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That was the day that mother told me I was too old to listen to rap music. Mid spring, 2002. I was twenty-four and moving out of my apartment. Mother was helping. We got into my car; I turned the ignition. When the engine started the radio was blaring a song by my friend, Snoop Dogg. He was extolling the virtues of a gin and juice cocktail. My mother, needless to say, did not appreciate his music. Mommy quickly flicked the volume knob and broke the news to me. It was so traumatic, so perverted that it has stuck in my head ever since.

In her sweet, irritation-laced voice she said to me, “Josh O’Dell, you are too old for this. You don’t need to be listening to such scary music.” Ahhh. But I love it so much. Scary? It’s not scary.

Since then I have not stopped listening to my beloved musical genre. If anything I have listened to it more even though I’m now thirty-two. Truthfully, I don’t know if I’ll ever retire my library. I can’t envision a scenario in which I’ll say, “Oh, what silly music. What was I thinking?” Of course when I have kids I’ll have to listen in private because no one likes a toddler who tells his grandmother that he’s got ninety-nine problems but a ______ ain’t one. She really might hit him. (Check your Jay-Z lyrics.) (Mom, I would never let my kids listen to Jay-Z. Not until they’re eight.)

I love rap music because of those satisfying moments when I am in the car bobbing my head to Biz Markie’s rough beatbox or the knotty rhythms of Dangerdoom…. In those moments I am cool. Possibly the coolest I will ever be. I’m not kidding. At that moment, when I’m spitting verses I am part of the musical collaboration That’s when I’m MC JLight, standing on stage with my hand cupped around the mic. I am a badass. I’m Steve McQueen with rhythm and gold fronts. And not even you—the staring lady next to me at the stoplight with your finger halfway up your nose—can tell me different.

The coolness factor is a big deal because those of you who know me well also know that my everyday alter ego, Joshua O’Dell, is patently uncool. He crosses his legs because it’s comfortable. (Sorry, it is.) He eats granola. He can’t tan to save his life. And, worst yet, he listens to NPR.

I like many other genres, but nothing is cool like rap. Classic country is twangy-cool. I’m going for urban-cool. Jazz is very cool, but I can’t participate in it unless I want to break out the old saxophone, which I don’t. Grunge is cool if you’re into sitting in a corner, thinking about why life sucks. Bluegrass is moonshine-cool. Metal just makes me weep—very uncool. There’s all that emotional, whiny, songwriter stuff. That’s sensitive-cool or don’t-watch-me-leave-you-but-listen-to-me-describe-the-rain-drops-for-five-minutes cool.

I love rap because, to put it bluntly, I’ve got beats in my bones and I’ve got a sweet booty that deserves to be shook. And it’s always been largely about the beats. Lyrics are cool, but the rhythm is the skizm. Rap allows for the baddest moves on the planet, e.g., break dancing, pop lock, cupid shuffle, stanky legg, lip gloss, Bugs Bunny, scuba hop, lip gloss, Aunt Jackie, running man, a-town stomp, SpongeBob, chicken noodle soup, the robot, the cabbage patch. I can do every one of ‘em.

Without rap there are so many things that I still wouldn’t know. Without Snoop Dogg I wouldn’t have realized that I need to have my mind on my money AND my money on my mind. Without Young MC I couldn’t truly bust a move. Without Busta Rhymes I wouldn’t know how to speak gibberish. If not for Freestyle Fellowship who’s going to tell me that the potato is hot? And without Black Sheep I wouldn’t have the option of this or that.

Besides, I grew up listening to this stuff. And it was okay back then, i.e., Mom knew I was listening to it. So it was okay until I turned, what, eighteen? Twenty? After that I was supposed to skip straight to Larry Welk? I mean at this point it sounds like I ought to keep rapping seeing as I’m so removed from being a grown-up. If I suddenly stop listening to it I might get the urge to sit in an office or eat a tapa.

Now that sounds scary.

-MC JLight


Hello? Is this thing on? What button do I push? Okay… I think… The light is flashing… Can you hear me?

Sorry, just getting the kinks worked out.

I think I just started a blog. Yeah, I know everyone has one these days. But cut me some slack. What else is the technologically savvy adult supposed to turn to when he’s searching for his place in the world? (Lord, it’s getting heavy already. Feels kind of Wonder Years-y.) I mean handwritten diaries are so 20th century and if I leave the thoughts to marinate in my head I’d probably need a candy jar filled to the brim with Xanax.

Okay so I’ve actually wanted to start one of these for a while. I’ve just been lazy. But I’ve been motivated recently by my two lovely cousins Katie and Jourdan who both have very funny, insightful, and appetizing blogs. Way to go, girls.

So what’s my deal? I have no idea. Here’s what I know: I’m thirty-two and I don’t do anything. Here’s what else I know: I’m supposed to be a grown-up. Here’s what I also know: Grown-ups do things. Grown-ups run errands. They buy Scotch Guard and get things framed. They meet people for happy hour and tapas. They use words like “tapas.” Grown-ups shave regularly, they send e-mails from Town Cars and have conference calls. Grown-ups have IRA’s and 401K’s. Grown-ups watch 60 Minutes. They shop for 1000 thread count sheets. Because they do these things, grown-ups are legitimate. They accomplished, recognized.

Here’s what I do: I wake up an hour to two hours after my alarm first starts going off. I get up and make kissing sounds at my beloved cat David Letterman. I eat a bowl of chocolate Cheerios. (They’re new. Get some.) I write for a couple of hours. I write a bunch of crazy stuff that comes from who-knows-where. This has included many short stories, several screenplays, a novel and a series of conversations between myself and David Letterman (the cat). After that I usually go for a run, then I come home and stare at the ceiling for a good thirty minutes. I roll over and look at the carpet. I think about vacuuming it, but usually don’t. I think about all the people who are doing legitimate things at that moment (see above). I eat more. I shower and–maybe–shave. I do something important like laundry or some minor car maintenance or cleaning, but only for an hour or so. This gets me to about 3:30 pm when I leave for a job, waiting tables, that could be performed by a trained animal. I’m not yet convinced that I am legitimate, or that I am something other than an aimless underachiever. It is, needless to say, not a good feeling. (Did I mention that I’m thirty-two?)

Sure, I won’t deny that I’m mature. I have a great relationship with my lovely wife and I pay my bills on time. I am usually responsible. But maturity is not the same as being a grown-up. So when do I get to the point where I’m willing to be a grown-up in order to be legitimate? Cause right now I have no desire. I don’t want an office. I don’t want to be an Excel expert. I don’t want to own a PDA. I don’t want to own a house. In fact, I want to do anti-grown-up things. I mean, my dream occupation is rapper. Let me say it again… I want to be a rapper. (I’m thirty-two.) I write poorly conceived raps. They’re terrible. Ridiculous. Silly. Me, MC J Light. Such admissions should not be posted all over the Internet. And this pipe dream certainly doesn’t make me feel any more legitimate. But I can’t just drop it or any other of my “nothings.”

So while I badly want to feel legit, I’m not so ready to be a grown-up. What next?

Start a blog.

I intend for this little project to be a hilarious/heartwarming/life-changing chronicle of all the nothing I do and all the nothing I think about. This is an effort to make something out of nothing. This is me trying to find legitimacy as a rapper, not a grown-up. (But there will probably be a bunch of random stuff thrown in, too.) I hope you enjoy reading.