A synopsis of the tracks featured on Rough Draught (Deluxe Edition)

I always feel as if we are all works in progress. We will never reach whatever “perfection” is. When this project started to come together, I was discovering new things about my art and skill set, and where I could take it. I also realized this may be a lonely journey. Self-analysis and discovery tends to be.

Here is a synopsis of the tracks on my project Rough Draught: Deluxe Edition.

City of Dreams (Acoustic)
Initially, I wrote this song as an uptempo, larger-than-life piece. Lush production, driving beat, and a top-of-the-world lyrical delivery. Truth be told, that wasn’t where my headspace truly was at the time. I kept listening to the track over and over and thought, what if that’s what we’d all like to feel, but deliver a more true-to-life story. I stripped the concept and track down and delivered snapshots filled with aspiration in the midst of true life happening. Felt right.

I Can’t Call It
This track was actually done for a television project. The brief called for a track that would support a montage of a guy who, despite his shortcomings, kept winning at life. They were open as far genres, so I shot my shot. Didn’t make the cut, but I revisited the track and thought it could work.

Cold Release
A production company needed “an urban cautionary street tale” track. Unfortunately, coming up in the type of environment I did in the South Bronx, this song was pretty easy to pen. I tend to produce more “musically” when it comes to songs like these. Trying to find the beauty in the mud.

“Still breaking. Still building. Still strengthening. Still connecting. Still evolving. I am not perfect.”

Doug Sxmpson

Above The Clouds (feat. Coole High)
I came up in an era of bars, delivery and metaphors. I remember coming up with the string and flute arrangement and thought that a funk bass line with a hard beat could balance the track. The hook was in mind already, and I wanted the same type of feel for the track. Charismatic delivery and bars. Every now and then, I get to work with some of the most amazing people. I remember reaching out to Coole High, a gifted producer, songwriter, and instrumentalist. I played the track and idea for him. He delivered the verse to the track what felt like instantly. Vibes.

Rules of Engagement (feat. Slim and Mr. Wonderful)
I had a pleasure of working with Mr. Wonderful of Black Pearl Music. If you don’t know, Mr. Wonderful is a colorful character (fedora, full length fur, three-piece suits, jewels and Stacy Adams is his attire of choice; even in the Summer months) and a talented MC and songwriter. His work goes as far back as the late 1980’s, rocking with some of the pioneers of Hip-Hop. I had a small recording studio back in Brooklyn, New York and this one particular night, Mr. Wonderful, DJ Illside and Reem aka Slim (Euphon, The Aqua League), my writing partner for years were in the studio. I was cycling through tracks and got to the instrumental to what would become the song. We were shooting the breeze when we started talking about strip clubs. Mr. Wonderful began to hold court and put us youngins’ up on game. The track was playing in the room and he was just talking. We recorded everything. The hook came out of what he was saying. We wrote off of what he was saying and our own perspectives. It could not have ran any better even if it was scripted. This track was so much fun to create. I even did a remix to it. Love when things come together like that.

Breakthrough
Breakthrough was written for a placement opportunity. They wanted a driving Hip-Hop track talking about perseverance. It didn’t make the cut. Several weeks later, I got a request for the track to be used in a series called Hustle. I agreed.

Normally, I just write and not worry about placements. I then see what I have that might work when I get a request for songs, beats or a brief. If I have time (24-48 hours works) I’ll pen specifically for it. I was given 24 hours to do something in this case. i knocked it out in a day. It was fun. I revisited the track when I was assembling songs for this project. It felt right.

Numb (feat. Slim)
Reem (aka Slim) and I have worked on several project over the span of 14 years. Some of our biggest work was writing and performing “OA” for his group Euphon, and writing and performing “Big City”(more on that shortly). Both of those songs were featured in Universal Pictures Fast Five starring Vin Diesel. “Numb” came about during on of these writing and recording sessions. Again, out of conversation, the bars manifested themselves. There is no hook on this track, which was purposefully done. We noticed the changes in people, places and circumstances happening all around us. It was a venting track.

As fate would have it, the track was featured in “Grown-ish”.

Big City (Remix) (feat. Slim)
I lost folks during 9/11. One in particular was crushing. My daughter’s godfather, an FDNY first responder. Rushed in without second-guessing to clear areas in the midst of the chaos and panic. He, like many others, never came back out or got back home.

I wrote the song thinking how things will move forward even if I chose not to. I could choose to stop or press on and see where this thing called life continues to take me. I had t find my motivation in a sea of indifference.

I remember pitching the track to Reem and he wrote to it. At the time, I guess we were all trying to make sense out of it all. The original version of the track sits on Fast Five. I revisited the track and remixed it with a string arrangement.

I live with the void. Never really healed from it. Just learned to accept what is. It would be a hard lesson that was prepping me for what was next.

Good Times
I got a chance to do some work with DJ Illside of Illside Entertainment. We cut this track for his Coming Straight From Da Realside mixtape series. It was a simple premise. She gave her all in a relationship and it wasn’t reciprocated. She moved on. This is where we meet her. A moody, atmospheric club track. I later got a chance to do a dancehall vibe remix to the track which was used in the movie One Bedroom.

Music is life. It is so therapeutic. Rough Draught, like so many other songs I’ve written and produced, represents parts of my spirit. Still breaking. Still building. Still strengthening. Still connecting. Still evolving. I am not perfect. I am in full acceptance of this fact. But if my value to the universe is for me to be on this journey to perfection through music, then I am at peace with this fact. Always.