I don’t think it’s too bold of a statement to say that every artist usually has some kind of personal reason why they title their projects. Something beyond just the obvious. For me, I don’t think I realized the full scope of Wheels Up until very recently.
But lets start from the beginning and get real personal, shan’t we? Off we go.
If you are a long time Kubi fan, follower on Facebook or subscriber to the good ol’ Kubi email list, you know that almost two years ago now, my Mom passed away from Breast Cancer.
The actual experience of my Mom passing was, obviously, difficult, however it was the seeing of my mom through the whole process that was really the bigger monster. The emotional toll on yourself, friends, and family is just not really something you can quantify. No amount of knowledge and intellectual understanding or reading or movies or whatever can prepare you for the grueling intensity that is dealing with watching a loved one, especially your Mother, slowly succumb to something so ugly. The whole thing, if I’m being real, it was about a 7 or 8-year process from the first time she was diagnosed, until she finally passed.
To put that in perspective for long time Kublakai fans, I was half way through making my first album, The Basics (the first one) when she first told me she had Cancer and she passed half way through my remixing and creating the few new songs from Kubi Zoo, my latest release. Everything in between, including everything with The Let Go was tinged with my Mom’s Cancer looming large.
And these last three years – those being the final year of her life and the two years since – were like nothing I’ve ever been through in my time on this planet. I won’t go into the complicated relationship that I had with my Mom but it was rough……. with or without Cancer in the mix. Now I had to start looking at myself and asking, “What does my life look like without my Mom in it?” There is no candy coating it, it is a very strange question to ask yourself everyday and it never feels normal. But slowly, you get used to a different life. A new life, one without Mom to counsel you, to argue with you, to encourage you or berate you (depending on the moment) but as happens with life, you find the new normal.
So why tell you this? Why rehash it all again?
Well, really, it’s because it’s never too far from my head and my heart. I can’t do very much without it being a part of my consciousness. It’s just a part of my life and who I am and I feel it helps to share. I’m share there will be a day where I can finally feel separation from this portion of my life and really be looking at life through my own lens, not shaded by these events at all. I’m not there yet, however, this is the beginning.
Further though, from the creative side of things, I tell you all this because Wheels Up is the new normal.
It is the beginning of my creative life after these last 9-10 years – a life without my Mom and without my Mom’s Cancer looming large. It wasn’t until after the project was done and in my hands, while I sat back on a summer night at the beach listening to the project and watching the sunset that it dawned on me. This was the first project that I have made since The Change in 2005-06 (a mixtape that probably only a very small few of you know about, even smaller few own and even smaller few actually still enjoy – lol) that I have made where My Mom’s Cancer wasn’t a focal part of my life. That’s not to say she didn’t affect the project. She was my Mom. Her presence and her life will forever impact mine but her death and the worry that surrounds her Cancer is now the past. And when I listened again, with the idea that this was the new normal, the difference between these 6 songs and everything I’ve done before became obvious. I won’t go into it but this album was indeed something more. Their was a lightness to it. It’s less aggressive, more musical and honestly, it’s just better than anything I’ve done before.
This is the beginning of something new.
I named the album Wheels Up because, as long as all goes well (I’m waiting for my VISA), I am leaving the country for Chile in a few weeks for a Study Abroad program that will last 7 months. I’ve wanted to do this for a lonnnnnng time. Besides hip hop, traveling is my passion. I believe in the transformative power of travel and what it can do for personal growth. I’m an International Studies major at UW who is interested in the world in general. I want to encourage more people, especially people in their teen years or early 20’s that may not ever think to, to travel the world. My first trip outside of the country changed my life in the same way the stepping onto a stage or stepping up to a microphone did. I would never be the same again.
There is a song on the EP of the same name, Wheels Up. It is all about my travels, it felt like a fitting title for the EP, especially as I finished the album and then took an amazing summer trip. I spent a couple weeks soaking in the beauty of the Northwest summer while on tour, then flew to Europe and spent a week in a castle in Portugal (No, seriously, I did) and a week exploring Sevilla, Spain by myself. The title just made sense.
I realize now that Wheels Up means much more. It’s a departure from my past. It’s the beginning of a new life. It’s not just about travelling; it’s about moving upwards and onwards after a long battle these last 10 years. It’s also for my Mom. She’s moving forward, onwards and upwards. I even laughed when I looked at the album artwork and realized the obviousness of a plane moving through the sky. The cover fully immersed in the clouds and when you turn it over – above the clouds. I’m not saying I was completely unaware of what I was doing – I was following the concept… but I think that that symbolism was more for Mom than me just simply following the concept.
And when I really think about it, maybe it is even from my Mom, to me.
As an artist, sometimes you just do what feels right and don’t question it. That is undoubtedly what I try to do and I have noticed that when I do it, when I really follow my instinct and my heart no matter if I understand it or not, the outcome always surprises me in the best way possible.
So here is to new beginnings, to healing, to the future, to hip hop, to travel, to Mom’s everywhere, to family and to being the best you that you can be no matter what life throws at you.
***You can listen to the first three songs from “Wheels Up” here***
The EP will be released in it’s entirety for Free, and on iTunes February 2nd.