How Hip-Hop Has Saved My Life…Twice

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Cliche as it may be – it’s true. Though I guess listening to hip-hop may not have saved my life, but writing it surely has. Twice. It’s amazing how powerful creative self-expression is for emotional healing.

I began writing hip hop in 8th grade (’99) and upon entering high school I would find myself using my songs, unintentionally, as therapy for the depression I fell deeply into.

My lyric notebook was a journal to me. I wrote all my hardest feelings in there. I’ve always been the kind of rapper that has been true to this lyric I wrote in 2007:

…Misery and strife, I write this,

So tell me who’s the nicest?

The paper’s my soul, my heart is my pen,

That I helplessly, scribble my life with,

And the ink is my blood,

Cause I’m pouring my heart out,

with every line that I write,

And every verse that I start out…”

My lyric notebook has always been my safe haven where I can truly express myself and all the intensity that I’ve carried within me. I feel like if I didn’t have that outlet during that time things would have been much more dire. The therapeutic effect writing all those hard feelings had on me was such a huge release that I really can’t imagine not having had it.

I mean, I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say it saved my life.

Music was an alchemical way of working through it, writing it down and seeing it in front of me, raging against it, being true and vulnerable about it and making beauty out of it. Most of it was not pretty and honestly, listening back on some of it, it’s definitely a little embarrassing – ha! But, all of it was true 100% of the time. I didn’t hold back; I didn’t flinch one bit. Just laid down exactly how I was feeling – the grief, anger, pain, shame. And there’s something to be said about that, even with how juvenile a lot of them come across. You’ll find a few tracks from that several year period in the player below that best exemplify my use of hip-hop in a therapeutic fashion (and that I can brave sharing LOL). My favorite being “Every Minute I’m Alive.”

Twice, I said.

Hip-hop would come to save me once again, but in a different form. This time it would be more of a soul-retrieval.

I have also always been more of an album artist. I very rarely write songs I don’t intend to be a part of an album format. And I basically wrote an album a year, sometimes TWO, from 2000 to 2010. That’s a ton of material.

Then in 2011, I stopped.

I lost it. I had no idea what to write. I hit a huge wall. My life was changing and who I was was changing and I was losing touch with how hip-hop fit within it all. It’s hard to dredge up just how much it hurt that that whole part of me just got lost in the shuffle. It was heartbreaking.

So much so, that it actually plunged me into a huge process of self-discovery.

I had been documenting and working with my dreams since the fall of 2005 and honoring them had been changing my life so massively. And when this all happened, they showed up to help me find my way back to myself. And I had a ton of work to do.

At the end of 2012, I had a very hard experience that made me fully aware that all the pain and anger from my depression was still very much alive inside me. I thought I had gotten over it…apparently not. And I committed myself to facing whatever I needed to face to finally overcome it. It was like walking into a second depression, but willingly.

And after 5 of the hardest and most honest years of my life, my creative life came back online to help carry me out of the rubble of the biggest symbolic death period of my life. It was like I needed to die completely to who I was and how I had built my life, so the truer me could be resurrected.

Reclaiming the lyricist within me has been a huge part of this resurrection. My dreams came to my service and provided the inspiration for 8 out of the 10 tracks from my latest album – The Night Sea Journey. They would offer me song concepts, song titles, snippets of lyrics, chord progressions for the beats – and definitely aided in the actual process of reclaiming that archetypal energy, as well as, encouraged me to get back out and perform.

I’ve been doing dreamwork for 14 years now and I had always wanted my dreams to show up in this capacity for me, but they never did. I’d have musical dreams, but they never gifted me inspiration like this. The fact they did so now, meant so much to me, I can’t even tell you. It’s really been the most amazing process! A real dream come true.

The Night Sea Journey was my creative way of working through all the incredibly hard emotional stuff I had just spent 5+ years really sitting with. Songs like Atonement, Call You Home, The Cave (which is the Lyricist speaking to me), Labyrinth, and Inner Victim – all exemplify the same kind of raw truth that my earlier music tapped often, but with the maturity that comes with another 15 years worth of life experience. Yet more specifically, the maturity that comes with actually doing the hard work, versus being the one who is being worked.

So, you’ll have to listen to these old tracks and then pop over here and pick up your copy of The Night Sea Journey and compare the two. I believe the growth between to the two time periods will be evident and you’ll be privy to the impressive arc of one man’s process of healing his soul.

Thank you most deeply for your time,

AQ

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