I Am Rhoda's Son Part 2: The Album, Forever & Ever

By Rhoda's Son



I am retired from music. Finally. For many, that concept seems unbelievable, because most have only known me as True God, the rapper. The artist. I've made so many albums over the last 5 years that my work ethic has seemed mostly unmatched by most artists. That was a product of my mother's work ethic. When my mother ascended to being my guiding angel, I felt broken, lost, and hurt. I had just released what was supposed to be my final album, Black Diamonds. I felt accomplished. I had finally won. I had my daughter back, I had finally finished my musical journey, and I was happy. I felt like my mother would bounce back soon and she could finally join in the happiness with me and we could work to make sure she got back to where she needed to be. Less than 24 hours after I released my last album and celebrating my daughter's birthday, my mother decided to take her wings. I was devastated. I couldn't stop shedding tears. I couldn't stop wondering why this happened. For days, I would break down, even as attempts to distract myself fell to the wayside. I couldn't properly accept anything that was going on. I would receive condolences, sympathy, and so many phony "I'm here if you need me" texts that I began to lose my mind. I found solace in talking to my daughter and seeing her beautiful face, but the pain of the loss was still stinging me. There was no way I could carry on in my life without somehow paying tribute to my mother, the right way. The only way I knew how. I'm an artist. I'm a writer. I knew at some point, I'd have to write. But, what about music. I thought I was done. I felt like I was. At the time, I was not focused on ever recording again. Music had always been my therapy for me, as it gave me hope that my mother would get better, it gave me hope that I would finally get back to my baby girl, it was solace for me through all the fucked up shit I was experiencing and living through. I couldn't fathom writing a song about my mother or even recording one without breaking down. As I sat quietly on a Thursday, just three days removed from her ascension and one day from viewing her body and two days from her service, I heard a voice in my head: "baby, your work isn't done yet". I paused for a moment, not even sure if I really believed the voice in my head, then just started listening to beats. It was as if every beat I heard spoke to me with memories of my mother. I began going through videos of my mother and I over the years, and as tears began falling, I just started writing to the first beat I heard. At that moment, Rhoda's Son: Forever & Ever, the album was born.

*Rhoda's Son
-The opening track is one of the hardest songs I ever had to write. It was the first song I wrote to this album and with the smooth soul sample accompanying me, I just wrote what came to me. There's so much to say when you are grieving, so many things you want the person you lost to hear and with each word I wrote, the pain hit me hard. I spoke about how my mother named me after the greats (Tyson, Jordan, Jackson, pick one) and how she told me I was the chosen one. Those are some of my first memories with her. I spoke about reading some of the Khalil Gibran books with her that she loved, and just how spiritually in tune my mother seemed, even with her own forms of meditation. As the song nears the end, I spoke about how when she needed me the most, I was there. It felt important to let this be known, whether for my own grieving or just to make it clear that regardless, I will always have my mother's back. After I wrote this song, I decided to add some of the video of my mother and I to the beginning of the album, giving her a voice on her album. While I wrote and recorded it,

*Westview
-Years ago, when I was a child, my mother and I would end up at a mall that now has little going for it, Westview. For those who are from Baltimore, Westview was always the county mall that was just close enough to the city that it felt like home. That and Security Mall are the two that really give you that feel. Regardless, as a child, Westview was one of the things I looked forward to the most as a child. From the times in the car listening to music while she smiled at me to those moments at King's Court, a restaurant we frequented then, Westview was the mall that I truly had most of my memories in. At King's Court, it used to be my momma and I getting the sticky wings and wild rice and I was the happiest kid back then. I'd eat and just talk to my mother about anything, and at the time, when you're innocent and young, you never know what eventually comes. It doesn't register to you. Those were the days. Days I wish I could have back. Even when we didn't go to King's Court, we would hit the food court and I'd always get the Hunan Chicken from a place called Ding How. It was where my unabashed love of Chinese food really began. My mother would laugh at me sometimes because once I like something, I stick with it. The same could be said for the other restaurants I frequented with her from Mr. Chan's to Towson's Best, all chinese restaurants in Baltimore obviously. This was probably the most touching song to write because it was so vivid to remember those moments. As a child, my mother would come get me and sing a Harry Nilsson song that she heard years prior and she patterned it for me. The song went "people let me tell you bout my BEST FRIEND", and while I never understood why that song was the one she chose then, I understood it more than ever now. I even sing it to my daughter sometimes now, just to pass down the tradition. That's always going to be something I hold near and dear, and the same can be said for a BeBe and CeCe Winans song that we loved to listen to for years as well. That song, ironically enough, was "Heaven". The lyrics in that song go "it's what I live for.... a place that love will never cease... will to die for.... heaven is where I want to be", and I put my own spin on the lyrics to pay homage to my queen. Of all the songs on this album, Westview was the one that hit me in the heart the hardest, but still made me smile at the memories. Somedays I wish time machines existed, so I could go back and relive those moments. For now, I will in my dreams.

*Raised By The Greatest
-One of my mother's favorite artists ever was Stevie Wonder. I used to think Stevie was her all time favorite, because she knew so many songs and would sing them all when I was around. My love for music came from my mother's love for music. As the years went by and she started to regress more, the one thing that never regressed was her love for music. I could play her favorite songs and she would still know the lyrics, which was amazing and showed the power of music in many ways. However, as I sat combing through beats, I found this track with a sad yet beautiful Stevie sample and with that, Raised By The Greatest was born. The Stevie sample was perfect for the mood, and I didn't write anything down for this one. I was fighting back emotions recording this in one take and you can hear my voice crack a time or two while doing so. I made a mention of how my mother would clap her hands and hit her two step, which was her go to dance all the time. No matter what songs I played for her, she would clap her hands and hit that two step. I remember one time, 3 years ago, I played a song and she started to move and in my mind, I freeze framed and saved that moment for all time. I wish I took video of it looking back now, but I remember it like it just happened. She was so happy dancing and we were laughing our asses off at her dancing, and I joined in with her too. I remember grabbing her hand and smiling at her and helping her hit the two step and knowing that was a moment I'll never forget. God, I wish I could have that moment one more time. It was beautiful. That's another moment I'll relive in my dreams always. Raised By The Greatest however is a two part song. The second part was a beat that sampled the song my mother wanted either played at her wedding or her funeral, Ribbon In The Sky by Stevie. I had to let it play for my mom because it was her wishes and I made the promise that if I ever get married, Ribbon In The Sky will be my wedding song. I also made a promise off the record that if I have another daughter down the line, I will name it Rhoda after my queen. I will keep both of those promises. That's a guarantee. I was raised by the greatest mom and I will honor her in as many ways as I can.

*Back To 95
-For me, life was mostly good... until 1995. As a child, I suffered no losses, I had nothing truly going wrong. No care in the world, no nothing. Until December 27, 1995. That was the day my grandmother passed away and I saw her take her last breath. That image haunted me for years in some way. It was a dark time, even for a very very young True, but my mother was guide through it, even with the pain of her losing her mother. She and I would sit in the car and she would say "baby all I got in this world is you" and while it was hard to understand then, I get it now. Back in 95, it was me and momma against the world and for years after, it remained this. Even in the last years, it was still me and my best friend against the world. This song is just me wishing to go back to 95 to be that innocent kid, before my grandmother passed away, back to a time when my mother and I would hop in the car and just go for rides together. Those are the moments you miss and cherish as life continues on.

*Let The Tears Fall
-In the world I live in, most people know me as the strongest person they know. The shit I've seen, the people I've lost, the things I was kept away from, every piece of pain I dealt with, I managed to get through it all, despite the damage it left on me and my psyche. I rarely cried, rarely shed tears, and was always there for support to others when they needed someone. However, this is different. I start the song off by saying that maybe I'm not as strong as I appear, because the way this broke me made me question if I even wanted to continue on with life. A life without my mother was one I never wanted. I remarked on a song 9 years ago that I would have rather died before my mother because I couldn't take the weight of ever seeing her in a casket. However, my reality struck. I'd have to face it. It would be the worst moment of my life. Ever. But I'd have to face it. Earlier that day before I recorded this album, I had to view her body for the first time. I instantly broke down. I said some last words to her physical with tears streaming and it was at that moment that this song came to me. I said to my mother "Ma, I know I'm supposed to be strong, but these tears keep falling and I don't know what to do with life anymore. I just don't know how to continue". The hurt washed over me several times over. Before I placed a final kiss on her cheek and left the viewing room, my body felt weak and my chest was in excruciating pain. And the tears kept falling. And I let them fall. When I went to the studio to record this, I just closed my eyes and rapped what came to mind. This entire song was a one take that came from my heart and soul. I got a little emotional during the second verse, because I meant every single word that was aimed at my family and I felt it with every single line. My mother was with me in the studio as I recorded and she kept me from having a full breakdown that night until I got out of the studio. Her words to me as I finished this song however were simple: "you are as strong as you appear, time to keep going baby". And with that, the tears stopped falling. For the moment, at least.

*Capital Jazz Fest
-Once my mother hit age 45, she began taking an interest in jazz music. It was at this time that she expressed to me that she always wished she could play the violin. So, as time passes by, I will likely learn how to play the violin in her honor. Now, my mother's interest in jazz music was never the Coltrane or Miles, it was the more recent artists like Jonathan Butler, Lalah Hathaway, Kirk Whalum, Marion Meadows, Groovin For Grover, Boney James, and more. Because of this love for jazz, my mother would end up at most Capital Jazz Fests and I even attended one with her. Those memories are hard to describe honestly and still something that makes me want to break down now as I write this, so I'll spare too many details of the times at the Fest. I'll just say that every June, my mother looked forward to it. My dream the last two years was to take her to one last Jazz Fest so she could truly appreciate it all. Of course, circumstances made that impossible to do the last few years, but when the next Jazz Fest happens, hopefully in 2021, I'll be there with my chain on that has Mom on it and we'll celebrate the jazz music one last time.

*Lynn's Lullaby
-One of our favorite artists to listen and sing to was the Isley Brothers. My mother used to laugh her ass off whenever I would imitate Ronald Isley and when I heard this beat, I instantly knew. I added a little bit of a video we had together to the song, and just let my heart direct me on where to go. This album was not able being the best lyricist or rapping ability. I just wanted to pay homage and make an album that she and I could appreciate. This was hard to write, as my mother's middle name was the basis for the title. This is another song that really is hard to describe because I just rapped and let my feelings take over. I tried to keep my composure when recording and find some solace in this, but it was so hard. This song doesn't get easier to listen, and the end of this album went from the happy memories to the hard reality of what comes next. For many who had a relationship with my mom or knew her, they will grieve and continue on with their family and their lives. For me, this is infinite. I lost my family. I lost my life. I lost my everything. And that reality hits harder during this section of the album.

*Dance With Momma
-This song was one I recorded shortly after breaking down listening to Frankie Beverly and Maze. Mom loved Frankie Beverly and Maze so much. When it came to artists that made her get up and dance, this was the one. I remember going to Barnes and Noble and buying the Maze greatest hits CD and singing the songs with her and learning the ones I didn't know yet. She used to love "Before I Let Go", "Silky Soul", "Happy Feelin", "Joy and Pain", and her personal favorite "We Are One". We used to sit in the car and sing "We Are One" so many times, and as the years went by, I remember being there with her and always playing that song. That song felt like our declaration. We are one. Mom and I together. So when I heard a beat that sampled that very song, I stopped instantly. I loaded the beat into my recording program at home (that I usually don't use), and just started singing and harmonizing. I was shedding a tear at the thought that when "We Are One" comes on, I won't be able to hear her sing and then point at me with her finger and sing "and that's the way it is... WE ARE ONE", and I lost it again. So, when I recorded this song, it wasn't really a song. It was a plea to a higher power for one last dance to the songs that we loved so much. Her dancing and her infamous two step with a clap used to make me so happy and I'd always join in. My world will never be the same again, but for however long I am on this earth, I will play Frankie Beverly and Maze and dance with momma in my head and dreams. Forever & Ever.

*Correctly
-As my mother's only child, I was always worried about failing her. Like what if I messed up? What if I didn't make my mother proud? That used to eat at me for years and over the last 6 years, hearing her say some of the things she said made me feel like I did my job correctly as a son. That is one of the few things that I relax about with this situation. I still remember every time my mother told me she was proud of me and I'll probably never forget that. Hearing the person you love and admired your whole life say they were proud of you, and that they know how much you loved them gives your soul a sigh of relief in its own way. This loss was painful, and the worst loss one could experience, but knowing I did my best to be there for my mother and more so, the fact that she appreciated it and was proud is enough for me. It doesn't ease any pain, but it lets me know that I at least did a good enough job as a son to earn her adoration and her pride. It meant everything to me to know this. This song is essentially a thank you to my mother for raising me to be the son that made her proud and hopefully did their job correctly.

*Forever & Ever
-This was the last song and one I wrote a day before I heard the beat. In my mom's obituary, I was asked if I wanted to write a poem for my mother, which of course I did. The thing is, poems are not as raw for me, so I wrote an actual verse. That was the hardest verse I ever had to write and one I wish I did not have to write, but it had to be done. Rapping out loud gave me a small bit of peace but not for long. This song was the proper way to end this album and even though I could have probably made another 40 songs about my mother, I ended this and my music career the proper way. 10 songs dedicated to my queen, all from the heart and during the toughest period of my life. I'll continue writing, because Momma would want me to. I'll continue to be the greatest father I can be, because it's my duty, my passion, my love, and Momma would want me to. However, as far as music is concerned, I can rest well knowing my final lyrics and song and album were all dedicated to the woman who gave me life and was my everything on this earth. Her legacy lives on, but it is time for me to finish my legacy and that legacy doesn't have music attached to it. I started making music and releasing projects as Rhoda's Son and I'm ending my music run as Rhoda's Son. It's a fitting end to a career that will be appreciated more as the years go by, just as my mother and her amazing self will be even more appreciated by those that know her as years go by. As it was when I was born, as it will be when my last moment on earth hits, as it will be when my spirit continues to guide those who love me, I am and always will be Rhoda's Son.

Forever & Ever. 
Love you My Queen. 

Stream/purchase Rhoda's Son on Bandcamp (https://truegodimmortal.bandcamp.com/album/rhodas-son-forever-ever), Spotify, ITunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Tidal, and every major music outlet.

-Rhoda's Son 

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