freddie gibbs interview with vibe
freddie gibbs interview with vibe

Interview: Freddie Gibbs Talks 'Cocaine Piñata', Not Being On A ‘F*ck Jeezy’ Campaign, Jay Z

If you haven’t heard about the new Freddie Gibbs album, you’re on the wrong part of the Internet. Together with L.A. music wizard Madlib, Gibbs has finally dropped Cocaine Piñata, a album three years in the making. We can confidently say its one of hardest gangsta rap albums of 2014.

When we caught up with Gibbs on the phone, he was coming off a night-long celebration of the album’s release. He sounded relaxed, somewhere between happy and hungover. He was candid about his time at CTE, insisting that he wasn't running a ‘Fuck Jeezy’ campaign. He talked about his smoking habits and talking females with Madlib in the studio.Gibbs also expanded on his forthcoming album, Eastside Slim. This guy doesn't stop working.

VIBE: I saw you tweet ‘Classic. Check.’ the other day. It’s crazy to see how far your career has come to make it to this point.
Freddie Gibbs: A lot of people wrote me off with the whole Jeezy shit. They thought I was just a mediocre rapper, and I wanted to get out of the zone of people saying that. They were only saying I was a mediocre rapper because I’m from Gary, Indiana. If I was from L.A. or New York or something, they’d be calling me a rap god.

I rap better than all these niggas in L.A. I rap way better than all these niggas in New York. I rap way better than any nigga in Atlanta. I rap way better than any nigga in Miami. Give me another five, six years of full throttle, and I could be just as good as Jay-Z, rapper wise. I think I’m almost up there with him right now as far as lyrical talent. I want to be considered one of the best. I think I’ve established that with this album in terms of whose got the best wordplay and who’s a real street nigga. There hasn’t been a rapper like me in a long time.

Was there any one incident that acted as the straw that broke the camel’s back with Young Jeezy?
Just a lot of lying. A lot of, 'We about to do this' type of shit. You can’t stand next to a nigga that boldface lied to you like a bitch. For a man to treat you like a bitch? I’m not gonna sit there and get treated like no bitch. I watched the nigga treat his homies like a bitch, and I wasn’t about to be no bitch for that nigga or no flunky. I was one of the only niggas around [CTE] who had his own movement, had his own money, had his own shit goin’ on when I started fuckin’ with them. Everybody else was just waiting on Jeezy to feed ‘em but I ain’t that nigga. I’m talking about literally waiting on this nigga to feed them hand to mouth. I can’t do that shit.

I told these niggas, we need to do this or that. I donno if [Jeezy] thought I’d quarterback the rest of these CTE niggas but that ain’t what I came over there for. I came to establish my career and do what I had to do. I can’t respect certain shit. Certain niggas get walked on but I won’t get walked on.

Is there any point you want to arrive at by going at Jeezy now?
Hell na, I don’t give a fuck. It’s just how I felt at the time when I went in the booth. That nigga definitely not that important to me at all. I ain’t got no contract or no red tape or money [issue]. It’s just some personal shit, how I feel about a nigga I lost respect for. This ain’t the ‘Fuck Jeezy’ campaign, I could care less. The day I made that song, that was how I felt. So I’m not about to take it off the album. Too many niggas in the rap game right now are too politically correct. How I feel, I’ma say that. I might feel like dissing another rapper this week.

At the end of the day, [‘Real’] is good music. I was in a situation with him so I spoke on it. If I had a god damn issue with another rapper, I’d say ‘Fuck that nigga’ too. I could care less about that nigga. I’m just a young black entrepreneur trying to get where I need to be.

I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t learn anything from Jeezy. I picked up some things on how to be a boss, and I’m not gonna lie about that shit. He definitely carried himself like a boss and he did some boss shit, not all the boss shit he was supposed to do, but I took some of those traits and some of that game. If I was around him and didn’t pick up any game, that’d be stupid on my part, to be around the nigga all day and not absorb any knowledge. I learned a lot, I ain’t no hater, but I also learned a lot about what not to do.

Being such an outspoken rapper, do you ever weigh the possible consequences of retaliation, especially in light of talent we’ve lost in the past?
Not really, because I grew up with real guys trying to kill me every day, so I don’t really worry about no motherfucking rapper. Rapper niggas…they wanna rap. At the end of the day, these niggas don’t want no violence. They wanna rap, do their show, make their money and go home. Don’t nobody in the rap game wana kill nobody, Pimp C already told y’all that. These niggas don’t wanna fight nobody.

I’m not trying to aggravate nobody to get them to come fight me, but if I feel you did some pussy shit, I’ll speak on it. If you wanna fight, we’ll go there. But these niggas is rappers, and at the end of the day everyone wants to go home safe. I’m not worried about any physical retaliation. I’m not worried about no man on God’s green earth harming me because I move in a respectful manner and guys everywhere fuck with me.

The only thing is when you speak your mind, it makes people scared of you. People don’t want to fuck with you. I don’t really give a fuck about that either. I’m at the point where I’ve established a fanbase and I’ve got a good amount of people that will support me regardless. That’s what this whole thing is built off of, me being me. I won’t say nothing ignorant. I’m an educated individual. Niggas might say I’m the Richard Sherman of the rap game. I’m top five dead or alive.

Tell me about the process of recording Piñata with Madlib. Did you two get in the studio?
Yeah a couple times, but most of the times he was just sending me beats and I’d pick through ‘em. New batches, old batches. Gang of shit.

The thing about this album that makes it so special is I recorded it over the course of three years. You see when I’m still grinding, like when I first started recording this album I was still selling cocaine. Toward the end I was getting more established in the rap game, got the [XXL] Freshmen Cover, so my life started changing. I sort of grew up with this album and the music grew and lived with me. I made Cold Day In Hell, Baby Face Killa and ESGN during the course of Piñata so I’d just put that on hold for a bit and then come back to it.

The first song I did was ‘Thuggin’ and the second one I did was ‘Shitsville.’ Once I did those two songs, I knew I was on the road to making an album. I tried to get Jay-Z on ‘Shitsville’ but he didn’t hit my line back.

On Baby Face Killa you went a little bit out of your comfort zone with a Kirko Bangz feature, a DJ Dahi beat, etc. Were you shooting for radio?
Na, not really. I just wanted to work with people I felt I could do good music with. I don’t think about the mainstream, the radio, none of that shit. I just make music. There are guys that got bangers and hits but they’re not in the studio like, “I needa make a banger.” My favorite song right now is that Rich Homie Quan [‘Man Of The Year.’] I love that song. Different rappers got different talents, It’s like X-Men. Every nigga ain’t gonna be the same. People gotta respect that shit.

I’m sick of people recently comparing me to YG. I love YG music. When I first met YG around the time he was first fucking with CTE, I told him, ‘Man, when I first heard that ‘Toot It And Boot It’ shit, I ain’t fuck with that shit. This was a real conversation. I kept it real with him, I told him, ‘I respect your grind, your new music is fire, you found your lane and I was wrong about your music. You got West Coast shit going on. That’s love.’ I dapped that nigga up and it’s been love ever since.

Niggas think I got an issue with [YG] because of Jeezy shit. That’s two totally different situations, my nigga. That’s like two players coming to a team and he doing his shit with the team but I got a contract dispute with the team. Niggas need to quit making it seem like I got an issue with YG. I live in L.A. my nigga. I ain’t got no bodyguard. I see YG, I see all these niggas.

Now that you’ve released the album with Madlib, are you leaning towards working with single producers on future albums?
Maybe. Not yet. I don’t wanna whore myself out like that to niggas who just want to do a project with me because they want to do it. I want to be real selective about it. Niggas I fuck with. Madlib, Statik Selektah of course. Those are my homies. And Alchemist, I’m still waiting to get in with him.

I have to ask, since you mentioned his name. What’s the status of the album with Alchemist, Devil’s Palace?
I don't know, bro, you gotta ask Alchemist about that shit. I just been trying to get in the studio with him. If I can get in the studio with him for a week, I’ll make that shit happen. I want to get him on my Eastside Slim album. I’m about 80% done with that. [Eastside Slim] is gonna turn a lot of heads. It’s definitely way different from the Madlib shit. It’s more stories on this record, I’d say.

I just worked with Mike Dean. I worked with Brodinski. I'm working with a lot of Canadian guys. I got a song with Young Thug. I want to be one of the most versatile rappers in the game. I don’t want to make just straight Midwest music or straight boom bap rap or straight country rap or club shit. I want to do all that shit.

I know this is an unfair question, but give me your top 5 dead or alive.
That’s not a fair question. [Pauses] Ah shit….fuck man…Scarface, 2Pac, Jay-Z, fuck man, damn….Big Pun, and…Eminem? Those the top five rappers I think. I want to be in the top five dead or alive, so I got a whole lotta work to do if them the motherfuckers that I need to surpass. Like Lebron said he want to be on the Mt. Rushmore of basketball, I want to be on the Mt. Rushmore of rap. So I got mountains and mountains of work to do, and I’m just getting started.

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Carlos Perez

Anuel AA Breaks Free

In 2015, an entourage of close to 30 men drew guns among one another during a traditional Christmas parranda in Puerto Rico. The scene turned into something straight out of a movie when a pair of gangsters clandestinely attempted to kidnap local rapper Anuel AA. After a brief scuffle and flagrant shouting match, however, the man born Emmanuel Gazmey Santiago went on to finish the evening’s holiday spree in the boisterous company of his loyal posse.

Months later, after ushering in the new year on a promising note by featuring on one of Latin trap’s first global hits – De La Ghetto’s sex anthem “La Ocasion” with Arcangel and Ozuna – someone delivered Anuel AA a divine premonition of sorts: “If you keep talking about this stuff in your songs, something really ugly is going to happen to you.”

A Puerto Rican music legend, Hector “El Father” of reggaeton-turned-son of God, paid Anuel a visit to share his foreboding message. “He and I did not know each other,” explained Anuel, who prides himself on waxing poetics about the real-life experiences Hector was concerned with, “but God spoke to him and Hector felt he needed to reach out to me. When he warned me, he said it with so much conviction that he even cried.”

Having forged a legacy of his own as one of the key trailblazing reggaeton entertainers of the ‘90s who later signed a deal with JAY-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, Hector – now a devoted Christian – understood life imitated art when it came to Anuel’s lyrics.

“My lyrics talked a lot about God and the devil, so when he told me that,” Anuel continued, “I knew I needed to make some changes. Those themes, good versus evil, they were my mark and what separated me from the rest.”

On April 3, 2016, just two weeks after meeting with Hector, Anuel was arrested and held in Guaynabo’s correctional institution on charges of illegal gun possession. Following his biggest musical break yet, just as he was touching the cusp of international stardom, a court judge sentenced Anuel to 30 months in federal prison without bail.

Raised east of San Juan, in the Puerto Rican city of Carolina, Anuel AA has a lot in common with many of my favorite MCs: he’s charming, resolute, and lyrically gifted, yet marred by a criminal past, complicit misogyny and the constant struggle between right and wrong. “I had no choice but to carry those weapons with me, because of the issues I had on the street,” the rapper said to VIBE Viva over the phone, while quarantined in Miami. “I thought to myself I’d rather be locked up than found dead.”

Indeed, Anuel had evaded his probable demise when he was nearly abducted and landed right behind bars months later, fulfilling a prophecy that cost him both his freedom and a flourishing start at the tipping point of trap music en Español. “I was being forced to reckon with all the bad things I had done for money in the past,” Anuel expressed, regretfully. “I started reading the Bible for the first time and realized that my talent and blessings came from God, not anywhere else.”

Anuel had begun to take music seriously around the same time his father, José Gazmey, was laid off from his coveted A&R position at Sony Music. With his back against the wall, a scrappy Anuel left home at 15 and began to engage in felonious activity to help provide for his family and finance his music endeavors.

Like many rappers on the island, Anuel was influenced by popular culture and trends on the mainland, most discernibly by contemporary trap. Anuel understood the genre’s synonymy with street life and the drug enterprise and immediately took to Messiah El Artista, a Dominican-American rapper VIBE profiled for championing Spanish-language trap music all over New York.

“I figured if Latin trap was doing well in New York, it was for sure going to pop in Puerto Rico,” said Anuel, who had signed with the Latino division of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group the year prior to his arrest. “I spent about a month in New York before I returned to Puerto Rico. Then I started to release all the songs I had, one by one, and they began to gain popularity.”

While artists like J. Balvin helped breathe new life into the reggaeton genre in Colombia, Anuel wanted to spearhead a movement in Puerto Rico with a sound all their own. “I recorded the ‘Esclava’ remix with Bryant Myers and it might not have taken off worldwide, but it became a huge trap song in Puerto Rico.”

Akin to the heydays of reggaeton, an Afro-Caribbean genre-fusing hip-hop and reggae that originated in Puerto Rico, trap music was considered lowbrow and was heavily criticized for its vulgarity, violence, and explicit lyrics. Puerto Rican critics and artists alike had very little faith in the music’s potential and therefore denounced it. “DJ Luian, who is like a brother to me, couldn’t understand why I wanted to put all my energy into music that none of our artists wanted to sing.”

“Reggaeton went dormant for years,” he continued. “It was necessary to make trap music, because it felt like reggaeton was stuck in another era.” A self-described student of the late and oft-controversial Tupac Shakur, Anuel thought reggaeton had reached its pinnacle and believed Latin trap would be its successor.

Songs like “Nunca Sapo,” where Anuel channels Rick Ross’ Teflon Don ethos and spits a grimy slow-tempo flow over a sinister 808-laden instrumental, helped put a face to Anuel’s little-known name in the US. On cuts like Farruko’s “Liberace,” Anuel speeds up his delivery for fun and plays on the “Versace” rhythm popularized by Migos, who all hail from Atlanta—the widely credited birthplace of trap music.

For Anuel, whose life mantra “real hasta la muerte” is now a famous hashtag, music aspirations had little to do with radio play. Anuel, 27, was largely concerned with dominating the digital space, especially while incarcerated. Despite his arrest, he continued to release music from behind prison walls while his team fed his massive following up-to-date content.

Hear This Music CEO, DJ Luian heeded what Anuel was trying to accomplish and began to work with Bad Bunny, the Latin Grammy-winning artist and star voice of the current Latin trap movement. “When I was locked up, Luian helped develop Bad Bunny and he basically became in charge of keeping trap alive while I was away,” said Anuel, who ironically came under fire recently and was accused of throwing shade at Bad Bunny for the video treatment of “Yo Perreo Sola,” in which the rapper-singer dresses in drag as a stance against toxic masculinity.

“I couldn’t believe something like this was going viral,” Anuel interrupted anxiously before I could expound on a question concerning their relationship. “It looked like it was something that was edited or put together to make my Instagram posts read that way. I immediately texted Bad Bunny about it and he was like, ‘Don’t worry, people are always going to be talking sh*t.’”

Anuel considers Bad Bunny a genius at what he does and maintains that despite not knowing each other very well, he and his fellow compatriot are friendly collaborators with a working rapport: “When he and I do a new song together, what will people say then?”

Today, the collective jury will reach a verdict upon listening to Anuel’s newly-released sophomore studio album Emmanuel, where fans will find a track titled “Hasta Que Dios Diga,” a sultry, mid-tempo reggaeton number. Fans can expect to hear a star-studded project riddled with guest features, including Tego Calderón, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias, J. Balvin, Ozuna, and Karol G, to name a few.

Discussing life during a global pandemic, Anuel spoke fondly of his partner-in-rhyme, Colombian singer-songwriter Karol G. “She’s the love of my life. She’s been there with me through the good and bad. People who really love you are the ones who stand firm by you when things are bleak. In my toughest moments, Karol was there. She’s shown me how to be a better man,” he gushed.

“Karol comes off as super feminine—which she is, but Karol also has a really tough masculine side,” Anuel laughed heartily on the other end of the line. “She rides motorcycles and likes taking them up these crazy hills. She rides jet skis too! She’s like a dude, haha. We work well together and we give each other advice all the time.”

The pair are making the most of quarantine life in South Florida, releasing a self-directed and self-shot music video for their joint single “Follow,” a reference to flirting over social media in the era of social-distancing, the idea that shooting one’s proverbial shot can lead to a budding romance.

On July 17, 2018, Anuel dropped his debut studio album, Real Hasta La Muerte, hours before he was released from jail. By September, the RIAA certified his introduction to the game platinum, garnering the attention of Roc Nation artist Meek Mill. When the Philly wordsmith released his fourth studio LP in November of the same year, followers were geeked to learn Anuel had earned himself a place on Meek’s highly anticipated Championships album with “Uptown Vibes.”

I always wanted you and anuel aa to make a track together bc i feel like he’s the meek mill of spanish trap , how was it working with him ?

— Nagga (@naggareports) December 17, 2018

“Recording with Meek Mill for me was like when Allen Iverson played with Michael Jordan for the first time,” Anuel said, singing praises about their first-ever partnership. “I’m a huge fan of Meek; when his music took off I was still in the streets, so I related and identified with a lot of the things he was saying.”

“Meek doesn’t understand a lick of Spanish,” he mused in jest, “but he’s always with a bunch of Latinos. When I speak to him he says, ‘I don’t know what you’re saying, but my Spanish [speaking] ni**as tell me you be talking that sh*t!’”

Anuel leveraged his knack for storytelling and released “3 de Abril” earlier this year, an emotional freestyle about the day he was arrested and a graphic snapshot of his trials and tribulations.

“I did things without caring about the consequences. I thought I was a man because I was street smart. Now I know what it’s like to lose everything, so I wanted to talk more about my life and the experiences of me and my family,” Anuel described the inspiration behind the song.

Following the release of “3 de Abril,” Anuel again turned hip-hop heads when he and Lil Pump shared a fiery audiovisual for their collaborative effort “Illuminati,” stamping Pump's first new song since summer 2019. This year, Anuel also has songs with Colombian pop empress Shakira (“Me Gusta”) and with the late Juice WRLD (“No Me Ames”).

Albeit Anuel and Juice WRLD never got to meet in person, Anuel learned about the Chicago rapper from listening to his singles on the radio in jail. “The same year I won Billboard Latin’s Artist of The Year award, Juice WRLD won New Artist at the American Billboard Awards. We ended up recording the song after that but held off on releasing it for a bit because he and I had respective singles coming out at the same time,” Anuel explained.

“By the time we were finally ready to premiere it, Juice WRLD had passed away. We were never able to record together in person, but at least we got to feature him on the video. I know the tribute gave his fans and family some needed strength.”

Less than 30 minutes have gone by and already I am forced to wrap my conversation with Boricua’s burgeoning superstar:

Anuel, explain “real hasta la muerte” for me. Why exactly is this mantra of yours so important? 

“I can’t betray anyone. I don’t know what it’s like to really betray someone. I’m very loyal to my circle, my family, and those I hold close to me. Being real is what keeps me humble. It doesn’t matter how much money I make or how much I accomplish. What’s critical is staying real to myself and keeping my feet on the ground. That’s what helps keep me going.”

This interview was translated from Spanish to English and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Exclusive: BBD's Mike Bivins And Ricky Bell Speak On Funk Fest 'Garage Concert Series' And George Floyd's Murder

The early '90s wouldn't be the same without Bell Biv DeVoe's style of hip-hop, smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop feel appeal to it. Even as a stark departure sound and style-wise from their New Edition group days, BBD  literally ushered in a new tint to the already hot sounds of Teddy Riley's "New Jack Swing" of the mid to late '80s. Their universal party anthem single, "Poison," cures any wack wallflower growing jam and will forever be the barbeque favorite of your aunt and uncle to sprain an ankle to while dancing.

So today, May 28th at 9 pm EST on, it's only right that the crew known as BBD brings that same energy to the comfort of our homes, with "The Garage Concert Series" during these quarantine times via a streaming deal with the 19-year-old urban music festival, Funk Fest. The series is billed as a jam session that comes to you with the flavor of a bare-bones home garage performance that gets to the organic feel of the music. Joining BBD in this landmark event will be recent Verzuz social media battle stars, Jagged Edge.

Tonight's festivities will be in honor of aiding those in need through the newly created charity by the trio named BBD Cares. This community initiative focuses on the seniors of Laurel Ridge Rehabilitation Care Center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Proceeds from the moderately priced pay-per-view performance will go to those impacted by the grip of Covid-19. "We’re proud to launch the Garage Concert Series and our BBD Cares effort to raise money and awareness during a time when our communities, our culture, and our society need healing," said Ricky Bell.

Both Mike Bivins and Bell spoke to R&B Spotlight founder, Cory Taylor for VIBE on ZOOM to detail the idea and plans for the Funk Fest and Garage Concert series, as well as expound on the turbulent times we are currently experiencing in society. While explaining how hard things are to bare, music being an outlet helps in healing and this digital event looks to continue to flourish in expanding that notion. “The Garage Concert Series, which we conceptualized and named after other culture-shifting brands like Amazon and Microsoft that started in their garage, is our contribution to the global community,” states Bivens.

Be sure to watch their interview with us and log on to at 9 pm EST for a blast to the past of good music for a great cause. Ronnie DeVoe sums it up best, “our goal is to continue to spread the love while raising money for those who are most in need.”

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Melyssa Ford

Melyssa Ford: 'My Mother Died During This Pandemic And I Have Nowhere To Put My Grief'

Editor's Note: In a heartwarming tribute, former model now TV/radio host, Melyssa Ford details the final days she shared with her beloved mother, Oksana Barbara Raisa Ford (10/12/1950 - 5/19/2020). Understanding that we have all been connected to COVID-19's tragic reach, this essay explains the plight of one person's experience that represents the pain so many are dealing with in these times around the world.


COVID-effing-19. This pandemic has been a moment of reckoning for a great many of us. How many of you have been confronted with the hard truth that we took EVERYTHING about our lives and freedoms for granted? The freedom to call up a few friends and go for Happy Hour drinks after a long day at work? The freedom to start our day by going to the gym; the freedom to temporarily vacate our lives by getting on a plane and heading off to some tropical destination? Or the freedom to gather at a burial or memorial service to pay love and respect to a loved one who has passed, as a means of helping to process our own grief? 

My mother died last week. Not from COVID-19, but from colon cancer. But COVID-19 and its endless complications directly affected my family’s lives and, ultimately, my mother's death. 

It was less than a year from diagnosis to her last days. She lived in Toronto (my hometown) and I currently live in Los Angeles. Traveling during this pandemic presented some incredible challenges. Quarantine and shelter in place rules. Closed international borders. Fear and uncertainty. I was terrified that I wouldn’t get to her side in time, since Canada mandates that anyone getting off a plane has to self-quarantine for 14 days (threats of fines and jail time were there to incentivize you to adhere to the new rules). And I knew my mother had very little precious time. 

Months before, when there was still some hope that surgery and chemo would prolong her life, she decided to sell the house I grew up in. I was furious. I looked at this as her giving up; resigning herself to the control of this insidious disease called cancer. But my mother, the truest form of a pragmatist, was preparing for the inevitable and getting her affairs in order. She wanted to leave me with nothing to do except mourn her without the burden of packing up a home with all of her belongings in it after her death. She knows me so well, she knew I’d NEVER pack it up, that I’d have left everything the way it was as a shrine to her and, therefore, never really moving through my grief in a purposeful and healthy manner. 

Cancer ravaged my mother's body but left her brain fully intact. And it was with full cognition, pragmatism and a whole lot of gumption, that she decided to end things on her terms by scheduling her passing with a doctor's assistance via MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) — a legal policy in Canada that allows a terminally ill patient in palliative care to choose the days or weeks remaining in their lives. 

She didn’t want to spend her last months laying confined to a bed, immobile, unable to even take herself to the bathroom. The most basic form of human dignity had been stolen from her and replaced with a catheter and a colostomy bag that my aunt had to drain several times a day. I watched as her skin turned yellow from jaundice, signaling her liver was failing. I watched as her urine went from a dark yellow to crimson, a signal that her kidneys were no longer functional. My mother, the strongest person I had ever known, both physically and mentally, was now frail and seemingly melting into the bed, her skin sagging from her skeletal arms and legs. Her face was gaunt, her head bald, her breastplate visible and her last days, she was an empty shell of the 5’10” beautiful Viking she had been. With her long blond hair, green eyes, and imposing physical stature, I used to joke that if you gave her a hat with horns, a shield, and a sword, you could send her out to battle. 

The day I arrived in Toronto from L.A., I approached my mother’s bedside after going through a rigorous disinfectant routine. My mother had been discharged from the hospital as there was nothing left to do for her medically except keep her as comfortable as possible. She was sent home to my aunt’s house for the remainder of her days. My aunt’s home was a place of comfort and joy for me, as I’ve spent a great many holidays and family occasions here; this was the best place for my mother to be. With a mask and gloves on, I sat down next to her bedside and tried with all my might not to cry. My Mom had passed on that British “stiff upper lip” mentality to me; it’s rare you will see me expose my emotions. But as of late, I’ve been pretty transparent about it, in an attempt to sort through my competing feelings of grief and guilt. Guilt of not having been the perfect daughter. Grief of being her only child with no one to share the burden of immeasurable sadness with. Guilt of not working on our relationship or attempting to understand her as a person until it was close to the end. Guilt and grief kept coming in waves, threatening to drown me. 

On that first evening, I sat with her for a few hours and we talked more frankly than we ever had about things I had always been scared to ask. Topics such as her tumultuous marriage to my father and why she stayed in such misery. What was HER mother like, who died when my mother was only 15 years old? Was she proud of me and the choices I had made in my life, one of them being never having children?

Eventually, I had to let her sleep. I went upstairs to her bedroom (she was now in a bedroom on the main floor of my aunt’s house since she could no longer walk). Once in her room, I found a journal titled 2019 and began to read. What I read, in between all of the activities she enjoyed such as Aquafit and her book club, was her documenting her disease before she even knew she had it, describing the symptoms that began as uncomfortable that would soon become excruciatingly painful. 

It broke my heart to read this, being on the other side of understanding where this story would end. I found myself wanting to move through the dimension of time and yell, “Go to the hospital!” Reading this only made me wonder if she had caught it during the early days of symptoms, would the outcome be different? Excuse me as I add more guilt and more grief to the already unbearable weight upon my shoulders. 

Our final day was spent much like the last six days I had with my mother, laying beside each other in bed, massaging her, and either watching movies or talking. We would go from walking down memory lane as I showed her old pictures to discussing last-minute details about the Business of Death: the transfer of everything into my name, where certain sentimental pieces of jewelry could be found, who she wanted to receive small tokens of remembrance of her. As sad as I was for myself, my heart broke for my mother. She’s losing EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. She expressed to me that she was shocked at how quickly her cancer spread throughout her body. It didn’t give her a chance. No amount of holistic remedies or prayers would have changed this (thanks to all my friends who suggested a plant-based diet with sea moss, soursop, and bladderwrack but her colon, GI tract, and bowels had been decimated). 

The few days leading up to her doctor-assisted euthanasia, I found my heart racing in a panic as the end was creeping closer and closer. I don’t know what’s worse, a loved one's death being a surprise or knowing when it’s going to happen with the hours counting down. I know both intimately. My father went the first way, my mother the second. I still can’t tell you the answer.

With plans in place for the funeral home to come and take my mother's body in order to cremate her, I’m left with a feeling of such remorse and sadness. Because of COVID-19, my mother’s friends and I are being robbed of the opportunity to congregate at a memorial service to properly mourn and pay homage and respect to the woman we all loved and admired. My mother deserved that.

I’m so angry. I’m angry at cancer. I’m angry at, as a society, our collective circumstances. I’m angry at the thought that this pandemic could have been controlled if our government officials had reacted swiftly. I’m angry that there are so many people who are experiencing the same thing I am—the death of loved ones, and the inability to gather together for a ceremony that celebrates their lives and sends them off properly.

Trauma changes you. Less than two years ago, I almost died when a truck hit my jeep on a California highway. I spent almost a year recovering. I’m a different person than I was moments before the impact of that crash. And now I’ve got to sort out who I am without my mother on this earth. People report a feeling of disconnectedness after the death of their parent(s); like what kept you tethered to the earth is gone and you are now hurtling through time and space, searching for something to grab onto.

I lost my father many years ago and now my mom is gone. I’m praying that I find something soon to ground me; but for the time being, the search to make sense and meaning of my mother's life and, ultimately her death, shall continue for me, like a room with endless doors or a road that disappears into the horizon. 


A native of Toronto, Canada and now residing in Beverly Hills, California, Melyssa Ford is a syndicated radio show host on Hollywood Unlocked via iHeart Media's stations nationwide and also hosts her own podcast, I'm Here For The Food (available on all streaming platforms).

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