VSaxmusic.com founder Vic “Mr. VSax” Oyedeji will, from time to time, put up new installment of his personal thoughts & experiences in a new series called “Food for Thought”. The purpose for this is for the readers to get an insight of some of Mr. VSax’s memorable experiences…which will hopefully entourage and inspire you! Also note that all other posts on vsaxmusic.com for now on will be from the “VSax Writing Staff”…only certain stories (including his “Food for Thought” series) will be written directly by Mr. VSax. Enjoy!
I’m very obsessed with spending time in an environment of people that are better than me in my craft…as long as they tell me how I can improve, instead of just showing off their skills to me w/out any explanation. I’m a complete sponge when it comes to learning new things from the best! It inspires me to be better in my craft, even when I THINK I’ve hit my plateau with my knowledge/experience.
Yesterday I participated in a meeting with about 10 other aspiring producers from Houston, TX. If you don’t know, Houston is the birthplace of the Screwed-n-Chopped movement of the mid-90′s and produced some great artists like Paul Wall, Lil Flip, Chamillionaire, Dj Screw, UGK…and Destiny’s Child (yes, Beyonce & Kelly Rowland came from H-Town). But in today’s game, a new crop of aspiring artists and producers are breaking out. One of the major events that help aspiring producers here is the Space City Beat Battle (@scbbhou) competitions….I decided to join because they have real connects to industry artists/producers, who are often the judges in these battles. These battles are like rap battles, but instead of people rapping, people make beats and battle them out! It’s not free (nothing that’s worth obtaining is), but tt’s a major way to promote and see where your beats stack with the rest of the producers in city. The battles happen almost every month.
Well this meeting I was in yesterday, was a “pre-battle” to the “real battle” that’s happening later in the month. We just showcase our beats (no actual battle), get feedback from DJ’s, etc and see if the audience feels what you have…a major indication of what’s a good beat or not. I personally didn’t know 98% of the people at that meeting (the other 2% are people I know through twitter), so I was a loner out there! It’s like being part of a society where you are new, and just join without any initiation. You have no support, except from leadership that asked you to be part of it, because you asked them. I previously was in the battle last month, one which I will talk about on another post…but in this meeting, I was determined to get peeps to know who I am by impressing people with my beats!
I’m not going to lie, I thought I would walk in there and have one of the best beats, but to my surprise…these producers stepped to the plate and had bangers of their own. Although I thought that my beats are more unique than the others (I still do), people weren’t moving their heads to my beats, then they did to others…and if anyone knows anything about production, people moving their heads to your beats are crucial to making a hit track (in the hip-hop genre). So I was left stunned, and quite frankly, humbled. I had to change my approach in my production in order to get people to move their heads to my beats, like they did others….
…I found myself staying at the meeting longer than I should, with the DJ playing more beats from other producers out there. I found myself becoming a sponge, and learning what to do to get that “hit” beat. I even mingled with some of the producers from the meeting…and when I left, although I wasn’t known in their circles with my beats like i intended to happen, I did feel that I made some good connects!
What was my lesson??
That in order to truly get better in your craft to industry-standards, you HAVE to be around those who have industry-standard talent/experience. There’s no other way around it! Most of my advance-learning production/mixing came from watching videos online and listening to grammy-award winning producers/engineers on their tips, tricks, etc. Although this is a good method, I can tell you that it’s NOT THE SAME AS BEING WHERE THEY ARE AT, and learning from that perspective. You don’t believe me? Well, let’s look at my football game analogy:
If you watch a football game on your TV, you saved your $$$ by not actually going to the stadium to see the game. It makes no difference when watching the game or going to the stadium, when it comes to finding about the score of the game. So why do people STILL go to the games (and sell them out)?? It’s because of the EXPERIENCE! It just FEELS different sitting in the stadium, watching the game up-close, enjoying the other fans yelling, etc. You walk out of the game remembering not only the score, but how the whole experience FELT.
Same concept applies in improving your craft. Watching videos are a great start, but if you REALLY want to get the knowledge and drive to get better the RIGHT WAY, then you have to go where the magic is happening. You can’t just be at home, making new music to your own self, performing for your close friends in your region, put some stuff on iTunes/online and hope that you will get discovered by someone in the industry. You have a better chance of making a basketball full-court, backwards shot with a football, than a music exec/A&R calling you back. And even if you still take that chance, and you hit that jackpot by getting discovered by someone in the industry, you still will have to travel to where their industry office is for your OFFICIAL audition (which is more likely in a different city/state), so it will be better to start that process early by taking it upon yourself to go where the competition is. By doing this, however, you will soon realize that you aren’t the only person trying to make it in your field…yes, there is competition! But competition is great…especially if you have the drive to be the best! Competition FORCES you to be better…better than the current “best” out there…and along the way, you will realize that your skills have been drastically improved, just because you are where the competition is.
Alot of people are scared of competition…they feel that they should just create “their own path” in order to achieve their goal. I used to be like that, until i realized that’s the wrong way to go about it! Although I am for learning on your own, that time should be for developing your own craft, your own unique style from the ground-up. Once you feel that you can’t improve anymore, or you don’t have any more motivation to get better, then it’s time for you to go where the competition is, and test out your skills there…to see where you stack up! If you are not the best out of everyone else (chances are, your’re not), then hang around those people, find out who the best is and try to learn what he/she does that makes them the “best”. Don’t be afraid to showcase EVERYTHING that you know out there! Don’t do what most people do…which is to “hold back” showcasing your best, until later on. Don’t do that, when you are on the “come-up”. I say this for 2 reasons:
- First impression is the best impression…hit them HARD first with your best stuff, so they can have a great impression of you.
- If you showcase all that you can do, and it’s still not good enough, it will immediately “humble” you, forcing you to improve.
Even Michael Jordan, the best basketball player of his era (and maybe ever), said that he was motivated to get to the level of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (the best players during his early years…and NBA Champs), but he had to endure 3 straight years of playoff defeat from the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons of the late 80′s/early 90′s to get to that level. Those years of defeat (especially after the 3rd defeat) humbled Jordan, and although he was by far the most talented player in the NBA at that time, he was forced to find a way to improve (which eventually was the mental issue of trusting his teammates and passing them the ball), and that led him to 6 championship in the next 8 years in the league.
So do you understand my whole point about getting better by going to where “the competition” is? So find the next talent show, rap battle, producer battle, music group, band, seminar, etc and sign up! Join their team & make sure they are really “legit”… with GREAT CONNECTS that you can SEE FACE TO FACE)!
But there’s one more thing:
What if….that place you really want to go in NOT in your current city, or that school/program you want to go to is out of town? Well, if you are serious in your craft and want to be the absolute best, then re-locating is going to be a MUST! Even if you are in a place were it’s happening (as in LA, for the entertainment scene), you will still have to locate, in order to reach a nationwide, then global effect! So traveling is going to be in your itinerary. What if that audition you want to go to is in another city, 3 hours away? Then better get a car and save up on some gas $$! If you are not willing to travel, for whatever reason…family, job, etc…then you might as well give it up, especially if you want to be in the entertainment scene. Not saying that can’t stay in one city to be in “preparation mode” for a year or two (or three), but if you really want to make your name known, then you have to TRAVEL! But if you are currently unwilling to travel at the present moment, then find where the real competition is at in your city, join, keep coming back, and find out how you can improve to be one of the best!
That’s why I joined that beat battle in Houston! To learn from the best…and to be one of the best. It’s the only way!