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CHLOE ROSE editor-in-chief



Towards the end of 2016 I decided that I wanted to create a platform for artists, musicians, writers, and creators to share their work which would overwise have not been shared. I wanted to create something to help young creators, the way working with a publication helped me blossom into a (almost) professional photographer. But after the recent election my motivation completly changed. I became more depressed and obsessed with “fixing� things i simply cannot fix by myself. While creating this zine it felt very self indulgent. Making something exactly the way i wanted it made me feel guilty. But as i am finishing this collaboration of artists i feel empowered. This zine is not only a cool collection of photos, stories, music, art but also a safe space for any contributer or reader to express themself and not be judged. Anything goes. With that being said I am very excited to share with you the first issue with the help of my friend, Daniel Howie, and support of my Brother Will Gerard. Enjoy. Chloe Rose

dance in the water and not get wet BY DANIEL HOWIE

Danny Brown gives us his most personal, experimental, and unstable album yet with Atrocity Exhibition. With every release, Detroit rapper Danny Brown pushes the boundaries of hip hop. His 2011 release XXX was one of the best projects that year and opened up the ears of listeners to a weird, dangerous, and wacked out world that Brown lived. Later, in 2013, he released Old which, while less experimental to my ears, continued to carve out a new and fresh sound, as if Brown was interpreting mainstream music in his own way. Both albums are filled with hilarious one liners about dark subjects like drug abuse, death, crime, and sex-all topics that Brown makes it clear he’s knowledgeable about- while still keeping a serious tone, especially on more subdued tracks where he discusses the same topics but with a feeling of regret, disappointment, and depression. His trademark voice, while occasional-

ly substituted for a more deep and straightforward tone, sounds distinctly frenzied, only emphasizing how different Brown is from his peers in the genre. While his voice initially turned me off to his music completely, once I learned to love it, Brown became one of my favorite rappers. Brown’s insane and everchanging beat selection combined with his ability to fit his voice with any sounds given allows him to play around with genre bending instrumentals in ways very few rappers can. While I enjoyed XXX and, to a slightly lesser extent, Old, neither are what I felt like from Danny Brown was totally capable of. They were both boundary pushing, creative, and refreshing, but it still felt like Danny had something more in him,


as if he was holding back this tsunami of off the wall sounds and bizarre wordplay. There were flashes of this in the beats and lyrics of both albums, and those flashes have become my favorite parts of those albums, but I still knew he was keeping something from us. In my opinion, Atrocity Exhibition is what he was keeping. In terms of experimentation, the previous two albums absolutely pale in comparison to this one. Where XXX and Old felt like a madman’s interpretation of mainstream hip-hop, Exhibition feels like a long fall into the darkness of that madman’s mind. Throughout the fifteen tracks, Brown creates an atmosphere of anxiety and insanity rarely seen in the genre. Most impressive, however, is that he’s able to create such a cohesive feeling throughout 45 minutes while still finding ways to change the sound from song to song, resulting in almost a full hour of

twists and turns. The first single released for the album was “When It Rain”, and as soon as it dropped I grabbed my headphones and gave it a listen. I loved it the second it started. The beat is one of the weirdest things I have ever heard, with this strange, sharp melody with all these bells and bizarre clangs in the background and a bassline that grows throughout the whole song until it comes to full volume for the last chorus. It feels like an anxiety attack slowly reaching its’ peak, and its incredible. The weird instruments in the beat make it feel off putting, but in a great way. Brown raps about angel dust, lead showers, having your grandmother get robbed and having your best friend get shot in the head-a very harsh reality to describe on the first single off an album. The way he talks about his hometown-De-

art from instagram user: @xdannyxbrownx

troit-and how “you don’t know that” about his city was a perfect first impression of the album to come. The beat is so weird in the way that his tone of voice is weird, and it just keeps growing and getting more intense. It’s emotionally exhausting, but in the way that made me want to just listen to it again and again. Then we got “Pneumonia”. The lyrics are Brown at his best, talking about sex, drugs, violence, and “making thirty bands in thirty minutes”, but at the same time filling it with his witty little one liners and rhymes. The song emphasizes his ability to talk about the dirtiest and nastiest things about his life while making it entertaining and goofy without detracting from the intensity of it. Again, it sounds like insanity, cracking jokes about serious things in his life that he has talked about being a problem in the past. In addition, Schoolboy Q has backup vocals and adlibs in the background, but not a verse or a feature on the track. It’s so creative and his little embellishments make the track for me. They almost sound like part of the beat rather than the vocals. Brown and producer Evian Christ-who had a hand in some production on Kanye’s Yeezus-were able to take a well-known rappers voice and still carve a place for it in the beat without sounding out of place. The beat itself has a similar feel to “When It Rain” with a repetitive melody, crazy bells and whistles in the back of the beat, and fantastic percussive builds throughout the verses. However, this one had a bit more of a solid bass, which made the beat bang from the start in a way that the first single did not. I loved this track too, and it got me even more hyped for the album. When I first heard the album dropped, I did the same thing as I did with “When It Rain”-grabbed my headphones

and listened, start to finish. It starts out perfectly with “Downward Spiral”, a song that sounds like falling through a rabbit hole except a hell of lot more frightening. There’s this thumpy beat from the start, sounds of crashes in the background, this melody that ebbs and flows, and almost punky guitars that just moan in the background. It genuinely sounds like a spiral down into the insane mind of Brown, and it’s a perfect opener. My favorite part about the track, however, is the reference it makes to XXX’s opener, which also includes a line about “that downward spiral”. It feels like an introduction to a more offbeat and progressive XXX, and it’s incredible. It feels like its hearkening back to what he’s done in the past while showing you what he really can do. From here on out, the album comes in waves. The next two songs, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” and “Rolling Stone” have similar vibes. If “Downward Spiral” was falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, these two are hitting the bottom and getting your bearings. Brown comes in with his more lowkey, deep voice on the former, and his signature yappy tone is nowhere to be found. Like other songs, there’s a simple yet eerie repeating melody, with the beat starting very minimally and growing with wilder percussion to complement the whistles. It’s a nice way to emphasize the start of the album, clearly anticipating a growing intensity. These two songs after the opener show that this album will have an arc. Brown’s rapping about the cycle of drug dealing and prison fits the mature and low tone of the beat well. “Rolling Stone” is similar, with a new set of weird percussion and a punky and sharp bassline repeating through-

out the beat. Petite Noir comes in for the hook, talking about how “in my mind I just feel so alone” and his desire to be released. Brown’s trademark voice is back, talking about happiness going upstream and how he has no soul. This song is a good introduction to the album’s themes of depression, something Brown has touched on before. However, it feels more personal and internal, as he raps about how he feels rather than what causes him to feel this way. As someone who has mental health issues, the line “Feeling like I’m not alive But I know I’m not dead” sticks out like a punch in the gut. This song puts the insanity off to the side and emphasizes the darker and more personal side of Brown, a perfect way to set up the rest of the album. Really Doe always felt like a commercial to me. It’s put in the middle of the album with the most prominent features, has a different beat feel (most of the album is produced by frequent producer Paul White, but this beat comes from Detroit producer Black Milk). That being said, it still feels spooky, but is unbelievably catchy. The constant line “I wish a motherfucker would” just gets stuck in your head, just like Kendrick’s hook delivery. Brown has a good verse to kick things off-props to him for taking that opening spot in a lineup of verses like this- using his wacky flow again. Ab-Soul comes with a great verse talking about Aleister Crowley, drugs, clothing brands, and dropping the album title. I’m a huge Kendrick Lamar fan, but I think his is the weak verse here. It’s great, but it sounds really familiar for him. I might feel this way, however, because of Earl Sweatshirt’s verse that closes the song off, which blows my mind every time I hear it. He sounds so angry, awake, and sharp, something that

hasn’t been extremely common for him. He takes the beat by the collar and dominates it, to the point where the beat just ends with his last word. It’s amazing and refreshing to hear from Earl, especially after the pit of depression that was his last album. This is when the album gets fucking weird. “Lost” is one of the best songs on here, both for the beat and verse. The beat takes a sample from Lena Lin’s “Flame of Love” and just repeats the same brief moments of vocal melodies. It sounds like an old fashioned hotel from the mid 1900’s, and hearkens back to the golden era of Hollywood, while still sounding crazy with additional sounds in the beat, like its’ dusty drums. To match this feel, Brown introduces his verses with “I’m like Kubrick with two bricks and hoes on the strip” and later “I’m like Spielberg with ill words and hoes on the curb”. The way he rides this bizarre beat is something I haven’t really heard before-it is pretty much the same throughout, but he’s still able to make a catchy hook that is clearly separate from the verses. It’s also short, and I love short songs. It’s an incredible lead up to my favorite song on the album. “Ain’t it Funny” is when you walk through the tunnel out of the rabbit hole and find a nightmare at the other end. I still can’t tell you how the fuck he raps over this beat so well, because it’s really not a hip hop beat. It’s this huge and anxiety-ridden wall of sound with a blaring noise in the back that sounds like a car horn. This beat would absolutely bury most rappers, but Brown still finds a way to take complete control over it. He’s rapping about the usual drugs and death, but the hook “Ain’t it funny

how it happens?” asks this sharp and sarcastic question about how hilarious these evil things are. It’s really a perfect description of his lyrical style- he’s contrasting all these horrible things with sarcasm and humor. It almost feels like a slap in the face to his listeners for finding his horrible stories entertaining. “Golddust” and “White Lines” also go hand in hand in my mind. “Golddust” feels like a grimy, lo-fi punk song, with angry guitars and sporadic drumming. Brown, once again, raps with a flow that makes absolutely no sense over a beat like this but still fits perfectly. One of my favorite elements of this song is that, rather than a lyrical chorus, the refrain of the song is a repetition of an escalating guitar melody until it breaks at the peak and falls back into Brown’s verses. “White Lines”, on the other hand, is all about Brown’s delivery. Once again we see dusty drums clanging in the back of the beat, but the real standout here is the melody. The beat, produced by The Alchemist, features this warped sample for a melody that sounds almost like a trippy orchestral lead. Instead of just letting that melody fall behind his rapping, Brown decides to match

his pitch and rhythm to the melody. I have no clue how he makes this sound so good. I can’t figure it out. This is probably one of my favorite flows on the album, just because of how genius and creative it is. Next we have “Pneumonia” and “Dance in the Water”. The first was a single which I discussed earlier, but the second damn well could have been. The sound of this song is still lo-fi and filled with weird percussion, but there’s this repetition of vocal chants in the beat that make the song sound tribal. The chorus takes this and ramps the whole thing up as Brown repeats “Dance in the water and not get wet, not get wet, not get wet”. This is my favorite lyric of the album, and I think it explains to the entire concept of the project versus the last two-more on that later. “From the Ground” is my least favorite song on the album. The song itself sounds like Brown is rapping in a dripping sewer, telling us about his personal thoughts, but the female vocals from Kelela ruin it for me. It makes the dirty tone of the album take a prettier de-

tour, which is the last thing I want after a song like “Dance in the Water”. That being said, one dud in 15 is fine with me, and I have no regrets about listening through this song to get to “When it Rain”. After “When it Rain” we have the final stretch with “Today”, “Get Hi”, and “Hell For It”. “Today” starts with these sharp and edgy guitars but then hops into a bouncy beat with a shaker in the background while Brown just yaps in here and there with another detached flow. This is the kind of song that you just nod your head to. The chorus is intense, repeating “you never never know when your time to go”. This lends a little to explaining why Brown lives the life he doesyou never know when you might go, so why not just do what you want? He’ll do whatever he wants, and no one can stop him. “Get Hi” is the haziest song of all of them, but I’m going to talk about a revelation that I got about Brown as a whole after listening to a review conversation of this album by Youtube reviewing group DeadEndHipHop. One of the members, Kinge, made a point during his analysis of this song bringing up jazz icons. Brown starts his verse with “I’m blowing on

some Miles, Something Kinda Blue”, and then references John Coltrane, Tommy Dorsey, and Dizzy Gillespie. Kinge connects these references and the wild, sporadic playing in jazz music to the style of rapping Brown is known for. Brown’s delivery is just as crazy and ever-changing as the instruments in jazz, and this approach to his music can flesh it out a lot more versus listening to him as just a rapper. Once I realized this, I went back and listened to the album again and caught plenty of moments that resembled jazz playing. It’s incredible, and gives an entire other way to view Danny Brown’s music. The last song, “Hell For It”, is a perfect way to end an album like this. Also cloudy like the previous song, the beat is much softer, led by a piano. It feels slightly peaceful, but still bubbles with something sinister at heart. The hook is so weird over the beat, with this strange underlying distortion added that spends the chorus wrestling with the peaceful sounds. The lyrics on this song are my favorite of the album and are, while still wild, are very emotional. Brown talks about going through

challenges in his life and bringing them to our ears with his music so we don’t have to experience them, giving another way to view this album-as a cautionary tale from a damaged man warning us not to follow in his footsteps. The final line of the last verse is oddly beautiful, as Brown states “These songs that I write leave behind my legacy.” This gives me intense hope for the future of his career following this album. He seems like he’s grown into the artist he wants to be, and it’s evident he isn’t done leaving us something to remember him by. I could talk about Atrocity Exhibition for hours, but if I had to explain it briefly, I would say two words-fucking wild. I have not heard an album this creative and experimental in this genre in a long time. This is what I always wanted from Danny, and I still haven’t got bored of it. It sounds just as fresh as it did the first listen, and each subsequent one gives me just a little more to catch. There are things I talked about in this article that I didn’t catch until I listened again for this write up. It almost feels like a good book- there’s always something intriguing, and you never know what you’ll find when you experience it with a different mindset. Back to “Dance in the Water” and my interpretation of the album’s concept. Brown’s previous projects have featured very obvious personal tracks about serious troubles and issues that he deals with, which stand out even more next to crazy, drug-fueled wailing. This album, however, is devoid of songs like these. Yes, he talks about personal issues, and yes, there are quieter songs, but they still all feel crazy and weird and they fit together in a way that the previous songs did not. I’m sure there are lots of reasons

for this ramped up creativity-maybe it has to do with Paul White’s hand in almost all of the production, or Brown’s signing to Warp Records, or even the title’s obvious reference to the Joy Division song of the same name-but I think there’s something more personal to it. The line “Dance in the water and not get wet” is similar to the concept of “playing with fire”, and I think that’s what Danny Brown is doing. He’s trying to do all these drugs and live this vicious lifestyle-dancing in the water- while avoiding any consequences-not getting wet. Maybe he’s trying to tell us that he’s decided to just live life recklessly and release any problems while embracing mental health issues. Maybe its all a façade, trying to portray a more crazy version of himself. The title, Atrocity Exhibition, also agrees with this message. We hear about all these atrocities that have happened as a result of his lifestyle, and the beats make us feel it deep down, but it’s still an exhibition-a show, something we can’t relate to the way he does. Maybe we’re the ones that want to listen to this album and dance in the waters of insanity that Brown does, without getting wet. That’s what I like to think, and that’s why Danny Brown isn’t just one of my favorite rappers anymore: he’s one of my favorite artists. ■


Soon. The mush of apples Sweetens the dirt and the grass Dinner is ready. Peeling as skin does Falling to the earth; it’s done. A girl dressed in black. Sheer curtains carry The weight of my mother’s heart Good china is cracked. Eating like the Earth During her first wet snow fall Wool socks and wool hats.



[this is a blank page]

My Stage


Maybe you’re like me and need a schedule. Maybe you’re more of a free spirit. Maybe you can’t do the same thing for too long like I did. Since I was four years old I trained in the art of classical ballet, and, once I was ten years old, that meant spending every weekend at the studio and roughly 15 hours at the studio during the week. Talk about doing the same thing for a long time: the repetition didn’t end there. A Monday at the studio was almost the exact same as a Thursday at the studio when it comes to play by play, sometimes even down to what happens every five minutes. What I did at 5:05pm was the same five days a week. The strict regulation and high expectations didn’t stop at the perfect attendance-they came into the matter of fitness, too. Ballet is a visual art, which meant that physical ability and appearance was constantly critiqued. Monday-Saturday. Every day I would stand and dance in front of a mirror and ask myself “What can I do to make myself better?”. There was barely any spare time and the little free time I got was generally devoted to sleep-at least in my experience. During my time in high school, schoolwork was the least of my worries. I rarely studied and most of the work done outside of the school building was simply to complete an assignment, not necessarily to get a better score than everyone else. In my world, practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes you better. Not perfect, only better, because everyone could improve.

Needless to say college was a major change for me as it is for most people, but the change in the repetition that I was used to made it a whole new monster to tackle. A monster who’s attacks proved to be unpredictable, deadly, and always ready to make a move just when you thought you had a handle on things. Countless alumnae from my high school tried to tell me what to expect out of it all, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the fun, crazy, chaotic, and challenging experiences I would find myself in throughout the last several months. Change is good. It pushes you out of your comfort zone. Something I didn’t expect to find my-

self thinking, however, was that this change may push me somewhere I don’t want to be. I have always been open to change and the opportunities it may bring but I never considered the possibility that I may end up somewhere without choosing to be there. I started to miss the repetitive daily activity and daily critique (as sadistic and bizarre as it may seem, I was trained to only look at the positives that came from it). Time passed. I gained 25 pounds. This isn’t much on a scale but physically and mentally I was a different person. Not only did I gain fat but I lost muscle. I didn’t look the same and after being critiqued every day I felt like the way I looked wasn’t only a different version of myself but the wrong version of myself. There came a time when I stopped “colleging” if I were to really sum it up, and started to look around at where I ended up. Whether I chose to be there or not, I addressed my current situation, the monster in front of me. It was not pretty, and there were definitely tears. I hated to think that during this period of change in my life, I may have lost a bit of time that could’ve been used different-

ly. I may have lost time where I could’ve gotten back into shape, studied more, or just gotten my shit together. I am still the same person that I was months ago even though I may look different. I still like to dance even though my tendons don’t put up with it as well. College was a good and necessary change for me. I have met new, amazing people who, as cheesy as it sounds, I can’t see myself living without. Walking away from my passion and craft was one of the most challenging things that I’ve had to do. I miss it, a lot, even when it was hard, even when it hurt, and even when I thought I couldn’t achieve what I dreamed of achieving. Sometimes I wish I still had that one thing to keep getting better at, where it’s easy to see progress, and easy to forget the hardships you’re facing in life outside the studio walls. Of course, I still have classes to get better at, and all the other elements of college that need improvement, and there are many. However, I miss having something concrete that I do, every day, routinely. Somewhere where it is okay to mess up because at least you


put yourself out there. Losing that root has been a strange thing to experience, but I’m learning. It’s still okay to mess up but now my falls hold more weight, and it hurts a little more than it used to. I’m finding other things to love and do, and I’m finding out new things about myself each day. The way I look only matters to me, so as long as I like me, I’m okay. I make a difference because I make choices, and those choices also impact those around me whether I realize it or not. So make an effort to choose where you are and don’t just get caught up in the traffic of your social life. It hasn’t been long, and there’s work to do, but I’m up for the challenge and ready to take down the next monster that comes my way, and hopefully I’ll be more prepared. I still perform, but not on a stage. I still want to express who I am and want the world to see the passion behind my actions, the only difference is my stage. I’m finding out who I am without my art, and while practicing that might not end in perfection, I know it will end in being better, and that’s all I can ask. ■



unapologetically pop musican. tara terra’s frontwoman. sharpie artist. tattoo collector. shades of blue lover. survior.

1. what inspires you to create? That’s a really tough one-everything inspires me. My surroundings, relationships, observations, or difficult questions about life. I sometimes start writing a song in a state of emotion that I don’t understand, and the process of writing allows me to explore those emotions. Writing is a great way for me to gain clarity about myself, and how I view the world.

2. who are some artists that have influenced your music style?

have influenced your music style I love strange but infectious artists like Regina Spektor, FKA Twigs. Recently I’m getting more deep into Bon Iver for the more heart-wrenching songwriting. I also am super late to the game with Bjork but she’s a fascinating personality, performer, and writer. I want to borrow her energy.

3. what message do you want to spread with your music + your art? I want to send a few different messages, but the primary one is probably the importance of empathy. In our daily lives as individuals, as well as on the broader cultural scale, empathy encourages people to understand

one another and work through conflict. I believe it is the most effective tool in the fight for equal rights all across the globe, and so with my music I aim to get people to relate to the many complex feelings in human experience.

4. your recent album, another angry woman, deals with topics that people often avoid speaking about. how has this influenced how you created the album? Well, it was really difficult. The whole process from the writing, gaining press, and filming videos made me feel extremely vulnerable. But that vulnerability is exactly why this record is important--

I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of who I am as a survivor, as a woman. I shouldn’t have to hide my trauma because the culture I live in dismisses it. I want my message to be so bold and so loud that sexually violent people are the ones who feel ashamed, where the roles are reversed. This record showed me the significance of my own story and how I could use it to shape others’ understanding.

Your heartbeat is The beat of a drum With every step you take, You know it grows louder Your heartbeat is The beat of a drum Turn your walk into running

your heartbeat is // emily blue

photo by kelsey greene

5. Were there any tracks that were particularly hard for you to create? Absolutely. “Boys” is sometimes nearly impossible for me to make through. I enter a space in my head where I relive trauma but also worry about criticism coming my way. I’ve learned that not everyone will understand. But you know what, that’s okay, because so many other people do understand. Women, men, any human survivor of sexual

6. Do you have a favorite song on the album? My favorite is “Lavender”. It’s about my friends, my mom, women in general. It makes me smile and cry when I play it. I am so lucky and so proud to have the community that I do.

7. what is R.A.C.E.S.? RACES stands for Rape Advocacy

counseling and education services. It’s a vital resource at UIUC and in CU in general. They were defunded by the state, so my record’s profits will go to the organization until the end of time.

8. any upcoming projects you wanna promote? Yes- My band Tara Terra will be

releasing our record 2017!! We are coming up with a name as we speak. Stay tuned. .

9. where can we find you? Facebook: emily blue Insta: @emilybluemusic iTunes, spotify, and ART BY KATIE TABELING

After the End. We sprawl on the tarmac, still as cooled oil in a pan. You exhale frost and sunlight, inhale gasoline and newness. I hold a plum in my chafed hand, wondering at the small eddies of crystals marking its skin – and I ask you to peel it. It is the last of its kind, still unfluorescent, still soft, still –



A (Not So) Brief & (Extremely) Self-Indulgent Timeline of My Writing/Musical Journey as Told Through Fall Out Boy’s Major Full-Length Release Schedule we’d be soon move into a posh new BY NISHAT AHMED

2001 – The Demo I did not grow up in a house where music was constantly playing, nor were there paintings hung corner to corner. I grew up in the quiet neighborhood of Plainfield, Illinois—a suburb where not much really happened from what I recall—with an unused golf course as my backyard. The seven years I spent there defined suburban nostalgia: kids played on swing sets or sat on the driveway trading Pokémon cards, waiting for the ice cream man to come; our parents pulled in around five, having left their desk jobs.

It was this summer I was told

home in Naperville. This was a home my parents had worked hard for and built from scratch in a neighborhood named The Estate of Thornberry Woods. I think that’s when my anxiety first spiked up, the result of pressure to assume a new identity, of becoming someone other than I already thought I was. During this summer, my neighbor’s older brother drove me back after babysitting for my parents, bumping a demo produced by a band featuring a friend of a friend. The quality was terrible. I had no idea what they were saying, but the sounds were new to me and I found them intriguing. My babysitter, having taken notice of my interest in the garbled noise coming out of the ste-

reo, offered me the demo, saying he didn’t care for it much anyway. (Unfortunately, I lost this trinket in my move and I am so utterly dismayed that I don’t know its whereabouts.) I had no idea, then, that this was a recording of a very, very early Fall Out Boy. I had no idea this would change my life entirely.

then either, at least, not consciously. But it sat in me, deep in my stomach. Sitting in my room listening to the angriest chords I had ever heard in my life, bass licks reverberating, and hearing lines like “You want apologies? Girl you might hold your breath/ Until your breathing stops forever” and “Let’s play this game/ Called ‘when you catch fire’/I This was also the summer where wouldn’t piss to put you out” our lackadaisical days ended when made me understand what it was planes crashing into towers. Peolike to have a dark feeling in ple turned their backs on their you and all at once release it. neighbors for simple reasons of skin and dress. I had no idea the Take This to Your Grave became effect this would have on how I reprieve from a world that was had to traverse the world. I had cold and confusing to a kid not no idea that this, too, would even ten years old. It was cachange my life entirely. tharsis. It was, and will forever be, an album I come to time and time again to make sense of the 2003 – Take This to Your Grave world around me. Fitting in was not my strong suit. It especially was tougher at a school where I knew virtually nobody, and lived in a neighborhood where the predominant skin tone was brown. We were ostracized; we ate at our own table, played only with kids of color. We were bumped in the hallway and pushed on the blacktop. It was quiet and unnoticeable at times, missing the gaze of the adults. It didn’t seem like a pattern, but it was. This was the summer where I first heard Take This to Your Grave and it howled through me. I didn’t know heartbreak or breakups the way Pete and Patrick wrote about them. I didn’t really know rage

2005 – From Under the Cork Tree Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree is, to this day, their best-selling and highest grossing album, and for good measure. This album was retaliation to anyone saying their first album was a good fluke, and that the sophomore attempt would fall under the curse so many bands before the them faced; the one where people say “I liked their old stuff better.” From Under the Cork Tree had the same tongue in cheek angst, but it was refined, sent through the wash, and cleaned up a bit more. The raw explosiveness of Take This to Your Grave slowed a little into

drums that kept steady and with riffs that enticed the ear, not screeched into it. This album was Fall Out Boy’s first hint that they would be shedding the youthful skin they had worn for so long. In the same manner, the end of elementary school approached fast and I could already feel the shedding of my younger self. Junior high in all its vastness lay before me: lockers, walking from class to class, buying my own lunch. It would be one of the greatest changes I’d have ever made in my life, perhaps even greater than moving. It was this driving force that drove me to begin writing. I wrote shitty short stories and really crap love poems, but Fall Out Boy inspired all of it, first and foremost. As anyone who has met me would know, I would die for the honor of “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down,” but one of the most significant Fall Out Boy lines, for me, comes from “Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner.” The line “The hand behind this pen relieves a failure everyday” undoubtedly rewired my entire brain. That kind of defeat spoke to me, even at such a young age. But I didn’t want to be just the singular ‘this,’ I wanted to encompass it all; thus, the moniker ‘thehandbehindthepen’ was born and it became my mantra for almost all the writing I did. 2007 – Infinity on High “Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems

almost enchanted after all” Vincent Van Gogh’s letter to his brother was inspiration for Fall Out Boy’s third major effort, and high did expectations seem. This album was the culmination of nervous energies—Patrick’s pop and funk roots, Pete’s hunger for metaphor-soaked verses and arena-throbbing choruses—and it ticked right alongside my increasingly ill brain. It was here where my anxiety and depression got their chance to manifest in action. My suicide attempt really woke me up. It told me that I needed to figure out something, anything, to stay on this planet. Infinity On High wasn’t the record that saved me, but as it joined the rest of Fall Out Boy’s catalog. It is one of the albums I had spinning when I wrote the first ever song of my life. (But let the record show the song I had written then was absolute garbage.) The very physical prejudice I experienced in elementary school was replaced with social and emotional barriers. The friends I kept were still all of color and within certain groups I felt like a complete outsider. The more alone and adrift I felt in this skin, the more I came to the pen to reconcile my solace. 2008 – Folie á Deux Folie á Deux, is French for a shared madness of two. And that couldn’t have hit home better. This album came during my first semester of high school when acne

was rampantly wild, and the heart even wilder. This was the start of a high-school long crush which monopolized almost all my writing, save for the lyrics and poems about my mental illness. Here’s where I learned that my writing would never be my own ever again. It would always belong to my heart. When my heart had the pen is when I did my best and most honest writing. Folie á Deux was an eclectic continuation of Infinity on High, except it cranked all the knobs to 11. As I adopted many idiosyncrasies in high school, or during phases I went through, this album rode through with me. One of the most striking points about this album was the haunting ending of “What A Catch, Donnie.” The ending felt like a swan song in how it enamored and pushed me to think about making the journey to the end worth all the while. But

little did I know, little did I know. 2009-2013 – The Dark Ages The first concert I ever saw was Blink-182’s 2009 run with Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and this obscure band named Chester French (they sucked). To hear some of my most inspirational bands was pivotal, and it was that night I realized I needed to be somewhere on a stage, letting my heart bleed in public. That same year, 2009, was Fall Out Boy’s bold decision to take on a hiatus. There is something violent and crushing to think that the band you’ve loved since the dawn of your heart may never make music again. I felt lost, abandoned, forgotten, which in hindsight wasn’t fair because mu-

sicians and artists are human beings too. They owe use nothing but as a young teen still fumbling his way through adolescence, I felt an aching tightness of running this course on my own. But, prosperity did come. A lack of new music from the boys forced me to spend hours and hours digging through their catalog. In that, I learned about metaphor, double entendre, word play, sound and form better than I did in any high school English class. Over the course of the four years Fall Out Boy was inactive, I was driven to writing lyrics for over 500 songs and constructed over 100 poems. There’s no doubt that I chose quantity over quality for a lot of these pieces, but I was writing and growing nonetheless. Through this time, I truly found my voice in the pen and in performing (in a shitty basement pop punk band that ended after a year). Before I knew it, the doors of high school were behind me and the University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign loomed on the horizon. 2013 – Save Rock and Roll On an early morning February morning, Fall Out Boy announced their triumphant return from hiatus. The utter elation drove me to run down my campus quad screaming that Fall Out Boy was back. Of course, few people I knew held the same love for this band that I did, but to me it was the sun rising again. The return of Fall Out Boy came at a time where college

felt like it was crushing me. I had just spent a semester studying psychology with a focus in pre-med (which meant that I had to take a bunch of introductory science classes I had no interest in) and the heavy weight of prepping myself for a career I didn’t want had my mental illnesses grinding their teeth on my brain. The semester of their return, everything changed. “Oh no, we won’t go, cause we don’t know when to quit no, no” sings Patrick Stump on title track, “Save Rock and Roll.” That line means the world to me. It’s a promise that this is something they loved, we were fans they loved, and there was no way they could give this up ever again. That push for the love of something that makes you complete is what reminded me how much I loved music and poetry. That semester I dropped my pre-med focus and made creative writing my major. I started writing with Ocean Glass as a complete full-band piece for the first time. By the end of this year, I had started an underground poetry slam with my roommates, opened for one of my longtime favorite bands, Real Friends, and had completed the first draft of what would become my first poetry anthology: The Things They Don’t Teach You In School. This was the point where I truly got to step into the shoes of the person I had always wanted to become: writer, musician, performer.

2015 – American Beauty/American Psycho So much happened between Fall Out Boy’s first, post-hiatus release, and their second. Ocean Glass had gone on to play huge venues in Chicago like the House of Blues and the Bottom Lounge, as well as travel around to different cities and universities to play shows. My writing had gotten raw and unforgiving; no room to fudge the truth or hold back all that my heart had been brewing for years and years. It had even taken me as far as giving a TEDx Talk at my university. To say the least, I was becoming affluent to manners of the pen. American Beauty/American Psycho could not have been more different than Take This To Your Grave in all senses of the word. It was a departure, an experiment, and a risk. The boys had traded teenage angst for a look at the world through the lens as married men and fathers. An album that was met with criticism and skepticism that they’d ever put out a relevant record again, I found myself questioning their bold decision as well. I understood, though, their need to be free of all that defined them prior. After a summer of therapy and recovering from a ravaged heart, I began the poems that would end up becoming the skeleton for my second collection of poems: Ghosts In Bloom. The poems in this collection were a result of hours in therapist offices, long bike

rides through dark streets, and nights awake under the dim glow of cheap Christmas lights. They were unafraid to be honest, to be defining. I no longer wanted to be haunted by the ghosts of all that preceded me. While I was thinking of the past, I was also flung into thinking of my future. Entering my second to last semester of college meant that I had to begin thinking about graduate school. With a degree in psychology and creative writing on the way, the decision was between getting a PhD in psych, a 5-6 year process trudging through scientific jargon that ultimately did not interest me, or getting an MFA in creative writing, a 2-3 year process where I would be indulged in the written word and work on my craft. My parents expected me to get the PhD and find a secure job in the field, but I had just spent four year immersed in the arts and music, and the idea of not pursuing a career that involved writing or music left me hollowed and husked. The issue? My parents would not be down to fund an MFA program by any means, and without that I would have to take a massive amount of debt on my shoulders. The only solution was getting into a program that would fully fund me during my time there, but those programs were highly competitive and my chances were wildly slim. The odds seemed so against me. There were so many voices discouraging me from taking a step that might ‘ruin my life.’ But in my debat-

ing with myself, I had to include Fall Out Boy in my thoughts—a band that was only a side-project of Pete Wentz’s metal group, a band that everyone told him would fail, a band that became a global phenomenon because he saw the worth in what they were doing—and I realized that no matter the cost, if I didn’t take the risk here on my most visceral passion, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So I took the leap, went all-in with the money I had saved, and began applying to over fifteen programs. The Present As I write this now, I have just completed my first semester as a poetry MFA candidate at Old Dominion University. My time with Ocean Glass is at a halt while I complete my degree on the coast, but I have little doubt music will not return to be an integral part of my everyday life. In just a few months, I have already seen my writing, and myself, flourish and bloom. And while it is has not been the easiest, I know it is worth it; I know that I am in the place I am supposed to be. I know that my love for words, for poetry, for music, will continue to drive me no matter how the world stacks up hurdles against me. And I know, that if it weren’t for the gift of music, for what I saw through Fall Out Boy, I would not be the writer, performer, and creator that I am today. So here’s to the future (and to the next Fall Out Boy album). ■



There is something so endearing and comforting about being packed into a basement with your friends listening to loud music on a week night.

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Journalist Regains Faith in Trump’s America


November 8th was my day of reckoning in more ways than one. Like many – I’d venture to say most – people, I was stunned by the result of the election. I had started the day feeling light as a feather, excited to immerse myself in exit polls and projections, and most of all expecting to go to bed brimming with pride. I didn’t go to bed feeling proud on the night of November 8th. I dragged myself home at 2 a.m. after spending over six hours covering what became the greatest presidential election upset in recent history. Instead of feeling proud, I was scared. I was confused. I spent the next few days questioning my future as a political journalist – could I really cover a Trump administration in a conventionally unbiased way? Was I to be expected to normalize the things he had said and done over the election cycle, not to mention the countless inflammatory remarks and Tweets to come?

Again, like many Americans, I felt lost.

Then, on January 21st, I drove to Indianapolis to cover the Indianapolis branch of the Women’s March on Washington. I expected to see a reasonably-sized crowd, some Democratic speakers, and a few posters – normal political protest fare. My expectations were exceeded in an immeasurable way. The crowd, over seven thousand strong, was diverse. Women and children of all ages and races were joined by almost as many men. From above, the crowd was a sea of pink – cat-eared “pussy hats,” worn by protestors to symbolize female power – and undulated with posters and signs of every color:

“Keep Your Filthy Laws Off My Silky Drawers.”

“Grandmothers For Planned Parenthood.”

“This Pussy Grabs Back.”

“Love Trumps Hate.”


I talked to women and men who spoke passionately about why they marched; they spoke about the future of their children, the right to safe abortions and birth control, the acceptance of refugees, and many, many other issues which they cited as reasons to speak out. I left the Indianapolis Women’s March feeling hopeful. Perhaps this was the true picture of Trump’s America: not some smoldering post-apocalyptic 1950s dictatorship, but a gathering of American people across all fifty states, fighting for the values that they believe make America strong.

I was heartened to see that same picture just one week later, after Trump announced the executive order barring refugees and legal immigrants from seven Middle Eastern countries. In my hometown of Champaign, Illinois, a crowd of several hundred protestors gathered at the local airport after an unofficial Facebook event was created to spark a protest of the measure. Mind you, this airport was not receiving international immigrants or refugees, but nonetheless, hundreds of people turned up in twenty-degree weather with signs and bullhorns. As a journalist, I was excited to be in the thick of such a timely and newsworthy event. As an American, I was grateful to see the best of what our country stands for – a diverse, energized crowd of people dedicated to making America better through peaceful, intentional dissent.

November was a month of reckoning. January has been a month of hope.

January 2017 thank you for reading.

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Jan 2017