. My mixing efforts at that point were definitely sidetracked by thoughts of melted cheeses, tomato sauce, toppings……… and crust……………*salivates* …and damn cheese sticks….. Apparently I’m getting sidetracked right NOW.

Anyway, I completed the music for the song a couple days after the original recordings took place… Keep in mind, I STILL didn’t have A/C that day either thus making “Say How You Feel” the hottest (temperature-wise) damn song I think I have ever recorded. AND, it was the only song on the album where ALL of the artists were recording together in the same place at the same time…

4. For Leslie
I came up with this chord progression and pattern at the worst possible time… while sitting in a slow-moving boring ass two-hour meeting at the school I work at. Therefore, in order to keep the music in my head, I was forced to hum the melody and tap my foot or nod my head (to remember the drum pattern) for the duration of this drawn out meeting. At the close of the meeting, I literally ran down to my music room so that I could record the idea onto the ‘voice memo’ application on my iPhone (I actually still have the original recorded piano on my phone). I was then able to take it home and put together an arrangement that worked for it.

One day while on the phone with Phonte, we were discussing the type of instrument that would sound dope over this particular track. I think we covered damn near the entire spectrum of instruments from the piano, to the guitar… to various woodwind pieces. From there, he started telling me about a flutist he knew of who was based out of New York named Claudia Hayden. Now, she told him to hit her up if he ever needed her to get down on some music… Welp Claudia! Guess what?! This was the perfect time. I looked up a couple of her performances on YouTube and was thoroughly impressed with the clips I saw of she and her band. Her playing was concise and I liked how she made the flute “talk” to me during her performances, which is exactly the type of style I needed on this piece. He contacted her and she turned it around with no problem… Not wanting to lose the instrumental element of my previous solo albums, I wanted to make sure that this sentimental piece of music was included…

Studio Campfire Stories: The ‘SunStorm’ Edition – “Greater Than The Sun” and “Greatest Weapon Of All Time” (SunStorm Week Day #2)

1. Greater Than the Sun (feat. Phonte)
For those of you who have listened to Little Brother’s Getbackalbum, the closing track “When Everything Is New” was initially supposed to be the intro joint for THIS album. After hearing the recorded hook sung by Phonte, Big Pooh requested that he call me and ask that I let the song go to them for their album… I remember answering that “no-brainer-question-of-the-year” before Phonte had even finished what he was gonna say.

Phonte: Ayo man, I’m sittin here with Pooh… he heard the joint and loved it. Wanted to know if we could use it for o……


*end of story* lol

I remember writing the piano piece to this song primarily after messing around on the keys one sunny afternoon – I emphasize the weather because those of us who create know and understand that weather can be reflected within your art. In this piece I can ‘hear’ and feel the sun that was shining through my blinds that day. Just by the way that the chords moved I felt as though I had definitely found something. After recording the music, it was only right that I call my brovah in crime Phonte to hop on what I thought could be the NEW intro joint. As a matter of fact, the working title for the joint was something like ‘Zo_Phonte_Intro 2008.’ As usual, he turned it around within a day or two and ironically wrote a song specifically dealing with the sun, which wasn’t anything that I suggested.

Once it was recorded and finished, I got an email from him with the song attached that read, “I ain’t playin’ with these niggas man.”

Hell, neither am I….


2. Greatest Weapon Of All-Time (feat. Sy Smith)
I got familiar with the name Sy Smith and her talent via her appearances on Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s Shaheedullah and Stereotypes album back in 2004. A couple years later, I was introduced to her via my good friend up in Chicago, Duane Powell. Duane, who used to work at one of my favorite record stores, Dr. Wax Records in Hyde Park, Chicago (now closed…. dammit) was good for picking up the phone and giving me a call at any given time to say, “What’s up sir? Uhhh… *Insert name here* is in the store right now and I wanna introduce you.” And understanding his good taste in music, it was always someone who I was a fan of. This is the same kat who sold two copies of Freelance to one of the Kaaaings. The late, great Mr. Bernie Mac ……and gave me a call about it right afterward. I mean damn, who does that? So anyway, he had been telling me for months about Sy and how she really enjoyed the Freelance album… And in typical Duane fashion, he called me up one day outta the blue…”What’s up sir?… Uhhh… Sy Smith is here in the store, I wanted you to get a chance to talk to her.” Bet!! Put her on! She got on the phone and we chopped it up for a short while eventually discussing the fact that we really needed to do some work together – the conversation left me pretty excited and even more motivated to work with her.

I finally met Sy face-to-face at a show she was doing here in D.C. at Bohemian Caverns in March ’08 and that’s when I truly discovered her… She was murdering her set. Talk about a phenomenal vocal talent and such a genuinely sweet person, which is a rarity in the nignorant and wonderful world of music. We spoke once again about working and exchanged contacts. With her live show in mind, the first thing I sent her was the music for “The Greatest Weapon Of All-Time.” I felt as though the music was uplifting and fun – the same feelings I took in from her show. Once she recorded her vocals and sent the song back to me, upon listening I couldn’t WAIT to work with her again (and we did a year later in the form of a remade “Crazy You” for the …just visiting too album). Come to think of it, when I called her after first hearing how she showed no mercy on my song, she was on the phone like, “How do you like the song, is it alright?” Uhhhh…”Alright?!??!” Ole humble ass…

Zo! – SunStorm (2010) FULL Album Credits



link-badge-itunes_2x.png  design-resources-play-on-spotify.png

01. Greater Than The Sun featuring Phonte
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals recorded and mixed by Khrysis
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and the Chopp Shopp, Durham, NC

02. Greatest Weapon Of All Time featuring Sy Smith
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Sy Smith for Sybersong Publishing (ASCAP)
Vocals Arranged and Produced by Sy Smith
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Grant Nochols
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and Rumbo Studios, Winnetka, CA

03. Say How You Feel featuring Phonte & Carlitta Durand
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP) and Carlitta Durand for Durand Music Group (ASCAP)
Vocals by Phonte & Carlitta Durand
All Instruments by Zo!
Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

04. For Leslie
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
All Instruments by Zo!
Flute by Claudia Hayden
Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

05. Be Your Man featuring Darien Brockington
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Darien Brockington for Neidar Music Group (ASCAP) and Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Darien Brockington
Background Vocals by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Guitar Solo by Chris Boerner
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

06. Free Your Mind featuring Lady Alma
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by A-Drenaline for Sopo Publishing (ASCAP)
Vocals by Lady Alma
Background Vocals by The Lady Alma Choral Ensemble (Lady Alma & Preston Branch)
Vocals Recorded by Roscoe “Plug-In”Murphy
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Focus…
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and WHODUNIT Studios, Philadelphia, PA

07. SunStorm featuring YahZarah
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP) and YahZarah for She’s A Ladybug (ASCAP)
Vocals by YahZarah
Additional Vocals by Phonte, Darien Brockington & Jesse Boykins III
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

08. If I Could Tell You No featuring Jesse Boykins III
Produced by Zo! and Phonte for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music/+FE Music LLC
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Jesse Boykins III
All Instruments by Zo!
Trumpet by Stan Graham
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

09. This Could Be The Night featuring Eric Roberson, Darien Brockington & Rapper Big Pooh
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by Eric Roberson for Blue Erro Soul/EMI Music Publishing (ASCAP), Darien Brockington for Neidar Music Group (ASCAP), Thomas Jones for Big Pooh Music (ASCAP) & Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Eric Roberson, Darien Brockington & Rapper Big Pooh
Jive Talk by Scorpeze of Windimoto
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

10. Flight Of The Blackbyrd featuring Phonte
Produced by Zo! and Phonte for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music/+FE Music LLC
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Phonte
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Trumpet by Stan Graham
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

11. All Is Well With Love featuring Chantae Cann
Produced by Zo! and Phonte for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music/+FE Music LLC
Written by Phonte Coleman for Daddy’s New Bowtie (ASCAP)
Vocals by Chantae Cann
Keys, Bass Guitar, and Cabasa by Zo!
Flugelhorn by Al Strong IV
Flute by Tim Smith
Trombone by Andrew Kleindienst
Congas and Wind Chimes by Brevan Hampden
Maracas and Additional Percussion by El Tigallo
Acoustic Guitar by Omar Hunter-El
Wood and Skins by “Biscuit” Bynum
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

12. MakeLuv2Me featuring Monica Blaire
Produced by Zo! for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music (BMI)
Written by B. White for Vera’s Daughter (ASCAP)
Vocals by Monica Blaire
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Shaphan “Maestro” Williams
All Instruments by Zo!
Mixed by Zo!
Recorded at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and Silent Riot Studios, Oak Park, MI

Mastered by Soiree Records

© 2010 Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive, LLC/+FE Music, LLC

SunStorm Week!

This is NOT the way I had the release of the biggest album of my career planned out in my head. The reason? Well, the D.C. area was hit with about 15-20 minutes of a ridiculous storm Sunday afternoon around 3pm… It is currently 11:25am Monday morning and electric current decided to show itself only about 30 minutes ago after deserting the place for 19-20 hours. I went out driving on a couple of different occasions to look for food (sounds like I shoulda been on Oregon Trail or som’n) yesterday while the power was out, and here are the statistics in regards to what I witnessed: 5 car accidents, 4 working traffic lights, and 0 Pepco trucks out working on anything. So here I lay on the floor of my house typing out a blog entry that I would have loved to have posted 11 1/2 hours ago to kick “SunStorm Week” off properly… but I’m sure you all understand. The power is back on and I can smile again…

Anyway, where do I begin?… Ok… Well, the production work for the album began roughly two years ago, but the groundwork and foundation a/k/a the blood, sweat, tears, and additional bullshit began well over ten years ago. The title SunStorm and concept behind the album both relate to the ups and downs of my musical journey up to this point. To say the least, it has been an interesting ride all leading up to tomorrow’s release date… Tuesday, July 27th.

So in the spirit of always wanting to involve you all, my peoples in all of my releases… I wanted everyone who pre-ordered a copy of the album to send a picture to me of you and SunStorm. I actually received a pretty good amount of pics… *wipes tear* I didn’t know y’all cared so much. LOL Now, just because this entry it up today doesn’t mean it’s too late to send me pics… I’ll just continue to add them as I get them! Send them through to…

So here’s how “SunStorm Week” will work… Beginning tomorrow, I will be posting the stories behind each of the 12 songs contained on the album (two songs per day). For each song, I would love for you all to comment and provide your own personal reflection with regards to each particular joint… Let’s make this fun, involved and most of all let’s celebrate this release together! Enjoy the music… and enjoy the week!

Now let’s get into these pics that you all shared with me…

I even had to get in on the picture taking in Portland…!

And Look What Showed Up At My Door Today….

There are a few major milestones involved in the completion of an album… The first, is finishing the production work on it – meaning all of the music, vocals, and mixing. The second, is receiving that audio back from mastering. The third, is approving the final artwork for the album. While the final step is obviously the album’s release date, the next big occurrence is receiving the physical copies in the mail. After a couple months of posting the cover art in various places and looking through the artwork via .pdf files, it’s still something about holding the actual CD in my hand. There’s something absolutely exhilarating about reading through your own credits once it is live and in print, no matter how many times you have gone through and proofread it already. It also marks the official beginning of the second process… Getting the music that you have been listening to and wearing out for the entire duration of the album’s starting point… to the public’s ears. So, you can just imagine the feeling I had when I came from the gym this afternoon, pulled in front of my house and saw this….
That’s right ch’all… Four boxes full of SunStorm CD’s. I actually didn’t know what it was until I walked right up on it. I was standing at the front door with a hand full of today’s mail. But best believe all that got pushed to the side for a minute while I stopped to reach down for my boxes full of music.

I’ll also say this, have you ever been so happy that you begin to lose your natural mind? Well, I’ll just say that when I got inside, stripped that packaging tape, and cracked that first CD open, the first thing I thought was,

“Maaaaaaan, I’m about to sell all of these right NOW!”

There was no concept of release date, and my mind completely deserted the fact that I was to sign all of the CD’s in three of the boxes to fulfill outstanding pre-orders so far. Sadly, logic had taken a leave of absense from my thinking process at the time. It wasn’t until I got an email from Aimee Flint (Dir. of Operations for +FE Music) reminding me to sign the CD’s and send them through ASAP that I finally brought myself off of my cloud of delightful ignorance. But today marks the beginning of SunStorm making whatever impact it’s supposed to make. I hope y’all choose to celebrate with me….


‘SunStorm’ lead single – “This Could Be the Night” Video Shoot

Leading up to Wednesday, June 23rd’s events, I kept reminding myself, “Self… You know what? You’re about to shoot a damn video…. woooooow.” This wasn’t some “It’s So Cold In the D” lookin’ video where it looks like they shot the footage from their cell phone and all of the extras are family members attempting to outshine even the star performer by fighting for face time. More like a video shot with all intentions of pushing it to household entertainment networks with the possibility of me and close friends and family being able to check us out on TV. It was told to me that I needed only one outfit for the shoot…. Just ONE?! Sheeeeeeeit… I packed a suit with two different shirts, three tie options and a black fedora. THEN I had couple more button-down shirts with slacks and a gray fedora. Now, let’s get this straight, rarely do I EVER overpack when I travel, but if there was any one time that I felt I had the right and the obligation to do so, this was it (*humbled* I later found out that I actually did only need one outfit for the shoot… but dammit, you couldn’t tell me nothin’ during my preparation). Anyway, I had my $3 Megabus ticket to Philly and was ready to get things moving.

I arrived in Philly at about 5pm on Tuesday, the day before the video shoot was to take place. I was picked up from 30th St. Station and taken to the hotel only a few exits past the airport. I immediately changed clothes for the gym and realized my ‘overpackedness’ did not carry over into my workout regiment as I forgot the shoes that I workout in… Therefore, I was forced to run on the elliptical in my damn shelltoe Adidas. Let’s just say I broke that 30 minutes of cardio up into two 15 minute intervals as my feet began to scream for mercy… Ironically, I completely erased any future results of my workout by inhaling a strong Cadillac Margarita and chasing that with a well done cheeseburger… :-\ (Joint was GREAT too…).

Staying up late equated to me waking up later than I wanted to. I set the alarm for 8:30a and didn’t even end up crawling outta the bed until about 9:30a to texts and missed calls from those who I had personally invited to the shoot making sure that I had a few more familiar faces in the spot being as though I knew I wouldn’t know most of the extras. I knew that they were gonna be set to shoot Erro’s (Eric Roberson) part first at about 10:30a and being as though I have never even set FOOT onto a video set, I wanted to be around to take everything in. It wasn’t until I woke up fully that I realized…. “Shit, the NC crew a/k/a “my ride to the shoot” (Phonte, Big Pooh, Darien & Aimee) hasn’t hit me up yet!” So I hit Phonte up…… straight to voicemail. At that moment I thought that they must still be in the air. I hopped on Twitter and saw that Big Pooh was tweeting about their delayed flight from NC… Then I figured I could take my shower, grab some breakfast and actually enjoy it now …and that’s exactly what I did, and watching the clock in the process. 10:30a………………….11:00…………. finally at about 11:15, I hit up Phonte again and he said they were at the airport waiting on luggage. Perfect… now they can grab their luggage, come scoop me up real quick and we all roll out to the set…………….. 11:45………………… 12:30p………. Damn, they should have their luggage by now. I called Aimee.

Aimee: Tay, Pooh and Darien are headed up now.

Me: Ok, cool… they’re coming up to the room?

A: …….”No, we’re at the spot!
“UH oh” © Carl Lewis

M: Uhhhh…… I’m still at the room!

SHIT…. I grabbed my things and headed 6 floors down to the lobby and requested that they call me a cab because everyone was at my video shoot…. but ME. How hilarious, my first video shoot and I’m already two hours late to it. I got in the cab with the “late to your own funeral” analogy repeating in my head. The cab driver who picked me up from the hotel seemed real cool, but as soon as I got in and provided him with the address of where I needed to go I could tell he had a bit of a problem with that, uhhh…. literacy thing.

Me: I’m going to Center City…. St. James St.

Cab Driver: Uhh….Sss *blank stare at the GPS*


CD: So that’s uhh, S…. uhh….

M: S….T…….. *waiting for him to complete the spelling*

CD: *looks back at me waiting for ME to complete the spelling*

M: ……..”SPACE”……… J……A

CD: I’m not too good with that spelling thing…

Uhhh… This I know.

Once the address was finally entered into the GPS, he was good…. Until it was time to turn right onto Locust St. We approached the Locust street sign, he slowed the cab down damn near to a stop and asked me, “Is that it?” Already understanding his issues with reading, I just blurted out quickly, “YES… THAT’S IT!” Lord have mercy, he had finally gotten me to my destination… It was funny because during the cab ride, I was reading a few tweets from people wondering where I was. I felt like I needed to walk into the spot with a t-shirt on that said “It wasn’t my fault!” or flyers to pass out explaining why I was showing up on set at 1:30p. Regardless, the “Superstar” jokes were automatically on deck upon my arrival… When I stepped into the club, I was thoroughly impressed visually. The still shots that were provided with the video treatment the night before did the spot limited justice. Big Pooh had just finished shooting his performance piece and folks told me how well Erro’s performance shots looked – that combined with a buffet of various PotBelly’s sammiches sitting over on the bar looking so delectable, I was already beginning to feel good about this video. But I was forced to be patient, so I did what came naturally… hell, I ATE. I also made sure to catch up and act a fool with everybody on set as I was informed that there were about three more shots to get before I was even needed… Soooooo, my being late was actually right on time! AND I showed up at lunch! *high fives my damn seff*

Finally, at about 3:00pm we were instructed to go ahead and start getting ready for the shot of myself, D. Brock, Erro, and Pooh walking into the club. I pulled my freshly dry-cleaned black suit out of the plastic and threw it on along with my silver shirt, black tie with silver stripes, and completed it with the black fedora. While waiting around about an hour or so, I was asked if I was an extra on the set of my own video twice, which I thought was great. For real, I probably could have made noise on someone else’s blog if I would have answered with, “Nigga… do I LOOK like an extra on this muhfucka?! I’m the damn star-rah!!” …now that I think about it, I actually would have thoroughly entertained myself with that one. But I didn’t, because the reality is…No one knows who the hell I am, much less what I look like. I could have had fun with the girl, gotten myself up and started to play an extra in the video, but we were short on time and things needed to keep rolling. Once our ‘entrance’ scene was set up, I felt like texting everyone I knew on some, “Ayo, we’re about to go on right NOW!” Once the actual recording process started, things felt pretty natural and I got the sense that it was finally my time. Once again, the director Matt Koza and his crew kept telling me how excited they were about the shots they were getting from us, which left me relaxed and more at ease. I had a few more quick scenes to shoot and it was a wrap for me… I left the set feeling pretty good and very accomplished. As a result I kept telling myself, “I have a video now.”

For the post-video shoot meal, we ventured over to Silk City and I conquered four rounds at the bar with Big Pooh and one of our homegirls. Once they seated all of us, we tore into some waings, quesadillas, fish sammiches, salad, and some of the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had out in a restaurant. Matter of fact, it was so good that I finished macaroni from two OTHER peoples’ plates outside of my own (greedy). It was a fitting end to such a productive day… So please, enjoy the results!! And a huge thank you to everyone who played an active role in making that day fairly easy for this video rookie…

Announcing: The ‘SunStorm’ DELUXE PRE-ORDER PACKAGE

Although SunStorm won’t be released until July 27th…

For those of you who choose to order early, you will be rewarded with the SunStorm Deluxe Package, which includes:

1 – Autographed SunStorm (CD, Digipak)


1 – SunStorm .mp3 album download


1 – SunStorm sticker


1 – FREE Autographed copy of …just visiting (2006) (vinyl EP …only 1,000 copies in existence)

Pre-Order HERE….