My MLK Day Rant: Hip Hop, Helping and Hustling

Eight years ago I started this magazine with one goal: Help independent artists! The first issue of Makin’ It Magazine was actually just a four page black and white newsletter. I printed 5,000 copies and hit the streets myself, passing them out in every open mic, mall and record store in Atlanta. I can clearly remember promoters charging me to get into events that I had helped promote for FREE. I remember promoters hassling me about passing out magazines in their events. I can remember industry “professionals” having “beef” with me because I was FREELY giving away information they charged for. I was banned (still banned) from “networking” events because promoters feared the message that I spread. The urban music industry is in bad shape because there are so many “professionals” that would rather make a quick buck off an artist’s dream than putting them in a position to succeed.

Before this magazine, I was a professional artist. At 20 years old, I made good money from shows, features and selling CDs. While I was successful at making money, I can admit I was a pretty mediocre artist. I eventually quit doing music because I didn’t have a passion for it. I enjoyed the business side of things much more. I started this magazine with the goal of sharing the knowledge I gained as an artist that enabled me to start generating $40k+ year from my music.

We don’t make money off DUMB artists, we make money with the SMART ones. The type of promotional services we offer require a logical person that spends money based on value, not emotion. SMART ARTISTS invest in opportunities and solutions. DUMB ARTISTS invest in hopes and dreams. SMART ARTISTS understand success is built over time. DUMB ARTISTS believe they can spend money on one thing and it will change their whole career. SMART ARTISTS get together a budget, set goals and consult with those who know more than them (that’s how they become smart). DUMB ARTISTS believe if they just spend their tax refund on this major feature, a beat from a well known producer or a music video, they’ll instantly get paid shows. SMART ARTISTS believe in work. DUMB ARTISTS believe in magic.

Having just taken a break from reading Tavis Smiley’s latest book, Death of a King, I felt inspired to write this post now, on MLK Day, because I care. I care about my family, my community and black culture as a whole. No matter what anyone has to say, Hip Hop is part of black culture. There is no separating the two. Those who know me closely, know I’m more likely to get in a debate about politics or social issues than I am about who had the hottest mixtape in 2014. My intrinsic hope for this publication has always been to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit in hip hop that has turned hustlers into moguls. To arm those who really want it with the knowledge and resources to go and get it. Coming from humble beginnings myself, I’ve always made sure I left a door open for those who were serious but not in a strong financial situation. That’s why we’ve always offered payment plans on our promotional packages and it's the basis for our membership program.

Up until 2013, there had not been a single year that I hadn’t contemplated shutting down the magazine. Not because we weren’t profitable, but because I felt I was failing at my goal. I felt that I wasn’t reaching the people or making a difference that I set out to make. Then in 2013, I had a long conversation with an artist who had been a subscriber for years, and he told me how the magazine motivated him to finally move to Atlanta and seriously pursue music. He talked about all the contacts he made from the magazine, the events he attended and how he was now making money doing music. He qualified the statement by explaining that it wasn’t a lot of money, but he was no longer losing money chasing a rap dream. He dapped me up, asked to take a picture  and thanked me for what I was doing. Over the next week I realized I was measuring my impact all wrong. I was measuring it by the quantity of change I created instead of the quality. Re-examining the conversations I had with clients and members, I was inspired. I began cutting my client list down and putting more focus on helping those who wanted help. In 2014 I made more money working with fewer people and had a great time doing it. I love being creative and trying new things. I love being a part of success, whether it’s mine or someone elses.  I know I could easily make more money selling dreams and offering worthless services but my heart lies in helping.

Last night I spent 20 minutes outside of I do Music (networking event) talking with my father. He called to let me know my Grandfather had just passed. We talked briefly about life, family and work. He then asked how business had been becuase he knows by love of hip hop often comes at odds with my feelings of social responsibility. I told him business was good but doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and it’s by far not the most profitable. We talked about politics and the economy for another 10 minutes and then, before getting off the phone, he dropped a jewel that I wish to share with you. He told me...

“A large crowd is seldom moving in the right direction.”

I took that to mean, the path to success is often a lonely one. As is the righteous one. Whether you’re an artist, producer, manager or aspiring entrepreneur. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t be afraid to do something different. DO be afraid to trade your passion for conformity or acceptance of the herd. With that off my chest. I’m getting back to my book. Happy Martin Luther King Day.

Written by @KelbyCannick

mlk, martin luther king jr, passion, business, entrepreneurship