I was talking to my therapist a few weeks ago about my relationship with money. Like many of my peers, I am from a long line of poverty; not a new story. I told my therapist that poverty felt inescapable. And growing up, that was true. So I didn’t necessarily view my infatuation with music early on as something that would change that truth for anybody. I made music out of urgency. To cope and to connect. I never cared if I was talented or not.

This new hobby was honestly my body’s natural response to my first trauma. When you’re young, your parents are superheroes, and my superman was on a plane 800 miles away. I never held it against my father because I understood. I watched my hero leave a life he loved to start from scratch on a new land to follow his own dreams. His belief in himself created a fearlessness in me beyond measure. I spent the next 10 years of my life working and studying to learn everything I could about hip-hop, my own dream.

I’m writing this essay to start an honest conversation around artist development and ownership. While these have always been popular topics, it’s rare to find artists or people in the industry going into detail about them. As an independent artist who has turned the dream into a financially sustainable career, I’m going to share with full transparency the investments I’ve made, the pieces I’ve put in place, and the numbers that made it work.

Before we get into anything, let me share a disclaimer that in my experience, there is no cookie cutter outline of success. It looks different for everybody. And the grind to get there is unique for everyone. I will share my experience thus far and for some of you reading this, I’m sure some of the things I’m saying will apply. But some of it will be unique to my story, left up to chance, coincidence, or maybe even a little luck.

Tons of artists are comparing themselves to people with completely different goals than they have. The most important thing for an artist early on is to know what they want. This is subject to change, so it’s okay if you only know what you want right now, but being able to answer that question to some extent is really important. Next, I’ll say that everything you hear about people working really really fucking hard is true. Even truer than they make it sound. People aren’t ending up in good positions by accident. People are sacrificing a lot, their time more than anything, and putting all that they can into this. I’m no different in that regard. It took many years for me to even scratch the surface.

I still consider myself as someone who operates mostly outside of the industry. I still like to do things my own way, so our grind has been very organic in that regard; growing little by little over time. It’s frustrating at times having to be so patient, but so far the pay off has been unbelievable. I did everything in my power to make sure the ground that I was building on was solid before I tried to skip to the next level. It has never been a race.

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