I recently showed this video to my sixth grade students. While it is a bit dry for their rapidly shifting attention, it created a class period of phenomenal discussion which ended in charting their personal and academic goals for the first six weeks of the second semester.
It got me thinking. I am the person being described who has niched down his interests, has found his passion (writing), and yet makes various excuses to not pursue said passion, all the while heart-broken that “the dream” is not out of the realm of possibility – putting me in danger of having the thought, “If I had only…” ricocheting painfully around in my skull.
That thought spun into one about the hip hop artists I write about, I interview and I enjoy listening to. While many I write about are truly committed to their craft, with no plan b, there is a vast sea of could be’s, some of whom I have interviewed, who simply fall into one of the camps described in Larry Smith’s TED Talk. Many of these hopefuls sit at the edge of the chasm, threatening to jump, all the while refusing to take the steps necessary (like polishing their PR documents, showing up on time to events, meeting deadlines, shoot, making deadlines, carving out a niche in a saturated market, etc) to move toward making a living off of their trade.
Rappers are no different than corporate cogs spinning in well-tuned, over-worked, undervalued machines, afraid of what comes with being original, being passionate. Many are trying to fit the mold or use the formula of someone who has tasted success and will find their “great” aspirations deflated and find themselves making “good” music at best.
So what DOES one do? Smith and his contemporaries seem to agree that there is no one clear road to living a life of passion, doing something great, but they do agree that you must take risks and pursue your rooted, soul-stirring passions. Smith references Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech, which my students watched a week ago, and Jobs’ story is one that might be one that serves as a starting point for where to go from here. Perhaps matching Jobs’ story is that of one of hip hop’s most meticulously crafted and curated personalities, Oddisee, and his attention to detail and commitment to the craft are a testament to what comes of a singular focus on a discovered passion. If you are an aspiring artist, listen to his Ready to Rock off of People Hear What They See and I am certain that you will be inspired to burn plan b, and to solely commit to your craft.
I’m not sure where this leaves me, but I do know that as I write this, I take another step away from good, and toward great.
Peace, Love & Hip Hop,
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