“If the kid at 25, living in Buffalo only knew how good life would get…” Almost every night, after I put Cydney to bed, I sat on the steps of 271 Norfolk Ave, on the east side of Buffalo, looked off at the four lights-ECMC-shown in the visible distance. I raised my gaze above Eerie County Medical Center, thanked God for my life, and wondered where and what would I be in a decade.
Timile took Cydney with her to her aunt’s house on a late-July, Sunday afternoon. She insisted I took the time to myself to be myself. I worked a full-time job, took Timile to every doctor and chemo appointment, and made time to raise our infant in a city where I knew no one.
After Timile and Cydney pulled off, I sat on the porch the same way I explained in the first paragraph. The sky looked peaceful. I took a picture to always remember the days I looked out at ECMC. I then went into the basement and began to record songs on my computer, which sat atop a broken dryer.
I seldom speak or write about my time in Buffalo. With as much as I have divulged about my life in honest detail, I kept my seven months in Eerie County close to my heart. Despite how hard the times were: a new baby, cancer, my mother’s diagnosis of cancer, a slew of bullshit in Buffalo; hell, we slept on a twin sized box spring and yoga mats while our daughter slept in a pack-n-play; we were a happy family. The nights I had to walk from Delevan and Walden Ave through the East Side to get home to my girls were cool with a good soundtrack. No matter what came my way, I learned to be grateful because I was living through how quickly life can begin and end.
On a similar summer Sunday afternoon-it could have been the same day-Timile told me a dream she had. “You were older and you were driving to a nice house, in a nice car, coming home from a good job and making good money, you were able to look back at all you’d been through and said “I made it,’” she said with a smile. At the time, our life looked nothing like this. We lived with her aunt and talked about a commitment ceremony because we could not marry because of her bills from treatment.
Timile had and shared many prophetic dreams. I listened to her conviction. She did not mention herself in the dream and I knew what she visioned was a life without her. I prepared myself for the possibility of a day where I would have to look my daughter in the eye and say “it’s just you and I, now.” However, Timile’s dream confirmed what I discerned.
This was the moment I began to look at life Timile Brown around only in spirit. Relationships change when two parties must prepare for death. You have best of times with someone you love: endless laughs and jokes, the arguments are fewer and the ones which do flare up are brief outlets of the frustration with the circumstance.
I had no idea when Timile and my good time would come to an end. However, I had to begin to prepare for a life without her and I did not know where to start. Four years prior, I gave up the music business for Timile and had a child to take care of. Perhaps on the July afternoon where I took the picture was one of those moments when I began to see Timile’s premonition or visualize my future.
My college friend, Acasia also had premonitions. In the summer of 2020, she sent me an email to tell me she’d dreamed I got married. She saw a beautiful bride and it felt right, after all she watched and witnessed me experience. I laughed and told her I had a dream the night before where I married singer Kelis and Nas-her ex-husband-was my best man. A couple of weeks later, she shared another about me incubating a large project over a period of time, and connecting with my father over music. I was able to picture all Acasia shared with me and it felt real enough for me to believe it. Months later, when I began to write There’s Always a Girl Story, I asked her to help be another set of eyes as I wrote.
On March 26, 2021, I shared an essay I had written two years prior about the song “Cherchez Le Femme,” then explained how in the same haphazard fashion as Cory Daye sang “for misery, my friend…”on Dr. Buzzard and the Savannah Band’s 1976 hit paralleled how I said “There’s always a girl story.”
Acasia gave me her feedback and wrote “For some reason, this last voice note transports me to a scene with you in Paris. Just you, hopping on a plane, taking a solo trip to Paris. Classic Parisienne music in the background, you at a café, writing. Eiffel Tower in the background or something iconic nearby…”
As soon as Acasia said it, I saw it. Since I was a kid, I envisioned myself at one point or another in life, in Paris, as a musician. I would sit at café’s in the day, then sing and play at some smoke-filled place, doing some form of rap/r&b/jazz fusion shows. It is what all of the greats I studied did; and I guess I saw it for me too. Because of this unconscious thought in the back of my head, coffee shops have almost always been a part of my creative process. I will save this for another essay.
With nonchalance, I replied “I like it. Never been. But ultimately that’s the vibe I’m looking for.” My wheels began to spin. Acasia continued “I’m sure Chad goes to Paris would hit. Black man from New York takes a writing assignment in Paris or something and finds love, something like that.”
A lightbulb went off in the form of a song called “French Toast” by rappers Westside Gunn and Wale. It had a midtempo breakbeat, where arpeggiated chords created a four-bar loop. It had a jazzy swing, which felt like spring time in both New York and Paris. I began to listen to Westside Gunn sing “I’m out here in Paris just crushing on you,” over and over. The song and the visions of myself in the same space became real.
I became a fan of Westside Gunn and Griselda Records a few years earlier. Gunn, his brother Conway tha Machine, and their cousin, Benny the Butcher were a trio from the east side of Buffalo. I liked their music because they rapped their asses off and the music was good. However, I loved their music because it was so Buffalo. I knew the streets they referred to in their lyrics and the coldness one could hear in their beat selection. They reminded me of friends and family from the east side and made references to a place and life I knew but most of their audience did not. Buffalo is a big-small place, so I had many friends who knew and grew up with them.
It was only right it all began with a song, with a group from Buffalo, who rapped about some semblance of romance in Paris.
The next day, I sent Acasia the song, and told her “French Toast” reminded me of all she had spoken about. Since her initial emails, I began to find my footing in making music again. There was a whole version of There’s Always a Girl Story, finished, sans two verses. However, it did not feel right. I did not want to tell anymore jaded tales of the bullshit, only to shrug and say “There’s Always a Girl Story” anymore. It was time to sing a new song.
I felt optimistic. In order to sing a new song, I needed a new story. I had a vision and direction; just needed to live a little and let God do His thing through me.
After I sent Acasia the message, I took my nephew to Sunnyside to get a haircut. I asked Cydney if she would like to come with me across the street to get coffee; and we found the café I needed to begin to write.
I had a good feeling about the coffee shop. I ventured there a few times before to test it out. Each time I left, I felt inspired. The first time, I walked across the street, shot a whole music video, then edited and put it on YouTube within 24 hours. The second time, I wrote a song. The third time, I wrote the record which would become an amazing record with my father called “My Favorite Song.”
On March 27th, I caught fire. I made four new beats, began to write a song, and edited two videos within 36 hours. One of the records was a song about my time in Atlanta, how I gave up music there, and felt my return. With Georgia on my mind, I began to remember the 21 year old kid, who gave up his dreams and calling for his girl. In time, over the course of the next year and a half, I wrote more than four albums worth of songs; but never came back to “Afrique Doe” until the fall of 2022.