Our mother once told us that whenever she went to the coast during life's crossroads, she felt closer to God. That's because people often take their problems to the coast, because whether they are conscious of it or not, they feel they are at the gateway to heaven, and go to the water to find strength and answers. They meditate, cry over life's tragedies, laugh at its best moments, get lost, get found, stumble upon new hope and inspiration, and search for the inner peace we chase our entire lives. It can be a sandy platform for the soul's revitalization. The coast can also be a dark place. It can be the entry way to something savage, like a hurricane, or death. Waves crashing, sand in your eyes, chilling gusts of wind and an endless dark sky that gives you infinite nothingness to comfort you...or not. Why are you getting so deep, Rocks Off? Take your lunch break in Galveston or go contribute to the 100th version ofChicken Soup for the Soul
. Well, we're not really talking about the beach. Actually, the references being made to the coast are really an analogy for the music of Coast, as in probably one of the most beloved and admired veterans of Houston's underground rap scene. If you're not a fan of rap, that's actually OK because Coast isn't a rapper, per se. If you've only gotten this far because our words made you smell the comfort of the sea, you might as well stay. After all, the coast is big enough in music and land mass that everyone can stand on it and enjoy its gifts to the mind, heart and soul. Trust us. As we wrote this blog with Coast blaring from our tiny Dell laptop speakers, a red-headed firecracker from Alabama passed by our offices and asked us, "Who is that? I like that. Do you?" We most certainly do. Let us tell you why. Rap, especially for those surviving the day-to-day grind from Second Ward to Aldine Mail Route to Sharpstown, is an escape to a world they aspire to live in, but don't at the time. When they listen to rap, their run-down ride might be a luxurious Cadillac sitting on four wheels of reflection that make the moon jealous. The flapping upholstery hanging down is really a flip-down TV screen that plays BET videos. Rap is a place where you can kill the people you hate and still live on without consequence - an isolated expression of anger in fantasy. Coast, on the other hand, is one of the few musicians on the Third Coast that can keep you in your element of despair, struggle or suffocating normalcy and still keep you inspired, still provoke thought, still give you the high other underground artists in the city provide when they are at their best, but talk about a life you may never lead. Coast can make you feel proud of your poverty if he wanted to. Surfing Coast's MySpace page, we found the perfect testament. A young man from Central Florida wrote (we had to hit the spell check on this comment for it to become readable):
"Damn dude...your music is...I really don't know how to explain it...it's like you can give a clearer view to someone who has a distorted vision of life using only your music... it's amazing that, not only a rapper, but any artist can do that. (Wrote this while listening to 'Still Walking.')"
That's funny. We wrote this blog listening to the same track.
"The other side of my heart is undeniably the side that I lost/ I can't pinpoint the problem but it's probably my fault/ I walk alone a lot/ Ain't decided should I go home or not/ I spend so much time out here you'd think I own the block... Love will make a man break down/ Last week they found somebody in the sand face down/ I got to thinking about my partna' Fat Bat and started to backtrack/ I wish I could've talked to him and told him to put the strap back/ Death is irreversible and to tell you something personal I don't think I'm doing what I'm put on this earth to do"
"Still Walking" is a reflection of Coast's innermost thoughts and conflicts, but he delivers it in a way that makes you feel like he's talking about your life, and that's where this one song can suck you into his ocean like a high tide. But in all honesty, identifying with your life isn't his intention. "I don't have a specific purpose [when I write a song]," Coast, whose performance on theNAWF II
mixtape pushed it into the top six of the decade, tells Rocks Off. "I don't go into it with the intention of doing a song that makes people feel a certain way. I'm in solitude and I'm just writing. I'm not worried about anything else in the world. I don't feel like 'Still Walking' resembles my whole body of work, but it does resemble how I feel on a day-to-day basis." In the days leading up to our chat with Coast, we thought, "Wow, this doesn't feel like rap. It feels like something else, but we don't know what." And then something weird happened while we talked to Coast. He shared the same sentiment. Coast doesn't want to be categorized as a rap artist or a Latin rap artist for that matter. And he's at a point in his career where the very thing that defines his existence, the thing that makes Coast who he is and how he's known, well, he doesn't know what that thing is anymore. "I don't know what music is anymore," says Coast. "We can listen to classical music and you have 150 people in an orchestra all playing in unison. I think of that and say 'damn, that's music.'" But is what hip-hop is producing right now considered music? Now that's a debate. Coast has an opinion of his own. "Synthesizers, drum loops... I don't think you can consider that music," says Coast. "Sure it's pressed up in CD format and you can listen to it and it's good for the soul, but is that music? Can you call it that? Can you compare it to Mozart? Can those two types of sounds sit next to each other and be called music? I'm saying that I want to explore and find what music is." There's really no need to explore. Look in the mirror, Coast. It's there.Follow Coast on MySpace and on Twitter. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Follow him on MySpace and on Twitter.