the rap writer’s endless grief.

“Did you hear about XXXTentacion?” he said, to all of us. The older dude who worked on our floor, that I didn’t know at all, was the one who broke the news to us that the young rapper, had been murdered in broad daylight. Seconds later, the video of him laying in his driver’s seat was on the large Mac displays we had in our office, back when I worked out of one of those. I hurriedly said “don’t show me,” because well, I can’t deal with seeing people breathing their last breaths, no matter how much the internet has desensitized us. I felt hollow for the rest of the day, and out of sorts: I was no fan of X due to the crimes tied to his name, but I knew he had talent, and I was two months removed from seeing him turn Rolling Loud Miami, into a total frenzy. He was gone now. Permanently. And I knew right there, in that moment, as I ate dinner, alone in a restaurant, that these rapper deaths would hit closer and closer to home. One day it would be someone I really had love for. I hoped I would be prepared. I was not.

I could say the rise of Pop Smoke in NYC was something you had to be there for; he got hot so fast that he was already stretching outside of the boundaries of tri-state area by spring 2019. I knew who he was, of course, I heard his songs, I thought they were cool, but I didn’t “get” what he was doing until I met him. I had no idea what to expect, after watching and reading his other interviews; rappers who haven’t been in music very long, can be standoffish, or guarded. He comes to the office, with just a few of his friends and his publicist, and he’s disarmingly cool, like someone I would’ve grown up with, even though I was at least 11 years older than him. What was most striking about Pop, was his happiness. He was happy to do press, to talk his shit, to be successful, to make music and be loved for it. But most importantly, he was happy to be himself, completely comfortable in his own skin in an industry that makes husks of promising young talent, because it only loves their output, with little care for the human being behind it. After I met Pop, Meet The Woo, his debut tape, made sense to me, the songs landed, he had a fan and supporter in me.

Y’all know where I work, and you know what we on when the new year starts….the Freshman List. Every year, it’s a who’s who of the rappers who are up next (and with the speed of how rap moves, those who are up now). January 2020, Pop Smoke came to the office to do his Freshman pitch, where he is interviewed by staffers about what his next steps are for the year, he discusses why he should be a Freshman and how he feels about the idea, things of that nature. I was working on something else, so I was going to check on Pop when he got out of the meeting. It was kind of late, like 7 or 8 pm, and he strolled out of the back, the same stocky, star power-exuding dude I remembered. He, of course, got picked to be a Freshman, because understand: he HAD to be. He loomed LARGE in the city (and beyond), he WAS Brooklyn Drill to most people, by far the most recognizable act within it. I dapped him up and told him congrats, and he def poked fun at how muscular I was after I shook his hand (likely too strongly)…which is crazy, cause he was also strong as shit. It was great to see him, and he was ecstatic to be a part of this.

February 19th, 2020. Pop is dead, murdered in a home invasion in Los Angeles that still doesn’t make sense to me, the reality of it just being too much. He was 20 years old, man. Seeing his light be snatched away, knowing where he was headed and how committed he was to getting there, was really disturbing as fuck to me. I don’t think I really ever recovered, because I basically couldn’t feel anything, when I realized the rumors were true, Pop, that guy we all loved in the office, was gone. Forever. Look past the music for a second; the person, the human being, was gone. And we had to sit with that. And I say “sit” as a figure of speech, because working within rap means you are endlessly moving through death, hoping it gets easier, or in my own personal case, hoping the constant loss of life doesn’t strip me of my humanity, of my ability to feel pain for these artists, and that hole that never really fills in their absence. I remember standing outside, talking to my coworker’s about Duke Deuce’s tape which dropped the same day, Memphis Massacre 2, and how Pop’s death made it hard to focus on such a strong project. I was in a daze for the rest of that day, the rest of that week, the rest of that month, my only respite being denial, refusing to accept what happened.

My connection to Von was very similar to Pop’s, but a bit more involved, just because of how different Von’s route was to fame. Mired in legal troubles and unable to get his feet out of the street, Von pretty much came out of nowhere and dropped “Crazy Story” and “Took Her To The O” within 12 months. “Took Her To The O” was when I realized “Von is going to take off, and everyone has to accept and realize this.” I actually interviewed him nearly a week after Pop got murdered, and remembered feeling that “I hope he gets to hang around and enjoy this shit” feeling. Losing artists you actually knew, were around, and helped promote puts you into that kind of mindset; you become fearful, you worry about these people, you wonder will they get to bask in their success, or will all of this get cut short. Von was cool as hell too, just like Pop, and unflappable and very open, speaking very clearly and honestly to me about his jail time and cases, without me asking or really pushing (I think it’s extremely police when interviewers press on topics like this, but thats another conversation). I was a fan of Von, but worried his the criminal investigation (accusation of a shooting in Atlanta, alongside his friend and OTF leader/labelmate, Lil Durk) he was wrapped in would hold him back at XXL. He really did want to be a Freshman, his team pushed hard for this, and he was easy to work with. I was in his corner, but understood the reality of the situation.

In winter 2020, we were trying to launch Who Am I? Live, an IG Live interview series split between me and my colleague, where we Scheduling, destiny and perfect timing led to us opening the show with Von, and us both having to trust each other on something new. I had to believe that Von would be engaging and open to talking, and that I’d ask the right shit, and he had to trust that I would do my best to give him room to let his charisma and music shine though, and give his fans what they wanted.

Von was incredible in the interview, giving me a tour around his hotel room, introducing his friends, playing a ton of unreleased music, and even playing one of his videos before they dropped. He rose up to the moment and so did I, and I hope he realizes how much he held me down and legitimized me, as I did something I hadn’t done before. The aftermath of this interview had my parents, who are both in their 60s, singing Von’s praises, this young dude from Chicago who had been through it all. That specific interview was a source of happiness for me; I was dealing with my own depression/anxiety issues, worrying about the love of my life’s fibroids and the pain she was feeling, and just trying to survive the pandemic, when it felt like letting your guard down for a second would put you in a coffin.

Just over a week later, Von was gone, killed in a fist fight with Quando Rondo that turned into a shooting. I was in Houston when I found out, where I had been for about a month with my girlfriend, so I was alone while she was at work. I felt that familiar sinking feeling, but I chose to not believe social media, and held out hope that there had been some sort of misunderstanding, that Von just got shot but wasn’t dead. I came into a work meeting on Zoom as they all realized it was true, Von died on the way to the hospital, 700 miles from his hometown, the victim of social media beef that boiled over. I muted myself on Zoom, because I was crying in an empty room, and could not compose myself to say anything to my coworkers. I was in a lot of emotional pain at the time, which would soon lead to my anxiety disorder getting so bad that I had a gnawing in my stomach that would go on to last for months. I was worried about my girlfriend, I was worried about myself, I was worried about everyone I loved in the middle of a pandemic that was cutting lives short left and right, and I was under a lot of duress at work. Then I wake up to Von being killed over some bullshit, and I was expected to continue on like everything was ok.

I texted my sister and my parents and told them Von was dead, and even reading the text messages makes me remember how distraught I felt in the moment; it’s something I can’t forget, even now. Those thoughts were in my head again, where I didn’t feel I could be this close to hip-hop anymore, and just push through the psychological effects of “This person I’m cool with is dead now, and they can all be snatched away from us, in an instant.” It was fucking me up, it still is. The very thing I knew would happen to me, did. And it came quickly. Obviously, I hung in there, but the deaths really didn’t stop, and there is no simple answer to slow it down, no path to peace without nuance.

Before Von died, Juice WRLD died via overdose, which was terrifying and something I still haven’t come to terms with. Young Dolph being killed just weeks ago was too much; I loved the man and his music, and who he was, what he represented, and was beside myself to meet him the one time I did. Every time these deaths happen, like Drakeo The Ruler this past weekend, or Slim 400, or Mac Miller or Nipsey Hussle, I lose a bit of myself to this shit, to this hip-hop world I exist in that I contribute to. This is not about me being a fan, which I will always be. This is about me working in rap, getting to know these people, then refreshing TMZ to find out they got their lives taken or died in the most heinous ways.

Every time a rapper is lost, it chips away at my will to maintain my proximity to covering the genre. But the reality is, going back to being purely a fan is no easier, and may be more difficult in certain ways. Plus, walking is somewhat cheating my gift and my dream, and I owe something back to hip-hop, for all it’s given me; I love being a part of this shit. With each additional rapper death, it becomes more and more difficult to bounce back; it makes this all seem little futile and very finite, knowing that any rapper you’re a fan of, could be gone in the blink of an eye.

Peter and The Chicken.

You ever felt impending doom? Not the anxiety-based one that isn’t connected to anything, but I mean, real, actual, I’m-going-to-die-and-it-may-really-happen kinda shit. Being in a pandemic and you know, staying in the house and being very choosy with where I decide to take risks (I’m no gambler), gives you a lot of time to think. This COVID shit has been horrifying, and I am thankful me, my direct family and my friends have survived it, although I have lost some loved ones. But, I’m always close to dying. I’ve been there so many times in my life, that one would think it would change my outlook, maybe make me less abrasive, maybe value my days better, but no, not really. I know this life shit is fickle and fragile, and it makes me laugh to myself in confusion, every time I think about it.

Way back in late 2009/ early 2010, my college (yall know where I went) was having REAL issues with the neighborhood we were in. A lot was going on: Students were getting robbed and assaulted by local residents(and really, thats a product of a big ass school buying up your culture-filled neighborhood and pushing the people out), my friends were getting into beefs that turned very serious, one of which directly included me, someone got stabbed up in a fight right outside of my apartment window, we had become numb to hearing gunfire when we went to parties. Things were, in all reality, very fucked up. I say this after nearly being killed by campus police just 3 years earlier; this was as bad as things had ever been down there. And I really did think I was going to get killed before I graduated, because my understanding of the universe was based in “chances.”

You are going to have brushes with danger; I had been lucky over, and over, and over, and I knew that shit was gonna run out one day. You can lie to and play with everyone on this Earth; you cannot bullshit the universe. If you know in your heart of hearts, that just being out and about when things are so tense, can raise the chance of you being harmed, you are either bullshitting, the way you operate needs to change. So I laid low, but even with that me and my boy, who I love to this day, had to dip out of a party and sneak back to my apartment because someone in there wanted to shoot it up, because he saw us in there (over a money beef I inherited, just because I was present). Literally looked at us, then told the party he was gonna clap the shit up. Then we had to watch for him circling the block, after we dipped. That’s what I was doing in 2009 and 2010; trying to not die. After just barely not dying in 2006. Before I was walking around the Bronx in the dark in 20111, regularly, trying to get to my GF’s house in a hood where no one knew me but her, knowing I was pushing it every time I did this shit. Then wanting to die in 2015, while in the pits of depression. Then ACTUALLY having to rush my parents out of a house fire in 2020, while trying to also not get killed by COVID. I’m always dodging death; I never stopped.

I had been distracted enough to believe trying to get through COVID was something that was beyond me, but it wasn’t, I’m always trying to outrun some shit. The way I feel between vaccine shots (I already got my first) makes me feel the same way I did when I was running through the dark in Norfolk, hoping we weren’t being followed. The way I felt staring out of my bedroom window, not knowing someone was going to get stabbed in the middle of the giant mob. The way I felt when my homegirl hit us up hysterical, because there was a dead body in front of her college crib, on a back block. The same way I felt watching my childhood home, with smoke coming out of all its windows as the basement got reduced to cinders, hoping the house wouldn’t explode. Some foul shit is always around the corner, but I haven’t known it any other way, for a very long time. The fact that something as joyous as getting vaccinated could remind me of how close to the edge I’ve been, says a lot about how I see things. I got the first shot, I was happy for about an hour, then I got sad, thinking about how paranoid I’d be until my second, and how taxing all of this has been to live through. I also got wrapped up in how weird this whole experience has been, but I’m just…surviving. I don’t think it’s particularly brave, or valiant; I’m just alive, and I appreciate that.

I will be fine, because I know I will be. But, I know the reality of things. I know how shit can go wrong. Me understanding how things play out, and how poorly they can go, is why I think so well on my feet. That’s all I ever had; being in situations where I had to make the right choice or die, be it literally or metaphorically. People who love you can say whatever they want, you can put on whatever facade you feel like showing off, none of that shit matters. In the moment of truth, I’m going to do what I have to do, because I need to, and you better do the same. I’ve done so, many a time, and I know that a lot of things in this life are predicated on split second decisions. I take solace in that, but living in the pandemic has shortened my fuse; I’m not patient, I don’t like wasting time on bullshit anymore, I find it frustrating when someone’s head is in the clouds, I can’t stand when people don’t say what they mean. Our time is limited, and my hourglass nearly emptied one too many times to play. I can’t stand indecisiveness in big moments, and that’s partially because of jealousy; I didn’t get to bullshit in those moments, because I would have died, that innocence was stolen from me a long time ago. Thankfully, I did survive all this shit, and I get to give life another go with each new day, as I try to give more than I take.

“It’s a big difference.”

I heard an oddly familiar, but very loud beep. I assumed it was an alarm at a nearby house and brushed it off. Then I heard another, similar sound, followed by my mother yelling that there was a fire in the basement.

My mother is strong as fuck. I hate referring to black women as “strong” because it robs them of the room to be delicate, to feel pain, to be vulnerable. On the same token, I’ve watched my mother not flinch during shit that would’ve killed me, seen her stand up for people whose voice wouldn’t have been heard otherwise. She is a wonderful woman with a gigantic heart who ALWAYS sees the bigger picture. And that is strength, to me.

But she was concerned. I could tell from her voice. It’s the same way she sounded as she saw me spiral through a depressive episode for years. Just like back then, she saved my ass, yet again.

I ran down the steps, leaving everything behind. I was in disbelief, almost if my mom was mistaken. But nope, it was real, the dryer that I put my clothes in just ten minutes ago went up in flames, quickly overwhelming the basement, if the smoke that was seeping upstairs was real. My mom tried to go back downstairs to the fire, and I yelled (without cursing, because yes, I wanted to) for her to not do that and just leave the house. I told my dad the same; I also told him to just close the basement door instead of running down there. That move was done to save my mother’s cat Cathy from accidentally running downstairs and dying.

I get my parents outside of the house. I’m standing outside, hoping the fire doesn’t reach the boiler and blow the house up, and that the cat doesn’t die. I’m also extremely concerned about me or my family contracting Coronavirus outside, as the entire neighborhood is outside now, talking to us. My parents, thankfully, were masked up. I wasn’t, but kept my distance when I remembered. Long story short, FDNY put the fire out, the cat was fine (but scared, hiding in an upstairs closet), and the house is intact. We can’t stay there for some months, but we’re in a nice rental crib, my family is good, shoutout to the insurance my parent’s busted their asses for over the years.

My mother said I saved her and my dad (and by proxy, the cat’s) life. I decided to just be modest and not think about it. I talked to my girlfriend about it and admitted that I agreed with my mom’s sentiment, but it was a lot to stomach. The entire time I was trying to get my parent’s out of that house, I was thinking that the house was gonna blow up and they were going to die. That’s all that was on my mind. But I got them out, got outside and called 911. I was semi-hysterical but I was much more composed than I expected. But my mom thinks I saved them. And that conflicts with my idea of heroism.

My father is a hero. He saved my neighbor’s life when I was a kid, when she fell taking garbage to the incinerator on our floor and cut herself on the glass in the bag, leaving blood all over the hallway. I don’t know how he realized what was happening from inside our apartment, but he got to her and called 911, and saved her from bleeding out, and got his kids, who didn’t have local friends, a close friend down the hall and a family that embraced us. And he saved my friends lives too, with the way he has always been welcoming; they love him and admire him the same way I do. Because he’s a hero. And he’ll never admit that shit, because that’s not his style.

My mother is a heroine. She spent a lot of years in the New York Board of Education. She was a teacher, administrator, assistant principal and principal. I’ve seen the kids and adults that spent time in her schools, the lives she’s touched. They have an unending respect for her, as does everyone who has ever worked with or known her. She’s saved a lot of lives, directly and indirectly. She’s won awards for her work in schools, she has had students that would and have put their safety on the line for her. But she also would never admit any of this, because she is modest, and humble.

I have done a lot in my life. I am not modest or humble or anything of the sort. But I try to be my best self each day, and all I really want to do is help and do what’s right. With all of that said, I am (still) taken aback by the idea that I saved my family, because I just did what was correct to me, while being terrified. I understood that my fear could cost me the lives of my loved ones, so I acted as if I felt nothing, besides urgency. I do truly believe that I am a star that hasn’t evolved yet, but I’m no hero. I’m just someone who is trying to do his best, who experiences ups and downs like anyone else. And perhaps that’s enough. But, maybe, just maybe, I need to accept the love when I get it.

lone star.

I was exhausted, but it was time to go home.

I had been up for far too many hours, making sure I didn’t leave anything in my hotel. I crammed a hoodie into my big (and bright) ass suitcase and zipped it closed, then called my Uber. I didn’t have the energy for this; add in that my arriving flight was really rough and I already kind of don’t like planes, flying home bothered me a lot more than I’d ever admit.

I hurried downstairs when the Lyft arrived; I went to the front, but he was in the back. Once we got that straight, he hopped out of the car and ran up to me, taking my bag. Dude was tall as hell, like 6’6-6’7, lanky and West African, as evidenced by his accent. I get in the car and he’s pretty cool, even though I really don’t want to talk to anyone at 5 am; all I wanted to was somehow go to sleep and wake up back in NYC.

Once we realized we were both from New York, he started treating me like we had been friends forever, which is kind of a custom amongst black people from the city. New Yorkers are mean as shit, but when two cross paths far from home, it’s usually all love.

We’re riding and the first thing he wants to talk to me about is girls; this happens to me A LOT and I don’t know why. He’s telling me all this wild graphic shit about his female passengers having sex with him after his shifts, meeting women back in NYC, all this other shit. Im kind of evasive because I don’t know son, I have no desire to impress him with filth recaps and I spent pretty much the entire weekend with one woman, who showed me around the city (which I’ve never been to before) and was really sweet to me in a genuine way.

Here I was, riding to the airport, coming to terms with the emotions I was going through, this surging feeling of  “I’m into this girl, this is one of the best weekends I’ve ever had,” and what that means for me, who hasn’t REALLY felt anything close to this since 2015. I was uncomfortable, but in a good way, like a different version of myself was blooming, like these simultaneous feelings of caring, appreciation and endless yearning were changing me. All of this is in my mind while he’s playing me explicit videos of some girl back in NYC; he’s fucking my vibe up while showing me shit he absolutely shouldn’t, on some weird macho bonding shit.

I get out of the car, tell him peace, get my bag and leave. I rated him way too high on the app, mostly because I was just bewildered by that whole ride and was very out of sorts. He was talking my damn ear off, as I tried to piece together what was up with this medium crush that had certainly evolved into much more over the course of three days. I head into the airport and theres this pretty black girl behind me, kind of short, sort of caramel-ish. I nod and hold the door for her and feel her holding my gaze a little. I let her go on her merry way and we laughed at some random thing that I don’t remember. I remember how strange I felt, how the only thing that I was thinking was “we absolutely have to treat women better and think about how we engage with and think of them.” The driver talking about women as if they were just notches in a belt, just sexual conquests and little else was really getting to me.

I got on the plane and couldn’t shake this feeling of finality, like something was going to end,  like I’d never see this newfound object of my affection ever again, or something far less drastic but nonetheless important, the version of myself that overthought my own happiness. The former was pretty terrifying; the latter, way overdue.

Perhaps I’ve become afraid of things going my way.

By Robby Rav.

the wrong way.

In 2017, I was about two years deep into writing professionally and finally quit my 9-5, that I hated, to pursue writing in a more complete way. The stars aligned for me and I got an opportunity to work somewhere “real,” a place that would give me valuable experience (and solid money) to write about music. I took the job and hit the ground running.

Career-wise, I was finally moving, but internally, I was a dumpster fire. I was still struggling badly with anxiety issues, triggered by the many things I went through prior to 2017: being unemployed for two years, 3 break ups (with 2 totally destroying me), becoming sworn enemies with my best friend, the endless sting of loneliness and more. All of the pain I was suffering through had taken a toll on me; I was callous. All those nights reading rejection emails, being extremely broke, while trying to face how alone I really was, along with being in such a dark and lonely state that I questioned my desire to exist, for the lack of better wording, fucked me up.  Even in moments of joy, I felt nearly nothing. I was emotionally spent.

My inability to “feel” things was hurting me in a multitude of ways. I didn’t really want to go out because of how depressed I was and I definitely didn’t want to talk about my life. I didn’t really have money, so the simplest of things became a struggle. Once I got hired,  I struggled to fit in at work because I was the “outsider” who was only there once a week and had far less industry experience that everyone else. So my life and career are changing, but I barely have any friends I trust, in or out of music. Then, my friends I came up with, they can’t really relate to what’s happening to me, and I can’t properly articulate it to them.

I didn’t know I was doing it at the time, but I was masking my struggles by getting too deep into the mix. Once I started to get a little money, I was either drunk too many days out of the weekend, or smoking too much weed. My life was just a blur of intoxication and sex, outside of my professional life; I thought doing too much would bring my youthful exuberance back. Too many of the women in my life didn’t treat me how I wanted to be treated, in addition to some of them being situations that were alive past their expiration date. I was having sex, just so I could feel wanted, to feel like I mattered. When you’re in an emotionally desperate state and use something like sex to try to fill that void, you accept, entertain and cause too much bullshit.  I was too sad and felt too worthless to even really notice new girls who liked me, so nothing was really going right.

One particular night when I was too drunk and too high. I was on the train going home and felt a wave of paranoia wash over me. I imagined my train derailing, which inched me towards having a panic attack; I was afraid I was going to have a full breakdown on the spot. Once I managed to calm myself down, I began to feel sad again. I realized I almost always felt sad once I sobered up; weed and alcohol didn’t erase that I was broke, lacking real affection in my life and concerned about how my career would play out. Poisoning my body wasn’t doing shit for me; I had to clean it all up. I spent a lot more time sober after this, once I became conscious of how self-destructive I was being. I definitely slowed down with the girls too, because I wasn’t feeling fulfilled; I felt empty after the escapades. That life just wasn’t for me, at the time.

I got let go from that job, got another one in a month, worked there for 2 months and got my current job, the place I really wanted to be. Those final 3 months of 2017 could have gone terribly for me, but from the minute I was let go, I truly believed in myself and knew that no matter what, I was going to be ok. The time had finally come that I could look back on my life and truly believe that I could get through anything, then I did it. To be fair, I’m not 100 percent as we speak, but being aware of how I stayed afloat while facing career and personal turmoil at the same time, I knew I could accomplish anything I wanted to.

Things worked out.

By Robby Rav.

Subtraction By Subtraction.

It’s not hard to have sex. But know yourself before you indulge in it.

After my TRASH 2015 that included two rather bad splits and other low moments, I had to look in the mirror. What is it that I’m doing that gets me into these situations where I get tied up with a girl I like, then things just go sour?

My solution was not letting myself get so emotionally wrapped up in dating, to just chill, to just “have fun.” I’ve done this before; everything worked out, for the most part. This second go-round was disastrous, not in results or quality of sex, but in the long-term effect on my mindset.

It wasn’t that my approach changed, I was a little more subtle. I’m not really sleeping over, I’m not cuddling overly long, because I don’t want you to feel as if I’m trying to nudge you into a relationship. I’m not exactly a hopeless romantic (this is a lie), but I couldn’t really operate like this. I tried, I really did…but it was not me. I was having sex and holding back my emotions because I was tired of situations falling apart.

My newfound “strategy” definitely had some rough spots. Do you know how weird it is to have good sex but also think “wow I really enjoyed just laying there and talking to you after?” My life was lacking affection (and still is), and I couldn’t say how I felt out of fear of misconstruing things. I’m Steve Urkel masquerading as Stefan Urquelle, but I’m ACTUALLY both guys. My issue is I repressed the more emotional aspects of myself because I was tired of getting stuck in doomed pseudo-situationships. My actions must match my words, and in my head that came down to cutting out cuddling and other #smooth romantic shit that I really wanted to do. Maybe I was wrong.

When you taper down your emotions, you start to attract and pursue women who are on the same page. The problem there is, some of those girls don’t give a shit about you. They might enjoy having sex with you, MAYBE even like eating chicken with you beforehand, but you are of no importance besides your filth and ability to be on time. For some guys, this is a dream situation. I was one of those guys for a couple of months; then, it was trash. Making things worse, I have a bad habit of making situations better in my mind than what they actually are, which leads to disappointment.

Things had gotten so filthy that I said to myself “I wish I could go on a wholesome date.” All I was doing was working, going to the gym, getting drunk, and having mostly-emotionless sex. That is a very jarring change from my early 20s, when I was just hoping and wishing to get my wee-wee dampened.

In the midst of all the struggling, this is what I wanted. This is what I ALWAYS wanted. Even as a child, before I knew what sex or kissing or anything really was, I vividly remember telling my dad I wanted women to really like me. He told me it would happen, just do my damn homework. That was sound advice! But I eventually got there, and it forces you to look at yourself in ways you may not want to.

If multiple women are interested in you, thats great. But the reality is unless one particularly moves you, everyone else has an expiration date. The very poor handling of the pain of my past loves has kind of ruined my view; I couldn’t just relax and “live.” This has bled into a lot of other aspects of my life. If things are going well, I can already see when it’ll going start going poorly, and I tend to fixate on it.

I knew things needed to change this year, when I started to think “I am attracted to this girl and it’s not a sexually based thing.” We’ve done nothing. Not one date, no drunken kiss, NOTHIN. It was her personality, her earnest curiosity about me, and doing just enough to show interest but never making me feel like she’s swarming me. That’s slightly out of the ordinary for me nowadays; at some point in my life, women started doing too much as it came to me, and it bothered me.

Things went wrong somewhere, and I really think it started when I started to safeguard my emotions, for fear of misleading, because I didn’t want to get myself into something I didn’t want. And now, I’m deciding to be more like myself, and deal with things as they come.


Songs I Like This Week! (Vol. 8)

And, just like that, I have returned.

Onto the songs.

Rich Homie Quan – Money Fold


At one point in my life, I was a RHQ stan. You can say it was due to RICH GANGGGGG running my life at the time or something else, but the guy was talented. He had a weird stretch where I just wasn’t feeling him, but 2017’s Back To The Basics is a nice comeback play. “Money Fold” reminds me of a previous song of his (“Real”) but it’s also good in its own right. Any song where Quan can kick it off with some outrageous shit (“I GOT ME LIKE….FIFTEEN HOES!!!) is gonna get me on board. The keys and the overall boisterousness of the beat harkens back to a looser, more confident Quan; back when things were all good between him and Young Thug.

The Boy Illinois – Dancing Like Diddy


I’ve known Illi for a long time now, thanks to Twitter and Niketalk (tap tap pull for my real ones). He’s always been talented and had a feel for making catchy music while still making it very clear he can rap. “Dancing Like Diddy” is no exception. The song is fun as hell, that looped vocal sample and Illi’s energy really make it an enjoyable listen. You can also tell he’s acutally going to dance in the video. He just signed to Priority Records, so you will certainly see and hear more of his work.

Gunna – Another Wave (ft. Duke and Shad Da God)


The first time I heard Gunna rap was on “Floyd Mayweather,” the song off of Young Thug’s Jeffery that was fire when it didn’t have Travis Scott yodeling on it. He really stood out, and didn’t sound ridiculous rapping next to Thug at all. I checked out his most recent tape Drip Season 2 this week, and its not bad at all. “Another Wave” sticks out to me; beat is great and Duke and Gunna have excellent chemistry. It’s just a good (semi) posse cut; “I just want some knees!” makes me laugh every time. The beat sounding like a Sonic The Hedgehog level with 808s seals the deal.

A.Chal – Perdóname


I interviewed A.CHAL about a year ago and have been a big fan since. His music is unique, he blends his Peruvian heritage/spiritual growth into his work; managing to stand out in the glut of moody alt-R&B singers is tough, but he has done it. “Perdóname” means “forgive me” in Spanish, so you can guess what the song is about. It’s a very syrupy, pained take on not having the same goals as a woman in your life. From the first verse, he expresses remorse over things falling apart because she wants more than he can give. By the second verse, he’s spinning out of control over the prospect of losing her. Dating is tough; no matter how smooth you are, your emotions will get tied up at some point. Check out A.CHAL’s latest project, ON GAZ.

Jealousy, also a male trait.


How would you feel  if someone you were dating and really liked, had a crush on someone famous, and that person was….accessible? I don’t mean “he retweeted her once”, I mean, they’ve met, or he frequents the same clubs she does, or even lives in your city. Would you care, or would you just brush it off?

Let me just save you some time: I cared. I cared for a very long time.

From about the time I was 19, I wanted to be in the music industry. I was always into music, but I couldn’t rap, sing, make beats, or play any instruments. Thus, I always wondered where and how I would fit in. I eventually found my way.

Working towards this dream, and talking all over the internet about being in the industry, thrusts you into different circles. Now I’m amongst like minded individuals, who want to do things in entertainment, in journalism, who like being in those scenes. And some of them are hot girls. A LOT OF THEM, ARE HOT GIRLS.

One would think that if you’re dating women who are constantly amongst famous and handsome dudes as part of their careers, maybe you’d have your jealousy under control beforehand.



About 4 years ago, my girlfriend and I were talking about when she interviewed A$AP Rocky. She started giggling and talking about how he dresses and my jealousy switch flipped to ON. She saw me tensing up and she said “Oh Robby, come on. He was just really nice to me. Ferg is the one who made me blush!” She laughed at me, at how ridiculous I was being over all of this. She kept teasing me then gave me a kiss, so I would stop being so jealous. I immediately thought “WOWWWWWW I gotta give up A$AP now?? This love shit is COSTLY!” This was just the beginning.

In the summer of 2014, me and my relatively new date were walking around LES, trying to get a drink or 3. We end up bumping into her friends and they all decide to go to Beauty and Essex. If you’ve never been, it’s pretty nice in there, and I had only heard of it up to that point, so why not? We get in, we talk and drink a little, everything is cool. We go in the back to the couches and sit down, and there is where things went left.

In walks Mack Wilds. You know who Mack Wilds is (or you should). He’s an actor, singer, and most relevant of all to this story, he’s from NYC. Now I knew beforehand that my date had a tremendous crush on him, but I didn’t know how deep it went.

When she saw him, I kid you not, she started reapplying her lip gloss and checking her make up and hair. She was also hyperventilating. This situation is now in the red, and I don’t know what to do. I legit remember the sweat forming on my brow, and me thinking “AM I ABOUT TO GET MY DATE STOLEN BY SON FROM THE WIRE???”. I strongly thought about just leaving her ass in there, but I didn’t feel like that was a real way to go about it. I let it play out; he didn’t come over or say anything. We eventually left, I told her bye, and I got up outta there. She apologized soon after, and we even kept dating after that, surprise! Still, that shit was harrowing. I really don’t feel threatened by other dudes, but I felt threatened as HELL that night. I also liked his album! And The Wire! And The Breaks!

There was the girl who just LOVED Jesse Boykins III. Not to trivialize her as just some girl who was obsessed with a singer; I liked her a lot, and that feeling was mutual. I’m also a fan, but her tendency to constantly bring him up started to rub me the wrong way. On one date, she just went off on this tangent about how he just moved to Brooklyn, and how she hoped they’d cross paths. I mentally checked out and let her go on…until I just decided I had enough. She tried to make it seem like she wasn’t doing too much, and I was kind of uncomfortable for the next half hour or so. Now that I think of it, I’m starting to wonder if she was trying to make me feel….jealous? If so, she succeeded. After we stopped dating (it ended poorly), I kind of avoided his music for a while, because I actually couldn’t deal with it.

But why am I like this? What was I afraid of? Is my ego set so that I couldn’t deal with losing a girl to someone famous? Maybe I didn’t really believe in myself. I think once your self esteem gets to the right place, you tend to not move so fearfully. Crushes are crushes; this doesn’t mean they’ll be acted on. I feel like a part of it can even be an inferiority complex, where you feel you can’t match up. In my experience, those girls liked me enough to not just choose someone else over me, and maybe I shouldn’t have sweated it so much.

I shouldn’t have let jealousy get to me. I never acted out, but I spent a lot of time behind the scenes, quietly upset and fearful that I’d lose out to someone who was just more….everything, than me. I think what I had trouble grasping, was that women can sometimes see you as much more than you appear; you can be more than your outward appearance, your job, your social status. If a woman really feels strongly about you, it’s not as likely that she’ll just discard you for a famous dude. I feel like that’s a lot of guys’ worst nightmare, but I’ve looked it in the eyes a few times, and I’ve come out better for it. Don’t be afraid of her celeb crush sending a tweet and sweeping her off her feet while you’re at your regular ass job; she probably really likes you and values you more than him. Just treat her right, listen, and don’t answer her questions with a question; you’ll be ok.

The Return of #AskRobby.

It’s been 3 years since I’ve done #AskRobby. Three whole years. A lot has happened since. I will use this time to answer random questions I fielded off of #TheTwitter.

Grew up in Brooklyn, live in Queens, if y’all dont know.

Brooklyn was the shit growing up. Brooklyn is now a gentrified shell of itself, that I am complicit in, because I still hang out there and spend money there. It’s still beautiful out there, and definitely safer than it was when I was a kid, but its still very jarring, and I feel like shit if I really think about it. I really do wanna move back next year, but I don’t wanna be on the outskirts.

Queens is nice and quiet and mostly safe. But it’s far as shit from everything. It has, however, retained more of its soul than Brooklyn has; this won’t be true for long, as Astoria and LIC have become destinations. I love both places but its crystal clear where my heart lies. I really do have a thing for NYC, but I sometimes think I really need to leave it behind. With that said, the things that are happening with my writing career, I pretty much benefit from staying here. Conundrum!

First off, this shit ain’t happening.


But if it does, I’m gonna be somewhere biting a hard copy of Keef’s “Finally Rich” in half. Right down the middle. Like a Hungry Hungry Hippo who’s a fan of a mediocre team that causes him lots of emotional pain. I think we’ll be good this year, but even if we aren’t, Odell will likely unveil lots of #urban #youth dances.


It’s gotta be spastically dancing to  Crystal Water’s “Gypsy Woman” as a kid (my parents were way into House, this is the song that sticks out in my childhood memories) or playing with my MC Hammer doll and watching the 2 Legit To Quit video. I pretty much every “Gypsy Woman” flip is hard (and there are TONS). As a little Robby, I wanted to be Hammer. I remember holding the doll in my hand and staring at the haircut like “I WANT A CUT LIKE THAT!”. It also came with a cassette….I definitely made my parents play the hell out of the tape. Now, my shirt is never really closed, just like Hammer. Those repeated listens of Crystal Water’s biggest hit has to have lead to me thinking Broke With Expensive Taste is a GREAT album.

I was MAYBE six years old, and my mom gave me a notebook to write in. Just to write whatever I wanted. It was night time in Williamsburg, and the sky was kind of always purple in the dead of night over there. It started raining, so  sat my bedroom window and watched the rain hit the glass. Next thing you know, I’m writing shitty poetry about raindrops. BOOM. WRITER IS BORN.

I highkey did not like writing until I was damn near…..17? My favorite English teacher convinced me I was good and I kept at it. Tons of random personal blogs later and it became real. Also, I never really went back to poetry, I might’ve written all of 4-5 poems in my entire life, it’s not really my medium. I put 2 poems on IG a few years ago to pretty good reception; I might go back to it soon, ya never know. I’m a romantic poem guy, I can’t help it.

You ever had one of those Big Bites from 7-11?

Ok, so, I sorta don’t understand what exactly this tweet is asking. I could ask for clarity but, no, clarity is not what we do here. I’m gonna guess this is a “how many women have you recklessly  let it off in” question. The answer to that would be 0, I am way too paranoid about my skeet to just let my meat Uzi off sans any sort of birth safeguard. I don’t have time for kids, that would really cut into my “lying on Twitter/eating buffalo wings” schedule. You Twitter people are #too #wild.

(Naw deadass, how do you people just leave it in women then go to sleep peacefully??? My nerves are too bad for that shit, the hell wrong with y’all)


I don’t really expect either team to end the season in the upper half of the Western Conference (what a mild ass take this was). I am not of the belief that Russ is just gonna go bonkers and turn into even more of a monster because now he’s “free” of the “burden” of the best scorer in the got damn NBA. I think the Thunder will have an ok season, but this “RUSS MVP!” shit is terribly overblown.

The Rockets have D’Antoni, Harden, Back From The Dead Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson. A lot of 3’s are getting a shot, a lot of running will be gunning, and no one is playing any defense. They GOTTA be a top 3 League Pass team off the strength. I don’t think they are gonna win a ton of games, but they are gonna beat more asses thank people think.

Thunder will have the better season as a team, but Harden will have the superior individual season. He finally has people to pass to who will actually make jumpers, as opposed to clanging the absolute shit out of them on national TV.

Biggest lesson I learned this year is that patience actually works. I frequently feel urges to make impulsive and poorly thought out decisions, to get what I want. In reality, just waiting, working towards something, and believing everything will align is enough. The point is: you have to do all 3. I wasn’t doing all three until late 2015. There are aspects of my life that are extremely aggravating, but I personally feel like I’m living the dream. I am well on the way to having whatever I want, and I have found most of the things/feelings/situations I sought after, because I was patient. I also recognized the important of improving yourself for the journey that lies ahead; there is a magic in getting ready for goals you can’t really see yet. Being ready so you don’t have to get ready is very very important.

This was fun. Let’s do it in another 3 years.

Songs I Like This Week! (Vol. 7)

I know, I know, it’s been a long time. *WEAK ASS EXCUSE HERE*. Onward to the jams.

Travis Mendes – How Close (Closure Edit)


Travis is a singer-songwriter, most recently known for his work within Jon Bellion’s band/collective. I also, went to elementary school with Travis! Seeing him on the road with Jon, and becoming more of a success by the day is a real inspiration. Travis recently dropped an EP of his own (“Closure”) and this is surely my favorite song on it. How Close is about the familiar feeling of knowing someone is perfect for you, but feeling that urge to pull away. Being wrapped up in them is inevitable; Travis captures that emotion perfectly here.

Bricc Baby ft. Ty Dolla $ign & Kid Ink – Lie 2 Kick It


This is pure ignorance. Dolla $iiiggggnnn kicks it off with a smooth body shaming/”you BROKE and wear fake clothes” combo and Bricc Baby accuses you of not letting your gun off, for starters. The beat is Mustard at his most menacing in years, and dare I say it, Kid Ink kinda snapped (#KidInkTrutherGang, more on this later). The minute I heard this song, I KNEW. I just KNEW. I feel like Mustard over-saturated rap with his sound; he definitely benefitted from laying low a little bit. I’ve listened to this song every day since I stumbled across it, because I enjoy shit that sounds like an unsafe neighborhood in California.

VanJess – Adore


Adore describes a perfect night of sex and related filth, from a woman’s perspective.  A really sultry rnb song, thats just perfect for this time of the year. Their voices are perfect for the subject matter, and there’s some quality lyricism, hinting at roleplay and rough sex, without hitting you over the head with it. There’s magic in a little subtlety.

PNB Rock ft. Fetty Wap – Spend The Night


I decided to check out the Fetty Wap & PNB Rock collab tape that dropped this week (Money, Hoes & Flows) and its a pretty fun listen; they have really good chemistry and seem to enjoy working with each other. “Spend The Night” is an overture to convince that special girl to stay over and let you slap your meat off inside her. I swear half of the hook is inaudible, but Fetty’s melody game is ridiculous, as always. The production also sounds like riding a carousel on Mars, perfectly tying Fetty’s off kilter singing and PNB Rock’s abrasive lyrics together perfectly.

Kid Ink ft. Jeremih & Spice – Nasty


First off, shoutout to my man David Drake. He put me on via his monthly column. I LOVE THIS SONG. It has everything I look for in fun ass songs: filth, steelpans, a simple hook that can be yelled while drunk, and extreme catchiness. I can’t wait to embarrass myself to this after Dark And Stormy number 4. I am also a Kid Ink truther, it’s not lost on me that he always finds a way to get to a hit….and he’s done it again. I listen to this song every day, and I am not exaggerating. This is a super fun, dancehall-tinged (ok it’s an American ass take on dancehall that gets away with it via Spice’s involvement) song that should definitely light the summer up.

Maxwell – The Fall


I grew up on Maxwell. My mother loved (and still loves) him; his music has always ben a special, nostalgic thing for me. As he has matured in his subject matter, I’ve grown as a man. What gets me most about him is his vulnerability, his unwavering commitment to singing about his difficulties. The Fall is about the interplay of feeling like someone loves you when they are with you, but not knowing where you stand when they aren’t. While being aware of the inconsistency of things, you’re also waiting for the other shoe to drop, for things to “Fall” apart. I’ve been there, it’s real, it’s very real. The song is just extremely well written and the fullness of the percussion is incredible; I have to see this live.