“We didn't have access to a lot of things, but we always had music. My brother, who was a few years older than me, was on his way to becoming a deejay, so he brought music home all the time. I was always listening to it and trying to put my own flavor on it. The first rap I ever wrote was terrible. I had no idea what I was doing. I was writing about things I had never experienced, but I kept at it. I knew this was what I wanted to do. I didn't know how it was going to happen, but I was determined to be successful so that future generations of my family could experience a different way of life.
“I started to understand the business side of the music industry four years ago when I moved to Memphis. I have an MBA [from MTSU], but the music industry is very different from a lot of other trades. I had to dig in and learn the ins and outs of it for myself. I was still writing music all the time but also spending 3-4 hours every day doing research and finding out everything I could about the business. If there was a term or concept I didn’t know, I’d research and study it until I understood. I wanted to educate myself, to be ready. That’s when things started happening for me.
“The music business is fickle though. In school, you know that if you do this, this, and this, you’ll earn your degree, but there is no if-then in the music industry. You can do everything on the checklist and still hear ‘No’ or you can do nothing and hit the lottery. But do you want to depend on hitting the lottery every day? I don’t think so. You’ve got to do your homework; you’ve got to make a plan and work the steps. You’ll hear a lot of people telling you “No” along the way, but preparing yourself increases your chances. You might prepare yourself and still not catch a break, but if you’re not ready, you sure won’t. Do your homework, know how to package your product, and put it out correctly.
“My mother is ecstatic that I’m doing well. She doesn’t understand everything about the process, but she’s proud of my brother and me. She’s not looking to get anything back. That’s not why she sacrificed. She doesn’t have those kinds of expectations. She just wants us to succeed. She’s strong. She’s the reason I have energy, the reason I have hope.
“Sometimes I go to dark places, but then I remember that so many of the greats in my life have been told ‘No’ over and over. The greatest person in my life, my mom, has been told ‘No’ a million times. She hasn’t had it easy. In the government housing where we lived until I was 21, even the pizza man said ‘No.’ He wouldn’t deliver there. So I don’t give up. I can’t be upset when I hit obstacles. So I don’t get to play a particular venue? That’s OK. I just say: That’s all right. This ‘No’ is getting me closer to my next ‘Yes.’”