where do I even start?????
The story begins way back. Over a year ago back in April 2019. My “praktik” (practice)/aka internship at a shady, sub-par hotel restaurant seems to be going nowhere.
I was promised a job after 30 days. It was now almost 90 days and still no formal contract.
Having decided to completely quit the scene and gigging, etc, I had been struggling to “get a real job” and move on with life for quite some time. Having no car living out in the countryside, and being “over qualified” seemed to be insurmountable obstacles.
Due to the five year long “black-balling” I was in the throes of, gigs/work in my chosen profession were non-existent.
A half year prior, I had come to the realization that the God I serve did not want me to be “DJ Amir Alexander”.
This had to be the case. Because I was completely stalled in the water, broke, and about to be homeless.
I had made the definitive album of my career that was seemingly ignored by the scene at large. And I even had a track off that album (Blessed Are The Meek) that had been a “summer chart topper” for two consecutive years.
(*In fact, it is poised to have a fourth straight year doing so if things go well with the remix EP.)
Yet and still, my gigs had slowed to a crawl, and then disappeared entirely.
In the summer leading up to this decision I had already shifted focus. My life centered around all things BMX, and teaching my then 3 year old son how to ride a bicycle. BMX was something I always admired. And even before I became a fairly decent mediocre skateboarder, I was trying to learn tricks on a bike.
At age 12 I got a BMX for Christmas. This would have been 1984. The height of the crack epidemic in my small North Florida town. My family had not quite yet totally imploded. And looking back, I can now see that this was our last Christmas as a family unit.
Christmas in the hood was always a fun time. All the kids who got bikes would meet up on the corner of the block by my house. We lived by the playground, so the this is the logical place for kids to meet up and gather.
This particular year my 3 siblings and I had a great Christmas. My parents had recently split up, but my Dad still had his job as an X-Ray Tech, Broken Bone Setter, and Orthopedic Surgeon’s Assistant. Therefore he had the cash to splurge on his progeny that year. And splurge he did.
My younger sister Tomeka and I got bikes. Me a BMX. And she this cute purple number with a cute white basket on the handlebars that had daisies on it. My Little brother Ricardo who was 3 days short of his fourth birthday got one of those little battery powered 4/4 cars that he could actually drive. We also got a couple outfits, and some other small toys like balls, dolls, tea sets, and toy cars. Jackpot bounty! We were stoked!!!!
“today I feel as good as everybody else…..”
Growing up a poor child in the ghetto, you never really know how poor you are until you encounter an outside barometer. Meaning, a person, place, or situation outside of your realm of normalcy makes you aware of your level of poverty.
I had recently encountered this “barometer” in the form of one of the more popular girls at school telling me that my mother was on welfare (government assistance). To which I replied in defense, “no she’s not.” The girl then said, “then why are your clothes always so old and dirty?”
OUCH! that one hurt, but I had to save face so I said what any child would in that situation…… “I don’t know.” Then I walked away in shame. Dejected and sad.
Stuff like this was always happening. Ever since I had moved to Florida from Columbus Georgia where my Dad had been deployed at Fort Benning Army base as an X-Ray tech/Medic. He had surprised the entire family when at 17 years old when he enlisted in the Army instead of going to University to become a Dr. or Engineer, as everyone had expected him to do.
But My Dad is a born rebel. LOL! Some might say a trouble maker, who most certainly made up his own rules and forged his own path in life. Often to the chagrin of his loved ones.
since moving to the “dirty south” and experiencing EXTREME culture shock, where people spoke strangely, there was a thing called rednecks who hated black people, a post Jim Crow environment where the races didn’t mix, and a general level of intellectual retardation, and or arrested development, I stuck out like a sore thumb.
“You’re ugly. You have Chinese eyes. You talk proper like white people. Why you hang wit that white boy at school? These were all things I heard on a regular basis. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best for my self esteem at the time.
To top it off, my parents had spit up and it had caused me to venture off into the life of a petty street criminal.
But on this day, Christmas 1984, none of this mattered.
Children who’s families celebrate Christmas are always up well before the crack of dawn on that day. And we were no different. But this year we awoke to a tree that had freaking bikes under it. The christmas prior had been quite modest. One where we got a couple donated “toys for tots”, but not much else. However this year was a complete 180 degree shift. As my Dad now had a “good job”.
So we got dressed in our new outfits, grabbed our bikes, and went out to where the other kids would gather every year on Christmas to join the caravan.
Kids with new bikes would lead the pack, but any kid with a bike could and would join. Namely the kids who got a bike last year, etc. For a couple years I had watched all the other kids riding past every hour or so as they rode through every block on our area picking up more and more kids from other hoods until there was like 20-30 kids all riding and being joyous.
Back then envy was still part of my make up. I was only a child of course and had not yet learned that envy is a very undesirable trait. One that I must eradicate from my psyche.
But this year was different. We were now among the haves. Versus the have nots.
At one point in the middle of the day, I told one of my best friends Junior (Danny Gibbs) that, “with my new clothes and bike, today I feel as good as everybody else. Instead of how I normally feel. Which was “not good enough” because I normally have old, torn, dirty clothes”. He empathised with me and said yeah. It feels good to feel good. As good meaning equal.
How sad. I lament for the child I was back then. This is a horribly damaging way to feel about oneself. YET, children are quite resilient. Somehow, I made it through……
BMX dreams vanquished…..
The yearly Christmas break lasts around 2 weeks. THIS is about how long I had my bike.
The Sunday night before we were to return to school the following day, my bike was stolen off my front step by a crackhead.
BMX dreams vanquished.
Fast forward 2 years later, at around age 14 I decided that I wanted to be a skateboarder. My logic was I could take my skate everywhere with me, and thus not have to leave it outside. This is due to having yet another BMX stolen. One I had worked all summer landscaping with my Uncle James (the wisest man I have ever known despite only having a 3rd grade education) to purchase with my own money.
This particular bike had been stolen from the mall. Where I had gone to purchase a lock so it would not get stolen.
Oh! The irony!!!!
“If not for bad luck, I would have no luck at all”……..
I could really relate to this saying. Why me? Self pity. All that, but then suddenly, I decided to go stoic and take control of my emotional health by simply not giving a damn.
By this point my family had totally imploded, my Dad was gone and was a migrant farm worker who knows where. My mother was deemed unfit and I had been playing a cat and mouse game with family services who were always coming to try to take my siblings and I out of the environment we lived in because it was neglectful and unsafe.
I would often lie to the family services people and make up some sort of excuse as to why my mom wasn’t home…..
“Oh, she just left to go to the store and will be back soon.” When in all reality, we had not seen her for 3 weeks because she was out “running the streets” and feeding her cocaine addiction. We should have been removed and put into foster homes many times. There but for the grace of God we were not.
30 years later, take 2…..
“I love this music life, but engaging it hurts more and more now. Where are all the friends I used to have that would write to be on my guestlist at P-Bar, Concrete, and Corsica studios? Where’s the crew? Were any of those relationships real?”
I was now in the place I had worked so hard to never be in. Alone and friendless, in a foreign country. Broke, and about to be homeless.
“And if you’re gonna fall, they won’t be around, y’all” – Q-Tip
“The party scene is cool, but then again it’s all the same
You see the same faces, but at different places
When you’re up and ridin’ high everything is palsy-palsy
Get a million pounds and all the skins give you hugs” – Sadat X
(I grew up listening to this imagining the day that I would be a world renowned musician, so I took this to heart as a cautionary tale. Thus I sought to prevent ever falling victim to the pitfalls they spoke of……. to no avail)
“But before it all goes to hell, I’m going to make the most of what might be the last summer with my child before I am forced to tuck my tail, and return back to the States in shame and defeat”. Thus, I decided to purchase the best secondhand BMX bike I could with some of my rapidly dwindling funds.
I found one on Blocket. The Swedish ebay/craigslist for cheap, but I had to catch a bus 20 miles outside town and then ride I back home. This was the beginning of what would become a series of 8 plus hour days riding my bike. And learning to trick it. Finally. After 30 years away from BMX.
As a child I sucked. I couldn’t wheelie, and I could barely bunnyhop, but I was the best ramp jumper on my block at least. That is, until Terry Cohens would come over and jump with us. This guy had wings. No one could jump further or higher than he could. We used to set up plywood on cinder blocks to make a wedge “jump ramp” and ride it from right after school, until way past sundown.
(The year after my bike was stolen, a friend’s mother let me have her son’s old bike that had sat rusty in the backyard for a couple years. That was the beginning of my bike building, mechanic hobby. Of which I became pretty good at. This occured in between the stealing of my 2 brand new bikes)
So back to summer 2018. I set 2 goals. teach Indigo how to ride a real bike, and teach myself how to 360 tail-tap (bunnyhop). Both were accomplished, and documented on a vlog series I made. I was quite naive to think that anyone in the scene would watch it, but mostly I made it to inspire other “old guy’s” like me who wanted to take up riding again in their middle age years. Hopefully it has.
Socialism is great on paper, but in practice it falls victim to the baseness of man. Case in point, the praktic situation in Sweden.
The state sponsors it, and supplies local businesses with free labor. Then they pay what amounts to about fifty cents an hour to the workers. The idea is that the practitician will receive on-the-job training at no cost to the employer who will then hire them. But what happens in reality it is what we Swedes call “milking the system”.
Businesses take on prospective workers and continue to renew their internship until the state no longer pays. Then they get rid of you and request new praktik workers. Thus gaining an un-ending stream of free labor.
This is what happened to me. But before it was over, I learned the ins and outs of traditional Swedish cuisine to add to my already extensive base of culinary artistry.
I was already a decade past the point where my Chef, Mr Victor Shavers had told me that for me to go to culinary school would be a waste of time and money since I already cooked on the level of a journeyman Chef. The other thing I learned was how to work under a very demanding, mentally unstable, micromanaging, and unreasonable employer. The “boss’s wife”.
She made my life hell daily, but I could see the big picture quite early on.
I was put in that place for the time I was to acquire a skill I had yet to develop. That was “shut up and deal with unreasonable people gracefully”.
So much humble pie was eaten there. Yet because I had committed “internet suicide” a few years back by coming across as ignorantly arrogant, I embraced the opportunity to gain a skill that having lacked a few years back was directly responsible for my having “fallen off”. And thus no longer being popular enough to deserve to earn a living gigging in the scene I had all but sacrificed my life for.
Every day I would think to myself, “I may never get my career back, but at least I am working to be a better person than the me I was”.
Take a bad situation and make it good. This is my way. My entire life is built upon this. I really never had a choice in the matter. It was either adopt this mentality, or languish and die.
The whole reason I was even at the hotel I shall not name working in it’s kitchen is because one of the Chefs, an Australian who was on paternity leave. As his first child had just been born. During the 2 weeks he was gone I continued to be told that soon I would have another native English speaker to chat with when he came back.
All seemed cool at first. I mostly kept to myself, but I was friendly. And would chat if questioned.
I didn’t really talk much about my “music life” although they all knew that this was part of my past. As I had to put my prior work history on the hiring documents.
Eventually I was asked for links to music, videos, and such. To which I acquiesced. “This won’t end well” I thought to myself. As I have become well familiar with envious types, haters, and the like. I was often asked why I would choose not to be working as a “celebrity” instead of working a “crappy day job?” Their words. Not mine.
“Stability for my child” I replied. “The music industry is usually feast or famine, and I as father I need a more “middle path” existence. Meaning less up and down swings that are so drastic and disruptive.
I explained that I had already lived a life that far exceeded my wildest dreams, so now my focus was on creating the conditions for my son Indigo to do the same. Then it happened.
The cute Thai girl started working there……
The chemistry was apparent immediately. Great vibes, little flirts here and there, but there was a hitch. The dude who just had a baby liked her. It was so obvious. But he would try to be sneaky and hide it from his sister in law who also worked there.
I screwed up by telling him that I was going to ask the Thai hottie out. The very next day she was acting weird.
One plus one equals fuckery……..
I can never know exactly what was said after I left for work that day.
I do know that some bitch ass playa hating cock-blockery had occurred. (As I left at 5 pm daily, but they stayed until 9 pm to close).
But she went cold and distant. So of course, I did too. As not to play myself for a chick who was showing zero interest. “Beta Orbiter” Been there. Done that. Never again. So the budding romance was killed before it ever lived.
I went home that day inspired by the fuckery and wrote the Hip House song “Cock Blockers”
Take the bad and make it good. Right? 😉
Please come tour Australia?????
That totally came out of nowhere, didn’t it? I was so far removed from the idea of ever gigging again that it took quite a bit of convincing by Gregory Lambert of Solid Circles touring to even get me to decide to do it. In fact, the only reason I agreed is because it seemed like the people at the hotel were going to screw me over and not hire me. On some “milking the system” type steez. Which is exactly what happened.
Ok, I got the makings of a summer tour. Let me see what I can do here…?
TRESOR!!!!!!!!!! Diana Ninka is the best! And always comes through. I will request a gig at Globus to start my summer tour. And of course, Diana and Tresor showed love.
I had not played there in over three years. And in fact had not played anywhere, a club or at home in almost 11 months. Pressure!!! “I need not to suck!” Better do a sound check before the gig just to shake off some rust from not even being in a club and hearing music at that volume since my gig at Chalet Berlin a year prior….
(turns out I was fine and playing Globus is more comfortable to me than at my own home).
“I’ll also need to make some new tracks then”, I thought to myself, since for the last 5 years, quite a bit of the music I was playing was my own unreleased material
Inspired and with a sense or purpose, I was on fire. In less than 6 weeks I wrote the Zero dark Thirty EP, The Wisdom EP, and a couple more records that have yet to see the light of day, BUT….
the night I began to write Catacombs 2, I knew that I had something special on my hands.
It came together effortlessly. Like a literal gift from the heavens. I witnessed myself channel this track from a different dimension. Whole time knowing that this was not being done by me, but instead, through me.
I toured OZ testing out the new material and along the way realized that I was indeed born to be the artist known as Amir Alexander, and all that comes with it. Except that I needed to “get out of my own way” and let the spirit lead me. Humbly.
I had tried to do the work I was put on earth to do “my way”, but I was never given the gifts I possess for “self glorification”. No! I must glorify the “Higher Power” that bestowed said gifts upon me.
“Don’t call it a comeback. I been here for years”…… – L.L. Cool J
“Ok. So if I am to do this again, I must do it correctly. Let the music speak. There is no need to prove anything to anyone. As I have already proven to myself who and what I am to this scene. Let’s just have fun and spread positivity, joy and upliftment. It is my job to bring people up. Not down”…..
And so I began anew.
“Gotta get back on social media after a full year away. Here goes”……
Slowly, steadily re-branding. Demonstrating growth. Exuding compassion. Creating a new sub-genre, and making amends. Daily progress, but I will need to be on an agency roster to “level up” (next level myself).
RA has no love for the little guy. And me in particular. Ever since I expressed my displeasure at the shade throwing record reviews they gave me. I went so far as to even name my first EP on my first label “Idiot Savant Masterpieces” quoting an RA record reviewer I will not name here out of respect.
The day the review of the V/A I did with Plan B Recordings NYC came out, DJ Spider called me on the phone saying that he and Lola were not happy because RA had clearly missed the point and was dissing us and our record.
At that time I felt that at least they didn’t give us lower than a 3/5, but they were CLEARLY missing the plot.
Then I told Spider “I got somethin’ for they funky ass. Watch this? I am going to name my debut Vanguard Sound! EP “Idiot Savant masterpieces and it will be a hit.”
Once again, taking a bad and making a good. That record was repressed 4 times.
At any rate….
It appears that by acquiescing to corporate interests Resident Advisor has put itself in the position to be an institution that many, if not most of the scene has a love/hate relationship with.
Judging by the recent viral response to Alex (Omar S) telling them to get f-cked. Yet, as a full time working DJ, RA holds inordinate sway over whether I can earn a living or not. Just like most of the rest of what’s left of the true underground. Therefore, I reluctantly check for them from time to time…..
Then one day in November 2019, I saw that an artist I hold in high regard was starting a new label. So I clicked the icon to read about it. Thomas Melchior’s new label “My King Is Light” has just released it’s debut EP and it’s fire!
“Good for him”, I thought. As I genuinely wish my peers well. Understanding that music is not a “zero sum game”.
Meaning that just because someone other than me is winning doesn’t by default make be out to be losing. That’s a very lame point of view. And as previously stated, I decided at age 14 to NEVER be envious of anyone. Instead, I use a person’s wins as inspiration to achieve these things myself.
So with that said, I clicked off RA to check the book timeline. Thinking how cool it was for this new label to exist.
Then I thought, “Man! It would be lit to be able to release these two tracks I was hoping to give to Zip for Perlon on Thomas’s label instead.
Because Thomas and I have a history, and already know one another.
Less than 2 hours later, Thomas wrote me asking If I had some tracks to demo for his new label.
Yet another “Gift from the heavens”…..
To be continued……..
Amir Alexander xx