Over the last several days I have taken time to reflect and mourn the loss of my Uncle, Milton Hewlin (“One of the hardest working men” my family has ever known) and also mourn my friend, Jun Seba aka Nujabes. This has been a difficult time but I continue to push forward and do my best to stay strong for those I care about. A lot of people (friends, associates, and strangers) have sent their condolences and for that, I thank you. Now, I wish to tell you about what my friend Jun meant to me.
When J Dilla died, I saw a lot of T-shirts being made to keep his memory alive, I own 2 or 3 myself. The one that stood out the most to me, was the popular “Dilla Changed My Life” Tee. Although, I love most of his music, I never felt comfortable enough to buy that shirt because I can’t honestly say that he changed my life, although, I have been inspired by his work. There are some artists who influence and inspire me but if there is one who has TRULY changed MY life, it is without a doubt Nujabes.
We first began talking in 1999 when my friend, Sphere of Influence put us in contact. I hadn’t heard of him before that but when I got his beat tape (yes, it was an actual cassette) in the mail, I knew that he was something special so, I signed with his label Hyde Out Productions later that year. He took a chance on me when I was still trying to find my voice as an artist and a man. But he believed in my words and because of that, we have made a lot of great music together that will stand the test of time.
When we made music, we would often bicker, debate, argue, etc. because we both had such strong views and were very passionate about our crafts. Because of creative differences, I eventually left Hyde Out in 2002, causing us to collaborate a lot less. But, what I want people to know about him is the side people didn’t see. He was a great man. I use to joke and refer to him as Napolean because although he a small brother, he had a strong heart and mind. He had a great sense of humor. He also had a passion for music like none I’ve ever seen. He was a fan of great music and would travel the world in search of it. He was caring person. He loved his family and cared about mine. I am honored to have known him.
Although I am disappointed that we will not be able to collaborate on new music, I am deeply saddened by the thought that I won’t have the opportunity to just hang out with him again. I am just happy that I was able to thank him for what he’s done for me.
Nujabes has changed my life. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have the following and support that I have in Japan. If it wasn’t for him, people around the world wouldn’t know my voice or my message. He has helped me provide for my family and he helped me build a career that I am proud of. For that, I am eternally thankful and I will honor his memory.
He will be missed more than he will ever get to know. My condolences to his family, all of the brothers and sisters who were blessed to know and work with him, and to the fans that truly loved his music. Keep his memory alive and remember if you really love or appreciate someone, be sure to tell them and support them while they’re here because they can be gone in a blink of an eye.
Lastly, I wanted to share this song with you from my debut album, To This Union A Sun Was Born, which seems to fit how a lot of us feel. The song is entitled, “Ain’t No Happy Endings”. I chose it to honor his memory not just because of the title but because I vividly remember how excited we both were, back in January 2000, when we finished recording it. We listened to it so many times right after we finished it, in his old studio, then he put it on mini-disc, and we played it some more in his van, on our way to grab dinner with the crew. Those were good times. ENJOY!