By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition
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“Success is getting what you want, and happiness is wanting what you get.” -Warren Buffett, Billionaire
Passion is the undeniable love for something that keeps you getting back up every time you get knocked down. Passion is the driving force that keeps you focused and on track when the odds seem insurmountable. Passion is what keeps you going day after day even though it’s hard, and regardless of whether the money comes or not. And if you don’t have passion for what you are doing, it’s hard to compete for any duration, because those who do have passion, will be able to work longer, harder, and smarter than you.
You can’t force passion, either you have it for something or you don’t. It’s better to find something that makes you passionate and to pursue it, because it’s impossible to pick something randomly and then find the passion for it. We’ve all heard the old adage: do what you love and the money will follow. It’s also hard to be passionate about money in itself, although I know many, many people who love money.
The Love of Hip Hop
There are two major underlying reasons people get into the music business: either for the love of music, or for the money and fame. If you are getting into this for the love of the music, your road may be longer to success, but will most likely be fruitful if you can stick it out. The love and passion for the art form will keep you going when everything seems against you. The creation of the music comes more easily when it’s based in love and passion. The artist makes music that comes from inside of him or her, not based on what will sell. Decisions are then based on passion and your career, rather than money and short term goals.
In art, since the beginning of time, all artists have dealt with the issue of art versus commerce. Do you make art that is inside of you, or do you make art that you know will sell? If an artist creates from what is inside of him or her, the creation is pure-- based in emotion, passion, and feeling. But then how does the artist eat and survive? If an artist creates what he knows will sell, the creation is commercial, made with the intention to sell and to reach a wide audience. It’s the difference between “art for art’s sake,” or art for sale. Is music an art form or a business? Very few people have succeeded at both…the Fugees spring to mind from the late 90s. They made music that was classic, artistic, and that sold millions and millions of CDs. Was “Laffy Taffy” art? It’s not about one choice being right or wrong, although some people are very passionate about Hip Hop remaining an art form instead of a business. They are about 20 years too late.
I have a close friend in Detroit who owns a record label. He makes music that he feels good about. When his artists make a song, he’s trying to create a classic. He’s not just trying to make a hit record that will be hot in the club for the next 6 months, or that will get into regular rotation at radio. I have another friend who is a rapper in Atlanta, and he is specifically trying to make a song that will blow up at radio the way Biggie’s “Hypnotize” did. He wants fame and money. His hope is to have a huge song and then capitalize on it by doing endorsement deals for products and commercials. He’s thinking that maybe he can even get into TV and film through the fame his song creates. To him, hip hop is a business, not an art form. He’s not trying to positively impact the culture, he’s trying to feed his kids. Neither of my friends are wrong, they just have different visions.
The Love of Money
Many folks jumped into the music business because they saw it as if it was the new drug game: a legal hustle that brought a high rate of return for a relatively small investment. The risk of failure was kind of high, but if and when you hit big, you hit REALLY big. The urban music industry, in its infancy, used to be run by people who were passionate about the music, cared about the sound of their records, and felt that if the artist wasn’t saying something important that it had no value. Then the industry changed in the mid-90s, and the drug trade encroached into the business bringing deep pockets and lyrics that they wanted to hear: more superficial, entertaining lines (about partying, sex, expensive toys, spending loot, etc). The problem with the industry becoming fueled by money is that the passion began to wane.
Why is passion so important?
Money is a good thing. The love of money is even OK. But being a slave to money is never good. If you can be controlled by money, you are a whore in the rawest sense. People who are controlled by money will do ridiculous things just to get some—things they may even swear that they’d never, ever do…until confronted with the opportunity. Would YOU sell your soul for money?
I used to work a corporate 9 to 5 job, and I was miserable. I made a lot of money but I was not happy. In March of 1992, I started Rap Coalition. It was a tremendous risk and I had to put up half a million dollars of my own money to get started, knowing that I could very easily lose it all. I didn’t care and went for it! I have been happy almost every day since, regardless of the kind of day I’m having, regardless of whether I get paid or not, and regardless of how many hours I work each day (and I work mostly 16 hour days, 7 days a week). But I love what I do, so it doesn’t matter. I remember those unhappier days in corporate America, and I am thankful I am doing something that makes me happy. And I am even more thankful that I can pay my bills from doing this--it took me 6 years to be able to make money in the music industry, and 10 years to get to a level of being able to support myself properly. I am thankful I get paid to do something I am passionate about, and ecstatic that I don’t have to compromise my principles in order to make money.
In the 1980s, when rap first became commercial, no one was thinking about the money. It was exciting because it was a new art form and there were very few rules. The main rule was “don’t sell out.” Others, who were willing to “sell out,” stepped in and made all of the money. Today, the main rule seems to be capitalize and maximize all opportunities while retaining as much control and ownership as possible. Is that so wrong? The flip side to that is to allow someone else to pimp the culture and get rich off of something they don’t give a fuck about (hence the 1980s and 90s in rap music).
And where does passion figure into all of this. Can someone truly be happy making music that is disposable, just so they can earn enough money to buy a summer home in the Hamptons? Can they hold their heads high when their little children are singing along to some mindless dribble that won’t matter to anyone a year from now? Or is the goal to put those kids through private school, by any means necessary, and selling music is really just a job afterall?
I don’t have the answer to this one. But I do know one thing: without being happy, there is no point. Money buys a lot of shit, but it can’t buy happiness. But for many it sure does buy a lot of distractions to keep you from realizing that. Without passion, we can’t go as hard as we need to in order to succeed. Passion is the driving force that leads to happiness. Without it, I may as well just be selling shoes or Carpet Fresh. I, for one, am thankful to have found my passion. It makes getting up in the morning VERY easy. And I remember all too well those days when it was not.