Throwback

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Eric looked around the cozy 7-feet by 7-feet booth. The white gypsum board walls behind and around him were covered by black squares of sound deadening foam. The overhead lighting was dimmed just enough to set a “chill” mood. In that moment—the calm before the storm—he was glad they’d decided to install the LED lighting bank recessed into the low ceiling. The air inside the new booth was still rich with the intermingled smells of newly-laid carpet and spray paint. Three feet in front of him, the neon green graffiti-tag painted along the bottom half-wall underneath the see-through Plexiglas window read, “Cut It ‘Till It Bleeds the Music”. Eric glanced out beyond the window and flashed a quick thumbs up, before settling his hand on top of the left deck’s 7-inch diameter steel platter of his Pioneer DJ controller. His right hand instinctively gravitated to the mixer’s crossfader and slid the smooth knob right. Eric clicked the crossfader—between thumb and middle finger—and simultaneously flicked his left wrist back and forth; two quick jabs. Underneath his hand, the platter skipped in time, filling his ears with the beautiful sound of chirp-scratch. He grinned and leaned toward the microphone setup left of the controller.

“I’m good here boys.”

“Alright E. We’re rolling.” Jerry’s voice resonated inside Eric’s oversized studio-headphones. “Take me back, bro. I need to feel it, not just hear it.”

“Word. Like ’89 summertime backyard Bar-B-Ques and Faygo red.”

Eric tapped the “Play” key, below the deck-2 platter. A 4/4 House Music beat instantly blared through the headphones, at 120 beats per minute. The bump was infectious.

My body may be middle-aged and slightly pudgy, he thought, but I still know how to two-step.

Eric glanced up at his Macbook Pro laptop perched on its stand above his DJ controller. He smiled at the camera image reflected back. Purple Adidas track suit; purple vintage Kangol hat flipped backwards; Gazelle-sunglasses—all bobbing to the beat. He looked down at the left white shell-toe of his classic Adidas, tapping in sync with the music. His kids hated his apparel, but his wife loved it. She said his style reminded her of their high-school days. To some, he might have stepped right out of a 1980s time-warp. But to brother-E, a nickname his brothers had dubbed him two decades ago, tonight he was simply the DJ.

On the opposite side of the Plexiglas window, the new Engineer studio was on full jam as the two soundboard operators and six spectators swayed with the beat. The music pumped crystal clear through dual 15-inch diameter Mackie-brand studio loudspeakers setup on the carpeted floor; each on either side of a brand new 32-channel Behringer studio-mixer, permanently fastened to a smooth cherrywood table pushed against the opposite side of the DJ-booth’s Plexiglas half-wall. Sound deadening foam attached to the white-walls and ceiling of the 7-feet by 12-feet Engineer studio left no echo; just crisp music thumping in the currently cramped space.

The side door next to Jerry—Eric’s twin brother and lead sound engineer—suddenly flung open. Marcus stepped over the threshold of the packed Engineer room, bobbing and dancing. Despite his thinning hairline and salt-n-pepper goatee, he moved with youthful fluidity.

“Shut the door lil brother,” Jerry yelled over the loud music.

“Dang!” Marcus squealed. “That’s ‘Blow Your House Down—A Guy Named Gerald.’ Ain’t heard this one in a minute, bro. Eric really opened up with a classic banger. He’s not messin’ around tonight. Goin’ straight for the jugular!”

Zeek, a young protégé engineer-in-training seated to Jerry’s right, looked up from the studio-mixer’s volume-knobs and pushed his horn-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose, through his unkempt dreadlocks. He glanced left and slapped his dad—Marcus—a high-five behind uncle Jerry’s nodding head.

“Pop’s,” Zeek yelled, “what’s the name of this old-school joint, again?”

Jerry and Marcus exchanged agitated looks, before the brothers set their stone gazes on Zeek.

“Boy,” Jerry yelled, “get your scrawny lil’ butt out of my new seat—”

“In fact,” Marcus shifted a thumb toward the door, “get out of this studio. How you gonna become a sound engineer when you don’t even know the music? Beat it, and take all six of your young Thundercat friends with you!”

“But pops—”

“Out.” Marcus yelled. “Tell your momma I’m gonna be home late. Me and your uncles got work to do.”

“Nephew,” Jerry said, “you’ve got to be a student of the music first, before you sit down and start pushing buttons.” He smacked the teenaged boy across the butt, as Zeek walked out behind his entourage.

“Yes sir, uncle Jerry.”

As the side door slammed shut, the music dimmed. Eric’s low voice rumbled through the studio speakers.

“Yo, where’d the kids go? I need them to test out the music. That’s my target audience, right there.”

Jerry punched a blinking button on the mixer. “No. You don’t. You’ve got your brothers.”

“Heh, the three musketeers,” Marcus laughed, “back in the saddles!”

“Three musketeers, back in the saddles,” Eric said, looking at his two brothers behind the window. “Bar-B-Ques and Faygo red?”

“Bar-B-Ques—” Jerry started.

“And Faygo red, big brothers!” Marcus yelled.

“Word. Marc, we’re gonna do it like we used to, back then.” Eric punched the play button on deck-2. The music slowly ground to a halt.

“What’ve you got in mind?” Jerry asked, over the studio PA system.

Inside the DJ booth, Eric’s fingers worked feverishly over the laptop’s touch pad. Scrolling. Sifting. Searching, until he found it. Marcus’ all-time favorite song.

“Let’s get this throwback session going, boys,” Eric said into the booth’s microphone. “We ready to record?”

“No dry run, bro?” Marcus asked; Jerry still holding down the PA button.

“Nah, we’re good. ‘Blow Your House Down’ was the dry run.”

“Alright, E,” Jerry announced. “I’m gonna say it again: Take me back, bro. I need to feel it, not just hear it.” Jerry turned toward Marcus. “Rollin’ lil brother?”

“Sound’s recording’. Once you start the feed, we’re good to go. Drop it when you’re ready, E.”

Jerry released the PA button and spun his black leather swivel chair toward a Microsoft ergo keyboard sitting next to the studio mixer. As he typed, a 24-inch flat-screen monitor mounted to the wall, just left of the Plexiglas window, flashed to life displaying a Windows wallpaper logo—cartooned, purple-themed graffiti—of DJ Brother-E standing beside a vintage boombox. Jerry tapped the “Enter” key. The screen suddenly displayed two live video feeds; one beside the other. The left feed showed a Facebook-Live video of the adjoining DJ booth; its camera lens seemingly trained on the entire little room, from a ceiling corner, over the laptop and DJ table. The right feed was a close-up video of Eric—the laptop camera—wringing his hands together; eager to get started. Jerry typed.

“Going live in 3, 2, 1…” he said. He wheeled the chair over to the mixer, and depressed the blinking PA button again.

“We’re live, E. Bring it.” Jerry released the button, and punched Marcus in the left shoulder.

Inside the DJ booth, Eric nodded at the tiny Go-Pro camera mounted in the right corner of the low ceiling, then tapped a button labeled “Sample 1” on the DJ controller. Instantly, his headphones lit up with a voice over tag he’d used for every DJ set ever recorded over the last 20 years.

“Brother-E is on the Beat!”

Eric leaned into the microphone. “Yeah, yeah, yeah party people! You know what it is, and you know who it is. It’s ya man, brother-E, comin’ to you live and direct from the new headquarters. That’s right, after months of renovating, and bouncing between satellite locations, I’ve finally landed in my new home studio. This maiden voyage episode of ‘Brother-E on the Beat’ is executively produced by Jerry Smith, mixed by Marcus Smith, with yours truly manning the ones-n-twos. You know how we do it. House Music is life; one hour strong to get your dance, jog, or workout on! Tonight, I’m takin’ y’all back on a lil journey through the old school, strictly for my Generation-X family. Nothing but them classics, yo! In fact, we’re gonna kick this thing off with an eternal anthem. This is the ‘Jungle Brothers—I’ll House You.’ Let’s go to work people! Brother-E is on the beat!”

Eric tapped the “Play” key under the deck-2 platter, and glanced up through the window to see Marcus pump two fists in the air. Jerry pointed back at Eric through the window. His toothy grin was all the confirmation Eric needed; signifying tonight’s session would be epic.

Inside the Engineer room, “♪ Girl I’ll house You; girl I’ll house you; girl I’ll house you; you in my hut now… ♪” blared through the loudspeakers. The highs, crisp; the mids, sharp; the lows explosive. Marcus’ teeth seemed to rattle in his skull. He loved every moment of it, allowing the music to awaken memories of family parties in the backyard of Ma and Pop’s old house; his brothers manning the turntables and old mixer, while he handed over vinyl records when needed.

The bassline kicked so hard, Eric could feel the vibrations emanating from the Engineer studio rumble through the DJ-booth floor; in perfect time with the music blaring through his headphones. As he bobbed with the beat, knobs on the controller were adjusted, buttons were pushed and level-meters jumped between green and orange hues with each beat-kick. Eric looked into the laptop camera and pointed at the lens, then back to himself before spreading his arms wide, while bouncing to the beat; playing to his live-stream audience. A tally app in the top left corner of the screen displayed 3,021 and climbing already. Thirty seconds into the set, his faithful audience was savoring the music. It was a good start. Three minutes into the first track, his virtual audience had doubled.

In the Engineer studio, Jerry punched the PA button. The music blasting through the loudspeakers momentarily died, as he spoke.

“E, I’m gonna need some of that Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, bro. The requests are rollin’ in already.”

Jerry released the button and the music roared through the loudspeakers again. He spun toward the flat-screen monitor. The Facebook-Live feed still streamed live video of Eric commanding the DJ controller and dancing. Below the image, a steady stream of viewer comments scrolled upscreen. He saw Eric flash a thumbs up toward the Plexiglas window, before hunkering close to the laptop. On the close-up feed, Jerry watched as Eric’s fingers flew across the touchpad. The live-recording elapsed time stamp read 3:24-minutes. Jerry knew his brother would transition into the next song within 20 seconds. He glanced at Marcus bobbing in the next seat. Their younger brother had always been Eric’s number one fan since the beginning.

“He hasn’t lost a step in 20 years, has he Marc?” Jerry yelled over the music.

Marcus looked at Jerry. “What?!” he yelled.

Jerry leaned closer to Marcus. “I said, he hasn’t lost a step in 20 years!”

“Oh! Naw, he hasn’t! You know in 20 years, all three of us will be deaf, by the time you guys are 65 and I’m 62, right?” Marcus leaned closer and punched Jerry in the right shoulder.

Jerry nodded and fist-bumped his little brother, before turning back to the board. Over the loudspeakers, a beat juggle scratched over the music and then his favorite track blended in seamlessly. Jerry closed his eyes, smiled wide and felt the music transport his heart back to a time when they were simply the three Smith brothers, with no cares in the world; just the music between them.

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Eric was in the zone. The Jungle Brothers track was midway through its pace and he was setting up to transition into “Royal House—Can You Party”. Suddenly, Jerry’s voice interrupted the groove blaring through his headphones.

“E, I’m gonna need some of that Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, bro. The requests are rollin’ in already.”

Eric glanced through the Plexiglas window to flash a thumbs up at Jerry, who was already staring at the studio’s flat-screen monitor. That impromptu request would alter his set a little, but not much. He knew his twin brother’s favorite track and simply needed to drop it into the set, as his second track for the night. Eric’s fingers navigated the laptop touchpad flawlessly. He methodically scrolled through Serato DJ digital crates until he found the prize: “Jack Your Body” by Steve “Silk” Hurley. He dropped the track into deck-1and thumbed the pitch knob, raising its tempo to 120 beats per minute. As the main track continued to dominate his ears, Eric closed his eyes and pushed the deck-1 “Cue” button then began to manipulate the deck-1 platter using the tips of his middle and ring-fingers. His left ear registered the new track, while his right ear registered the original track now entering the bridge of the song. He played with the two songs until the beats were precisely where he wanted them. Eric opened his eyes and punched the “Cue” button again, then set his right middle-finger and thumb on the cross-fader held wide open, right. The original track blared through both ears. He looked up through the window and saw his brothers immersed in conversation. While holding the deck-1 platter in place, Eric punched the deck-1 “Play” button, then returned his right hand to the cross-fader. He clicked the cross-fader and simultaneously wrist-flicked the left platter. The new track beat-juggled in perfect time with the Jungle Brothers track—two half beats; two quarter beats—and then…

“JACK! Jack; jack; jack, jack, jack…” echoed over the original track.

Eric slid the cross-fader left toward the mixer’s middle position and let the dual beats of both tracks ride together in perfect sync. He slowly spun the deck-2 Bass equalizer knob counter-clockwise, and lowered the deck-2 volume effectively fading out the first song. Onscreen, the tally app suddenly exploded from 6, 567 viewers to 8, 982 with the new track blended. DJ Brother-E’s throwback set was shaping up to be one for the books, and his fans loved every minute of his set. For 56 minutes straight, he took his audience back in time on a musical journey. As he DJed, Eric remembered a time when he and his brothers cared for nothing but the music. It wasn’t even about the crowds, the fans nor the prestige tied to their skills. It was only about their love for the music. For the moment, that time was once again…right now.

~ END ~

 

For my man…Bro. E

A House Divided

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Mark 3:25 (NIV) – ” If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

A house is generally strong when it’s set on top of a solid foundation. Maybe that foundation is a simple concrete slab on grade; maybe it’s a solid wood crawlspace; or just maybe it’s a good old fashion poured-concrete wall basement with a 6-inch concrete slab. Whatever your foundation is constructed of, it’s an integral part to building a strong house that will eventually be weather retardant.

On top of that underground foundation, the builder constructs solid walls of treated wood framing with insulation and brick facade. Maybe your home has steel reinforced dead-bolt doors, vinyl weather-guard windows and seamless gutters circling a pristine asphalt-shingle covered roof. Even your chimney flue is cover protected. Can you see it? Of course you can! You’re picturing it right now, in your mind.

Now imagine that I’m actually a 25-feet tall gremlin, dangling a gigantic screaming chainsaw monstrosity over your beautiful roof. The blade on this demon-tool is 24 inches wide and spinning so fast, the teeth are glowing red hot. I’m smiling at you, because we both know what’s about to happen. You watch horrified as I arc a tremendous chop, bringing the chainsaw down and through the center of your new dream home. As I pull the machine free of the smoking cut line, we watch your house collapse into the gap left by the chainsaw. For a few moments, your house bucks and strains against its own weight. Wood beams splinter. Glass windows crack. Bricks fall from the facade. Where the structure was once a single solid unit, the two separated halves now struggle for balance, pushing against one another. Finally, the strain proves to be too great. We watch your ramshackle abode implode, falling into the basement. Your home is totally destroyed.

Do you understand that example is exactly what the devil has planned for your marriage? Or how about those relationships within the church (the church, people!) that are toxic. Sister so-n-so is mad at brother what’s-his-face over something inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. That toxic relationship and that struggling marriage are bound to drive a wedge between what should otherwise be a united body. Gossip and rumors divide a church. Power struggles divide a marriage.

This afternoon, I was in Kroger going through the checkout line with my wife. The bagger was an older woman who happened to glance at my River of Life T-Shirt (shameless plug for my home church, y’all), before smiling at me.

“You have a home church or something?” She asked. I was a bit bewildered because she had just checked out my T-Shirt.

“Yes ma’am,” I said. “We’re in Belleville, and we love it.”

“You should think about visiting us sometime. Some of those other churches are just too ‘churchy’ if you know what I mean.” She said. “We’re non-denominational and encourage people to come as they are. We don’t get into all of that extra church stuff.”

I was stumped on so many different levels. Did I not just tell this woman we loved our home church? Why in the name of Jesus would she ignore that and suggest my church might be too “churchy”? By the way, what does “churchy” look like? And, what is all that other extra churchy stuff?! In the body of Christ, we should honestly encourage each other, rather than divide one against another.

Could you see your left eyeball having a conversation with your right foot?


“Hey, how’s it going down there? You enjoying kissing socks all day?”

“Uhh–”

“You know, you should seriously consider coming up here where right and I hang out. We don’t do that ‘Walk-N-Balance’ stuff. We see no point to it.”

“Did you seriously just invite me to  park on top of face? Who’s gonna get us all to the car in the morning, if I’m not where I belong?”

“Don’t worry about that. Just come on up here where our vantage point is way better than anything you’re looking at down there.”


Yeah, when we fight each other–whether it’s a spouse or a brother in Christ–we’re destroying our own home. Power struggles have no place in the body of Christ. Think about it.

 

 

God’s Creativity

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You see that photo up there? That’s my family. God took two different people, brought them together and produced two boys and two girls. What’s funny is, not one of them resemble any of the others. They each have different physical traits but, if you look close enough, you can see little hints of Ennis and Misty in each new creation.

I think that was God’s plan all along. Way back in the beginning, when He spoke the words, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness,” clearly He wasn’t talking about making clone copies. I think He was speaking on giving us all His identity and distinguishing traits that would easily separate man from beasts. One would never confuse a boy for an ape, for example. Men look different, despite sharing opposable thumbs, two arms, two legs, two eyes and a mouth just like apes.

When I was young (really young), I used to wonder what it would be like to find out there was another kid running around the world who looked exactly like me, except his skin color was white. One day I held up a picture of myself at age 21 and simultaneously looked into the photographed eyes of my 21 year old son: Nate. Although he was gifted with his mother’s eyes, he’s the spitting image of his dad, at the same age. The only difference is his fair skin. How about that for creativity? God’s amazing. My son grew up to favor my physical image and my physical likeness, while also bearing the image and likeness of Jesus. And yet he is his own man, so very different from me despite sharing similar tastes. I’m in awe watching him and his siblings grow up into their own identities. I wonder what my grandchildren will look like someday?

I’ll bet God enjoys watching his children grow in His image and become independent adults, while still leaning on Him for guidance. Not all will make wise choices. In every family, there is that one kid who goes astray. But, I’d like to think He loves us all despite our flaws.