Almost Famous

The Avenues to Success

The Preface. Book II.

Change. Probably a word most of us are very uncomfortable with, including myself. We tend to gravitate around things which seem most familiar, safe, and involves no to low risk. We wake up everyday and find minor annoyances within our lives and especially with the things we are most passionate about. It is through these annoyances dreams develop into reality. It is within these annoyances we are able to transcend adulthood and revert back to childhood. When faced with a dream, you must be patient, stubborn and absolutely unrealistic. You must make moves when the rest of the world is sleeping and rest knowing you are already one step ahead of the rest of the world. This is where I stand. This is what eats away at my mind throughout the day, but I still keep it locked inside, until now. In a few weeks I will be making a huge move to New York City. I promised myself I would return and I have kept that promise among much opposition. This is beyond a new chapter in my life; it is really an entirely new book. Better yet, it is a very open book. From this point on, each of you reading this will see a timeline of my journey throughout closing this Ohio chapter, and opening up a new series in New York City. I will not take this for granted and I know I will come out of it victorious. To be honest, I can’t put into words or really explain to you right now where I will end up, all I know is it will be for the betterment of music. I’m chasing not just one dream, but a field of opportunities centered on the arts.

Closing a book in your life and ultimately being satisfied with the results is difficult because you know the book you are about to close is the foundation of yourself. It would be impossible to name off every person who has ever influenced me, but you know who you are or will know who you are because in every thing I do, you will be a part of it in some way. In the entire 22 years of my life, I have seen so much, learned so much, and changed so much. It’s amazing to realize how the people in your life fit into the puzzle of the future. They help foster your dream without you even realizing it. I am blessed to live without blindness to see that. This is why I enjoy writing, I take in everything. I sit in a coffee shop right now, trying not to be creepy, but looking at every person wondering where their feet have been. I could be sitting among undiscovered talent. I could be sitting among unfinished dreams. I start this journey young because I refuse to doubt myself. I refuse to have fear, opposition, or regrets. This is me and you will know me.

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August 6, 2010 Posted by | New York City | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Music Journalist in NYC Vol. 2

Honestly, January seems like just a moment ago. In fact, December seems like a week ago where I was stuck between Toledo and New York and wondering why I felt it was necessary to burden myself with more financial worries if I did decide to move to New York. Now, in the silent, well semi-silent night in Brooklyn, NY, only a few blocks down from where Shawn Carter a.k.a Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G sat on the corners and something in the Brooklyn air inspired them to pick up a microphone and change history, I sit on a lap top in a still, very surreal, urban environment in an old warehouse-turned loft with two random roommates I found on craigslist. I say urban because for almost 21 years my life, my life has been suburban and very ordinary with hardly enough hardship to create a documentary around my struggle to break into the music industry. I say random because although I’ve always been known to act on first impulses, this city directed me into the most random situations I’ve ever, and you will ever, be in.

Indefinitely I am never satisfied because this entire experience was a “better late than never” random, financially stupid decision. I was almost done with school and I could have settled for the carbon-copy. I could have stayed in Toledo, finished my spring semester of my junior year, take out more loans, work two jobs, and once again spend my summer in Toledo selling cell phones. This seemed logically the next stop on my college journey, but I decided to take a little detour. Unknowingly this little detour would evolve into a life-altering change and compose another chapter in your life you can only write when you’re young. This detour would wipe every thing and every person out of my life and replace them with new people and things only to be replaced again. This detour was never at any point easy and in fact, was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Why did I do it? I ask this question every day I wake up breathing in the Brooklyn air and while on my short walk to the G train. After work I come home and walk up 5 flights of stairs, open the roof door, and light up a cigarette while staring at the Manhattan skyline off in the distance wondering how in the hell I got here and how the hell am I still here. I look down onto the Brooklyn streets, somewhere on Mrytle Avenue, I see life, real people, New York people, and I am a part of that scenery. Then, one last thing blows my mind every time, in the distance I see the skyscrapers within the financial district and I can frame the set of buildings I was able to see outside of my 24th floor apartment on Water Street only a month ago. If I look even closer and think even harder, near the Empire State Building stands another building where I used to spend writing long, strenuous articles for editors for some of the top newspapers in the world, and this was only a short summer ago. In fact, as I sit here, I realize my last summer in Ohio was the summer of 2007 because next summer my final move to New York City will be complete.

The carbon-copy summer still holds true. As of right now, I still took out a loan, although not a very large one, and yes, I still sell cell phones. You could say I have three jobs, but I’d rather have more because currently I feel unproductive. A year ago today, where I sit would be a dream, an impossible height to reach, a silly thought. But right now, I sit in the greatest city in the world, working towards a dream I thought was unreachable. A dream where I needed an immense amount of patience and skill and a dream I never knew what it was. This dream needed to plant its seed in fertile land and although financially America does not seem the richest, New York still seemed to have enough nutrients. In December I doubted myself and fought until I was satisfied with my decision to stay, but judging by the current events, I was not. No one will ever know the logical voices I had to shut-off in my head to make this happen. But, more importantly, I made this happen. There was no suggestion, this opportunity did not come knocking at my door, I sought it, found it, and took advantage of it, period. When something prevented me from leaving, I dealt with it until every possible solution was used up. I turned negatives into positives and restored hope in my mind just by prevailing under immeasurable odds against me. At this point I was unable to be broken and basically had my bags packed, ready-to-roll, and prepared to throw myself into city where I knew basically no one and had to fend for myself.

It is a very interesting time to enter into the real world after college graduation. Besides the recession and a new administration, as humans we seem to be losing the real quality and genuine ability to understand what makes us human and what should unite us. The once powerful and prominent industries have begun a transformation and fallout and once again it seems we must start from the beginning and adapt to the environmental and social changes around us. To be within a city like New York during these historic times is an experience in itself and creates a new understanding of diversity. Although I don’t consider myself to be a true New Yorker, I do feel I have finally broken the threshold of tourist and native. I have become a product of my environment and look at the “New York stereotypes” as a norm, but still can sit back and laugh at them. I’ve made relationships with my morning coffee street vendors, my walk is brisk, I stay to the right on the escalators, I read other people’s newspapers on the subways, I’ve stopped giving to the homeless, and most importantly, I’ve learned to hustle. In only four months I’ve worked as a hip-hop journalist, photographer, theater critic, music critic, club promoter, pre-audio engineer, worked in a studio, worked for Time Warner, and sold cell phones for two different companies in two different boroughs. I’ve probably been to over 40 different clubs or bars, saw about 30 or 40 live shows, and stayed faithful to the worst diet I’ve ever had in a period of 4 months. I’ve been to Starbucks probably hundreds of times and probably only ate at the same restaurant once or twice. I exhausted my loan money, had the time of my life, made lifelong friendships from all over the country, established a large network of music industry professionals, and I promise you I will continue to leap forward until I get exactly what I want and what is to come.

This was four months and I promise you there is no way to step inside my shoes. There is no way when I return home I can explain all of this to you because you couldn’t even comprehend what I put myself through here. But just know this, whoever took the time to read all of this, you can do whatever you want in this world and right now is the time to make that happen. Don’t ever settle and don’t listen to anyone that tells you what you want to do with your life is silly. I don’t care where you’re at, but get somewhere where your passion exists and thrives, especially in these crazy times. We are at a point where the dreamers can dream and the entrepreneurs can win. There’s no job market? Well create one and do what you want to do because there is no longer anything stopping you. This is a time of new ideas and our generation is behind this explosion and responsible for many generations to come. Let’s get it.

Real talk.

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Music Journalist in NYC Vol. 1

Through the trenches of disappointment, I once again begin my quest to break into music journalism. Whether I’m spending time in venues absorbing new music or riding the G train in Brooklyn trying to find the spark that ignited legends like Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G, I surround myself with musical bliss every opportunity I can. Ever since I arrived in New York City almost 4 months ago, I’ve jumped into a mix of aspiring artists, producers, writers, executives, and music enthusiasts. As a music journalist, I want to place myself in a position where I can familiarize myself with every aspect of the music industry. Through acting on these intense aspirations, I discovered several opportunities through New York University to expand my knowledge and begin to network. After subscribing myself to the NYU’s Music Business Graduate Student list serve, I found myself attending a networking social at Fat Cat Jazz Club. Beforehand I ordered simple, professional-looking business cards displaying my e-mail, phone number, and blog address.

It was refreshing to finally surround myself with the inspirational dreams of others my age who also wish to be a part of the music industry. After talking to several of the aspiring artists, producers, and managers, I felt a strong connection with their ambitions and dreams. Many of us felt we are the future of music and to be a part of that vision is an indescribable feeling. Yet, even as a semi-experienced journalist, I still find it very difficult to network and contribute to that vision. As a result, I ordered a few beers to calm my nerves before I began to make my way around the bar and introduce myself.

After spending time with a handful of managers, artists, and producers and handing out business cards, I established several ground rules for my future networking experiences. At this point when you are networking the first impression is very important. Possessing a fearless, confident swagger is vital and perfecting your “pitch” in what area of the music business you want to pursue should be your intro. Eye contact, body posture, and even voice infliction are all factors in an effective business relationship. I found the biggest struggle was keeping their focus and attention and I immediately recalled advice that was given to me by a recruitment specialist through my fraternity, “people love to talk about themselves.” This is particularly useful in discovering what makes people “tick” and how you can compliment their talents with your own talents. After making several connections and collecting a stack of business cards a sense of accomplishment was resurrected. A vast city full of opportunities awaits me and I’m only scratching the turntables.

Real talk.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chuck ‘D’

ChuckEnter the 1960s and breathe in a world of revolution and restoration. The music, the experimental drugs, and more importantly, the culture, were a unified fist fighting for peace. Although some of the means were wrong, the purpose was there, and it is this unification that all of us secretly long for in our broken, weary hearts in today’s age. Enter the 1960s and also enter the birthplace of Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Roosevelt, New York or as the world now recognizes him as, “Chuck D.” For the much younger crowd, Chuck D was the man behind the socially conscience rap group called ‘Public Enemy,” which may be remembered for the outrageous antics by Flava Flav, but should be dissected for its lyrics and depth of honesty and boldness. Today, Chuck D is now recognized as a legend, and rightfully so, but a legend in a music industry is he no longer performing in. Although Public Enemy may have faded in the distance, it seems we need them now more than ever. Chuck D may not be throwing a fist in the air on stage and educating his audience about worthy causes in a lyrical composition, but he is still just as appealing and influential. He has been called a humanitarian and a role model, but more importantly, he is able to step outside the media box and steer the future in the right direction. New York University students filed in the Skirball Performing Center as they normally do expecting to sit only several feet in front of a celebrity. A celebrity they would take hundreds of pictures of without a giving a second thought about the magnitude of his influence. The Catherine B. Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship at NYU opens the eyes and ears to real, effective social change.Chuck D’s approach was from the perspective of the media and shutting out their ideas and creating our own. Particularly in the African American community, Chuck heavily focused on the media’s way of defining African American culture, “We do shit, somebody else defines us,” he said. Networks like MTV, BET, and radio stations like Hot 97’ here in NYC, according to Chuck, are poor depictions of reality and to base our musical tastes and definitions of genres on them is just another way media defines our world.

Chuck reminded the students at NYU to be who you are and be proud of what you represent where many artists are falling short. Think of the artists on the radio we look up to, who are they really under all of the stardom? Dissecting the world through the microscope of Chuck D was refreshing because it was from a perspective that hardly exits in popular culture. Chuck on stage was more than an artist, writer, or speaker; he was a symbol for social change and not in the musical sense, which may have been overlooked by some. Artists like Public Enemy probably would not get radio play on today’s media sector because it seems the media has already defined what music is and we obey and listen to that claim. While NYU students will not all enter the music industry and have the know-how to be social entrepreneurs, Chuck reminds us to simply stay in school. This NYU community can stand against this “radio radiation movie nation,” as Chuck put it, and rise against backwards thinking. The transformation of celebrity to social activist occurred on that stage and that is what perhaps gave the audience the sense of being dumbfounded and star struck. It was in this refreshing view of celebrity status the audience could throw-up a fist and shout, “fight the power!”

Real talk.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment