tortuga, more than music

Most successful musicians are given a lot of grief for making it big and getting paid absurd amounts of money for doing it. The insane difference in salary between entertainers and most teachers/police officers/or whatever else you might think of is a continuous discussion. But if you take a closer look, a lot of the more successful rappers and singers don’t just reap the rewards of album sales and tours, but from investing in a business that gives back to the community.

The idea of this blog post came after a plea I posted on Facebook, asking for topics. A friend commented that he heard Lil Wayne had recently purchased the Skate Park of Tampa, right over the bridge from where I live. First off, I was excited because I’m a Weezy fan to the core. Second, I internally, subconsciously blew off this information and didn’t even bother to look it up. Not because I thought it was useless, but because as a true fan I understand that Lil Wayne is not a great skateboarder and so any major move by him in that direction is going to be something of a laughing stock. Anyway, so it turned out that little tidbit was an April Fool’s joke. (Haha?). But it made me think about all the other artists who have a stake in a business or company, or even own one.

By business or company, I mean a tangible piece of property with an address. Legit real estate. I’m not including fashion lines, lingerie lines, shoes, perfume or beauty products. I realize these are all worthy investments and those successful in the fields have helped create billion-dollar industries, but one, they’re all over the place, everyone and their grandma owns one, and second, I’m a bigger fan of sports and food than I am of fashion and beauty.

So, here’s a list of 18 musician-celebrities and the business(es) they own:

  1. 50 cent – His Formula 50 brand of Vitamin Water he created with Glaceau was recently bought out by Coca Cola. He also co-founded a film company in 2009 called Cheetah Visionvitamin water formula 50
  2. Alice Cooper – The rock star owns a sports bar in Phoenix, AZ called Alice Cooperstown, which opened in 1998. alice cooperstown
  3. Bono – The Irish singer owns a hotel in, where else but his birthplace, Dublin. The Clarence Hotel was transformed from a two-star, 70-bedroom to a five-star, 49-bedroom hotel by Bono and his U2 bandmate, The Edge. clarence hotel
  4. Dave Matthews – The DMB front-runner purchased Blenheim Vineyards, an historic Virginian farm that dates back to the 1700s and housed historic figures like Thomas Jefferson, in 1999. Blenheim Vineyards
  5. Fergie – In October 2009, the lead singer of Black-Eyed Peas became a part owner of the Miami DolphinsFergie Miami Dolphins
  6. Gavin DeGraw – The singer opened a restaurant in 2007 with his brother on Manhattan’s Lower East Side called The National UndergroundThe National Underground
  7. Gladys Knight – Technically owned by her son, the self-explained restaurant called Gladys Knight & Ron Winans’ Chicken & Waffles currently has three locations in the Atlanta area. Chicken and Waffles
  8. Jay-Z – The new father is co-owner of an upscale sports bar in New York, Chicago and Atlantic City called the 40/40 Club. He is also part owner of the New Jersey Nets, soon to be called the Brooklyn Nets. 40/40 club
  9. Justin Timberlake – The former-N SYNC member doesn’t stop. He’s opened three restaurants: Chi in West Hollywood and Destino and Southern Hospitalty in New York. He also has his own brand of tequila called 901 and reopened and renamed a golf course in Tennessee, Mirimichi Golf CourseMirimichi Golf Course
  10. Kanye West – His company, KW Foods LLC, bought the rights to the Fatburger chain in Chicago. (Pharell and E-40 have also owned franchises of the restaurant). fatburger
  11. Lenny Kravitz – The rock star and recent Hunger Games actor founded Kravitz Design Inc., a company focused on interior and furniture design (designed a chandelier for Swarovski called “Casino Royale”). kravitz design
  12. Ludacris – The southern rapper is co-owner of Conjure Cognac liquor and Soul headphones. Ludacris Conjure
  13. Marilyn Manson – He developed Mansinthe, an Absinthe label that boasts 66.6% alcohol in a standard bottle. Mansinthe
  14. Olivia Newton-John – The Grease star co-founded Koala Blue Wines and established the Gaia Retreat & Spa, both located in Australia. gaia retreat and spa
  15. P. Diddy – The seasoned rapper opened an upscale restaurant chain called Justin’s in Atlanta, named after his son. Diddy also signed a multi-year deal with Ciroc to help develop the brand by doing more than just endorsing. justin's
  16. Pete Wentz – In 2007, the Fall Out Boy bassist and ex-husband of Ashlee Simpson opened a nightclub in New York, Angels & Kings. The business is also owned by Jamison Ernest of Yellow Fever and members of the bands Gym Class Heroes, The Academy Is… and Cobra Starshipangels and kings
  17. Toby Keith – Of course this country singer’s Oklahoma restaurant is called I Love This Bar & Grill, fittingly named after his 2003 hit single “I Love This Bar.” i love this bar and grill
  18. Usher – At 26, the R&B singer became part-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seven years later, it’s still true. cavaliers

After discovering and researching some of these little facts, I have to wonder a few things. First, does it matter whether someone owns, co-owns or has a share in a company? Does co-owning something make it less of an accomplishment? And second, are these businesses and companies good? Are they necessary? Do people go to them and use the services provided out of necessity or are they just a tourist stop? What difference does it really make that a celebrity is part of the decision-making process of a business?

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tortuga storyteller

Music is an expression of emotion, a mode of message deliverance. It can come in several forms: sung, rapped, spoken, rhymed, disjointed…with melody or beats, only melody or beats, a cappella… Take your pick.

Some may say a story can be interpreted from any form of music, and it’s true. But some songs require you to hone in on the lyrics, literally tell a story. Within the track, there is a clear beginning, middle and end of a tale. It has a message. It’s not just about someone. It’s not just a couple’s or group’s anthem, proclaiming one thing or another. It’s not a song describing any old generic situation any one in the world with feelings and experiences can relate to. It  tells the audience about a specific moment or collection of related experiences. It might include reflections or flashbacks, internal dialogue or between people or narration in the first-, second- or third-person. It’s descriptive and impressive and gets you to think about it.

Not everyone likes story-telling in music format. There are people in the world who flat-out hate musicals. But the truth is that stories have been around for as long as people could communicate. In a day and age when entertainers make more than teachers, there are quite a few songs created to tell stories of love, loss and life to the masses.

After scrutinizing every artist in my iTunes, I’ve compiled a list of songs that follow the aforementioned criteria. Before we get to that, I made some interesting connections in my search.

  1. I was surprised to see that artists like Akon, T-Pain and Lil Wayne consistently use the story-telling method in their lyrics.
  2. With this discovery, I’m beginning to realize I might be someone who likes that method.
  3. Taylor Swift is also a big story teller, something that I already knew, but never took the time to think about before.
  4. The most common forms of story-telling I found in my library are first-person narrative and chronological, which is also interesting because I’ve been told I tend to write essays in that format (something I’m having a hard time breaking out of doing).
  5. I think most artists tend to tell stories about relationships. Again, something I already knew, but by breaking down the list of story songs into subcategories of ‘relationships’ (and others), the trend was made even more apparent.

Now, here’s the list. Bombs away!

  • “Colt 45” – Afroman. In its extended version, it’s a compilation of 15 short, yet explicitly detailed, sexual experiences the narrator has encountered. (First-person)
  • “Lucky” – Britney Spears. It’s a story about a girl named Lucky. She’s famous and every one loves her but something’s missing in her life and she cries, cries, cries. We are left to guess why. (Third-person)
  • “Infatuated” – Christina Aguilera. That it’s about the experience of meeting someone knew and knowing nothing about them, yet finding them irresistible is obvious by the track’s title. X-tina is extremely drawn to a ‘full-blood Boricua’, and argues internally with her mother’s voice of reason. (Internal, first-person)
  • “Tom’s Diner” – Suzanne Vega and “Piano Man” – Billy Joel. Both narrations revolve around the singer’s surroundings. Vega comments on the mundane activities in a diner, much like someone with no life writes in a diary. Joel creates an atmosphere where people in all stages of life come together at a bar and turn to the pianist to cheer them up.
  • “Animal Style” – Murs. When a homosexual couple keeping their relationship a secret slips up, one of them feels confused about what to do and when they try to overcome the obstacle, he kills them both. (Third-person)
  • “What’s My Age Again” – Blink-182. It’s a run-through of a night a 23 year-old guy with ADD spent before getting dumped by his girlfriend for acting immature. (First-person, chronological)
  • “She Tried” – Bubba Sparxxx. The story of a remorseful man who describes the pain he feels at losing the one he loved after she caught him cheating with her cousin. He reflects on the day they met and the dreams they once shared. (Flashback, chronological, first-person)
  • “Regulaters” – Warren G., “It Was a Good Day” – Ice Cube and “Boyz in the Hood” – NWA. These three raps describe days in the life of a stereotypical gangster, brought straight to you from the mouths of some of hip-hop’s elite. (First-person)
The next four songs all use telephone conversations:
  • “Hey Ma” – Cam’ron. It’s every college partier’s goal (right?): to get picked up at a bar and have a one night stand. Cam’ron tells us about a time he scooped up a hottie and brought her back to his house to score. Then we hear a telephone conversation between him and his friend the next day where he dishes about what happened. (first-person, chronological, dialogue included)
  • “You Don’t Know My Name” – Alicia Keys. The more-than-six-minutes-long song focuses on having feelings for someone who doesn’t know you exist. The storyline comes into play about three minutes and seven seconds in, sandwiched between musical-esque harmonies, when Alicia Keys decides to call “Michael” and ask him out. (First-person, dialogue included)
  • “The Call” – Backstreet Boys. The song tells a story, but not a very long one. It’s a scenario of how a guy lied to and cheated on his girlfriend one night while he was out with his friends. (First-person, dialogue included)
  • “Marvin’s Room” – Drake. This song centers around a drunk telephone conversation between two people who were once together. Drake venomously croons that his ex still thinks about him because her new guy isn’t comparable. She repeatedly asks him if he’s drunk. (Dialogue included, first-person)

Here are a couple I found with post-abortion thoughts.

  • “Happy Birthday” – Flypside. In a rap-letter to his aborted child, Flypside apologizes, explains why the child wasn’t born and wonders about how the child might have been. (internal, first-person)
  • “Brick” – Ben Folds Five. A boyfriend takes his girlfriend to get an abortion the day after Christmas and keeps the trip a secret from their families. The secret tears them apart and kills their relationship in the end when it explodes. (Narration, chronological, first-person)
The following two songs happen to be about weddings.
  • “American Wedding” – Frank Ocean. Using the tune of The Eagles’ Hotel California, Mr. Ocean describes the excitement of getting married secretly with tattoo rings to his ‘teenage wife’ and then the sadness of her nonchalantly telling him they need an annulment ‘before it goes too far’. He calls this the American Wedding, because it doesn’t last. (first-person, internal)
  • “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” – Garth Brooks. It’s a man’s drunken experience of sending off his ex with a toast at her wedding, which only served to let her (and all the guests) know how depressed he was, no matter how many friends he has in low places.
These two songs describe the satisfaction found in karma.
  • “Sk8er Boi” – Avril Lavinge. A relationship, beginning to end, is spelled out by someone who turns out to be the boy’s current girlfriend. (Third-person, chronological)
  • “Prom Queen” – Lil Wayne. Weezy gets revenge on a girl who snubbed him in high school by leaving her crying in the rain after refusing to let her in the house. (First-person)

tortuga truths

Welcome to tortugatunes, a blog about jammin’ out.

I am the main tortuga, which is turtle in Spanish (I have a healthy obsession with sea turtles, more on that later). I am a journalism student aspiring to be a designer at a national magazine and in the meantime waiting to hear back from graduate schools. As a designerd*, I keep a running list in my head of anything and everything that inspires me. Number one on this list? Music.

This blog will be a continuous stream of my thoughts about the music scene, particularly anything with a pounding beat or heartbreaking lyrics.

What does music mean to me? I can remember the first song I ever listened to and knew I was listening to something that would change my life. Say what you will, but it was, in fact, “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. I was 9 years old and my friend was writing a love note to a cute boy we knew and used the lyrics of that song (and then signed my name). Whatever. The point is that the memory did not stick with me because of my humiliation when the boy’s mom called my dad later or when I saw the boy at school the next day, but because of Britney Spears. She opened a whole new world for me that day.

Music is more than something to fill an awkward silence or a source of entertainment. Music surrounds my world, encompasses my very soul, knows everything about me and gets me through my very worst days and celebrates with me on my best.

It is everywhere. I sing with it in the shower and in the car. I bump it in my stereo speakers, my headphones, my earbuds. I have whole libraries on my ipod, my Mac, my PC and in my CD collection. I discover more every day through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pitchfork, Soundowl, Hype, SPIN Magazine, Rolling Stone… I can’t think of a time when music is not there. If you feel the same, welcome to tortugatunes. If you have no idea what I’m talking about but want to know, stick around. This blog is not for those who merely use the radio in their cars during their weekly commutes. This blog is for those who have a passion for music.

Pause here for a shout out to three people who have greatly influenced my taste of music, whether they know it or not. (I may refer to them in later posts): Monica (DJ Mon), Manny (MC Man) and Becca (Bax).

Side Note: The great thing about music is that, especially with today’s technology, it can be taken anywhere. I mentioned earlier that music is everywhere. Well, I have my preferences of which music I take with me places. When I’m in the car, I prefer songs I know all the words to so I can turn up the volume and belt them out. While ‘nerding out, I like to blast my headphones with old school hip hop and some dubstep covers. In the club, bring on the dubstep and top 40s, please!

That being said, to jump things off, I thought I’d share some intimate facts about the inner workings of something I call, “TMAC JAMS,” or, my iPod.

Number of songs: 4,249

#1 played on iTunes: “The Story of Us” – Taylor Swift, Speak Now

Last five artists downloaded:

  1. Elle Varner: Conversational Lush album – I heard of her from Miguel’s song, “All I Want Is You,” which has an Elle Varner Remix.
  2. Action Bronson: Dr. Lecter album (MC Man)
  3. Danny Brown: XXX album (MC Man)
  4. Jay Ellington: “Obstruction of Justice” – The song was sent to me via Facebook from Jay Ellington, an artist based out of Clearwater under the group Utmos, Inc.
  5. Iggy Azalea: Ignorant Art album (MC Man)

Favorite artist: There will always be a place in my heart for Lil Wayne.

Eight of nine Wayne albums I have

*designerd: one who finds pleasure in discussing fonts, tools in Illustrator and showing others how InDesign works.