Inspirational Quote…

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and I could say “I used everything you gave me.”

Erma Bombeck

Richard Wright: Hurling Words

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. 

~ Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

The Anatomy of Inspiration

This is a case of art inspiring art.

I know I’m on the tail-end of the Jay-Z/Kanye “Otis” rage. The song has been blaring through car speakers, stereo speakers and MP3 devices for the past few months. At my cousin’s wedding reception back in September, the DJ cued up “Otis” and the crowd went lost their minds.All the young people flocked to the dance floor, moving their bodies to the infectious, driving rhythm of the song. Meanwhile, the older folks sat on the sidelines listening a familiar voice from their past crooning and then being looped while Kanye and Jay-Z rapped at a rapid-fire pace.

In a case of old meets new, the younger generation got introduced to Otis Redding, the soul legend probably best known for “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” who died too soon. The older generation, on the other hand, already knew of Kanye and Jay-Z, both provocative, multi-award winning artists that can be seen or heard on any channel of the TV or radio any given hour of the day.

What comes first? The inspiration or the inspiration? I’m always intrigued by what inspires artists to create their art. In music, I appreciate inventive uses of samples, and in this case, I love what Jay-Z and Kanye did with “Try A Little Tenderness.” Kanye took the driving part of the hook and let it go until Redding got into a guttural groove and then looped it. I thought it was brilliant.

There was a video clip of the audio of the song (that has since been removed from YouTube). The comments from posters were rather interesting, if you ask me. (Please note, the time stamps in the comments below probably do not match up with the video that’s posted above. But you get the gist of what they’re saying.)

  • “2:00 is where Kayne found his treasure……..he took a chunk.
  • 3:263:29 is where the magic happens…..he looped the Hell out of that!
  • Shout out to Def Jam for sending Otis peoples (sic) that Royalty Check!” – BrainFood

Art has been inspiring art for as long as man has been creating. I took a class in grad school examining the history of the short story. It was interesting to learn who inspired whom. We spent much of the semester deconstructing some of early short stories of E.T.A. Hoffman, Heinrich von Kleist, Alexander Pushkin, Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant and others. We looked at the progression of the short story form and how one author was influenced by a predecessor and so on and so on. Then we were challenged to write pastiches, allowing ourselves to be inspired by one of the many classic short stories we read in class. My most successful pastiche in the class was inspired by Guy de Maupassant’s “Madame Tellier’s Establishment.” I used the framework and some techniques from de Maupassant’s work to create a story that could stand on its own. Some who have read it suggest I should enter it in a literary contest of some sort. I just might do that one of these days.

Who or what has inspired you lately?

Finding Inspiration

As a person who thrives on creative energy, I’m always intrigued by what inspires people to create art. I’ve been inspired to write poems by just a single word. There have been buildings, names and experiences that inspired my writing (including the novel I’m currently working on). There is just something invigorating and phenomenal about the fact that a tiny seed — a thought, an idea, a vision — can spur someone to create art that amazes, entertains and inspires.

Just like 96.99997% of people out there, I am a fan of Beyoncé‘s music. By no means am I one of her crazed stans, but I do enjoy her music…well most of her music. There are some songs of Beyoncé’s that I just don’t like. (Sorry, people.) Some songs of hers seem to come off as manufactured, formulaic, uninspired fluff. Beyoncé and her creative team of collaborators undoubtedly have their fingers on the pulse of whatever’s hot at the moment. Now that’s not a bad thing. But I have a greater appreciation for art that is organic, and not borne out of a trend or some commercial objective. There’s a distinct difference between “art for art’s sake” and art fueled by profit. I know I’m probably going to incite the wrath of a few stans, but Beyoncé’s proven that she’s a master of manufacturing wildly successful commercial radio-friendly hits. New York Magazine’s Amos Barshad seems somewhat disappointed that this time around she wasn’t trying to go the hit-making route. I am glad she didn’t. When I read about the what inspired her to create her latest album, 4, something clicked with me.

In a recent interview in Essence magazine, Beyoncé said she took a year off from music to live her life and be inspired by the world around her. She said that by working with the musicians from Fela!, the Tony-award winning Broadway musical her hubby Jay-Z produced, that she allowed herself to get lost in the music. “What I learned most from Fela,” she said, “was artistic freedom.”

I loved the fact that she stepped away from the commercial music machine to “have life experiences” to inspire her new project.  “Having time to grow as a human being was really inspiring, and gave me a lot to pull from,” she told Essence.

(If I may digress here, I do believe that Beyoncé severing professional ties with her father, the Machiavellian Mathew Knowles, was the best thing she’s ever done for her career. I’d like to think that with her father no longer ruining managing her has contributed to the artistic freedom that was the guiding force on her new project. And now back to our regularly scheduled program…)

Listening to 4, I can feel Beyoncé’s newfound artistic freedom. The fact alone that she wanted her project to have “vibrata, live instrumentation and classic songwriting” (as told to Complex mag) was enough to make impress me. Yeah, I know she doesn’t singlehandedly write her own music, but she contributes to the making of her music, and she served as executive producer for this project. There’s something beautifully raw and honest about 4. To me, it doesn’t come off as a bunch of gimmicky, pre-fabbed hits. It sounds like it’s just music for music’s sake. And I like that.

And speaking of inspiration, Beyoncé’s “Love OnTop”, an infectious up-tempo song with a distinct old school vibe, inspired Heather Traska (@heathertraska on Twitter) to do a mind-blowing a cappella version of the song. Check it out here: