INGWI: When Garth Met Garth…

I released the video for this old episode of Hyphen Nation when I has less hair. My dad thought I cut it.

Today is the anniversary of Nas’ third album I Am. (I Am… officially) Well, I could check with Dart but the album should be young enough for the release date to be correct.

I had started to get into hip-hop so much around that time that I wanted to study every facet of it. I bought my first issue of The Source (C-Murder & Silkk Tha Shocker were on the cover) and I was soaking up as much music as I could. I was a year away from having a PC, so all of my exposure came from DC radio stations WKYS and WPGC and from MTV and BET.

The very next issue of The Source featured Nas. I had seen his video for Nas Is Like by then and I was a fan. Reading his interview only made me like this guy from Queensbridge more.

I went to Costco with Dad one weekend and we were going through the section with all the CDs and books. The cover art of Nas as a pharaoh jumped out to me immediately.

I asked Dad if I could get this CD. I don’t think I tried to hide the parental advisory sticker; I had been watching R rated movies for years and I just turned 16. Surely, he wouldn’t question me or say no

About an hour later, I pressed play on I Am… for the first time. I immediately fell in love with it from start to finish and I was playing it pretty regularly in my room

Eventually, my parents asked why I thought that language was appropriate so I had to curb how often I’d listen to it. But they never took away the disc. I remember lying over my bed, more than likely reading the most recent issue of The Source and rapping along to “NY State of Mind Pt. II”.

My mom walked in and was less than pleased.

So imagine my surprise when I got online a year later and the album was largely trashed. I couldn’t understand how an album that got 4.5 mics from The Source was regarded as trash so quickly. Granted, the version of I Am… The Autobiography The Source reviewed was not the same I Am that I bought in Costco that day but I didn’t know that until much later. 

And despite all of this, “NY State of Mind Pt. II” was my most played track in 2021.

Why do I enjoy this project when there are better Nas albums, including an entire King’s Disease trilogy?

Because it was my first Nas album. 

I have one for Jay-Z too. Vol. 3… Life & Times of S. Carter. Hov ranked that album in his bottom 3. I agree, it’s a clunker but it was given to me as a birthday gift for my 17th birthday. And I wore that edited copy out. I played it so much that I didn’t have the curses memorized for a long time.

So what is it that makes that first album you get so memorable, especially when it’s universally disliked?

It’s really all about the nostalgia for me. I’ll never be 16 or 17 again listening to those two albums when I was at such an impressionable stage of my life. Yes, I know that “Takeover” is a far better song but that’s not going to stop me from rapping every word to “Come And Get Me”. And I know that “Hate Me Now” pales in comparison to “Made You Look”. But I still love those songs dammit.

I started writing this with the intention of talking about more albums that aren’t the best on an artist’s catalog but you still love them because it was your first album from that artist. But I couldn’t think of more past Nas and Jay.

So now for something completely different.

“You know you’re not me, right?” The shorter man walked closer to the other man he was addressing.

“Of course. But they…” he made an arm gesture out to the audience who was waiting for him to perform. “…don’t care. And I’m here to give them the performance they paid for.” He leaned down to pick up his guitar and slung it over his shoulder. He then tested his headset microphone, following that with a readjustment of his cowboy hat.

“I will sue you for every penny if you keep using my name!” the older man angrily threw his own hat down, only for it to roll down the steps back to the main floor. The other man smiled.

“And lose all these performance royalties?” he grinned. Garth Brooks stopped. He hadn’t even thought of that. Garth could see he stumped him. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Black Garth has a show to put on.” Black Garth headed out to the stage to thunderous applause.

Garth Brooks was at the bottom of the steps, picking up his hat. He dusted it off but didn’t bother putting it on, utterly defeated. And richer?

As he headed for the exit, he heard a voice booming throughout the stadium. 

“Hello everyone. I’m Black Garth.”


“Say that again?”

Garth Brooks was exiting his New York City hotel, walking to the car waiting to take him to the airport.

“You have a show at Madison Square Garden tonight,” his road manager repeated. 

“Like hell I do! I’m supposed to be home to have dinner with Trisha.” His road manager cleared her throat.

“I know, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. There’s this guy that’s been performing as you.” Garth laughed as he leaned against his car.

“Everybody knows there’s only one Garth Brooks! And you don’t just send some jamoke into the Garden to perform my songs. Have you gotten a hold of the lawyers yet?”

“I already did and they aren’t sure what to do.”

“Cease and desist!” Garth Brooks was starting to get angry. 

“Will you Google…,” she paused. “…black Garth?”

“Oh my God,” Garth Brooks hissed. He pulled his phone down from his ear and followed her instructions. 

Sure enough, a black man with a million dollar smile popped up, with social media and tour dates, including tonight’s MSG show. 

“Cease and desist!” Garth Brooks yelled. He was drawing stares from the people who walked by. 

“The lawyers don’t want to go after him because he’s black,” his tour manager’s voice was almost a whisper. “And Garth Brooks is his legal name.”

“I need to call Trisha,” Garth Brooks seethed. “I’m going to confront this guy myself. I spent years making that G logo famous, not him! I don’t care if he’s blue, purple, pink, or gray, he’s not using my name and music!” He hung up his phone angrily and started to call his wife.

Even earlier.

“Is this Garth Brooks?” a voice asked.

“This is he,” Garth responded. He looked at his wife puzzled. Normally, he didn’t answer numbers he didn’t recognize. But with all the excitement of the last few days, he decided to pick up.

“Hi, we saw your video and we have an offer for you. How would you like to go on tour?” Garth’s jaw dropped.

“On tour?” His wife’s face lit up with joy. “I don’t even have any songs!”

“Oh, you won’t be performing your own music.” A long pause hung in the air. “We want you to sing Garth Brooks’ music.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“Oh no,” the voice from the other end of the phone said. “You’re not just going to be Garth Brooks. You’ll now be known as… Black Garth Brooks. Of course, we can’t put that on any promotional materials. But all your social media accounts will now reflect that name.”

“Isn’t White Garth Brooks going to be mad?”

“Don’t you remember the whole Morgan Wallen thing a few years back? Sure, he’s sold more records because of it but do you think he wants to go after a black guy singing his songs, especially when he gets live performance royalties?”

“Yeah, I do!” Garth shook his head. “This is a terrible idea.”

“Oh come on Garth, the documents are already in your email. You saw how that video exploded. Why wouldn’t you want thousands of people screaming for you at your first concert tomorrow in Brooklyn?”

“…thousands?” Garth asked.

“We already sold out the first show. I mean, we can cancel if you want. But your 15 minutes of fame will be down to 0 if you let all these paying fans down.” Garth took his phone down and muted it.

“They want me to sing Garth Brooks’ songs live at Barclays tomorrow!” He shouted to his wife, who had left the kitchen. She came rushing back in.

“Can you do that? Did Garth Brooks give the okay?” she asked.

“It sure as hell doesn’t sound like it. They’re saying Garth Brooks won’t do anything because I’m black and he gets live performance royalties.” His wife leaned on the counter and stared away thoughtfully.

“You’re going to get paid to perform though, right?” Garth unmuted and brought the phone back up.

“I get paid to perform, correct? Garth Brooks doesn’t get that money?”

“You get paid to perform,” the voice assured. Garth nodded. His wife nodded back excitedly.

“Mister, you’ve got yourself a Black Garth Brooks!”

“Excellent news! The sooner you sign the documents we emailed, the sooner we can get started.”

Even earlier than that.

“Baby! Baby!” Garth’s wife was screaming and he came running.

“Oh my god, what’s wrong?!” Garth found her on the bed, staring at her phone.

“The video, the video!” Garth sat down beside her.

“What about the video?!” His video from open mic night was playing on her screen. She handed it to him, confusing him even more. “What am I looking at?”

“Baby, look at the number! It’s got over 5 million views!” Garth read the number. He looked at his wife. He looked back at his wife.

“No way! In 24 hours?”

“In 22 hours baby! You’ve gone viral!” Garth stood up, smiled, and then stretched.

“I thought something was wrong,” he said as he headed back out of the bedroom. “That’s pretty cool.”

“Pretty cool?” she called after him. “This is a big deal! Just wait and see baby, I just know it!”

And even, even earlier.

Garth stood off the stage, nervous as hell. His guitar was slung over his shoulder, just like it had been thousands of times before. Only this would be the first time he was performing in front of a crowd, even if it was only 20 or so people. He tried to calm his racing heart and took a deep breath.

Onstage, the open mic host was finishing up his 5 minute set of mediocre jokes. The crowd had been polite enough to chuckle at a few, but a real comedian this guy was not.

“Alright!” the host shouted into his microphone. “Are you ready for the next act?” His question was met with tepid applause. “Okay! Get ready for…” he squinted to read the name. “Garth Brooks?” A voice from the back of the bar whooped. Garth walked out on the stage, dressed in his normal jeans, t-shirt, and basketball shoes.

“Yes, I’m Garth Brooks,” he offered weakly.

“Really?” the host whispered without covering the mic. Garth nodded. “What are you going to sing?” Garth didn’t realize how close he was to the microphone.

“The Thunder Rolls,” his voice boomed loudly. The host looked dumbfounded.

“A little on the nose, don’t you think?” the host again whispered into the mic. “Okay everyone; give it up for Garth Brooks!” He handed the microphone to Garth and exited the way Garth had entered. Garth gently put the mic back on the stand and adjusted it to the right height, just like he had done thousands of times before.

Again, a whoop came from the back. He smiled nervously as he took a hold of his guitar, just like he had done a thousand times before.

“Hello. I’m Garth Brooks.” He then began playing his guitar.

Three minutes and forty two seconds later, Garth stopped playing his guitar. The room was silent.

“Thank you,” he almost whispered as he started to get up. The room erupted into cheers and applause. Garth was stunned. He smiled broadly at the recognition. The host came rushing back out to the stage.

“Oh my god Garth Brooks, that was incredible!” he yelled into the mic. “Don’t you agree folks? Tell Garth how amazing that performance was!”

The room of 20 or so people was standing now, still applauding. Garth took a small bow and headed offstage.

“Wow!” the host shouted after him.

In the back of the crowd, Garth’s wife was fiddling with her phone. Satisfied with her work, she posted Garth’s performance to her social media page, with the caption, THE THUNDER ROLLS. SO PROUD OF YOU BABY.

Item! I need to promote my Patreon more.

Item! Here’s the full Rasslecast video for when Sasha Banks and Naomi walked out.

Item! My daughter turns 9 tomorrow. Here’s what I wrote for her birthday last year.

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