I just found this old article that I wrote in March of 2009, and thought I’d share it with all of you today:
By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (www.WendyDay.com)
Today was the first really warm day in Atlanta—warm enough to drop the top on the Beamer. I was riding through an upscale, white suburb of a suburb of Hotlanta, about 40 miles north of the city, up by the lake. There was an old Impala chasing me…it was clean! Gorgeous rims, sound system to rival mine, and in great shape. I wasn’t nervous at all about being chased, as I was coming from the firing range and therefore perfectly safe. He pulled up beside me at a light. I had to turn Jeezy down to hear him. He saw my PacNBig license plate. He wanted to know if I liked rap—he was kinda half laughing at me, a middle aged white woman jamming unreleased Jeezy very loudly. I smiled.
He cranked his system back up…the 808 was pounding. The light was about to change. My smile was not because he didn’t think I fit the stereotype to give a fuck about rap; I was smiling because the shit he was listening to was one of my artist friends, and the track was made by my favorite producer. I was in the studio when that song was made, and as he drove away bobbing his head, all I could do was smile at the memory.
On the introspective tip, it reminded me of all of the times I looked at someone, or knew a small fact about someone and assumed I knew everything. I reflected on my relationship with the real Ricky Ross and how he is nothing like the street lure and the DVD re-enactments (he’s even better), or Demetrius who is all about being real and having balls, not just about the flash that surrounded him at one time. I’ve learned so much from both friends about them, life, loyalty, truth, and myself.
T.I. told us, on his last album, to appreciate what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. In a world where materialism is king, and fame and money are the alter at which we worship, it’s hard to remember to be thankful for what we have. I tend to focus on my losses instead of the successes. And in 2008, I got sucked in to giving attention to my haters and detractors instead of the thousands of people who love and support me in this industry—detractors that are barely in the industry one short year later. Look, I’m doing it again in making my point…grrrrr!
I’ve been soul searching a lot this past year as many of you know who follow my ramblings and writings. I’m bored with this declining industry. And then it hit me all at once this week: if I don’t like the way that it is, I’m going to have to change it. Or at least change my little section of it. I suck at keeping in touch with folks, which is pathetic because this is a who-you-know industry. I’ve decided to create a strong inner circle of people around me who are successful at what they do, those who really want to implement positive change, and anyone interested in moving together as part of a team. United we stand, divided we fall. We can bitch about the haters, the lack of creativity in the music, and the declining sales in the marketplace, but until we do something about it, this is what we will be stuck with.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the current environment, I just hate some of the things that are making it stagnant and ruining the business side of what we do. The plus side is that a depression in any economy forces out those who don’t have passion or staying power. It forces out the bad business folks. It forces out, naturally, the bullshit. This week marks the beginning of my 18th year in the urban music business. I’m still doing today what I started when I got into the industry—helping artists. Some of you haven’t even lived as long as I’ve been making a difference in urban music. There are years where I didn’t make a dime, and years where I made a grip of gwop. Neither slowed me down or stopped me. Money doesn’t drive me. There are years where my name came up often and years where folks barely heard from me. But I’m still here. I am tremendously thankful that I am still good at what I do, still successful, and that I am still relevant (at least in most circles).
I had a long discussion with a wise friend last week. He told me about when he was locked down and sitting in the hole for the sixth consecutive week. He shared with me that it wasn’t the memories of the material shit that kept him sane or brought him joy. He couldn’t recall how the new Bentley smelled, or how it felt to move into the 15,000 square foot house, or even how it felt to fuck three women at once. But he distinctly recalled his baby’s touch. Those irreplaceable moments are what saw him through.
I remembered back to a time when I didn’t care what I drove (a 1995 Isuzu Rodeo), or what I wore (pajama bottoms from Target run $11), or what purse I carried (a $20 back pack holds more than a thousand dollar Gucci purse any day). I looked around my cluttered house that’s so overcrowded with stuff I don’t need that I bought on shopping trips that I thought were making me happy at the time. Truth is, if my house caught fire in the middle of the night, I’d grab my little dog, photos of my Mom and my boyfriend that I can’t replace, and probably my baby blanket that has sentimental value to me. Everything else can go.
After I did the Cash Money $30 million deal, they didn’t pay me (please don’t email me about this: I sued them and long story short, three years after I did their deal, they paid me right before we went to court). Because I had been cash advancing my credit cards to survive while I worked their deal, not getting paid had resounding affects. I got evicted, my credit went into the toilet (which lasted until just a couple years ago), and I lost everything I owned in the eviction. A humbling experience. But it sure made moving easy, and rebuilding fun. Some of the stuff I can’t ever get back like baby pictures, photos of my father who passed away, old out of print books, demo tapes from now-famous rappers, etc. But it’s all just stuff!! I really didn’t lose anything—I got to keep me. It’s like my friend said about sitting in solitary confinement…what he missed most was his daughter’s touch. The stuff that matters…
Materialism: Worshipping At The Alter of a False God
We’ve always had excessive materialism in urban music. In the early 80s, I heard Slick Rick say in a rhyme that he had his Ballys on. Once I learned that they were shoes, I couldn’t go buy a pair of Ballys fast enough. When you grow up poor with nothing, you want to be able to obtain whatever you feel you’ve missed out on, it’s just natural human desire. The Hip Hop Nation is no different.
I wanted to own all of the things that I grew up around, but could never afford. Having been raised with morals, ethics, and a conscience slowed me down a bit, but I found industries where there was a fast track to money. For a minute I rebelled against my love affair with money, and studied African American studies with the intention of helping young Black folks start businesses—the only true way that I saw to empower oneself. Often distracted from that path by the glitz of the music industry, and by the smoke and mirrors of fame, I found my journey to be more cyclical than an even growth upwards.
And the music seemed to follow my own evolution. The positive lyrics of Public Enemy in the late 80s clashed with Jay Z and Biggie’s early love of popping bottles in the early 90s, just as today Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli try to overtake Young Jeezy and T.I. in my CD changer. But here’s what I have learned over the years, and if sharing my insight helps one person reading this, then today is a great day: Balance and moderation, in life, are key! Materialism and the love of money is not necessarily evil—it’s letting them control and consume your life that is. Just as we all need toys and trinkets to play with, so do we need things in our life that give us hope and something to believe in!
Making money for the sake of buying shit and collecting cash is empty. Doing something you believe in and are passionate about is fulfilling. Collecting trinkets and souvenirs along the way makes perfect sense, provided it is done with intelligence and wisdom. Buying a $125,000 car to drive doesn’t make good financial sense if you can’t afford it or if you have other more important things to do with your money. Then your trinket becomes another source of stress….just ask most of the rappers out here who didn’t figure that their careers wouldn’t always be on an upswing and got in over their heads.
This is probably a great place to interject that making music or songs for the sake of collecting a check is also empty. If your music isn’t based on truth and your own passion, you may sell a few CDs and downloads at first, but your follow up release will tank heavily when the fans catch on that you’re just a gimmick. The masses will have moved on to the next gimmick, and the 100,000 or so hard core fans that do believe in your movement won’t keep you afloat unless you are indie—and you aren’t, because you chased that big advance check (which is long gone). The music industry is not the new dope game. There are no quick licks to hit here, I promise you!
I’ve been reading a lot of goal setting and motivational books over the past year. They helped to an extent…but I had to do the inner work myself. I had to figure out what makes me happy and what I really want to do next with my life (sometimes it’s as much pressure to reach your goals and have to figure out what’s next, then it is to never reach a goal to begin with LOL). I had to fix the problems in my life and celebrate the positives. This was challenging because I tend to focus on what I don’t have and what went wrong, rather than to focus on the blessings I have and what went right.
I’ve decided to get more organized, be more active in the positive segments of my community, and to make changes to the aspects of this industry that I don’t like (but have the ability to impact). I’m becoming less judgmental, less know-it-all prone, and more generous and sharing than ever (which is a challenge because I was already pretty open with that). I’m expanding my inner circle to include like-minded successful folks, and I’m devoting more time to helping those less fortunate (my personal focus is on non-violent offenders who are incarcerated). The negative folks around me and those looking to tear others down rather than build themselves up can all eat a fat baby’s dick. They no longer exist in my vision and I refuse to give any credence or energy to them. They’ll fade away in a minute anyway, as they always do.
“Your values are in disarray, prioritized horribly
Unhappy with your riches ’cause you’re piss poor morally”
–T.I. “Live Your Life”