Friday, December 20th, 2013

2013 Year in Review

2013…what a year it’s been. From twerking with Miley Cyrus to having a royal baby, it’s been krazy, hasn’t it? We saw some very controversial trials this year including George Zimmerman and Jodi Arias, while we also saw high profile celebs get caught in the news including Aaron Hernandez and Paula Deen. We saw a young girl become a rising voice, a U.S. government shutdown, and the loss of a significant world leader. 2013 was nothing short of eventful.

As I write this, the only thing I’m wondering is…has it really been a year? Because it’s seriously flown by. LoL I guess it has. Every year (and instead of just revisiting the news), I take a glimpse back at where I’ve been and more specifically the highlights of my year. As usual, it was a rollercoaster year with lots of highs and lows. I had some eye opening moments, realizations, and experiences that really changed my outlook on life. Both personally and professionally, I went through a lot. But I mean, that’s normal, right? ‘Course it is LoL. And with that, here it is…MY 2013 Year in Review.

The Rap Life

Ajaxxx - He's a Monster“He’s a Monster!” mixtape released – so after four years of not dropping a full length release, I came out with a brand new mixtape. “He’s a Monster!” was a 20-track compilation I released earlier this year that included songs, freestyles, collaborations, and more. Basically, it was a collection of songs that I’ve recorded over the years. I wanted to showcase myself on a variety of diff sounds n styles, and also show people, “yo..he’s a monster.” LoL. This was an especially difficult CD to release because I had to clean up a lot of tracks on my own, along with semi-master it by myself too. Compounded with my computer straight dying on me, there were a lot of obstacles that got in my way. However, I was able to push forward and finally release a new mixtape. And in case you’re wondering, it’s free to download by signing up HERE.

Ajaxxx - One of a Kind“One of a Kind” single released – Also after YEARS, I finally dropped my second release from my upcoming album and released it on iTunes. “One of a Kind”, produced by TyPeNyCe, is vintage Ajaxxx. It’s catchy, it’s lyrical, it’s me. Finalizing this song was hell in itself, as I had to get like six or seven different producers to work on this song. Between working on the beat, the mix, re-recording the hook, etc., it was quite the mission to get this song completed. I pressed on though, enlisting help from a number of different places to help me finalize my newest single. Anddd in case you’d like to hear the song, take a listen to it HERE.

One of a Kind - Behind the ScenesShot new video – With the single for “One of a Kind” finally completed, it was important to have a visual. So, I made the decision to travel to New Jersey earlier this year to create just that. I blocked out a couple of days for the shoot, where we traveled to throughout NJ to record the video. In addition to having a much bigger cast, crew, and production for the video, I also did a bit of acting (imagine that, right? LOL). I was real happy with how everyone came together and worked to make it happen. Here’s a few links where you can check out more from the video before it drops:

“One of a Kind” Behind the Scenes Pictures
“One of a Kind” Behind the Scenes Video
“One of a Kind” Music Video Teaser

Curry Festival Magazine PicTampa performance – 2013 was also the first time I actually performed in Tampa. Ironically, despite how often I frequent Tampa I’ve never performed there. I’ve performed in a bunch of other cities in Florida too, yet the one I visit so often…not so much. Well, I decided to do something about that for 2013. I traveled to the 813 earlier this year for the International Curry Festival where I rocked a fun set with the homey Oddeo. In addition to performing the new single there, we actually performed a REGGAE song too! Now I’m not a reggae artist by any means, but I thought it’d be fun to switch the style up…especially during a performance. The funny thing is, I never even recorded that song. Who knows, maybe I will one day? What I do know is, I had a blast performing in Tampa and am really happy I had the opportunity.

Personal Life

Old HouseI moved – Perhaps one of the biggest milestones of this year was me moving. It took me more than two years, but I finally got outta BVL. It was like experiencing a rite of passage. I left the house I spent YEARS in to embrace a new beginning. It’s weird too…as much as I thought I’d miss my old house, I seldom even think about it. I mean, when we were moving I remember walking through the empty house like damn, look at this place…but it wasn’t as major as I thought it’d be. I think I outgrew that place and felt it was time to move onto something else. It’s refreshing to be in someplace new now. In addition, there were a ton of annoyances in my old neighborhood like the kids in the street, my wack ass crossing guard, and all the loud music. I guess there just comes a time when you want a change and I reached that point. Being in a new house has been greattt too – I’m closer to a lot of places and people.

DoctorYear of the Doctor – In addition to moving, the other thing that dominated my year was the doctor. I seriously had more doctor visits this year than any other time in my life. I honestly don’t know what happened…it’s not like I live an unhealthy lifestyle or put my body at risk. There were just a series of random occurrences that kept occurring throughout the year. I had multiple MRIs, a cat scan, and even surgery this year. I mean, what the hell, right? Whether it was my eye, nose, or hand, things seemed like they’d never end. Well anyway, after what was an eventful 2013 it looks like things are finally improving. I’ve still been following up at the doctor but it’s not like I’m suffering anymore…I feel better now. Phew!

ReadingStarted reading again – So one of my New Years Resolutions for 2013 was to read more. There was a wealth of knowledge I was overlooking, and there was a whole world out there that I felt I was missing out on. It took me a few months to get this ball rolling, but I finally got a new library card and began to read books. I think the reason I stopped caring for reading in the first place is because of school. I used to read mad stupid stuff back in the day that it really turned me off to the whole thing. But after talking to a few friends that were avid readers, I picked up some really good reading material that got me back into it. And to be honest, it’s really refreshing to disconnect from the digital world every once in awhile.

Mt. Titlis SwitzerlandSwitzerland trip – So in October, I took an unexpected trip to Swissland. I honestly didn’t even think I’d be taking an international trip this year but I’m glad that I did. It was peaceful, serene, and relaxing. I got away from it all for a few days where I went up a mountain, through the countryside, and to a waterfall. The sights were BREATHTAKING. I mean, some of the things I saw were so wow I had a hard time believing they were real. Between the scenery to the food to the weather, it was an amazing trip overall. It definitely changed my outlook on life (as trips tend to do) in the sense that it showed me how amazing the world really is. If anything, it further encouraged me to travel more and see more. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime trip that’ll stay with me forever.

Favorite Albums

This year had its share of hip hop albums. As much as I tried to support the underground and check for up-and-comers, I strayed towards the heavyweights this year. I dunno, but a lot of the underground artists I listened to lacked enough substance (and dope production) to really wow me. You also might notice I didn’t include Yeezus on here, which most hip hop blogs are dubbing as #1. I honestly feel like they’re doing it because Kanye dared to be different (or because he’s always in the news) and not because of the music. The album was cool, but didn’t have the replay value to really do it for me. And of course (and this is for everything), an album should be a cohesive body of work – not just a collection of good songs. That’s really what led me to my picks for this year. Check ’em out below.

Jay-z - Magna Carter Holy GrailJay-Z – Magna Carter Holy Grail – While a lot of artists tried to experiment (Kanye, cough cough), Jay-Z stuck to the formula that works for him. Jay worked with an A-list of producers to come with some great beats. He knows what works and went with it. In addition, he didn’t stray too far from what he does. He put out a hip hop album with dope beats and dope lyrics. And yeah, although he does have some “weirder” tracks, he has a 90′s style album with this. My only gripes would be that he didn’t really surprise me with this album (and I was hoping that he would when I saw the commercial) and his dumbed-down lyrics, but I’ll let that go. All in all, although this isn’t as good as some of his other classics, it’s still a great addition to Jay’s catalog.

Eminem - MMLP2Eminem – MMLP2 – Now when I first got this CD, I wasn’t that impressed with it. It kinda left me with the same vibe as his last few albums. Good, but not Eminem good. However, I think a lot of that had to do with how much there was to take in. This CD is very lyric-heavy and it’s not something that you can just review after one listen. In fact, I have a lot of issues with people reviewing it on their blogs/websites after like one day or one listen. You have to really absorb the CD to get a quality understanding of it…at least for me. After letting it grow on me, it’s a pretty amazing CD. His lyrics and style have evolved again (which is amazing because what artist gets BETTER at this stage of his career?), and he’s much more focused on the technical aspects of the lyricism more than ever before. If there was one issue, I’d say there are times where he let his technical detail overpower the actual song itself…which left me desiring more. But this is the first time in awhile where I’ve felt like Marshall was really comfortable on the mic. A more-than-solid effort from our generation’s best emcee.

Pusha T - My Name is My NamePusha T – My Name Is My Name – So when Pusha T got signed to G.O.O.D. Music, I wasn’t too krazy or excited about it. He’s never been one of my fav emcees or anything like that. So as you can imagine, when this album dropped I wasn’t really checking for it. However, after reading a ton of good reviews, I decided to find out the hype behind it. The verdict? Wow, Pusha has a GREAT album. Reminiscent of Bad Boy’s hay day, he has songs that remind me of Classic Biggie and Ma$e. In addition, his production is perfect. Sometimes, his lyrics get repetitive (think Jada) but they’re still good. And with a bunch of dope features to compliment his style, this is one of 2013’s best.

Drake - Nothing Was the SameDrake – Nothing Was The Same – While I wasn’t krazy about his last release, I thought Drake’s newest album was a much more cohesive album. It seems like he raps a lot more on this one. He did get mad flack for titling a song called “Wu Tang Forever” (LoL), but past that it’s not a bad album at all. If there was one thing I liked about this album (and why I put it on here), it’s how memorable the songs were. They’re not cookie cutter, generic crap that you’re used to seeing in the mainstream. Instead, Drake did Drake and made it dope. I might get flack for ranking this above some of the underground releases mentioned earlier, but that’s okay…I really dug this album.

Honorable Mentions: Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Consciousness, R.A. The Rugged Man – Legends Never Die, B.o.B. – Underground Luxury

Favorite Videos

2013 also had its share of dope videos. Although I had a REALLY difficult time picking out the ones I liked the most, these were some of the hotter ones that I saw this year. Did I miss anything? Let me know.

The Wrap-Up

So looking back on the year that was 2013, it was the usual rollercoaster that I’m used to experiencing. I had some highs and lows. I tried applying a positive outlook to every setback I encountered, no matter how small, and it made a difference. I’m still learning though and it’s still a constant struggle but I’m getting better at it. It was definitely a characteristic year for Ajaxxx.

Musically, I DID get a lot done…although mostly in the first half of the year. My computer died on me earlier in the year which was a SUPER setback, but once I got back on track I was able to bust my ass and release “He’s a Monster!” Did I mention you can download it for free HERE? LoL. In addition to releasing the mixtape, I set out this goal of recording more videos and finally releasing “Something to Prove”, my upcoming album. Well, I did release another SINGLE from the album – “One of a Kind” – which was a HUGE milestone. To see it live and on iTunes was surreal.

However (and you knew this was coming), I went another year without releasing a video. In April 2013, I traveled to New Jersey to shoot the video for “One of a Kind.” Fast forward to today, and I’m still waiting on the video director for the video. I know I’ve talked about it in some of the previous Opinions Columns (but not in length), but it’s frustrating. It’s been delay after delay after delay, which is krazy considering I did everything right this time (at least I thought I did). I was aggressive, put my fears aside, and got outta my comfort zone to get this video done. I traveled to NJ, spent money, and recruited a lot of people to make it happen. I knocked it out, yet still no video…and still more waiting. I’ve tried to maintain a positive attitude and look on the bright side but it’s hard. I know that I’ll drop this video, but when? And when you see this trend happen for a second time, it makes you wonder…

With the delay of the video, you can imagine what that means…the delay of a 3rd single and the delay of my album. I hate having to push things back, but unfortunately that’s the situation I’m in. I’m being patient, I’m being positive, I’m being cool…but it’s tough. With a ton of great songs on the horizon and with me not being able to release them yet, I sometimes get frustrated with it all. I mean, is there any other industry or profession where it’s this complicated? I told myself when I wrote my 2012 Year-in-Review that I wanted to release “Something to Prove” in 2013. However, a year later, and here we are again. I honestly can’t even make sense of it anymore. Despite how aggressive and forceful you can be, you’ll always have to rely on someone else which continues to be my biggest struggle. Why can’t there be easier people to work with? It seems like there’s not that many people that want it as bad as me, and those’re the ones I come across. In 2014, I’ll keep pushing. And hopefully, I find my way.

On a personal level, this year was pretty incredible. The biggest milestone was moving, which was a long time coming. I did a ton of traveling (with a NY trip scheduled for next week), which was awesomeee. I’m glad I got to continue the trend from 2012. And on the love front, it seems like nothing has changed. The revolving door is still alive and well, as girls have come and gone like the wind. I know people come into your life for a reason, but I’m still trying to figure it all out. Things look to be getting better for the new year though, so let’s see how it goes.

So what’s in store for 2014? Well, there’s a lot. On the music front, I WILL ABSOLUTELY 100% release more than one music video next year. I’m tired of being stagnant. I’ve got skills on the mic and I’ve got talents bottled up that I have to let the world see and hear. And you know, I’m not getting older…the time is now. The goal is four videos. I’m more than confident that I can do it. In addition, I absolutely must release my new album “Something to Prove” this year. I can’t continue to sit on this album with so many great songs. I just can’t. So this has been bumped to top priority for 2014. And if I have to continue to wait for people, I’ll just have to move on – I can’t sit around and let life pass me by. That’s my word.

With my recent computer upgrades, I’m gonna get back into everything art. I’m gonna start drawing again (which actually has nothing to do with my computer haha), which is something I’ve been itching to get back into. I used to draw ALL the time but somewhere along the way I stopped. I’ll also get back into my computer animation, web design, and graphic design. I’ve got so many ideas and thoughts running around in my head and I haveta get them out. And with a recharged creative spirit, I’ll be very busy throughout these holidays and through the new year. Trust me, you’ll be seeing a LOT of Ajaxxx in the future. I’ll be traveling, designing, gyming, performing, learning, rapping, and overcoming. More than anything, I’m going to use 2014 to better myself…both personally and professionally. Combined with a positive attitude and armed with my mind, what can stop me?

And with that, thank you for checking out my 2013 Year in Review! Here’s to a great 2014 my peoples! Happy New Year!