A Gift For You On My 30th Birthday
IT’S MY 30TH BIRTHDAY!!!!!!
This is an accurate portrayal of how I felt this morning when I woke up! 30!!!! WOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!! I have lots of feels so I made a playlist. Naturally. So here are 30 songs (+1 for good luck) that I love and a little bit about them.
Knockin on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan - My mom says that this is the first song that came on the radio when we left the hospital. Imagining that it’s the first song I heard is nice.
I Love Your Smile by Shanice - When I was a baby child, this was my song! Every night when my dad got home from work and walked into our apartment in Queens I would run to him and ask him to play my song and I would sing it. HARD! Mind you I was like 2 or 3 but it didn’t matter.
Fly Like An Eagle by Seal - Can we talk about the Space Jam soundtrack!? It was vibe to my 6 or 7 year old self and it still goes! I feel like this album was the first time I really heard music. And felt it.
I Wanna Be Down by Brandy - Ok so my dad got those Columbia House cds for 1c or whatever and the first one he gave me was Brandy’s self titled album. You couldn’t tell me nothing!!! Hairbrush karaoke on a million!
Bills, Bills, Bills by Destiny’s Child - When “Writings on the Wall” came out, I really tried to convince my friends to do a backyard performance with choreography and everything. They said no but it was then at 9 that I knew I wanted to be an artist, a director specifically.
We Can’t Be Friends by Deborah Cox - Another in the Columbia House cd collection, I played this album out and knew every word. I played it last summer after not listening to it for at least 15 years and still knew every word and every riff.
My All by Mariah Carey - “I’d give my all/ To have/ Just one more night with you” I had no real context for what I was singing but I used to sing this song so hard! I miss classic Mariah.
Kick Your Game by TLC - That Crazy, Sexy, Cool album was so classic and it was hard to pick one song but this was my jam!
I’ll Be There by The Jackson 5 - Now that I am older I question if I really want someone to be there with that much fervor after a breakup but when baby MJ sings “just look over your shoulders honey, oooh!” I feel it in my soul!
Dirty Diana by Michael Jackson - This song sends me. From the very beginning, to the beat drop. And when she grabs the phone from him and tells his baby “He’s not coming back/because he’s sleeping with me!” thats a moment. No one wants to be on the receiving end of that call but Diana gets what she wants.
That’s The Way Love Goes - JANET! Queen of the Whisper Sing! Duchess of Tight Choreo! I was way too young to be singing this song but I blame my dad. It’s a sexy jam and I don’t regret it.
Are You That Somebody by Aaliyah - When I was 10, some friends and I danced to this song at our elementary school. My mom choreographed it, we got matching outfits and we performed it. Another group of girls (who were admittedly more popular) danced to “Maria, Maria” and they wore matching cowboy hats. Naturally, there was a showdown on the playground over who was better. Naturally.
Just a Friend 2002 by Mario - Westbury Middle School! It was the best of times and the worst of times. Mainly the worst of times cuz middle school is hellish and there is nothing you could do to make me want to relive those years. But one of the sweet moments was getting a mixed cd from this boy that had a crush on me and this was the first song. Swoon It worked. We dated for a while. It was cute.
My Life, My Love, My All by Kirk Franklin - This is the first song I ever choreographed and it changed my life. I was 10 years old. I showed my mother the choreo and she said teach me. It was in that moment that she validated my artistry. That’s why can’t nobody tell me nothing. I have been doing this for 20 years!
Healing by Richard Smallwood - My mother choreographed this piece for the church dance ministry, Choresis, at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt, NY. It was one of their most popular pieces and it gave my mother the outlet she needed to dive headfirst into her artistry. I learned how to lead, facilitate and hold healing arts-centered space from my mother and the women she danced with. Their labor made me possible.
Air Force Ones by Nelly - Back to Westbury Middle School, this song is to honor the Air Force 1s wearing preteen I was. Ooh girl…
Ready For Love by India.Arie - When this song came out I thought I knew what it meant and sang it as such. Girl. Girl Girl Girl Girl Girl Girl… 15+ years later and the only thing I know is that I don’t know very much at all. Also this song is very hetero and I am indeed very queer. lol
I’ll Write A Song For You by Earth, Wind & Fire - Family road trips were not complete without this song. We still sing this song like it’s our job. I knew we were getting older when my brother Jordan couldn't hit the high notes.
As by Stevie Wonder - This song. Whew. When I was 10, my mother and I were asked to dance to this song at the funeral of a baby that died. We did and afterwards I was tore up. I kept thinking about my baby brother, Aaron, who has just been born and how I would feel if he died. I didn’t listen to this song for years. Until I really listened to the words and thought about a love that transcends space and time. This song inspired me to write a musical based on Stevie Wonder’s music. And it is my favorite song by my favorite singer.
Breathe from In The Heights Musical - Fast forward, my senior year of college my parents gave me tickets for In The Heights for Christmas. My best friend Lana and I sat in the second to last row in this Broadway house and when this song started I wept. I mean completely lost it. Because she was singing my story. I was flunking out of college my senior year and hadn’t told my parents. I had been a top student in high school and graduated #5 in my class. But I didn’t have words to name my anxiety, depression and fear that I had no idea what to do with my life after school. “And what will my parent say?/Can I go in there and say/"I know that I'm letting you down” This song still makes me cry.
I’m Here from The Color Purple Musical - I’ll let the song speak for itself. “I believe I have inside of me /Everything that I need to live a bountiful life/And all the love alive in me/I'll stand as tall as the tallest tree/And I'm thankful for every day that I'm given/Both the easy and hard ones I'm livin'/But most of all, I'm thankful for/Lovin' who I really am
Back That Azz Up - Ha! This is my favorite transition. This song is for my undergrad club days at A&T and the Blu&White fam.
Boogie Oogie Oogie by A Taste of Honey - But I don’t actually club for real because I am a grandma that missed my era. I could dance to disco all night actually.
Seasons of Love from RENT Musical - What can I say? I’m a theatre kid. This is for A&T’s theatre department that taught me so much and made me so much of who and how I am as an artist. And Rest in Peace to the mother of our theatre department, Frankie Day.
Screens by Zoocrü featuring Al Strong - In 2016, I met a woman named Margaret A. Brunson who changed my life. (She has that effect on everyone) The first time we hung out she took me to an Kickstarter kickoff party for a band named Zoocrü. I had never heard of them before but as soon as they started playing I was like Who are these boys? I offered my administrative assistance for their campaign and it turned into more than I ever imagined. That offer is what pushed me into consulting and it’s been a joy to work with artists and creatives. I am grateful that our paths crossed.
Sunday Candy by Donnie Trumpet - My grandmother, my Nanny, Evelyne Marie Laisure Marshall passed away on September 29, 2017. Her living made me possible and her passing changed my life. I talk about grandmas so much because I dont know who I would be without her love. I miss her so much but I find her everywhere; in my red fingernail polish, in my card shuffling, in my baking, in my political analysis, in my care. And yes, in the candy dish in my living room.
F.U.B.U. by Solange - Last year I created a show called “Buy My Soul And Call It Art”. I had no idea what I was doing but my Nanny had passed and my cousin Michael had passed and the Universe was telling me to “do it scared”. This song was featured in the piece because I never wanted anyone to forget who this is for, who this is centering. “All my niggas in the whole wide world…”
I Want You by Erykah Badu - The second show in the trilogy is “Buy My Body And Call It A Ticket” and that show almost killed me. I had to go somewhere deep inside myself and that place is dark and scary and I wasn’t sure that I was gonna make it out. But I did. And what brought me back was this. “I want you.” I want my body. I want my life. I want my love. I want myself.
I Need You To Survive by Hezekiah Walker - Show number 3 (which will be rebooted) is “Buy My Art And Call It Holy”. Though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I cannot separate myself from my Christian upbringing and this is one of my favorite songs. When I sing it I am singing it out to my people. I am singing to you. “I need you/ You need me/We’re all apart of one body”
Never Would Have Made It by Marvin Sapp - Yall there have been times when I wasnt sure if I was gonna make it to 30. Seriously. Depression and anxiety is real. Sometimes it zaps the desire to be right out of me. But I am here. And I am so grateful. Here’s to another day, another week, month, year, decade!
Crazy, Classic, Life by Janelle Monae - Did ya’ll think there wouldnt be some Janelle Monae on here!?! This is my theme song! Let’s ride this thing til the wheels fall off!