Category Archives: The Earlier Years

A collection of articles from the beginning years of in 2016. Walk through the early days of my public mental health journey.

What It’s Like To Survive Your First Reaction To A Life-Or-Death Allergy

Editor’s note: Looking back, it’s pretty wild that I’m able to still sit here and write this out.

I will always remember the first time I went and got an allergy test. While the appointment itself is stressful enough with all of the different examination processes, leaving with some answers brings upon a sense of a clarity, but also spine-shivering fear.

Many are fortunate enough to leave the doctors’ offices being told they have a minor allergy to something more avoidable such as an animal, a fragrance, a rare food, or even a type of material. Others, such as myself, are not so lucky. At around age 5 years old, my family and I learned that I was officially allergic to tree nuts, and warned that my reaction, if consumed, would not be so minor. For years following, my allergy would become essential to me as that of a second wallet. Wherever I went, whatever I ate, I always had to be cautious about the possible food options around me. From big, expensive restaurants with unfamiliar dishes, to my own grandmother’s living room where almonds, walnuts, or pecans would be out for guests, I was turned into a walking caution sign.

As two decades went by of being reaction-free, my hazard signs started to dim. At one point, it even seemed like the coast was clear for my health, as I dabbled in items that displayed “may contain nuts” or “processed on equipment that also processes tree nuts” on their labels. I was able to indulge in some of my favorite things in the world, with one of them being chocolate, and carry on with life as normal, despite some ingredient lists warning of otherwise. Soon, I got cocky with my risk-taking, and stopped asking waiters and restaurants what was in their outside dessert items. I didn’t seem to be concerned with the little flakes that I found on common salads, baked goods, or finger foods. I started leading a life of trying new things without care, and I was happy to be able to break out of my simplistic, restricted taste buds. Up until a week ago, I convinced myself I might have been lucky enough to “grow out of” my allergy, and stopped carrying around my epi-pen. Unfortunately, I got the brutal wake-up call my body and mind desperately needed.

On the evening of Tuesday, July 12, my perspective on my body, and life, changed forever. I went to dinner with a few friends at one of my favorite food spots in Manhattan. After craving their specialty burger and lobster for weeks, it was heavenly to finally embrace my favorite cuisine. The evening of dining was going without flaw up until the waiter came over and offered a free dessert option. With my love for chocolate, the gelato option sounded too good to be true, and I quickly learned that it was. The waiter graciously let me pester him twice about any possible tree nuts being in the delectable dessert item, where he assured me it was in the clear, despite the suspicious appearance of the crumb toppings.

The first bite I took was delicious, but immediately triggered an alarming sense that swept throughout my body. I knew right away that something wasn’t right. I ruled it out as my own paranoia, which, in the past, has led to falsified reactions in my body. Unfortunately, this reaction was all too real, and I would soon learn the emergency it truly was. While leaving the restaurant, my tongue started to become inflamed, and my throat became a bit tighter. Continuing to rule out the option of the worst case scenario I had already spent 25 years avoiding, I proceeded with the evening. Within the hour, I made my way to a concert venue to check out a music showcase with some friends. By the time I entered the building, I rushed to the bathroom to find my hands swelling, and my asthma flaring up. Unbeknownst to me, my asthma turned out to be my throat actually closing, as the inhaler failed to help, which alerted me that this was much more serious than I could comprehend. Within minutes, my lip started swelling up to twice its size, leading me to finally make what I believed to be a more conscious decision to take a Benadryl and go home to sleep.

The train ride back uptown would be one of misery, and a serious reality check. Three stops in, my hands were nearly twice their size with swelling, and soon, my face started feeling numb. I opened up the selfie mode on my phone’s camera, and hardly recognized myself as my eyes, nose, and cheeks were completely puffed up. I noticed my adrenaline was pumping at an alarming rate, and no matter how deeply I breathed, I couldn’t get enough air to make my heart slow down. It was then, I knew, I was in serious trouble. I had to get to a hospital, and as quickly as I could.

I managed to get myself out of the 59th St. Columbus Circle stop on the 1 train swiftly enough for no one to notice my altered facial features. With the last bit of energy I had left, I rushed over two blocks to the hospital, and found myself weakening within a few feet from the door. By the time I made it inside the emergency room, I started to collapse, alerting the front desk that I needed help. From one look at my face, they immediately took me into the resuscitation room, letting the medical team know that I was having a severe allergic reaction. As I got onto the stretcher, at least 5 or 6 other doctors and nurses flooded into the room. Before I knew it, things started to become blurry, and I felt my throat approaching almost a full close.

Within a matter of seconds, an IV was inserted into my left forearm by a nurse as a doctor told me that they had to inject me with epinephrine, which is the equivalent of the average epi-pen. The doctor warned me that my heart was going to beat at an extremely high level in order for my airways to open up and give me more oxygen. While I at least got a warning, what I wasn’t prepared for, however, was what that would actually do to my whole body. As I breathed through an oxygen tank, my heart rate increased significantly within the next minute. Soon, my body began to have uncontrollable spasms, my mind felt like it was spinning, and there was no way to calm any of it down. Imagine being injected with a severe panic attack straight into your body. That’s the most accurate depiction of experiencing epinephrine entering your system, and the highly uncomfortable sensation lasts for at least 10-20 minutes. The good news for me, however, was that my eyes, lips, and burning rash went away almost instantly. It was a sign that the medicine was working, and that I had a second chance at life. Unfortunately, it also meant that I would be spending the evening in the ER, as protocol requires at least 6 hours of monitoring to make sure the body doesn’t rebound.

After resuscitation, I was able to be moved to a regular sectioned off room in the ER, and was met by my father, who had one of the most traumatized looks on his face that I will never, ever forget. From one look in his eyes, I knew that this incident was much more serious than my naive mindset had been downplaying it to potentially be for years. The rest of the night in the emergency room would be filled with flashbacks to the times I doubted how authentic my allergies really were, and how heart-stopping the text to my dad that read, “Having a severe allergic reaction. Going to the hospital now,” truly was. While it took me about an hour or two for my body to fully calm down from the epinephrine injection, and another two for me to shake off this horrific experience, I showed signs that my body did not require extra steroids.

By 3:00 A.M., I was ready to be discharged after a long evening of grief. As my family and I departed the hospital still a bit shaken, we knew that I was going to have to make a shift in my lifestyle. My life had been saved, but it was not cured. This is something I have to carry with me for the rest of my life.

It’s time to put much more trust in my gut instinct, and take it away from waiters, ingredient lists, and peers without allergies themselves. If you don’t have an allergy, don’t rule out those that do. Do not take the statement “I am severely allergic to…” lightly by any means. These life-or-death scenarios are very much real, and they can come at any time, at any place, and from anything.

If you have a severe allergy, you will always fear the day that any of this could happen to you. Don’t be afraid to speak up and embrace that paranoia, no matter what the surroundings. Keep people around you that can help, and carry your emergency tactics (Benadryl, epi-pens, inhalers, etc.) with you at all times. You never know when the day may come that you find yourself in that resuscitation room, regretting having taken that “just this one time” risk. Prevent yourself from playing Russian Roulette with your life.

A Tribute To Nas’ Not-So-Secret Weapon, ‘It Was Written,’ 20 Years Later

20 years ago this week, one of the most unknowingly important days in hip hop shaped me into the rap nerd that I have become. July 2nd of this year marks the 20th anniversary since Nas’ sophomore studio album, It Was Written, was released to the public.

This particular anniversary is a bit more important to me as a fan than majority of the hip hop community celebrating the day of April 19, 1994.

Here’s why.

Although the Queensbridge MC has obtained countless accomplishments within his lengthy career since then, this particular project is arguably one of his most significant. Yes, today, Nas is now a two-decade veteran, and is still high in-demand amongst the rap community, but without some expertly calculated moves, impeccable bars, an eye for the truth, and room for growth, different beginnings could have solidified a shorter ending.

When the hip hop community discusses the “classic” category amongst album conversations, there’s almost no question that Illmatic will always be within that conversation. Nas’ debut held heavy power, stamping his place as one of the most impactful in the game as hip hop made its transition into the “golden era.” Releasing his first official project with no major features, the backing of a major record label, and some of the top producers in the game, it was the perfect alley-oop to let a young Nasir Jones take the rap baton and run ahead of the game.

But after providing such an explosive entrance into the mainstream hip hop spotlight, the doubts started coming in strong, and frankly, as expected. The questions are still raised today for those who push out magnificent debuts: How will they keep this dominant reign up? Is there room or time to grow before attention spans fade? Is this already the peak? Back in 1995, the year following his Illmatic release, these run-on whispers circled Nas’ name amongst rap fans all over.

The room for substantial growth introduced itself politely to Nas, and he wasn’t shy of diving deep into it face first. Fans were already well aware of the extraordinary wordplay Nas was capable of, but this sophomore release saw a significant upgrade. With lines such as, “Diamonds I flaunt ‘em. Chickenheads flock, I lace ‘em, fried, broiled with basil, taste ‘em. Crack they legs way out of formation. It’s horizontal how I have ‘em,” off of “The Message,” fans were re-introduced to a newly advanced quick-witted MC.

It even saw the birth and peak of The Firm, with Foxy Brown, AZ, and Cormega dispensing some of their best bars on the infamous collaboration, “Affirmative Action.”

His picture-painting skills remained in tact as well, as he continued on with his gritty New York street tales that were displayed on Illmatic. Tracks like “I Gave You Power” and “The Set Up” told some cringe-worthy stories that flaunted Nas’ gift for detail. “Beat up and battered, they pull me out. I watch as ni**as scattered, making me kill, but what I feel ain’t never mattered,” Nas rhymed with a tone of wince on “I Gave You Power.” The entire project takes on a consistent flow that brings light to hustling through a broken system that is still relevant amongst society today.

Although the album is deeply appreciated by loyal Nas admirers, it still doesn’t see a proper positioning within rap conversations of the present. When the hip hop community pulls the rapper’s name into the classic albums conversation, it’s inevitable that all signs point to Illmatic for majority involvement of his royal status. However, It Was Written can easily be argued as his best work, along with being validation of his higher pedestal in the rap game. It’s no easy feat to release a solid debut album that makes the history books, but annihilating the sophomore slump is an even larger triumph.

In the words of Mr. Jones himself, “There’s one life, one love, so there can only be one King.”

This anniversary may not be viewed to be as worthy of a dedication to this body of work such as the 20-year marks of an Illmatic, or even a Reasonable Doubt, or the launch of Bad Boy Records, but it’s still worthy of a celebration. Nas came, saw, conquered, and was able to do it all over again a second time around after one of the greatest debuts in hip hop history. His growing style, caidence, wordplay, and story-telling ability helped set the tone for rap over the next decade. It’s time for hip hop to rip the band-aid off and recognize the mark that was made from Nas’ second studio project.

So, I raise you one question rap stans. At the 20-year-mark, can we finally include It Was Written into the classic mainstream rap albums conversation?

Nas It was Written Tribute
Source: Columbia Records

Gabrielle Ross Is The Anti-Bullying Advocate That Sings To Your Soul

If there’s one aspect of appreciation that can be taken from our lives each day, it’s definitely the different interactions we have amongst each other. Whether it be a lesson about others, ourselves, or just a piece of positivity, so much can be learned when we come across familiar faces, or connect with new souls.

This month, I had the pleasure of being introduced to the lovely Gabrielle Ross, who is a beautiful talent straight out of New York that has a voice with a purpose. With an extra bright smile, some colorful locks, mixed with a soothing tone in her voice, I instantly felt the light beaming from Gabrielle the second she greeted me. Fortunately, I soon learned over our intimate dinner that her heart and mindset were just as genuine and alluring as she initially appeared.

On the heels of releasing her latest record, “MCM,” which sees a feature from Jeremih, the young songstress is eager to take on 2016 with a full force, as she’s been hitting the studio to gear up her Things Are Gonna Change EP. While she’s hustling up a storm in the music game, Gabrielle also seeks to use her evolving platform to speak out on issues that get swept under the rug. The singer not only wants to help people embrace who they are to the fullest with her #beYOUtiful campaign, but she’s even an advocate for anti-bullying.

It’s not often one comes across authenticity within beautiful souls of the industry, but Gabrielle is one that will be a pleasure for everyone to connect with. Get to know her, her purpose, and what’s coming up for her in our exclusive conversation below.

Lindsey India: How did you get into music and performing? What made you want to pursue it more heavily?

Gabrielle Ross: I got picked on a lot, and it took me a long time to be really comfortable in my skin. I had a great family, no matter how many times I came home crying when people were being mean to me in school. My mom was always my best friend. Both of my parents were great. Music was like my therapy, and I really started writing when I was 14 years old. I was very insecure as a little girl, so I started acting. My mom thought that being on stage was either going to make me comfortable and help me break me out of my shell, or just make me really uncomfortable. It turned out that it was immediately where I felt the most comfortable in the whole world, and I just knew that second that I wanted to be on stage.

Lindsey India: What was your first experience on stage like?

Gabrielle Ross: I guess it was acting. My first big lead role came when I was 11 years old, where I played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. That was when my dad realized I could sing, even though my mom had always told him. When I was 6 years old, I asked my mom for singing lessons. Finally, when my dad saw me, I opened the show with “Over The Rainbow,” and he was blown away. I actually did that show again when I was 13, and there was a live Toto dog. They even had to train the dog.

Lindsey India: Who are some of your biggest influences in both music and your life in general?

Gabrielle Ross: I grew up listening to Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, as well as going through my Spice Girls and *NSYNC era [laughs]. My dad’s drive, work ethic, and persistence really inspired me, especially because he never gives up. I always admire that so much, which is why I work so hard. My mom is the kindest, most understanding human being in the whole world. The two of them mushed together are who I want to be when I grow up. They’re the best.

Lindsey India: Let’s talk about your record, “MCM.” The concept is obviously from the social media hashtag, #ManCrushMonday, but where did that evolve from to inspire you to make a song?

Gabrielle Ross: It was the result of a really fun [studio] session. A lot of my music is actually really deep and personal, and the messages are really strong. That time, I was just in the studio with Young Boys, who produced the record, when they started the track. I thought it was so fun, so I decided to get on it. I texted my manager and told them how much I loved it, and we started writing it. As I was going through it, I decided that the hook needed a hashtag theme to it, but I just couldn’t think of anything right away. Once we got back in the studio, I was going through Instagram with one of the writers, and she suggested I use #ManCrushMonday, but make it every day of the week, like your #ManCrushEveryday. We were in the studio really late at BMG, and no one was there, so of course we were just dancing around to it. It was really fun. I had a second verse for the song, so we started sending it out, and it ended up getting into the hands of Jeremih, who really loved it. It kind of just all happened. A few weeks later, we were both in L.A., doing studio sessions. I sort of went and crashed his session, and stopped what he was doing, so we had him lay his verse down. It really just fell into place, and a few weeks later we finally shot the video. The feedback has been amazing, and nothing but positive.

Lindsey India: You just finished doing an overseas tour, and as you said, you love being stage more than anything. What was your favorite stop and why?

Gabrielle Ross: My favorite and least favorite stop was Paris because of a funny story. All of my stuff got stolen out of the van we had, which had my suitcase with all of my show clothes, and performance material. It kind of put a damper on Paris for me, but the title of my EP coming out in maybe a month or so is Things Are Gonna Change, with one of the tracks [having the same name]. I actually recorded it the day of the Paris attacks last year, so I was excited to perform that song in Paris. They were so receptive to it, and I even gave a heartfelt speech about the situation that they showed so much love to. The show just went amazingly, which fixed my mood in Paris instantly. It was really special. All of the shows were great, honestly, but that was the most special moment.

Lindsey India: It sounds like adapting is a big theme in your life, especially with the name of your upcoming EP. How do you feel about the concept of adapting in your life?

Gabrielle Ross: I think, as an artist with this dream that I’ve had since I was practically born, life is just so unpredictable. Everything is so unpredictable. The grind is just non-stop. I think a lot of people see an artist when they finally make it, like a Lady Gaga, or Katy Perry, and think that they release a new song that’s brand new. They don’t realize that sometimes a song can take years and years of work. It’s definitely a grind. You have to kind of be ready for anything to happen at any moment. Being that I’ve been performing since I was so young, you learn to just adapt to all kinds of scenarios that can change in seconds. That’s a big part of my message.

Lindsey India: What about adapting and your message has inspired your EP?

Gabrielle Ross: When I started this EP, I was in a really bad place, which was due to a pretty unhealthy relationship. We all learn from those, and I think we all have one of those relationships where we learn what we stand for and what we won’t stand for again. I was able to come out of it and realize that it was awful, but everything happens for a reason. You might not understand what it is in the moment, but it really helped me transition into a brand new place in my life. It really put me in such a positive place, so I was able to appreciate the bad and learn not to worry as much. I feel like worrying is a complete waste of time. Whatever is meant to be is going to be. God has his plans for everybody, and worrying is an unpleasant way of getting there. I’m very big on being positive.

Lindsey India: I know that anti-bullying is a big part of your message as well. What would you hope to see as far as progressing techniques to help prevent bullying?

Gabrielle Ross: Every show I do, I always tell my fans to come over to me afterwards and talk to me, or even write to me. I even still have so many that write to me all the time, and I respond as much as I can. I feel like the world kind of needs someone like me, or someone like me with a voice to influence young kids and be a good role model that can inspire people to be kind instead of crazy, negative, or mean. You hear of a lot of music that is kind of not the most positive message. I also have songs that I write when I’m sad that aren’t the most positive, but I would like to be a voice to help people get through those tougher times. I’ve seen people unfortunately take their lives due to bullying, and I know if I didn’t have music to get me through my situation, I wouldn’t be the person that I am now. It’s terrible, especially with social media and all of that. It’s harder to control. I feel like if there were more people with a big platform that spoke about it, and brought attention to it, the better it would be.

Lindsey India: How do you stay true to yourself, especially in the music industry?

Gabrielle Ross: I really think it was from my upbringing, and being bullied. I grew up in a neighborhood where the girls would all make friends with each other because they had the same pocketbook. My mom would said, “You’re in 4th grade. I’m not buying you that pocketbook. That’s crazy. You’re not going to make friends off of a pocketbook. You’re going to make friends because they’re really your friends.” At the time, maybe I didn’t understand it, but now I get it. I learned what was important to me and in a friend. I think her bringing me up that way really stationed me at a young age. I found my friends in theater class, music camp, or through music in general. That helped me get through it to. When people are bullied, they feel very alone at the time, and there are so many people that do feel the same way they do. You sort of just have to find them. It’s unfortunate that a lot of people don’t have that support. Thank God I had my mom and my dad to tell me that when I came home crying. I would love to be that person to someone.

Gabrielle Ross Interview

What’s On The Other Side of Your ‘Fear’?

Lindsey India note: AJ Watkins is an incredible soul from Virginia who I connected with on social media this past year, and has become a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me. He uses his presence on Twitter, and Instagram, and his Youtube page to help instill positive and motivational thoughts into others, and it has been so refreshing to come across someone who wakes up every day with an enlightened message to spread. I reached out to AJ to see if he could grace some of his amazing vibes onto my site, and not only did he carry through in a piece, but he provided one of his motivational videos as well, that I’m sure you all will find lifts your spirits and spits you out of any darkness you have. From here, I hand over the pen and microphone to AJ. 

2015 was the most challenging year of my adult life. I was between jobs, my marriage was shaky, and I was depressed.

Little did I know, 2015 would also be the year that I would have a personal breakthrough. By tapping into my God-given abilities, I helped build my marriage back up, got back to making money, and found the inner happiness that was always there.

Today I want to share with you what I believe to be on the other side of our fears. I’m a guy that’s made it through some storms, and want to share the wisdom I’ve gained with the hope that it helps you.

Please share this video if it helps you in anyway, and be sure to share any stories you may have of your own breakthroughs.

Follow AJ on social media:




Unfinished Ramblings: How Hip Hop Actually Really But Seriously Saved My Life

I know what you’re probably thinking by the title. This is the story of another human being finding the light at the end of their depression tunnel through music, and being “brave enough” to write about it.

Well, it is, but it also isn’t. This article is going to go up unfinished, just like my story is. All I can promise is that I won’t claim to love music any more than you (You know that kind of person I’m talking about). I can explain.

My name is Lindsey, and I suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Firstly, why does that seem like the most unsettlingly fitting way to describe myself within society? Because society has categorized us this way, by our mental state, without even flinching for a second. I once heard that the best way to describe having anxiety is to tell someone to imagine that every small decision they make has life or death consequences. This could not create a better image of the clutterfuck that is my emotions on a daily basis in any aspect. On the surface, and underneath, I’ve suffered from anxiety practically my whole life, having heard “Stop worrying” every single day, but it wasn’t until just about 7 years ago that I actually took some sort of control of it.

Of course, this may seem like the ordinary story of a person coming to a self-realization with a borderline mental illness. This may be what you read every other day in most health magazines or throughout those spontaneous mental health op-eds, but my story isn’t one of just learning to overcome it or defeat it. In fact, I would say that there is no solution to my problem, but rather how I learned to stop looking at it LIKE it was a problem. It’s still here, however, and kicking my ass unapologetically. My “success” story took years of denial, self-abuse, nearly 10 misdiagnosis cases, and 40 different kinds of wrong medications, leading to three cases of actually trying to take my life. Some of that came even after I accepted what my mind’s fate was.

When people say it’s a battle, those who do not suffer anxiety disorders don’t even know the half of what comes with that. They don’t know that just waking up and opening our eyes can be terrifying. Walking out of our doors every day and seeing someone we’re not fully comfortable with can build the adrenaline of watching a horror movie. Even sending the slightest risky text message here and there can make our hearts pound just as hard as bungee jumping off of a bridge. Portraying any type of confidence can be the most unnatural and uncomfortable situation we put ourselves in.

Anxiety doesn’t become important to your life until you are forced to have that open and honest conversation with yourself. “Okay, so what the fuck are we really doing here with this mind of yours, miss?” is probably something I’ve asked myself twice a day since I was maybe a sophomore in high school. I was in my first true state of confusion in all components of my life. It’s hard to admit these issues to yourself, or anyone who may be able to help, as even the slightest disorder can be treated like a legitimate disability in the world around us. That’s what hinders so many people from accepting themselves, seeking help, and learning to cope.

For me, the solution was actually right under my nose, and had actually been helping me deal with my day-to-day before I even knew it was there to do so. Yes, hip hop saved my life, and countless times for that matter, but to me, it didn’t become my therapy or escape until I was deep in debt with my depression. As a former dancer, I had a producer’s ear, rather than an MC’s when I started listening to the greatness at around 10-11 years old, and would constantly be checking for the beats to fit my mind’s scattered choreography in the years following. Eventually, I gave up my love for dancing professionally sometime after high school, and found myself drowning in my own thoughts. The distraction was long gone by that point, and the anxiety was coming on like a tidal wave after facing many unexpected downfalls in my life.

That’s where hip hop came in to give me a fair rescue. I always felt like something in my breath deeply breathed my love and admiration for the culture and sound, but I didn’t feel that I would fit in very smoothly. Being a small town girl from Connecticut, I was used to being inside of an ignorant and naive bubble, but something never felt right about being there. It wasn’t that I could so much relate to the likes of a Nas, a Biggie, a duo like Outkast, or even an LL Cool J, as I lived a nearly opposite life growing up, but something about their hunger to escape into bigger and better things went straight into my ears, and sank deeply into my veins. It pressed a button in me that said something wasn’t right about where I was, who I was around on a daily basis in that town, and the life I would be living if I attempted to stay.

Even just particular projects single-handedly shaped me into being able to accept my anxiety and depression over the years. When I say an album like God’s Sois extremely meaningful for me, it’s hard for people to understand why, and that’s perfectly fine. I don’t expect them to comprehend why I stay stuck on one of Nas’ more lackluster projects in comparison to his best works. To me, I felt every aspect of the darkness spit on that album, and it resonated so highly with my own. Even Common’s Be helped me to feel like my emotional roller coasters, and desire to find authenticity in people, was more of a normalcy for a human being than the pretentious and judgmental tone that swept through my hometown. I came to my own zen, one way or another, thanks to one of the most criticized cultures in society.

If hip hop had never touched my ears, and brushed so hard against my soul, I probably wouldn’t be here today, let alone even writing this. While not everyone is going to be a fan of me wanting to be part of the culture, or contributing to it, going after my vision to do so has done more for my life than anything else can. I would have been nothing, and I mean seriously nothing, without it, and it’s unbelievable to me that I can even just be part of conversations about it, let alone helping to spark some. Hip hop culture truly is one of the most special aspects of society, and if you get a chance to be part of it, make sure you go ahead and let it change your life graciously.

I know, I know. I’ve been mostly rambling, but this piece will remain unfinished as most of my rants tend to, and I hope it opens some hearts up. My battle with anxiety is never over, and it’s not something that will be “defeated” at any point, but it’s one of the many intricate pieces that impacts my every move.

This is the introduction to diving into my mind. Thank you, hip hop. Genuinely.

-Lindsey India

Currently In The Afterlife: Nas Responded To My Rick Ross Exclusive

In the last week, I’m pretty sure the Hip Hop Gods have been watching over me, and have been hearing some of my prayers.

As some might know, my first piece on this site was an exclusive with Rick Ross, himself, where I asked him about his thoughts on possibly executive-producing a Nas album in the future. Just a day later, it was picked up by multiple outlets such as HipHopDX, The Boombox, BETAllHipHop, and a few others as well. I have been grinning from ear-to-ear since, as I watched the support flood in more than I ever could have imagined, and I was stunned to see the conversation it sparked on Twitter.

Obviously, I cant take credit for this conversation. It’s been a topic of discussion for some years now amongst hip hop fans, and even influencers have brought up the concept. Fortunately for myself, however, I happened to be the at the right place at the right time, and got my shot in to ask Rozay the big question once and for all.

Even though I pitched the question in a “would you or would you not” format to Ross, many speculated that he had agreed to executive produce it, or was already in the works of doing so. As exciting as that would be, that unfortunately was not the case based on Rozay’s actual words.

Complex took the initiative as they met up with Nas at his Los Angeles event in correlation with the new Ghostbusters movie, and actually asked him about the “rumors circulating” that Ross was executive producing his album. Of course, as expected, Nas shot those speculations down, however, his answer following definitely had me jumping through my ceiling. So, what exactly did he think of Rick Ross potentially executive producing one of his future projects?


Let’s just say that I am in the afterlife. Whether my name was mentioned or not, I’m grateful to Pierce Simmons for bringing the topic up during his interview (which was actually an excellent Nas interview overall, by the way). Hopefully this stays on Nas’ holy mind, and he seriously considers fulfilling a lot of fans’ wishes sometime down the line. I know I’ll be first in line for a copy.

Be sure to watch Nas’ interview with Complex below where he answers the big question around the 2-minute mark.

One Year, No Answers: Chinx Remains Another Rap Phenomenon Gone Too Soon

Today officially marks the one-year mark after the tragic murder of Queens rapper Lionel “Chinx” Pickens, and we are still mourning his loss. Chinx brought a unique element to the game, delivering that New York style, and being able to adapt to any type of sound in hip hop. Coming up under Stack Bundles, and being a member of the Riot Squad, Chinx has always had a major influence in the New York rap scene, and was mentored by one of the greatest lyricists to come out of Queens.

Horribly enough, a very similar tragedy happened to his friend, Stack, who was also murdered in Queens nearly nine years ago on June 11, 2007, right in his community. It leaves a very eery feeling on loved ones and fans to know that these two, who grew up together, and made music in the game for years, had both experienced very similar deaths in their own communities. To this day, both of their murders are still unsolved and it still makes us ask the unsettling question: why?

There has been a common theme of high profile rappers being unfortunately gunned down without a clear explanation as to why for almost two decades, according to authorities. With the previous passings of rap icons, The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the 90’s, not only has the hip-hop community taken a big loss in losing such raw, innovative talent, but it’s even impacted the world.

Their music has been timeless and is still being played across the globe to this day, as they are arguably still considered two of the greatest lyricists of all-time. 20 years into the aftermath, there are still multiple conspiracies as to who killed B.I.G. and ‘Pac, and why it happened, but there still has not been clear-cut evidence to definitively say who carried out these killings, or why they happened.


The common element that all of these rappers share is that they were taken away while they were at the pinnacle of their respected careers. Biggie was in Los Angeles to promote his new album, Life After Death, all while being on top of the rap world with his new hit single, “Hypnotize” at the time. On March 9, 1997, Christopher Wallace was gunned down in his SUV, and was pronounced dead shortly after. Tupac Shakur was in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996, and was fatally shot outside of the MGM Grand hotel after leaving the Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson fight.

Fast forward to just last year, Lionel “Chinx” Pickens was fresh off of performing at Club Red Wolf in Brooklyn, New York, and while returning to his home in Queens, a sudden drive-by shooting took his life. Yet again, the trend of hip hop stars losing their lives to foul violence without any authentic answers remains the same, even if the sound around these tragedies evolves.

On a personal note, Chinx was a friend, who always showed love, and was one of the most humble people I have ever met. We first met backstage in Connecticut at a concert ,and developed a friendship that I will never take for granted. I saw him across clubs and venues all throughout Connecticut, and New York, and during the times we crossed paths, it was always genuine.

Being on stage and seeing the impact he made on people’s lives, and seeing what his music meant to them, showed me what type of artist he was, and the potential of his stardom. Having that co-sign from the great Stack Bundles, and being under French Montana, and the Coke Boys, Chinx had a platform to expose his talent and take it to new heights. Seeing his growth as an artist and the type of records he was producing made me realize that he was a star.

From his mixtapes early on with Big Mike and ITSBIZKIT, Chinx displayed that he could make a significant mark on the hip-hop community, and proved that his legacy wasn’t going anywhere. With features from Jadakiss, to Rick Ross, and even to Future, Chinx was at the peak of his career in the midst of his passing, and was surely going to be recognized worldwide for his story and message.

Following his passing, his debut album, Welcome To JFK was released on August 14, 2015 and featured his breakthrough single, “On Your Body” featuring Meet Sims. The highly anticipated album also includes appearances from French Montana, Nipsey Hussle, Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremih plus more. To add to his legacy, we’ve now found out that Chinx will have some new music released off his upcoming sophomore album, Legends Never Die, releasing later this year. You can now pre-order the album on iTunes.

We have lost not only a great artist, but a great person, and someone who showed love to anyone. His legacy will forever live through his music and hip hop should never forget him.




Exclusive: Would Rick Ross Executive Produce A Nas Album?

If you have had a 5-minute conversation with me at any point in life, then there is a very high chance that you were made aware of my admiration for Nas. The Queens MC, or God’s Son, as I rightfully address his presence as, has had a major impact on my life, being that his music has lifted me out of some incredibly dark periods.

With that said, I am more than anticipating an upcoming project from Mr. Jones, and I’m literally sitting at my desk on the daily, awaiting any type of updates on this next album that he’s been teasing. This summer will make it four years since his last album, Life Is Good, graced the music game, and with him making huge strides after taking on Mass Appeal, I’m counting down the days. Unfortunately, his next studio album will not be a Def Jam release, but that opens the floodgates for many opportunities so he can properly bless us with a new calibration of sound.

It’s no secret that Nas critics have a history of disagreeing with his production selections on his projects in the past, as he is an MC that keeps the focus targeted towards the skill he is best known for: his wordplay. No, Nas is not the same rapper with the same mindset from his Illmatic debut days, and we shouldn’t expect him to be 20 years later, but there is one person who has helped him fit quite handsomely into today’s sound.

Rick Ross has teamed up with Nas on multiple collaborations, including the God Forgives, I Don’t banger, “Triple Beam Dreams,” the MMG compilation record, “This Thing Of Ours,” as well as the underrated “One Of Us” track from Ross’ recent Black Market release. There’s an evident spark that Ross brings out of Nas when they come together, and their chemistry results in some serious bangers that hip hop ears simply can’t deny.

While attending the Wingstop event in New York City this week, held at Extra Butter on the Lower East Side, I had to take advantage of being able to talk to the boss. On top of learning about their amazing scholarship program, I was able to speak with Rozay for a couple of minutes about this very burning question I’ve had for the past 3-4 years. So, would Rick Ross executive produce a Nas album?

You know, Nas is so great as an MC. He’s a legend. So I wouldn’t even play with that, because of course you know Rozay will f**king do it! You know I would love to do it, but more importantly, the way Nas moves is so calculated. I feel like everything he does is perfect timing. He’s a legend, and I would love to. You know it’s whatever for the big homie.

There you have it. Ross is just as with it as much as I would have hoped he’d be. So now, Nasir and Rozay just need to get on Facetime soon and schedule these studio sessions out before fans lose it. The #NasHive is impatiently waiting to lay down the red carpet again.

How would you feel if Ross took productive control of Nas’ next album? Sound off your thoughts at me on Twitter.

Lindsey India