Dropping Gems With MoRuf
I wake up in the morning with a jolt. Rain is crashing down hard against my window. Oh no. Oh hell no. I have way too much to do today for it to be raining like this outside my window. I sit up.
“This rain bruh.” I shoot a text to CP, who is also on his way to an early photoshoot. I’m supposed to be shooting from 10:30 till noon for my own project and then linking up with MoRuf at 1 p.m. in Newark so we could mob out to the L.E.S to link with CP and get to know the mind behind one of my favorite projects, Shades of Moo.
And it’s raining dogshit out the window. Rain, cameras….
CP hits my line and reassures me that the weather’s not going to be a problem, so I throw an extra pair of boots and a rain jacket in my bag for my shoot just in case. Before I leave, I take a look at my growing crystal gem collection. I get the urge to text MoRuf and ask him to name a color. He replies, “Blues.” I grab the only blue stone I have, a blue agate plate and put it in a small pouch in my bag. By the time I make my way out the door, it’s around 11:30. I can never be on time for shit. I don’t know why.
It’s 2:30 now. I turn my phone back on and try calling MoRuf . I’m at Penn Station, it’s hot as hell, and this bag with these Doc Martens is breaking my back. My phone is going in and out of service, but I finally get in touch with him. He’s gonna get dressed and be on his way. I know what that means, so I go grab some food. An hour or so later, we link up at the south side of the station and make way to Track One. So much for 1 p.m.
“NJ Transit or Path?” he asks me. I snicker to myself as I think of the song “The Path,” that he dropped way back when with Iman Omari, and refrain from having a fan moment before answering, “Path. CP’s meeting us on 14th.” We take a seat and wait for the train. The sun is shining through the station. I give him the stone that he subconsciously picked from my collection. Immediately, the tone is set for the day as we begin to talk about our beliefs. MoRuf reveals to me that he was raised by both Islam and Christianity. “It was just interesting seeing how it’s all the same thing. Going to the mosque on Friday evening and church on Sunday morning, it was all the same.” He recounts his upbringing with a Muslim father and Christian mother, going through a time where he hated his Nigerian Muslim name, remarking on how his last name is Nigerian Christian, and how eventually he found to love his name. While admiring how dedicated the Islamic faith is and how loving Christianity is, he agrees with me that these religions are all regional interpretations of the same story, the same central messages. We start to discuss spirituality and faith. Like many of us, like myself, he follows a lifestyle of spirituality, saying that he’s recently started to gain interest in the practice of Buddhism. He tells me about the college professor that helped lead him to Buddha by giving him a $20 bill after class and telling him to buy the book called “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh. “At the time I didn’t really know about Buddha. I knew about buddah,” he jokes about his college days. “This was back before Kean looked good. I was a hot boy.” I look at his calm demeanor and cleanly pressed shirt and Converses. “I thought I was some retro nigga.” MoRuf doesn’t realize that this was the MoRuf I met as a freshman, wondering if this was the same dude I had playing on Soundcloud while I was doing homework. “But I’ve been bossing up. Sallie Mae was actually really nice, and I’m taking care of that now,” says the recent college graduate. I’m glad our experiences at Kean lead to something. We get off the train and I call CP once we reach ground level.
“Yo, I just got off the train too, I’m coming up now,” says CP. The day is going extremely smooth, and CP’s impeccable timing made it that much better. We agree that its a nice enough day to walk to the L.E.S rather than take the train, even though the sun is blistering hot and CP and I both have bags on our backs. I see in the distance Namaste Book Store, the shop that sold me the agate I gave MoRuf earlier, is having another sidewalk sale. I jump up with a “Sayyyy nooo moreeee, it’s littt.” MoRuf and CP laugh. “You really some Jersey nigga,” MoRuf comments.
MoRuf purchases a Buddhist pendant from their sidewalk sale and we continue walking with no real destination. I wanna go to the thrift with them, but all I can really think of right now is watermelon and CP knows where the good thrift stores in this area are at anyway. “Watermelon is so good,” I say out loud, hoping to attract fruit in our direction as soon as possible. Its too damn hot to be eating anything else. Which is weird considering the rainfall earlier but, hey. I’m having a good time finally building with MoRuf and my brother from another CP. I just really want some fruit. “I like apples and pears,” says MoRuf to our slightly disappointed faces. Pears are trash.
We run into a fruit stand on the corner of 14th and 4th where a lady is cursing out some guy in a van to our left and a dude is doing kickstand on a Citibike to our right. I buy some cut up mango from the little Spanish lady and MoRuf cops some bananas, 5 for $1. I stop him from picking a bunch of unripe ones, and hand him two nicely spotted, ready to eat bananas. Ole boy is still going ham on the Citibike to our right.
We finally approach a thrift store and dip inside to escape the burning sun. The store doesn’t have much selection, lots of the same shit, some used sneakers for sale too. I ask MoRuf what his favorite kicks are. “Right now, Converse.” I look at the busted mint green Chucks on my feet. They’re my favorite right now too. But this store is dead. Moruf looks at me and CP with a “I’m ready when yall are,” and is already outside before I get my duffle bag from behind the counter. Its cloudy out now. Still hot as hell, but humid. MoRuf is talking to CP about photography as he takes a picture of a surf supply store with his iPhone. “I’m not a photographer,” says CP as he scrolls through the camera in his hand. Neither am I, I think to myself. MoRuf reveals he’s always been interested in taking photos. He says he’s got a Polaroid that he’s been documenting the past 4 years with on the low. He says he’s not gonna do anything with them now, but one day he wants to have a gallery to exhibit them.
“I’m not a photographer either though. Same way how I always say I’m not a rapper. Even when I was battle rappin’ on the streets I never called myself a rapper.”
Musicianship is far more than simply knowing how to rap. And since we’re talking about it, we discuss artists who we can’t live without & your average “music is the universal language,” conversation. I ask him who his favorite artist that he knows personally is. “Hmmm, that’s a good one. I don’t take the word artist lightly,” he says as we walk down the block in search of a store that sells Dutches or Backwoods. I’m a little pissed at myself for not buying one in Jersey, but I’m fully prepared to pay the $4 or whatever the hell New York charges for wraps these days. “I’m gonna say Iman (Omari). Cus I know Iman and he’s an artist,” he says confidently about his beat making friend. He returns the question to me. I can’t hold the fan in me back now. “I mean… I’m not saying this cus you’re right here either, but you are though.” They both throw their arms up in the air. CP with the adlibs in the background: “I’m about to explode from all this gasoline.” I laugh. These guys are hilarious.
We finally find a shop that sells Dutches and start heading towards a park where a crowd of people are standing around taking photographs of something. We get there and see a bunch of naked people in body paint posing for cameras. This one girl is on a rock doing the most, posing with a picture frame with her leg up for the camera. I admire the dedication. They’re a group for the promotion of equality between races and genders or something. They don’t have a website or Instagram though… So I wonder if they’re even legit, or if they’re just a bunch of people who like body paint. MoRuf takes a video for Snapchat of one of them. “What’s ya name though?” He asks in the video, as a joke. “If I was really some Irvington nigga…” We joke about the crazy shit Jersey cats would say to a naked painted woman walking down the street.
MoRuf grew up in Irvington, one of the roughest cities in New Jersey. “I came a long way, I wasn’t the person who I am now,” he comments. “I wasn’t reading books or on any of this…. It still takes a lot for me to finish a book.” CP & I agree. I’m in the middle of three right now. I think our brains have just been conditioned for short term reading, with statuses and captions and short blog posts.
Makes me wonder how I’m going to write a post that’ll keep people’s attention for longer than the first paragraph.
We find a stoop down the block from this loud ass block party on Ave D and 6th and sit down to catch a breath & get into this “buddah”. They got Naughty by Nature bumping and it looks pretty live. We’re watching people walk by as we pass the L. A lady across the street is ice grilling us, but we don’t care. We’re talking about travelling the world. MoRuf is telling us about the time he was fortunate enough to play a show in Africa with a group of some other artists, how awesome Canada was and how he can’t wait to play in Cali again.
“Stoop kid’s afraid to leave the stoop,” jokes CP about the lady on her steps as the block party beckons us closer.
The hypeman catches us two stepping into the party, singing all the words to every classic throwback record they spin. They look astonished that us young folk knew the jams like that. He points us out. The entire block is lit up. Kids are jumping on the air bounce, running around, and eating cotton candy. Moms are sitting together chatting and dads are grouped up talking too. In the center by the DJ booth, everyone is enjoying great music, doing the electric slide, and talking to their neighbors. A lady in pink is breaking it down in the near distance. CP points out that she has a bible under her arm. I look around and notice that a church group must have sponsored the block party since there are copies of the New Testament everywhere. MoRuf lights up when he notices. It seems we’re all having a moment. This block party is definitely the culminating point of an amazing day. We don’t stay there too long; MoRuf wants to be back in Jersey before it gets too late and I have to link up with my homegirl for the night.
Everyone is paying us much respect as we leave with silent head nods and smiles. “How could you deny the vibes? You can’t!” MoRuf remarks at how great we collectively felt about the block party and how music was able to bring all those people together. I notice that the lady on the steps is back inside. “Stoop kid denied the vibes,” I comment. Her loss.
In front of me, CP and MoRuf are talking about Museache, how to properly pronounce it (mooz-ayck) and what it is. He admits:
“I like yall because it’s clean. You guys got that aesthetic.”
The term “aesthetic” has been popping up everywhere nowadays. MoRuf says that it’s because brands and business, artists even are finally starting to understand what it means. “You have to create your own package, one thats consistent with your sound, style, whatever, all across the board. You guys definitely have that.” I flip my dreads confidently. I could say the same about MoRuf and LOE.
He thanks me for the day as we approach the station, especially for bringing him to the block party. “I really needed that, thank you.” But I didn’t do anything. I’m a passenger on this ride, just like he and CP are. I thank him for accompanying me. We take a group picture in a security mirror before we all part ways. I’m so content with the day, I could honestly go home at this point and be fine. Besides, my feet and back are killing me.All Photographs By: Colin Pieters