- Micheal La Shon III
The Culture: 5 Years
"Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity" - Obbie Day
Turning 25 this year made me think about a lot...but looking back over the course of my life, music has always been an important piece. Growing up, my late grandfather would play his vinyls and let me go through them, and his stories about the concerts, the artists, just the culture in general, gave me a great foundation and understanding of music. This foundation would lead to my own personal research and discovery, which I will explain with further detail later on.
The origins of this website/blog that turned into a brand I'm building has to be one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. It began out of perseverance, as my uncle and I had spent an entire day together and planned out what we wanted to do with our mutual love for music and black culture. We knew that we could build something together and make it great, as we were both students of culture and the music industry. Given the amount of research I do with these things along with his experiences during the beginnings of hip-hop here in the Bay Area, we would make something special. On the culture side of things, my other Uncle was a member of the Black Panther Party, and being the other father figure in my life, he has had an immense impact on the way I try to carry myself and the way that I care about my people. My two uncles were two sides of a coin of fatherhood that I needed with the loss of my biological father at a young age: I had the calm and collected one, with a past that I could learn from without having to go down the path myself, and the other to whom I could speak to a lot more raw and in my element, given that he was a little bit younger, but holding the same ideals. I feel that this dynamic kept me balanced, as I always had someone to go to with the situations of my early youth. I'm glad that I had this dynamic, plus my grandfather, to keep me balanced growing up, as I'm sure I'd be a completely different person without them, and I mean that I'd be different in a very negative way. These three men helped save my life in a sense, because I could've ended up on a terrible path. As an adult, I realized that life could get even more difficult, as 2017 began the part of my life that would mold me into a man even more than it already had given my early years.
To tie this back to the origins of ML3 For The Culture. I raise this question: If everything went wrong all at once, would you keep going?
My answer was yes, as it has been all my life. I've lost a lot, no need to get into extreme detail, but I can think of plenty of reasons that one would choose to give up or stop pursuing certain aspirations if they were given my life's circumstances. When I knew that my uncle and I were on the right track to starting our then unnamed endeavor, I lost him. As I was recovering from that, I lost both grandparents during the summer of the same year. Losing my Uncle Obbie was one of the most sudden and devastating moments for me, not because of our endeavor at all, but I felt like I lost a father all over again. Our last conversation always sticks with me, and one part of that conversation included a talk about family history. When you realize where you come from, it makes you want to not only make those ancestors proud, but to become better, and make all of the struggles, the good and the unthinkable, worth it. I thought about this after my initial night of grief (after a lot of loss, it's become a bit easier for me to transition between different stages of grief) I began to move toward the mindset of making him proud and doing what we planned regardless. And with that, the site was born. As time went on, I got more articles out, and it felt great. Growing from 19 to 25, my life has become so much different. I've lost friends, gained new ones, and I've been blessed with a woman that I love and cherish as well. I appreciate all the blessings and complications of the past five years, because they helped shape me into the man I am and push me to be the man that I want to become.
When speaking of shaping me, I can say that music has always been a part of the process. My father and grandfather played music around me almost nonstop, my mother loves music, and of course my two uncles are musically inclined as well. My Uncle Obbie, who I lost in 2017, showed me how important music was, just through seeing how it makes you feel. Music can change your mood in almost every way. Music can make love more passionate, anger more intense, and make a sunny day feel brighter as well. The emotions of music are crazy, especially when you learn the emotions behind the songs we listen to. Some songs hit a completely different way when you learn about the artists and their backstories, as you not only appreciate it, but it can sometimes become a more relateable record.
Losing my grandfather hurt a lot as well, as it kind of broke my last true connection with my last name, there were only three generations with the name, his (as he rediscovered our original last name through family history research), my father (whom I lost as a child), and then myself, along with my younger brother. It still hits me sometimes when I think about it, and it motivates me to continue to work with the things I love, which my grandfather helped pave the way to. My grandfather would truly introduce me to older music, and that lead to extensive research as a teenager. I learned about artists like Lou Rawls, Patti LaBelle and others, just hearing the vinyls that he would let spin while upstairs in his man cave. I would show him modern music as I grew into young adulthood, and certain songs would become history lessons for me as I learned about the art of sampling. Countless hours of candid conversation took place in that room with my grandfather, and not only did it teach me about the music itself, but how important music has been to our people in this country. Drives also became learning experiences, as I would begin to understand the way that certain songs sound during certain times of the day as well as certain times of the year. Everything has a specific place, and while some are interchangeable, there will always be a specific feeling when certain sounds occur at certain times. R&B music hits differently on a rainy night in November than a hot summer night in July. The music stays the same, but the reaction is always different. Different people can listen to the same song and react differently due to their life experiences, and that's the beauty of it all. This view has translated directly into the way that I create playlists, as I listen to them in different environments in order to try and create the best universal experience, through the order of the music and how each song flows into the other, and also through the way the playlist will potentially sound during the day, an all-nighter doing homework, or just cruising and running errands.
As someone who hasn't done any type of drugs, I believe that music is the best drug there is. As a child, I loved to listen to music, whether or not I knew the artist. As I grew into a pre-teen, I started to research more into my favorite artists origins and the world of sampling, which opened the floodgates of information that I would gladly swim into. Music is connected on almost every level, and truly understanding the connections make it so beautiful.
However, my journey with music wasn't a straightforward one, as though I grew up in a musical household, music was viewed differently through the strict eyes of my mother, as most mothers are when it comes to the content that their children consume. As a teenager, I would have to listen to music on my own time while at home, or find time to listen to certain music that my mom didn't; particularly enjoy, as well as make time to research the things I loved while balancing school and eventually sports. This would cultivate a love for research, as I felt more free in those moments, leading to the music knowledge I have today.
How does music impact the rest of my life?
My love of music has spilled over into the other things I love in life, sports and cars. A sound system is one of the most important aspects of a car, as you're going to be on the interior enjoying it more than anything else. Without a good sound system, you can't truly enjoy your car, at least in my opinion. Those car rides with my grandfather growing up showed me a lot and when I was given my first car, I made sure I created a space for music to be enjoyed to its fullest, and I've done the same with every car I've owned since. Everyone needs a sanctuary to listen to music, and the car is one of the best places to do it. Historically, I understand that being from California, this is also important to me due to the way that car culture and music culture have blended in this state to a certain extent, but I love it and fully embrace it.
The way that music has impacted sports for me is even deeper though, as I don't just watch sports and enjoy the way the two worlds coincide, I'm also an athlete. Sports documentaries like The Last Dance showcased a great way to pair music and sports for entertainment purposes, and countless Youtube highlight mixes use this to their advantage as well. Again, music evokes powerful emotions and memories, so pairing it with sports that do the same can be a beautiful thing. On the athlete side of the coin, running track is one of the most difficult sports to do, and I know that music helps keep me going during hard workouts. Music has also helped me focus before my biggest races, and keeps things fun while out on the track or trail. Getting back into working out consistently has been one of my biggest priorities over the last year or so, and I feel like putting music back into the place it held at my previous athletic peak will be a key for me moving forward. If you love music, just try it, it may help you too.
My Take on Music Media
I believe that a lot of the issues with today's music media and music in general stem from a lack of knowledge. There are artists out there who have no idea about any music past the time that they were five years old, and with a lot of artists being in my age group now, that's a serious problem. Music didn't begin in 2002, and music's origins are black, no matter what American genre you look at. The problem lies in a lack of gatekeeping to an extent, as well as passing down such knowledge to those that want to add their piece to music's puzzle.
Over the past five years, I've been able to see the culture of music shift it's focus, especially in music media. It's similar to the way that sports media has become, about narratives and clickbait instead of the actual art form that people are consuming and/or enjoying. Some people with large followings are ignorant to basic music knowledge (for someone in their position at least), and some people will contradict themselves about bigger artists but praise small/upcoming ones for the same tactics, or vice versa. It's sad that music media has become such a "Who's hot? Who's not?" chatroom for a lack of better terms.
While I believe that the opinions of those in the media are important, they aren't more important than the artists making the art that we give our opinions on. The culture has lost a lot of its integrity, and that's not just because of music media, though we play a large role. Some artists and labels aren't honest when it comes to the art that they put out, and it reflects with the longevity of the music released, as well as the lack of knowledge that I spoke about earlier. Now don't get me wrong, I don't know everything, I learn something new everyday, but there's certain things that should be known when you go into certain spaces. I'm not knowledgable on country music, so I would never try to go into the space and give my opinion on what needs change or what needs to happen in that space. In hip-hop and R&B however, I believe that I know enough and have had enough personal experience with the genres that I can give my takes on things. The culture needs integrity, and it needs accountability. Just because we like these artists, we can't forget that they are people just like us, and that they are capable of mistakes, whether they be minor ones or catastrophic ones. We can't just believe anything that someone says without doing our own research or looking to factual sources, in any circumstance. Twitter debates shouldn't dictate how we look at situations in music or entertainment in most cases. There are times where social media discourse is very important, as it's an added layer to the structure of music media we have today, but it should not be the end all be all for information in most cases.
I started ML3 For The Culture not only because I love music and my culture, but because I also wanted to keep people updated and informed on it, give my perspective on topics, as well as give people another source with reliable information. Over the years I've seen that information has become very unreliable, and though I wasn't always writing consistently over the years, I did make sure to call out incorrect information, and those who have spread it via the For The Culture Podcast. I don't want this to seem like I'm calling myself the model example in media, as I don't believe anyone is. I've caught myself when I was ignorant of things in the past, and will continue to do so, as one of the most important things you can be in media is transparent. I would also encourage people in media to check each other, or provide more information when it's available about any topic that's at hand going forward.
Looking Towards The Future
It feels weird to call myself a veteran in my space, even though technically I am, because I feel like I'm just getting started. I say that not only because of the feeling, but as far as the website, I don't believe that I've done enough yet to consider myself a true veteran in the space. I've done more recorded and digital media than I've done written media, and honestly that's due to a lack of consistency. The most important piece of how I will continue to grow in this space will be consistency. Time management has been an issue for me, just trying to balance everything that I do on a daily basis, but I think that these years of adulthood have prepared me to finally put it all together. Running something all by yourself isn't an easy task, but I'm up to it. I appreciate my support system and always will strive to make them proud, but I have to remind myself that I do this because of my passion for the entertainment industry and black culture as a whole. That passion is what will help drive me to the next level and build a strong media platform that people can come to know and trust. I believe that as I continue to grow as a man, I can continue to provide more media here on ML3 For The Culture, and after five years of learning and growing, it's time to put what I've learned to use. The future is bright in media, and it is all on us to hold each other accountable and make sure that we truly love what we do. If we don't care about what we dedicate our lives to, it won't ever truly be sincere. My Uncle Obbie said that luck was when preparedness met opportunity, and I believe that now is my moment of luck.