Artistic Isolation vs. Collaborative Production: Lessons from Maurice White

Photo of Earth Wind & Fire from Columbia Records

by Madeline Lessing

I don’t think I realized that I never knew what a music producer really does until I started working with one in 2018. Watching Cam Hawkins work with my music has made production, the process of overseeing the creation of music and guiding it towards a successful destination, seem like a super power. Production is so stunning that it feels cheap to even try to put it to words. It is the ability to listen to a song first written on a ukulele and know it is destined for a piano. It is so much like fetal development. Though inherently miraculous, music and babies need to develop so many different parts before they can truly function in the world. Recording music is a grueling process of faith and recalculation. Like a pregnancy, there is no instant gratification, it is an often expensive, drawn out, nerve-wracking process. This is especially true if you are as new it, as I am.

Having the opportunity to record my music in a studio (shout out to The Record Company in Roxbury!) and observe production, engineering, and other musicians, has fostered a huge admiration and curiosity in me, for the parts of music that the average person dismisses. I wonder about what, in the music that I have listened to for so long, was a kept accident and what was intentional. I wonder who decided on the exact instrument, rhythm, effect, tuning, emphasis, or concept that turned a regular song into an undeniable hit. I wonder how many microphones Carly Rae Jepsen recorded on before she or her producer picked one. I wonder all of this after watching my producer, Cam Hawkins, wonder these things, and use their creativity to shape my music into something closer to the feelings I am trying to elicit, closer to a sonic image I can’t yet fully picture.

Writing about this is important to me, in part, because I feel so lucky to be let in on this special world, but also because art, too often, feels like something we have to achieve alone, and that is a MONSTER LIE. The marketing of artists as the sole creators of their art is an idea as widespread as it is false, and frankly, shitty. The most concrete way that this idea damages people is by validating popular artists’ failure to acknowledge and credit the people involved in making their art. When a bandcamp page for an EP fails to list the drummer, the engineer, the background vocalists, who designed the cover, and other contributors, it disrespects the time and effort of those involved, while also prohibiting them from using that work to get more opportunities. I understand that there’s something really attractive and profitable about making artists seem like polished geniuses who thought of and did everything alone, but 37 people make up the string sections of three songs on Beyonce’s Lemonade. Had this information not been well documented and easily available to the public, it would be a huge erasure of the rich, fascinating culture of music production, a beginner’s map to discovering how the complexity of great music is achieved.

Cam Hawkins’ path leading towards music engineering and production makes a lot of sense knowing that Hawkins grew up worshiping Maurice White, who formed the band Earth, Wind, & Fire. Maurice White was a gentle, highly intentional, collaborative genius. A quilter of transcendent sounds, White meticulously handpicked members of Earth, Wind, & Fire to birth and raise effortless-seeming bops such as “September” and “Shining Star”, as well as gift humans with one of the most innovative, genre-bending discographies ever. One reference to understand how truly convoluted the musical makeup of this band is can be found here.

What I think was really admirable about Maurice White was both his understanding of collaboration as a necessity, and his individual contributions to music. His 1985 solo album had about 40 contributors. “I bet half of them were percussionists”, Cam said to me. I counted 18 after that comment, one that really highlights Maurice, a drummer, as the ultimate architect of his art. Other trademarks, such as production, kalimba, and sweeping falsetto make Maurice’s solo album undeniably his, and a simple joy to listen to.

I’m not saying forty people need to be involved in art for it to be meaningful, I’m saying that art is undivorceable from connection to other people, and the world around it. I think producers are magicians for their ability to know what a song needs, all by themselves, as well as for their willingness to work with as many people as they require in order to get it right. That level of talent and humbleness is something we can all aspire to.

Multifaceted: Interview with Christopher Diaz | Written Wednesday

Christopher Diaz is a Chamorro poet, freelance photographer, and military veteran. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 2009 with a B.A. in English, then served for six years as a Public Affairs officer in the U.S. Air Force. As a writer in residence with “Writers in the Schools”, he teaches performance poetry and creative writing to students across Houston. He is the Grand Slam Champion and co-coach of Write About Now’s 2017 slam poetry team; currently ranked ninth in the nation. He lives in Houston with his partner Emily, his dog Benny, and currently serves his poetry community as an organizer, workshop facilitator, video producer.

You are a photographer and poet. Do you ever find yourself drawn to one over the other?

I’ve definitely been more drawn to poetry over the past year than I have photography. I’m passionate about both but writing has always been my first love. My mom still has anthologies from grade school with these ridiculous poems I wrote — one about saving the Amazon rainforest, another one full of awful puns — you know, classic poetry themes.  It’s a long story, but I stopped writing poetry for more than seven years straight. So I constantly feel like I’m trying to make up for lost time, and I think that’s why poetry feels so much more urgent to me. I often preach patience for the process, but half of the time it’s me projecting my own insecurities — trying to convince myself it’s okay that I went on hiatus for so long.

Are there ways you’ve learned to fuse the two together?

Yes! But it was never a conscious effort. Back in 2014, my friend Amir Safi invited me to attend TGS (Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival) in Bryan/College Station, TX. I was in the Air Force at the time, stationed in South Dakota, and had never photographed poets performing. I offered to shoot the event, and instantly fell in love with it (stayed up ‘til 4am the first night editing and posting photos). Fast forward four years later, and now I regularly shoot live performances. So many of us here in the South (and beyond, for that matter) love TGS, but it truly has a special place in my heart because it sparked a significant turning point in my life. Amir will deflect any credit, but I owe a lot to him for convincing me to come down that weekend. I will say, however, the proposition was to leave the snow in South Dakota for a weekend of poetry. And a free hotel room. And Whataburger, on him (his M.O. for out-of-towners). So … yeah — not the hardest decision I’ve ever made.

Tell us about how you got involved with Write About Now (both on and behind the camera).

My journey  to WAN starts with hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life — leaving the the Air Force (s/o to an awesome segue from that last question). I come from a military family and always thought I’d go career. When I decided to hang it up in 2015, my partner (Emily) and I were talking about potential places we’d move to after I got out. Barcelona, Seattle, anywhere but Texas (we love it but wanted somewhere new). So, long story long, Amir convinced me to try out Houston, and Emily agreed to support me (even though she had just moved from Houston to live with me in South Dakota. Trust me. I know.). I started slamming and managed to make it on WAN’s inaugural team, and eventually began filming when Amir and Brady Ware asked if I’d like to join the video team. Sidenote #2: Brady Ware = videographer/editor/master of all trades imaginable. He and Safi started the WAN YouTube channel and Brady taught both of us everything we know behind the camera and in post production. That guy is love, talent, and magic incarnate.

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Describe to us the behind-the-scenes process of filming, editing, and producing videos. What is the feeling once everything is uploaded?

The vision has always been to amplify poets’ voices. We know how dope and beautiful and necessary their work is, and we want the rest of the world to experience that, too. When anyone tell us their WAN videos help them book gigs or sell merch, or share their work with family and friends — it makes me so happy. And I know that’s a lazy way of describing it coming from a so-called poet, but, honestly, it just makes me really, really happy. I mean, last week I had a feature at a local library. A seven-year old girl and her mom came up to me afterward and the little girl said, “I came here to see you. I saw your video on the internet.” If one person on our channel has experienced that anywhere, it makes all of it worth it. And coming from someone who thought they’d never write again, I mean that.

I don’t want to get into too much detail with the technical behind the scenes work because it’s tedious and boring. I will say the process can definitely take time, from the moment we film a poet to the moment we publish their poem. At WAN we really care about the quality of our audio and aesthetic, and there’s a lot that goes into that — researching/purchasing/updating equipment, learning editing software/refining skills, establishing back-up procedures for inevitable technical difficulties, adjusting on the fly for the environment, blah blah boring, etc. It’s a labor of love though because we take pride in the end-product and hope the quality will help boost the poem’s/poet’s exposure.

Tell us about your experience with teaching performance poetry (as co-coach of the WAN slam team and an educator to 8th grade classes). How can one get involved in something similar?

To anyone who wants get involved, I’d encourage them to connect with the poetry organizers in their community. I’ve been afforded all of these wonderful teaching opportunities through the non-profit Writers In the Schools, and I found out about the organization through Houston’s poetry leaders.

It’s been such a blessing to guide young writers through the craft. To watch a student find their voice, believe in the power of their story, and have fun with it — is incredibly inspiring. In addition to eighth-graders, I’ve worked with young adults with disabilities, high schoolers, and students as young as 1st grade. If I’ve learned anything about teaching, it’s that it’s not as easy as most people seem to think it is. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude for teachers, but being in the classroom has made me realize how much our educators actually do (and sadly how much our country undervalues them).

Co-coaching the WAN slam team was an incredible learning experience as well (s/o to my fellow co-coach RJ Wright). I’ll admit that it was stressful to be both a coach and team member, but my team was always there for me and I’m so grateful to have been trusted with that responsibility (ok I gotta s/o my teammates Ana and Xach, too). I’ve grown as both a writer and performer over the last year, and I’ve no doubt that coaching played a huge role.

How does one go about developing a unit plan for teaching performance poetry? Were there any lessons you found challenging to teach?

In my personal experience, the first step is always finding out where your students are coming from — socioeconomically, reading/writing level, everything. You have to make a consistent and conscious effort to get to know them throughout the year, but that basic info has to inform the way you approach the classroom and develop lesson/unit plans. Additionally, you have to expect that each class is going to be different, because rarely are they ever the same (e.g. first period is mostly quiet, fourth period is restless after lunch, third period is AP with tons of energy, varying comprehension levels throughout, etc.).

In between the resources at WITS, advice from my poet friends across the country, and online examples, I’ve had a lot of help in developing lessons. There are a million different ways to structure a unit plan and the beautiful thing is that you’re not the first to do it. Most educators I’ve met are eager to help those starting out and I certainly try to pay it forward whenever I can.

To me, the most challenging lesson to teach is any lesson on editing and revising. It becomes a delicate balance of showing students the power of revision, while simultaneously leaving their confidence in tact (as well as the integrity and authenticity of their voice). Creative writing can be such a personal and intimate endeavor, so you’ve got to guide students in viewing their art through an objective lens. Admittedly I’m not the best at these kinds of lessons, but I’ve learned a lot about guiding students through editing from Brendan Constantine and Bill Moran.

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How do you cater your lessons around your students before meeting them? What factors do you consider when creating lessons for a specific demographic?

I think this goes along the same lines as the previous answer, but you have to meet students where they are. You hear it all the time in education, but it’s because it’s true. Whether you’re teaching students for a year or leading a one-time workshop in the park, you’ve got to do what you can to find out who your audience is. Sometimes it’s speaking with the school/organizer, other times it’s spending the first ten minutes of a workshop on introductions.

One of the most important things to me in creating lesson plans has been the consideration for representation. For example, the majority of my 8th-grade classes were filled with black and brown students. Beyond the fact that marginalized voices are already underrepresented, it was imperative that my students see successful and talented poets who look like them. That was always (and easily) at the forefront of my mind, because growing up, I can’t remember seeing myself represented either.

How do you foster community in spaces you have never been to?

I’m not sure I ever walk into a space thinking that people need me to foster community. I think with most spaces there is likely a community existing and/or thriving there already. If I’m invited into a space for any reason, I try to listen and learn how the community works (or doesn’t work) together. From there it’s about serving them as best as I can if they’re open to it. If my presence isn’t based on serving them, I probably don’t have any business being there.

You have worked in a wide range of mediums both in art and education, how do your approaches to both fields differ?  How are they similar?  Which aspects of each do you find most challenging and which came most naturally to you?  

The approach to both has been fairly similar for me. The biggest challenge I find in art and education is fostering artistic integrity and authenticity. I think it’s a challenge that has forever plagued any artist. Specifically with my own experience, I have to make a conscious effort to guide students in writing what they want to write — and doing it how they want to do. I think that’s hard for anyone though. Especially if you’re just starting out, it’s perfectly natural for your art to resemble the art that inspires you. There’s a quote I’ve seen (that I can’t find on Google right now) but it goes something like, “Don’t write what you think they want to hear, write what you have to say.” And I still have to remind myself of that sometimes. It’s wonderful because the internet provides endless examples when it comes to spoken word. It’s delicate because sometimes young writers (any writers, including myself) feel like they have to write or sound like the poetry they consume, or subconsciously do it and never realize it. Ultimately I find comfort in it all, and I say the more examples the better. Not only because more and more poets get to shine, but because I think, “Wow — look at all of these talented people with such vastly different styles and stories to share… I’m going to lean into everything that makes me, me.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Christopher Diaz, follow him on social media! Facebook, Twitter & IG: all @lightbulbchris

Complexity and Clarity with Sadaway| Written Wednesday

While not a huge fan of labels, Sadaway would call himself an artist in the broadest sense. He creates visual art (mostly in the form of pen and ink works, but occasionally paintings and, recently, jewelry), poetry, raps, sings, and produces beats. While he wouldn’t go as far as to say ‘I do it all,’ Sadaway is definitely open to trying it all.
For his art and image as an artist and performer, Sadaway puts a lot of thought and effort into cultivating a unique aesthetic.  He has managed this through choosing specific motifs that persist across all mediums of his work. From the visual pieces released to his sound and, even, the style of his outfits, Sadaway keeps certain elements in mind.
If he were to put a name to his specific genre/aesthetic, Sadaway thinks it would be something along the lines of:  Post-Apocalyptic Alternative Vapor Rap (ridiculousness intended).
To check out what he means, follow his Instagram, SoundCloud, and art page?? (find these***). If you are interested in learning more about the creation behind his aesthetic and style, read our interview with Sadaway below!

 

How do you cultivate and maintain a following on social media?

Building an Instagram account up to 10k followers was easier than it sounds, actually.  In all honesty I could of grown the account even more effectively if I had stayed more consistent with the content I posted. But, I decided to compromise sheer numbers for individuality and creative freedom.  The account started as a meme account which, unsurprisingly (at least in my experience), grows very quickly. Humor is a great medium, as it transcends particular interests and has huge sharing/reposting/whatever potential.  The theme of my meme account was Fallout, as that game franchise has been near and dear to my heart since I was the ripe young age of 13. I started it on a whim during my first semester at college, just for fun, to see how many jokes I could think of.  Unbeknownst to me there was already an entire community of similar content creators on the platform. Connecting and collaborating with these community members gave a huge boost to my following and introduced me to some really cool people. Eventually, I decided to transform my account into a showcase for my art and music as this is what I am truly passionate about.  Making the transition was difficult as the account did stagnate to a degree and I lost my momentum. The account is still a pet project and asset of mine and I’m confident I will accumulate new followers with the same techniques. (@sadaway.jpg if y’all wanna join the wave)
Overall my advice to burgeoning content creators would be to stay consistent both in content and uploading habits.

 

What inspired the song “Fuckin’ Cat” ft NGGA? What is the meaning behind the song?

Fuckin’ Cat was my first venture into the sometimes frustrating but ALWAYS rewarding realm of beat making.  Beat making, for me, is pretty straight forward albeit time consuming (not helped by the fact I’m lazy and distractible as fuck).  It sometimes starts with a concept, it sometimes starts with nothing.  I find that having one specific sound or feel in mind is the more difficult route. It’s easy for me to pigeonhole myself into a mindset of how the beat should come out and lose my creative edge. For me, it’s often best to just sit down and start plucking keys and experimenting with drum patterns. Depending on what I’m feeling at that moment, my beat will come out accordingly.

Not only do you rap but you make your own beats. Describe your beatmaking process.
Ok, so bear with me on this one. Speaking of Instagram, y’know those sponsored ads in your feed for clothing brands you’ve never heard of before? The ones selling overpriced streetwear, ironic graphic tees, or something like that? Well, one day I happened upon one selling all-over print ski masks. More importantly, they were giving away the first 100 units free (just pay shipping). So, one was a kitten and immediately I thought, “damn, that shit’s tough. I need me one for shows.” It just so happened that when that mask arrived I was just beginning to experiment with making beats. As soon as I got it and proceeded to put it on, the idea just came to me along with the music and I got to work. I had the beat completed in time to perform it the same day. Thus, Fuckin’ Cat was born.  It’s definitely a lighthearted, sort of gag track. I’m not trying to impress anyone with it, I was just having fun.  But, at the same time, it was my first ever song completely produced and written by just me. It’s special for that reason.  There’s really no rhyme or reason to this song. It’s just a 5 minute bombardment of awful cat puns and wild ad libs (shout out to NGGA for coming thru with those).

 

You have very fast-paced, multi-syllabic verses. How do you learn to balance complexity and clarity?

I personally feel that’s it’s one thing to rap and have a catchy hook, but it’s a game changer to have lyrics that flow seamlessly or, even, poetically on a track. That’s why I have such a tremendous amount of respect for artists like Earl Sweatshirt and MF Doom, I think they really own this style of music. I try to emulate this style too in my own work. But, my approach has evolved as I have grown as an artist. When I first started writing and performing, I would often cram as much wordplay into a verse as possible. Usually this would lead me to being forced to rap really fast which, in turn, lead to me choking or running out of breath. On top of this, most listeners couldn’t appreciate everything I was saying. So, over time, I slowed my pace and started writing in spaces to breathe.  Now, writing a line is kind of like a game, the objective being to see how many rhymes and how much wordplay I can fit into the shortest amount of words. My takeaway here is that if you want to flaunt how clever you are on a track, emphasis comes first. Speed is a bonus.

In what ways do you combine your different art forms and present them to your audience?

As was stated earlier, I try my best to capture a similar aesthetic across all mediums of my art.  This means that most, if not all, of the visuals I put out should be almost interchangeable with most, if not all, of my music.  And, of course, you have to dress the part too. I aim for bright neon colors and gradients that compliment each other and contrast this with drab, piecemeal designs and textures like rust, corrugated metal, and  torn fabric for my outfits.  My visual art shares many of the same elements along with computer generated graphics and scenes from popular post-apocalyptic games and movies (mostly Fallout if you hadn’t already guessed).  For my music, I use a lot of synths and electric instrumentation to create elaborate, serene soundscapes then contrast this with rough, heavy percussion and sound effects.  My goal is to establish a recognizable and unique aesthetic that permeates all fields of my work.
In what ways does your music style allow you to discuss different topics while maintaining a consistent theme?
I think that my style of music should not have a significant impact on what I communicate through it, on my own beliefs, or values.  While the instrumental aspect of my music may be fairly homogeneous, thematically, my lyrics and messages could ultimately be anything. That’s the beauty of poetry and hip-hop to me.  People expect rappers and poets to give them something raw and real, something they can relate to.  Rapping allows an artist to speak their mind as frankly as possible. It’s really just rhythmic talking. Whether that talking comes in the form of a story or a conversation is at the artist’s discretion. For instance, in my own music I’ve discussed everything from childhood nostalgia to regret, from love lost to being that fuckin’ cat.

 

As a visual artist how do you ensure you are being properly compensated and credited for your work?

This is a tricky one. In short, I don’t.  Unfortunately, being a novice independent artist and putting your personal creations out into the world always poses the risk of having your ideas be stolen, especially in the internet age.  I used to get fired up when seeing someone post a meme I had spent time imagining and editing without so much as a mention of my name. After that, I began to watermark my work. But, even then, anyone could crop a watermark out of a photo, edit it out with a program like photoshop, or even reproduce the same idea on their own.  Now, I take these situations in stride as they’re really just a fact of life for artists like me. The dream is that once you become established, your work will be able to stand out from the rest and immediately be recognized as your’s, with or without your name attached.  For compensation, it’s pretty much the same, you win some you lose some. I think the visibility that the art I make for others provides me is more valuable than the $20+ I ask for small pieces anyway.

 

In what ways do you network and collaborate with other artists?

I network with any opportunity I get to. You never know who’s a creator, who’s a connoisseur, or who has connections.  It’s not like we all have sticky notes on our backs that show who’ll fuck with the vision and who won’t.  So to that end, I just engage people about their interests and go from there. I really love a good conversation and, for the most part, I’m an open book. If someone asks, I’m more than willing to share what I’m about. In my opinion I think that’s the most natural way to go about it, just get out there, drop the phone and talk to another human being face-to-face dammit. I really can’t stand the guys sliding into every dm or comment section they can with the shameless self promotion. I guess I give them props for their tenacity but I find it really obnoxious and a sure fire way to have me never check out your stuff.  For me, it’s as simple as if you appreciate what I’m doing and the feeling is mutual then let’s swap contact info and make something radical.

 

Over the span of your career, you have changed your stage name multiple times. Tell us about the process of deciding the right name for you. How do you know when it’s time to change it? How do you ensure that your audience remains familiar with who you are despite your name change?

Hahaha, damn. I knew this one was coming. I can make it short for this one.  Basically, being a successful artist or visionary means not giving a single fuck about what anyone thinks of you,your talent, and making your own way.  In that respect, I do what I want because I want to.  If I’m not feeling a name, a look, an idea, or whatever it might be, I switch it up.  Typically there’s been a good reason in the past. I change, my art changes, and I need a fresh start to seize upon the new energy and direction. Other times, I just realize the old name is lame and that’s that. I see it as no harm no foul since I don’t exactly have legions of adoring fans to catch off guard. And for the fans who might be confused? They either get with the program or move on, I won’t lose any sleep either way.  As for the name itself, it’s whatever the coolest thing to pop into my head is.

Written Wednesday| Interview With Jonathan Stamper

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Jonathan Stamper has been singing since he was 4 years old. He plays several instruments, writes and produces original music, raps, and acts. Jonathan has toured Portugal and Spain in addition to singing backup for superstar recording artist Sting. Jonathan is not only the Flagship Artist but is also the Vice President of Artist Relations for Block IV Entertainment and CEO of Dominant Collective, a networking and artist development company built for empowering young artists. He has performed at many local community events such as the city of Newark’s annual 24-Hours-of Peace event in which he wrote the song The Drug PSA. This song awarded members of Dominant Collective as the winners of the N.J. Shout Down Drugs competition.

If you are interested in hearing more of Jonathan Stamper, you can find his music on SoundCloud. Check out his album Summertime Vibes below. To find out more about him, continue reading! 

 

 

Tell us about your collective (Dominant Collective) and the role you play in it.

Well basically, Dominant operates as a community of creative people. We all bring different skills and styles together to collaborate on all kinds of projects. I’m the leader, the CEO. I’m also the artist that connects the rest of the artists to opportunities that will help them further their career.
What are the biggest factors that played a part in your growth as a musician?

Meeting my stepdad for sure. He opened me up to so many different genres of music. He’s also the person who got me to rapping and singing. I didn’t think it was possible before he told me it could work.

As a rapper and singer, how have you struggled with trying to balance and/or blend the two?

I always struggle, haha.. my goal has really been to blend them to the point where I’m so fluent in both that I flow seamlessly from one to the other, like Spanish and English. For a long time the balance was so hard to strike. But, I think there isn’t a perfect balance. You serve each song, album, and audience what they need at that given time. This makes every experience special.

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How does your faith connect with your music?

It’s really my foundation for everything. I try my best to tell honest stories and relate to everyone so everyone feels like they’re heard and understood. But, ultimately, I want them to know there’s hope at the end of every struggle we face. Jesus is that hope for me.

Tell us about your experience with connecting with the community in your hometown.

Honestly, I’ve always been about home. I want to travel the world, but the city that really shaped me is Newark. It made me who I am. I feel connected there forever so i want to represent them well. Not just that, but help to see the city thrive in any way possible.

How about outside of your hometown?

 I want to connect to the world. At the end of it all, I want to have a reach that is so much greater than me. So, if I can affect communities all over the globe and leave my mark in a positive way, that’s the best way to create a legacy that can stand the test of time.

You’ve performed at various venues across the country. How do you decide which venue is “worth” traveling out for?

It really depends on the kind of crowd, the influence of the event, and how much creative freedom i have. I just want to perform anywhere where true creativity is welcomed.

Your performances include a lot of high energy and crowd engagement. What is your advice to other artists in terms of being comfortable on stage and working a crowd?

If you’re not nervous, you’re in the wrong profession. But, know that once you start, you gotta be all in. Also, understand that every person won’t accept what you offer or match your energy. But, be unapologetically you no matter what and people will respond.

What your favorite record you ever recorded?

That’s hard man. All my songs are like my kids. But, if I had to choose one, it’d probably be a song called “Uptown”.  Even then, it would probably change if you asked me in a couple hours.

 

How important is it as an artist to have a manager and/or team behind you?

It’s crucial. No man is an island. Even the most talented people can’t see or perceive everything. We got to have people we trust to take on our vision and help us get to where we want to go. Otherwise, we won’t accomplish anything of significance.

Rate and explain the level of importance (in terms of crowd attraction) between singing/rapping a cover versus an original piece

I think putting your spin on someone else’s work is one of the most underrated forms of creativity. If you have a mind creative enough you can take anything and make it your own. Covers are one of the best ways to test those creative limits.

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How does sampling music/songs inspire you?

Sampling always challenges my creativity. I want to invoke a feeling of nostalgia with innovation whenever I sample an artist. I want to connect their story to mine and the audiences. So, the sonics of it are just as important in crafting a story as lyrics because music can take you to a place. That’s the beauty of sampling, taking you somewhere familiar and uncharted at the same time.

What should one look out for when doing something like this?

Be original. Don’t just copy what was done. Add your sound and your touch to what they did. Also, do the sample and the artist justice. If you’re going to take from their piece, make sure that it honors their work and is on par with it. That’s the best way to do it.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in pursuing the arts as a career? How can one know this is what they want/what is meant for them?

The best advice I could give someone in that position is to figure out if you really want it  or if you just want popularity and fame, because that’s not enough to sustain you. You have to have a deep love for your craft and a security about yourself to be successful.