11 Aug Undo EVERYTHING IN MY MIND THAT LEADS ME TO ACT OUT OF FEAR
Oftentimes I think of public figures in the entertainment industry like the Wizard in the film The Wizard of OZ. For the sake of building brand power, a bigger than life persona is projected to the world by many of the public figures we’ve grown to love and admire.
As a young person and artist, I learned the importance of being a brand in this world. I learned that branding is the difference between singing on a platform underground where the trains pass by and people standby, they hear your song only because their train was taking too long, versus the superstar that sings on platforms raised high above the masses. People flock to them and pay weeks’ worth of hard-earned wages just to experience their talent in person. The difference between the two of these scenarios, in many cases, is branding.
Jay-Z signed me in 2016, after 10 years of singing with my family in unconventional settings around New York City. We sang everywhere… Above ground, underground, inside of venues, outside of venues. During these 10 years, I thought of myself kind of like a boxer that trains in the gym and knows his greatness but has yet to be put in the ring with the “greats”. Jay validated my work, according to the standards of this world, when he signed me and my family. I will never forget the feeling I had, thinking “finally, I’m in the ring with the heavyweights… no more singing on platforms underground.”
I transitioned into working on my album like my life depended on it. Every lyric, color, texture, and sonic frequency was intentionally and meticulously placed. I knew how to work hard. What I didn’t know is that hard work meant nothing in this industry if it’s not accompanied with the outer appearance of glitz, glamour, and larger than life images of projected power. It wasn’t enough to just be powerful. I learned that it’s all a game of who can portray power the loudest.
I found that my hard work got swallowed up and barely noticed in an industry where I’m standing next to shiny powerful brands. I’m in the ring but I’m fighting with the wrong strategy. Spending months to learn an instrument or how to use ProTools recording software was great but perhaps that investment of time would go further if I spent it learning how to do my makeup at a professional level so that every time I walked out of the house I looked like a superstar. I probably should’ve bought the latest iPhone with a better camera for selfies instead of buying new expensive virtual instruments to make my songs sound fuller. The appearance of power paid more than actually doing the work to become powerful inside. I developed a fear of working with utmost excellence and not being given the respect that my work deserves. And so I figured I had to be both. Powerful AND with the appearance of being powerful.
The problem here is that I developed habits of over-analyzing every aspect of how I portray myself to the world. In other words, I built a bad case of self-consciousness which I believe is the biggest threat to freedom. I think a lot of artists in the industry struggle at times with this same thing. It’s the idea that if people see us for who we really are, then they’ll see that we are just like them and no longer find us worthy of being treated with the respect of Kings and Queens. Some of the most Iconic artists today still feel the threat of becoming a starving artist, and that threat starts to become a reality when your brand loses its power.
COVID-19 led me to rethink this whole equation. I want to undo everything in my mind that leads me to act out of fear and not faith. Life is too short to be lived in bondage when freedom is within reach and needs only to be grasped. I spend my days in my studio which ironically is called The Secret Place. I work hard but I’m learning to work from a place of having nothing to prove and already being fully accepted by The Most High. (Read Psalm 91 for this reference)
This blog is a big step for me because I will try my best to not share a lopsided version of Victory. You can’t have Victory without a fight and sometimes the fight is unattractive. I’m not afraid of people catching a glimpse behind the curtain of my brand… Perhaps in seeing that I am just like you, you will be inspired on your journey too.
P.S… Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy fashion and makeup, and having photoshoots especially with my sisters where we flex like models. The difference is, I feel no pressure to only portray this one dimension of me.