Honoring Wake Self’s Message of Love
“You can call me Andy,” were his first words to last love and creative partner Noor-un-nisa Touchon. It was circa 2015, Nisa had just moved to Albuquerque to enter UNM’s Cinematic Arts program when someone introduced her to Andy’s music. At the time it was nearly 10 years since Andy himself had moved to Albuquerque from northwestern New Mexico, and it was here in central New Mexico where his star really started to rise.
His older brother, Eric Martinez, is another who knew Wake Self as Andy from day one. Eric was born in Silver City, NM, two years and seventeen days before younger brother Andrew. He tells me Andy was born in Roswell. “If you’ve ever heard any of his songs,” Eric begins. “He says that a thousand times.” Other than logical speculation as to whether Andy was indeed born in Roswell rather than borrowed from higher forms of life, there is no doubt that he loved this state from top to bottom. From Roswell to Gallup and back. From Albuquerque to Santa Fe, where he loved us (here) for the last time.
On November 5th, 2019, Andrew “Wake Self” Martinez died as the result of a vehicular homicide two days prior. Two days before his album release party at Meow Wolf (Santa Fe) for his long anticipated project Ready to Live. He was 30 years old.
Known to the world as just “Wake,” Andy’s pen name is so much more than just “pen game.” Ask anyone he’s worked with, including venerated recently departed veterans like Zumbi (Zion I) and Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), the bars were relentless. However they were also righteous, in a way that was personal rather than preachy or political. As Eric put it, “If you knew him personally, I think he was talking to himself most of the time.”
Wake Self meant just that, “Wake yo’ self foo’...”
And that he did, not only with his nom de plume, but with growth-minded and intentionally titled projects like The Healing Process, Malala and, of course, Ready to Live. With song titles like “Change the World,” “Different,” “Coping Mechanism,” and “NRG is EVRYTNG.”
With lyrics like this from Wake’s title track from 2013’s The Healing Process (coincidentally, one of brother Eric’s favorite mantras):
It’s a healing process
climbing from the bottom up
Took a couple falls when my legs wasn’t strong enough
If not for love, then the bones won’t mend
Picture this without a photo lens
when the hope grows thin
We can find a way to get going
make it through the rain
when the clouds ripped open
We’ve all been broken
filled with emotion
nobody knows how it feels
to live in yo’ skin…
With quotables like this from an August 2016 interview promoting the release of Malala with Hip Hop DX’s Kyle Eustice:
“Making this album has already changed my life,” he says. “I am deeply connected to every word, syllable, rhyme pattern, feeling, concept, and idea that came through me on this project. I try to make music that can heal, inspire, bring love, awareness, happiness, and clarity. I want people to feel alive, and clear—to not only envision a new world, but to also start materializing it with our actions, and continue cleansing ourselves from the wounds of our past social patterns.”
However, it was those closest to Andy at the end of his life that offer the greatest insight to the living lesson that was Wake Self. After his eponymous first impression, Nisa said this about his influence on her as their working relationship blossomed into a romantic relationship some time after that first meeting. “When I met him,” Nisa begins. “I was at a place in my life where I really felt lost. I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know myself. I was dealing with a lot of wounds that I didn’t know were wounds at the time, and he gave me a lot of tools. I don’t think I would have been able to process his passing as well as I did, if it wasn’t for the tools that he gave me during our relationship. His presence in my life completely changed me as a person, I’m grateful for all the healing and strength that he gave me in person and in spirit. He’s blessed so many people throughout the world with his gifts, and I feel honored to be one of those people. His light still lives within me, it’s a beautiful thing. Nothing and no one can take that away from me.”
Nisa and Wake worked on a number of projects together during their relationship, whether it was producing, directing, editing or filming. Her work includes, ANX Mini-Documentary, Holy Water Music Video, No Vacancy Music Video, Hunger Pains Music Video, the Donald Trump Rap Battle, It Won't Go Away Music Video Music Video, Dear Mr. President, I'm the future like Women Leaders, Amerikkka, What's Really Important? Your selfie or Your Self Worth, It Won’t Go Away, “Captain Save-A-Flow.” One could say that towards the final years of his life here on Earth, we saw Wake largely through Nisa’s eyes. Along with leading most of Wake’s video work and doing nearly all of his promotional photography since their relationship began, Nisa was working closely with Wake on the marketing and distribution plans for Ready To Live up until his passing. You can even hear her in the backup vocals for Ready to Live’s Because of Her, a song Wake wrote about Nisa and their relationship together.
Music Video directed by Noor-un-nisa Touchon.
With over a decade of experience in finance and accounting, Eric was the logical choice for Andy to cash in on a “big brother favor” when he needed a contract reviewed or periodic advice on business matters. However, upon Wake’s passing his prolific catalog fell in Eric’s lap. The responsibility to give life to Andy’s unreleased work also fell to Eric, and as a result he learned a whole lot about the music industry on the fly. Moreover, he learned how strong a family of artists his brother had built and how down they were to make sure Wake’s music and message endured.
“In those 48 hours between November 5th and November 7th 2019, it was a scramble,” says Eric in the Melan+aid Podcast. “We had to cancel his album release show with Meow Wolf. Had to figure out what to do with the album. It’s something that I didn’t know anything about but I had some good people around to put me on game. Dominic “Dahhm Life” Ruiz, Kyle Eustice, Matt “Smoke” Smokovich, Cody “Ph8” Mirabal, Chris “Def-I” Bidtah all in particular taught me how to navigate through the music industry. We were able to successfully release Ready to Live and sell out 3 shows in a row.”
Two years after Wake’s death, the love goes on.
According to Eric, new music projects are scheduled to touch down in late Spring of 2022. But you’re in luck, a new music video released for Malala’s Satori (for your viewing AND listening pleasure) thanks to Nisa and Phillip “Flux” Torres. The music video was shot at Meow Wolf.
Satori Music Video, directed by Phillip Torres.
Flux recalls meeting a 16 year-old Wake at hip hop battles in Gallup, NM. Longtime collaborators who come to both share a group (Zoology) and a crew (Skull Control), Flux was the filmmaker who went on the 13 day road trip across the state that resulted in the anthemic “New Mexico” music video.
New Mexico Music Video, directed by Phillip Torres.
“His general outlook was, you know, finding the positive or like the brighter side of things in situations,” says Flux. “I think that also holds true to healing too. You have to allow yourself to find the brighter side in order to heal.”
Though we will forever wonder what heights Wake would have achieved in both his career and his personal growth; we are fortunate that in the end, he saw himself as clear as the message he shared with the people he loved and in the music he made.
Mini-Doc directed by Noor-un-nisa Touchon.