The most successful people I meet involved with music, or any industry for that matter, are the ones who let their profession choose them. Ideally, when you’re young, you begin to develop a talent for something or, at the very least, show interest in an idea of what you want to be when you grow older.
Many of us have this idea of getting into music and becoming a star. It’s an awesome dream. You see your favorite artists on the covers of magazines growing up and you just know that’s what you want to do. I still have my old Source magazines from the ’90s and I still reminisce about the feelings of wanting to be on that cover.
Almost every person in the industry had a similar dream. Few A&Rs sat awake at night as a child, dreaming of the day they could decide which producers would be able to fit the label budget given to an artist for its album. Few radio programmers dreamed of the day they could input a group of label-approved, correctly formatted, backroom-politicked songs onto an iTunes playlist and let a DJ click the play/repeat button for the next three months.
Dharma is the reason these people might not be famous stars, but are highly successful in their trade and generally enjoy doing it. Or at least the best ones enjoy what they do.
Dharma is the acceptance that there is a position for everyone to play on this Earth.
Two months ago I wrote a column titled “I’m Burnt.” It was my post-tour, things-aren’t-going-the-way-I-want-right-now burnout piece. It was awesome to write and helped me put a lot of things into a proper context. One of the biggest lessons I had to (re)learn was that just because things don’t go the way I see them in my head does not mean I failed at reaching my goal. It just means I was mistaken in what I thought my goal was. In fact, I’ve actually reached the goal I was originally working toward, I just didn’t reach it in the way I imagined in my head.
Dharma is the reason I write this column. I didn’t plan for this. It was offered to me so I accepted it; a means to an end that I hadn’t accounted for. There’s a reason I’m here doing this and there’s a reason you’re reading it. I might find out tomorrow that I’m not supposed to rap. I’m not supposed to be a musician. And I have to be open to that.
A couple months ago, my homie Zone put me up on a Pharrell interview when I told him I was going through this burnout. It was a great interview. I’ve always loved and studied Pharrell’s insight and perspective on music and life.
He used an example of a small struggling screenwriter. The screenwriter spends years writing a screenplay, with an ambition of directing it and making a movie by himself. A company meets with him and loves his idea. They tell him they want to turn his screenplay into a movie and bring a huge director in to shoot it. The screenwriter turns down the offer. He turns it down because it did not fall in line with his exact plans. He was supposed to write and direct. These are the only terms he could be happy with. As a result, he missed an opportunity. Rather than developing new ideas and new ventures, he’s stuck on the same idea, and it’s clogging his pipeline for creativity.
Would you, as an artist, be prepared to have an executive offer to buy out one of your most personal songs and pass it to someone more famous? Would you be willing to take songwriting credit and get your publishing if it meant your face wouldn’t be in front of the camera? More importantly, would you be willing to give up a deeply personal song of yours if it meant more exposure because another artist is singing it instead?
There’s no right answer, it’s up to the individual and situation they find themselves in. But it is something to think about. What is your dharma? Are you supposed to be a rapper? A producer? A promoter? Even then, what type of promoter are you supposed to be? What type of producer? Do you specialize in arrangements? Playing live? Drums?
It takes time to figure these things out and find where your direct passion and excellence lies, but it’s all part of the process. It’s all dharma. Once you figure that out, everything else literally falls right into place.
ILL POETIC is a multi-tasking Hip Hop producer/performer. Contact him via email@example.com or illpoetic.com.