I never planned on releasing this project or even telling this story. It was an intimate gift forged in the hopes of rekindling the flames of a past love. I am opening up, becoming vulnerable and sharing my experience.
Thank you for your time,
written by mc enigma of Negros Americanos
We’d initially met in Newark Penn Station through a mutual friend, playing matchmaker. Up to that point, I’d only known she was Ethiopian and a fan of the Pharcyde. When we first met on the PATH platform, I was instantly enamored. Eyes so pure and beautiful that they could pacify the fiery heart of any warlord and a smile that was a blessing to behold, all packed into her petite frame no taller than a broomstick.
She extended her hand politely and I smacked it out of the way and hugged her. We laughed.
The night consisted of walking the New York streets, stopping by Fat Beats (R.I.P.), S.O.B.S. and a long talk at Washington Square Park that sealed the deal. On the way home, “I Ain’t No Joke” by Rakim was the first sound that came out of her radio. When she showed me her CD collection, I fell even deeper. She was smart, kind, beautiful, and a fan of hip-hop! I was sold!
Here’s the catch, she lived in Montreal and was just home visiting family for the summer. I didn’t care how far she lived; I knew I wanted her to be my woman. We’d spent a lot of time together, getting to know one another. Before she headed north, I applied for my passport.
Days before my first trip to Canada, I’d been listening to her copy of Revolutionary Vol 2. by Immortal Technique. After hearing the song “You Never Know,” I immediately bought a phone card and told her I loved her.
“Time waits for no man.” – Jean Grae
We’d spent the next three years while in college visiting each other at least once a month, taking buses, trains and sometimes planes, crossing international boundaries to sustain our love for one another. Each summer we managed to find housing together or near one another in NJ. We had the type of relationship that made onlookers marvel at our chemistry and genuine love for one another. I’d gained a great girlfriend, lover, and best friend.
After college we’d lived in New Haven, CT for a year while I was working at Yale. That’s where everything started to change. There weren’t any violent arguments or tales of scandalous mistresses; we simply began to grow apart.
Before we broke up, I asked her if I were to quit my job and pursue my dreams of hip-hop among other things would she support me? I’d argued that it was a young man’s game and that I’m fully capable of getting my Master’s and Doctorate later in life, but to influence the youth with messages of positivity, as a young emcee, would be more effective with the gifts that were bestowed upon me. She honestly said “no.”
Neither of us wanted to initiate the break up. We were prolonging the inevitable. Towards the end of the relationship, I was Donnell Jonesing, thinking that the grass was greener on the other side. We broke up over the phone through international lines.
“Her last words were ‘please don’t leave me and I hurt her.’” – mc enigma
While in Panama I’d gotten word that she was coming back to NJ from Mali. Disillusioned with the single life and nostalgic of my first love, I planned to make the S.A.R.A.H. project. I would put all my heart and soul into it and give her a gift based on our experience that no one else in the world can! I hoped it would reconnect us. I’d been listening to Elzhi’s Out of Focus ep and he had a song called S.A.R.A.H. which meant (Someone As Real As Her). It was the perfect title for the project. It fit. (That’s what she said!)
Within two weeks I’d written, recorded, mixed, and designed S.A.R.A.H. I worked tirelessly, perfecting the project as best as I could, adding subtle touches and seemingly random inside jokes to make it unique. It was finished days before my plane ticket back to NJ. I’d decided to share it in secrecy with a couple of my and her female friends, curious of their opinion and seeking advice because winning her over meant so much to me. I sent it to 10 friends, yet I noticed it was downloaded 50 times. I was furious! I trusted that they wouldn’t share it and I was 48 hours away from delivering the project to her in-hand. Bishop the Eastside Nappyhead told me that it spread so fast because I’d asked that it was kept secret. He urged me to continue to share it among our female networks “in confidence,” knowing that it would spread like wildfire because people couldn’t keep a secret, especially those that were familiar with our relationship.
I boarded my plane from Tocumen Airport in Panama headed to Newark, NJ to meet her and deliver the project. I remember scrambling, renting a car and running to a friend’s house to press up the cd. I wanted to give it to her before midnight. Everything was on schedule and optimistically I hit the Garden State Parkway headed for her house.
When I arrived we embraced, but it wasn’t like before. The hug was hesitant on her end. I disregarded it and we talked for a while. Anxious and apprehensive, I asked her to come to the car and I said I had something to show her. I gave her the cd and asked her to put it in. We sat there and listened to all 28 minutes of Someone As Real As Her. She smiled from ear to ear at first, but then she kept shaking her head at parts that I thought she’d be ecstatic to hear. She said she enjoyed it, but then said that I didn’t have to do it. Hmmm…
We saw each other for a couple of days, but the hugs were distant and so was she. There was a huge invisible wall between us. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I thought my plan was fool-proof. In a Cinderella-esque way I thought I held the glass slipper in my hands with this project, but little did I know, she’d already moved on.
I was and still am well versed in rejection, but this was my first love. She’d moved on completely and I was stuck, holding onto something that no longer was. I was devastated.
On the flight back to Panama, I felt like an inadequate failure, and in an effort to combat my desperate stupor, I began to write while on the plane. The song “The Flight Back” from L.y.l.e. Rainy Season, written over the Atlantic Ocean, was about that trip, flying back to Panama defeated, alone, and heart broken. By this time, I returned to Ciudad Radial on Calle 16 in Juan Diaz, Panama City, Panama. I recalibrated my focus from pursuing love lost to making music and building our base as Negros Americanos in Panama. That year I’d written 5 solo albums, 3 joint projects, and had an excess of 150 songs between Bishop and me that could end up anywhere.
I chose to release S.A.R.A.H. because it symbolized closure for me and I believe to date, it is my most popular project. The love that went into it was real. The love I had for her was real and I’ve got her to thank for many lessons and for introducing me to this energy known as true love.
Although things didn’t turn out as planned, my efforts weren’t in vain. I acted out of love and if you are fortunate enough to find true love, hold onto it. Travel for it. Pursue it to no end. Love is the ultimate and it is worth all of our time and attention. Tell them you love and appreciate them every chance you can and help them realize their own worth and beauty. Let love live and grow.
I am hopeful that this project, which is birthed in love, inspires more love.