Do Not Lean
Back in the day my favorite music was rap. In the 80’s, some of my favorite artists were Big Daddy Kane and Father MC. The rap music I listened to was infused with r&b, so I fell right into loving the 90’s groups like Guy and Jodeci. It was “feel good” music. My sister can tell you how I used to run the tapes over and over in the house. When I was older, and got more into reading album credits I discovered that Teddy Riley had a lot to do with the sound on most of those records. He was my favorite producer of that era.
Later on in life, I moved to LA from the south in 2007. I wanted to know the art of mixing. I loved composing music and was pretty confident in my music production abilities. I knew how to make nice beats and craft a song, but I needed to work on the quality of sound. My goal was to get a production deal. I invested a lot of time and money in my education at Los Angeles Recording School and received my audio engineering certificate. I graduated in the top 5% of my class and was sent to the best companies for interviews. I interviewed at Hans Zimmer’s company while still in school. His people were like, “We would like to use you, but with your schedule (I was working and taking classes at the time), it wouldn’t work to our benefit.”
I even interviewed with Marcus Miller’s mastering engineer. During the interview, he saw that I was a musician and asked me to play the piano on the spot! He loved it. He told me, “I’d love to have you but honestly I can’t afford to pay you. That’s how it would be.” I thanked him for his honesty and began losing hope. I didn’t anticipate the social and economic forces that changed the music industry. There wasn’t as much money generating around as before, due to piracy.
I felt like I was constantly running into a brick wall and my life began to spiral downward. I was still producing: mostly hip hop at the time and bought into the mindset that I had to do whatever it took to get to where I wanted to be. So I tried to embrace that part of hip-hop culture that drank, smoke, cussed, etc.
I wanted to be seen as authentic but I wasn’t being my authentic self. I just wanted to be recognized as someone who produced music well among my peers. My life shifted from God more and more. I was losing myself and I knew it. As I continued to be drained into this dark hole, I found myself drinking before and after work daily. After awhile, I wanted to heighten my buzz my bringing the smoking into the mix. And that just snowballed into the women. Since, I wasn’t experiencing success in the one thing that I loved, I stopped caring about everything else and let my morals fly out the window.
I remember chillin at home when some of the homies ran into my room and said, “Man you gotta come into the living room and check this out bro! The song you did in the studio is on MTV! Dude, the video is on right now!” And I watched the song on national television get major airtime but I never got a single credit for my work; not even a paycheck. It was becoming all too much. Shortly afterwards, I remember sitting inside my car in the dark, intoxicated and screaming at God at the top of my lungs! I said some crazy stuff in that prayer. But I felt He saw my heart in spite of how I presented myself to Him. I told Him that I felt like walking dead because I wasn’t operating in my gift. I didn’t feel a true sense of purpose for my life anymore. I told Him to give me what I wanted…or take my life. That was a dark day.
But deep within, I knew that God was the key to elevating my life. I knew my success was hinged upon Him and nothing else. So I got away from people who could cause me to stumble. I was able to get my own place that provided the seclusion I needed to focus on Him. I began reading and meditating on God’s word incessantly. I had a routine everyday that I did not deviate from. And although my life, by far, was not together; I felt the birthing of something good and right within me. I felt life entering my veins again. It was the antidote I needed to give me strength through unemployment, depression, and losing my car. It was around this time that I was running a studio session with a female Christian artist who was working on her first hip hop project. And as we were conversing, she shared a verse with me that stuck in my head long after the session was over. The verse was Ephesians 1:11 which reads: “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” The two parts of the scripture that stood out to me was “conformity” and “the purpose of HIS will”.
I thought about it a lot — -God works things out in the conformity of what He wants for our lives, not what we want for our lives. We didn’t create ourselves, so we don’t get the final say in how the course of our lives should be directed. This concept resonated within me on a very deep level. And I began to slowly die to my own will, my own goals, my own dreams, my own selfish desires, and bad habits. I started surrendering more of my life to God.
Almost seven years has past since I’ve embraced this concept and my life has continued to positively progress with each new year. Has there been setbacks and problems that have arisen? The answer is “of course”. But I’ve been blessed to share the truth of my gift with God’s people every Sabbath and Sunday morning. And now my identity and worth is not hinged upon what I’m doing musically. It doesn’t define me any longer. And I believe my life is in a “to be continued” state. I’m still in my feelings a little bit about the lack of success I felt I was destined for in the music world, but; true success is found in God and how you love and treat others. My life isn’t over…in many ways, it’s just beginning.
Proverbs 3:5 — “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”