Tag Archives: Sick Jacken

Dilated Peoples -Directors of Photography

It’s no secret that I love music. I’ve always dreamed of being in the studio with my favorite artists, witnessing and celebrating those magical moments of genius. Well, my friends…that’s another dream that has finally come true for me!
I first met Evidence in November 2011, after one of his solo shows in San Diego. He’s such a cool, humble guy & anyone who’s ever been in his presence can tell you that he instantly makes you feel like you’re life-long friends. Over the years, I’ve seen him perform in different cities (& countries) as a solo artist, as one half of Step Brothers, & of course, as one third of the legendary Dilated Peoples.
I found myself in Los Angeles earlier this year… & was in communication with Ev. He was in the studio working on some finishing touches for the highly anticipated Directors of Photography with DJ Babu. I was elated when he extended an invitation to let me watch the masters at work.
Babu is on his way out when I arrive, so, I only get to chat with him briefly. Ev is sitting in his chair, at the controls, going over some mixes. I’m so excited to hear the tiny previews of the tracks! People have been waiting a long time for this album, and here I am, experiencing it behind the scenes, with one of the creators!
Ev turns to me & welcomes me warmly…then, he asks if I’d be willing to get on the mic to say a few things… Um, Yes, please! I’d be honored.
I step into the booth, put the headphones on, pick up the mic & take direction. He has me play around with accents & I say some stuff (faintly) in the background. I take on my latest character, a South Philly girl. He laughs. I’m having fun with it… and even though you really won’t hear it when you play the introduction, I know it’s there.
Next, Ev plays a snippet for me and he directs me to “just talk,” the whole time. Since I’m a professional at making onboard announcements, and I know that the guys always reference flying, I say what comes to mind…
“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Los Angeles, where the local time is 10:25 (*side note: my birthday is October 25th). For your safety, please remain seated with your seat belt fastened and keep the aisle clear until we are parked at the gate. The captain will turn off the fasten seat belt sign when it is safe to stand…”
I think Ev is amused. He looks up at me through the glass & says, “That’s perfect. You killed it!”
This is definitely a moment in time I’ll never forget… I’m in the studio, with one of my favorite artists, hearing that he likes what I just did in the mic. *Insert fireworks.* ūüėČ
You can hear the finished product for yourself at the end of number 14, “Trouble.” It’s a perfect segway into “L.A. River Drive,” a song produced by Alchemist, featuring another Los Angeles native, Sick Jacken (who I wrote about here). There is a reoccurring line on the track. “From the time I ride out, ’til the time I’m home… I pray for a safe travel, God, while I’m gone.” This is something I can totally relate to.
In my effort to fully support the album, I caught a couple shows while the guys were on tour recently. First, when I had the opportunity to work “Paris, first class international.” (Who caught that movie reference)? Lol. Anyway, I caught the guys Live on Stage at La Plage de Glazart‘s pop-up beach during my Layover.
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The venue was set up for a total Sunday Funday… sand, lawn chairs & open air. I mingled with the fans and got hear about how much the guys are loved & respected in France. I felt so at home with my fellow hip hop heads. We laughed, we drank, we discussed our love for Dilated Peoples, we enjoyed the music together… And, of course, we took pictures…
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The crowd was live & the guys put on a great show. They started with some of their new work, went through some classics, & even took turns doing some solo stuff. It was supposed to be a rainy day in Paris, but when Ev performed his happy hit, “Chase the Clouds Away,” the climate adhered the commands of The Weatherman & the drizzle stopped. It ended up being a sunny day, after all.
I had the opportunity to chat with both, Ev & Rakaa, individually, for a bit after the show. I remember Rakaa telling me to keep doing what I’m doing & to always go for things outside of my comfort zone. It meant a lot, coming from him. He’s definitely someone who knows something about chasing your dreams & creating a life you love.
We talked travel, we talked family, we talked music. We even talked about some young, up & coming female rappers that we both respect… (I mentioned the ladies in previous posts here & here).
My interaction with Ev definitely kept the same themes. Travel, music… Oh, & of course, photography.
His outlook on music & the industry is refreshing, because he never really has anything negative to say. He respects that artists do what they do & that fans like what they like. Of course, he has his opinions, but he’s great about not bad-mouthing anybody. As for his personal style, when it comes to his music, and even his photos, it’s quite obvious that he’s meticulous about everything he puts out.
Later, I caught the guys in Philadelphia for their Word of Mouth tour with Jurassic 5 at Penn’s Landing. I was lucky enough to chat with guys for a bit after catching a dope show with a great view, on a beautiful day in the city I now call home.

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The guys (and the team at Rhymesayers Entertainment) teamed up with Pandora and did their fans a huge favor by letting everyone preview the entire album a week before it dropped. I listened to it over and over as I anxiously awaited my pre-ordered (autographed) physical copy to arrive from Fifth Element.
Directors of Photography is a masterpiece, in my opinion. The creative packaging amazed me.

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Rather than finding the traditional booklet inside the album, you open an envelope that includes individual Polaroid-like photos. The first one is a group photo – Dilated Peoples (Directors of Photography).

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You’ll find a recap of the project, including credits when you flip it over. Next, are a few photos of each of the guys where they share stories about each other on the back, along with their “Thank Yous.” (I gotta draw special attention to Ev’s… don’t forget about the rest of crew next time). ūüėČ

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Each song also has it’s own photo with full lyrics and credits on the reverse side. Nice touch, guys.
The album definitely takes you on a journey. I’d compare it to catching a flight…
The Intro is similar to the boarding process. You’re excited as you enter the aircraft. You’re greeted by the crew. You’re not sure what to expect, but you know something great is up ahead. Ladies and gentleman, welcome aboard flight 812, with service to Los Angeles.
Once you’ve settled into your seat and you’re ready for departure, the crew gives their demonstration and sets the tone with Directors. The opening line is actually about taking flight. The track is perfect for wheels up, as you begin your ascent. You’re on your way now, starting this adventure with the Dilated Crew.
As you reach the sky during your climb, Cut My Teeth (produced by The Alchemist), and the Defari Interlude (featuring Defari) give you endless snapshots and vivid images of the guys’ lives & the city they’re from, from their individual points of view. The Dark Room (featuring Vince Staples, with production by Twiz The Beat Pro) has metaphors and lyrical content that will keep you guessing, like looking out the window, down to little squares & shapes on the land below.
Once you’ve leveled off with Good As Gone (produced by DJ Premier), the onboard service is about to begin. Choose your favorite beverage & be prepared to select your meal as the guys serve up stories of their journey. “The more that I roam, the more that I’m free.” (Ev) “Sat in coach and studied business before my first class.” (Rakaa)
Now you’re approaching cruising altitude, where it should be a smooth ride, but, for your safety, the captain keeps the seat belt sign on…and it’s a good thing he does, because songs like Show Me the Way (featuring Aloe Blacc, produced by Jake One) & Figure It Out will hit you like unexpected turbulence and may knock you out of your seat!
Things smooth out with Let Your Thoughts Fly Away (produced by Diamond D.), but you’ll notice that you can’t keep your head from bobbing due to the light chop of Century of the Self (featuring Catero, produced by Oh No).
The captain makes an announcement that makes you laugh a little with the @MrEvidence Interlude. You are now free to move about the cabin. Enjoy The Reversal like you enjoy a nice stretch.
It’s been a great flight thus far & the crew presents you with & Opinions May Vary (featuring Gangrene) & Trouble to keep you satisfied, just like the arrival service when you begin your initial descent. (*Here’s where you get to hear me in action).
You’re landing now, but “you must remain seated until we are parked at the gate.” The crew welcomes you with L.A. River Drive and when the aircraft doors open, you catch a breath of fresh air with The Bigger Picture, the final track on the album (featuring Krondon, produced by 9th Wonder).
You have arrived. Thank you for joining along on this journey… I hope you enjoy your stay here, or wherever your final destination may be. ūüėČ

I’ll be catching the guys this weekend in Munich for the Streetlife Blockparty. You can catch them in a city near you (or you can catch a flight and catch them in a city far away), by checking tour dates here.

Purchase your copy of Directors of Photography here, on Google Play, through Fifth Element, on Amazon, or purchase it on iTunes to download bonus tracks Times Squared and Hallelujah (featuring Fashawn, Rapsody, Domo Genesis, Vinnie Paz & Action Bronson).

*Special Thanks to Dilated Peoples, Evidence, Rakaa, and DJ Babu for all the love they showed me at their shows and in the studio. Also, thank you to the team at Rhymesayers Entertainment. Shout out to Eddie Sancho, Federico “C Sik” Lopez, and everyone else I’ve met through this project. Great work, everyone. I’m truly honored to be a part of this!

A Big Weekend Back Home

I was recently home for a weekend visit. As I mentioned before, the plan originated when I got an invite for my friend, Ryan’s, baby shower. I met Ryan in 2008, at new-hire orientation for a bank we worked at. We’ve been friends ever since. She’s a world traveler and always inspired me (and encouraged me) to see the world. She had a huge influence on my decision to become a flight attendant. Now, she’s having twins, a boy and a girl. It’s exciting!
I wanted to make the most of my time in California. I knew that I was going to be reunited with lots of my girl friends at the baby shower and I wanted to make time for family, too.
I have a lot of family in Northern California. Growing up, I was raised with my mom’s side of the family who live about an hour and a half east of San Francisco in the city of Modesto. As for my dad’s side of the family, many of them live about an hour and a half south, in Watsonville – where I was born.
Recently, thanks to social media, I’ve reconnected with some of them. We’ve been making an effort to reach out and to get know each other. So, we planned a gathering for the day after the baby shower. I was looking forward to reuniting with some of them…& meeting some of them for the first time.
Other than a quick stop on my drive down Pacific Coast Highway, back on my 30th birthday, I hadn’t been back to Watsonville in over 20 years.
My trip started with a visit back home to San Diego. That’s when I had the chance to take my mom and my little sister to their first ever hip-hop show
The morning of the baby shower, I catch an early flight to San Francisco. When I land, I discover that Ryan’s having a bit of a busy morning. Something’s aren’t going as planned, but that doesn’t stop her. She’s expecting friends and family from all over to celebrate the joyous occasion.
Ryan’s house is beautiful! It looks like those homes you’d see on the cover of a magazine. The decor is equally as beautiful… our friend, Aimee, is a master of design.
The party plays out in such a lovely way. I’m reunited with friends (who started as co-workers at the bank) and I get to make new ones over yummy drinks and delicious food.

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That evening, a few of us head into the city & grab dinner. Then, a couple of us head to a show.

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The next day, most of us reunite for a delicious Sunday brunch at Bin 38. (I’m reminded of the fun tradition we used to have when we all lived in San Diego…good times). We share recaps of our night and indulge in wonderful conversations…& mimosas.

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After brunch, most of us will leave San Francisco to return home. For me, it’s family time…

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My two (very generous and patient) cousins offer to drive me. They live in Watsonville & make the trip just for me. They’re awesome!
When we get to my family’s ranch, I’m greeted by cousins, aunts, uncles…and amazing food! It’s great seeing everyone again…and it’s nice to finally meet some of them. They’re all warm and welcoming…and they make sure I’m well-fed, as they continue to bring food from the grill to our table. I’m surrounded by cousins, laughter & great stories. I gotta tell you, I have some amazing cousins!
The party moves inside & I share a bottle of Puerto Rican rum from my travels. We continue to bond & catch up…it’s great getting to know them all better. We take some pictures… well, lots of pictures (on lots of cell phones) before everyone heads home.

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A few of us cousins stay up for girl talk with my aunt. Later, we interrupt one cousin’s study session to go on a fun late-night run for coffee & donuts. It’s the perfect way to end the night!
I have to catch a flight back to Philadelphia in the morning. A couple of my guy cousins have offered to pick me up at the ranch & drive to the airport…in San Jose! Again, a very generous offer.
Before we hit the road, my aunt makes sure that we all have breakfast. We take our places at the table as she brings over course after course. It’s quite the spread. I’m humbled by the hospitality & I’m really enjoying this wonderful meal with my family. I feel like a kid again…
In San Jose, we stop to visit my godparents. I haven’t seen them since my age was in the single digits. We visit briefly, chat a bit and play around on their mini motorcycle. It’s great being a kid again!

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As we prepare to head to the airport, I realize that I’m missing something…my uniform! I left it in Watsonville, hanging in my cousin’s closet. Luckily, a couple of my cousins are heading our way. So, after a delicious cup of Phil’z Coffee & lunch at the famous Falafel’s Drive In (& maybe just a little panic attack) I’m off to the airport.
In the end, everything worked out…I had a wonderful visit back home. I got to see so many people that I love, meet so many new ones, and reconnect with distant relatives. Such an amazing trip!

Thanks for reading along, everyone. I really hope you enjoyed this post.

Sick Jacken in San Francisco

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a few days off & was spending time back home, in California. So, when I saw that Sick Jacken was going to be in San Francisco on the same night I’d be there, I knew I had to catch the show.
*You know Sick Jacken from the hip hop group Psycho Realm
I was in town for a baby shower for one of my favorite friends, Ryan. She’s having twins and we’re all so excited. It was great being reunited with so many lovely ladies. My friend, Nadia came as a surprise. I was so happy to see her! Nadia & our mutual friend, Jessica, booked a room in the city and invited me to stay with them. Nadia even agreed to accompany me to the show…now I’m really excited, because it’s her first hip hop show ever! I love it when things just work out.
We decide that we’re going to walk to the show & enjoy a little bit of the city. After a sushi dinner, we start the tread from Union Square to the Brick & Mortar Music Hall. It’s a beautiful night in the city…even along some of the “questionable” streets we pass. Lol.
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We get to the venue just in time to catch rap duo, I.L.A.M. The guys (Trey C & Playa Rae) are really working the crowd. It’s a small, intimate show (my favorite) and there’s a great vibe in the space. It’s the perfect setting for the next MC to hit the stage. Reppin’ for the ladies, is Gavlyn. During her set, she’s joined by special guest, Oh Blimey, to perform a fun track entitled “Ew.”
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Next up is Bambu. I’m stoked to catch his set, since I missed him at the Observatory the night before. He has a great stage presence; very entertaining. I’m super excited when he introduces his special guest…his “baby momma,” Rocky Rivera. They have great chemistry (obviously) & are a lot of fun to watch.

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Now that the crowd is hype, it’s time for the headliner to take his place. When Sick Jacken takes the stage, the crowd goes nuts…or should I say Psycho…? ūüėČ This guy is simply captivating.
Almost everyone in the audience is dressed in black, & wearing either the Psycho Realm, Soul Assassins, or Oakland Raiders logos (which I’m sure are all directly inspired by Sick Jacken’s wardrobe). Hands are in the air & heads are bobbing as the crowd joins in on spitting lyrics from classics like El Barrio from The Legend of the Mask & the Assassin (Sick Jacken’s collaboration with DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill). More crowd favorites from Terror Tapes Vol. 1 are performed & Sick Jacken tests just how psycho the attendees are when he goes on to perform tracks from Terror Tapes 2.
The whole show is very entertaining & Nadia & I are having a blast. When it’s time to wrap up, Sick Jacken (like other favorite artists of mine) takes the time to meet & greet fans, sign autographs and pose for pictures. I get the honor of chatting with him after the show & having a drink with him & some of the other performers in the green room. We discuss music, food, family, travel, and even more opportunities for future blog posts.
I treated our conversation as a casual one, not an interview, so, I won’t quote anything here. I will, however, say that Sick Jacken loves menudo! Lol. He’s a funny guy, with a big heart and a great smile. I look forward to sitting with him in the near future for an official interview. Stay tuned…!

For upcoming events, follow Sick Jacken on Instagram and Twitter

Thanks for reading along, everyone!

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A very sincere Special Thanks to Joaquin “Sick Jacken” Gonzalez for granting me access to the show!

Special Thanks to Federico, for special accommodations.