Many women dream of becoming famous musicians, but — go figure — don’t want to grind on Robin Thicke to get there. I caught up with some of my favorite up-and-coming DJs, MCs, and producers and boiled their wisdom down to these five take-aways to help you get to the top.
Our experts have each created their success from scratch. Not one has a famous daddy, a trust fund or a record producer boyfriend. What they do have is musical talent, business acumen, and massive, loyal fan bases. MC Genesis Be gained coast-to-coast critical acclaim with her single, Tampons and Tylenol. Skyrocketing superstar DJs The Jane Doze traded their day jobs for DJ booths in 2010, and soon found themselves sharing the stage with Diplo and Erykah Badu. Hip-hop diva Pri the Honeydark is the Vibe magazine, Blaze magazine and Everlast Boxing MC battle champion as well as founder of the Female Producer’s Association, where she supports women in music around the world. They’re here to tell you what it takes.
1. Practice, practice, practice: Pri the Honeydark is proof that you can make it with nothing; she’s risen to the top of hip-hop writing lyrics in composition books. The most she has ever spent on a piece of equipment was $500 for a MIDI keyboard. It’s not about what you have — it’s about how badly you want it.
Pri: "You’ve got to keep practicing your craft. You have to do what you love daily and do it with the intent of making it a career. If you are not consistent in what you do, it then becomes just a hobby and will never go further than that."
Claire: "At some point you need to be able to make smart business decisions. Your ability to make music only takes you so far."
Jen: "An artist needs to be smart. Before the Jane Doze, I was in digital marketing for a label, and Claire got a ton of management experience managing other bands — that combined knowledge has been necessary to our success."
Genesis: "I took it upon myself to learn the business and technological side of creating music. Education is important because it empowers you to have more control when seeking new opportunities and furthering your career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need to know. The more knowledge the better."
3. Crew up: The Anomolies Crew is Invincible, Helixx C Armageddon, Big Tara, Pri the HoneyDark, and DJ Kuttin’ Kandi. Having a strong crew not only offers emotional support, but can help you learn new skills and progress in the music industry.
Genesis: "Forming a strong team early on is so important, so that you have proper support and don’t have to worry about having to rely on strangers, because sadly, many are predators and can smell weakness."
Pri: "Being a member of my crew, The Anomolies, really solidified the importance of having a support base to see you through your goals... A lot of what I learned musically was through a network of individuals already in the field and willing to show me the ropes. The idea of The Female Producers Association was based on this fact. Connecting women with other creative women sharing the same goal breeds a culture of pride and productivity."
Claire: "Early on, we realized our fans were engaging with each other. We call our fans “the herd,” and the fans use #antlersup or come to our site and know they’re part of a community. We originally thought we’d go over well with men, but we’ve had a lot of women come up to us and say, “I didn’t know this was this accessible, and now I want to do this.”"
5. Stay true to you
All four women emphasized focusing on yourself, and bringing your own unique gifts to the table instead of looking at what everyone else is doing. Pri the Honeydark raps about her struggles, each of which adds legitimacy and depth to her message.
Pri: "My life was not pretty. I have dealt with everything from homelessness to sexual assault. However, I embrace these situations as threads of my being and those threads are then sewn into my music."
Genesis Be took herself from Mississippi to Manhattan, survived Hurricane Katrina and got a degree in music production from the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU before gaining mainstream attention. How did she stay on point?
Genesis: "Don’t focus on what you are getting back — only what you are putting out. Whether its fame, money, praise, or popularity, these things should not be the main objective. Being true to how you feel and your ideals will reflect in your work, and you’ll eventually attract true fans and positive press."
So there you have it: Retain your voice. Make your music. The world is waiting!
This post was authored by Khadijah M. Britton.