ninety-four

Behind the Music: I Mean…Love

Written by Wil

I Mean…Love

This song went through numerous iterations. It started with a beat sent to me from Culture VI producer “Purpose”, who also co-produced Perspective. I began writing with a good friend of DJ Cinema “Leona”. She was a songwriter/singer. Very talented. We wrote the original hook together in my apartment.

When it came time to record, I spoke to Purpose about sending me the music tracked out and said that we, meaning YZ and I, might want to make changes. He was vehemently against this. He didn’t want us making any changes. He said he’d alter the track how we wanted. But me? I always want 100% creative control over any project I’m involved in. So I went in with YZ and decided to work on entirely new music.

I already had the lyrics, so we were able to build around that. We wanted it to be piano driven, as was the first beat. We wanted emotion. But I also wanted it to have an uptempo feel because I wanted this to be something I could perform. So we decided on a fast tempo and really quick hi-hats, but with a contradicting, slow piano and soft instruments. It was a great combo, as this was one of the songs that got the best response live.

Christina, an artist who worked with Culture VI artist Live P, recorded the original chorus. We performed it multiple times, as well. Once I began working with Meylin, I had her sing the chorus over. She had a much more polished voice and was a more experienced performer. She appears on the final version.

For one moment I forgot where I was, I’m alone with my thoughts
Flashing back to when I wrote my little song and cried
Back even further til that day I proposed
I supposed I should start a little sooner.

This was a reference to “Wedding Day”, a song I wrote with Yendi for our wedding. It was the song we danced our first dance to. She didn’t hear it until our actual dance. It took me months to write it. As we got closer, I felt a lot of pressure. I had finally written it and then sent the idea to Yendi. At the exact same time, Yendi left me a voicemail with a melody that she had written. It was so good that it inspired me to re-write the entire song during my lunch break one afternoon! I sat on a bench on the corner of 55th street and Sixth Avenue, just blocks away from Jenny’s office, and wrote the entire song in about ninety minutes. I cried as I heard Yendi recording it, knowing that I had actually came through and written our song.

I was originally going to start I Mean…Love with our wedding. Instead, I ended up ending the song with the moments leading up to our wedding.

Try and spark a little humor in this story, see before me, there was….let’s call him Marcus
I knew my girl broke this nigga’s heart
Which hurt her as much as it did him

When I met Jenny, she was in the midst of a 5 ½ year relationship with a kid named Mark. He was a horrible boyfriend. Took me less than a month to get her to break up with him and date me – but took her nearly a year before she actually fell in love with me. She wasn’t fully committed to our relationship at first because I knew she missed him and wasn’t 100% confident in her decision. I was patient and, in time, she finally let go of him and fell for me. That was twelve years ago.

Our relationship slumped a bit when I lived with them
Her and her mom, that is.

When I met her, I was a bum. I had no job, no money. I was living with my girlfriend’s family. Once we began dating, I moved out and stayed with Jenny and her parents. It wasn’t a great fit. Her mom heard us fighting all the time. I was messy. She didn’t think I was good enough for her daughter (she was right – at the time). It caused us a lot of problems. I got my own apartment a few months later in the same building.

Everything’s calm as-is
But things changed. It’s time to move on.
Kas is starting up Plus and I’m starting to lust after the music
Anxious, just imagining us after the two kids
Me? Up in some office. And her? Cooking up for us
But suddenly, my thoughts drift off into a tour bus
Until I hear “What’s this gonna cost us?”
I gotta put music to the side til it supports us.

Things were going well with us. We had gotten engaged and were saving for the wedding. We were happy. I had recorded my first solo album “Rap Music” during a six week period in 2001-02. I spent about $5,000 on that album and told her it was just a dream of mine to record one album. I assured her that once that was done? I’d be finished with music.

My close friend and mentor Mateo Mulcare, aka Kas, (R.I.P. Tae) – who was the greatest rapper I had ever met in my life – was starting his own magazine. It was a car magazine named Plush. He was really running it like a business. I would sit with him and look at all the designs and features. It was so inspiring.

Seeing Kas following his dreams really gave me the itch to give music another shot. I was really happy with my relationship and, up until then, had been fine with my decision not to pursue music. Suddenly, I started thinking about what life would be like in a few years. Was I really ready to just be a husband and a dad? Was I sure that music wasn’t my destiny? I started contemplating giving it another shot. But at the time, Jenny and I were having a lot of fights about money. I had been working hard to pay off all my debts and we were trying to save over $50,000 for our wedding. Any thoughts of me investing money into music would cause an argument. I was pretty much resigned to the fact that my dream was behind me.

It was after 9-11 when I lost my job
It was then we met Yendi and, of course, the God YZ
He buys me a little time to record
At that point? Time was all I could afford
And back then? I could’ve sworn
That my next tough decision would be what I should’ve worn to the awards
I was confident that labels’ response to this
Would’ve been positive. Instead? I wish that I could ignore what I saw.
Or what I didn’t see.
I saw a couple sales, but no deal, it was bittersweet
But I won’t admit defeat.
“Just wait til I release Culture VI ‘Elite’! The hottest rap album to hit the streets!”

2001 was a turning point in my life, for many reasons. I was working at SFX/ClearChannel and had the opportunity to actually build a career. Unfortunately, after the 9-11 tragedies, my entire department was laid off. I was so depressed and distraught, that I just jumped in my car one night and drove to Florida.

On my way to appear on my good friend 8th Wonder’s radio show in Miami, I made a wrong turn and ended at a record shop in a strip mall, where I met Yendi. She was asking if they had any R. Kelly mixtapes, which they didn’t. I, coincidentally, did. I told her to come to my truck. She asked how much I wanted for it. She was wearing a Violator Records t-shirt. I asked if she was in the industry and she said she sings. I asked her to sing something for me and I’d give her the tape. Well, she belted out Alicia Keys “Fallin” right in the parking lot. I knew that moment that I needed to record with her. She flew out to New York two weeks later to record a song with me. That was the moment I decided to record an album.

Around the same time, I had reached out to a producer we found on SoundClick that fellow Culture VI artist Carlos had recorded to. He wanted me to find out how much the exclusive rights to that beat would cost. YZ said that was one of his weaker beats and that he lived in Queens, so maybe we could meet up and hear some more music. We met in my truck in Astoria where he played 21 beats on a CD. There was one that I fell in love with and one that I wanted to save for the future. I recorded off the song and that began our relationship.

I dropped Rap Music and was disappointed. We sold over 4,000 copies, but it garnered no interest from anyone in the industry. I didn’t know anything about promotion, marketing myself, shows, etc. I was under the impression that the whole world was just waiting for me to record an album. I didn’t realize how small that world was. Rap Music came and went without any change in my life. I was under the impression that once I dropped that album, the labels would come running. I had no idea how the industry worked.

I realized that I had lied about recording one album and being satisfied. Lied to myself. Instead of accepting the fact that maybe I wasn’t good enough for music, I started looking for excuses. I started blaming my lack of experience. I just knew that if I was to make another album, I could be so much more successful. I had the experience now. This album would take the industry by storm!! Or, at least that’s what I kept telling myself.

I began really building a relationship with YZ. Off the strength of one beat (Roman Empire) I knew I wanted him to produce our entire album. He gave me an incredible rate and allowed me to be in studio the entire time, co-producing every record. He gave me such an amazing opportunity.

I know it’s bothering Jen
We can’t save enough for the wedding. We’ll have to borrow from her father again
“Sure, we’ll pay you back tomorrow” – pretend.
But in the end? I know we’ll have to bother him then.

So that was it. Carlos and I decided to put together a group album entitled Elite. I would put my solo aspirations to the side and create an album for our entire label. YZ would produce it. I would guide the production. Twelve artists.

This caused a lot of problems with Jenny. Our original projected budget for the entire project was $3,500. Our final number was well over $20,000. Every time a new expense came up, I would argue with Jenny. We were trying to save for our wedding and neither of us was making any real money. We had already borrowed from her parents and were going to need to borrow again to pay for our wedding. I was paying for everything with credit cards, running up our debt.

My grandfather passed away a week before our wedding
And Jenny’s grandma passed a week prior
It brought a cease fire to all our nagging and fighting and fussing

My grandfather – who was the closest person to me in my life at the time – and her grandmother had both passed away in the days leading up to our wedding. We had been having a lot of fights about money, about the wedding. When my grandfather passed, we both talked and agreed to postpone the wedding if our families felt it was appropriate. That really helped put things in perspective. We realized that the wedding reception was just a party and nothing that we should be arguing about. We needed to celebrate the moment.

So then we sat down and had an enlightened discussion
I felt that she thought that I was just writing for nothing
I told her that “I can’t quit.
It’s hard to be romantic when your man spits and manages eleven different artists
But it has it’s advantages
We’re always one hit away from wiping our debt away
From trading our apartment to a Caribbean getaway
We’re just around the corner from better days”.
She said “I wouldn’t change a single thing about the man I’m marrying”.
She told me if I quit, she’d never forgive me
And that when I take a hit? She’s taking it with me
Said “I’ll support and always stand by you”.
That’s why it’s so easy for me, Jenny, to say “I do”.

I never realized how important the support of those who I care about was. We had argued about money so much, that I began to believe that Jenny didn’t support me. And that really killed me. It broke my heart. I felt like I was working on this album alone. I finally sat down one day and told her everything I felt. How this wasn’t just for me, but for us. I recognized that I hand’t been the greatest boyfriend because I was so caught up in music. And I did feel badly. I promised her I would make it up to her someday.

Well, I was shocked by her response. I fully expected her to argue about how my dreams weren’t realistic. How they weren’t important. Instead, she told me that she supported me 100%. I couldn’t believe it, honestly. She said that my passion for music was one of the reasons she fell in love with me in the first place. She wouldn’t have it any other way. She said that even though she argues with me about money, she would never want to rob me of my passion. She told me how proud she was of me for all that I had accomplished. It was the first time I ever felt like I actually accomplished anything in music. I didn’t have to sell her on the benefits. She was just proud of me.

That moment made me feel so strongly in my decision to spend my life with her. The support, the belief – it was the greatest feeling I had ever experienced.

Every time I close my eyes
I feel the way you do
And I don’t want you to think twice
I’ll never make you choose
And I’m gonna hold you down for life
cus boy you know it’s true
I like that part of you
I mean…love.

The hook is actually the opposite of John Regan’s “She Loves Me”. This is about a woman who stands by her man’s side no matter what. She likes my ambition. No…she loves my ambition.

About the author

Wil

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  • This is a powerful story. I learned alot from it. Always keep your family/loved ones first. The music industry will come and go, but love is forever. This article had me discouraged and encouraged at the same time! LOL! Keep bringing that rawness with your site sir! Thanks! #spreadthesoup

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