Zo! + Sy Smith in LA – 01.19.12 …In Pictures

Much love to everyone who came out to our show in LA… We had a BLAST.

Zo! + Sy Smith in Paris… 03.05.11

I’ll start by saying this: I have only been to Paris three times, but in those few visits my adoration for the city increases each time. This past visit and show proved to be one helluva testament to this city’s proper treatment of the artists that come through and play. 

Sy and I were up and out of our London hotel by about 7am to hop on what they called the “tube” (subway train station) at Euston to head one stop northbound on the Victoria Line to King’s Cross, which is where we caught the Eurostar train to Paris. Being as though I purposely stayed up the entire night before, once we found our seats, I remember cracking a couple of jokes here and there……..and then I was OUT. The next thing I remember clearly was stopping in Paris for what turned out to be the quickest two-hour train ride in my entire life. I kind of staggered along and went through the motions while grabbing my bags and walking through the train station. It finally hit me: “Ummm… you MIGHT wanna start looking out for the promoter so you know where the hell y’all are going!” Just as I looked up to see if I noticed a “Sy Smith / Zo” handwritten sign, I noticed someone standing there holding our promo poster! Wow… It was our promoter Manuelle waiting to greet and walk us over to our hotel. When we got there, she checked us in and made sure everything went through without any problems and asked us if we would meet her back down in the lobby to go over the next two days… Impressive. Upon meeting back up, she took us over to the Bizz’art venue so that we were able to check it out. Our posters and advertisements were plastered all over the place. Then she asked the magic question… “Are you hungry?” And to be honest, I wasn’t even that hungry… But dammit, this was Paris… and I wanted something to eat. So I requested just a sandwich of some sort, nothing major… just something small. Manuelle said that she knew of a place right around the corner that would be perfect. We walked over to a small spot around the corner from the venue where the guys working there seemed to know Manuelle fairly well – I saw this as a great thing, meaning they would take care of Sy and I too. With that being said, one of the guys asked me what I wanted and I requested a sandwich. I didn’t know what I was in for… He pointed out a type of beef that he stated was very good… I told him to slice it up!! He then began to list the cheeses they had available… I was so excited that I chose TWO! “Yes! Put mozzarella AND parmesan cheese on there!” The next thing I knew, he started talking about one of my weakness foods… Sun-dried tomatoes. My excitement ALMOST got the best of me as I felt like cussing dude out while ordering… 

“YES! Shit!! Put some damn sun-dried tomatoes on that bitch!!”  

…But I held back and just decided to order them in a civilized fashion. What I took back to the hotel with me was too worthy of being called just a sandwich… That joint was a SAMMICH. I grabbed some cheddar and chives chips, me and Sy split a bottle of red wine at the hotel and lunch was served.  …Pardon the bite, taking the picture was SECOND on the priority list next to my wanting to take care of the food.

After completing an interview, we had good cry laugh listening to a Bizzy Bone interview that my boy Asylum 7 and I used to listen to and quote rather regularly. After that, the rest of the day was ours to do whatever with. So later on that night, we grabbed dinner at a spot right across the street from the hotel called Le Chateau Landon. Our waiter looked like a French Mario Brother… Dude had the handlebar mustache and everything. For me, he recommended the ribeye steak, which I ordered with a pepper sauce, cheese sauce, and a small salad. ALL of it was good. I even ate some of the fish off of Sy’s plate and knocked out some those fries…

The day of the show began with me going downstairs into the hotel lobby and taking advantage of its free breakfast, which included… Croissants!!! I went down there and took care of about 4-5 of them and being that my sleep schedule in Europe is always ridiculously off, I went to bed after my meal and ended up waking up late to meet Manuelle and Sy for lunch at 1pm. I got myself together in record time after receiving the “where you at” call from Sy at about 1:15 or so. After rushing down to the lobby, Manuelle walked us to a spot on the way to the venue where she treated us to wine and some great food. I had a dish that combined whitefish with mashed potatoes, which I had NEVER seen before… The fish was mashed in WITH the potatoes with peppercorns on top of it, it was kinda crazy… but tasted wonderful. From there we walked over to Bizz’art where we were to meet up with the musicians and get a rehearsal in with them before the show. Now, I had already heard great things about these kats from N’Dambi and her manager, but to hear how good they sounded at that rehearsal as well as witnessing their preparation… I was thoroughly impressed. Kats had iPads with their charts in them, the keyboard player had all of the sounds he was gonna use for each song pre-programmed in his laptop. The drummer took the time to make sequences of EACH SONG just in case we wanted to have a backing track to play over. It is rare to find players who get this far into playing your work. It was just as impressive as it was appreciated by Sy and myself. After running through our set with the fellas, we ventured back to the hotel to change and get ready to give Paris more than their money’s worth of a show. …And then I got a knock on my door…. It was Sy. She looked a bit distraught as she explained to me that she just received word that she lost a good friend of hers who just happened to be Jeff “Fuzzy” Young lead singer of the group Something For the People (“My Love is the Shhh”)… So from that moment on, our two shows were to be a dedication to his life and music. The way that Sy was able to take her grieving and transform it into positive energy used to perform without a hitch was a testament to her talent and extreme professionalism… And THIS is yet another reason why I will forever mess with some damn Sy Smith.

Performance-wise, the show was excellent, particularly for it being our first time performing as a ‘duo.’ We opened with “Nights Over Egypt” and the night continued to improve and progress from there. After absolutely going IN on Sy’s music, we started in on some joints from SunStorm and …just visiting too – Including a piano intro of “Greater Than the Sun,’ which rolled directly into “Greatest Weapon Of All Time.” We were joined on stage by The Roots’ keyboardist Ray Angry during “MakeLuv2Me” which turned out to be One of my favorite moments of the show came when we played “Flight of the Blackbyrd.” Excellent times… The Paris crowd NEVER disappoints as they were once again enthusiastic during the show and excited to meet with us after its completion. Matter of fact, they damn near bought up all of our merchandise leaving us with a limited supply for the next day in London! My only question is… So WHEN CAN WE COME BACK?!

The Foreign Exchange in Europe: Day 5 – Köln

I’ll be completely honest, I was mad as hell when my cell phone alarm went off to wake me up in the morning because in true “Zo! on the FE European Tour” fashion, I only got 2 or 3 hours of sleep and fell asleep laughing at random nignorance on YouTube. Why?… Because the wi-fi was free of course! Anyway, I started the day off with a breakfast of repeat champions – A croissant and apple juice (taken from the venue’s backstage area the night before) which looked like what I called a “grown man’s juice box.” For the record, every croissant I had in France was absolutely ridiculous. I was looking to see if there was some jelly or something…Didn’t need it, those joints melted when eaten.

We finally got on the road around noon for the four-hour drive to Köln. Now anyone who knows me understands that I have somewhat of an obsession with all things food, so you may be able to imagine how excited I was to discover the fact that Schweppes made other flavors of pop (<– Midwest shiff) outside of ginger ale. At our first stop, I picked up a salad and a LEMON flavored Schweppes and damn if it didn’t taste delicious!! Little things make my day, so please just bare with me.

Our SECOND stop on the road landed us somewhere in Belgium. When we pulled up, the rest stop didn’t even look like it was open for business. There were a few cars scattered here and there throughout the parking area and more trash than actual trash cans. Once we walked up to the place, the doors slid open automatically and there were a few people already sitting down enjoying a meal. Out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at what was on the menu in the spot… while there wasn’t too much of a menu, they did have a very interesting variety of food choices spread out in the display case… Including grizzly. 

I wasn’t feeling daring enough to take a risk on such a wide variety of mystery meat, so I went over to the vending machine and bought a Kit Kat, which seemed pretty safe to me…. Until I bit into it. I think it had been in the vending machine since the “…Break me offa piece of that Kit Kat bar” commercials… The joint tasted like chocolate covered wood chips. But I ate it anyway… Hell, what can I say I was hungry. We got back on the road and it was amazing to me to cross the border into Germany and see the language on the signs change instantly from French to German in the matter of a few… meters. We don’t get to see things like that crossing from Maryland into Virginia… I mean, the driving may get a little worse, but no primary language change. lol And when I lived in Michigan, we used to have to go through a series of personal questions and show off 28 qualifying credentials before getting to cross the border and seeing something different in Canada. So to simply drive into a different country uninterrupted was a different experience for me.

Pulling up to the venue (Bahnhof Ehrenfeld), we were all looking pretty confused… “Is this it? Is this the place?” It must be… This is where the navigation system directed us to and GPS is always correct and accurate, right?…………….. (no) The GPS was actually correct this time and we were able to walk right into the spot and begin to soundcheck, which took all of about an hour and a half… we were there for a minute. At this point, all I wanted was some food and some wi-fi. I was in luck… Soon after soundchecking, the promoter took us to our green room area, which was across the street from the venue itself… hmmm, now this is different. A green room across the street from the venue? I was told that not only did they have free wi-fi, but they were planning to feed us pretty well for dinner. I’m ON IT!! Kats got into the green room and started plugging in laptops, connecting the net to their phones like some damn fiends… That lasted until they brought that food out – Turkey schnitzel (I was on the net by this time and Googled it so I was completely aware of what I was about to show no mercy on LOL), rice, curry sauce, and potatoes with roasted tomatoes, onions, etc… Maaaaaaan, look. This was the best meal we’ve had on the trip, PERIOD. I would have taken a picture of the food, but I wasn’t even THINKING about it at the time, I wanted to eat immediately. And dammit, Germany came through on the food. I partook in a second……. and a third helping of this wonderful food, I just couldn’t let it go to waste as it looked so lonely in the serving trays. At that point, it was time to turn around and check-in to the hotel where we had about an hour to get ready before having to roll right back to the venue.

We walked into the venue and the entire crowd of people was waiting in the bar area of the place rather than by the stage. I remember thinking, “Damn.. that’s different.” Once we arrived backstage, the people began to file into the main stage area. The one thing that stands out to me about the stage was that it was much higher than normal, but once again when the music started… the height of the stage and the language barrier didn’t really matter too much at all. This was also The Foreign Exchange’s first show in Germany so it didn’t take the crowd long to get into what we were playing. Plus, it was the fourth show on the tour so by this time we were so locked in musically that our comfort levels allowed us to become much more loose on stage. At one time, I thought I was about to pass out laughing as Phonte introduced the crowd to one of the crew’s inside jokes…comedy in its purest form. Germany rocked with us though and there was a group of kats who stood right up front in the middle that knew damn near ALL of the words. They were with us all the way to “Maybe She’ll Dream of Me” when the damn house sound went out COMPLETELY. Not good after a 90-minute soundcheck huh?… It finally kicked back in after about the first verse… :-/ The show concluded with the crowd calling us to come back out for an encore and of course us going into the crowd to greet everyone who came out. Germany showed a ton of love and made it known to me that they were very grateful to have us there performing. And to prove how small this world is – I even ran into a dude who played college baseball at Vanderbilt almost the same time I was in school and we played against each other from 1997 – 2000. We started reminiscing on the WKU vs. Vandy matchup, the stadiums, and I made SURE to bring up the fact that I hit a grand slam off of them to contribute to our victory over them when we played them at home my sophomore year. lol Great times in Germany…

Photo by Jumana Mensah

Now, onto some rest and relaxation in Amsterdam!!

The Foreign Exchange in Europe: Day 4 – Paris

I was completely unable to get any type of sleep on the Jr. twin beds at the Backstage Hotel, so I ended up waking up at about 6am and just staying up to take advantage of the lovely free wi-fi provided by the hotel. I went down to the lobby area to put some breakfast together, which was cool because if you were “with the band” you were allowed to just go into the kitchen and help ya damn self straight outta the refrigerator. Talk about making yourself feel at home… Lobby call was not too long after that, so I gathered my bags and carried them down the hotel’s steep, narrow ass steps and grabbed a seat in the lobby to wait. Now allow me to explain something real quick… when traveling with nine people at a time with luggage, it is ALWAYS an adventure. “Say it with me one time” © Dilla… Ad-ven-ture. And today was no exception…

The rental car place in Amsterdam would not allow us to rent a second car due to some credit card issue. Ok, cool… Let’s get someone else out whose card matched their driver’s license information or whatever the problem is so we can all roll out. NO, not that easy. We went through this process with a couple different people before finally being able to find someone whose information agreed with their system. Let’s keep in mind that the rental spot was 25 minutes away from the hotel. So every time we had to try a new person’s card, there was another 25-minute commute involved each way AND the place closed at 1pm… See? Adventurous. Anyway, we were finally able to get our hands on the two cars and were Paris-bound at about 2pm, which means we should make it to the city at around 6/6:30pm, hit sound check, check in to the hotel, play the show, right? …Now what word did I ask you to remember earlier?
Once again, due to my lack of sleeping in the kid sized bed at the hotel, I was pretty much DONE in the car ride to Paris. I woke up when we stopped for food, but other than that it was pretty much a wrap for me in the front seat of that car. This means that the majority of the drive was nonexistent… But I do know this, the last time I woke up, the clock read 7:45pm and we were in some THICK traffic. I’m talking about the opening scene of Office Space-type of traffic. It was then that I finally realized, “Oh shit… I’m in Paris!” I immediately pulled my camera out and started snapping pictures from the car. I wasn’t sure what time the show was, but I thought we were still in pretty good shape despite the fact that we lost a couple of hours as a direct result of the city’s bumper-to-bumper issues. This wasn’t the case either. We were gonna have to get into serious rush mode as soon as the car came to a complete stop… Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of this until the car came to a complete stop. lol
Upon our arrival, I could see the line of people waiting to get into the venue. The good thing was they looked pretty excited to see us pull up. But we had to take everything we had into the spot because the traffic set us so far back time-wise that we were only allotted enough time to do a quick line check, change clothes, and play the show. So we rushed through a soundcheck, changed clothes (I snacked on a croissant or two backstage in the meantime, which were the BEST I’ve ever had in my life… LAWD!!), and were prepared to hit the stage…
Now when I tell y’all that the Paris crowd was hype as hell…. MAN. From start to finish, they were READY for a show and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of a crowd that enthusiastic before. They were into it from the minute we set foot on the stage… Dancing, screaming, chanting, yelling our names out all during the show… It was beyond crazy. At one point in the show, they had a “Sy Smeet!! Sy Smeet!! Sy Smeet!!” chant going (That’s my horrible attempt at a French accent saying “Sy Smith” for those of you who may be a bit lost there). Despite being pressed for time, the crowd hung with us through every single song.. and they partied. We were called back out after the show for an encore and we gave them “Crazy You” off of the …just visiting too album just so they could have their fair share of some “Sy Smeet.” But then, they were even more excited when we walked back out into the crowd after the show to greet everyone. It was an excellent feeling once again to be a witness to those whose lives you have touched with music, there aren’t any words to describe what I was feeling while talking with the Paris crowd.
While the show was an absolute success, what is the word that we cannot escape while on the road? Ahhh, yes… of course – Adventure. Someone told us that the hotel was “only 150 meters” from the venue. Of course after hearing that and the fact that there was no parking available around the hotel, we all decided to walk it on over to the hotel. Maaaaan, about a mile and a half later with luggage and a steady rain in our faces, we finally made it to our destination! At least the hotel had free wi-fi once we got there, along with room keys that were attached to damn door handles. What a night… Well, no sleep tonight and it’s off to Germany!

The Foreign Exchange In Europe: Day 3 – Amsterdam

Still on a high from the the first London show, I was damn near about to stay up all night until we were to meet up in the lobby and get ready to hit the train from London to our next stop… Amsterdam. I did actually end up falling asleep, but only for a couple of hours. Woke back up, threw my things in the suitcase and prepared myself for a train ride. I wasn’t aware that we were to catch a second train in Brussels, which was no problem, but the connection was made interesting because there was about a ten minute window between trains. We were given fair warning while we traveled on the first train, so as soon as the ride was complete, we knew we needed to hop up, unload luggage for nine and hurry up to that second train. And this is exactly what happened… We were all by the luggage racks before the train even came to a complete stop. Once it halted, we opened that door, two people stepped outside to receive bags as a few of us stayed inside to pass them down. After making sure everyone’s bag was accounted for, the pace went from leisurely walk to swiftwalk/powerjog. As we walked up, the train was about 2 minutes away from it’s equivalent to “All Aboard!” call. Thank GOD our first train arrived approximately 7 minutes early, or else we would have been a bit short. But we made it and all was good… well, kinda. We got our seats and because of my lack of sleep the night before, I was knocked OUT. When I woke up, everyone who was sitting near me was gone. I saw no Phonte, I saw no Ab… and my heart skipped about three beats and lack of sleep turned into the absence of logic, “These kats LEFT me in Europe!” But then I looked up and happened to see Nicolay and figured that I was still good to go… but I was still kind of curious as to why kats just got up and left their seats like that. Fatigue overtook my curiosity at the time, and I fell right back to sleep. I woke up again and found that we weren’t in Amsterdam yet, but I do remember smelling something a little funny. I looked around a little bit, didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary and laid my head back for more sleep. Finally, upon making it to our destination, the only thing I wanted to do was put something in my stomach. So I grabbed a quick sandwich, chips, and Vitamin Water at the station before we caught a couple of cabs to the venue, Paradiso. While waiting for the two cabs, Phonte and Ab started telling me why they changed their seats so abruptly.

“Maaaan, you were OUT on that train so you didn’t even see what happened!”

I’m standing there in suspense, like… “Can y’all please tell me what the hell happened on that train ride?”

“Man, this girl hurled on the train! She threw up on herself AND her friend!”

Oh damn… I KNEW something smelled like vomit, but I was so tired that as long as none was touching me I was good in my seat with my sleep. Needless to say, I didn’t feel too far out of the loop by missing someone throwing up on the train… So thank goodness for catching up on sleep.

I heard before the show that Paradiso was a large venue, and kats weren’t lying. We had a TON of space on that stage to maneuver and I’m not exactly sure how many people the place holds, but I could tell that it was significantly bigger than Cargo. It actually kind of reminded me somewhat of NYC’s Highline Ballroom.

Photo by Sarah Jane Van Beek

Once the show began, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Amsterdam crowd. They were definitely there in numbers, but it took them a second to warm up. But once they did, I saw a ton of people dancing around and having a great time. It’s always interesting to me when I see kats who speak a different language able to recite lyrics to a song WORD FOR WORD. I LOVE that. I was checking for it all night long because up until then I had never seen it happen first hand – further proof that music is the universal language. Holland partied with us, sang with us, and even laughed with us when we improvised on stage (i.e. the Gospel-influenced “Pay My Bills” joint). And the people were friendly as hell when I came back out to greet – including a kat who approached me and said that he traveled from Italy to see the show. Dude was all smiles and so excited. The fact that he didn’t speak or understand too much English made it even more of an experience for me. Our music and performance had just made his night and what a helluva thing to be able to do. To bring that much joy to someone that you can barely communicate with?! Music is POWERFUL. I also had the pleasure of meeting Nicolay’s family who came out there about 20 deep, including his mother, father, siblings and cousins… very good people. I was also able to get up with a good friend of mine who I used to teach with in D.C. who now lives in Amsterdam. Now that was a good feeling to be able to meet up six time zones away from home. Bottom line: The Amsterdam show was a WIN.

Of course the “Post-Game Meal” was in order after the show. So our homegirl Pay pointed us in the right direction through the square where there was a spot called Wok To Walk. Maaaaan, you talk about a damn food victory?! Phonte, Ab, and myself picked that menu up and ordered with enthusiasm in our voices (Ab had already visited the spot already, so kats were thoroughly excited about the place already). When dude called our first names individually to come up and get our plates, kats hit the George Jefferson speedwalk while waving one hand behind us to get this food. Wok To Walk officially provided me with my first satisfying meal of the European Tour.

From there we retreated back to our hotel… The Backstage Hotel. With a name like that, it was pretty obvious that they catered to bands, artists, etc. The place was dope design-wise. It had a ton of different old show promotion posters up, guitars on the walls… Even the rooms were furnished with road-ready travel case material. It was kinda crazy. And free wi-fi too?! This has is too good to be true!! Well, it was… Once again, I was in a bed that didn’t fit my body. Matter of fact, it was smaller than the London hotel bed. I was so afraid that I would fall off of the damn bed and get stuck in BETWEEN the two beds. Luckily that didn’t happen though… Up late again until we’re off to the next city.

The Foreign Exchange In Europe: Day 1/2 – London

Call me what you want… but when I went in to the school to teach today, I was definitely more focused on how my first shows and performances in Europe were gonna go moreso than the activities occurring in my own classroom – I can’t lie. I would catch myself zoning out rather regularly throughout the workday, only because I was so anxious to not only see what it was like in the U.K., but I wanted to check out London’s response to our music and actually be able to shake hands with everyone and thank them for supporting for all these years. So you can imagine how quickly I rushed outta that school when 3:30pm came around so that I could get some last minute running around done before finally getting on the road to Dulles Airport. I made sure to pack half of a library, iPod, and all other essentials to keep me busy for the upcoming 7-hour plane ride to Heathrow. I even made sure to grab a nice skrong draink to down fairly quickly to help with the napping process. Met up with our bass player, Kush in the terminal not too long before boarding the plane and got it moving to our gate. Apparently the Strong Island Iced Tea that I had assisted me in my quest for sleep because the entire plane ride over, I attempted to watch the movie “Wall Street 2” and could NOT make it through the entire thing… shameful considering the fact that I had over seven hours to do so. I would wake up to rolling credits, rewind it…. doze off again and wake up to another part in the movie that was completely unfamiliar looking to me. COme to think of it, I didn’t even stay awake long enough to catch the take-off. When I woke up the first time, I thought we were still taxiing on the damn runway… until I leaned forward to look out of a window and found out that this was NOT the case. By that time we were 30,000 feet in the air pretty much set at our cruising altitude. While the plane ride wasn’t too bad at all (I think my much needed sleep played a significant part in that as well), the length of my legs require my upgrading the seat on the return flight, so uh-ruh… I’ll be doing that for next week. Once we arrived, of course we had to fill out our “landing card” before making our way through UK customs. Passports and work permits were presented, and we were good to go. We walked down to baggage REclaim as they call it and picked up our bags, connected with our people and were out. I didn’t know what to expect once I arrived in London. The first thing I noticed was the consistent rain… It wasn’t pouring, but it was certainly dreary as all hell. This didn’t stop me from having my camera out at all times snapping pictures of any and ALL things on the drive to the hotel. Once we arrived at the hotel and got up to the room, I walked in and saw the size of the beds… Lawd.

When I laid stomach-down on the bed to connect my laptop to the net, even with me positioning myself diagonally my feet were STILL on the wall. lol The free wi-fi was non-existent at the Thistle Hotel as I had to kick out £9.99 ($15.55) for just 24 hours of low-speed net access. I love it.

I went on a food mission that didn’t take me far at all as I was on foot and the rain had picked up pretty significantly by this time. I ventured across the street to a hole-in-the-wall spot and got a simple chicken sandwich and chips. The sandwich consisted of… well… a grilled chicken patty on a bun. Therefore, you will find NO pics of this plate on the net as I had to doctor it up to the point that I damn near remade the thing. Had to throw that meal down pretty quickly in order to make it to soundcheck/rehearsal on time as we had to run the entire set with a new drummer for the tour, Laurie Lowe… Our regular drummer, Biscuit was unable to make the trip with us this time. We made it up to Cargo, which looked like a nice spot to me… and more importantly, once soundcheck started the soundman got our levels right and had us sounding GOOD together. So at this point, I was even MORE hyped up than before for the show to begin. We hurried back to the room for a QUICK turnaround of about 30 minutes, just enough time for a quick shower and a change of clothes. It was at this very moment that I realized I would have to supply myself with my own washcloths upon returning to Europe because there aren’t any in the hotel rooms. I used a hand towel to wash up with… Just a side note. lol

We rode back to the Cargo and found out that we had to walk through the crowd to get to the dressing room… Welp! Ok… The funny thing is, I looked up and a flashlight ended up in MY hand to lead the crew through this packed up ass, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. So I’m stumbling through people in order to clear the way for the crew, with a flashlight in hand looking like damn security of the first world. I could hear a couple people calling out our individual names as they gradually started to realize who was pushing their way through them. I even heard a few people say, “Zo!” …and others say, “Zo?” as I walked by them.
At the start of the show, I could already tell it was gonna be a night for the books. London was READY… We came out, and they were into the show from start to finish… From crowd response and participation to knowing all the words to the songs… they were ready to go. The personal highlight of the night for me on stage was the response I heard from Phonte simply saying, “I’ve got my man Zo on the keys.” The people got LOUD… The reaction caught me COMPLETELY off guard… so much to the point that I had to STOP playing the keyboard and just kinda stand there looking extra surprised. I couldn’t do anything but look at my kats on stage and say simply, “Wooooow.” Actually, someone asked me later on, “Why did you look so surprised when the crowd cheered for you?” Maaaaan, look. I haven’t heard a reception like that outside of Detroit and D.C. Very rewarding and humbling experience. Then to be able to walk right back out into the crowd after the show to take pictures, shake hands, sign albums, and greet everyone who has been following FE’s music and some who have been following my music for years was a huge bonus for me. Overall, the show was the perfect opening show for the European Tour run. Playing to a sold-out, hyped up crowd in a spot that I have never been before. Sounds pretty damn great to me.

AFTER the show, I was in for a not so great surprise as I decided to order the “Jerk Chicken Sandwich” at the venue and upon its arrival, I discovered that it was actually grilled chicken cutlets with lettuce and some damn chipotle mayo. :-/ Someone took it even further than that and ordered some calamari… I won’t even comment on it. I’ll just show you the picture.
Regardless, one a helluva show in London…… If this is any indication of how the remainder of this tour will be, then I. Can’t. WAIT for more.

‘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…

Damn Wishbone! b/w A Tribe Called PPP

Before our departure from Chicago, I set up a breakfast meeting with one of my old college teammates and my homegirl. I had my mouf all set for some CJ’s Eatery being as though they had come through so tough last month with the absolutely ridiculous catfish breakfast platter. BUT, we got word that they didn’t do brunch on Friday. No problem, let’s hit up Wishbone! I’ve been there a couple of times for breakfast, and they do their thing (my breakfast history @ Wishbone: Shrimp & Grits and the Banana Pancakes –LAWD). So we met up at about 10:45a and put the orders in at a little before 11a… of course if I’m listing times, you already know where I’m going with this. 11:30 came and went, 11:40…11:50?!!?!

Come on now… We had our drinks and no real explanation on why we had no food. The place was packed up, yes..BUT people around us were getting their food. I think the joint just got lost and they were covering it up – poorly. So in order for me to avoid missing my ride back to O’Hare, we had to leave and walk up the street to Starbucks so I could pick up a breakfast sammich. By this time, it was 12-something and I was HOWNGREE… I didn’t give a rat’s ass what I ate at that point. I thought that sammich and orange juice was the greatest meal of all-time… Wishbone FAILED miserably, almost an hour went by with no food, and no real explanation why. Damn, what happened? Then fast forward to the airport… It’s myself, Jeed, Train and Syd all checking in and going through security. The nasty-minded older female security folk were giving me an earfull basically saying they were gonna go through ALL of my stuff, frisk me, and make me play my bass guitar for them before they let me through. Wonderful…

We got through that madness and walked over to Johnny Rockets for a bite to eat before heading to our gates. Now mind you, I had on my Tribe Called Quest t-shirt as the four of us stepped up to order our food. The girl who took Coultrain’s order was just grinning… ear to damn ear. Then she kept saying, “I know I’m not crazy… I know I’m not crazy.” It was strange, but kats finished placing the orders, got our seats and waited for the food… 

We all looked at each other trying to figure out what the issue was and why ole girl was at the register having a moment. Train was like, “I’m pretty sure she thought I was somebody I’m not.” But the million dollar question still remained… WHO? So when Jeed went back up to get his food, he came back laughing. It turned out that because of my T-shirt, she thought we were A Tribe Called Quest HILARIOUS. So we spent about 5 minutes at the table tryna figure out which one of us was who… She had to have been real young, po’ child. At least she had A Tribe Called Quest in her mind as an option to choose from.. *shrugs*

With PPP In Chicago @ The Shrine – 07.02.09

Well… Hit the airport for our 45 minute flight to Chicago and got to O’Hare and found a limo pulling up for us. Oh word? We were in there taking pictures like we’ve never been anywhere before… Gotta enjoy yourself right? Hahahahaha.

Anyway, we pulled up to the hotel, checked in… got grub, and hit the soundcheck. The check was long as hell, but once they got the sound locked in, it was a wrap and it was sounding good. Toward the end, in walks Muhsinah and fellow ELs member SlimKat78 to set up and check as they were scheduled to go on before us.

We had a looong time of waiting around at the hotel before we were to return to the spot to perform, so I got a workout and a pre-show meal in before we had to jet up. Once we got to the Shrine, we were informed that the place was pretty much packed out, which is ALWAYS good news. Now, once the show started…it went smoothly, until the end when they cut our set a song short because the club was about to close in 10 minutes. Can you say horrible time management? Damn man, it didn’t feel good to leave the crowd hanging like that. On top of that, the after the show piece when I like to get out there, mingle, say ‘what up’ to everybody who came out was eliminated as security was wanting everybody to leave immediately. It was confusion… but a great show once again.

On the Road With PPP in Detroit @ CityFest – 07.01.09

Our West Coast trip in March wasn’t enough… Waajeed, Coultrain, Monica Blaire, Sydney Driver, and myself had to get back up again and roll through a couple more spots before it was all said and done. The first stop this time around was the spot where three of us call home, Detroit where we played at CityFest opening for De La Soul on the main stage.

Because of the early flight, I stayed up all night (surprise, surprise) and arrived at BWI Airport at about 4am. Delta was obviously having problems checking folks in, because despite the fact that I was there 2 hours prior to take off, by the time I got checked in, went through security, and got to the gate it was 5:50am …my flight left at 6am.

Once I landed in The D, Moms came to scoop from the airport and I got home and passed out on the couch. When I finally woke up, I checked outside and made sure I said a prayer for the bad weather to hold off until we played… Well, the weather held off during soundcheck, that was no problem. But soon after that, it started to POUR. We were scheduled to go on at 7pm and because of the downpour, the people got outta there for a minute. The rain held off for a little while once we did get on stage and the soundman had us sounding real good up there. The rain started to come back down in the middle of us playing “Stay With Me.” The thing that got me was, once the rain came back…the people stayed – how ’bout that?! I think that said a whole lot about the crowd and support group that we have back home, kats hung with us out there and I am very appreciative of that. Moms, Pops and my younger sister came out… popped open the umbrellas and enjoyed themselves – even took pictures for me. After the show, my family came back to the trailer and kicked it for a little while with the entire group, the brotha Maestro of Silent Riot stopped through, along with Mudd of 5 Ela. Everybody was just crackin’ jokes, talkin’ shiff and having a good time.

I ended up rolling to Champps with the family to get fat and have some drainks, in which I had two… We closed the night out by laughing at Shaq & Cedric the Entertainer’s Comedy special, which was HILARIOUS.

On to Chicago….!