I still remember catching a ride down to Liberty, KY in the summer of 1996 because I didn’t have my driver’s license yet. My brother had a friend with a music studio that I could use for free if I could find a way to get there. I told the driver that it should be about a 2 hour drive, because that’s what I thought it was, but it ended up being 3 and a half hours. That meant I had about 4 hours to record the album because we drove back the same day. Every song was done on the first take except 1, and the entire recording process took 3 and a half hours. The driver was a friend of mine named Lamont, who is mentioned in the song “Weightliftin’ Jam,” “Lifting in the weight room with Lamont… never call Lamont short…” He was my weightlifting partner, and we used to play a little basketball every day during the summer of 1995. That particular summer I didn’t have to work, and wasn’t taking any classes, so I devoted most of my free time to being athletic. There was one day I ran 8 and a half miles, played basketball for 3 hours and lifted weights for 2 and a half hours. As playful and fun as the songs “Playin’ a Little Basketball” and “Weightliftin’ Jam” are, they flowed so freely because they were a huge part of my life at the time.
Before the recording process, of course, came the writing process. I wrote the entire album in 3 and a half weeks, while I was visiting friends in Florida, after I had finished my freshman year in college and before I graduated high school. I have to be the only person ever who could write that sentence and mean it. I started college at 16 by taking all of my classes at Miami University during my senior year at Talawanda High School through a post-secondary enrollment program. Since Miami finished during the first week of May and Talawanda didn’t finish until the first week of June, I had some free time before walking at my ceremony. I actually wrote 14 songs, but the song “Chillin” was pretty bad lyrically, so I don’t think I even ever made music for the song.
On the subject of making music, I hadn’t yet learned to play instruments, so I used my Yamaha PSR-510 for 12 of the beats, and a Yamaha PSR-500 for “Inventor.” Both keyboards were gifts from my dad, as they used to be his. I basically hit play on the keyboard, and changed the key and tempo of the pre-programmed beats. If you find these keyboards, you can probably find the music for the album. I actually spent a long time feeling as though “Intro To My Mind” was a less legitimate album than anything I created after 1999 because I wasn’t really playing instruments, but I know it was all just a part of the learning process.
The impetus for recording my first album came from my brother. Immediately after finishing my freshman year at Miami, my brother told me he’d pay for the pressing of the first 1,000 copies of my first album if I used the name Wakefire Records. It sounded like a great trade to me! That’s part of why the album was written so quickly. Once I knew I was going to have an album, everything poured out of me, including the song “Mother,” which I have never actually listened to. It was the only song I did not practice before going into the studio. I read the lyrics off the page as we were recording, and had to leave the vocal booth for a while to gather myself. Writing the song helped me start healing, but I’ve let the song stay just that. It was written just 8 months after she passed, and I’ve never desired to listen to the pain that I know was in that song. I have dealt with it in other ways since, and I have come to a great place with it. My mother will always be my greatest inspiration. Her passion, her drive, and her work ethic were only exceeded by her love for her family.
Finally, ending at the beginning. I started rapping at the age of 13, in October of 1992, officially 20 years ago as of the time of this writing. My friend, Cleveland “B.J.” Fuller and I were walking to the University of Central Florida to play basketball, about a mile from where I lived at the time, and B.J. told me to “kick a rap.” I replied “I can’t rap man.” He said “Man, just kick a rap!” So I did. I freestyled for 30 seconds, and that became the verse to “Inventor.” Originally, he had a verse as well, and we recorded both verses on a tape deck at home. I have no idea what happened to that recording, and unfortunately haven’t seen B.J. since I moved back to Ohio in 1994. I hope he’s doing something he loves. The version of “Inventor” which is on “Intro To My Mind” is the last song on the album, and is the first song I ever wrote. Ending at the beginning.