WDDR FM, Your Song Dedication Station, Presents...4 U Fridays, Vol. 1: "We Gonna Make It", 4 My Little Cousin Kate
The first edition of hopefully a soon-to-be TGIF Wudder Fall tradition on WDDR, Wudder FM, Your Special Dedication Station, is a shot of love aimed at my little cuz, Kathryn.
Last name Rhoads, like the grandmother we share, our beloved Nana, who lived to see 98.
Kate is a Queens resident and an acting/writing dual threat.
Also the sole Ivy League graduate in our family history (with a degree in Biophysics?!?…for who knows what reason).
She and I share a unique bond, despite a significant age difference, and typically long geographical distance, as the not-far-from book-ending pair of aspiring-occasionally professional-creatives among eleven cousins.
9/11 is Kate’s birthday.
Which means long before she could drive (still barely can really, probably why she mostly stays speed-walking thru crowded city streets and navigating subway mazes in NY)…the annual date signifying when she arrived became destined to be buried beneath the rubble, both literal and figurative, of not only those who lost their lives, but any who caught some shards of emotional shrapnel, plus even the people that came later wrestling with the fallout from all the aftershocks.
Katie was a kid at that time.
I was fresh-outta-college, for the first time flush with a heady combination of undeclared non-taxed cash, another paycheck, an expense account + company van, and my first real line of credit I’d later live to regret, while staying in a sprawling old Baltimore City row-house 2737 North Calvert Street for $250 monthly.
”We Gonna Make It” should’ve been the lead single that a rapper named Jadakiss, a year or two older than me, from a Yonkers rap group called The Lox who first arrived on “It’s All About The Benjamins” alongside B.I.G., chose from his debut solo album, released in August 2001, a month before those planes hit.
The beat, cooked up by The Alchemist, is a sped-up string-soaked, horn-stabbed, Samuel Johnathan Johnson sample, that feels wholly triumphant.
It could’ve been the film score for a conquering hero, or in the hands of the right actress, heroine.
The sound bed of a timeless, grafted-gold-from-a-recently-rediscovered-ghostly-old-mine, classic.
But Def Jam Records instead went with a Neptunes-produced piece of turn-of-the-century fast food called “Knock Yourself Out”, while also making sure Jada got on the radio remix for “Heard It All Before”, a one-hit-wonder R&B smash by a woman named Sunshine Anderson nobody heard from again like Ruff Endz.
I can still hear the latter’s beat/melody/hook inside my head, without being sure it’s had contact with my ears, any time or anywhere, during the entire 2010’s.
I heard “We Gonna Make It” a few times pushing that van around, but not nearly as much as I heard the other two, or even City High’s “What Would You Do?”
Who knows what Kathryn was listening to between Y2K and 9/11.
We didn’t really know each other very well back then.
Kids weren’t welcome in the Fells Point spot yours truly tended bar in, nor did I need any company besides an AM/FM radio (a tape deck or CD player in a van in ‘03 woulda just been greedy) while riding around the DMV, in a company van, making sure accounts had sufficient Guinness point-of-sale merchandising.
When I did see Kate over holidays, she, her big sister Laura, and our cousin Sarah, spent most of their time sneaking away to print up anti-smoking statistics with scary graphics from a nearby computer, to stash in my dresser drawers, underneath my pillow, or even the glove compartment of my ’86 Volvo GLE, in hopes that upon later discovery, those black-lunged, skull-and-crossbones pics, alongside dire medical prognostications, might lead to cigarette cessation.
Unlike my then-Pre-Med-Major, future-surgeon Baby Sis, they either weren’t old, or familiar enough, to understand the psychology of their prospective patient.
So like everybody else in our extended family, Kate grew up enough to fall back from that attack, and began patiently waiting like 50 Cent and Eminem in ‘03.
I’d been off bogues (a term of nicotine affection that all my DAWGS know) for nine days at the time of this header photo, taken on June 15th, 2017.
Kate, Laura, and myself, had just left from visiting Nana at one of her last rehabilitation spots.
When news of nine-days-no-ciggies didn’t get much reaction from our grandmother, it finally dawned on me that 100 was a number she wouldn’t see.
I slumped out of the room, holding it together until reaching the front door of the facility, where I nearly ran headlong into my Aunt Patty.
She sent the rest of her family ahead, and immediately re-routed to walk back outside with me.
After that, my memory, like I’d imagine my articulation at the time, or the vision in my eyes, becomes blurry.
My lungs had recently received a reprieve, but suddenly it felt harder than ever to breathe.
Eventually gathering myself, Kate and I hopped into Laura’s car, while everything around South Jersey somehow now looked like places I’d never before seen.
This picture was taken when we pulled off to the side of the road somewhere.
Kate probably doesn’t even know who Jadakiss is, not only because late-nineties-early-two-thousands NYC street rap ain’t really something pre-teens were playing around her way in Moorestown NJ, but also because she’s one of the only millennial or gen-z people alive who doesn’t have any music-streaming apps on her phone, nor logs onto social-media to make her opinions known.
But in addition to sharing grandparents among 11 of us cousins in our generation, we share the decidedly less applauded family tradition of being artists.
Less applauded, since nobody in our family ever fed the collective we, or even really the singular me, off creativity.
Still, as far back as we can trace, some strain of this virus, in acting called ‘the bug’, in writing known as ‘the itch’, has been present.
Whether it be our Uncle John, the world’s first Navy nuclear submarine veteran-turned-2010’s-sexagenarian-stand-up comedian.
Or his older sister, our Aunt Ellen, who used to shake her tail-feather on a then-local-Philadelphia TV program called American Bandstand,.
She once met Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, and according to family legend had been an extra on The Love Boat.
But in an era long before camera-phones, those Rat Pack photos never made it to the address she gave the cameraman to send, while none of her nieces or nephews have proven to have the patience to sift thru approximately 250 or so Love Boat episodes in the hopes of spotting Aunt Ellen.
My cousin Kate is the only one who’s ever actually acted on TV.
Unless you count that inspired spiel I gave in a live interview exiting 2013’s BET Experience in LA at Club Nokia, which may or may not have been re-broadcast.
It goes back as far as our great-grandfather working the Boardwalk Empire of Atlantic City hotels to pay the rent, while an aspiring early movie thespian.
Great granddad also lived to see 98, even outliving his only son, who exited early due to heavy asbestos exposure while working for Owens-Corning.
Pragmatism and familial love, in the form of wanting to ensure a baseline of middle-class existence and protection, lives within us.
As does a family tree with documented strong genetic resiliency, especially if we do our best to avoid polluting our personal air space with toxins.
But so too a burning desire to create as an artist, while possibly armed with the intelligence, authenticity, and ability to actually do it.
So I say all that to say this…to her, me, or the less-than-royal we, which can charitably include anyone else chasing dreams others may not yet see…
Whenever wandering out into that mental wilderness which can sometimes become shrouded in self-doubt or fear, let Alc’s beat be the heroic theme music you hear, with 'that ‘Kiss mantra keeping your head ringing like a fist to your ear:
WE…GON…MAKE…IT. WE GON MAKE IT, WE GON MAKE IT!
Things can, and will, flip…if you continue to stay focused and patient.