Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Wanna Be

At 2am yesterday morning I recorded my verse to complete a song with a popular artist in the city who has a hit song that is doing great on radio and in local clubs. After sleeping for a few hours I woke up to a UPS truck backing into my driveway with the second shipment of my 5th solo album from Discmakers. After giving the album a celebratory run through, I mixed down an entire mixtape that my dj hosted for another local artist. Throughout the afternoon, I got numerous calls and text messages from artists who wanted to book studio sessions during this week. Later that evening, I packed up my studio equipment and drove across town to a friend's house to record a few songs for him and a friend of his for a mixtape they're working on. While recording and mixing them I finished reading a book that I recently bought on being a self-promoting musician. I ended up heading home around 2am and immediately watched a promotional video for a friend of mine who's album I produced the majority of and recorded, mixed, and mastered in its entirety.

I say all this to say that most of my waking hours are dedicated to this craft. I invest a great deal of money, time, and energy into music. The monetary gain from it, at the moment, is very minimal in comparison to work that goes into it. I'm so focused right now in everything I do in music but the fear is still looming that I may never become financially successful enough from it to make it my livelihood. When I think about my name...5th Child...and how much work I've put into developing a reputation to coincide with that name... all the sacrifices I've made and all the relationships that were strained or broken to preserve that name... honestly, I worry all the time that that name will eventually become an afterthought. There have been plenty of times when I wanted to let it all go. I just wanted to quit because seriously the chances of being a successful musician when it seems like EVERYBODY has the same dream as I do are slim to none. Not because I don't feel like I'm talented but because I'm not sure how to stand out.

I know for a fact that God has a plan for my life but I'm not always 100% sure that it involves music. As much as I feel it in my spirit, I can't always see it with my eyes. Actually, I often don't see it with my eyes. I believe that I have a lot of developing to do but I also believe that I'm really good at what I do and I have a strong work ethic. Nothing bothers me more that the thought of getting nowhere with my art. What would I do with all the wristbands? The t-shirts? The music websites? Will my catalog just turn into sort of a time capsule for my kids like "Come here y'all. This is from when Daddy used to be a rapper." As much as I don't want that to happen, I understand that it's possible. And as I stare at this box full of shrink-wrapped, barcoded CDs bearing the name "5th Child" with my logo and my face on them, I can't help thinking "What if my best effort isn't enough?" If nothing else, I'll be able to live without the regret of never trying. I'll never have to go on with my life knowing that I quit because of the pressure.

There's no telling how I'll feel about it tomorrow. Something great could happen or tomorrow could come and go just like any other day. But for now, the world's just gotta deal with me...


Song: I Wanna Be
Artist: 5th Child
Album: 5th Child (2011)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Forever Young

I was listening to some of the artists that I record today and I thought about how easily their music would be to market because it's very easy to understand. The lyrical content isn't super-dense or anything but they ride the beat well and the punchlines make the song entertaining. Then I started thinking about some of my favorite artists through time and across genres and most of them, albeit had decent careers and were blessed with longevity, remained in obscurity until they began to make "crossover" music. This is a conversation that I have with a good friend of mine all the time. If you're trying to communicate a message to the masses through your music, then it is only effective if the masses can comprehend it. And it HAS to be jamming. Information wrapped in a tortilla shell of entertainment is the only way many people will consume it. Even Jesus used parables to spread the Word of God to Jews and Gentiles. One moment I'll feel compelled to push myself artistically and make something so complex that it has to be deciphered and studied just so that the listener will feel challenged by my art. The next moment, i just want to present my message in the simplest form possible so that people will respond to it and understand it. I know that the main purpose of creating art is not to appease the fans but to express myself so that I don't go insane. But won't I be even more likely to go insane if I create what I believe to be a masterpiece and it's completely overlooked by the people who it's intended to reach?

Anyway, after my satisfaction with the story joint from my last album "Bedtime Story," I decided to write another song that once again delves into the psychological and emotional turmoil that young people encounter in a quest for knowledge of self and a sense of place in the world. The name of the track is "Forever Young" and it's about an unnamed girl in her late-teens, early-twenties who is trying to escape from the harsh realities of her existence and a young man named Bobby who has been given a second chance to escape the justice system and find himself and his manhood by striking out on his own. (Don't ask me where these stories come from because I have no idea, lol.) The song came about through a series of power naps and divine inspiration. I took a nap in my room with my iTunes shuffle on and I woke up to this old soul song that I like a lot. Something about hearing the intro this time made me want to sample it so I did. I made a little skeleton of a beat with it and while I was trying to figure out what to add next, I fell asleep. Then I woke up again and had an idea for the first few lines but wasn't sure if it was gonna be a love song or what. Eventually I just decided to make it a story joint and the plot just came to me. I don't know how. So here's the song. I'll admit, the hook is kinda lazy but I didn't want to do anything too complex (or maybe I'm just saying that as an excuse for doing a lazy hook, lol).