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Monday, August 2, 2010

Your Grind & My Grind Ain't The Same, Dawg...

I know alot of artist. Choose a medium and I can identify at least three local individuals who fit the bill with their talent alone. Painters, singers, hip hop artists, rappers (no it's not the same thing and you can't convince me otherwise), photographers, writers, dj's, poets, designers, make up artists, film makers and even a macaroni conceptual artist or two are all within arms reach to display their talents and skills. And if talent alone were the determining factor in them "making it big", they could, easily (and with much celebration) trade places with any number of  "reality TV"/pseudo~celebrities. But the unmitigated truth of the matter is...the boulevard of broken dreams is the home address of many a talented person. What follows are five reasons some people "make it" and some don't. (Trust me, alot of this list will overlap like conversations on the View...)

1. Underestimating trajectory. Everything operates on some type of timeline. You're born, you do some stuff, you die...the end. Time and time again, I've watched the birth of a potentially hot band, artist, cool cup salesman and understood the concept of momentum building to prolong trajectory. It works like this. Band members meet, they watch MTV's Cribs, they realize members of the opposite sex love bands, they play instruments and write songs (with no honest, constructive feedback...more on this later) and convince people to show up at the local/family owned divebar with cheap, potent drinks to watch them go through the motions of "great band histrionics". The audience (their friends) cheer madly, the band then waits by the phone for their call from Puffy. Too quickly out of the gate and they've already lost steam based on peer driven applause and one tequila sunrise too many amongst friends. Before the chorus begins, I don't believe every artist has to build to a slow burn but they do have to build. Anyone who knows me personally can attest, my immediate response to, "How did you like my set/piece/book/song/play/photos?" is always, "Respect and perfect your craft". When I meet a blank stare, I realize they don't actually want my opinion, they want to ride the trajectory uninhibited. And like any human with common sense, I move out of the way of a fodder filled cannon. Blast off!

2. Believing the dream. I can sell hair gel to a bald baby, without giving one tinker's darn about the gel, the baby or the dream of perfect hair. And so can an opportunist. If it stands to make a quick dollar in this time of Recessionary Scare Tactics, there is someone standing by to convince you that its a great idea. You're standing in disbelief that humanity could be so callous? Three Words: The Tapeworm Diet. As you are reading (sharing and commenting) on this wonderful slice of blog heaven, there is someone touting the health benefits of the Tapeworm Diet. "It's safer than you think!" With the same enthusiasm and the right amount of money, somebody else is capitalizing on your passion to see your dream in real life...and it's not always who you think it is. Remember the initial buzz surrounding Vanilla Ice back in the day? The general public was sold on the story of this urban kid, growing up gritty and semi~homeless only to find out he's the child spawn of Sandy Duncan and Rip Van Winkle  that he's a middle class kid, from a middle class family, who could read pre~written rap lyrics and "borrow" old Queen beats. It's called "spin" and the average record company employs image makers, publicist and writers (like myself) to construct entire images and sell it to the masses under the dreamscape "Overnight Celebrity". The truth of the matter is, hard work, demos, shoe leather, trial and error and good old perseverance are just the beginning of the race.

3. Believing the hype. I remember the first time my Sun made me breakfast. I was still a carnivore at the time, so on the menu was turkey bacon, scrambled eggs (which I hate), grits and premade waffles. Thoughtful young man that he is, he even brought me a 1/4 full glass of orange juice that he'd squeezed just that morning with his very own little hands. So sweet, so thought out, so well intentioned...To this day, the turkey who gave his life to be scorched haunts my dreams, the spoon is probably STILL standing upright in that cemented bowl of grits and I'm sure my dentist paid many a bill with the tooth I chipped on egg shells. But what did I say to my baby when he presented me with my first ever breakfast in bed? "This is the best thing I've ever eaten...will you make me more tomorrow?" (Sidenote: Universe thank You for the short attention span of our well meaning offspring!) Our friends and family love us in ridiculous and frequently blinding ways. Ridiculous to us and blinding to you. And it's not always intentional or malice based. Consider this: Watching a good friend squander numerous years on useless pursuits that he's unenthusiastic about is painful. But the moment your buddy finds focus and begins pursuing something "big", we all grab the pom~poms and get our "rah rah" on because we're glad to see them try. (And hell, if they "get on" we can say, "I been down with you since jheri curls and Undaroos!"...) Yes, this is selfish. Yes this is the truth.

4. Paying dues...literally! I do plenty of things for "the love" of it. I attend movies with my favorite actor, despite being horribly reviewed. (Grown Ups, anyone?)  I buy grotesque quantities of incense. I play on Facebook engage in social media networks throughout the day. All these things that I do "for the love of it" cost money. If I had a dime for every artist I've heard who wants to pursue their passion based on love, I could buy and sell them three times! (HA!) Speaking honestly, we invest our money, time and energy into the things we love, but why do we "take a pass" when it comes to creative endeavors? I hate to break it to my up and coming friends, but at some point, you're going to realize that entertainment is an industry. And while you are not "in it for the money" (yeah right)...the industry is. Look at it from the other side of your gift. I'm going to come to you with my charming smile, wit and captivating use of the English language and all you gotta do is:  Pay me a living wage, advance money for the book I may (or may not) write, grant me all creative control, pay for photoshoots, press, marketing, venues, tours, costumes, schedule my interviews, television show appearances AND make sure my dressing room is a dequately stocked with blue M & M's. Geeeez, don't be so stingy! Unrealistic much?

5. Don't take it personal. The life of an artist is distilled into the highs and lows of audience whims. There are times when you take the stage and even your false notes are correct, the accidental brush stroke makes the painting a living entity and every pretty girl in the front row is signing up to be the video vixen for your first video. Then there are also times when even the crickets go silent the moment your sneaker hits the stage and your faithful fans have found something they'd rather be doing (like needlepoint) rather than hearing you do your 350th rendition of When Doves Cry. Every endeavor is not spotlight worthy, every manuscript is not Gone With The Wind and every sculpture is not Idris Elba ...Idris Elba! Instead of launching into litanies against the "hater's in your midst" and chalking up every critique and rejection (yes, even you WILL be rejected), see it as an opportunity to respect and perfect your craft. Asking you to go back to the drawing board isn't a dismissal of you as a person or a personal attack on your skill, desire or drive. It's an opportunity. Use it wisely.
(Unless you're Waka which case, the Post Office is hiring!)

Feel free to leave scathing makes me laugh (and die a little inside.)

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