I Will Not Lose

I think one of the reasons that Jay-Z is one of my favorite rappers is because alot of his music is motivational.  It is based in business and competition.

It’s perfect workout music.  And the gym or jogging is where I listen to music the most.

Some people workout to heavy metal or hard rock because of the aggressive sound.

I love hip-hop because of the aggressive rhymes… the aggressive words.

Jay-Z’s mantra is “I Will Not Lose”.

It’s not “I will win”.

The thought of losing is more urgent and important than the satisfaction of winning.

To me it speaks of perseverance.  Of hanging in there.  Even when the going gets tough not giving up.

Jay-Z didn’t give up when labels didn’t sign him.  He created an independent label with his partners.

When the conventional rules of the music business didn’t fit, he wrote his own rules.

Case in point – when CD sales continued to dwindle because of new media forms, he forged a partnership with Samsung for his album which resulted in him going “platinum” overnight.

He hit the top of the charts, made money and his fans were able to access his music.

In the end he won.

By choosing not to lose.



One Hour Job

I finished my show at the school and the teacher said to me, “Where are you headed to this afternoon?”

I replied that it was the only show I had today.

He responded, “Must be nice, all done work for the day!”

Well, not really.  I planned on stopping by the music store to pick up a new mic cable, then respond to a few booking requests, update my blog, work on a new website, write a song, do some accounting work, and the list goes on.

I was just getting started.

Hearing this is nothing new.  I heard it often from the time I was a child.  Not about me, but about my dad.

He was a minister.  As a minister, people assumed he only worked one hour a week.

After all, church was an hour.

But growing up my dad was always working.  There was preparation for the sermon, there was hospital visits, or funerals, or meetings, the list went on.  I knew there was a lot more to it.

I’m a big fan of Tim Ferris.  I’ve read all of his books and listen to his podcast.  He’s been successful at branding his “4 Hour” concept.  The first book was the 4 hour workweek which talked about how importance of outsourcing and that you could be successful working just 4 hours a week.  He went on to write the 4 Hour body and chef on the same concept – minimal time to achieve maximum results.

I agree with Tim.  I think that when you implement systems or improve your learning techniques you can improve efficiency.

But I also know that to be successful you have to put the work in.  There is no way around it.

People often look at the finished product, but don’t realize the hard work.

Leadership is about what you do when no one is watching.


The Real Truth About Freestyling

I love to freestyle.

I do it alot.

I’ve even set a Guinness World Record for it.

Freestyling is a key part of my shows.  I ask the crowd for three topics and then I will quickly put together a rap using each topic.

Sometimes people will ask me “Wow how do you come up with it right on the spot?”

The truth is – half of the time I don’t.

Sure, word for word it won’t be the same, but I know the punchlines that I am going to hit.  I will have three or four lines ready as soon as I hear the topic.


Because I’m usually asked to use to the same topics.

I learned this when I started selling my CD’s at the beach.

I would ask a potential customer to give me three topics to rap about.  It took me til the third person to find out I was going to be asked nearly the same three topics…

“Rap about… cars!”  They would say enthusiastically.

“Hmm… rap about… the beach!”  They would say as they looked around and realized they were at the beach.

“Ahh I got it,” they would say with a smile.  “Rap about girls….”

Oooh you got me I’d feign.  Then I’d weave the three topics and sell a CD.

In schools its the same thing.  Most days I will be asked to rap about basketball… or Justin Bieber… but lately there is one topic that comes up more than any other.

Donald Trump.

So of course I’ve got to drop in “You’re Fired” and something about the Apprentice.  And depending on the crowd I can get a little deeper about some of his comments.

Freestyling is off the top.  Being prepared is helpful.

But its great when you can fuse the two together.  That is when it becomes really dope.




I Used To Hate Puff

I used to hate Puff… Diddy… Daddy… Sean Combs.

It wasn’t so much Puff, but moreso Mase.  Or should I say Ma$e.

I didn’t like his voice, his flow, his rhymes, and maybe most of all – what they rapped about – money.

I felt there was more to music than that.

Diddy and Mase were flashy, symbolized by their shiny suits.

One thing I couldn’t deny is how catchy the beats were.

Twenty years later and I’m a fan.

I look back at how Bad Boy was a soundtrack to my teenage years.

Biggie will always be my favorite from the label, but now I have a newfound appreciation to Diddy and co music.

Using his own words, I now realize he “just wanted to make you dance.”

To have fun…

Which was especially important at a time of Gangsta music and East Coast / West Coast beef.

Puff was ahead of his time.

And as an artist sometimes you’re going to deal with resistance…. resistance that rappers call hate.  But its all part of the game.



I don’t know how I missed this song.

“Surfin” came out in 2016 but despite the attention that centered around the Kid Cudi release, I never heard it.   Truth is, the buzz about the record had more to do with Cudi’s mental health than the actual music.  He had checked himself into rehab for depression.

Alot of Cudi’s music is dark.  Not depressing, but in a psychedelic way.

But sometimes he taps into something else, and he certainly does when he connects with Pharrell on this song Surfin.

“I ain’t ridin’ no waves
Too busy makin’ my own waves, baby”

Cudi repeats on the chorus.  It’s great.  He’s not chasing trends, he is creating his own.

Then he hits with the perfect closing line on the hook:
“Surfin’ on my own wave, baby”

He’s made his own trends and now he is just staying in his own lane.


The ultimate control of being in charge of oneself and direction.


The Power of the Follow Up

Many people assume that after you’ve contacted someone the ball is in their court.

Since you initiated the conversation, now its up to the other person to respond.

If they doesn’t respond – or respond quickly – it’s easy to get upset or frustrated.  Sometimes we create a false narrative thinking that the person doesn’t “like you” because they didn’t respond right away.

That’s why there is so much power in a follow up.

I recently sent an email to a blogger asking them to check out one of my new songs.  I had tailored it specifically to the person instead of doing a generic email blast.  After all, I knew this person and we had exchanged emails in the past.  A few days later and I didn’t hear back.  Strange I thought, but all good.  A week passes by and no response.  So about a week and a half after sending the initial email I sent another email.  “Hey, just wanted to follow up on the email I sent last week and make sure you got it.”

Five minutes later and I had an email in my inbox.

“You know what, I didn’t.  I just double checked my junk mail and there it was!  Sorry about that.  I’ll check it out right now and get it up on the site.”

Problem solved.

I’ve heard from many artists that get discouraged when their music isn’t posted on a blog.  They will tell me “But I emailed them!”  or “That blog doesn’t like me.”

And maybe their music wasn’t up to par.  But maybe the person just didn’t get the message.

Back in the day things were harder.  To get music to a journalist you had to physically send them a copy.  You wanted to have professional CD so if it wasn’t pressed, you had to burn one and design and print a label.  Oftentimes I would include a whole press kit – a file folder with 8 X 10 full colour photo and some additional attachments.  It was a lot more work and it cost a lot more money.

Now we just have to send an email.

Techonology has made things easier but its also made people lazy.

It’s amazing what taking an extra step can do.



Put Your Best Cut First

I used to love magazines.  Couldn’t wait to get the latest copy.  I loved going into a convenience store just to see if the latest edition had arrived.  One of my favorites was The Source.  It was recognized as the bible of hip-hop – at least until it went downhill in the mid 2000’s.

My favorite column was Unsigned Hype.  It was a section where each month, the magazine would select an aspiring rapper to do a profile on.  Some of the greatest rappers of all time achieved this status… Biggie and Mobb Deep come to mind first.

I dreamt that I would appear in the column one day.

I still remember the key guideline:

“Put your best cut first.”

In other words, when sending in your music make sure to put the best song first.

It seems like common sense.

But as an artist sometimes you overthink things.  As a lyricist, you may want to put a song that showcases your lyrical skills first.  You may put an “album song” first as opposed to a single – the commercially strongest song.

As an artist we forget that listeners aren’t always in the optimal position to hear our music.  People rarely drop everything to tune into a new song.  Especially nowadays with so many distractions.  Even myself.  I listen to music while multitasking – responding to emails, doing the dishes, driving, etc.

Short attention spans and ADD have made it essential that an artist puts their best song first – their best foot forward.

I’m not just talking about a column in the Source.

Many times I receive music and the first few songs fail to grab me.  But it’s not that the artist isn’t good.  I will play a few more tracks and will hear something I like.  But it shouldn’t have taken that long.

Many listeners aren’t as forgiving.

You need to hook them.  Make them drop everything else.