The first song I ever wrote was called, “I Wish I Was Home.” I had to be about five years old or so. The song was sung in the key of a Pop-R&B vibe, Usher was probably its subconscious subtext and I sung it for the first time as my Mom and Dad pulled away from my first “home” in Newport News, Virginia. I can still feel the sadness of that day. I can still feel the anxiety of that little boy in every step I take and I can still feel that there was something that can only be truly understood about this song if and only if you listened to the tremor of its awkward insecurity. This is a tremor beyond words – a vibration in the signifier that exceeds even the signifier. However, I still remember the words to this day:
I wish I was home // I wish I was home // I wish I was home,
If I was home, // I would play everyday //I would play with
JayJay was my best friend in Newport News. The song was a memorial to him, to home, to play. JayJay and I used to practice our ABCs on the bus by rapping them. I remember it as a confusing hieroglyph of letter jumble. A and Z’s flowing right beside C and D’s – the only goal was to make it rhyme, to give it rhythm. He was my best friend. He was home. Our hieroglyphic rhythms were home.
Home and rhythm have always been synonymous for me. Home is the site of rhythm, rhythm is the site of home. My father used to wake us up to the sound of his keyboard, my mother to the sound of her singing Patti LaBelle, and the soundtracks never stopped spinning. Cousins and neighbors would come over just to cypher with my pops, and as I got older I would join in. We threw words at each other, and you had to catch it and spit. It wasn’t a competition, but it wasn’t cooperation. It was something different altogether. It was the cypher. The cypher was home. The cypher was rhythm.
I used to practice for these cyphers by reading dictionaries and books. My mom used to make us read for an hour a day during the summer time and I would write new words I learned on the edges of the pages of my rap books. I carried my rap books with me everywhere I went. My irresponsible ass will lose everything, but never these rap books. I wanted to bring home with me everywhere I went. So I had to bring my rap book with me. My rap book was home. My rap book was rhythm.
My father taught me how to count my bars and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote jotting little pencil dots at the edge of every other bar. I wrote songs and shared sadnesses, I wrote joys in the key of T.I., Nelly, Young Dro, and Ludacris, I google searched lyrics and studied the meanings behind the music, writing was music, study was music, home was music.
Today when I make music, I make music without a home but a place a stay. These are rhythms without a home. Dislocated in my dis/located moment. Finding location only in self-reference. Rhythms that found home in themselves, home that only exist itself in rhythms.
I wish I was home // I wish I was home // I wish I was home // t(ew)d(AAA)y
But, I can’t go home now. So:
Music is wounded kinship’s last resort.
Nathaniel Mackey, “Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol”