Friday, December 30th, 2016

Oh 2016, what a year you’ve been. This has been a year like no other and that’s putting it lightly. From the election of 2016 to Brexit, the world changed in monumental ways. We saw Lebron bring a championship to Cleveland while Kobe retired, the Cubs finally won, and Rio hosted the Olympics. There was Pokemon GO, exploding Samsung phones, and the breakup of Brad & Angelina. And sadly, the worst U.S. mass shooting occured in my own hometown, Orlando, at the Pulse nightclub. It will be a year to remember.

Many people are ready to move on from 2016. From an election that tore us apart, Americans are still healing. I was pretty vocal myself as I saw people become so polarized during election season. There were a number of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and shootings throughout the world. And we lost some incredible people this year, from Prince to Carrie Fisher to John Glenn (and that’s just scratching the surface). It’s been unreal.

It hasn’t been all bad though. In the face of terror, people came together. I saw the largest outpouring of love in the face of the Pulse shooting. The economy improved, a woman ran for president, and the Paris climate agreement hopes to improve (and protect) the environment. And yes, we got Rogue One and Stranger Things in the same year.

On a personal level, it’s been a memorable year for me as well. So as I do everyyy year, I will revisit it and touch on the highlights that I’ve experienced. This should be a good one too. So here goes…presenting to you MY 2016 year in review.

Rap life

Broken Dreams video – Perhaps one of the biggest things that happened this year was when I shot and released the music video for “Broken Dreams.” For those that’ve been following me, you know that I’ve been planning this video for quite some time (the song had already been out). With 2016 being somewhat quiet for me musically, I decided I needed to do something. So during the latter part of the year, I traveled to NY where I shot the video, then returning to Florida to edit the footage. It was a fulfilling moment because the journey was so long and arduous but I made it. And of course, if you haven’t seen it (or just want to see it again), it is below.

Broken Dreams iTunes release – Leading up to the video release, I finallyyyyy put out the single on iTunes (and other digital music distributors, of course). Finally, I released it to the world for their consumption (outside of the Soundcloud release lol). It was really a long time coming, especially since I wasn’t sure what to do with the artwork, but it finally happened. I knew I just had to wait til the video was shot for the song and then it could be released online. It was exhilarating because it was such a milestone. At the same time, it was insanity lol. From the writing to the recording sessions to collaborating with singers, to see it finally be available for people to have…it was amazing for me to witness it and almost surreal. And of course, here’s the iTunes link again for your downloading pleasure.

New studio – I’m extremely proud of this accomplishment, especially since this was one of the goals I set for myself in 2015. One of the things I wanted to do this year was get my recording set-up back up and running again, since I tore down my old booth after moving. While it wasn’t easy, especially since there was a learning curve, I did a massive amount of research and finally “pulled the trigger” and got new equipment. The next challenge was setting everything up, which I eventually figured out how to do too (also not easy). It was one of the times in my life where willed myself to overcome stagnation. It was truly a great experience, and I’m happy to say I can record again.

“Tum Hi Ho” performance – Ah yes, my performance of “Tum Hi Ho.” So earlier in the year (and I’ve talked about this before on the website), I got married. During the wedding reception, I planned a surprise performance where I performed a song dedicated to my new wife over the “Tum Hi Ho” instrumental. While just performing the song was nerve-wrecking, what multiplied it by a million was the fact that the performance would be in front of all my closest friends and family. What if I messed up, I thought? I’d never be able to live this down lol. But I overcame the nerves (without a hypeman too!) and did it. And the kraziesttt part? I also performed a verse in Sindhi, which was maybe the hardest verse I’ve EVER written. It was REALLY well received though, so I was happy. That also serves as a great segue into the next section…

Personal Life

Wedding – The wedding. Yes, not only was this the highlight of my year, it’ll go down as one of the highlights of my entire life. After an engagement announcement (which you might remember from last year) to a super busy year of planning (who would’ve known?), Ajaxxx got married. It was exciting, exhausting, thrilling, stressful, tiring, and so many more emotions all at once. Maybe it just comes with an Indian wedding? Lol I dunno. I will say, it was absolutely fantastic to see my friends and family in one place. And it was also a reminder to me that no matter what drama I encountered over the years, what setbacks I faced, and what dark clouds I witnessed…I was able to overcome it to marry an amazing person. What an experience…one that I’ll take with me and last a lifetime.

Miami – So with every wedding, there must be a bachelor party haha. There was some debate about what exactly to do and where we should go (especially since there were so many great options), but we finally made a decision. Yup, the homies and I traveled to the M.I.A. to do it up and have one last hurrah before I retired my jersey. From eating to clubbing to other stories I’m not allowed to say (lol), let’s just say we had mad fun. I even had a few friends that I hadn’t seen in a hottt minute come out with us. That was pretty awesome. It was definitely one for the books and I’m thankful that my friends were there to spend it with me.

Weddings – Ironically enough, in addition to my own wedding I attended a TON more weddings this year. 2016, for some reason, became the year of the wedding as I saw so many of my friends get married. Not only that, I was IN two of them. It was also pretty cool since there were different cultures that we got to witness. It’s a beautiful thing to see two people come together and celebrate love…it was also tiring to attend so many of them, especially when they’re out of town. Even despite how many I attended though, it never got old. I truly cherish seeing my friends happy and I love celebrating love. Okay, calm down there Mr. Sentimental haha. But yes, congratulations again to all my newylweds!

Hawaii trip – I also traveled to Hawaii this year, a trip I’ll forever take with me. It was the first time I’d ever been there and we made sure to max it out with mad adventurous activities. From parasailing and jet skiing to visiting Pearl Harbor and luau’ing (because that’s a word), we had an epic time. I mean, we saw gigantic turtles up close and person, went inside of a submarine, and even went atop a mountain to watch the sunrise. It was quite incredible. The islands provided a fun yet relaxing environment. And if there’s one thing I learned from it, Hawaii is huge…just the road to Hana was incredibly long. It only means one thing. What’s that, ‘Jaxxx? It means I need to make a return trip there haha.

Favorite music from this year

Without a doubt, music has changed more than ever. This year, which I witnessed a great deal last year, the fusions between genres continued. You had Drake singing over reggae beats on “Views” and the Weeknd collabo with Daft Punk on “Starboy.” I mean, it’s nothing new but I’m seeing it more than ever now. So yeah, while there was a ton of fusion, especially with hip hop and pop, I found myself gravitating to certain albums.

I really enjoyed the new Tribe Called Quest album, which surprised me (and made me kinda sad when I heard Phife). It’s a great listen though. Dave East absolutely surprised me with how dope he is, and his album is also top notch. I enjoyed the Royce album, especially the single Tabernacle, but I’ve heard better from him…still, his album was solid. I was also pleasantly surprised by Game’s 1992 album…it was such a fresh throwback. I was kinda let down with the Kendrick and Joe Budden (who I can usually count on) and I’m still not on board with Chance either. Also, there were cool releases from Schoolboy Q and Flatbush Zombies.

The Wrap-Up

So in retrospect, 2016 has been an incredibly eventful year. I got married, I released a new video, and even had my biggest performance too. However, and I said this last year, there’s still a lot of work to do.

While I did make great strides, I feel like I could’ve done more. I could’ve put out more than one video, or set up the booth sooner, or even recorded more too. Maybe I’m too hard on myself, or maybe I’m not hard enough. All I know is, I’m still not in the place where I wanna be. It’s tough when you’re juggling multiple responsibilities but that’s no excuse…it’s on me to make these moves so I gotta make ’em. I didn’t expect to do much music this year honestly (with all the wedding planning), so I did surprise myself that I was able to 1) release new music on iTunes and 2) shoot, edit, and release the video for “Broken Dreams” too. And I mean, I did write and perform a verse in another language which is a big deal too, especially for how difficult it was. So yeah, it’s been a mixed bag.

What about “Something to Prove” ‘Jaxxx? Lol of course, I couldn’t NOT talk about the album that I’ve been prolonging forever. Honestly, I’m not sure right now. Music has changed so much and some of the songs might need to be looked at again. Some of the songs on there are timeless though, so it still makes sense to release them. Real talk, maybe I should focus more on singles, videos, and faster turnaround vs. one big project. The game has changed and consumption has changed too. I need to adjust yet still focus on quality music. But yeah, for right now I’m going to continue to work on it and I’ll most likely tweak the tracklist AGAIN but I feel it necessary now. All I know is, another year passed and it didn’t drop so it’s on me.

On the personal front, this year is a milestone year. I got married. I mean yo, I got married lol. This was a huge rite-of-passage and I experienced it. As I mentioned before (and long-time readers know this), my love life hasn’t always been pretty. In fact, it’s been a rollercoaster. I mean, I can still recall in my November 2012 Opinions Column how I said how I’m good and love isn’t necessary. Four years later and here I stand. It’s been a journey (and that’s an understatement). It’s incredible to see progression and the power of positivity. I’m glad I write these Opinions Columns so I’m able to peer into my past self’s mind and also see how far I’ve come.

I also traveled, spent time with family, and attended many friends’ weddings too. All in all, I’d say it was a really good year.

So What’s Next?

2017 is next, and it’s going to be one of THE most busy years of my life. I realize that I’m getting older and I feel like I need to do more musically. So for starters, I’m going to be way more active and proactive. Just what do you mean, Jaxxx?

First of all, I’m starting a new YouTube series. This is the first time I’m saying it in public but yeah…next year, I plan on releasing at least one new YouTube video a week. I know I’m aiming REALLY high, but I feel like I need to take on smaller, weekly goals instead of “hey let’s aim to have an album by the end of the year.” I also feel that this’ll help me with stagnation, while also pushing me to work harder. Additionally, and as I mentioned previously, consumption patterns are different. So yeah, that’s gonna be one of my main focuses next year. What a shift it’s gonna be.

Secondly, I’m still planning to shoot four music videos in 2017. That’s a goal I set out for myself in 2015, but that never happened. This year though, I feel like I have more tools and resources that’ll allow me to get there. And I mean, there’s so much music that I wanna release. I know I’ll need help and I’m prepared to ask for it…my main thing is achieving my goals so when I’m writing this next year, I can talk about all the progression I made. So yes, four videos, one year. Here we go.

And yeah, I’m going to get out more. I’m going to start going back out to shows, social events, and activities to meet and interact with people. Not only is it healthy for the music, it’s healthy for me. I’ve been guilty of disappearing, so when people do see me after mad long they’re like “yo, it’s been so long!” I really need to do a better job of being out there and becoming more visible. So that’s another goal I have for myself.

And lastly, I’m going to go hard with the graphic and web design. I have plans to design new T-shirts, logos, and even redesign this website.

On the personal front, I’m going to spend more time meditating and being one with myself. I find that when I clear my mind and surround myself with positive energy, I feel better, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I’m also going to read more, learn more, and exercise more too.

Am I taking on a lot? Absolutely. But in the words of Pitbull (are you really quoting Pitbull, ‘Jaxxx? lol), “Reach for the stars, and if you don’t grab ’em,
at least you’ll fall on top of the world, think about it.”

Andddddddddddd that’ll do it for me for this edition of the 2016 Year in Review. If you’ve made it THIS far, thank you for reading this! And thank you for taking this journey with me too. Here’s wishing you an amazing 2017! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!