MOVING FOREWORD BY
THE WORLD FAMOUS TONY WILLIAMS
Singer and multi platinum songwriter
“How many hit records you got, suh?”, was the legendary James Brown’s snappy response to Maceo Parker’s comment.
“It doesn’t work musically” as portrayed in my favorite music movie, ever, Get On Up. The words of Mr. Brown that immediately followed, echoed a sentiment that I’ve intuitively lived by, even before seeing the movie. “If it feels good and it sounds good, then it’s musical”. Still, it begs the question does Brown’s outlook show us signs of naivety, as it pertains to the craft of songwriting, or does it make an incredibly strong case that intuition is paramount above all other factors when it comes to creativity?
I’ve never professed to being a rap music aficionado. In fact, dialogues about best rapper, best verse, best album, etc. very often leave me scratching my head. I, as well, have built an entire career on my intuition- knowing intuitively what trax to write to, what experts to invite into recording situations, etc. When I saw a young Kanye West performing in an open mic at a Chicago club, I intuitively knew he was destined to become the star we know, today. When I heard a 16 year old little Big Sean spitting verses from the backseat, while driving down the street in Detroit, I knew he’d have the staying power to hang around long enough to become a little bigger Big Sean. I saw Lupe Fiasco early in his professional musical journey when he walked into the studio and played a demo version of Kick Push, a couple days before he recorded his verse for Touch The Sky. I knew he’d one day be one of the best lyricists the world would ever know. And though I’ve sat a mere few feet from Kanye West at the console manipulating an ASR-10 sampler for just about every major project he’s ever done, I still have no idea of the science or the thought process that goes into “chopping a beat”. Still, intuitively, I know “what feels good”.
I had heard rumblings in town about Cameron McCloud as one of frontmen for local hip-hop outfit, Cure for Paranoia and occasionally we would exchange daps at the rehearsal space that we mutually booked when I would be rehearsing my own band right outside of downtown Dallas. But it wasn’t until I wandered into a small speakeasy tucked behind a barbershop that I was fortunate to experience his unique ability, firsthand, as he would be featured in a friendly, but competitive rap cypher. I knew, quite well of the talents of most of the artists participating, guys with local legend status that I knew personally to to be lyrical executioners. It was at the conclusion of that evening that I began paying close attention to Cameron McCloud.
My overall assessment, as I exited the room was that this guy had the goods. It was apparent that this was a guy that took the craft seriously. He had all the flows; a nimbleness of the tongue that could spew machine gun like cadences, as well as a knack for laying in a track with the smoothness of an RnB crooner. All that coupled with a knack for painting colorful pictures with rhyme and meter that “sound(ed) good”.
I love words and the craft of stringing words together artfully.
I find it refreshing when young artist/writers exhibit a zest for the craft as I’ve witnessed, firsthand, how success can jade you, fast. Several number ones, platinum albums, Grammy Awards, exotic cars, and condos in foreign places will switch your focus to your investment portfolio, your growing family, and bourgeoning sneaker line after a while. I’ve seen how it makes those guys not mumble a single freestyle between projects. I guess its safe to say that I, myself still harbor some hunger and zeal for the game. Writing is a muscle that needs to be exercised continuously. A couple of years ago, I was invited to a songwriting camp by and at the home of gospel artist, Israel Houghton. For two days, I collaborated with 15 ,or so, of the best writers in the field of Christian music. Many of them were Nashville based writers, a Mecca for songwriters and I soon learned that it was common for these ‘writer types’ to crank out a song every day. I thought these guys were freaks. Talk about reps!! I had the exact same thought when I caught wind of Cam’s 100 verses in 100 days challenge. I’m a marathoner and its very easy for me to relate this practice to that of marathon training. Consecutive days of high mileage runs along with the required supplemental gym work is a grueling endeavor, to say the least; but you attempt this with no days off and I can guarantee you muscles will strain, and tendons and ligaments soon will tear.
I have a fond memory of a show I had a few years ago when I invited Cam on stage to do a verse on one of my original pieces. After more than a couple of miscues and at least 120 bars later, I finally resolved to removing the mic from his clinching fingers, literally. His amazing ability to effortlessly ad lib is mesmerizing and is apparently the result of his intuitiveness, commitment to his artistry and all those years of reps. I can vividly remember the feeling as the song wound to an end; he and I stood shoulder to shoulder on stage like two Olympic athletes standing on the victory platform, watching the flag being raised to the sound of the anthem playing.
And that, my friend “is musical”.