Ayentee | About the Artist
The real life story of the birth of a true hip hop head
Memories are rarely accurate. For example, I don't remember the first time I fell in love with Hip Hop. Was it that wedding when I was on the dance floor and Herbie Handcock's "Rockit" came on? Was that even a wedding? Its fuzzy. Maybe the first time I saw Beat Street? Where was I? Some ones house I think. I'm pretty sure I fell in love with it before I started school. Then again, I can't be sure.
I was born in Berkeley, CA in 1978. Tower of Power had just released a new album. My mom was a big Tower of Power fan. Growing up in her house meant listening to music while you cleaned, and if memory serves correctly, we cleaned a lot. Unlike most kids, I didn't mind the music of my parents generation. But Hip Hop though, that was true love.
By second grade my love had been solidified. I had three ninja stars that my mom bought at a flee market (which is basically treasure to a 7 year old) that I traded to a 3rd grader for a mix tape that his big brother made. It had EVERYTHING on there. Roxanne Shante vs. Sparky D, Treacherous Three and a ton of stuff I couldn't name. I played it til the tape snapped. It lasted me a week. My first heart break. I wanna say I wrote my first rap that week but that's probably just my brain trying to create a neat story for itself.
By the time I hit high school I had memorized hundreds of rap songs and had dabbled in a bit of writing. It wasn't until Junior year that I recorded my first song. The guys I was recording with at the time had a home studio and I would make my way there after school. They would probably tell you that I was there too often, but in my opinion, I wasn't there enough. I loved the studio. I wanted one. So I got a job.
I ended up saving a thousand bucks somehow. My friend Koncepts gladly sold me his old gear for that exact amount and bought himself an ASR-10. I now had my first home studio. An Akai sampler, an Atari to run midi, a turntable, 4-track and a midi controller. I started working on my first album. I continued to work with Koncepts and his group member Karma Chi on the side. I had a feature on their album Patternfall Wars which, for those who know, is a Bay Area underground cult classic. Fun fact about that song I did. My man Karma was at the cassette manufacturing plant filling out the paper work for the release and realized I still did not have a rap name. Him and Koncepts thought about it for a minute and came up with the name Ayentee, put it in the liner notes and called it a day. I didn't know my rap name until I saw it on the tape.
In the winter of 1999 while waiting for my first CD Public Diary to come back from pressing I decided to take a trip to the record store. I had to hoof it, back in those days, and Amoeba was on the other side of town. I bought a few albums, one of which was Black On Both Sides. I listened to it front to back on that hour long walk back home. It was so good that it stung me. When I originally left my house for Amoeba I thought I was just killing time while waiting for the most important album of my life to be delivered to me. That walk home humbled me like no other walk home. I knew I had to try again, before Public Diary had even been delivered to my house.
Over the years I split my time between nursing a solo career and performing with a group called Secluded Journalists. In hindsight it was probably counter productive to be releasing albums under the name Ayentee and performing under the name Secluded Journalists, but you live and you learn right? It was a good fit. My man Wonway would usually take the lead during the sets. I would poke in with some top notch lyricism, and Bullshit (yes that's his actual rap name) would provide the right amount of quirkiness to keep us from putting the crowd to sleep.
We opened many shows that I am proud to have been a part of. Jeru, Little Brother, M.F. Doom, Heiroglyphics, Solesides, ect. We were fortunate enough to be billed on the Digable Planets reunion tour for their show in SF. After the show they asked us if we'd like to open for their next stop on the tour. Of course we would! They put us in touch with their guy who was supposed to handle the arrangement. I don't know if there was a miscommunication or what but we never got the call and after waiting until a few hours before the show was supposed to start we figured it was a bust and decided to go eat. On the way to the spot we randomly ran into Ladybug. She's like "Yoooo! You guys are still performing tonight right?" She walked us right into the club, had some sort of argument with someone about something and came back to us like "Ok we got you guys 20 minutes right before we go on. Do your thing." I have so much love for those guys for that. It is a rare thing for people to go to bat for you in this business. They are shining examples of who I want to be.
I continued to independently release albums at a snails pace over those 20 or so years all while holding down a day job which demanded a solid chunk of my time. I grew up. I started a family. I took on a mortgage. But I never stopped making music. I spent less time performing and networking (probably to my detriment) and more time improving my craft. Lyricism is my passion. Clearly communicating all the random thoughts fighting each other in my head is my main bridge to sanity. If I can help anyone who is finding life too hard to handle, I will have considered these last 20 years of spinning in endless circles a resounding success.
But my time is just beginning. Those circles I spun around in, waiting for something to happen, cut deep into the concrete. Those burn marks on the street outside my house weren't made by doing donuts. They are landmarks of my infinite patience and perseverance. A blade that has been sharpened for 20 years and yet, never used. It is time. My Retirement Plan IS Death.