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he had a good run at ~81, real age;
the sort of run that gets you through four nationalities

how do you process second-hand emotions?

they lowered him down to us in a white cloth
i’ve yet to empty my shoes and pocket of his burial sand
too clever, i took off my socks before putting my shoes back on
but sand is finer than sock thread

in fragments i guess
indian, then pakistani and bangladeshi, briton last and perhaps foremost

we grandchildren sat in the dark with candles lit
to mask the smell of the incense, not in tribute per se
some laughs, some memories… some fights streamed on a laptop
we’re okay thanks, the elders are feeling it more i suppose
it sounds too rehearsed because by now it is
one face from the past took his tea mug to remember him by
everyone regales stories of his rounds,
chewits and cap guns,
soft cauliflower curries, mushed aubergine, mountains of salt
saucers of goor-laden milky tea, slurped
like the sauce left after his rice
walking stick, hat, glasses, ta’weez
all shared experiences and details
the imaam eulogises him as one of the first imaams of the masjid
’he once prayed for us, now let us pray for him’
the previous imaam splutters through a half-sob in bangla

by the end he was so dry he would bite at the sticks of wet cotton
his nose drooped and his bones revealed themselves
truth be told he was a ghost to me long before he passed and long before he was bedridden
we were two blood relations who occasionally inhabited the same space
his refusal to put in a hearing device, my refusal to yell entire sentences
it’s pathetic how little we knew each other
and yet i dutifully planted a branch by his head atop his mound of soil
my mother fainted from heat stroke when he passed, how pertinent is that?
my aunts cried
my grandmother played the stoic, shed her tears in secret
my older cousin accuses her of heartlessness; that’s exactly how she’d want to be thought of
my uncle and younger cousin found things to be mad about
i used to hang from his neck as he prayed and he’d humour me
i remember seeing the same play out again with my brother as i’d pray beside his hip

‘if you knew the pangs of death, you’d abandon everything and run for the shelter of a tree’
he said
they massaged his inflamed gut, head and legs
we held his skeleton fingers like a child

‘i’m going to die tomorrow’ he said
and then he did.

written November 2016

The Space Between is such a solid project.

The trouble with ideas are they’re a dime a dozen whilst their execution is a slow arduous process. You can come up with a grand thought in seconds and then spend years before it ever reaches fruition. And that’s if it ever get there. There’s no guarantee that it does. The real easy fun lies in the daydreaming honeymoon phase and not in making the sausage. Making the sausage is kinda fun, but you spend of a lot of time tearing your hair out too. Daydreaming is painless.

So you work, day in and day out. And all along, you keep seeing newer, tastier ideas. Shinier balls to play with. And it takes all the discipline in the world to say no, and get back to your one sausage you’ve been mucking about with for years.

But you take note, you know. “I’ll get round to you one day,” you have to say. “Until then, get in line.”

So. ‘As Worlds Bleed’ multiverse sci-fi series coming 2050

You cannot give a shit about originality. You’re not going to invent a new genre or movement any time soon. Just be authentic and enthusiastic. That is enough.

Your craft will eventually pull you through a fresh take on an old thing. You can’t replicate someone else’s shit if you tried, but why would you want to? Be confident in the knowledge that likewise others cannot replicate you.

Do your own work without putting on airs. Put the hours in, of course. But experiment. Play. Be real weird with it.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself. Get free.

Also on Apple Music, yay

I’m struggling to put my thoughts together but I wanted to quickly try regardless.

I’ve been listening to rapper Lupe Fiasco’s new album DROGAS Waves since its release last week. It’s his first release as an independent artist, Lu having fulfilled his contractual obligations to Atlantic Records. A label with whom he had a rocky relationship, to put it nicely.

On the ascent back in 2006, Lupe seemed like a sure thing. He had the co-sign of Jay-Z; hookups with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. Contacts in the streets and love for those that inhabited it, yet a clear desire to remain above the fray. He was arguably one of the first true internet rappers and a poster boy for the burgeoning street fashion scene. An unabashed nerd with a love for skateboarding and anime. Oh and he could rap circles inside the circles he rapped ’round his peers. He ticked marketing boxes that were usually mutually exclusive to one another. His entire debut album leaked online, then pushed back and reworked and arguably made all the stronger for it.

But then came the storm. A best friend and partner locked up for 44 years. The label issues. The man was shelved for turning down a ‘360 deal’, where labels make a cut on all an artist’s merch and touring revenue – something which became commonplace in the industry in the years following. Single meddling, sabotaged projects and silence followed. Public petitions forced one album’s release and threats from Anonymous had another quietly discharged to little fanfare.

On other public fronts, Lupe was also not doing very well. A contrarian at heart with a distrust of establishments, he rubbed many the wrong way when he called out Obama (a fellow Chicagoan) for neoliberal warmongering. Twitter did not help. Its 140-character limit reduced him to little more than soundbites and his dry humour came through poorly in text form. His prickly nature and eagerness to argue his truths had him biting on trolls and turning off many casuals.

He turned to his painting for solace. The label received compromised album submissions, which Lupe struggled to put his all into.

But no more. The man is free. Free from his contractual obligations. Free to make the music he wants or to walk off into the sunset. Free to paint all day or finally write that novel about a window-washer’s philosophical musings.

So what did we get from all this? A conceptual album of sorts – Lupe Fiasco right in his wheelhouse and doing what Lupe fucking Fiasco does best. A supernatural rap tale about drowned African slaves that doubles as a story of Lu’s own emancipation. It’s a lot to unpack in the best way.

Summon the forest
Talking to trees like how could you be in the chorus
With something so horrid?
You became boards for the floors and the doors of the warships
Anthropomorphic, the forest returned with a match
Made from itself and said, “Burn us with that”
Then left again and came back with an axe
“We can serve you as furnish or furnace us black”

Slaves rebuke the seas and trees and stars for assisting slavers in the transatlantic trade. Some walk back to their homeland under the waters. Others roam the seas and destroy slaveships to free their brethren.

As I said at the start of this piece, I didn’t have a coherent train of thought before I plunged in. To be honest I was hoping this piece would go into Lupe’s other forays into the comicbook/supernatural (The Cool, Tetsuo & Youth) but instead it’s been more of a historical contextualisation from a day 1 fan. I suppose that can’t be helped. Vibe Magazine released a fantastic article in much the same vein and in true Lupe fashion he bit their heads off for it lol.

Whatever. Twelve years on, I’m glad for his place in music. I’m glad for the music. I’m glad for his resurrection and I’m glad he’s free.

With the exception of Resurrection, which was for a charity campaign, the songs embedded above are all from his ‘bad’ albums.

The kid sure knows how to crank out tunes to vibe to