Brandon “Stix” Salaam-Bailey (born July 13, 1983) is an American rapper, record producer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. He just release his album, We are Taught to Survive just 24 hours ago. Already having over 10K plays for almost each track on Soundcloud, he shares his real life stories and experiences of living in the hood. He had to go through a lot, to gain the strength needed to survive it all.
We Are Taught to Survive
A echoing introduction with a touch of soul to start of the album. Vocals by Kenyon Dixon, it is short and sweet, with the overlay of simple harmonies. The curtains are opening, getting the listener ready for the first act.
Act 1- W.A.T.T.S
With Living for the Love of You by the Isley Brother playing in the background while Stix goes in on his monologue, giving you the opening scene. It makes you want to sit back and relax as you are listening to the first Act of Stix life. He is introducing that this is a story about his life. Everything that you will be hearing is an authentic experience that Stix has went through.
Carrying on the album as if you are listening to a old vinyl recording of a play, Stix transitions into the story of his life. Talking about the street he grew up on, near a mortuary. At a very tender age, he was already getting familiar with dead bodies. Not only that, but he was getting familiar with people getting shot right before his eyes. Gunshots was a noise as familiar as the jingle of a ice cream truck
The first all music track, rapping about all the bodies he has seen drop. With a sad sounding violin that would be played at a funeral, it’s a very dark and sad part of Stix life that he is allowing people to hear. He raps about people and their other struggles. Growing up in such an unfortunate environment, seeing people struggling and clearly not living a life that they want, so much death also surrounded him. He reassures people that they are worthy of life. They are not a disgrace. Terrible things such as death happens every day. Although it shouldn’t, you just got to keep it moving
Act 2- Who is Dirty Red?
Another monologue where he confesses that he himself was shot at least 6 or 7 times. When he got a gun pulled up on him, it gave him a strength that gave him the ability to survive. The sound effects are intricate. The car pulling up, the sound of a gun being reloaded, ready to shoot. He’s really tapping into a lot of past emotions to bring the Stix from the block back to life. The Isley Brothers as promised was playing the background again. Stix gets engaged into some street drama, some guys in the back a car that pulled up on him yelling “say goodnight, nigga”. Although, a lot of men that are in these streets put up a front, Stix kind of breaks down that wall while reflecting about his past. He knew that because of the things he was experiencing in life, he had no choice but to survive. He ends act 2 with the line “I ain’t trying to die”, showing that this is the mentality that lead to his want to survive.
A dangerous man from the streets, makes living a little more rigged. As Stix’s claims that he does not know who this Dirty Red is, he knows Dirty Red is someone that he doesn’t’ want to tangle with.
With a very haunting and ghostly beat, Stix is really spitting. He’s really going in on what he is about life. Realizing that there’s so many guns that he sees daily, he can’ even begin to count them. Although surrounded by this negativity and violence, he is great fully to see another day. I wish it was longer! Just like a play, I can feel the progression of the story and the suspense. With the wise words from a friend, telling Stix to “Watch over your mother fucking back out here, champ”, you know that from this point on, some shit is about to go down.
Still carrying on the twisted and haunted kind of vibe, this track is really bumping. Like I can see someone rolling around in their car, late at night down the hood, strapped. This is definitely a feel-good song. He really has a lot of word play going on in here, really highlighting his wittiness.
Calling out all the fake people that are pretending to be something that they aren’t, hence the title of track Pretend. Some people are just all talk and no walk. Guys that like to show all their money all the flashy things that they have is what gets the jacked up in the end. “Don’t fuck with niggas that pretend” is a motto that Stix seems to live by, which has also influenced the kind of person he wanted to turn out to be. He says that he never tried to act like hood nigga, but he “gotta keep it trill”. The track is a mix of the trippy hip hop that was exhibited the previous two tracks and also a little soul with the piano playing in the beginning and reoccurring throughout the track.
It sounds like game time when this track begins. You always got to be on your own grind and hustle game. He seems to have encounter a huge dilemma. Why he can’t leave the streets. He’s hustling every day, but for what. Where is planning to go? These streets are all that he has been around. All that he knows. He wants to get out and it seems like he has built up some of the resources to do so, but something mentally is blocking him from doing so.
The introduction is very interesting. Sounds like an old timer talking about integration in California, violence, and addresses woke-ness and colorism. Shout outs to his wife. The script on what is the color black. It’s very powerful. A simple question, with so many debts. It expresses the lack of community in the black community, and how people think there is a right was to be black. Being black (if you are a person of color) is just being yourself.
Act 4-Think W.A.T.T.S
This is the closing scene of we are taught to survive. As Stix opened with the Isley Brothers, it comes full circle as he has them playing in the background once again. Introducing his mantra, think watts, he wants to leave his listeners with something. Not only his story, but also something to think and reflect about.
Stix has his own clothing line Think W.A.T.T.S. We Are Taught to Survive is where Stix put a lot of his out in the open. Nothing was filtered. He shared the good and the bad, while raising a lot of good questions, questioning others’ actions. He did not a have a blueprint to survive the kind of life that he got out of. He had to live through it all, remember, and learn from it. He has decided to pass on what he know to people who don’t know and do know what it’s like to have a life like his.