This year, Thanksgiving comes in the immediate wake of a devastating hurricane, with many people living without the homes in which they have celebrated the holiday for years and, in some cases, generations. So, while it may go without saying, we will say it anyway: we are thankful for the safety of our friends and family, for shelter and warmth. If Hurricane Sandy has had any positive effects, it is the acute awareness of our blessings, big and small. We asked a group of artists what they’re giving thanks for this year and found their answers—from kombucha to electricity—to be as diverse as the music they make.
It’s not particularly interesting but it’s been just totally amazing to see my album, this thing that I care so much about, grow so much and make its way out and be received with so much love by so many people. It’s something that I’m really proud of, and people attach to it in such humbling and interesting and beautiful ways. I’ve just met a lot of people who have had very, very intimate connections and relationships with the music and I couldn’t want anything more. I couldn’t ask for anything else.
One guy at my show, his little brother passed away like six weeks before, and on that same night I had been thinking a lot about my own brother and I kind of randomly—I had never done this before, I haven’t done it since—dedicated a song, the song “Set it Right,” to my brother from the stage. And this guy, he felt that there was some real serendipity in that spontaneous gesture on my part because he was really thinking a lot about his little brother. He was quite handsome and tall, as tall as me, and there he was crying. It was pretty intense but it was really beautiful.
I think that learning how to metabolize and navigate pain and how to orient yourself despite the different ways you had to suffer, and the different ways you’ve been frustrated or different ways you’ve been challenged or limited or hurt, always produces more physic flexibility and self understanding. I’m thankful for the record myself, because it was something that was so important to me personally and something I was so proud of because of what it taught me. I feel like the emotional payload is not in me or my goals or whatever, it’s in the songs.
I made the most money I ever made in my life this year. I’m thankful for that. I’m eating a lot more this year. For Thanksgiving I’ll cook something with my daughter, eat, get fat, then go to the studio. I’m thankful that my daughter started school this year. It’s just another step in my life, I’m getting older and seeing her grow up. I hate school so much, I’m so mad that she has to go, actually. I feel I can teach her more than the teacher can, but at the same time she has to do it, and it’s nice to see your daughter go to school in a uniform. When I get notes from the teacher saying she’s being bad I’m like, That’s my baby! She’s just like her daddy, she’s ruthless. She has her own mind.
Kendrick dropping his album helps me and helps the company, so I’m thankful for that. In TDE we all know our place. We all know Kendrick’s bigger, but we don’t really care. We have rap competitions but no one’s like, “I’m more popular than you.” Nobody over here is starving. There’s no ego, because we struggled together. It was beautiful to see what he did and the impact he had on people. It puts pressure on me and makes me more eager to get out there, cause I’m next in line. It gives me a boost, and I appreciate that. But he made it harder for me at the same time, cause he raised the bar.
We’re Native American. My family does not celebrate Thanksgiving. No Way. They’re totally not down for that. Last year my brother was out with his girlfriend, and I was home alone and it was cold and there were no restaurants open. I called every Chinese restaurant in town and none of them were open. So I basically starved last Thanksgiving. I was miserable. This year, I’m going to be in Los Angeles, and I’m going to celebrate it, which will be a first for me. I’m kind of setting up new traditions for myself. I don’t know how to cook. I know how to microwave. I have a beautiful kitchen, though. It just looks so vacant and lonely. There are tumbleweeds flying across the counter. It’s terrible, actually. So I think we’re going to have a catered Thanksgiving this year.
I’m thankful for the ascendance that I’ve kind of stumbled upon lately, the amazing fans that I have and the support system I have in my team and my label. It’s more of an ascendance from the underground to a more sub-mainstream level. This year was a giant step up for me versus last year, when I was doing mixtapes and now I’m signed and working on my first album, which is crazy. I guess I’m thankful for a lot, man, when it comes down to saying it, I can’t really pinpoint everything. I’m just really honestly thankful to be alive and to be able to do what I love and get paid lots of money for it. That’s fun, too!
This year, definitely, was the first year I got into Tumblr, and I’m grateful because through Tumblr, I met my boyfriend. It’s been a good year on Tumblr for me. Back when I was not actively looking for a boyfriend but kind of just searching the web for guys and stuff like that, every time I would wake up and have new followers, I would just go through them. I don’t know if you know, but you can find pictures of the people who run the blogs if you do forward-slash “tagged,” forward-slash “me” because a lot of people will tag photos of themselves with the tag “me.” It was always a good way to tell if you already loved their content whether you wanted to take it further and, like, Skype them. I can probably tell immediately from somebody’s blog if I would like them that way. It’s like skipping the first date because you already know what the other person is into.
The way I met my boyfriend, he had this blog which was essentially all these old rave flyers and all these obscure techno and house songs that I didn’t know that anybody else really listened to. So I started following it, reblogging it all, really obsessed with what this guy was posting. And then we just started talking a bit, and he kind of knew who I was—he was like a fan, or whatever. And then I just kind of asked for his Skype and we met up in New York last month and started dating. It was weird, he just happened to be this super cute gay guy and I didn’t even know that. You can follow people who are aggregating content that you love, and if one of them happens to be super cute, you can work through that. We were flirting through our posts. As soon as I hooked him and we started dating, I think my posting has probably gone down like 75%. Even still, though, he’ll post a song if it reminds him of me. We were just communicating through videos and images. He lives in New York so now we mostly talk through G-chat actually, Just use the video chat through that. We don’t really use Tumblr anymore, that was just the initial hookup. We met on Tumblr, but now we’re dating on G-chat.
I’m happy to be doing what I like to do, music and performing. A lot of people got talent, but not a lot of people get to see it. I’m thankful for having my crew with me. Everybody still cool and shit, aint nobody acting all Hollywood. I appreciate Hodgy’s loyalty and longevity. Anything I need from him, he’ll get it for me, and anything he need from me, I’ll try and get it. We got that brotherhood, more than any other guys in the group. Not just because of MellowHype. We grew up together, and we used to live together. Everybody has their little duo in the group: Tyler and Taco, Domo and Jasper, Syd and Matt. But we all come together.
I’m thankful for being able to travel. Australia was sick, we were like, living out there for a month. Hawaii was our vacation. Me and Hodgy brought our girls with us. We were just relaxing at the beach and getting some fresh air. We got some shrooms. We never did nothing crazy like jet ski or go on a boat or zip line. We were like the youngest people out there, doing some old people shit. I liked that. Felt like I was retired.
I’m grateful for having my legs. And I still have my hearing. When I was making Numbers I was in the big studio with the big monitors; my first studio album, and I still have my eardrums. I’m just thankful to be healthy; I don’t care about much else. As long as the people around me are easy, I’m good. This year my son turned one. I didn’t think I would have a son at 21, but I do, and he’s one and it’s really cool to be raising him. I learned from him that it’s not all about me. It’s not about any of us. I really don’t know what it’s about, but I like watching his personality grow. To see him gravitate to certain things, certain words when you speak to him. He’s running around, trying to talk, getting into stuff. He’s really smart, knows how to push your buttons and see what you’ll do.
I moved out of my Mom’s house in Maryland in January, then I was staying in Atlanta with my grandparents for a while. I bought a greyhound ticket, packed my shit and moved back to Philly, just staying couch to couch with my homies. It was rough. Having no money, always being in different places and still trying to do music. So being able to pay rent? I’m definitely thankful for that. And I’m thankful for everything that’s come musically. All the progression we made, every show that we had, good or bad. College wasn’t for me. I’d be sitting in class like writing raps when I was supposed to be listening to lectures. Once the first semester was over, I just didn’t register for classes again. I wasn’t too interested in finding a job either. My mom of course was not happy with that. No parent wants to see their son drop out of school and not work. I hated that period of just sitting around, but everything happens for a reason. Signing to Fool’s Gold and seeing Nick [Catchdubs] and A-Trak having faith in me, I know I can realize my potential. I’m thankful for my family and friends that stay true and stick around. I know I’m gonna be thankful for the food I’m about to get when I go down to Atlanta to see my grandparents, my aunt and all my country cousins.
I’m thankful to be doing what I love and to have been able to meet and work with incredibly talented people. Supporting Coldplay was fucking amazing; playing to such huge crowds made me feel on top of the world. I’m thankful to not have broken any bones on stage yet, because I dance like a stupid kid and I fall over lots. My boyfriend had a mid-life crisis this year and got a load of piercings and leather jackets. It definitely made me feel less bad when I had my crazy breakdowns and started crying for no reason.
Seeing my family [for the FADER #83 cover story] in Morocco was definitely unexpected. That meant more than a lot. That was special. That was priceless. It feels good. Everything came together perfectly. I had a vision and just stuck to it, and kept it positive and everything came out the way we planned it out. And even more. To go from nothing through your life, to just waking up and you have every superstar you [can] think about coming to your party, showing you love—number one records, making millions. You know, having everything going your way. It’s unbelievable. I took time off for my birthday, relaxed for three days and just thought about everything. I had my birthday party here two days ago. Lil Wayne came out, Fat Joe came out, DJ Khaled came out, Trina came out, Sean Kingston came out. It was like an awards [show].
I’m really thankful for kombucha this year. Particularly Synergy kombucha, like the lavender flavor, #9, cosmic cranberry is awesome—anything that doesn’t have chia. I tried it years ago but didn’t like it at first. My friend had made homemade kombucha, and it was just so gross to me. So I just avoided it for awhile. But something about the way the Synergy bottle looks is just awesome. It drew me in. I started with Gingerade, and I popped off. It’s just a lot of vitamins and natural energy. Caffeine makes me kind of crazy and ginseng makes me tweak out a bit, so I’m just really thankful to have something that’s like caffeine and coconut water at the same time. American drink culture is really important. In Europe, they don’t have options. They’ll have like one of everything in very few things. Some bullshit, like, apple citrus soda mixed up. Ugh! Gross! I’d walk around literally for like two hours and go to every grocery store till I could find the one that had this one whack brand kind of kombucha, Carpe Diem. That’s the only thing they have for kombucha in basically all international countries.
I’m thankful for my family because my family is like my backbone. They’re my support system to help me with my daughter, and they support my dreams. I’m thankful for my daughter and for my guy. I’m thankful for a lot of things, but in music, I’m thankful for my fans, the fans that don’t care what you do, who support you no matter what. Hearing stuff like, “Your music saved my life,” makes me think I can’t ever stop. This is my purpose, this is what I’m here for. I’m really nothing without them.
We also got hit by the hurricane in Cleveland. So after having power out for upwards of four or five days where I live, I think I’m thankful for electricity, in general. There are certain things that people take for granted, and I think that that’s one of them. Not just to like stay warm, but as an electronic musician you need something to supply electricity to your instruments, so I guess that would be one thing that I’m thankful for. Having power back.
I’m thankful for people who have supported our music for the last six or seven years. Even though we’re starting to change things up a bit, it’s still kinda cool that people can understand that we’re artists trying to change things.
I am grateful for John Chowning, his compositions and his discovery of Digital FM Synthesis. In works like “Stria” and “Turenas,” John introduced an entirely new sound palette by shifting harmonic partials of digitally synthesized sounds and pushing the envelope with regards to spacialization. Digital FM Synthesis is not only a compositional tool I use a often, but the patent for this technology has generated funding for CCRMA, the research center where I learn about computer music and acoustics.
I’m thankful for my current success. I’m thankful for the people around me. I’m thankful for waking up this morning. I’m thankful for waking up everyday. I’m thankful for my mom waking up everyday. I’m thankful that I’m fresh. I’m thankful that I have a good head on my shoulders. I’ve done a lot of traveling lately, meeting a lot of people I’ve never met before in life. Those are the types of things that I’m thankful for. I was born in Mt. Hope in Port of Spain, Trinidad. I went back last year for the first time since I left when I was in the second grade. [I'm thankful for] this ring that my dad always wore when I was growing up that my family handed down to me. I got the same ring made over for myself when I went back to Trinidad. I wear a lot of gold but those two are special pieces for me.
CAROLINE HJELT: First of all, we signed this year, and we’ve been able to play live like, everywhere. “I Love It” sold platinum in Sweden and gold in New Zealand. We’re happy about so much stuff! We’re happy in life. AINO JAWO: Meeting nice people, going to beautiful places and hanging out with each other. We make each other very happy. HJELT: It’s good to have a friend that you trust 100% and that you can always talk to. You never get judged and you never get bored. We have so much fun together, it’s insane. At first, it was a little bit hard to not have a home. You didn’t have anything except each other. When we just accepted that, I think it’s such a beautiful thing because you’re so free and you really live for the day. You’re so creative, you can feel home everywhere. Thank you, freedom! We’ve never celebrated Thanksgiving. When is Thanksgiving? Oh! We’ll be in America. It will be our first Thanksgiving. We have to collect our crew. If you want to invite us to your family, we are very portable. We adjust to the situations very easily. JAWO: We’re going back to Sweden for Christmas. I’m gonna eat a lot of food and turn off my computer. I’m not gonna touch any electronic stuff. HJELT: I’m gonna go out in the woods and walk in the snow, and throw a lot of snowballs at people. JAWO: Maybe make love with someone.
I’m thankful that I’m existing and that I’m healthy and that I’m alive and around very good people. That’s what I’m thankful for.