It's time for you to stop rapping.
Let that settle in for a second.
For some of you reading this article that was the most liberating thing you've heard in weeks. But it's time. There are a myriad of reasons that explain why it's time for you to stop rapping but right now you just need to embrace the joyous, liberating reality of your musical retirement.
For some, you need to hear the reality of something you know deep down is true but no one around you has the guts to tell you: you're just not that good. And I'm not talking to people just starting out and trying to sharpen your craft. You're off the hook here. I'm talking to you Mr. / Mrs. / Ms. 3 to 4 albums strong and all just aren't that good. No one is saying you're a bad person, but plenty of people are saying behind your back what you need to hear to your face - you're not a good rapper and you haven't been one for a while now. Deep down, you know it’s true but pride won't let you accept it. Well allow me to be the voice of reason, conscious and honesty - you're not that good and it's time for you to stop rapping. I'm not being mean but, for once someone is telling you the honest truth you've been waiting to hear and it’s time to hang up the pen, blackberry, iPad "Notes" app or whatever you use to write rhymes with. But hang on with me, I'll go deeper with you in a minute.
For others, it's a bit more complicated. You are actually good at rhyming. People other than your grandma and the nice church folk actually compliment you on your skill. You've even had the opportunity to share your music with other people you respect musically and even THEY think you're good. And not in a "keep it up brutha/sista, you on your way!" trying and not hurt your feelings kind of way either. They actually think you're good. You rock crowds, you have the respect of your contemporaries and producers love working with you yet there's a reality you must come face to face with - it's time for you to stop rapping. At a minimum it's time for you to stop pursuing a "career" in music. it's not because you're not good, it's because you know deep in your heart of hearts that your heart isn't in it.
Let me tell you a story from my own experience. I did music for YEARS with varying levels of passion when it came to how hard I was trying to be "full time.” During that time I took a position at a local church doing ministry. After focusing on local church ministry for a couple years exclusively, I returned to doing music with renewed vigor. Had some good songs, a different perspective of being an artist that pastors & parrishoner’s could connect with and a heart to do it well. I ALSO had a full-time job, still leading ministry, a wife and eventually a daughter. Add all of that together and let's just summarize it all by saying Steve was a busy man. A friend of mine once said to me, in a COMPLETELY unrelated conversation, "you have to ask yourself 'is what I'm doing worth trading my life for?' Because WHATEVER you do, you have to trade something else to get it done. So you have to ask yourself that or that you'll be trading your life for something you don't even care about." Musically, things were going descent. I rocked some decent sized crowds (decent meaning over 1,000 people) and sales were OK. One day, after a particularly LONG week of work, ministry, marriage, discipleship and fatherhood I was on my way to gig that I had to drive about 45-50 minutes to get to. I was getting paid for the gig so my wife wasn't too mad that I was gone. As I was driving to the location on a rainy Friday night, I began to think about the time I was spending traveling, doing shows, recording, etc and the time I WASN'T spending with my beautiful wife and newborn daughter. Somewhere between listening to the instrumentals of that night's set and looking at the "Maps" app on my phone for directions to the location I had a moment of clarity and I realized that I was trading my life at that particular moment. I was trading my time with my daughter, wife and time sleeping (my daughter was only 2 months at the time and if you've had kids you know how valuable sleep is at that time) and I realized the crowds, signing CDs, and a few hundred bucks a show wasn't something I wanted to trade my life for. That night I realized that it was time for me to stop rapping.
I had friends who, almost simultaneously, were making the move to go full time doing music. They were actually paying bills, buying their kids clothes, taking vacations, feeding their families off of doing music. I was so happy for them but to my surprise, I wasn't jealous. We'd talk about them being on the road as much as they were and the things they were trading their lives for and for them it was worth it. For me, it was repulsive and it was time for me to stop rapping.
I'm not trying to make you “miss your calling" or anything like that. In fact, I'm trying to help you fulfill it. Just because it's time for you to stop rapping doesn't mean you have no voice in shaping or speaking to this culture. Once you get over your false ideas that rapping is the only way to be relevant to shaping this culture you may be able to embrace the things you are actually GOOD at and you actually care about. Let me give you an anecdote to illustrate this idea. A little boy walks on an empty baseball field with dreams of being the next Babe Ruth. In his left hand is a tattered, dusty baseball and in his right a wooden bat. He walks onto the field and takes his position at home plate with visions of a screaming crowd filling his mind. He then takes the ball tosses it in the air and screams "I'm the world's greatest hitter!", takes a big swing using all the power he has and as he envisions the screaming crowd, he his big powerful swing hit's nothing but air and the dusty baseball falls to the ground. Not to be deterred he picks up the ball again and he screams "I'm the world's greatest hitter!", throws the ball in the air again, swings and....strike 2. Determined to prove he really is the world's greatest hitter he does it again, screams "I'm the world's greatest hitter!", takes a huge swing, imagines an immense crowd and then...STRIKE 3. Confused that he couldn't hit his own pitch, he bends over to pick up the ball and in a moment of clarity he shouts his greatest realization; "I'm the world's greatest pitcher!" For him, it was time to stop batting, but it was time to start pitching.
When I realized that it was time for me to start rapping, another friend of mine convinced me to start doing something else I thoroughly enjoyed much of my life - writing. He was a popular worship blogger and said that I should definitely get into it myself. I told him it was dumb. Then I did it... and I liked it. After a series of seemingly unconnected events, I was invited by the staff to post my musings here at Rapzilla. Since then, I've been told by countless readers - some artists in our scene, some pastors, some just casual observers - that my writings have had a definitive impact on them and for some caused them to explore their theology even more. My writing has even been the source of inspiration some songs. I can honestly say I've had more impact in shaping people in our culture by writing than I have by rapping.
Maybe you're not a writer. Maybe you have great connections with people who have venues and platforms for artists to perform at and you do great at getting opportunities for other people. There's a word for that, it’s called "manager" and our scene needs more Godly, dedicated, driven, skilled, connected managers. Maybe you're not a manager but you know how to organize an event and draw a crowd to it like no one else you know. There's a word for that, it’s called "promoter" and every artist knows that we need better promoters in our scene. Maybe you're not a promoter but you can leverage your connections to be a booking agent, leverage your stern attitude to be a road manager or do other things like write business plans, manage, run merchandise, be an accountant, marketing, create a magazine, be an advisor, sound engineer and some of the other many NEEDED people to help IMPROVE our scene.
Everyone wants to be Lecrae but where are the people willing to be Tera Carter (booking manager), Ben Washer (co-owner of Reach Records, who you've probably never even heard of) and countless others who help make Reach what it is? Where are the Sketch the Journalist’s (CHH writer extraordinaire), the Phillip Rood’s (founder of Rapzilla), the Timothy Trudeau’s (founder of Quality Junk - home of Syntax Records, Syntax Distribution, and Syntax Creative), the Octavius Newman’s (creator of B3AR Fruit), Mike Gordon’s (co creator of Fearless Ent. - incredible promotions company) and people to do all of the other important roles that are really lacking? I know where they are, they are somewhere at some "Midnight Musical" rapping for people who are just pandering to them and giving them a "there, there" sympathy vote of confidence when they need to be told "you suck! Try something else." Or maybe they are in the studio somewhere recording a BANGER that they don't even want to promote but they are doing it because they feel like they have to because they are good it. It’s time for you to stop rapping and start doing something else. Your voice is needed THERE, not on the mic.