Quite possibly the greatest rapper of all time. A two decade career that has brought him from the underground to stardom, with numerous ebbs and flows throughout. Countless hit singles, multi-platinum albums, accompanied by the omnipresent watchful eye from the press. What makes him so successful?
Enter Kanye West.
The media's favorite obnoxious asshole. Starts his career as an instrumentalist/producer. Experiences firsthand record deals falling through (Listen to "Last Call" for the full story). Ends up with Roc-A-Fella, with Jay-Z as his mentor and friend. Came out of nowhere with The College Dropout and hit big on the mainstream. After a decent first single (remember Slow Jamz with Twista?), two things that got him noticed were his singles "Jesus Walks" and "Through the Wire". "Jesus Walks" had him talking about Christian belief in a top-40 chart song. Through the Wire had him spitting lines with his jaw wired shut. Having personally gone through jaw surgery, I can attest that it's hard haha. What made him so successful?
Enter Childish Gambino.
Actual name Donald Glover. Most notably known for his role as Troy in the NBC tv show Community. An up-and-comer. Raps about sex and how awesome he is. All the time. A Punch liner. Relatively unknown as a rapper, but I think we'll be seeing a lot more of him if he plays his cards right. Why did I put him in this list? What will make him successful?
Originally came out being known as Jimmy Brooks from the tv show, Degrassi. Released a mixtape that had executives chasing to sign him, a tour, and a number one single with no album. Came out of nowhere and now stands among the top of the game. Singer, Actor, Rapper. Triple threat and he's good at it. How about him?
Is there anything in common? Is there a success factor that is tying these guys together?
I'd propose with Eminem and Childish, there is one thing that places them ahead of their competition: Raw and directed emotion. They're open-book humans, honest to the utmost about what they're going through in life and they speak about it in their songs. Just by listening to them, you can tell they go hard. The concept of going hard is going all out in the moment, with vigor and fury, with deep pain and reflection, with anger juxtaposed with hope. In that moment, there is absolutely nothing stopping them. There are no social barriers that they feel they have to accommodate. No masks they put up. Nothing else on their mind. They are focused. Present. Determined. They just do them. (Oh, and their intellect is definitely impressive - Eminem's wordplay on "Infinite" back in 1992 was and is still unparalleled in any song up-to-date)
If you want to see pure uninhibited emotion in action, there are two videos you can see them go hard in. YouTube Childish Gambino's "Freaks and Geeks", link below. YouTube Eminem/Kanye/Drake/Lil Wayne's "Forever" and watch Eminem's verse in that.
With KanYe and Drake, it was simple. Their approach was that they were different when they were hovering around the periphery of the media's gaze. In KanYe's College DropOut, I loved how real Ye was. In conventional comparison to other rappers. his flow SUCKED in "We don't care". He sang in his songs, and he sucks at singing. But it was in those nuances that I felt he was somebody worth listening to. He was somebody on the big stage who just got there and was still learning the mastery of his own game. That little difference showed me that he was doing him, unconventional as he was. And it worked.
Drake was similar, not in that he wasn't good, but in that he brought a different style that we all caught on to. In a majority of his songs, you'll notice shorter lines, one bar split into two. Being comfortable with a slower flow, but concise phrases that still got the message across was/is Drake's strength. Success breeds success, and I'd say after their first album dropped, it was natural that they would do well: Talented artists with the names backing them up (Jay-Z and Lil-Wayne)? Of course.
Take a look at the dance floor the next time you hit up a club. The ones who dance the hardest, with their own style and energy, are often the ones people watch and are drawn to, not the people dancing the same way as everybody else.
Life is like that, people are attracted to those who have the most assurance about themselves and aren't concerned with society's expectations. They are open to being vulnerable and expressing themselves. This is because for them, their emotions/thoughts/views of life are expressed through their art. I wouldn't give that up for anything. The concept of success is simple.
Just do you, and go hard.
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.