PERSISTENCE of Memory

I believe memory exists not only to remind us of where we’ve been or where we’ve come from, but to guide us and help us heal. It interests me that the older I get, the less I can remember from my formative years, however, what I do becomes the most important. 

Memory comes back to me in photographic flashbacks: the good always remains but fades with time, the traumatic resurface slower, but intense and vivid all at once. I was born in 1998, old enough for my first “real” memory to be of 9/11, although I truly can’t say I knew what was happening. Then, a month later my younger brother was born. 

The next is disoriented screaming, flashing lights through my bedroom window, muffled sounds of gunshots down the block as I was upstairs in bed. The SWAT team was guarding off my street and knocking on our door. Nearly 20 years later, I can finally understand that this was due to a Vietnam Veteran who lived on the corner, and whose PTSD had triggered him to shoot.  

My earliest happy memories date around the same time frame. Sometime in 2000, probably about 2, almost 3 years old, holding a lilac ball playing catch outside with my father. I remember sitting at the small farm-animal-themed table in our old vile yellow kitchen with the forest green floor tiles as I colored in a coloring book. 

I remember painting purple stars on the walls with my father when I graduated out of my crib and into my new “big girl” room upstairs.  I remember coloring over the puke-yellow walls in Crayola crayons before my parents decided to tear our kitchen down for demolition. 

Vividly I can picture myself in elementary school art class, the tables new and unscratched, the crisp room smelling of fresh cobalt blue paint on the walls. We would gather around our teacher, Ms. Halpern, who would drop a pin and ensure we all heard it grace the floor before she spoke. I was always quiet, more interested in which artist we would learn about as opposed to the anxiety-provoking multiplication test that awaited in the class upon our return. 

I remember recreating Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in oil pastel, the soft waxy feel as it molded to my hands and created rainbows under my fingernails and the earthy aroma of red clay on my hands as we created pottery. I only cared about what day it was for the sole purpose of whether or not it was time for the weekly art class – it was my escape. I can’t remember most of what I retained from grade school other than forming a keen interest in the arts.

This seems to be a common theme: those who excel and form interests in the arts foster them at a young age. I started playing the violin and joined the chorus in the third grade, although colors and forms stated their permanence in my life. I developed a fixation on transferring images from my mind into a physical form, my notes covered in drawings and doodles. This was and still is my way of creating a sense of our world.  

Throughout middle and high school I continued to find shelter in the art rooms. I created during my time of struggle. I won’t speak much about my depressive manic and self-destructive states as an early teen, but visually creating has always been one of my only methods of accurately channeling and representing my emotions. 

It was around this time I began to spend my summers in Manhattan, taking pre-college courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Art galleries and museums were now at my disposal on a level much higher than my suburban home town on Long Island. These galleries and museums became a sanctuary for me.

Years later and I’ve devoted myself to structure my life around the arts. My passion for the visual arts has followed persistently throughout my entire academic experience, my lifestyle, and is now reflected in my professional career. 

I’ve been an artist for as long as my memory allows. What can I say? Creating comes naturally. It keeps me grounded, consistently allowing me to portray my emotions and relay my memories in a universal language for each to resonate and reconcile as their own.  

As a visual artist and writer, I seek to educate and inspire others. I have an intimate understanding of how hard it is to spread our stories to the world. While it may be pain-staking, it is vital to recognize the importance of passing down our stories. We are not drastically different from one another once we allow ourselves to open up.

Whether this is conducted through visual imagery or words, it is how we relate and learn about ourselves, our relationships, our friends, our partners and lovers, and the generations both preceding and succeeding our own. 

Businesses and empires may be bound to fail, but there is permanence in the arts and culture. As Dali would say, there always has been, and always will be, a “persistence of memory.”

Pretty Wings: A Word with GB2UNO

“They probably think I’m just a black dude, until they see deep into my soul and listen to my music. They see my energy, and they give credit where credit is due.”

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Photo from Instagram

In 2020, more independent artists than ever are popping up on streaming sites such as Apple Music, Spotify, and SoundCloud. On Spotify alone, Billboard estimates that there are more than 1.2 million artists currently listed on the platform. Each one, of course, brings a distinctly unique flavor to the realm of music and artistry. So what sets rapper GB2UNO, based in the Boston area, apart from the rest?

“I’m kind of all over the place,” GB2UNO, who goes by GB, says in regards to his themes. “So really whatever fits my mood at that exact moment of making a song, or just something I thought of incorporating into it.”

I was curious about the stage name, which admittedly took me a few takes to memorize. “I was inspired by basketball star Kevin Durant, because he was my favorite player,” he tells me. “At one point in my life his twitter name was @KDTreyCinco, and it inspired me to use that because my basketball number was #21. And then I made a rap song and the whole school was calling me ‘GB2UNO.’ So I ran with it.”

GB, whose real name is Gregory, has been making music for his entire life. It’s easy to see his passion and drive for the art, as his eyes light up when he speaks about his shows, his networks, and of course, his music. However, life isn’t always perfect for this turbulent musician. GB was born and raised in Urbana, Illinois, just outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. “I wouldn’t say I had a rough upbringing, but I did have flaws, like every kid finding a purpose,” says GB. “My family was an average family, except for my parents splitting up constantly throughout my life and me having to be the big brother and the man of the house at times. Just having to grow up at an early age built me into the person I am today. I love my family though, through all the bumps and bruises.”

After spending his childhood and adolescence in Urbana, GB moved to the Boston area after one of his college friends did the same. He explains with enthusiasm the culture-shock he experienced here, from the people and the parties to even the weather. Nonetheless, GB fell in love with the Boston scene, and from there he started to meet other inspiring dream-chasers. In March of 2018, he began to take his budding music career seriously, releasing singles such as “Brotherz” and “Mrs. GB2UNO.” GB is clearly hardworking and driven in his career, and owns a lot of his inspiration to artists such as Swooli and Jake Lewis. “I met Swooli, and Jake Lewis once, and a couple older individuals who had a passion for music, who wanted to see others succeed as bad as they wanted too- no matter what field of interests,” GB says. He also cites EDM music, pop, trap, and “the songs they play in Forever 21” as being inspirations for his own artistry. “I don’t limit myself to one sound,” he continues.

Listening to his music, it’s clear that GB’s inspiration does indeed come from a wide variety of sources and backgrounds. His music is not only enjoyable for fans of trap and hip-hop, but also listeners who love intricate beats, high-energy and melodies, and thoughtful lyrics. As someone who usually sticks with John Denver and the Eagles, even I enjoyed this young musician’s electric and fast-paced records. 

Throughout his turbulent music career, GB has endured his own ups and downs since he’s settled down in the Boston area. He cites performing in shows and growing his network as the highlights of his year, along with cutting the toxic people out of his life. He also notes that it’s difficult “having to deal with other people who aren’t officially self-aware or in dreamland like us,” when I ask him to elaborate on his negative experiences. 

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Photo from Instagram

Beyond his music, it doesn’t take long to respect GB’s kind, easygoing personality as I continue with our interview. He’s also extremely insightful, and wishes that more people recognized him as a “living person.” When I ask him what he thinks peoples’ first impressions of him are, he says with a laugh, “They probably think I’m just a black dude, until they see deep into my soul and listen to my music. They see my energy, and they give credit where credit is due.” Although it’s a seemingly simple answer, GB’s response sparked insight and reflection for me as an observer of humanity. It’s true, we tend to stereotype artists based on what we see, and GB is a stunning example of breaking down those barriers.

One particular motif fans and listeners will notice in GB’s image is the use of the butterfly emoji in most of his posts and titles. He explains that the butterfly has significance to him because it symbolizes freedom and being comfortable in your own bubble. He says that he’s definitely more of an introvert, so he only tends to “pop out when necessary.” GB also describes that the butterfly symbolizes good energy and positivity- two virtues that I’ve noticed seem to radiate off of him.

Before we close our interview, I still have a couple of burning questions for GB2UNO. I ask him if he feels like he’s living a meaningful life, to which he replies, “Being on my own and so far from home can be devastating sometimes, but it’s the life I signed up for. You can’t really worry about having a lot on your plate when the goal was to eat, to begin with. I believe every day should be meaningful because when we will never get that time back once we are gone. So live every day to the fullest.”

Lastly, GB offers up some valuable advice for other budding musicians. He wants other artists to know that they should never give up, no matter how hard it gets. “I love leading by example,” he says, “I love showing younger artists that you don’t have to be afraid to be yourself. I want to be that good soul that bleeds positivity on every person. My passion is music and I’m set on that. My passion is love and beliefs.” 


You can listen to GB’s music on all of the following streaming platforms:

YouTube

Spotify

Google Play

Deezer

iHeart Radio