The Free Music Phenomenon

One of my Facebook buddies is UncleJamz, a longtime music industry insider and manager of some pretty nifty musicians in Indianapolis, Charlotte, San Diego, Phoenix and Davenport, Iowa. He’s an old friend of my Uncle Bo (of Midnight Star), and he’s a really cool guy. He and I have been disagreeing on some aspects of today’s music industry. Namely, the whole “free album/mixtape” thing that has been going on for the last few years. I (obviously) don’t have a problem with it, but he thinks it is bad for the music industry, comparing it to shopping marts like Kroger and Meijers giving away their wares for free.

I took this as an opportunity to speak on the larger issue. I don’t think the free music thing is really about money, but about power. and my response to him explains why. check it out and let me know what you think…

UncleJamz said:
“The reason free is bad is because you don’t have right to give away someone else’s intellectual property away. If the indie acts wants to give away their own, stuff, well have at it – but makes sure you own every bit of the song, perhaps the music producer or as they call it “the beatmaker” is not in agreement with that. Major record labels gave away free goods to retailers, media and deejays, but not to consumers unless it was contest. The free goods were not charged against the artist’s accounting books. JuQuan Williams ask your uncle if he is happy recorded music is not selling and being given away – IJS If Kroger gave away all their food, Meijers, etc, would have to go out of business. ”

I say:
“but that’s the thing. the music industry is not Kroger or Meijers. you can’t judge it on that merit. Intellectual property has an entirely different set of rules.

I’ll use myself as an example. I honestly don’t care if I don’t make one dime off of my music. I just want people to hear my music, and I don’t mind giving away a bunch of it. I am not beholden to any company. nobody owns the rights to my music. I write, produce, perform, record and promote my own music. so if i decide to offer my album for free on bandcamp (which I do at http://juggghead.bandcamp.com), or even to sell a 15-song album for a buck (which I have), then I have nobody else to answer to but myself. nobody is in my pocket.

And many independent artists are similar. they might not do everything themselves, but they are paying for everything out of their own pockets, so the product is theirs to determine how they market it. if they want to take a lump sum of money upfront to give the album away for free (like U2 and Jay-Z did), then that is their prerogative. for every $10-$15 CD sold, the artists only get about $1.50, that they have to split with everyone who helped make the music. the guy losing the $1.50 isn’t losing as much as the guy losing the $8.50, but the guy losing the $1.50 is the one who actually created the product the guy losing $8.50 is so worried about. That model works fine in a place like GM, where the average assembly worker is part of a team of hundreds mass-producing a car. but intellectual property is not and should not be mass-produced.

and heck, if you ask Bunny Debarge how much money she made off of “Dream,” she might as well have been giving it away for free. Despite the fact that that song is a Motown classic and has been sampled by the likes of Tupac and Blackstreet, she hasn’t gotten any of the royalties for it. She sells her current single on her website (http://bunny-debarge.com) for a buck, but if she chose to offer it for free as a way to get you to buy her book (or vice verse, even) then that is her prerogative because nobody is in her pocket anymore making more money off of her music than she is. Ras Kass had to fight Priority tooth and nail for ownership and the right to sell his own music, when all they wanted to do with it was throw it in a vault and let it rot. So who was looking out for the artist then? BTW Ras won, and now sells the album for $9 on bandcamp, right next to his latest single, which he gives away for free.

The music industry is more akin to the book industry. the advent of digital books has made it easier than ever before to get a book published, just like with music, and there are a gaggle of authors giving away free downloads of their books, just like with music. but the authors who give away their books use that as a marketing tool to promote their other projects, like other books they want to sell (Marvel and DC do it all the time), or paid speaking engagements, or merchandise, even just visiting their blog and where they can make money off of the ads.

There are new models of garnering income from your music other than record sales. My uncle…and my mother…made waaaaay more money from publishing than they did from record sales. not every artist is a songwriter, but every artist is a performer. and every independent artist is an entrepreneur. two of the artists I support that give away free music are Run The jewels and Random. Yes, they have music available for sale, but they also offer free music. the free albums are actually a marketing tool to get people to come to their shows and buy their merchandise. In fact, they have both held kickstarter campaigns and raised money directly from their fans in exchange for the free music. Random offered his latest album for free…to everyone who came to his shows. He still makes money off of his music, and the fans who support him get some exclusive music as a bonus. so who gets cheated?
and Run the Jewels just raised $45,000 via kickstarter off of their free album. So who got cheated? a record label that would have taken most of their profits anyway? I’ve seen way too many record labels screw over the artists responsible for their big profits to feel ANY sympathy for them.

for a lot of other artists, offering free albums and mixtapes is no different than shopping a demo – which is also giving away music for free, right? except instead of paying an agent or a lawyer or a manager to do it, they let their fans to the heavy work. Drake, Nikki, Soulja Boy, Iggy, Fiddy, Childish Gambino and KRIT all owe their careers to the free music phenomenon. That was how they all got discovered (or in 50’s case, rediscovered).

You know I got nuthin’ but love for ya, Sid, and as an industry insider I understand and respect your stance, but as an artist and creator I obviously don’t agree with it. It’s not 1984 anymore. the free music issue is only an indicator of the larger truth: Times have changed, and the old mode of doing business has gone the way of the newspaper. the industry has to evolve or die, and right now the power is shifting out of the hands of the record labels and directly into the hands of the artists…which is where it should have been in the first place.”

The Origin of Jugghead

The Origin of Jugghead

If you’ve spent any time with me or on this site, you’ll know that I dabble in music. I was fully immersed in the rap game from the mid 80’s until about 2001. I took a break from it for a few years, but after I got married, I started rhyming and producing again. If you visit my Jugghead site, you can listen to a bunch ofmy music, and download a few albums for free.

Many people have asked me why I gave myself the stagename “Jugghead.”

And the answer is a loooong one.

My first rhymes were said waaaaaay back in 1986. My and my Buddy Ed were playing on his brand new Vetrex (wow), when his older sister Ebony (Who I thought was fine as heck but I couldn’t holler at her ’cause she was 16 and I was 11) came in bouncing a mixtape featuring some guy named Doug E. Fresh. Me and Ed was feeling it so hard, we put the video game aside, picked up his old Casio keyboard with the wack preprogrammed beats, and started dropping rhymes as “Eazy E and DDT.” I was DDT because that’s the signature I use whenever I get the high score on video games. We did about three wack songs that night, but our interest in being the next great MC’s lasted about as long as our attention spans, which suffice to say weren’t that long. By the end of the night we were watching Leave it to Beaver reruns (like you didn’t. don’t front) and playing with Transformers without one single thought about getting into the rap game.

I didn’t get serious about rapping until 1989, when I First heard the D.O.C. That album is basically what sparked me to want to be an MC. It was listening to “The Grand Finale” that I wrote my first ever real rap song, “No Mars” which was a battle rap. I liked what I wrote so much I followed it up with a few other songs: “Just a Decent Guy,” “Somebody Cut The Cheeze,” and “I am The Law.” If you think those titles are corny, the actual lyrics were worse. Back then I didn’t have the nerve to actually say any of the songs I was rapping, so I just wrote. I didn’t even have a stagename.

I moved to a new neighborhood in 1990, and met up with Proffessor Crookyd (Back then he was called “Kid Vicious” I kid you not.) we got bored one day and thought, “Hey, why don’t we start a rap group?” My Moms was a professional songwriter, and had a small studio in our basement that she used. She was happy to see me take an interest in the “family business” (My dad was a bass player in a group that featured Babyface and members of Midnight Star before he married my moms) so she let us use her equipment, just so long as we didn’t break anything. We got a couple of the other boys in the neighborhood and formed “Tha Master Assassinz,” and I was MC Will, co-group leader and the producer of the group (it was my studio, so naturally I made all the beats). We did a few freestyle songs, and PC actually got me to perform those dumb songs I wrote way back, but it was nothing really serious.

That changed when my Moms got us a performance at a summer talent show on the southside of Flint. We decided that the “Master Assassinz” thing wasn’t cool enough, So we needed a new gimmick. We became “Codename I.C.E.” (No, the I.C.E. didn’t really stand for anything) after all the rappers who had ice in their names at the time (ice Cube, Ice T, Smooth Ice, Ice Cream Tee, Mixmaster Ice, you get the idea). We all had to have an ice-related name: We had R-Tek Ice, DJ Ice, The Snowman, PC was Cold Ice and I was Chilled Ice (although by the time we did the show I was Crush Ice). The performance went pretty well, to the point where we thought we could actually be a successful rap group. We were always rehearsing, and in the studio working on new demo material. since hip-hop was transitioning from the political stuff to the Gangsta stuff, our gimmick was that we were “hip-hop terrorists.” Don’t ask where we got it from. By the end of our first summer we had finished our first demo “The Debut,” which I still have a copy of somewhere, actually. I then did a solo joint (which I lost) called “Tha Monstaman,” where I tried SO hard to be the next Chuck D (but then again, who Didn’t? Everybody wanted to be the next Chuck D back then).

When High School started, the pro-black, conscious stuff was officially passé, so PC suggested we change our name and image. Now we were gangsta rappas, and our group name was ADG, for “All Day Gangstas” (Of course, ADG was also PC’s initials: Anthony Deshay Gray. Coincidence?) I changed my name appropriately to “Gangsta De” Don’t ask me where that came from. We QUICKLY changed to something else. We evolved with hip-hop, and around the time Tribe, De La and Digital Underground all dropped their second albums, we became a more laid-back, stylin’ and profilin’ hip-hop group. “S.T.Y.L.E.” was our name, for “Steppin’ To You Like Enemies.” Crook became Shay-D, and I started off as Furious Styles (yep, just like THAT Furious Styles), but after seeing the movie “FX” I changed it to Furious X. I could still do my pro-black shtick (having the X in my name), but then I could abbreviate my name to F/X and be the producer behind the scenes (Clever, huh?) S.T.Y.L.E. only lasted one demo before our members started pursuing other interests (namely, girls), but as Furious X I managed to do about 4 solo albums (“Save the Drama for Your Mama,” “Mind Games: The Next Step,” “Army of One” and “Also Known as Peasy”) before The fam came on hard times, and Moms had to pawn off all her studio equipment. (AND sell the pawn tickets. what chall know about that kind of struggle? WHAT!!!)

Now, I’ve known Hookdiggy, Waxo and Devastator for EVER, but I didn’t find out until high school that Will and Jon were doing the hip-hop thing. After we traded demos and stuff, and I told Hook about my non-studio dilemma, he recommended I get at Wax and see about laying some tracks with him. Jon was happy to do some stuff, and by graduation day I had recorded three more basement albums (“Return of the Pease,” Pease Plus: the remix album” and “Peasyman: Nuff Said.” Notice a theme?). After a while, I introduced PC to Wax and they started doing stuff. Yes, many of these songs were over other, more established artists’ music, and yes, we gave away these albums for free? You now what that means? That means we were doing the “free album/mixtape” thing approximately 25 years before it was cool. Respect.

Junior year, Crook and I formed a two man group called QnA (Quan and Anthony. Get it? CLEVER! CLEVER!!!), and he had us recording our demo “S.T.Y.L.E.” at his studio. I had gotten rid of “F/X’ and changed my name to “Peasyman,” after a nickname I earned in high school for my perpetually nappy hair. All of our peeps guest starred on it: this led to Hookdiggy and I doing our first collabo track together (“Nuthin Kan Sayve Ya”) and to us meeting Don Dada, who is related to PC and had also started recording there. Crook and I decided to go our separate ways for good after that, mainly because he wanted to take his music in one direction, and I wanted to go another way. but at the time Dev had starting rapping, so the four of us decided to form our own “supergroup” called Menace 2 Society. Then that *&@$&#$% Movie came out, and every rap group under the sun started calling themselves Menace To Society. so we just abbreviated our name to M2S and told folks that it didn’t stand for anything. We did our first basement demo “Strait Frum Tha L” and I swear we were the biggest psychopathic hardcore gangster killers in the world. We must have killed the entire population of Detroit on that album. Twice.

With that out of our system, we mellowed our sound out a bit (okay, a LOT) and around the time we went to college, we got really serious about getting our music heard. I had also decided that “Peasyman” was WAAAAY too corny a name to be up in the industry with (If I had known the industry would see such clever names as Juvenile, Magoo, Silkk Da Shocka, Trick Daddy and Lil Boosie, I would have reconsidered.) So I was about to call myself “Juggernaut,” when surprise, surprise, somebody else dropped an album going by that name. so I took the “jugg” and added “head”, and my current stagename was born.

what’s in a name? I have no idea what in the world possessed me to call myself “Jugghead.” Honestly. I tried to put some meaning behind the name, like saying my flow and style is laid back like the Jughead in Archie comics, or even going the abbreviation route like “Jesters Underestimate the Greatness of God, but He’ll Eventually Ascend from Darkness.” but nothing’s sticking. So eff it. I called myself Jugghead because it seemed like a freaking good idea at the time, which is pretty much why I do everything I do.

Next, whenever I get around to volume two, I’ll discuss the “Phalanx” years. If anybody wants the movie rights, holla.

Mood Music

Got something on my mind I need to get your input on.

You all know I’m a huge music buff. I listen to just about everything, but one my biggest loves is intellectual or “backpack” hip-hop. and over the past few months, a few of my favorite artists have released new material I’ve been peeping.

First of all, Comedian Donald Glover (from community and 30 rock) moonlights as the rapper Childish Gambino, and he’s actually pretty good. he released a concept album called “Because the Internet” which is about the confusion in his personal life and how we all have been negatively affected by the internet. Good stuff.

I’m also a big fan of underground rap legend Pharoahe Monch, and he released an album called PTSD which is actually kind of self-explanatory. It’s a concept album about depression and its causes.

The third album I picked up is from Royce Da 5’9, Joe Budden, Crooked I and Joel Ortiz, collectively known as the battle rap supergroup Slaughterhouse. It was a free album called House Rules which is a preview of their upcoming major album. but on House Rules they talked a lot about their personal struggles like losing family members to cancer and being so po’ you can’t afford the o and the r.

And the latest album i grabbed is by by my favorite rap group, The Roots. Their album is called “and then you shoot your cousin.” and it’s another concept album about dumb rap cliches and the sad, hopeless people who live by them.

Real cheery stuff, right?

Well, I didn’t think anything of the subject matter at the time, I just liked the music. I was listening to these albums on heavy rotation for the past couple of months, especially the Roots album. it’s musically brilliant and the songs haunt you. I mean, they REALLY haunt you. right now I’ve got the melodies and lyrics of a few of the songs stuck in my head. And therein lies the problem.

I just had a dream of trying to commit suicide. Believe me, guys, i have absolutely NO desire to kill myself. yeah, there’s a lot of crap in my life I wish would improve, but things could be a ton worse. I have a beautiful, loving wife, a job, a house and two cars, family that supports me through thick and thin, and great friends like you all who give me reasons to smile. I like myself, and I like my life. but in my dream, I’m literally wrestling with myself mentally, telling myself the only way my family will be safe is if i died. this dream bothered me for the rest of the day. I wondered why would I have these thoughts even subconsciously.

I had to take a serious look at the music i was listening to. Specifically these four albums, which I had been listening to more than anything else as of late. it’s basically a whole lot of sad songs about sad people leading sad lives. everyone in these songs is miserable, and I’m wondering if that has somehow filtered into my mind and made me miserable too.

Am I offbase with this? is this music really affecting my mood that much or am i overanalysing things? either way, i think I’m going to take those albums off of my playlist for a while and listen to some more positive, uplifting music. doesn’t necessarily have to be gospel, but some of that will be on the menu too. Any suggestions?

The New Breed

I admit it: I’m an old fuddy-duddy when it comes to music. I have become the guy I hated when I was a teenager: the one who hated the new music and swore that his music from his time was better than the new crap that is popular today. And for the most part that still holds true. I stopped truly paying attention to new rap artists after 2005, mainly because the stuff I had been hearing either on the radio or in the streets has been so bland and disappointing.

But recently I’ve had reason to rethink my position. I still think the vast majority of today’s hip-hop is crap, but I have to acknowledge that there are a few artists in this new generation of MC that interest me. And in my opinion, they’re all pretty darned good at rocking the mic.

So here is my informal, unofficial top ten list in no particular order (except for the #1 guy) of rappers who debuted post-2005 that I’m into. This is not an all-encompassing list, as I might (and probably will) stumble across some new MCs in the future that I want to follow (I’m looking at you, Sammus and Wordburglar), but these are the top guys on my list right now.

  1. Random. When you hear the phrase “Stay humble, stay hungry,” you don’t think that applies to most music stars. This has been the epitome of Mega Ran’s character. This is the reason why he is atop my list of “new” MCs that I follow. The fact that despite his status as a rising star in indie hip-hop, he makes himself VERY accessible to his fans. I feel less like a fan and more like a colleague and a peer: he has been a FB friend of mine (under his government name, no less) for the past 2 years, and I correspond with him regularly like I do with my closet and most trusted friends. I even sent him a link to my latest rap album (you can download it for free at http://jugghead.bandcamp.com/album/chapter-2), and he said he liked it. In addition to being a great MC, he also comes off as a likable PERSON, and that’s more important.
    on top of that, he has redefined the game for indie rap artists, proven that rappers can be successful and build careers for themselves by giving out free music, and has become one of the faces and poster children for Nerdcore. He is a master wordsmith, and quite frankly NOBODY is better at putting together a concept album. It’s basically his calling card.
    Every time he releases something new, I’m putting it on my “must grab” list. His song “Doubt Me” is one of my morning anthems to get me ready for my day. And at every opportunity I’m telling people about this guy and even sharing some of my favorite Mega Ran songs with them.
  2. Kendrick Lamar. For the longest time I was trying not to buy into K-Dot’s hype. The whole “New King Of The West” talk must have been hyperbole, right? After all, they said the same thing about Game and we saw how well that panned out. But when one of my kids finally convinced me to give the guy a shot, and I heard of the Grammy nomination, I had to dig deeper into his style. After peeping “Good Kid, mAAdCity” – and looking up the lyrics, I am firmly in the K. Lamar camp. The boy is The Truth.
  3. Childish Gambino. I don’t watch a lot of Television, and I don’t really try to get into this new breed of rapper, so in pretty much every way conceivable I slept on the work of Mr. Donald Glover. But then I hear via the blogvines about how great this “Because The Internet” album is, and I decide to give him a chance via his “Royalty” free album (I refuse to call it a mixtape). To say I was blown away would be an understatement. The dude’s use of wit and clever wordplay coupled with his Gift of Gab-like willingness to change styles and deliveries – oftentimes in midverse – along with his thoughtfulness and honesty, and you get a nice combination of talent. Oh yeah, dude also can sing and he makes his own beats. I finally checked out BTI –mainly because I’m a sucker for a concept album –  and I recommend it to everybody. Finally, unlike 99% of he MCs who claim to be rich, Bino actually has the numbers to back up his boasts. He was a superstar entertainer long before he picked up a mic.
  4. OMG. Ice cube’s youngest son carries his father’s legacy well. He has a voice similar to Cube’s and he has the same amount of confidence on the mic that Cube had, too. He claim’s his dad’s Lench Mob crew and works with Lench Mob member DJ Crazy Tunes? Bonus. I wish he’d deliver a little more social commentary like his father did, but even if he doesn’t, I like him the way he is.
  5. Yelawolf. I didn’t know anything About Yeller until I heard he got signed along with Slaughterhouse to Shady Records. I checked him out on Youtube and was immediately a fan. He has a very unique voice and delivery style, and while everybody nowadays is rapping double-time, few can do it with a style that doesn’t sound carbon copied from other rappers. Yelawolf is one of those few.
  6. Lecrae. Being a Christian fan of hip-hop, I’m actually a bit ashamed that I don’t support Christian Hip-Hop more. Aside from the likes of Da TRUTH and T-Bone, I really couldn’t tell you anything about Christ Rap. Lecrae’s mixtapes really opened my eyes to what could be done with that medium and that message. Dude is honest and insightful, without delving into a lot of the tired clichés that you hear from a lot of gospel rappers.
  7. Jon Connor. I’m not just putting him on this list because he’s from my hometown. Jon is a talented MC who actually knows a few people I’m connected to. He’s a pure MC with awesome punchlines, and a unique story to tell, which is actually a consistent theme among the new rappers I like.
  8. Big Sean. This is another local flavor, as Big Sean hails from Detroit. He’s another one I ignored “just because he’s new,” but like some of the other guys on the list, I gave him a try on his “Detroit” free album, and I was impressed. And his single “Beware” was flat out brilliant. The guy is a very polished lyricist and performer, and has a style similar to Drake’s without copying. I actually think he’s proven himself more clever.
  9. Wale & Big KRITT. The Roots endorsed these two. That’s good enough for me.

 

When you get a chance, check these guys out. I think you’ll like them as  much as I do.

I need proofreaders!

Okay, here’s an update on my projects:

  1. Godmode is selling briskly. It’s not on pace to be a bestseller or anywhere near the top of the Amazon book list, but it is moving units. It’s humbling that almost 1000 people have picked up copies of the book since its release in April, and a few people have taken time to chime in on what they thought of it. I even appreciate the not-so-flattering reviews. At least you cared enough to say SOMETHING. The plan is to continue to promote the book any way I can. I actually want to post some google ads, but I’m having a hard time freeing up the  money to invest in an extensive marketing campaign.
  2. I haven’t forgotten about The Seizure. I’ve actually written scripts for the next 4 chapters. Chapters 6-9 are all finished and ready to go. All they need is art. Problem is I’ve been working insane hours at the dayjob as well as taking as many freelance clients as my brain can handle. I’m actually quite proud of myself for how I managed to tie everything in the story together. But there’s still the final chapter to be written, and as of right now I have no idea how this thing is going to end. All I know is that Bobby and his buddies are headed for a major showdown against a most unexpected foe. I have no idea how this confrontation is going to play out. I just know that somehow I want all of Bobby’s allies to have a moment of shine, and I want Bobby’s battle to be EPIC. Also, finding the time to actually do the artwork for the chapters I have finished has been a Herculean task. I take my art supplies with me almost everywhere, but there’s never any time to pull them out and actually do anything with them. The final issue is that I promised to continue doing webcomic reviews (I’ve got a huge list of comics to look at stored) but I haven’t done a single one. Not. A. Single. One. Honestly, the motivating factor of the webcomic reviews was for marketing and driving traffic to my own webcomic, and with the actual comic on hold, that seems kind of pointless. But sooner or later, one day I will get The Seizure back on track – I hate leaving stories unfinished.
  3. I still have plans to reissue The leopard Man as a self-publishing venture. I’ll probably put it out through a combination of Createspace, Kindle publishing, Nook and Smashwords. And I would offer the download for FREE as a big middle finger to the-publisher-that-shall-not-be-named. But it involves a total, complete reformatting of the manuscript, going through and finding/fixing the typos that their editors were too lazy to look for, not to mention setting the book up for all of these different venues. Truth be told, it is not very high on my priority list. Not very high at all. But if there’s a demand for the book, I’ll see what I can do about making it available.
  4. But right about now I’m getting the itch to start working on a new story. I’ve been talking with my old buddy Amy Lewis about maybe collabing on an action crime flick screenplay, on some “Taken meets Law Abiding Citizen crossed over with Falling Down” isht. And I’ve been thinking about delving into starting the first book of my high fantasy epic “Kingdom in the closet.” I already have the book outlined and some worldbuilding done, I just need to start writing. And of course, there’s always planning out the next book in the Godmode trilogy (yes, I intended for it to be a trilogy).
    Problem is, I have a nasty habit of starting multiple projects and inching forward on all of them at once. I’ve been trying to be more “one project at a time,” but it’s hard to do because I know I have a limited time in this mortal coil and I keep getting bombarded with ideas (in fact, I got a couple of cool app ideas I just pitched to some programmer buddies of mine). But before I start pouring my time and energy into a new book, I want to see how far I can take the current manuscript I have sitting on my hard drive.
    This is where you come in.
    I’m working on the second draft of my literary love story “Spades.” It chronicles two college sweethearts as they fall in love and build their relationship in college, then fight to stay together as they deal with the harsh realities of life after graduation. It’s a book about falling in love, staying in love through trials and hardship, and playing the hand one is dealt. I want this story to be absolutely irresistible to agents and publishers, but for that to happen I need some extra sets of eyes to look at this story and tell me how it can be improved.
    I’m putting out an open call to all of my people and everyone reading this blog. I NEED PROOFREADERS! I really need some people to read my story over, pick it apart, ask questions and give me some intel I can use to make the story as good as it can be. Can you please find it in your heart and in your schedule to check it out? I’ll include your name in my acknowledgements or dedication once the book sees print. Contact me at quan@quanwilliams.com if you’re interested.
  5. Can you do it? Please? I’ll be your best friend…

GODMODE is for the children.

GODMODE is for the children.

I just had an awesome time interviewing juniors at GrandBlancHigh School this past Wednesday. I was thoroughly impressed by how seriously the majority of the students took the event, coming in dressed to impressed and even bringing resumes.

It’s an annual event the school sets up to help prepare their kids for postgrad life and the rigors of getting jobs and college admission. Every student is required to attend and do at least two interviews, as well as check out at least three job fair booths.

I have absolutely no idea how these guys found out about me and GODMODE, but they extended an invite to me to appear and conduct some interviews. I was a little apprehensive because I’m not a company and I’m certainly not hiring, so what could I possibly offer to the event? But I decided to attend anyway, and just make the most of my opportunity when I got there. At the very least, I could use it as a vehicle to promote my book some more.

I printed up a few bookmarks with the Godmode website on it, and attended. It was very well organized, and they even offered me breakfast and lunch. It was formatted to where half of the booths conducted interviews while the other half was a job fair, and then it flip-flopped after lunch. I did the job fair part first, and was happy to meet with about 20 students who had taken an interest in either me, my book, or my profession. I was able to guage their interest and give them a few pointers about pursuing one’s dream of writing professionally, and getting published. I was asked about where I draw inspiration, how I got published, what classes I took to prepare for writing, what I write about, as well as the pros and cons of being a writer. I told them the biggest pro of writing, especially writing fiction, was that you are in complete control of the stories you create, which is very therapeutic when you’re a teenager and so much of your world is out of your control. I even got a few of them who were interested in proofreading my next book.

After lunch, the focus shifted and I was the one doing the interviewing. The first bunch of kids I talked to were awesome, and very serious about exploring the writing profession. One guy (I think his name was Desean) was on the Grand Blanc Football team, and played alongside my nephew Terrance Dye, who now plays at NorthernMichiganUniversity (Go Wildcats!). awesome kid: well-prepared, articulate, well-dressed and respectful. If that’s how he always is, Desean;s going to do some major things after he leaves high school. Since I didn’t really have any positions for them to interview for, I instead went the route of asking them about how prepared they were for some of the hidden aspects of the writing life: drawing inspiration, studying others to improve your craft, doing research, handling rejection, withstanding criticism and stuff like that. To some kids I had to give them some important general interviewing tips (i.e. DON’T BE LATE!!!) I talked to a number of other kids, all with very promising futures. Unfortunately, about half of these kids weren’t really interested in becoming authors, and really only interviewed me to meet their quota. To these kids I tried to show them how being a good writer can have a positive impact on whatever their career goals are, and how the skills necessary to being a successful author can still apply to them.

There were a number of prominent companies there, including Microsoft, Edward Jones, ITT, the armed forces and a bunch of colleges. I got to do some networking with Diplomat Pharmacy and hope to get my foot in the door with them and this graphics firm I also met there. I then ran into another author who was looking to start a writer’s group with other African-American writers in Flint. So I was able to come away with some very valuable contacts.

There were quite a few people taking an interest in GODMODE, and I was pleased to have gotten rid of all 25 of my bookmarks. A bunch of the kids thought the concept behind the novel was awesome, and I was pleased to hear that. There was a church there interviewing, and a few of them seemed to take a little umbrage with me using the title GODMODE for a sci-fi horror book about monsters, and I at first wanted to tell them that one of my main characters is a bible-quoting evangelical Christian, but I thought better of it and just shrigged the whole thing off.

I enjoyed the event a lot, and would have stayed a little longer to do more networking if I didn’t have to bolt for work immediately after. If they ask, and I’m still in Michigan next year, I’d love for a chance to do it again.

Anatomy of a Scam

Over my now 37 years on this earth (Boy do i feel old), I’ve been blessed to not have fallen for too many scams. I have gotten suckered by some telemarketers, but I did actually receive a product of some sort in exchange for foolishly giving away my money. As of late, though, I’ve been targeted a couple of times by scam artists, and I am not happy about it. Neither is my wife, who made it a personal issue to screw over the latest guy who tried to screw us over.

What was supposed to be an entry level Administrative Assistant job turned into an elaborate check-cashing scam that wasted a lot of my time. I think I found out about the job via Craig’s List. my Web design and Graphics job search was going nowhere fast, so i thought I’d try my hand at a career switch, and I had some transferable skills I could use in the office environment. These guys replied, claiming to be a manufacturing company in Indiana. they even had a website at http://www.bbconstructors.com (more on that later). So I tried to vet the guys, looking them up on the BBB website and various phone directories, and they seemed to be a legit company.

Now I’m going to post the ENTIRE record of my conversations with these guys via Yahoo Messenger, along with all of the red flags that showed me these dudes were frauds. Please read this over so you’ll know what to look for in case you come across something suspicious. Oh, and if you’re wondering how check cashing scams work, check out these links: http://www.bbb.org/us/article/job-seeker-scam-uses-fake-checks-with-bbb-name-40251, and http://www.fakechecks.org/prevention-faqs.html

 

IM Oct 10 9:04 AM

  • Oct 10 8:59 AM

JuQuan williams:Hello, Mr. Johnson.

  • Oct 10 9:00 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good Morning

  • Oct 10 9:00 AM

JuQuan williams:How are you doing?

  • Oct 10 9:00 AM

Richmond Johnson:I am good how was your night?

  • Oct 10 9:01 AM

JuQuan williams:It was busy. I currently work 2nd shift.

  • Oct 10 9:03 AM

JuQuan williams:Would you still like to speak to me about a Position at B&B Construction? I am very much interested in it.

  • Oct 10 9:03 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good you are welcome.

  • Oct 10 9:03 AM

Richmond Johnson:Please hold till 9am .

  • Oct 10 9:03 AM

Richmond Johnson:Thank you.

  • Oct 10 9:04 AM

JuQuan williams:Can do. Looking forward to it.

(first red flag: why is he saying wait until 9:00 when I am messaging him at 9:00? The guy must not really be in Indiana…)

IM Oct 10 9:48 AM

  • Oct 10 9:22 AM

JuQuan williams:Small question. Are you on Eastern time or Central time?

  • Oct 10 9:23 AM

Richmond Johnson:Yes. Eastern time .

  • Oct 10 9:24 AM

JuQuan williams:Okay. I’m ready to start whenever you are. Thank you for this opportunity.

  • Oct 10 9:24 AM

Richmond Johnson:You are welcome.

  • Oct 10 9:47 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good Morning

  • Oct 10 9:47 AM

Richmond Johnson:How are you this morning and how was your night?

  • Oct 10 9:48 AM

Richmond Johnson:<ding>

  • Oct 10

IM Oct 10 10:16 AM

  • Oct 10 9:59 AM

JuQuan williams:I’m okay. last night was busy, but today’s a new day.

  • Oct 10 10:00 AM

Richmond Johnson:I am good this morning, and my night was great with my family, thanks for asking.

  • Oct 10 10:00 AM

Richmond Johnson:About Our Company Corporation established in 1997 Family business founded by three brothers who had a dream of “Building for the Future” that turned into reality.

  • Oct 10 10:00 AM

Richmond Johnson: We have the financial strength and capabilities to take advantage of strong demand in the power, tunnel, water/underground and civil markets, expand into new geographic regions, and offer customers a broader range of expertise, backed by equally dedicated project teams.

  • Oct 10 10:01 AM

Richmond Johnson: Before i proceed with interview,i will like to inform you that this is a work from home job for the post of Customer Services Representatives/Administrative Assistant for our clients/customers. And your Duties will include: Order sorting Account Reconciliation Shipment Notification Taking down orders from clients via phone,internet and fax..

(Red Flag 1A: I was NOT looking for a work from home job. and I know I didn’t apply for any. so if this is a work from home job, they said nothing about it on the job posting.)

  • Oct 10 10:01 AM

Richmond Johnson:Understood?

  • Oct 10 10:01 AM

JuQuan williams:Yes.

  • Oct 10 10:02 AM

Richmond Johnson:Very good.

  • Oct 10 10:02 AM

Richmond Johnson: This Interview is a very simple process,i will send you the entire questions now through IM and you are to send in your answers within a limited time of 40-45 mins..Remember you have a limited time of 40-45 mins to answer all questions. Here are the Interview questions,send your answers one after the other:

  • Oct 10 10:02 AM

Richmond Johnson:*What are your full names? *Location? *Do you have a job presently?If yes,what is your position with the Company? *Why do you want to work for B & B Construction of Richmond, Inc. *I would be interested to hear about an occasion when your work or an idea was criticized, what was criticized, who criticized you, and how did you handle it? *Describe the best manager you ever had. The worst. What qualities did each of them have? *What do you do when you have a great deal of work to accomplish in a short period of time?*What kinds of decisions are most difficult for you? *I’m interested in hearing about the last time you took a risk. What was it and in retrospect, was it the right decision?

  • Oct 10 10:02 AM

Richmond Johnson:*How important is communication and interaction with others on your job? How many departments did you deal with? What problems occurred? *How would you grade your ability to communicate with upper level management, customers, and peers? *Tell me about a work situation you had that required excellent communication skills. *What are your 5-year goals? *Tell me what “success” means to you. *What does “failure” mean to you? *Do you consider yourself successful? *Do you set goals for yourself and how do you do that? *What is your greatest strength/weakness or deficiency? *What motivates you to do your best work?

  • Oct 10 10:02 AM

Richmond Johnson: please answer the questions promptly and let me know when you are through You may start now.

  • Oct 10 10:03 AM

JuQuan williams:My full name is JuQuan D. Williams.

  • Oct 10 10:03 AM

JuQuan williams:i live in Flint, Michigan.

  • Oct 10 10:04 AM

JuQuan williams:I currently work as a Behavior coach at Whaley Children’s center. I supervise and counsel abused and neglected children.

  • Oct 10 10:05 AM

JuQuan williams:I was interested in B&B because I am looking to make a career change, and I believe some of the skills I have built over the years can be applied to being an Administrative assistant.

  • Oct 10 10:07 AM

JuQuan williams:I also work as a freelance Graphic/web designer, so I am always in constant dialogue with my clients about their likes and dislikes. For instance, I was designing the logo for MVP-101.com, and there was a lot of back-and-forth over what the client liked and the message he was trying to send about his company. but we were able to come up with a design that he liked and it produced the logo he uses to this day.

  • Oct 10 10:11 AM

JuQuan williams:The best manager I had was a lady named Jeri Winfrey-Carter. She was the site supervisor at an afterschool teaching job I had. Not only was she very easy to get along with and capable as a leader, but she gave me the freedom to design my own curriculum and solve problems using my own skills, creativity and experience as opposed to always doing things her way. Conversely, the supervisor I least enjoyed working for did not give me that freedom, and also did not take the time to indoctrinate me on the style and expectations of his company, or the way the company does business, while at the same time giving me a hard time because I was learning these things on the spot.

  • Oct 10 10:13 AM

JuQuan williams:When I am confronted with a lot of work in a short period of time, I tend to try to focus and concentrate on getting as much of it done as possible. I try to tunr everything else out and focus solely on the work at hand, and the most efficient way to complete it. Prioritizing what projects need to be focused on first is the trickiest decision for me.

  • Oct 10 10:16 AM

JuQuan williams:One of my riskiest decisions was for a personal project. It was a website I was working on, and I am well-versed in HTML, but I had never tried to create a site in WordPress/PHP before. Having to learn an entirely new system would set me back considerably if I couldn’t learn it quickly enough. But I knew that I would need to know that skill so I went ahead and created the site in WordPress. It turned out to be a great decision because once I got familiar with the language I was able to offer the service to current and future graphics clients. and the original site turned out pretty well, too.

IM Oct 10 10:45 AM

  • Oct 10 10:20 AM

JuQuan williams:Communication is of the utmost importance. circumstances and standards change, and it is key to know what is going on so one can best adapt to it. Currently I work between three group homes and three dormitories, each with different focuses and styles. Children go back and forth between these frequently, and there are constant changes in leadership and policy. Not keeping abreast of these things and having an open line of communication with the other staff can lead to costly mistakes which could severely stunt a child’s devlopment and conversely land Whaley in a lot of liability trouble. And though I wasn’t involved, that has happened at Whaley and it cost some of my superiors their jobs.

  • Oct 10 10:23 AM

JuQuan williams:I believe I am able to communicate well with upper management. For instance, I recently had to work at a group home that had lost its site manager, so the entire system was in flux, and traumatized children often react negatively to unstable situations. So I had to have a constant dialogue with upper management about what the daily routine was at the group home, what supplies were needed, what the daily schedule was for the children, who had visits or appointments, how the children were going to get their daily medications since I was not authorized to pass them out, and even what was for dinner (because I had to be the one that cooked it).

  • Oct 10 10:25 AM

JuQuan williams:My goal in five years is to be working at a stable, long term position that I can build my career with, regardless of the field I’m working in. I would like to have some stability that I can support my family with, and to also be able to train in new technologies to increase my skill level.

  • Oct 10 10:29 AM

JuQuan williams:Success to me is twofold. first, it is accomplishing the short term or long term goals you have set for yourself. In that area My success rate is 50/50. I have had some personal goals that I have achieved, but my long term goal of finding a career I enjoy and can retire from has eluded me. my second definition is the rising of status level and achieving greater than what was expected of you. Int his regard I am very successful, because I came from an environment where people generally weren’t expected to acheive at a high level, and I exceeded expectations.

  • Oct 10 10:32 AM

JuQuan williams:Failure for me is the opposite of that. When you are unable to rise above negative circumstances, or you give up and don’t even try, that is failure. I also think that when you are given certain responsibilities and you do not make the effort to honor those responsibilities, that is also a great failure, and I see the results of that failure every time I work with my children.

  • Oct 10 10:36 AM

JuQuan williams:Like I stated before, at one level I do consider myself successful because I have been able to rise above circumstances in my environment which dictated failure. I was also able to accomplish some things that most people only dream about. I am a published novelist, a musician with multiple albums, a college graduate, and an entrepreneur. I have a lovely wife and I own my home with no mortgage. These are some things people talk about achieving, but many never do.

  • Oct 10 10:38 AM

JuQuan williams:I am a creative person, so most of my goals revolve around bringing ideas I get to life. i write an idea down and store it, then spend a little time each day working on those ideas. I also set goals for myself with both my career and my marriage. it’s simply a matter of looking at what you are lacking and where you are deficient and making the decision to address that deficiency with the intent of turning that weakness into a strength.

  • Oct 10 10:41 AM

JuQuan williams:The only serious deficiency I have is taking on more work than I can handle. I always strive to put my best effort forth in everything I do, and I sometimes overextend myself and take on projects that at beyond my level. But I feel that the best way to increase your skill at something or learn something new, is to just jump in and try it. This approach has backfired on me in the past, but it has also yielded good results, like the aforementioned learning of WordPress.

  • Oct 10 10:44 AM

JuQuan williams:My motivations are wanting to impress my employers and show them that they made a good choice when they hired me, and also providing for my family and giving us a comfortable standard of live. We still live in flint, MI, and we would very much like to be able to move out.

  • Oct 10 10:45 AM

JuQuan williams:Also, I have taken a look at the B&B website, and I see a number of things that can be done to improve it, if you’re ever interested in that.

(second red flag: the website was incomplete. severly lacking in pictures, and entire sections were missing content.)

  • Oct 10

IM Oct 10 11:15 AM

  • Oct 10 10:52 AM

JuQuan williams:I have answered all of the questions.

  • Oct 10 10:55 AM

Richmond Johnson: Excellent We have come to the end of this Interview session.

  • Oct 10 10:55 AM

Richmond Johnson: I will like to thank you for attending, I need to be excused for just 10 mins to have a brief meeting with my team.

  • Oct 10 10:55 AM

Richmond Johnson: Do remain online,i will be back in 10 mins with the Company’s decision on your Job application.

  • Oct 10 11:08 AM

Richmond Johnson:Hello

  • Oct 10 11:09 AM

Richmond Johnson:I am back.

  • Oct 10 11:09 AM

JuQuan williams:I’m still here.

  • Oct 10 11:09 AM

Richmond Johnson: Are you ready for the Company’s decision on your Job application?

  • Oct 10 11:09 AM

JuQuan williams:Yes.

  • Oct 10 11:10 AM

Richmond Johnson:Congratulation!

  • Oct 10 11:10 AM

Richmond Johnson: After review of answers you have provided during your INTERVIEW,The company believes you have the knowledge,skills and experience to handle this job position..

(next red flag: it took these guys less than an hour to hire me. There must have been some other candidates for the job, right?)

  • Oct 10 11:10 AM

Richmond Johnson: The company has decided to employ you with immediate effect and you are to resume work Tomorrow 8AM Your Time.

  • Oct 10 11:10 AM

Richmond Johnson: You will be placed on 2 weeks training which will take place online,8am Mon-Sat. through yahoo messenger.

  • Oct 10 11:10 AM

Richmond Johnson: Here are the benefits that comes with this job position; Medical, Dental, and Vision Domestic Partner Coverage Life Insurance Dependent Life Disability Vacation, Sick Time Holiday Pay Jury Duty Pay Travel Accident Insurance

  • Oct 10 11:11 AM

Richmond Johnson: After your 2 weeks Training,Two representatives from the Company will be visiting you from the company,They will meet with you in your city to help you with filling of your w2 forms.

  • Oct 10 11:11 AM

Richmond Johnson: You have been approved for a signing bonus of $200 and a training Bonus of $500,all will be paid during training.

  • Oct 10 11:11 AM

Richmond Johnson: After this session,you will be sent the company’s employment documents,which you are to fill out and return back as soon as possible.

  • Oct 10 11:11 AM

Richmond Johnson:Understood?

  • Oct 10 11:11 AM

JuQuan williams:Yes.

  • Oct 10 11:12 AM

Richmond Johnson:Very good.

  • Oct 10 11:12 AM

Richmond Johnson: PAYROLL & WORKING SCHEDULE: Your pay for this job is $22/hr,Part time is 4 hrs while full time is 7 hrs daily,which do you prefer?

  • Oct 10 11:13 AM

JuQuan williams:I can do either, but I prefer full-time.

  • Oct 10 11:14 AM

Richmond Johnson:Very good.

  • Oct 10 11:14 AM

Richmond Johnson: We pay our employees weekly through certified Check from our Financier.

  • Oct 10 11:14 AM

Richmond Johnson: We will be switching to Direct deposit very soon.

  • Oct 10 11:14 AM

Richmond Johnson: What is the name of your present banker for future direct deposit purpose ?

  • Oct 10 11:15 AM

JuQuan williams:I use a credit union.

  • Oct 10 11:15 AM

Richmond Johnson:Okay.

  • Oct 10 11:15 AM

Richmond Johnson: You will be purchasing the following office equipments below for the set up of your Online mini office at home:

  • Oct 10 11:15 AM

Richmond Johnson: HP Z1 Workstation(All in one form factor Workstation. Has 802.11 a/b/g/n 4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi. DisplayPort in/out port. Expandable all-in-one chassis. SSDs. Articulated hinge. VESA mountable. Blu-ray burner)

  • by
    Oct 10

IM Oct 10 11:38 AM

  • Oct 10 11:15 AM

Richmond Johnson: At no cost to you.

  • Oct 10 11:15 AM

Richmond Johnson: During Training,the company’s Financier will send you funds in form of check which will be deposited by you ,You are to take out $200for your signing fee and the rest will be used to purchase all the equipments that are needed for your office.The HP server is the most important item which most be purchased first then followed by the others.

  • Oct 10 11:16 AM

Richmond Johnson: The reason why the Company is sending the funds for the your Mini office equipments is due to the fact that the company wants this to stand as a test of trust and also we want to know how good you can handle funds placed in your trust or care…

(red flag: yeah, right. the last time a client needed me to have a computer, they just sent me a damned computer. why does money need to exchange hands?)

  • Oct 10 11:16 AM

Richmond Johnson:Understood?

  • Oct 10 11:16 AM

JuQuan williams:Yes.

  • Oct 10 11:16 AM

Richmond Johnson:Very good.

  • Oct 10 11:16 AM

Richmond Johnson:Can you summarize all i have said so that i know we are on the same track ?

  • Oct 10 11:17 AM

JuQuan williams:You will be sending me a check to cash for use in buying the equipment I need for the job, starting with an HP workstation.

  • Oct 10 11:20 AM

JuQuan williams:Is this correct?

  • Oct 10 11:20 AM

Richmond Johnson:CORRECT.

  • Oct 10 11:20 AM

Richmond Johnson: If no further question,i need you to send your full names,contact address,phone numbers along with 3 references..Names and phone numbers to my email account now.

  • Oct 10 11:20 AM

Richmond Johnson:richmondoffice@yahoo.com Do that now and let me know when you are done with the sending.

  • Oct 10 11:24 AM

JuQuan williams:Okay. It is sent.

  • Oct 10 11:24 AM

Richmond Johnson:Hold let me take a look at it now online.

  • Oct 10 11:35 AM

Richmond Johnson:Got it.

  • Oct 10 11:35 AM

Richmond Johnson:We have come to the end of this interview session, thanks for attending, your training starts tomorrow morning by 8am your time.

  • Oct 10 11:36 AM

JuQuan williams:Okay.

  • Oct 10 11:37 AM

Richmond Johnson:Make sure you are online then for your training.

  • Oct 10 11:37 AM

Richmond Johnson:Have a lovely day ahead, and bye for now.

  • Oct 10 11:38 AM

JuQuan williams:You too.

  • Oct 10 11:38 AM

Richmond Johnson:Goodbye.

(Third red flag: why a check? They can simply put the money directly into my account via PayPal. Nevermind the horror stories of check-cashing scams that are a big deal nowadays…)

  • Oct 11 8:58 AM
  • Oct 11

IM Oct 11 9:20 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good Morning JuQuan Williams

  • Oct 11 8:58 AM

Richmond Johnson:How was your night?

  • Oct 11 9:00 AM

Richmond Johnson:<ding>

  • Oct 11 9:17 AM

JuQuan williams:Hello.

  • Oct 11 9:18 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good Morning,

  • Oct 11 9:18 AM

JuQuan williams:I just sent you the forms you wanted me to fill out.

  • Oct 11 9:18 AM

Richmond Johnson:I got it.

  • Oct 11 9:18 AM

Richmond Johnson:That you.

  • Oct 11 9:18 AM

Richmond Johnson:Can we proceed with the training now?

  • Oct 11 9:19 AM

JuQuan williams:Sure.

  • Oct 11 9:19 AM

Richmond Johnson: Alright, Before we start,i will like to let you know that your names/file has been forwarded to our accounts department.

  • Oct 11 9:19 AM

Richmond Johnson: So the paycheck for your office equipments and your signing fee will soon be issued out to you.

  • Oct 11 9:19 AM

JuQuan williams:ok

  • Oct 11 9:20 AM

Richmond Johnson: More details will be given to you by tomorrow during training.

  • Oct 11

IM Oct 11 9:25 AM

  • Oct 11 9:20 AM

Richmond Johnson: Your training starts today and it last for 30-35 mins daily Mon-Sat.

  • Oct 11 9:20 AM

Richmond Johnson: This Training will last for 14working days and it is divided into 2 parts.First 7days/ 7dayecond part.

  • Oct 11 9:20 AM

Richmond Johnson: The first 7days is based on Objective/research questions while the second 7days is based on practical training with your Mini office equipments..

  • Oct 11 9:20 AM

Richmond Johnson: Today,We will start with the first day of Research training,i will send you the set of questions,you are to conduct an Intensive personal findings on the questions and send in your findings in form of EMAIL OR MSWORD FORMAT,Not less than 1000 words in total and should be submitted by today before 4pm your time.

  • Oct 11 9:20 AM

Richmond Johnson:Understood?

  • Oct 11 9:21 AM

JuQuan williams:yes.

  • Oct 11 9:22 AM

Richmond Johnson:Very good.

  • Oct 11 9:22 AM

Richmond Johnson:Here Comes Day1 Training Research Topics Below :

  • Oct 11 9:22 AM

Richmond Johnson:Day…1 1)WHAT ARE THE STEPS THAT WOULD BE TAKEN BY YOU TO IMPROVE THE CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT…. 2).HOW CAN YOU PERSUADE A CONSUMER TO BUY A PRODUCT OR SERVICE? 3) WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF AN ACTIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT.

  • Oct 11 9:22 AM

Richmond Johnson:Got that?

  • Oct 11 9:23 AM

JuQuan williams:you’ll have responses before 3pm.

  • Oct 11 9:23 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good.

  • Oct 11 9:23 AM

Richmond Johnson:Very good, have your time solve the questions, and send your answers to my email on or before 4pm your time.

  • Oct 11 9:23 AM

Richmond Johnson:That is all for today till same time tomorrow morning

  • Oct 11 9:25 AM

Richmond Johnson:Have a lovely day ahead and bye for now.

  • Oct 11 9:25 AM

Richmond Johnson:Goodbye

(fourth red flag: these are all job interview questions I found on a website while I was looking up answers. Also, the majority of my answers were cut and pasted from other sites and weren’t very coherent. If this guy had bothered to read them, he would have seen that and questioned me about it.)

  • Oct 11

IM Oct 11 9:28 PM

  • Oct 11 9:28 PM

JuQuan williams:Everything was sent at 2:00pm via email. I have to work a 12-hr shift at my other job tomorrow so I might have to resume training on Monday.

(fifth red flag: I don’t know of any job that does training on the weekend, least of all an office job).

  • Oct 14

IM Oct 14 10:58 AM

  • Oct 14 10:31 AM

Richmond Johnson:Welcome back.

  • Oct 14 10:32 AM

Richmond Johnson:Hello

  • Oct 14 10:32 AM

Richmond Johnson:Are ?you there

  • Oct 14 10:36 AM

JuQuan williams:i’m here now.

  • Oct 14 10:36 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good

  • Oct 14 10:36 AM

Richmond Johnson:How was your weekend?

  • Oct 14 10:39 AM

JuQuan williams:busy.

  • Oct 14 10:39 AM

Richmond Johnson:Oh I see.

  • Oct 14 10:40 AM

JuQuan williams:I’ve been working extra hours at my job because some of my bills went up. that’s part of the reason why I’m hoping what we’re doing now works out.

  • Oct 14 10:40 AM

Richmond Johnson:Okay

  • Oct 14 10:40 AM

Richmond Johnson:Lets proceed with your training now.

  • Oct 14 10:40 AM

JuQuan williams:let’s.

  • Oct 14 10:40 AM

Richmond Johnson:DAY 3 RIGHT?

  • Oct 14 10:41 AM

JuQuan williams:I actually think it’s day 2. I was at work literally all day Saturday and I didn’t get a chance to get on Messenger.

  • Oct 14 10:42 AM

Richmond Johnson:Yes, thank you for the correction.

  • Oct 14 10:42 AM

Richmond Johnson:I got your mail on saturday.

  • Oct 14 10:42 AM

Richmond Johnson:Now day 2.

  • Oct 14 10:42 AM

JuQuan williams:ah.

  • Oct 14 10:42 AM

JuQuan williams:what’s the assignment?

  • Oct 14 10:43 AM

Richmond Johnson:Day….2 1)What do you regard as being the most positive aspects of dealing with customers. 2)Tell me about a time that you had a confusing interaction with a customer,how did clarify things. 3)Describe a situation when you had to handle a dissatisfied and angry customer.

  • Oct 14 10:43 AM

Richmond Johnson:Got that?

  • Oct 14 10:44 AM

JuQuan williams:yep.

  • Oct 14 10:44 AM

JuQuan williams:I go to work at 2:30. I’ll have these to you by 2:00.

  • Oct 14 10:44 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good, that is all for now.

  • Oct 14 10:45 AM

Richmond Johnson:Til same time tomorrow morning.

  • Oct 14 10:45 AM

Richmond Johnson:Have a nice day ahead.

  • Oct 14 10:45 AM

Richmond Johnson:Goodbye.

  • Oct 14 10:45 AM

JuQuan williams:you too. bye.

  • Oct 14 10:57 AM

JuQuan williams:these answers are still over 1000 words apiece?

  • Oct 14 10:58 AM

Richmond Johnson:1000 words

(sixth red flag: dude kept getting his training days mixed up. I doubt a true professional would make that mistake that many times.)

  • Oct 15

IM Oct 15 9:48 AM

  • Oct 15 9:42 AM

JuQuan williams:Hello, Richmond.

  • Oct 15 9:42 AM

JuQuan williams:Didi you receive yesterday’s answers?

  • Oct 15 9:44 AM

Richmond Johnson:Yes i did.

  • Oct 15 9:44 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good job.

  • Oct 15 9:44 AM

JuQuan williams:Thanks. So what do you have for me today?

  • Oct 15 9:45 AM

Richmond Johnson:Day 4 right?

  • Oct 15 9:46 AM

JuQuan williams:I’ve turned in two assignments so far.

  • Oct 15 9:46 AM

Richmond Johnson:Yes

  • Oct 15 9:46 AM

Richmond Johnson:you are right.

  • Oct 15 9:46 AM

Richmond Johnson:day3

  • Oct 15 9:47 AM

Richmond Johnson: Day…3 1)What are the importance of teamwork in an organization? 2)Have you been trained in Conflict management,Why is Conflict management important to customer service… 3)What do you understand by Trade policy and what are the 4 methods of payment accepted in the U.S

  • Oct 15 9:47 AM

Richmond Johnson:Got that?

  • Oct 15 9:47 AM

Richmond Johnson:Same procedure.

  • Oct 15 9:47 AM

JuQuan williams:Yep. You’ll have these by 4:00 this afternoon.

  • Oct 15 9:47 AM

Richmond Johnson:yes,

  • Oct 15 9:48 AM

Richmond Johnson:that is all .

  • Oct 15 9:48 AM

Richmond Johnson:goodbye.

  • Oct 15

IM Oct 15 5:40 PM

  • Oct 15 5:36 PM

Richmond Johnson:Got it.

  • Oct 15 5:36 PM

Richmond Johnson:Thank you.

  • Oct 15 5:37 PM

JuQuan williams:we’ll do it again tomorrow. When will the check be issued, and do I have to send you a receipt for the computer? I’m also wondering if I’ll be paid weekly, biweekly or monthly.

  • Oct 15 5:38 PM

Richmond Johnson:paid by weekly

  • Oct 15 5:40 PM

JuQuan williams:cool. do you need a receipt for the computer?

  • Oct 15 5:40 PM

Richmond Johnson:No, all i need is the Quotes/price the work station cost.

(seventh red flag; EVERY business that makes a purchase of any kind needs a receipt for tax purposes. Every legitimate one, that is)

  • Oct 16 at 9:05 AM

IM Oct 16 9:05 AM

  • Oct 16 8:54 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good Morning

  • Oct 16 8:56 AM

Richmond Johnson:<ding>

  • Oct 16 8:59 AM

JuQuan williams:Good morning.

  • Oct 16 9:00 AM

Richmond Johnson:How was your night?

  • Oct 16 9:00 AM

JuQuan williams:it was okay. I took a couple days off from the other job to recharge my batteries.

  • Oct 16 9:01 AM

Richmond Johnson:Okay

  • Oct 16 9:01 AM

Richmond Johnson:I got your answers to day 4 right.

  • Oct 16 9:01 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good job.

  • Oct 16 9:02 AM

Richmond Johnson:Day 3 i mean .

  • Oct 16 9:02 AM

Richmond Johnson:Now day 4

  • Oct 16 9:02 AM

Richmond Johnson:Are you ready?

  • Oct 16 9:02 AM

JuQuan williams:yes

  • Oct 16 9:03 AM

Richmond Johnson: Day..4 1)How do you handle negative feedback from very angry clients? How do you respond to him/her? 2)Can you tell me about a time when you did some thing extra, which was not part of the routine activities assigned to you, but you did it for the benefit of the customer? 3)Explain with an example, how would you handle a situation where a customer is asking for something, which is not in the interest of the company or which would violate a policy of the company?

  • Oct 16 9:03 AM

Richmond Johnson:Same procedure.

  • Oct 16 9:04 AM

JuQuan williams:I’m on it.

  • Oct 16 9:05 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good, that is all for till same time tomorrow morning

  • Oct 17 at 9:00 AM

IM Oct 17 9:00 AM

  • Oct 17 8:31 AM

JuQuan williams:Good morning.

  • Oct 17 8:33 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good Morning

  • Oct 17 8:33 AM

Richmond Johnson:How was your night?

  • Oct 17 8:38 AM

Richmond Johnson:<ding>

  • Oct 17 8:56 AM

JuQuan williams:it was okay.

  • Oct 17 8:57 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good

  • Oct 17 8:58 AM

Richmond Johnson: Alright…Before we proceed with today’s training task,i want to inform you that the paycheck for your working equipments and signing bonus will arrive your house today via USPS

  • Oct 17 8:58 AM

Richmond Johnson: Here is the USPS tracking number for it below :

  • Oct 17 8:59 AM

Richmond Johnson: 420485059470101699320003819042

  • Oct 17 8:59 AM

JuQuan williams:got it.

  • Oct 17 8:59 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good

  • Oct 17 8:59 AM

Richmond Johnson:As soon as you get it,kindly proceed to your ATM and have it deposited Via ATM.

  • Oct 17 8:59 AM

Richmond Johnson: Then come back home and email me the scanned copy of the ATM receipt for documentation purpose..

  • Oct 17 9:00 AM

Richmond Johnson: The payment is to be deposited through the ATM because the Company needs the scanned copy of the ATM receipt for Documentation purpose.

  • Oct 17 9:00 AM

Richmond Johnson:Underestood?

(eighth red flag: this makes absolutely no sense at all. What this sounds like is trying to bypass actually having a teller look at the check and noticing whether it is counterfeit or not. And since when were they so concerned about documentation when they previously didn’t want a receipt for the computer? At this point in time, our suspicion level was getting really high, but I was also holding out hope that, despite all of the BS and red flags, this was still a legit company and a legit job. So I continued to play along.)

  • Oct 17 at 9:06 AM

IM Oct 17 9:06 AM

  • Oct 17 9:00 AM

JuQuan williams:what if my bank doesn’t have ATM deposits?

  • Oct 17 9:01 AM

Richmond Johnson:You go through teller then,

  • Oct 17 9:02 AM

Richmond Johnson:Now the training day 6 right?

  • Oct 17 9:02 AM

JuQuan williams:actually day 5.

  • Oct 17 9:02 AM

Richmond Johnson:Yes

  • Oct 17 9:03 AM

Richmond Johnson:Day..5 1)You ever felt, during course of your work, that the existing systems and solutions are not sufficient to meet the needs of customers properly and/or that they need to be changed? If so, tell me more. 2)Can you explain how you contact or initiate communications with customers? 3) If you had to turn down a request from a valued client, what would you do?

  • Oct 17 9:03 AM

Richmond Johnson:Got that

  • Oct 17 9:03 AM

JuQuan williams:yep.

  • Oct 17 9:04 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good.

  • Oct 17 9:04 AM

Richmond Johnson:Hope you will be at home to receive the paycheck when it arrives?

  • Oct 17 9:04 AM

JuQuan williams:I go to work at 2:30. we’ll see.

  • Oct 17 9:05 AM

Richmond Johnson:OKAY

  • Oct 17 9:05 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good, inform me when it arrives, it should be arriving by noon.

  • Oct 17 9:05 AM

Richmond Johnson:That is all for now, good bye.

  • Oct 17 9:06 AM

Richmond Johnson:Talk to you when the paycheck arrives.

  • Oct 17 9:06 AM

Richmond Johnson:Goodbye.

  • Oct 17 at 12:27 PM

IM Oct 17 12:27 PM

  • Oct 17 12:21 PM

JuQuan williams:Did you say that the check was getting sent through UPS? I tried the tracking number on their site and they said it was unavailable.

  • Oct 17 12:22 PM

Richmond Johnson:Yes Through usps

  • Oct 17 12:22 PM

JuQuan williams:oh, usps, not ups.

  • Oct 17 12:22 PM

Richmond Johnson:Track it via www.usps.com and get back to me.

  • Oct 17 12:24 PM

JuQuan williams:it says “Electronic Shipping Info Received” it was sorted in Texas.

  • Oct 17 12:26 PM

Richmond Johnson:Okay,

  • Oct 17 12:27 PM

Richmond Johnson:I will update you more on the status .

  • Oct 17 12:27 PM

Richmond Johnson:Thank you.

(ninth red flag: if these guys were located in Indiana, how in the heck did this paycheck wind up in Texas?)

  • Oct 18 at 9:25 AM

IM Oct 18 9:25 AM

  • Oct 18 9:06 AM

JuQuan williams:Good Morning.

  • Oct 18 9:06 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good Morning

  • Oct 18 9:07 AM

JuQuan williams:just finished tracking the check, it’s apparently on its way.

  • Oct 18 9:07 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good

  • Oct 18 9:09 AM

JuQuan williams:so…day 6, right?

  • Oct 18 9:12 AM

Richmond Johnson:Before we start today’s training.

  • Oct 18 9:12 AM

Richmond Johnson:Have you deposited the paycheck?

  • Oct 18 9:13 AM

JuQuan williams:it hasn’t arrived yet. maybe around noon.

  • Oct 18 9:14 AM

Richmond Johnson:Okay.

  • Oct 18 9:15 AM

Richmond Johnson:Let’s proceed with day 6 now.

  • Oct 18 9:20 AM

JuQuan williams:okay.

  • Oct 18 9:25 AM

Richmond Johnson:Hold Please.

  • Oct 18 at 9:33 AM

IM Oct 18 9:33 AM

  • Oct 18 9:31 AM

Richmond Johnson: Day..6 1)HAVE YOU EVER HAD SITUATION WHEN YOU FOUND MISTAKES ON AN ASSIGNMENT SOMEONE ELSE GAVE YOU (TO TYPE, PROCESS, ETC.)? WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT IT? 2) What do you do when you have a great deal of work to accomplish in a short period of time?*What kinds of decisions are most difficult for you?

  • Oct 18 9:31 AM

Richmond Johnson:Got that?

  • Oct 18 9:32 AM

JuQuan williams:yes/

  • Oct 18 9:32 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good

  • Oct 18 9:33 AM

Richmond Johnson:Inform me when the paycheck arrives.

  • Oct 18 9:33 AM

JuQuan williams:okay.

(I actually had the check in hand, but I wasn’t going to be doing anything further with the guy until I had the check verified to see if it was legit.)

  • Oct 19 at 4:45 PM

IM Oct 19 4:45 PM

  • Oct 19 4:45 PM

JuQuan williams:So will I be doing day seven on monday?

(at this point in time, we had already taken the check up to the nearest 5th 3rd bank (which was the bank the check was supposedly from, and they mentioned right off the bat that it didn’t look like one of their checks. I had them do some detective work, and their Indiana branch told us all pointblank DO NOT CASH THAT CHECK.The company listed had a negative balance and was on high fraud alert. I left the check with them and was ready to wash my hands of it all, but my wife was livid that somebody would try to run a scam on us and potentially get me sent to jail. So she decided to continue contacting the guy and pretending to go along with his scheme.)

  • Oct 21 at 11:55 AM

IM Oct 21 11:55 AM

  • Oct 21 11:47 AM

JuQuan williams:Good and yours so this is day 7 right?

  • Oct 21 11:49 AM

Richmond Johnson:I am fine .

  • Oct 21 11:49 AM

Richmond Johnson:I have not had from you since then.

  • Oct 21 11:49 AM

JuQuan williams:Good to hear that.

  • Oct 21 11:50 AM

JuQuan williams:So this is day 7 right?

  • Oct 21 11:50 AM

Richmond Johnson:I hope the funds are available now, so we can purchase the work station this morning?

  • Oct 21 11:50 AM

Richmond Johnson:Yes.

  • Oct 21 11:51 AM

Richmond Johnson:I beleive the funds are available now?

  • Oct 21 11:51 AM

JuQuan williams:Yes they are?

  • Oct 21 11:54 AM

Richmond Johnson:Good

  • Oct 21 11:54 AM

JuQuan williams:Are you there still?

  • Oct 21 11:55 AM

Richmond Johnson:Lets get quote for the workstation so that we can proceed and have the workstation purchased within the next hour

  • Oct 21 11:55 AM

Richmond Johnson:Here is the full description for the workstation:

  • Oct 21 11:55 AM

Richmond Johnson:HP Z1 Workstation(All in one form factor Workstation. Has 802.11 a/b/g/n 4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi. DisplayPort in/out port. Expandable all-in-one chassis. SSDs. Articulated hinge. VESA mountable. Blu-ray burner)

  • Oct 21 11:55 AM

Richmond Johnson:Am here

  • Oct 21 11:55 AM

Richmond Johnson:So lets search online while i also search from my end

  • Oct 21 11:55 AM

Richmond Johnson:we will compare quotes in 30 minutes and go for the best deal

  • Oct 21 11:55 AM

Richmond Johnson:Okay?

  • Oct 21 at 1:52 PM

IM Oct 21 1:52 PM

  • Oct 21 1:49 PM

Richmond Johnson:Hello JuQuan Williams, After my search, i got a reply from a HP reseller in PA, The vendor has the work station, and ready to sell for $1900 including shipping cost via FeDex ground.

(Seriously? Did this guy really expect me to send a $1900 check to a perfect stranger in PA, when i could have just bought the computer directly from the manufacturer, or a reputable computer retailer, probably for much less? If I didn’t smell a rat earler, I certainly would have by now.)

  • Oct 21 1:49 PM

Richmond Johnson: I will like us to purchase the workstation from the vendor. I want you to make the payment for the workstation now at the walmart via Money Gram Transfer.

  • Oct 21 1:50 PM

Richmond Johnson: You are sending $1900 to the vendor via money gram,you are to tick 10 MINUTES OPTION on the form,You will be charged about $155 as the transfer fee for sending $1900.

  • Oct 21 1:50 PM

Richmond Johnson: Here is the vendor’s Information:

  • Oct 21 1:50 PM

Richmond Johnson: Name: ArthurLyonCity: BensalemState: PA Zipcode: 19020

  • Oct 21 1:50 PM

Richmond Johnson: Have that written down and proceed to walmart and send $1900 to vendor,sent email with the Ref number for confirmation when you are done.

  • Oct 21 1:50 PM

Richmond Johnson:ThankS.

  • Oct 21 1:52 PM

Richmond Johnson:Inform me when done.

  • Oct 21 1:52 PM

Richmond Johnson:I will be right back.

(and here’s where we get to the meat of the scam. This probably isn’t a computer vendor. If this computer were such a big deal, why not order one from a reputable retailer or directly from the manufacturer, like I said before? Nope, this was just an address to send the money to, upon which I would be held liable for the funds and he would get off scott free with the money. Thanks but no thanks.)

 

  • Today at 8:18 AM

IM Oct 22 8:18 AM

  • Oct 22 7:57 AM

JuQuan williams:Good morning did you get the funds?

  • Oct 22 7:57 AM

Richmond Johnson:No.

  • Oct 22 7:57 AM

Richmond Johnson:Can i have the reference number now?

  • Oct 22 7:58 AM

JuQuan williams:25747864787586356

(this was a fake number my wife made up. Two can play at this game.)

  • Oct 22 7:59 AM

JuQuan williams:You got that.

  • Oct 22 8:00 AM

JuQuan williams:Are you still here?

  • Oct 22 8:03 AM

JuQuan williams:This is lesson day 8th right?

  • Oct 22 8:04 AM

Richmond Johnson:Yes

  • Oct 22 8:05 AM

Richmond Johnson:<ding>

  • Oct 22 8:05 AM

Richmond Johnson:Are you there?

  • Oct 22 8:05 AM

JuQuan williams:Yes

  • Oct 22 8:06 AM

Richmond Johnson:Scan the receipt and send to me here.

  • Oct 22 8:06 AM

JuQuan williams:Okay send to what address?

  • Oct 22 8:07 AM

Richmond Johnson:To my email address.

  • Oct 22 8:08 AM

JuQuan williams:The address I sent the funds to?

  • Oct 22 8:08 AM

Richmond Johnson:I need the scan copy of the Money Gram reeipt.

  • Oct 22 8:09 AM

Richmond Johnson:Did you receive the Vendor’s information i sent to your email yesterday?

  • Oct 22 8:09 AM

JuQuan williams:Yes

  • Oct 22 8:10 AM

Richmond Johnson:I need the scan copy of the Money Gram receipt?

  • Oct 22 8:11 AM

JuQuan williams:I need

  • Oct 22 8:13 AM

JuQuan williams:You want me to send it to your email?

  • Oct 22 8:14 AM

Richmond Johnson:Yes.

  • Oct 22 8:15 AM

JuQuan williams:Okay

  • Oct 22 8:16 AM

JuQuan williams:Have you received it?

  • Oct 22 8:16 AM

Richmond Johnson:Hold let check my email now.

  • Oct 22 8:18 AM

Richmond Johnson:Not here .

IM Oct 22 8:33 AM

  • Oct 22 8:21 AM

Richmond Johnson:Re send it.

  • Oct 22 8:21 AM

Richmond Johnson:Can you have it send here on IM.

  • Oct 22 8:21 AM

Richmond Johnson:?

  • Oct 22 8:24 AM

JuQuan williams:I sent all the information to the federal bureau of investigation fraud.

  • Oct 22 8:25 AM

Richmond Johnson:HOW DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

  • Oct 22 8:25 AM

Richmond Johnson:<ding>

  • Oct 22 8:26 AM

JuQuan williams:The F B I is looking for you and will get you.

  • Oct 22 8:28 AM

Richmond Johnson:You take company’s funds and you want run away with the company’s funds right?

  • Oct 22 8:28 AM

Richmond Johnson:You will be traped!

  • Oct 22 8:29 AM

JuQuan williams:The F B I will work it out dumb ass.

  • Oct 22 8:30 AM

Richmond Johnson:You know i have your house address with me here,

  • Oct 22 8:30 AM

Richmond Johnson:You can never run away with that funds.

  • Oct 22 8:30 AM

Richmond Johnson:You are traped.

  • Oct 22 8:33 AM

JuQuan williams:Go try to fraud someone else but the paper chase is leading back to you and how fraudgelant you are to have my address but I’m not to have yours but the F B I has it.

(I admit I am a bit miffed that my wife chose to take it this far, because now I have to collect all of this loser’s materials that he sent to me and report them to the cops because he threatened me, when I would have rather just ignored the guy and let 5th 3rd deal with him, but I can understand her anger and wanting to get the guy back for wasting our time.)

So I sent one final email to the guy since he had cut off all communication via Yahoo Messenger. check it out:

J.D. Williams <hirejd@gmail.com>
Oct 22

to Richmond Johnson <richmondoffice@yahoo.com>
Here’s the deal.

I never cashed your check. If you want your so-called “company funds” back, then contact your nearest 5th 3rd Bank. They are holding that check on fraud alert, so if you want your money, you can get it directly from them.
I don’t see why you’re so upset. Since you thought nothing of wasting my time for the past 6 days with this bogus work-from-home scam of yours, I figured you wouldn’t mind me wasting a bit of yours.
In any case, I have all of our conversations along with all of the files you sent me, and I will be handing all of them over to the police since you want to make threats. And I’ll also be filing a complaint about your “B&B Construction Company” to the Better Business Bureau. So if that really is a legitimate business you were claiming to represent, i’m sure they will want to have words with you, too.
Have a nice day.
surprise, surprise: he never replied.

Unprintable Novels…

Every now and then I go through my old archives to see if there are any unfinished ideas that I could mine for inspiration and/or new material. This process was how I got around to doing new material for THE SEIZURE webcomic and for its spinoff webcomic, WEEKEND HEROES. Recently I dug up an old novel manuscript I had written way back in 2002 which never saw print…and probably never will.

Why will it never see print, you may ask? Well, for one, the writing is EXTREMELY raw, and I have no motivation to polish it up. Also, I really want to move on to other projects I’m more passionate about (like promoting my latest sci-fi novel GODMODE. Get your copy now at http://godmode.quanwilliams.com).

But the main reason why I won’t pursue finding an agent or publisher for the novel is that I’m not too sure I want this book to represent me as a writer. You see, I was in a very dark place in my life when I wrote the story. I had just lost my job to corporate outsourcing, I nearly lost two relatives and a close friend to the attacks on 9/11, the music group and entertainment corporation I had been a part of for the past 2 years was on the verge of dissolving, and I had just been screwed over by an auto mechanic on car repairs. I was NOT a happy guy. At that time I had an idea for a story bouncing around my head because I saw Christopher Walken’s character portrayal in “Last Man Standing” and loved how he portrayed a remorseless thug. I wanted to write a story about that. I had visions of this badass old thug walking down the street with some Deliberately-paced death metal playing behind him. He’d swoop into a city, do some dirt and leave. Kind of like Jack Reacher, except this dude has no morals whatsoever (but he does like dogs). I was also into John Malkovich’s criminal mastermind characters, and I came up with the idea of what if these two guys were pitted against each other? And that was the genesis of my unpublished crime novel BAD MEETS EVIL. While prewriting I heard of some writers debating on whether you could write an engaging story which was devoid of sympathetic characters, and I took that as a challenge. So this story evolved into a full-on evil-fest, starring seven dastardly people (each loosely representing one of the seven deadly sins) locked in a competition none of them could win. There’s a big illegal money deal going down, and everybody wants in on it: from The lazy CEO Vick and his Lustful, philandering wife Barb, to The arrogant Human trafficker Ken and his Wrathful crooked cop brother Abe, to the Greedy Private Investigator Kwame and his Envious girlfriend Terri, and of course The gluttonous superhoodlum John who is at the center of it all.

While writing this story, I ended up pouring all of my anger and frustration at my situation into the book. The result is a story that I wrote to intentionally offend and disgust as many of its readers as possible, regardless of race, religion, gender, social status, or sexual preference. I wanted to piss EVERYBODY off. The story was basically my middle finger to the whole world. Once done, there were actually some people brave enough to want to proofread it (I warned them about it, though. I told them that after reading it, they might want to take a bath). None of them could get past the first chapter. But it was for a reason other than the story being offensive. They simply couldn’t find my central protagonist interesting enough to want to read any more about him. That’s the cardinal rule of storytelling, it doesn’t matter how virtuous or evil your hero is, he has to first and foremost be interesting. And in that regard I failed. And that was the end of that, so I moved on to another story.

I think some people would think creating unpublishable works to be a waste of time, but I beg to differ. First of all, it’s good exercise, and helps a lot towards developing your voice and writing style. Secondly, it can be very therapeutic to just cut loose and not worry about grammar and character development and all that other stuff that content editors harp on. Just let the imagination run and see where it takes you. Thirdly, your unprintable story might have some ideas in it you can come back and mine later on for other more salable projects. I recently went through Bad Meets Evil for some ideas regarding a crime screenplay a buddy of mine wants to cowrite with me. So there’s that.

Why I Love Concept Albums

I FINALLY got my hands on the major label debut of Kendrick Lamar.  At first, I didn’t want to believe that any of this “New Generation” of MC would be as high quality as the guys I grew up listening to. And by High Quality I mean deep, thoughtful and complex lyrics over something other than Southern Trap beats or Urban pop. I even scoffed at the possibility of K. Lamar besting out my favorite rap group (The Roots) for the best Rap album Grammy. But then, somebody sent me one of Kendrick’s mixtape tracks (Rigamortis) and I was blown away. It’s one thing to hear an MC rap double-time over a slow beat. Just about every rapper does it, and with the exact same cadence and delivery style, too. But Kendrick not only rapped double-time over an uptempo beat (something I haven’t heard done since the 1990s), but later on in the song he kicked into a higher gear and seemed to rap triple-time. All the while, he’s lacing the tracks with the clever metaphors that I prefer to hear in my rappers. This guy was everything I liked about Hip-Hop, and immediately earned my respect.

Flash forward about a year, and I finally get around to buying his Aftermath Debut, “Good Kid, m.A.A.d.City.” I wasn’t really interested in the album, although I respect K. Lamar. I just wasn’t trying to buy a lot of new hip-hop from artists I don’t trust. But I was transporting one of the kids in the children’s center I work at, and his song “Swimming Pools” came on, and the kid explained that it seemed like a song about getting drunk in the club, it was actually an ANTI-drinking song. That piqued my interests, so I looked up the song on Rapgenius.com, and sure enough, the boy was right. What clinched it though was the notes saying this was part of a larger narrative chronicling the growth of Kendrick as a person. That was the clincher: I HAD to get a listen to this album.

I admit it: I’m a sucker for concept albums. Even in this single-dominated music world. I absolutely love it when an artist takes the time to craft together a cohesive, thematic music project where every song is interconnected and all of the parts combine to make a greater whole. Most of my favorite concept albums are stories, with each song being a chapter. I think this takes a lot of thought and planning, and not every artist can pull it off. And the better ones are really engaging, with a LOT of layers to them. I eat that stuff up.

After hearing K. Lamar’s CD all the way through a few times, and looking up the lyrics on Rap Genius, I am thoroughly impressed by the depth of the lyrics. The beats aren’t half-bad, either. This is honestly, the best rap album I’ve heard, well, since “Undun,” which – you guessed it – is another concept album, this time by The Roots.

So, here’s my list (in no particular order) of my favorite concept albums:

  1. Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, by Kendrick Lamar
  2. Undun, by The Roots
  3. 12 reasons to die, by Ghostface Killah
  4. American Gangster, by Jay-Z
  5. Black Materia, by Random
  6. Disposable arts, by Masta Ace
  7. The Long, Hot Summer, by Masta Ace
  8. Castlevania: Nocturna, by Random
  9. Language Arts, vols. 1-3, by Random
  10. 4-Eva In a Day, by Big K.R.I.T.T.

 

and yeah, I’ve got a lot of Random on this list. So what? He makes good concept albums.

This makes me wonder if I will, or could ever make a cohesive, album-long narrative. I think I could, but it would have to be a subject matter that I’d be totally engaged with enough to write 13 songs totally about it. It’s not impossible, after all, I do have a 3-song trilogy written that tells the story of me and a ladyfriend I was interested in courting. But 3 songs is NOT a full length album. I thought about making a concept album about my favorite video game (Zelda) in the same vein as Random’s video game albums, and I thought about doing a full album chronicling the adventures of my super spy alter ego, James Quan 008 ½. And of course, I could just tell MY story, about the things I experienced growing up in my own “MadCity” of Flint, MI (to quote DJ Quik, “It’s Jus Like Compton.”). but I don’t know. Right now, my schedule is so hectic I have no idea when I’ll get in the studio to record “The Third One,” much less a concept album after that. Oh well, c’est la guerre.

An Open letter to a Comrade in Prison

To everyone: one of my graphic design clients is a guy who is nearing the end of a 20-year stint in prison. He partnered with a  buddy on the inside to start a small independent street lit publishing company. Midway through, he had a crisis of faith and backed out to pursue other projects. But as of late, he’s been pursuing some questionable ventures.

 

Dear Friend,

 

I hope you get this message in good spirits. I’ve been concerned about you, and I’m not the only one. I’ve talked with both your wife and your former business partner, and they’ve both voiced concern about the direction you’ve been going in as of late.

I’m going to be completely honest with you, man. I wasn’t feeling your ideas for writing erotica, and I wasn’t particularly enthused about your idea for a lingerie and porn review site. I’ve told you that I struggled for years with an addiction to pornography, and exposing myself to that again, even in the name of business, would be a very bad move for me. I didn’t outright turn you down for that because of our professional relationship (and because I needed the money), but I really didn’t want to be involved and I actually prayed for a way out of this situation without damaging our relationship. I was blessed with a new client which negated my need for the money, and your liaison never sent me the down payment for the website anyway, so I consider my prayer answered.

But that was my own personal feelings about this. I’m concerned about you.

When you were first incarcerated, you gave your life to Christ, and have been working diligently to stay true in your walk with him. He has seen you through your sentence, and now you are on the verge of going home. You have a faithful, supportive wife who is waiting for your return with open arms, too. You backed out of your Street lit venture because the people you were dealing with in your ministry were uncomfortable with you being identified with the wanton crime, sex, profanity and violence that comes out of those books. I also thought you personally felt that wasn’t the direction you should be going in. If I am wrong, and you changed because of pressure from your circle, then you need to simply admit your mistake and get back to doing what is comfortable for you. But if this truly was a personal decision on your part, then I am concerned that you’ve given up on the course you have decided to take and are reverting back to your old ways.

I explained to both your friend and your wife that I thought you were panicking a little. You are close to being released back into society, and you are uncertain of the future awaiting you when you get out. Convicted felons have a hard time finding employment once they get out, and you’ve got children and a wife to support. So you want to make sure you have a legal source of income waiting for you when you are released, so you can avoid the temptation to go back into the streets. Your more wholesome ventures were slow to get off the ground, so now you’re trying to think of a more expedient way to set yourself up. This is what I think is going through your head, and I understand why you would feel that way.

But to that, I have to give you a two word rebuttal:

Trust God.

If the direction you originally wanted to go in was a decision you made from your heart, then I say stick with it no matter how hard or uncertain the results look. God put that in you for a reason, and now is not the time to abandon it for what might seem right now like an easier solution. YHWH wouldn’t have given you that revelation if he hadn’t provided a way for you to see that through. But you have to have faith that it will work out. You have a finished Christian novel in “Loveless Heart” ready for publication, and once you come home, you have a plethora of inexpensive ways to publish your book. And with your background and the success you had in the streets, I’m quite sure you will have no trouble promoting your book and getting people to buy it. And all of the other ideas you had that never came to fruition are still there for you to develop, but now you can do the legwork to get them going instead of hoping someone on the outside can set everything up for you. Yes, it will take some time to get these things off of the ground, but the payoff would be much greater, and you’ll have a much cleaner conscience about it when it does. You have a great asset in your wife; I’m sure she will help you get established and employed once you return home, and even if you’re not making a lot, between the two of you, with God’s help, you should be able to keep your heads above water until one of your ventures takes off.

Don’t give up now, man. Don’t compromise. Trust your vision, and trust God.

 

Your brother in Christ,

 

Quan.