Birthday Food Freebies – The Inside Scoop

Yeah, it’s my birthday. Yeah, I’m thisclose to 40, and yeah, I’m getting my second (third? Fourth? 25th? I’ve lost count) creative wind. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that I’ve signed up for a whole bunch of food clubs at the high end restaurants near my home. I expected to be inundated with a deluge of free entrée offers to have I and my wife blissfully munching for all of this week. The actual results? Not so much. Can’t say I’m not disappointed.

But anyway, here’s the inside scoop on the restaurants I signed up for, and what they offer in terms of birthday freebies, as well as my ratings for them. If I ordered an item, I would try to split it with the wife, because I’m that type of guy.

  1. Red Robin – you can’t go wrong with “free burger and fries, no questions asked”. The only restriction is their premium burgers. I got the Whiskey River BBQ burger. Good stuff, but I don’t like steak fries. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosy. Rating: 5-birthday candles.
  2. Ruby Tuesdays – they also offer the free burger and fries, but they also include a free biscuit (describe the biscuit). The burger selection is limited to $8 and under, though. I ordered the Smoked cheddar roadhouse burger. Excellent sammich, but the wife couldn’t eat it because she doesn’t do pork, and I didn’t know they put bacon in it. Rating: 5-birthday candles.
  3. Logans – they offer a free appetizer or dessert. Pretty nifty but they have a $8 limit, which only covers about half of their appetizer menu. Their dessert selection was rather limited too. On the plus side, the appetizer comes with four of their rolls, which are REALLY good. I ordered their bourbon BBQ wings. I liked ‘em, but they were a bit spicy for the wife. Rating: 5-birthday candles.
  4. Don Pablos – they add ten bucks to your Habaneros club gift card, which is good for pretty much any single item on the menu. Needless to say, you can get a LOT at Don Pablos for ten bucks. I ordered a combo of two enchiladas (one beef, one chicken) and a large chicken taco with some chili potatoes (which were deelish) and some great Mexican rice, along with the standard homemade naked nachos and salsa. These guys LOAD YOU UP. Rating: 5-birthday candles.
  5. BD’s Mongolian Barbecue– buy a bowl, get an unlimited meal free. This one is sneaky good. It’s basically an all-you-can-eat deal for one cheap bowl. And if you’ve ever been to BDMB, you know that you can go wild with those ingredients. Rating: 4-birthday candles.
  6. Famous Daves– buy an entrée, get one half off. This one’s respectable, especially considering somebody’s going to be treating you for your birthday. Basically it’s a half-off discount on either your meal or whoever’s treating you. It doesn’t beat free, but it’s still a decent bargain. Rating: 3-birthday candles.
  7. UNO- $10 off a $25 order. I’m giving this one a passing grade only because I looooove their shrimp skewers, and getting half off an order of those is a good thing. Rating: 3-birthday candles
  8. Joe’s Crab Shack – free appetizer, but have to buy an entrée first. I don’t consider this much of a deal because Joe’s food is pretty durned expensive, and some of that crab is literally PAINFUL to eat. Have you tried cracking that spined crab? My hands were sore for a week! Rating: 2.5-birthday candles
  9. Fuddruckers – $5 off a $25 order. This one really isn’t too spectacular, since $25 won’t really get you that much at Fudd’s (Maybe a bigger burger, but that’s it). So the $5 off is really just a supersize option, to take your burger from merely huge up to gargantuan. Rating: 2-birthday candles
  10. Olive Garden – free appetizer or dessert with purchase of 2 entrees. I can see some value in this. You got a nice romantic dinner with your luvved one, and then you get a free appetizer to boot. Bonus. The wife wasn’t too impressed with it, though. Rating: 2-birthday candles
  11. Red Lobster– $5 off any 2 entrees. This is probably the worst deal of the group. A dinner for two at Red lobster can easily run you anywhere from $30 to $80 with appetizers, drinks and dessert. Taking a measley $5 off your bill is weaksauce – basically it barely covers the cost of the tip. Rating: 1-birthday candle.

So now that you know who’s got the hookup, why are you still reading this? Go get signed up for these clubs RIGHT NOW!

The Taste of Humble Pie

I’ve always said “if somebody can prove their point, then i’m big enough to acknowledge it and adjust my opinion.” Not to sound arrogant, but that hasn’t happened a lot. usually there’s enough truth in my opinion or my way of viewing a topic that I can stick to my guns, even when I have to acknowledge the truth in the opposing arguments.

So until recently I didn’t realize just how HARD it is to actually admit I was wr….

Dude, I can’t even write it. Let’s just say the perspective i was basing my opinion on was inaccurate with the circumstances at hand.

But I can’t argue the facts. Sid called me up after my last blog post to settle our disagreement on the free music thing once and for all. I actually appreciate that. I encourage healthy, respectful debate. If we have different ways of looking at things, let’s talk about it. maybe
our differing opinions and perspectives will help round out each other’s views. I don’t like when things degenerate into namecalling flame wars and things like that. There are no ideas being shared, and all it becomes is a bunch of stubborn idiots trying to prove how much better they are than the other guy by any means neccessary. And yes, I’ve been one of those idiots before. we all have at some point in time. Part of the reason of that is that’s it’s so hard for one to admit when he or she is wr…..
see? it just won’t come out.

Usually, when discussions degenerate into arguments, or it appears as if we’re about to cross some lines, i’m at least civil enough to make my bottom-line point and then agree to disagree. But for some reason I couldn’t let this free music debate go. maybe I just wanted to justify my own behavior.

I’ve downloaded my share of free music and I’ve offered my own projects for free. I offer my stuff for free mostly because I know I don’t have the time, budget or motivation to “properly” release and promote an independent album (which includes doing shows, getting radio play and scraping up the money to get my stuff professionally mastered) and as you probably saw in my last post, i don’t trust record labels to do it for me.
But I still get these ideas and I want to share them with my people – most of which wouldn’t pay 10 bucks to support their boy regardless of how good the music was (I know because I’ve tried. people say they liked my songs, but there are still copies of 48505 sitting somewhere collecting dust). so I give it away because getting you to listen to my stuff is more important to me than making money off of it. (and yes, Uncle Bo, I do have the luxury of a dayjob, freelancing, books and other ventures to fall back on. I’ve never put all of my eggs in one basket. If all I had to feed my family with was music, I’m sure my perspective would be quite different, which is what Sid explained to me)

Most of the music I’ve downloaded is either old albums that are out of print and I literally couldn’t get any other way (you know your album is rare when neither amazon nor ebay has it available. i recently bought the single “Rag bag” of an old Dave Grusin album via emusic. I ran out of money so I had to save up to get the whole album, and by the time I did, they had taken it out of circulation! Now how am I going to get that one song Biggie sampled?), or new artists I’m discovering. Some of the stuff is music I really don’t like, which is why I’m glad I checked their music out before I actually wasted any money on them. But the vast majority of artists I’ve downloaded free music from I actually support financially in some way, shape or form. In fact, a good number of artists who’s albums I buy consistently now I discovered via a free album (Slaughterhouse, Mega Ran, Mister WIlson, Lecrae, Childish Gambino and Run The Jewels come to mind). And a few more like Sammus, Wordburglar and Adam Warrock are on my “must buy” list – I even asked a few of them their rates for dropping a guest verse on my next music project (kickstarter is your friend).

When De la Soul offered their entire back catalog for free, I was quick to snatch that. But I’m one of the proud milion that actually bought “3ft. high and rising” when it first came out, and have a few De la albums (that i paid actual money for) in my CD collection. Believe it or not, I do believe in supporting artists, so if you offer a free album I’ll take it…but whether it be buying your next album, or some of your merch, or coming to your show, or contributing to your kickstarter campaign, if I like you, you’re still going to get some of my money (if I don’t like you, you’re SOL. stop making crappy music.)

The mistake I made was thinking the majority of audiences do things the way i do them. and yes, Sid very eloquently pointed that out to me. Among other things. Urban consumers are notorious for not wanting to pay for anything. So if I give you a free album now expecting you’ll buy my next album or come to my show, I’ll probably end up sorely disappointed. and i had actually seen this happen before with other urban artists, which was why it was easy to concede that point. i just never took part in that culture or way of consuming music.

Sid also pointed out some flaws in my “free album as demo” argument. back when i actually was doing shows at hole-in-the-wall clubs, hustling for radio play, shooting videos and doing all the other stuff independent artists did to build an audience (waaaay back in the year 2000), it wasn’t uncommon for a rapper to build a nice following underground this way and get the attention of a major label. that’s why i listed guys like Fiddy, Drake, Nikki, Bino and Soulja Boy as examples, because offering the free album was just part of their grind of building their audience. Sid brought up another group who did the same thing – Mackelmore and (what is that guy’s name?). but their difference is they were in a more supportive (re. non-urban) music culture that was more supportive (and let’s be real, more white). It’s not 1984 anymore, but it’s not 2000, either, and labels aren’t looking for those kind of credentials anymore (wchich is kind of backwards to me, but then again, a bunch of Detroit rappers got signed that way back then, and almost all of them flopped, so it is what it is).

And so on and so on. most of the stuff Sid pointed out was stuff I would point out to others in music conversations, just pointed in a way that directly addressed my arguments. When a
guy convinces you that your opinion is really closer to his than to what you thought your opinion was, it’s time to raise the white flag. I’m pretty sure he could hear me tapping out on the other end of the phone. My wife definitely heard it, and after my conversation was over, she had no problem reminding “mr. know-it-all” that he got pwned.

So you win, Sid. You got your point across and I’m not going to bother you about the free music debate anymore. As much as it pains a bruh to humble himself and admit he was schooled, i was indeed schooled. ‘Nuff respect due.

That all having been said… I’m still giving a bunch of my music away for free. Maybe not my next album (trust me, y’all. it will be worth every penny of the five bucks I’ll be charging you. this next album will be EPIC – and it might also be my last. might as well go out with a bang, right?),
but definitely select albums in my back catalog. so if any of you want some free vintage Jugghead music, get yer butt over to NOW before I raise the prices.

And if an artist i support offers me a free single or album, I’m still taking it. Childish Gambino just offered a combo free Gangsta Grillz album and regular “pay for me” EP and i copped ’em both. I downloaded the free one, and then shelled out 9 bucks for the EP.

So there ya have it. I was able to concede my argument without actually admitting I was wr……

(give it up, y’all. it’s not gonna happen.)

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, 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 ( 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.”

To Free Or Not To Free?

For the three of you who don’t know, in addition to all of my other creative exploits, I also dabble in music. I co-run a songwriting company / small record label with my father ( and I use that as a platform to put out the occasional music project. My last two projects have been underwhelming successes, in that after I failed to sell any copies of them, I started giving the projects away as free downloads. To date, I’ve given out at least 200 copies of my solo debut “48505,” my gospel collaborative effort “Winner Take All,” and my demo mixtape “From The Archives” to friends and family via Facebook on their birthdays. I plan to continue this, btw.

But now, I’m on the cusp of having two major music projects released. First, I’m almost ready to release my second solo album “Chapter 2” and I want it to make as big a splash as it can make given my limited resources. And after that, right around the time my next novel “Godmode” is released, I plan to release a movie score to read the book by.

The main issue for me is how much to charge for the projects, or whether I should charge anything at all. I actually want to have the Godmode soundtrack be available for free IF you buy a copy of the book. With me releasing the project through Bandcamp, that might actually be possible because they make discount codes available. But the big issue is with “Chapter 2.”

See, for me, getting my music heard is more important than turning a profit. The music is just something I do to express my ideas musically, and it’s not my primary creative focus (writing books takes that title). It’s basically another way to build my brand. I know a lot of music insiders (most notably my man Sid UncleJamz Johnson of Cincinnatti) cry foul at the mixtape and free album craze, but you can’t deny that it can work. It’s the way guys like 50 Cent, Yelawolf, Drake and Kendrick Lamar established themselves and built audiences, which caught the attention of major labels. Now, I’m not saying I’m at those guys’ level, but then again, why can’t I be? They all started exactly where I started. Heck, even two former rhyming partners of mine (Hookdiggy and Zod) were able to create a buzz for themselves by giving out free music.

There are two sides to this argument. On one side is the fear that people in my network would balk at paying anything for my music. That’s one reason why I gave away my first few projects, so people could hear my stuff and it would create value and interest in future projects. Whether that was successful or not I don’t know. Out of the 500+ people in my network, many of which have paid me lip service as far as supporting my music endeavors, I wonder which of them would actually shell out 5 bux to support their boy, especially if the music is good (which I think it is). Don’t forget that this is a group of people who, as a collective, wouldn’t spend $5 to download a copy of my last book. And I won’t lie: I’ve seen the entrepreneurial endeavors of my peers and I haven’t been quick to shell out loot to support the majority of them myself. In my defense, though, I have and I do support my peeps whenever and however I can: this very blog you see is hosted by a company owned by a very good friend of mine (www.grefuga,com), I’ve done pro bono and reduced price graphics work for friends like, I’ve recommended the webcomics of friends  – not to mention offering free advertising – at my own webcomic, and I’ve ordered jewelry from a graphics client of mine who does really good hand-crafted work ( But I understand if people are reluctant to pay up.

But on the flip side of that argument, does not charging for the CD show fear or a lack of confidence in my product? Is offering my CD for free practically begging people to give me a listen? I don’t know. I do know this: I don’t have the means or the time to go out and promote this thing traditionally. I don’t have the connections or under-the-table money to get my songs played on the radio. I don’t have the time or the following to get love at shows, and I don’t have a management team who can get me booked if I did have the time. The “get your music heard” music services like Reverbnation require upfront cash or subscriptions, and I don’t have the loot for that. Heck, I don’t even have the money to get a decent video made of one of my songs to post on youtube. There’s a video for one of the songs on “Winner Take All” currently in post-production, but that has been entirely up to the rather busy schedule of the guy editing the video for me, since I can’t afford to pay him to make it a top priority. So giving the album away for free may possibly be the only realistic way I can get the word out about my Album that would actually entice people to give it a listen.

And on top of that, if I do charge for it, then how much should I charge? I first toyed with charging a buck for the whole CD and .50 apiece for individual songs, but why stop there? If people would pay a dollar for my CD, why not 5? I am including the “name your price” feature on my CD, but what should be the minimum price? I don’t know if my ego can take me offering the CD for, like, a buck, and STILL not getting any downloads.

Whatever the choice is, I need to make it quickly. I want to have this CD out by next week, so I can focus my attention on other projects.

So if you’re reading this here blog, and you’re interested in some good Hip-Hop, then check me out at, and however much I’m asking for the CD (I promise it won’t be more than 5 bux), show ya boy some love, give a listen to the songs and pick it up if you like it. I’d really appreciate it.