When I was writing Bling, I kept hearing Indian music playing over hip hop beats. In my head, the beats were hot, so I called “B”, my Spotify playlist partner for Friday Night Flows, to see what he thought of the idea. The initial idea I had was to have a hip hop score for the audiobook. I looked for songs to match what I was hearing, but all I kept finding was Enya-like stuff I wasn’t down with.
What I was hearing in my head didn’t exist.
So I was like you know what? I’ll create my own beats. From there I thought, If I’m gonna make my own beats, then I’ll write the lyrics for a song, and if I’m gonna make a song, why not make an album?
I went on the hunt to put together my crew and found my rapper (Wes Writer aka Skrilla), vocalists, beatmakers, sound engineers, and songwriters. In two days, I had the whole team lined up, and we started making music the next week.
“On a Mission” was the first song we worked on. There was a specific whiny Indian instrument for the song playing in my head. I called up my dad and he told me what it was the shenai, an Indian oboe, and incidentally his favorite instrument. With my dad’s help, I found sounds and beats that meshed well with the high pitched harmony, and my team layered it all together.
When the song came back, I remember having a stank face, just like JAY-Z had when Timbaland dropped the beat for “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” Like OMFG, this shit is so hot! Hearing a song that was straight out of my imagination for the first time was dope. Everything together was so fly. I didn’t know if the song was going to be a hit, but I knew what we were about to make was something awesome.
I’m stoked to drop my first single, “On A Mission”, not only because it’s incredibly symbolic of a journey’s beginning, but because it’s a powerful learning tool to help ingrain the book’s first chapter into your memory.
Embarking on a Journey to End the Struggle
“On a Mission” tells the story of a legendary rapper whose debut album is a landmark in hip hop, widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time. Though he has achieved everything — money, fame, power — he feels completely empty inside. Amid depression, drug addiction, shame, and guilt, he embarks on a mission to transform his internal struggle into fulfillment.
Related: My First Book Unveiled: Bling
I wanted to make sure “On a Mission” was composed in a way to make you feel like you’re embarking on a mission. Instrumentally the shenai and bangles are essential to capture the chapter’s essence, while the first person lyrics give you insight into A-Luv’s inner monologue.
The shenai harmony is beautifully high pitched. The nasal sounds symbolize piercing your old reality, leaving you a little raw but open to change and new endeavors. To complement the shenai, we used bangles for the hi-hats instead of cymbals. In Kathak, or Indian folk dancing, dancers tell epic stories with their bodies, facial expressions, and bangles rather than lyrics. In the same way, the bangles in this song let you know you’re starting a new chapter in the story of your life.
When Wes spits the hook, you can tell he’s going through some hard shit. While he raps over a slow, low vibe baseline, you can sense he’s not feeling himself. At his lowest point, Wes confesses he’s the greatest in rap, but he’s lost. In a poignant instance of vulnerability, he asks for a guide to help him find a path towards inner peace. It’s at that moment the journey begins.
Listen and Learn
When I was the Board Chairman at KIPP Colorado Schools, I learned music is a powerful educational tool. KIPP teachers used songs in a method called call and response to make learning fun and memorable.
Just think of how many songs you can recall. I bet you can remember tons of lyrics from back in the day. But can you recall that much knowledge from your school days? Probably not. You can spit lyrics you haven’t heard in years because songs have an incredible ability to ingrain information into our subconscious. The Bling album is the perfect soundtrack to the book because the songs teach you lessons in a bite sized, unforgettable way. Nobody will remember every word in the book, but everyone can remember the words to the songs.
I’m pumped for you to listen to “On a Mission” when it releases on Friday, Oct. 4th. You can click the Spotify pre-save link to have it added to your Spotify library. To stay updated on more singles, music videos, and the album’s drop, subscribe to my inner circle below.