Friends, family members, music lovers,
We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of our friend Adam, a man tragically taken from us before his time by external female forces beyond his control. For those who don’t know me, my name is 88-Keys: rapper, singer, producer, but most of all, one of Adam’s best friends. To commemorate his life and attempt to prevent a similar fate from befalling others, I created The Death of Adam, my first album that details his wild ride from typical nice guy to playa to, finally, murder victim. When people found out I was making this tribute, the wave of support from Adam’s friends was incredible. Redman, Bilal, KiD CuDi, Little Brother’s Phonte, J*DaVeY, Shitake Monkey and Kanye West all got up on the album to show their love for our fallen soldier.
I know Kanye, in particular, was a close friend of Adam, so it was cool he wanted to be so involved in the project. As Executive Producer, Kanye was instrumental in fleshing out the thematic concepts of the album. If I had ideas for Adam, I’d always bounce them off ‘Ye and, when I wasn’t sure about the direction of certain tracks, it was Kanye who always told me to just be me and not make music with any expectations in mind. Kanye loved Adam, so it seemed fitting that the first single would be “Stay Up! (Viagra)” with him on vocals.
Adam was one of the nicest cats you’d ever meet until he started falling in with the wrong crowd. He LOVED women, and it was a classic case of “too much of a good thing” that tragically led to his death. Adam’s story runs all throughout The Death of Adam, starting with his luck—or lack thereof—as a “nice guy” and ending with his heartbreaking demise. I know if he were here today, he’d appreciate tracks like “The Friends Zone,” about a girl needing a friend but the guy wanting more, and “The Burning Bush,” which, if you think about it, should speak for itself.
When I started this project two years ago, I just imagined a 21-track album with a few vocal spots here and there. At first, after an overseas label approached me to make an album, I found this ill sample, but couldn’t remove the word “pleasure” from the source. After some soul-searching, I kept the word in and realized one of the things that gave me ultimate pleasure: women. The next beat I made happened to be about the same topic and I knew then God was telling me how the album’s theme would unfold. After Adam’s death, it all clicked into place and I knew I wanted to tell his story through my music.
I tried to tell Adam’s story through the music first and foremost, utilizing the track’s tone, tempo, sample used etc. But as this album evolved and more and more of his friends hopped on to tell his story vocally, I realized Adam would’ve been proud to be the inspiration for a multi-faceted album that works on numerous levels. The end result is a 14-track cautionary tale on the pleasures and pitfalls of romantic conquests.
We all know how diverse Adam was when it came to music, so when it was time to venerate him, I couldn’t let him down with just one genre. Adam and I used to listen to, and create, hip-hop all the time, so of course that had to be a major component of this sonic tribute. But we ran with so many different crews and listened to so many different musical styles, that there’s just as much sunny pop, psychedelic rock and smoothed-out soul to express our various sides and honor his legacy.
Some of Adam’s friends here that don’t know me might ask, “Who are you? What gives you the right to make an album about our boy?” Let me try to answer that now. Those who know me from way back know my parents steered me toward a career in medicine, but I remember discovering Big Daddy Kane’s Long Live the Kane in ’88 and getting instantly hooked on hip-hop. As a teenager, I used to intern and engineer at The Music Palace, a studio in my hometown of West Hempstead, Long Island, and eventually got up with cats like Pete Rock, Large Professor and my role model Q-Tip. I’ve been making music myself for over ten years, collaborating with Mos Def and Talib Kweli for their Black Star album and Mos himself for his debut Black on Both Sides.
Since then, I’ve produced for everyone from Joe Budden and Beanie Sigel to Macy Gray and Musiq Souldchild. Adam and I saw hip-hop go through so many different permutations, but we always were down with the jazz- and soul-inflected beats of the ‘90s. But as our musical palettes expanded, it was only natural that we’d incorporate different styles into our own music. While this album really was a decade in the making, Adam’s death lit a spark in me to revolve my debut around him. For anyone, guy or girl, that’s ever had to deal with romantic issues, this one’s for you.