It’s been a little over a year since I’ve read an e-book for sport. But I’d been reading about the buzz surrounding Garfield Hylton’s work for about 2 weeks before its Dec. 26th release. In fact, I hadn’t known G to be a writer in this sense of the word. I’ve had his blog, RealGoesRight, on my list of Daily Reads for awhile. By it being a less commercialized site, I hadn’t checked it in awhile. So the release of his mid-life reflective work, The Soundtrack To My Life, was a timely reintroduction to his work.
I love music. Even more, I love being put on to new music. G’s TSTML (hope you’re all good w/ the abbreviation, man lol) intricately weaves the literary devices of popular rappers in with the events that were going on in his life. In some of the chapters it’s almost as if G is going bar for bar with the very artist from which the circumstance draws inspiration. For example, he uses Lupe Fiasco’s “Sunshine” to introduce the first time he was smitten with a member of the fairer sex as a college freshman. But the imagery and the vibe that both he and the song evoke, you’re right in that moment with him; like a homey watching that same girl walk by. Meeting that first one always plays out like a dream-filtered mirage. It’s idyllic. It feels right. G subtly prefaces the storm a first love can create with “I fell for my first ex almost instantly without really knowing who she was. I’d pay dearly for it in the following years of my life…I was 18 when I met her and 24 before I finally purged her from my life. I’d long regarded her as a dark cloud because for as long as she was around, I never felt like I could feel strongly about another woman.” The Girlfriend Zero effect is real.
He seamlessly flows into the subject of friendships and the crippling effects fatherhood (or lack thereof) can have on how boys relate to people throughout their lives. Honestly, I halfway identified to this aspect of G’s story because I grew up with my father. However, though my father was there, he wasn’t always present. When a boy is in that type of family dynamic, his friends and older guys in the neighborhood unwittingly become figures of authority. For G, having a strained relationship with his father for much of his formidable years permeated into the bonds he developed with the guys around him. For that, Jay Z’s “Daddy Where Have You Been” was perfect. One of the more emotionally bare moments in TSTML is G recalling the conversation him and his father have. I won’t spoil it, but it’s something that even for me (a man who lost his father 2 years ago) was a little tough to read.
Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is his 3rd best album. That’s my opinion, no reason to debate. “Blame Game” is 1 of my favorite tracks in Ye’s entire catalog. So it was only fitting for that to be the backdrop of G explaining the chaos that was his Girlfriend Zero. We all have the one relationship that had the highest of highs, but when it hit a low, it felt like an abyss. In answering the rhetorical question of why do I even bother?, G puts it in a simple way that I never really even thought of – “We were really just two dumb ass kids who didn’t know well enough to leave each other alone. If there’s a fine line between love and stupidity, we found new ways to push that line every time we answered the other person’s phone call.”
You ever feel like as you read something, the writer is literally ear-hustling in your life? That’s exactly how I felt reading Chapters 6 and 7. G uses Joe Budden and Nas as the storytellers; 2 artists who are heavily underrated. Joe Budden is more known for Tahiry’s ass and his fakedope pool parties. While Nas is only brought up by hip hop purists or in the same conversation as other rappers of a certain age. That’s another post though. Anyway, the common thread between those 2 rappers and G is that they had vices that helped them through the big picture/little picture battle. Having also grown up in a Jamaican household, I could relate to G being a person of few words when it came to emotions. As he puts it “During the quiet moments when nothing else is going on, my thoughts grow legs and Usain Bolt around my brain. More often than not, my mood is affected.” Guys in general just aren’t taught to feel openly; whether it’s hurt, anger, disappointment, happiness, self-doubt, whatever. West Indian men particularly are supposed to be stoic, damn near expressionless. Holding it in often manifests itself in other ways. But ultimately the deeper you bury it, the longer it will take to purge itself out.
The final quarter of the book talks about the lamentations he felt over attending and graduating law school. I breezed through this section, because I’ve been done with college for so long. But I think the feelings of frustration were essentially the same. We all know what it feels like to a hamster on a wheel, doing what you’re supposed to do. Yet we crave the freedom to be able to do what we truly want to do. It becomes a matter of will you finish what you started or will you take the L now so you can win later?
I didn’t mean for this review to be this lengthy. I wouldn’t even call it a review. While I enjoyed Streetz’s Fly On The Wall in 2o11, G’s TSTML has a certain vulnerability that’ll completely pull you into the timeline of his life. It takes an exceptional writer to be able to do that. And his experiences, coupled with the deliberate song selections, makes you feel like you were/are a member of his inner circle.
Telling your life story in such a detailed way isn’t easy. But as a fellow aspiring writer, I salute G for a job well done and developing a concept that stands on its own in the category of originality.