“You think we can still get that deal with Roc-A-Fella?”
A couple of weekends ago I was able to hang with a few of my home boys after one of our meetings and I got caught up in the most inspiring conversation that I’ve had all year. The meeting started with a group of us but then Tim, Wight and I met separately to exchange ideas and feedback with each other. We took turns discussing things that we’re working on and some of the challenges that we’re currently facing as young entrepreneurs.
From needing resources to moving in silence and letting our brands speak for themselves, we seemed to share some of the same traits, difficulties, hunger for success and passion to make our mark on our hometown without having to pack up and leave because the going got tough. (We’d rather leave on our own terms.) Not many people understand why putting our efforts into impacting the metro Jackson area is so important to us and we really don’t have the time to explain it. It’s one of those things that if you don’t get it, you won’t get it. It takes a lot to pioneer movements and build a legacy and we’re trying our hardest.
Anyway before I start digressing, as we ate pizza and drank beers Tim challenged us to name the five most influential people in our lives. After Wight and I named our people, Kanye West was the last guy we talked about. Tim decided to play Kanye’s track “Last Call” to give us one last push of motivation before our meeting adjourned. Because I hadn’t listened to it before, they kept quiet while Kanye talked about all the obstacles he had to overcome before signing his record deal. Wight told me that I couldn’t talk about the song or even write on it until I’d lived with it for a little while.
After listening to it over and over (the entire track is 12 minutes and 40 seconds) I understand why I needed to meditate on it for lack of a better word. Here are a few things that I learned from “Last Call” that helped me keep grinding and will help you too if you find yourself lacking motivation.
“Ain’t nobody expect Kanye to end up on top / They expected that College Dropout to drop and then flop / Then maybe he stop savin’ all the good beats for himself / Roc-A-Fella’s only n***** that helped”
Everyone isn’t going to believe in you but it’s more important that you believe in yourself. When Kanye was prepping for the release of The College Dropout, no one expected it to become a classic album. This was mostly due to the fact that no one thought he was good at rapping and he was known for being a great producer. Folks thought he was saving all the good beats he’d created for himself but he was eventually allowed to release the album so he could go ahead and flop and give other people the beats he was rapping on. I said that to say, all you need is one big chance…or several small opportunities that can lead to a big chance. Had Ye given up after he’d gotten shut down so many times we wouldn’t have all this wonderful music he’s released since those days. Not only that, folks will try to set you up for failure. Instead of falling for the bait, keep your confidence and use the trap they created for you as an opportunity to show them that you were born to do what you do!
“Now was Kanye the most overlooked? Yes sir / Now is Kanye the most overbooked? Yes sir”
In the oh-so-eloquent words of Mike Jones, “back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.” Be prepared to get rejected, have small turnouts at your events and get little to no buzz in the beginning. If you keep working and refining your craft, people will eventually come around and you’ll find yourself with much more on your plate than you can handle.
“Some say he arrogant, can y’all blame him? / It was straight embarrassing how y’all played him / Last year shoppin’ my demo, I was tryin’ to shine / Every mother***** told me that I couldn’t rhyme / Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem / Or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams / I use it as my gas, so they say that I’m gassed / But without it I’d be last, so I ought to laugh”
This is one of my favorite parts of the song! Kanye dropped some serious words of wisdom on us with these lines. I’ve always warned people to beware of the dream killers. They do exist and most of the time, they think that they’re helping you out when they’re really damaging your self-esteem and making you doubt. Stay away from those people. It’s easy to feel played and embarrassed when you aren’t getting the support you’d hoped for and you can use those emotions as your fuel to keep going. Remember what I said earlier? Believing in yourself, even when no one else does, is crucial if you want your dream to come true.
“I ain’t play the hand I was dealt, I changed my cards / I prayed to the skies and I changed my stars”
This is another part of the song that I really like. Kanye wasn’t happy with where he was in his life but he didn’t let it get him down or cause him to give up. He prayed, he had faith and his faith helped change his circumstances. Y’all already know how big I am on prayer and faith. Keep in mind that you have to act on your faith…nothing is just going to be given to you and you not work for it. Well, nothing that is of significant value and long-lasting. You have to take action and not let problems like debt, limited resources or lack of support get you down.
The outro of this track is the best ending I’ve ever heard to a song.
As the music plays in the background, Kanye talks us through the process of him getting his start as a producer to linking up with Roc-A-Fella. As I mentioned above, he wasn’t being taken seriously as a rapper and he was put into a producer only category. He had a few people in his corner that really pushed for him but the folks who were making the decisions weren’t feeling him as an artist. As all of this is going on, he’s basically getting it however he can by producing beats for local acts in Chicago and making just enough money to pay his light bill. He was also getting bad news that one of his friends who was also his artist was leaving his company at the same time that he was being evicted from his apartment. Like seriously…he was making beats for Jay Z and getting evicted at the same time! (Tim and I say all the time that perception is not reality, it’s perception. Kanye’s eviction is the perfect example of our belief.)
This is a demonstration of having faith and doing as much as you can with what you have. Kanye could’ve given up. How many of us could still go to meetings and front like everything is good while we aren’t even sure if we’ll have a place to live?
He was able to make enough money to get a U-Haul truck and move out of his apartment before he would be put out. The first beat he made in his new place in New York was “Heart of the City.” I could just scream right now! Although Kanye wanted the beat to go to DMX, Jay ended up putting the track on his 2001 album The Blueprint. Kanye produced “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” which was also included on The Blueprint and it became his first hit single. This is just another example of continuing to grind when things get tough. You can’t let your circumstances and personal issues get in the way of your grind (I’m talking to myself too).
As he keeps talking, he tells the story of how he played “Jesus Walks” for some of the execs and still didn’t get signed…but he eventually went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap Song for it.
Read that again.
He won a Grammy for a track that he couldn’t get signed off of!
I’m gonna stop right here because I’ll end up writing a whole book about this song. I hope this gave you some encouragement to keep pushing when things start to look like they’re going downhill. Just keep going, don’t give up on your dream! If you’ve never heard “Last Call” or you need a refresher, listen to it below. It’s truly a gem and you’ll appreciate it.