In the last article, I was telling the story of how I came to discover R&B music. So, let’s pick it up from there. The year was 2004…I am in my first year of University and getting immersed in US culture (e.g. food, music, people…not necessarily in that order). We had some allowance to spend on personal effects. I went to Walmart and bought (amongst other things) the following items:
- A portable CD player: In all my excitement, I did forget to buy batteries for the CD player so it wasn’t all that portable until a few days later. Thankfully, it came with a power plug
- 3 CDs: Never Say Never (Brandy), After The Storm (Monica) and the Chocolate Factory (R. Kelly). I would have bought more but I needed to also get pesky things like… toothbrush and shampoo lol…
Anyway, in the next 3 years, I would eventually get quite a bit of 90’s and 2000s R&B music and get to listen to them with close friends or by myself. My best friend and I eventually started using the term “smooth it out” when referring to any R&B music that had that soulful vibe or practically any activity we thought was cool that we were about to do. I don’t recall exactly where did we get the term from, but I think P. Diddy (who went by Puff Daddy at the time) used it in the remix of the song Honey of Mariah Carey. You can watch him say it in this video
At this point, I had quite a bit of catalog and quite of a bit of music to “smooth it out” to…my English was improving…I could actually remember the lyrics…it was time to learn to play the music that I have been listening to all this time….so I bought a
Those who read the title probably were expecting a guitar. The truth I actually have no recollection of the actual reason I bought the keyboard. I do remember buying it from a pawnshop probably thinking I’m gonna Elton John that thang lol…I also got a piano lesson book to teach me how to read sheet music. Part of my motivation in buying a musical instrument was that, up to this point, besides listening to music, my hobbies consisted of the following…on many occasions, all 3 were done in the same day:
- Playing basketball
- Watching NBA basketball on TV
- Playing NBA live/NBA 2k
I was able to play a few songs that had piano like No One (Alicia Keys),Unfaithful (Rihanna), Because of You (Neyo).…thanks to Youtube, but wasn’t able to improve my skills to the point where I can play by ear. If I didn’t play the songs for a few days, I would forget how to play. This was in large part because I didn’t properly learn the chords or didn’t make it through the music theory part of the book (partly because of school and well….see my hobbies above)
Anyway, in the fall of 2007, we were attending a Talent Show and in it, two of my close friends were performing a song on an acoustic guitar (one was singing lead vocal and the other one played the guitar and also provided vocal harmony). As I sat there watching them, that wonderful performance inspired to me to get a guitar. I unfortunately do not have a footage of that specific performance, but here is cover of the song made by a group of really talented people:
There is always something special about “unplugged” performance: just the guitar and the performer (or sometimes with small accompaniment such as drum and bass, but usually absent of electric instruments). You get the enjoy the music in an intimate small setting while not losing the full performance of the artist…and that’s what I wanted to capture while playing the guitar.
Here is my illustration of this. Here is the original music video of Joe performing “I’d Rather Have Love” with the fully produced version.
…and here is that same song but performed acoustically/unplugged in a small venue (and minus all the cigar puffing lol):
Obviously, since I would be playing mostly by myself, I would have to adjust my expectation and hope to sound like this instead:
In any case, the goal was to really have fun playing the music that I got to enjoy listening to the past few years and the guitar was a step in the right direction. So the musical journey began….or so I thought…you may notice if you watched the last two videos that the chords being played were not exactly beginner chords, but this will be covered in a another story (I promise). In the meantime, here is one of the songs that I really wanted to learn at the time (and wouldn’t be able to play for another 10 years for various reasons..which again i will cover in another story as well): Gone by ‘NSync (don’t be fooled by the weird intro and the fact that it was a boyband, this song is straight up R&B with awesome guitar being played in it). You can click on link if you are interested in learning it. Alternatively, just enjoy the music video:
😂Smooth it out homie.