The Importance of Mixtapes

When I was young, my parents would fill the house with song.

My mom would sing songs in her native tongue Yoruba (a language I never learned), and the kitchen would echo filled with her vibrato. There were songs of lament, there were songs of celebration, and there were songs to pass the time.

One evening when we were watching American idol together, my siblings and I suggested “Mom! Maybe you should go and sing your African songs for the judges!” Her smile beamed.

My father was the same. Before he would tell stories to the scores of people who came to watch him perform, he would sing to crowds of people in his native language Fon, and end by saying “that was a song of welcome”. By the end of his performances, he would be drenched in sweat as the sterio boomed goat skin drums, and men women and children joined in.

Though I didn’t always know what the songs meant, I knew how they felt. At times, my father would let out a deep sigh, and then launch into a song I’d heard 1000 times before, yet it would sound different each time, conveying the urgency of the moment.

Not only that, but song was a way to reconnect with a point in time or a memory. When we saw certain family members, there were songs we always sang together. When I was 10, and all of my extended family would get together for our impromptu prayer services, we always commenced by singing “Joie, joie, mon couer est dans la joie” — “Joy, joy, my heart is in joy”.

Music has always been important to me, as it is to each and every person. Songs carry with them part of that essential recipe of life, that fills our hearts with vitality, and our souls with purpose.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be able to put out a mixtape with my friends. I called it “All I Ever Wanted”. It was my way of saying that my only desire in life was to find my purpose and make art of it. At the same time, it was my attempt at crafting my own story. Listen to it if you have a chance. Though what we create is never perfect, the beauty of it is that it brought me one step closer to where I would like to be. You don’t have to seek to be famous. Just seek to translate what’s on your mind.

Today, there’s a fear in creative individuals that is turning into an assault on the form.

Platforms abound, making it easy for people to reach a group with their art.

However, many fear taking the step to do so. I refused to put my music on Soundcloud for fear of being called a “Soundcloud rapper”. I resorted to only making it available on major platforms. So many people let that fear hold them back altogether and never pick up the pen. “I’m not a rapper”, they say.

The paper remains blank.

Masterpieces go unwritten.

When we forgo taking the chance to be vulnerable and create our own music, we forego so many other things.

I still believe that music is one of the strongest forms of emotional communication, as I did when I was young. When we love someone, we send them a song that reminds us of them. When we’re stressed, we play a song that reminds us to be calm. Music is a totem.

I’m writing this because this summer, I have two friends who I know are making albums as we speak : Caretaker and Jon Rodriguez, . They’re both going to be great pieces, and I’m excited for the world to get its hand on them. At the same time, there’s probably someone else who is afraid to start a blog or drop a mixtape or tell a joke, etc.

Though I’m no motivational speaker, I can only remind them of what those forms of expression mean to me and the joy they bring me every day.