if it hadn’t been for Facebook memories, I would’ve had no idea what today was. On March 5th, 2014, I released my debut solo album Soon You’ll Understand. Written and recorded from 2010 to 2013, this and my mixtape The Mind’s Mixtape volume 4 was a true labor of love. Volume 4 is approaching its 6th anniversary in April.
Originally titled Nerd Fresh, then Spideyville Unlimited, I eventually settled on Soon You’ll Understand when I recalled what I had wanted to call my debut album way back in the early 2000s. I stole the title from Jay-Z’s Dynasty: Roc La Familia album in case you weren’t familiar. After sitting on the music for over a year, I pegged March 5th as the day the album would see its release. I trimmed the tracklisting down from 14 tracks to 10 tracks, mixed and mastered and mixed and mastered, and then I took the day off from work. I spent the day meticulously uploading the music to every known service I could think of and then I posted it on my website, then bhyphen.com. Thanks to RouteNote, the album eventually made its way onto most of the popular streaming services shortly thereafter.
I’m still damn proud of this album. It holds up, at least for me. It’s a culmination of 17 years of writing and rapping. So to mark the occasion, I dug in the old archives (and I do mean dug because I had to literally go through XML files in order to find these original posts) and found backstories I’d written for each track shortly after the album’s release and a few weeks before Aaliyah was born. So other than a little cleanup for broken links and things like that, I present to you my thoughts at the time. Happy 5th anniversary Soon You’ll Understand. Here’s to many more.
1. A Journey Of Great Power & Responsibility [Produced by 227 Digitalmasterz]
SYU is ultimately a concept album. At its and volume 4‘s inceptions, I planned to have both the mixtape and the album out before I turned 30 and that was it. I wasn’t planning on recording any more music other than possibly for a Nerd Fresh project or for guest appearances. And then I started hanging out with E more regularly. He convinced me not to quit making music but to make music in ways that made me happy again. So with the birth of my daughter next month, I’m not sure when the next time I make music will be but I can definitely say, that this isn’t supposed to be my final project.
At the same time, the whole album is about releasing my final chapter as an artist into the world and this song is the perfect way to do it. I compare the album to a child leaving home and how I need to release the album so that myself and immediate family members can move on with our lives. At its core, the song is a temper tantrum and I like to compare it to what happened to the SHIELD helicarrier in Avengers after Bruce hulks out.
Most importantly, this is my first official solo release over a 227 Digitalmasterz aka DJ Monstalung production. I’ve done Nerd Fresh records, I’ve done features, I’ve even had beats handed to me on a platter that I didn’t use. But this was the one. I could never think of a better way to kick off SYU.
2. Better With Bacon (The Hyphen) [Produced by B.A.C.O.N. Beats]
So Big Chief aka B.A.C.O.N. Beats had been promising to make me beats for years. I never took it personally, the man is anything if not a great father and husband. So one day when 2 beats appeared in my inbox, I was like a kid on Christmas. The other beat became the released, then unreleased “Not Like Them (Eveything Is Alright)”.
The instrumental always sounded like entrance music for a wrestler, so I attacked it as such. “Better With Bacon…” is one big promo cut by the company’s best talent, in this case, I happen to be said talent. Numerous wrestling references, a shoutout to Anthony and Parkersburg due to the fact that I wrote most of the song there, and a hook that gives due to the 304 Reconz, a group that Chief has been a part of since the early 2000’s.
And I got a bacon reference on my album!
3. No Room For Squares [Produced by Profit Money]
I love this track because it’s one big contradiction. The title suggests that it’s about not having time to deal with squares aka nerds, geeks, dorks, outcasts, etc. But the entire song is the complete opposite of how I love all things that are considered outside the box. References include Deloreans, PopCopy, lightsabers, The Incredibles, Superbad, and more.
I’m essentially turning the concept of square on it’s head here. If you don’t like any of these things I mention in the song, then clearly you are the square, and you are the person I don’t have time for. I think it’s a nice way to battle a sterotype that’s always bugged me for years.
This track also contains the first of two bass pieces provided by Kwame Amponsem. I thought it would be a nice transition to “Rewind” to include it here.
4. Rewind [Produced by 95]
Laid Back Gigolo Rap – Derrick Ferguson
I’ve always been terrible at getting over the friend hump with women. My wife and I were friends for almost 2 years before we officially started dating. Sure, there was some kisses here and there, but there was nothing steady until April 2003. And I’ve always ran into the most ridiculous situations.
Some of the tales used in “Rewind” are true. Some completely false. The Nas and Jay-Z argument in the dorm room in the wee hours of the morning? True, Wes was there. The shy girl who hooked up with the baseball team? True. The late night walk turned into late night dorm visit turned into back to my dorm room alone? False.The girl I met my first year at college who had a boyfriend, thus rendering my chances to zero? True. That’s Angel.
But really, I had Good Ol’ Charlie Brown and that Old Parker luck. As I mentioned in the song, if I had of pulled all of those girls, Angel wouldn’t be with me now. So it definitely worked out better than 18 year old Kelen could imagine. But it doesn’t make those tales any less hilarious.
5. ‘Fit Jammin’ [Produced by Profit Money]
This is the closest thing to a club record on the entire album. Profit had made this beat and included it on a beat CD for Soundvizion years ago. He told me I couldn’t have it unless it went unused. So I stashed the beat away and I waited.
At one point, Johnny Harmonic told me I could not use the beat as he was going to use it for his album. So I waited. Johnny’s album still hasn’t come out. I don’t know if he ever recorded over the beat. If he did, my sincerest apologies. Sincerely.
By 2012, I was ready to start working on my album seriously (principle recording was finished in early 2013, just to show how long I sat on the album before a few weeks ago), and this amazing track hadn’t been used. But what to say?
I decided to name the track in honor of its producer a la “Jam-Master Jay” from Run DMC’s debut album. The first verse is about Profit himself. The second and third verses are just me showing off essentially. I feel like the hook came to me before the verses, which is weird considering I’m normally the opposite. It just seemed like a natural fit for a song that immediately makes you want to dance.
At 2:28, it’s the shortest track of SYU, which may be another reason why it’s so damn good. Again, Johnny, if you recorded over this, I really didn’t mean to steal your beat. Intentionally anyway.
6. Legacy [Produced by Timothy Dalton]
Tim’s uncle goes by Bubz Beats and is one of E’s best friends, so I’ve hung out with him a few times. Even though I’ve never met him personally, I was shopping for beats in 2011 and Tim sent me a few. One was a truly awesome beat that sampled the MAS*H theme and the other one was the one that became “Legacy”.
I feel like this was one of those “wrote it in The Shoe Dept. before the store opened or anyone else got there” songs in the vein of “This Place”. It finds me debating what I’ll be known for when I die. Would it be my music? Would it be as a writer? Would be as a good friend? Would it be as an asshole? Mind you, I wasn’t married yet and didn’t have a child on the way either. Both of those things make me feel like I will have been known for something when it’s all over, but this feeling is something we’ve all dealt with from time to time.
I’m glad that this made the album as it is easily one of the most emotionally raw songs that I recorded. While I feel like most of the deep songs made volume 4, it’s nice to have this because it lets people know that I tackle most of my issues head on and on the record. And hopefully, they’ll check out my older stuff.
I’m really glad I got to showcase Tim’s excellent work production-wise too. While I can’t guarantee his demand will go up, it shows how deserving Tim is of more production opportunities. Oh yeah, he raps too.
Now, someone please get that MAS*H beat off him and destroy it!
7. Limited Edition (No Competition) (feat. Thack) [Produced by 95}
This is the little record that could. I don’t remember exactly when 95 gave me this beat but I always knew it was destined for my album. I had opportunities to use it on mixtapes. But I just knew I had to keep it for the album. If I hadn’t, I can’t honestly say this album would be here now.
By holding onto ONE record, I never fully gave up on doing my album. I always knew that I had to surround this ONE record with other records to make a complete album, and it gave me the motivation I needed to eventually get to it. It’s one of the reasons I had wanted to have 95 as one of the executive producers until I split up the songs I did over his beats between SYU and volume 4.
And I’ve mentioned the third verse before. I originally wanted to get 6’6 240 on it. I know I gave the song to E, but it got lost in the shuffle. Shortly after that, 6 moved to Cleveland, and only recently started recording new material. So I didn’t pursue him after he left.
I offered the song to Cookiehead Jenkins of Charleston but he had a lot going on at the time and never got to complete it (not that I know of).
I asked Huey Mack to do it and he said he would but he also happened to be getting more popular at that time. He even said he took it with him to the studio a few times. But it wasn’t meant to be there either.
I finally decided to ask the homie Thack and sure enough, he killed it. And I couldn’t imagine this track without him on it now.
As for the song’s meaning, I was just writing it from an extremely confident place. You could almost call this Better With Bacon’s older sibling due to the wrestling references on the second verse. It’s meant to make you feel good about yourself.
I wish I had kept a copy of this song every time I re-recorded it though. I could make a double album with that alone.
8. Winter’s Lament (Miami’s Gone) [Produced by Lip Beats]
In 2012, I went to Miami for essentially 2 days for WrestleMania XXVIII and my life was never the same. Mostly, I fell in love with the climate. Being from West Virginia, I’m used to cold, long winters. But I never hated them until after I came back from Miami.
This song is really about depression. While never diagnosed officially, depression is something I’ve suffered from since I was 16 off and on. The comenzaron a beber sample in the song translates to “they began to drink”, which is what I did in Miami and what I tend to do when I’m down. I called it “Winter’s Lament” since it was winter when I wrote it and lament means a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. According to Google any way.
Little did I know that this song would fit this winter way more than last, but I believe this to be a hidden gem on the album. If you’ve experienced the feelings I convey on the track, then you probably dig this one. If you haven’t, you may find it skippable. But know one thing: I really miss Miami.
9. Independent Headspace [Produced by 95]
Of all the songs on SYU, I may be most proud of this one. Another gem that 95 gave me, the beat inspired a happy, reflective feeling inside of me.
I really felt the album was lacking upbeat, carefree material other than “‘Fit Jammin’”, and I thought the idea of adding one more song in that vein would help round out everything. This song encapsulates a positive vibe throughout and displays more than the theme of “This might be my first and last album” that SYU is filled with. I especially love the lyrics of the third verse, which I think is one of my best motivational rhymes I’ve ever written.
It doesn’t hurt that the instrumental reminds me of DJ Premier, something I mentioned on the song’s intro. Of course, it took E saying that 95 may have sampled Primo to make this beat before I even thought of it. I don’t really want to know though; I love this song without knowing what inspired it previously.
Kwame makes his second and last appearance of the album with his bass at the track’s conclusion. I definitely listened to his first bass part when he sent it, but didn’t hear this one until I was sequencing. It’s “Thank You For Being A Friend” bka the theme song from The Golden Girls.
Love you too Kwame.
10. World Without The Hyphen [Produced by Lip Beats]
I couldn’t listen to this song without crying for the longest time.
Let me explain: when I first listened back to it after I recorded it, I really thought that was it. SYU was supposed to be my first and last album. The last music I ever did. I was about to get married, I was ready to start a new chapter. And at the time, I didn’t think music could be a part of that new chapter, as chronicled in: “American Love Story”.
Fast forward to two years after I finished the song/mixtape/album, and I still have it in my head that I’m an active artist.
But that’s not true. I contributed a verse to a track called “Morgantown MCs 2014” that will come out on a WV hip-hop compilation called Stuck In Our Ways. Nerd Fresh currently has two songs to our credit, so I don’t know if we’ll ever get a full project finished. E wanted me to do a joint project with him entitled Bonded, and I even finished a song for it, “In The Beginning”, but that was recorded during the process of the mixtape/album.
The last time I touched my microphone musically was to record “Felina”. I attempted to turn on my desktop, where I do all my recording a month ago and now it’s stuck on infinite loop on the Windows XP loading screen. Funny thing is, I said I was going to dismantle that PC anyway after I finished the mixtape/album. I’ve only had it since 2000.
I’m actually listening to less and less rap. Unless there’s a name attached that I really care about, I ignore it. Hell, I haven’t even listened to Drake’s latest music and that’s one of the names I check for.
Soon You’ll Understand could be my first and last album. My wife is about to give birth to our first child any day. I want to focus more on my writing. I’m even resisting urges to write new stuff because I don’t know how long it will go unrecorded.
So this final track… isn’t a lie. As long as I’m breathing, there will never be a world without the Hyphen. But there may be a world without new Hyphen music. So this album is my crowning achievement. I said during the entire process that I would be happy with my career ending on this note.
The best part? The Lazlo Bane sample of their song “Superman”, better known as the theme song from my favorite TV show ever, Scrubs. You crazy for this one Lip Beats.