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life rewind 2013: music


[audio,,,,,,,,,,,, |titles=Justin Timberlake “That Girl”, Drake “5AM in Toronto”, Lil’ Wayne f/ 2 Chainz “Days and Days”, Lorde “Royals”, Jay-Z “Somewhere in America”, The Weeknd “Wanderlust”, Kanye West f/ Chief Keef & Justin Vernon “Hold My Liquor”, J. Cole f/ James Fauntleroy “Born Sinner”, Pusha T f/ Rick Ross & Kanye West “Hold On”, Jay-Z f/ Justin Timberlake “Holy Grail”, J. Cole f/ Young Jeezy “Kenny Lofton”, Drake “Hold On We’re Going Home”, Emeli Sande “Clown (live)” |loop=yes]

above is a playlist of some of my favorite music from 2013.  whether it was lyrics, pacing, production, content, etc., each song had something that kept in heavy rotation throughout the year.

as you listen, click on the pics below for the track list + a 7-words-or-less explanation for why i liked each song.


in order to survive, gotta learn to live with regrets

11/19/12 7 Comments

pretty sure today’s daily prompt conspired with my monday to get me to write this post:

“Set It to Rights”: Think of a time you let something slide, only for it to eat away at you later. Tell us how you’d fix it today.

so my mom’s uncle.  last man standing with the family name.  he lives in brooklyn, right next to the church he once pastored.  a month or so ago, she heard that he was losing his battle with cancer so she wanted us to visit him before he passed.  sing songs, pray, reminisce.  we decided to go on a tuesday, but then tuesday turned into thursday…thursday into sunday…sunday to someday.  putting it off bothered me but bad weather and busyness just got in the way.

what can i do to fix it today?  well, since he died this morning, the obvious answer would be nothing.

even when you think you did the best you could, hindsight asks if you did everything you could.  if you could’ve made more of an effort to make it happen…if your priorities were always as sound as they felt in the moment…

you mess around with hindsight long enough and you’ll meet his cousin regret.  jay-z talks about him in one of my favorite songs “regrets”:

Beads of sweat, second thoughts on my mind
How can I ease the stress and learn to live with these regrets

This is the number one rule for your set
In order to survive gotta learn to live with regrets
And through our travels we get separated, never forget
In order to survive gotta learn to live with regrets

Jay-Z “Regrets”

there are times where you’ll screw something up or things just won’t go your way.  one common response to that is regret.  when left unchecked, regret can bog you down in a way that’s more stressful than productive.  it’s imperative then that, as the lyrics state, you learn to live with it.

how?  a good place to start is this well-traveled prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

accepting the things i cannot change:  regret can fester when we get lost in “possibilities” that in reality, aren’t even possible (now or ever).  in the case with my great-uncle, i can’t do anything to get back those forfeited moments.  i already blew it.  stressing about it flows with the sadness and disappointment, but it doesn’t help really anybody or anything.

courage to change the things i can:  while thinking about what you can’t change, it’s important to also take stock of what you can do something about.  even though it’s too late to truly fix my situation, there are things i can do to fix myself (one offhand would be to constantly make sure that the people & things that i say are priorities get the time and attention they deserve).  doing this takes courage in a sense but also a degree of honesty, responsibility and self-awareness about what needs to be done.

the wisdom to know the difference:  the two actions above must work together in order for you to get over regret.  however, if you happen to mislabel one for the other, you won’t be able to move fully forward.  accepting things that you can change means being comfortable with something less than you’re capable of.  trying to change things you can’t adds unnecessary stress.  neither is good.  to truly progress, you need wisdom to properly discern between the two and then act accordingly.

you might know some of this already and still find yourself regretting things (or doing things that you will regret later).  just remember, knowledge is only good when you apply it and as jay says in the song:

Time waits for no man, can’t turn back the hands
Once it’s too late, gotta learn to live with regrets

the key to all forms of writing


written by dorothea lasky for the atlantic:

A few years ago, I was working for a science teacher professional development program. My job was to go into schools and watch how high school science teachers were integrating the program’s curriculum and content into their lessons. Not many people knew that I was a poet, not a science teacher. In fact, everyone around me asked me science questions. Like “What is the normal sugar level for someone with diabetes?” Or “Why do metals behave differently at different size scales?” These were not questions I could answer easily, but I did my best. I hid my poet self relatively well.

I didn’t expect to find any poets there, but I did.

It first started when one student in one of the underperforming schools (a school with national test scores in the bottom 25 percent in its state) gave me a CD he’d recorded of himself reading his poems. I said thanks and asked him about it. He told me he was aspiring to be a hip hop star. I told him I loved hip hop, so he invited me to one of his performances. When I took the CD home and listened to it, I heard a stark and powerful poetry. His eloquence surprised me a bit, because the student never talked in class and was always late. It would have been hard to know he had this much language at his disposal, because he didn’t use it in class.

All students can write, if we let them. The key, I think, is poetry.

As a poet myself, I have a love/hate relationship with schools. For the most part, schools have been a place for me to learn and grow. They’ve given me the chance to find readers of poetry and to connect with the poets of the past. I have found almost all my poetic brethren (dead poets who speak to me through their work) within a classroom setting.

However, because I am a poet, I am always searching for ways to change language. Schools are often a place for a certain sort of rigid language instruction, which can make them hostile environments for poets. Grammar and persuasive argument are essential skills for any student. But if someone is telling you that there is a set and finite way to construct a sentence — and you’re a poet — you will naturally get a little annoyed. And you will be justified in feeling this way, because it’s simply not true.

Nothing is more important to the future of humanity than the freedom to make new ideas. I would argue that the act of writing poetry is important for the creation of those new ideas. In her essay “Poetry and Grammar,” the great American poet Gertrude Stein wrote:

That is the reason that slang exists it is to change the nouns which have been names for so long. I say again. Verbs and adverbs and articles and conjunctions and prepositions are lively because they all do something and as long as anything does something it keeps alive.

Supporting poetry in our schools is essential because it engages students’ thinking and it keeps language alive. Over the past 14 years, I have worked as a teacher in a variety of educational settings. I have found that all students can write. And one of the surest ways to awaken their love for language is poetry.

The 60 students waiting patiently to get into one creative writing section at an elite private college where I taught loved writing poetry. The 2 year olds I used to teach over a decade ago in a wealthy day care loved poetry, too. Even in their pre-writing state, they recited poem after poem for me, and I wrote each one down for them to then illustrate. At an underserved elementary school, I read Merwin, Sexton, and Whitman poems out loud, and the 5 year olds in in the class loved to bounce around the rhythms and the sing-songy rhymes, along with the slanted ones. It was the music of poetry that they loved. The music of poetry is a delight for the mind.

Every outstanding essay involves meticulous word choice and sheer aesthetic prowess. Poetry teaches students how to do this.

A lot of people argue that poetry is “difficult” or that it has no real value for children’s future. That’s just not true. If you think poetry isn’t important to your students, you are not listening to them. You are not noticing the headphones in their ears, blasting poetry to soothe their walk to class. You are not thinking of them in their rooms at night, writing down their experiences. It may be that you are defining poetry too dogmatically.

In a book entitled The Having of Wonderful Ideas: And Other Essays on Teaching and Learning, Eleanor Duckworth explains that the most important thing a teacher can do is to give his or her students the space to have a new idea and feel good about having it. She argues that this is the key to intellectual development. I would argue that there’s no more natural space for a teacher to value a student’s idea than in a poem. Because in a poem, a student not only has the freedom to express a new idea, but to do so in novel language he or she has just created. More so than any other type of writing, a poem takes into account the indispensable dimension of well-chosen words.

Learning about poetry (how to read it, write it, and appreciate it) is an integral part of teaching students about all forms of writing. A poem is not just a place to present a student’s grammatical knowledge (in fact, it is often the space to subvert it!). Poetry, more than any other form of writing, trains students to take into account the style of language. This close looking and listening is crucial to writing well in any manner. It would be hard to say that any outstanding essay does not involve meticulous word choice or the ability to persuade a reader through sheer aesthetic prowess. Poetry teaches students how to do this.

In the “Importance of Poetry in Children’s Learning,” Michael Benton argues that poetry is key to children’s learning about language because poems read differently than other forms of writing. Even though contemporary poetry rarely adheres to traditional poetic forms, all poetry (contemporary or otherwise) pays close attention to the sound and form of words. When students develop a deep familiarity with the craft of language in a poetry class, they learn how to express their new ideas in sentences and phrases full of their own style.

There are practical ways to do this in a 2012 classroom. When I teach classes on the argumentative essay, one of my favorite books to bring in is Jay-Z’s Decoded. It is a gift for teachers, because Jay-Z provides very clear, close readings of his own poems. (This is something few poets throughout history have provided.) I have had many successful lessons in which I have played his song “99 Problems” for students and then showed them how he breaks down its construction in Decoded. Once students can see that Jay-Z wrote each line with such purpose, crafted many complex ideas into powerful verse, it paves the way for meaningful discussions about how to create any argument in language. Students can see that their ideas are important, and that style helps their impact come through.

Kenneth Koch, the author of Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetrywas a revolutionary educator who brought poetry to thousands of public school children in New York City. He famously argued that the best poetry refuses to “condescend” to the minds of children. If we care about how well our students write, we should not condescend and limit their exploration of language, either. We should make sure students have the space in schools to learn that they can write, and develop a lifelong passion for words. Poetry is the way to do this.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

jay-z and kanye’s watch the throne didn’t fully match the hype (in part because the hype behind it was so high), but it still had a lot of great music on it.  this 10-min documentary, shot mostly in australia, gives us a peek at how the album came together.  a couple of my favorite moments are kanye rapping about russell crowe in front of russell crowe and seeing hov working on the lyrics to “why i love you.”  check out the video above as well as this interview with the director robert lopuski.  in it, he talks about the first time he bumped into kanye (literally) and what the film-making process was like for him as both a director and a fan.

watch the throne documentary


100% life: muoyo okome

04/16/12 5 Comments

“Rather die enormous than
live dormant…that’s how
we on it…” boasts modern-
day philosopher Shawn
Carter (better known as entertainment mogul Jay-Z)
on his 1996 classic
“Can I Live”.

While it would be easy to dismiss this statement as
the same superficial treatment of riches, excess, and gangster bravado that one has come
to expect from today’s rap
music, we need to look

Rather, the protagonist wants us to know that his big risks were worth it no matter the outcome. Whether he succeeded, failed, or even died trying, the risks allowed him a precious CHANCE to achieve his dreams rather than accepting stagnation.

While I am no advocate of criminal activity or premature death, I strongly agree with the concept of striving for greatness…and along with it, embracing the possibility of failure. What is the point of treading water? I’d rather die enormous.

During my first year in the Wharton MBA program, I took an Entrepreneurship course in which we frequently had guest speakers talk to the class about their entrepreneurial career path. During one such presentation, a gentleman (whose name currently escapes me) talked through a PowerPoint slide I will never forget. The slide listed all 18 of his failed companies from all sorts of arenas, running the gamut from practical, to nonsensical, to before their time. The only common thread tying these companies together was their status as failures that had failed absolutely. After walking us through the failures in sufficient detail, exposing all the hidden warts and hilarious anecdotes, he moved on to discuss his next two companies, which sold for $750 million and $200 million respectively. I think you smell what I’m cooking here.

I don’t want to belabor the point, but then again, I really do. However, I am now tired of writing AND as the late, great Steve Jobs would tell you, “Great Artists STEAL” :-). So rather than original thought, I am going to share the thoughts of some pretty smart people who I find compelling on this issue…pretty much a barrage of good ideas:

– An inspiring TED Talk on “Why you will fail to have a great career”:

– An insightful HBR blog which asks us to consider the true risk of entrepreneurship (I am almost convinced that taking no risk may be the riskiest move of all):  Just How Risky is Entrepreneurship, Really? – Harvard Business Review

– Michael Jordan’s classic commercial on failure:

While Jordan is widely known as one of the greatest & most successful to play the game of basketball, he has certainly failed on more than one occasion.  Rather than downplaying these failures, he cites them as being responsible for his ability to succeed.

Just for kicks, and because I like to disobey the rules of writing, I would like to pause here to quote my mother…who often likes to quote her mother in asking the classic Yoruba parenting question “so that man…does he have two heads?” as a way of pointing out that one is just as equipped as any other human being to achieve any great success. It turns out he (or she) actually does not have two heads…but still managed to make it happen.

Almost 5 centuries ago, the great Michelangelo told us, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

500 years later the message still applies. Aim for the stars and do not fear failure…embrace him as a wise, gray-bearded teacher. Dream big. Take action. Experience. Fail. Learn. See the world through a positive lens. Ask questions. Persevere.

Maybe you are already chasing or living your dreams, in which case I applaud you. If not, I think you should consider doing so. We are only here for a limited time.

Addendum: Caine’s Arcade & the value of persistence

Why choose dormant when you can achieve 100% life?

Just my thoughts ladies & gentlemen…right or wrong, it’s what I was thinking at the time! 🙂

A gentle blend of Brooklyn, New York (via birth) & Lagos, Nigeria (via family), Muoyo Okome is a technologist, entrepreneur, “hacker”, and lover of life. He holds a BSE from Princeton University, an MBA from the Wharton School, a sense of humor from his family, and a strong desire to make it happen.


click here for more 100% life.

the mick jagger of rap rocked the south by southwest stage on monday.  watch his hour+ concert above with a full set list below.

set list:

“what more can i say”

“dirt off ya shoulder”

“where i’m from”

“you don’t know”

“99 problems”

“nigga what, nigga who”

“big pimpin'”

“heart of the city”

“i know”

“girls, girls, girls”

“excuse me, miss”


“give it to me ”


“on to the next one”


“jigga my nigga”

“run this town”

“lucifer”/”free mason”


“beach chair”


“hard knock life”

“empire state of mind”


video: jay-z @ sxsw


jay-z and 5 lessons artists teach entrepreneurs

02/16/12 1 Comment

by drew hansen,

On my desktop is an image of rap mogul, Jay-Z, and the phrase, “Not a Businessman—a Business, Man.” There’s a great deal aspiring artists can learn from him and his wife, Beyonce, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, Blue Ivy Carter, last month.

According to the National Foundation for the Arts (NEA), over one-third of artists are self-employed, compared to only 10 percent of the rest of the U.S. labor force. In this economic environment, the number of self-employed artists has been increasing, even though BFA and MFA programs gloss over practical business training – if they offer any at all. Yet it’s not enough to create great art; most successful artists also find a way to promote their work. They have to learn how to hustle.

Enter the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Its mission is to empower artists at critical stages in their creative lives. Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Economic Development Corporation selected NYFA to administer the Artist as Entrepreneur Bootcamp, which equips artists with the practical skills to help them succeed. The curriculum includes career planning, business plan writing, marketing, financial management, and writing and presentation skills. Many artists have little to no knowledge of these topics.

Katy Rubin, Founding Artistic Director of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, participated in a recent NYFA Bootcamp. She learned that business can be creative, too.

“Before Bootcamp, I thought that business was vaguely evil. As an artist, I was required to shun anything business-related. One of the big takeaways from the Bootcamp was that entrepreneurship is in itself an art, an outlet for self-expression and creative thinking, and that I could embrace the tools of business to help myself and other artists.”

As expressive as artists are in their work, many are reluctant to promote themselves. During a conversation with Katy and other Bootcamp participants, we agreed that this had to do with a vulnerability that is even more pronounced in Western culture.

“Our society marginalizes artists,” says Rachel Selekman, one of the recent Bootcamp participants. “In ‘primitive’ cultures, artists, who were often shamans as well, were revered because of their critical contributions to the community.”

I, for one, think that business can learn from the arts. Every business is in need of creative problem-solving, and as Craig Nobbs, another participant, says, “The purpose of art is to make the familiar unfamiliar.” Here’s a list I concocted of hypothetical courses artists could teach to entrepreneurs.

  • How Reflection Leads to Inspiration
  • Imagining New Possibilities
  • The Power of Storytelling
  • Channeling Your Passion
  • Your Career as a Canvas

Jay-Z figured out early on that art and commerce depend on each other. “I was forced to be an artist and a CEO from the beginning, so I was forced to be like a businessman because when I was trying to get a record deal, it was so hard to get a record deal on my own that it was either give up or create my own company.”

Aspiring artist-entrepreneurs take note.

i love you, will smith captures a fan’s overzealous attempt to change another person’s mind about the fresh prince.  it’s a funny movie that also highlights the serious problem where people are unable to accept/tolerate an opposing point of view.

it clicked with me not because of any personal affinity for will smith but because of shawn carter.  i’m a big jay-z fan and it always surprises me when people say that he’s not the greatest rapper or that they just don’t like him.  people are entitled to their own opinion.  cool…but i still used to try hard to make people see my the light.  i’ve chilled out though since it’s not worth even a smidgen of the drama played out in the film and again, people are entitled to their own opinion (regardless of how perplexing it might seem).

i love you, will smith

01/09/12 1 Comment

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