On this day 5 years ago my debut solo album "just as I AM: The Prequel" dropped. The whole build up to that release was so serious for me. Looking back I can say the songs have stood the test of time but it is the story behind this album that really sticks out in my memory. My belief is that you should celebrate your victories no matter how small and insignificant they are to others. This is why I am marking this day. For me it is a milestone.
Anyone can criticise the music an artist creates and that is fair. The appreciation of music is a subjective thing and one is allowed to have their opinion. Not everyone has to like what I make, I am cool with that. In fact as time has gone on I have found out that it is the journey you are on as an artist that is more important. The opening lines of a song I love says "when the music fades and all is stripped and I simply come.." One day the music will fade but what lasts will be what you have made of the journey and what the journey has made you. Until then let the music play on.
I had originally wanted to release the album like 3 years before the actual time it came out but I just didn't have the resources to do it. I was going through tough times. I had fallen out with my mother and gotten myself kicked out. I was working at a job I wasn't too fond of at the time (I was a market research executive for a company that organises conferences in the energy sector in central London and it was intense as well as BORING!) and always in the studio recording apart from touring with GK Real.
MySpace was hot then and I had gotten on it quick and found a way to get my music out and build a relationship with people who were into what I was doing. It was amazing. Through consistent blogging, gigging, radio airplay, tv appearances, networking online & offline as well as releasing lots of free material I was connecting with quite a lot of people.
I think it was in late 2008 that I discovered tunecore (which is one of the main digital music distributors for independent artists out there right now). Before then I didn't even know how to get on iTunes, amazon and all digital stores, in fact the first single I released on September 13th 2008 was through the now defunct indiestore where I charted with the song "I Still Believe" which was produced by Victizzle. It featured Kirsten Marie and Kim Pratt aka Kiwi. So when I discovered that I could distribute my music digitally myself it was ON! I decided to not press up any CDs at all. I have actually been releasing music purely digitally ever since. I knew CDs would become less and less necessary as time went on. We have gotten to a time where it is becoming something that is just part of merchandising but that is a whole other story.
I had it all set up. I chose the date April 4th, 2009 and I also had a tour I was going to be on. That date was going to be the London date of the tour. I had hooked up GL 360 with Lisa McClendon who is my friend and a featured artist on the album to come to the UK from the US. My GK Real folks supported me because nothing I was doing conflicted with the vision of the group. Everything was set up nicely. I had great featured guests like Jahaziel, Dwayne Tryumf, Butta P of Rhema Soul, Platinum Souls from Atlanta, my partner in rhyme Folashade and beats from TP, Victizzle, UNiQ (now known as Unisistar) and my main producer then Rodney Rockerz. I was so focused and my attitude was I AM GOING IN! All of a sudden something unexpected happened.
The closing of 2008 which I remember was one of the most optimistic years ever (LOL!) because of Obama winning the US presidential election, kinda saw the effects of the recession begin to take it's toll. It started affecting businesses and I started wondering if it would affect me in some way. In late March I was called into a meeting at work and told I was going to be laid off. Just like that. This job was how I paid my bills, ate and basically supported myself and here I was being told that they were letting me go. I felt like I was unwanted cargo being tossed off a sinking ship even though it wasn't that deep. The company was simply reacting to their market possibly not making loads of profit and a lot of people lost jobs when they decided to downsize in anticipation of a possible reduction in profit. I was good at my job. I was one of the best in the department yet this was happening and I couldn't do anything to stop it.
My last day at work was March 31st. I will never forget that day. When I was riding the train home I was playing "3 little Birds" by Bob Marley and the Wailers continuously on the over 1 hour journey home. I had mixed feelings. I felt fear, anger, indignation, hopelessness and strangely I kind of felt relief too. In my heart of hearts I had been desiring to leave that job and find a way to support myself as a full time professional creative but I didn't know how. Music doesn't pay the bills. Folks like things for free and some even have a sense of entitlement and expect you to do your music for nothing. This is the mindset of a lot of people in the scene I'm from. My debut album "just as I AM: The Prequel" was coming out in four days and the GL tour with Lisa McClendon was starting in 3 days. I was contemplating my future while Bob Marley was singing to me "don't worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright"
I spent the 3 days building up to the tour at home just looking into space and playing the "Victory" album by Tye Tribbett and G.A continuously. I was all shaken up. I was trying to see the bright side of the whole situation and get my mind right for the tour, the album release but more importantly MY FUTURE.
The tour was amazing and when the day of release came on April 4th the tour came to London and it was so amazing that day. It was emotional for me. God bless Lisa McClendon. She requested that I be the person to be on stage just before she came on. I think she sensed I was really going through something and also that I was fired up. I remember her calling me out on the one of the dates in Birmingham to give me some encouraging words in front of everybody while she was on stage.
5 years on I look back at that album as a milestone in my life. It was like a coming of age project. It was me trying to find my identity and express my heart and mind. The music and lyrics really do capture where I was at that time. It was a musical snapshot capturing my life. This is why I always say it is more than just music. This music is more than just trying to get popular or get sales. This music was the actual soundtrack of my life and unfolding story. Songs like "Whom Shall Fear?" and "The Bridge" or "I still believe" expressed where I was at in such a real way. In fact the whole album from start to finish does that. No one can take that from me. It doesn't depend on people rating me highly or not rating me at all.
5 years later I have actually become a professional working artist. Breis took me under his wing and trained me to do creative writing, performance poetry and hip hop literacy workshops in primary & secondary schools as well as colleges and Universities. I have released 3 mixtapes, another album, an EP, an instrumental compilation and a bunch of singles.
I didn't release any video to accompany my first album because I didn't have the resources and technology wasn't accessible and readily available like it is now. I have released 6 music videos since then, a short documentary and more videos to come. I toured the US off the back of that album and went across the UK doing loads of shows and festivals. I have made tv appearances, radio appearances and now I have even have 2 radio shows of my own. I guess my circumstances forced me to take a step of faith into my future and guess what, I'm still here. I am truly thankful because In spite of when I hit rock bottom so many times. I have kept on bouncing back.
This song below is the 1st single for my next EP which I am calling PLTFRM SE7EN and will be released on June 3rd. I will speak more on that letter. Until then, press play, turn this up and know deep inside yourself that no matter what life throws at us we are overcomers that bounce back from even the worst kind of situation. This is my story, this is my song.