I just did a swing of shows in New England with MC Observa and Coach K. While I was up there, the homie, DLabrie, out of Oakland had just finished doing a couple of shows in the area, and wanted to hop on some of our dates. Naturally, we made it happen. Crazily, our first show was randomly with another “tour” friend, Lejend, and his fiance, B-Marie out of Dallas.
After the show, we all crashed at my hotel room. I know cats are thinking, “Damn, y'all had all of those people in one hotel room?” The correct answer is yes, but there’s levels to it. The first level is that I upgraded my room to a two bedroom suite, and Observa canceled her room once I realized everyone was going to be crashing with me anyway. Second level is that when you’re touring, you have to save money anyway you can. If that means someone is sleeping on the floor, then that’s what it means.
At some point in wee hours of the morning, we started to reminisce and tell old tour stories. After all, I’ve been playing shows with Dlabrie since 2006; which means, we have a lot of fucking tales, and we love to debate about the them because we obviously have conflicting accounts.
One particular time though, we agreed on what happened, but we disagreed with the method. It was on one of the “Bring Your ‘A’ Game Tours,” a series I ran from 2005 to 2010. We played a couple of shows in Texas with a hip hop legend that will remain nameless.
After the Austin show, the legend walked up to my merch table, told me I was dope, and grabbed a CD. I said, “Hey bro, great show. That’ll be $10.” He put the CD down, said thanks, and moved on. DLabrie felt like I might’ve come off a little disrespectful in my delivery. Which in hindsight, maybe it was possible that how I said it was a little raw. In all fairness though, I was thrown the fuck off by dude just assuming that I setup and sat at this merch table just to give it away.
DLabrie also believed that I should have just given him a CD, because the cosign on social media could’ve meant much more than $10. I totally disagreed with that thinking. As a rule, I don’t give away merchandise at my shows. Why, you ask? Well, there are a lot, but here’s my top 6:
The exceptions to this rule are:
These are some of the rules that have allowed me to have a 17+ year career as a touring indie music artist. There are folks that have been in the business as long as I have that have a different approach that works for them, like DLabrie. Ultimately, you have to figure out what is best for you and your family. The only advice I would give when doing that is to think about your goals, the mind of your target fan base or buyer, and your annual bottom line.
This was a Public Service Announcement.
I just got back from my first Chinese tour, and it was awesome. So awesome that we’re going back in another 6 months, and plan to do so every half year thereafter; however, there a lot of things that I’ve learned - some from others before I came, and some I found out while I was there. I’m going to give you what I see as my top 5.
1. You have to get a Visa
In order to get into China, for any reason, you need a Visa. They have so many Visa types that it will send your head spinning. DO NOT TRY TO FILL OUT THE VISA APPLICATION ON YOUR OWN. I REPEAT. DO NOT. Instead hire a company that specializes in getting people Chinese Visas. I used a company called China Visa Atlanta. They were able to help me get a 10 year multiple-entry tourist Visa. It wasn’t even listed as a choice on the application.
2. Create a WeChat account
WeChat is China’s largest social media network. Everyone and every company uses WeChat to communicate. You can’t really do business with anyone if you don’t have it. Also, my family had WeChat so we can talk to each other through text and video and voice calls. You can also pay for things through WeChat.
3. Most transactions are digital
Most transactions in China are done via WeChat Pay or Alipay with your phone. In order to use them, you need a Chinese bank account, which, depending on the bank, isn't that hard to start. All you need is a Chinese address and phone number to open one. I used my hotel’s address and my buddy’s number. This is important because bank cards not issued by Mainland China banks won’t work; however, they can be used at most ATM’s to withdraw money. So if you’re not going to get a Chinese bank account, your best bet is to use cash.
4. Traveling China is fairly easy
Traveling China is a pretty clean cut deal. The subway system is great. They have Didi (China’s version of the Uber that could be downloaded from the Google Play or iPhone stores), and licensed taxis aren’t that expensive. Just about every sign has the English and Chinese spelling. People are also pretty helpful, but make sure you have VPN (virtual private network) to be able access your Google Translator because some still don’t speak and understand English well. They will also typically use a translator.So, for the most part, the dialogue will be typing your idea and showing each the translation. It’s weird at first, but gets to be an awesome experience.
The VPN also gets you access to other Google services (Google Maps specifically), Facebook, and Twitter, which are blocked. A great VPN to try is Turbo VPN. You can download it from your respective phone’s store before you get to China.
When traveling from city to city, make sure you use the high speed train or fly. We took the sleeper train from Shanghai to Guangzhou, and it was 16 hours of misery. The cabins are small with 6 beds set up bunk style. I was at the top, and couldn’t even sit up on my bed. Also, there’s really no room to do outside of the cabin to anything.
In contrast, the high speed train second class seats were spacious. There’s someone coming by the whole ride offering to sell drinks, food, and snacks -which aren’t expensive at all. I bought three beers for around 15 rmb, which isn’t even $2US.
5. Most music is free
Most music is legally free via streaming services, so there’s no need to buy them unless you have it on vinyl or cassette. Bring other merch like shirts. This was my first trip so this last point is mostly from talking to other artists; however, I did notice that the vast majority of folks that I came across listen to everything on their phones so there isn’t a need for CD’s really.
One last thing to note is that each city has it’s own identity. So what works in Shanghai may not pop in Beijing the same way; however, they love western music and are gracious to foreigners, in general.
The bottom line is that China is a massive place with a lot of people. There are lot of fans to be made, both native and foreign. So, work it, and get the best out of it.
Being an independent musician is tough. Many artists shoulder the creative and financial burden in the quest to achieve their dreams. Publicity, booking, marketing, and sales are areas that the average artist must take a crash course in to even be able to function on the most miniscule level; however, in learning all of these things you realize that there’s not enough time to do them yourself, and you don’t have the money to hire someone to do them for you. I know this because I’ve been there. I am an independent artist, a business owner, a college student, a father, and a husband. The two things I don’t have are time and money; however, I’ve learned how to leverage the little time I do have with these 3 cost effective tools:
I came across Bandcamp about 5 or 6 years ago. It is a customizable online storefront. The normal account costs nothing upfront to set up or upload music, but they do take a percentage of digital sales on their website. It starts at 15% and slides down to 10% if you made at least $5000 in the past 12 months.
Some of the features they offer are:
Hootsuite and Buffer
Social media is the new street promotion. Artists that don’t believe that are delusional, but posting to each of these accounts separately is time consuming and frustrating. Well, that’s fixed. Buffer and Hootsuite are social media management systems that allow you post to all your accounts at once. Both have free options, but, if you want to really get the best out of them, it’s better to get the monthly subscription. Both start at $10.
You can link your Twitter, Facebook profiles and pages, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram accounts to both. Buffer also does Pinterest; however, there is a Hootsuite plugin called Tailwind that allows you to post to Pinterest also.
Features offered by both:
There used to be nothing worse than people coming up to my merch table after rocking a show, and asking if I took cards. Luckily that doesn’t happen anymore because I have PayPal Here, which is a free app that turns my cell phone and tablet into a point of sale register. They‘ll also send a free card reader that plugs into your headphones jack. There’s no monthly fee, even though, they charge a processing fee for each transaction.
Some of PayPal Here’s features are:
My Thursdays usually consist of waking up at 6:30 am to get Jemal dressed for school, then walking him there with my youngest, Jamen, on my shoulders.
When I get back home, I make Jamen breakfast, turn on Nick Jr, pour myself a cup of coffee, start up the laptop, and begin the business of the day (booking shows, returning emails, blasting to blogs, going over marketing plans). In between all of this, Jamen and I go over ABC’s, read books, play Pokemon, and I lay him down to nap.
By 2 in the afternoon, my wife is home from work, and it’s my turn to go. I’m a manager in the service industry so you can imagine how that is. A whole lot of hustling, smiling, and not enough thank you’s most of the time. On this particular day every week, we get our order in, so I have to oversee getting it unpacked and put away.
I usually leave the job around 11:00 pm, go home, and continue to work on the business of the day til at least 3 in the morning (sometimes overnight). Then I wake up and do it all over again.
No big deal, right? I’m just doing what many people in this world are doing, especially indie artists and musicians like myself who are working hard to make their dreams a reality while living in real life.
What if I told you that while doing all of this, I am clinically depressed?
For those who may not fully know or understand what depression is, imagine feeling like you have a permanent hole in your stomach that is trying to expand throughout your body. Now picture the amount of energy and will that it takes to fight the emptiness from spreading. Feel how exhausting it is. Then think about doing that every day, all day.
Each one of those daily tasks is a mental journey of self doubt to affirmations, but I do them because I know that I have to. I am a father, a husband, and an independent artist. Responsibilities come with each. Sadly though, that’s not enough to keep fueling the ongoing fight waging in my head.
Without casting judgement on anyone that does, I don’t believe in taking medication to help with my depression. For me (reiterating the FOR ME), it would be admitting that I don’t have the self control and discipline to overcome. Besides, there’s a reason for everything. Maybe the depression is preparing me for something that’s going to require me to be mentally tough.
Maybe that thing is fatherhood.
Maybe it’s marriage.
Lord knows that the music industry requires intellectual durability.
So I embrace my depression. I might even go so far as to call it a blessing. Approaching it this way has allowed me to analyze it without panicking, then come up with a few unique ways of dealing with it:
Always look at the bigger picture.
For me, the easiest way to sink emotionally is to live in the moment because that’s when everything goes wrong. Some examples that have sent my plane crashing in the past are:
Keep my emotions in check.
I probably should have put this first. It’s definitely the hardest and most important of the three. Even though most people can’t tell, I’m always a broken egg away from breaking down. Literally, I could spill a cup of juice on the floor, and trigger a crying episode. Over the years though, I’ve trained myself to look at the solution with logic. In other words, rather than focus on the fact that the floor is a mess, I think about what I need to do to clean it up.
Another thing that I’ve found helpful is to smile as much as I can. When I act happy, I tend to become happier. Sounds crazy and overly simple, but it works.
Imagine the worst that can happen.
Let’s say my album isn’t ready in time for its original release date.
Here’s what I imagine:
Producers will probably get pissed off and take back the track they gave me, the promoters and clubs will cancel my tour dates, my fans will stop listening to my music, and other artists may refuse to work with me because they view me as unreliable.
Here’s what really happens:
I’m not writing this for you to feel sorry for or relate to me; instead, I want to give you perspective. Despite my condition, I manage to be a dedicated father, a loyal husband, a hard working employee, a driven artist, and an entrepreneur. I’ve released 13 albums, a documentary, a book, and currently working on a series of short films. I’ve booked, planned and promoted my own national tours. I am my own manager, publicist, creative director, investor, and executive producer.
If I can do all of this with what I go through, then most you should have no apprehensions. Excuses are over people. Go get it!
I’m sitting on a Megabus right now on my way to a show. How did I get here? Well, my dude that I usually perform with, Evaready RAW, has to work. My wife needs our car to transport my 3 children around, and, as you all should know by reading my posts, I’m a determined dude. So I went to www.us.megabus.com and copped a ticket from ATL to Charlotte for $12. The Charlotte to Raleigh (where the show actually is) Megabus wouldn’t work because it would get there after the show; so my DJ, Coach K (who lives in Greenwood, South Carolina) is going to scoop me up on his way to Charlotte. After we perform, he’s going to drop me back off in Charlotte to catch the 6:45 am Megabus back to Atlanta.
This got me thinking, am I unique?
Maybe I’m ego tripping. Actually I’m pretty sure I am; however, that doesn’t mean my uniqueness isn’t true. I have a belief that when I choose to do or commit to something I have an obligation to do everything in my power to ensure that I will see it through. This is true with my music career, my job, and my family life.
Even still, with doing everything in my power, I often fail to achieve exactly what I was aiming for. In failure, though, I’m satisfied that I’ve exhausted all avenues and alleys available to me. Then, I rethink my strategy and go after it again, whatever it may be.
As indie artists, any level of success is due to going the extra mile and doing what the others won’t, can’t, or haven’t thought about doing yet. It is a forever turning carousel of ideas, work ethic, and execution, with the most important being the middle. Failing is part of the process, but quitting is a bunch of bull shit.
A couple of weeks ago I played a show to 7 people...yep, 7 people. Let me rewind a little. I have a tour series called “The Just Bust Tour." What we do is book shows all over with local, regional, and national talent. The purpose is to get independent music in front of crowds that would love it, and present it to them in the right way, as a show with great performances, DJ’s spinning, and dancers (coming soon).
On most occasions, I book 3 shows, then come home and insert myself back into husbandry, fatherhood, and mindless employment. This time, however, there was a little hiccup in the plans. One show fell through, and the other was cancelled. With three weeks to go, that left just the final show, which was 9 hours away. Driving that far for one show was possible, but tough. Very tough. So what would be the logical thing to do?
Right off the bat, one would think to try to reschedule the show; however, with not much time left, it would be pretty hard for the venue and promoter to find another act to book in time. This could have several negative consequences. The most critical of which being that we wouldn’t get a show through that promoter or venue in that city again.
Also, I’d already spent money on flyers and posters. Besides, we’ve played this particular place on more than one occasion, and averaged between 70 to 100 people a show. So there was no reason to think it would be different; however, it was. By the time of the show, which was around midnight, there were 7 paying people who'd come through the door.
Now, I could’ve pulled the “ungrateful artist” role that many indies tend to use as their default and argue with the promoters and ask them now useless questions like:
I chose not to, though. Instead, I stayed smiling and professional, conducting myself the same as if the spot was packed to capacity. Went on stage, rocked our set, and thanked everyone for coming to see us. The promoters came to apologize for the turn out. I told them, “It’s cool, you win some and lose some. We’ll both make sure that it’s a better a show next time." The owner of the spot then came up to me, and said, “I don’t know why the crowd was so thin tonight. I’m sorry. You guys were awesome as usual." Then he gave me money from the bar’s cash register to help cover our expenses, even though we were supposed to have just gotten a cut of the door. That covered our gas up to the show and back home. If I would have acted an ass, I would've walked away with a loss.
The moral of the story is that the professional artist always trumps the asinine artist in the long term.
The other day, I’m having this random conversation with this kid (20 year old, which is a kid to me) when he started talking about how he is overworked. After a couple more sentences, I realized that overworked to him meant that he worked 35 hours/week, and, therefore, found it hard to do anything on his off days because he was tired. By the way, before you start thinking that he had a high pressure work environment, he doesn’t. He works at a cafe, during the slow time.
Amused, I shared my life at his age with him thinking that I could give him some perspective. I told him that I was in school (officially though not literally), worked two jobs, paid my own, and was on the train. By the time I was 22, I’d started my first business while still having two jobs. Deciding to take my passion for hip hop to a professional level at 23. About how I’ve slept an average of 4 hours/day since. I even added a couple of cliches like:
“Work now, rest when you’re dead.”
All dude had to say was, “Damn man, if I don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep I’d really be out of it.” At least 8 hours? I also forgot to tell you that this guy isn’t in school, lives with his parents, and doesn’t even have a car note. Sleep should be the last thing on his mind.
Why would I think that he would be any different than what he was? After all, we live in the world of instant information at the touch of a phone, helicopter parents that hover around their kids continuously from birth until college graduation, bully laws that expel children from school districts because they called another child names, being rewarded for being especially mediocre so feelings and self esteem are intact, and becoming famous for doing stupid shit in a video on Youtube.
We are robbing the younger generation of the most precious human ability: To learn from and overcome adversity.
I love the NFL. Not “paint my face and yell obscenities in the freezing cold with my shirt off” love it, but you know... I’m black, and we don’t do that (unless we’re in Oakland). A few Sundays ago, I had the privilege to witness the post-game speech from Chuck Pagano.
For those who don’t follow the NFL, Chuck Pagano is the first year head coach of the Indianapolis Colts who was diagnosed with Leukemia, and was on a leave of absence from the team to get chemotherapy. The previous year, the team went 2-14, and this year, at the halfway point, they’re already 5-3. For whatever reason, today he decided to join the team and made an impassioned soliloquy after a win over the Miami Dolphins that I felt blessed and honored to have had the opportunity to listen to during a highlight reel.
The part that had me at hello (Jerry Maguire reference) was at the beginning:
“I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision, and that you weren’t living in circumstances. Cause you know where they had us in the beginning. Every last one of them, but you refused to live in circumstances. You decided consciously as a team and a family to live in a vision. And that’s why you bring things home like you brought home today. That’s why you’re already champions, and well on your way....”
It brought me to tears, and inspired me to think about my life.
By the beginning of 2005, I was a beast. I’d just dropped my first solo project, “Sometimes You Gotta Stand Alone,” and was touring like a mad man. In the process, I discovered that it was easier to book a tour when it had a title to it, so I created “The Bring Your ‘A’ Game Tour Series.” I touted it as the fastest growing Indie Hip Hop Tour in the country, which may or may not have been true.
Twice a year, I (along with my compadres, Evaready RAW and DJ Metrognome) would load up in the car and travel from city to city rocking crowds. For over two years, it was great. It was more than great. Then 2008 arrived, and the bottom fell out.
Here’s what happened:
Lori (now my wife) and I, after working together for almost a year, became a couple. Then shortly after our declaration for one another, I left our job for what I perceived to be a better opportunity only to be told after a month and a half that the company was closing...so I was unemployed. Also, we found out Lori was pregnant with my second child, Jemal. On top of that, my documentary, “Dot It!: A Documentary” (look it up on Amazon) was set to drop. The real kicker happened when the economy reset (or so they would have liked us to think).
People were losing jobs, and settling for shitty underpaying ones. Pensions were being reevaluated because companies couldn’t afford to keep paying them out. 401K’s were diminishing in value because the stock market was down. Homes were being foreclosed on. Our entire financial system was going through the ringer. What did that mean for me?...No shows, and the ones that were there were for 50%-70% less than before.
See ,you have to understand something: We as entertainers are an accessory to people’s lives, meaning that we are a nonessential component in the everyday world of the average person. Our music may nourish the soul, but, last I checked, the body needs food and drink. If someone had the choice of feeding their family, keeping their house and car, and paying bills I would hope that they’d have chosen that over a show or CD featuring their favorite artist named Quanstar.
Luckily (or unluckily if you were me), they did so.
So where I went next was to that familiar place that we all go to at one time or another...“Doing what I gotta do.” What I had to do is get some money, and to get money I got another job that wasn’t as flexible as the one that Lori and I had. It didn’t even pay as much. So my situation was the same as before.
Still, I kept the faith...or did I?
During this tumultuous year, I released “Do It!: A Documentary” and got it screened at several colleges around the country; however, I didn’t have enough funds to actually travel there with the movie. I had planned to rent out a local independent theatre to screen the film, but it costs money. Not much, but more than I had (which was none). I didn’t even have the funds to enter it into many film festivals.
Why was money so low?
I would like to blame it on my shitty job, but, to tell the truth, my jobs never paid my bills. They were basically there for healthcare for myself and Jr (my oldest son), and to be that financial stopgap when I’m not on the road; however, the bulk of my bills, daycare for Jr, and rent was basically paid for through me performing. I’d all but stopped doing that.
Why did I stop performing?
Simply put, I was gun shy.
Here’s the truth about being an indie artist...it’s a hard lifestyle, especially the way I chose to handle my career. I:
I performed these tasks on three to four hours sleep while maintaining full time employment. I loved every minute of it though, because I was in charge of my destiny. All I had to do was stay the course and be patient. I hit bumps. I ran into walls. So what? I got up, dusted myself off, and kept it moving. If rent got into the way of the studio or funding my tour, rent had to wait. Then came kids.
Already grinding harder than most in my position, when my first son was born I’d bestowed so much pressure onto myself to succeed that I don’t know how I functioned properly. I’d made it my mission to show him that a man could do anything he chose, as long as he was willing to commit to it. So I recorded more songs, booked more tours, and slept even less.
I was so intense and intent on achieving all of my life’s visions that I stopped enjoying being an artist as much. I became almost completely task oriented. I’d give myself four months to book a tour, six months to drop an album, etc. This in itself wasn’t a bad thing, but every time one those tasks didn’t pan out I found myself feeling like I let down my son.
In ‘08, that feeling had become a daily thing. The economy had me in a fucked up situation. Then when Lori became pregnant, the pressure doubled. I’d never been so depressed and scared. Rather than coming to bed I’d stay up all night working, often times falling asleep at the computer or while writing a song. My migraines became so frequent that I’d go through a bottle of Excedrin in a couple of weeks. I was up to 3 or 4 pots of coffee a day, and as a direct result from the combination of the medicine, coffee, and the stress that I put on myself I started throwing up blood.
No money coming in from music, bad health, a second kid on the way, and depression. It became too much to deal with so I shut down. Well maybe not shut down, but I stopped taking chances. In the past, if my transportation and stay was supplied, I was there. I would depend on my hustle to pay the bills. I’d stay up all night, walk the streets, and flirt and talk to whoever I needed to in order to sell those CD’s. I’d sell them for $10, $7, $5, $3, and sometimes even $2. I didn’t care. My objective was to get rid of all of my inventory, and come home with whatever I needed to pay my bills.
Most of the time it worked like a charm, but not all the time. It was that “not all of the time” that had me hesitant. There were points, no matter how hard I hustled, where I’d come home with empty pockets to bills on their last notice, frantically calling around to borrow money to cover my losses. With the economy the way it was, I’d trembled at the thought of those few moments turning into a trend. I felt that I had too much to lose to allow this to happen. So I decided to rethink my situation and come up with a new strategy, a better strategy.
I spent weeks redeveloping my plan to not rely on the slumping touring market. I thought and wrote. Reevaluated and reconfigured until I came up with something that helped bring more balance. Thankfully, by the time Jemal was born I felt I did that, and over the last four years, I am proud to say that I’d been working hard to make that plan a reality.
I’ve released four albums, authored a book, and begun designing Android Apps for other artists. It was still a complete failure. I have yet to recapture all of the success that I’d experienced before the economy reset of 2008 because I took the most vital part of my marketing plan out of my repertoire...touring.
Nothing that I could come up with would replace the face to face interaction or pure showmanship of a Quanstar performance. I couldn’t inspire a person’s purchasing impulses. I couldn’t sit down and have a shot with them while talking to them about buying my new album. I couldn’t listen to them tell me about the first hip hop album they ever bought or concert they went to. I didn’t give them the opportunity to tell me about the artists they would love to see me on tour with, or who they reminded me of. In short, I allowed my circumstances to dictate my vision and give it a complete makeover.
I made myself believe it was for my own good, but was it really? Even though I was receiving royalty checks and doing one off dates (shows that are booked one date a time for the layman) I still don’t make much more money, my health is still pretty bad, I don’t sleep much, and the pressure of raising sons (now 3) often feels like I’m carrying a 2 ton weight.
So after deep contemplation and weighing all of the pros and cons it pains to come to the revelation that it’s time to hang it up. I’ve decided to retire. I’m done! I want to spend my remaining years on this earth enjoying it.
I hope ya’ll don’t believe that shit!
See you in 2013 because I’m back on the touring grind. “It’s about damn time!” (In my Lebron James voice).
The other day, I saw the first episode HBO’s Newsroom which is created by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin. For those that don’t know him, I’m sure you know some, if not all, of his works: A Few Good Men, West Wing (my personal favorite), Charlie Wilson’s War, Social Network, Moneyball, etc, etc. This might just be the most brilliant of them all.
Even though I just did, I’m not writing this article to tell you how great he is and highlight his resume. It was more about the Newsroom, or more accurately, the first 10 minutes. Here’s the scene:
Will McAvoy is an anchor on an imaginary show called “News Night”. He is on a political panel at a random college, sitting in between a liberal and conservative arguing with each other about the same shit liberals and conservatives argue over all of the time...everything.
The camera focuses in on him, and, to be honest, he looks like he’s about to have a panic attack. The fade out, he looks into the audience, and as they fade back in the moderator asks if he has anything to add. He replies, “I think we need a more precise definition of perverted”. Crowd laughs.
The moderator then points to the next person to ask a question, ask McAvoy if he is a conservative, liberal, or independent. McAvoy, intending not to offend or take sides with anyone, states that he is a New York Jets fan. Crowd laughs.
The moderator mentions how he always avoids a political allegiance, and asks if it’s because he feels that his integrity as a broadcaster will be compromised? He replies, “It sounds like a good answer”. Crowd laughs.
The moderator tries to press him a little further to find out which side he leans towards to no avail, then moves to the next question.
Enter: The Sophomore Jenny
Her question to the panel is, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?”
The liberal says, “Diversity and opportunity”.
The conservative says, “Freedom and freedom, so let’s keep it that way”.
Mr McAvoy says, “The New York Jets”.
The moderator won’t let him get off that easy this time, and tells him that he needs a legitimate answer. After a little positioning of his words to agree with the conservative and liberal, he then drops a bomb (after brief pause) while being badgered to give an answer.
“It’s not the greatest country in the world Professor, that’s my answer”.
The moderator tries to confirm what he said, and McAvoy confirms. Then continues to go on this rampage where he tells the liberal that the reason that no one likes liberals is because they always lose, and mocks the conservative for talking about freedom is what makes this country great because over 180 countries have the same thing.
He then goes in on Jenny The Sophomore or as he refers to her, “Sorority Girl”.
“There is no evidence that supports the fact that we are the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-seventh in life expectancy, one hundred and seventy-eighth in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories:
Then he scolds her and all of the students that are there to see him by yelling, in the best bitter old man voice that has, that they are part of the worst generation ever. The auditorium is silent.
He then starts part 2 of his monologue by saying, “It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We raged wars on poverty not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. Put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chests. We built big things. Made ungodly technological advances. Explored the universe. Cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars. Acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to do all of these things and be all of these things because we were informed. By great men. Men were revered.
First step in solving any problem is by recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore”.
In my opinion, the most powerful first eight minutes of a first episode of any show that I’ve ever seen. It made my mind stir and wonder. I saw the argument. I felt his pain and anguish. I understood what was going on in his head, and I knew why he did it.
Then I asked myself...what have I written to inspire that emotion in people?
Does my music, blogs, films, or books inspire people to think about anything other than what they are watching, listening to, or reading by me? I wish it does. Now I’m not of the mindsight that everything that I ever write will be this Shakespearean Masterpiece. I know too many people that try to get deep everytime that lay something, and, to tell the truth, it wears me out to have to listen to that all day. Besides, if you’re trying to be deep all of the time, are really doing it for the right reasons? I mean are promoting thought because you are sincere, or are you doing it so that everyone can say how thought provoking you are?
I’ve been on both sides of that mirror. I’ve written songs on subjects that made me cry while writing them; however, I’ve also written shit for the sake of my own self assurance through the eyes and ears of my listeners. That becomes addictive...and dangerous.
People are influenced, and when I say people I mean everyone. No ideas are completely original and most behavior is learned. The clothes we wear, the computers we own, and the type of phone that we talk on was inspired by something or someone.
Even emotions are at the behest of the influencer. Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries was booed in almost every arena he played in last season because he was being divorced by Kim Kardashian. Biggie and Tupac had entire coasts beefing with each other. Radio commentators, like Rush Limbaugh, influence Republican party policy through his listeners. Dave Chappelle had every White kid in America claiming they were “Rick James Bitch!”
So the question remains..do I inspire people, and, if I do:
I would like to have a positive impact. To think that my words are a call to action for most people. Enlighten them to whatever was in my heart and compelled me to create, and hopefully find their own meaning through what I’ve presented to them.
With all of the information that floats and flows on the 24 hour cycle, who knows whether the things that I put out influence people to do anything but listen, read, or watch my projects. All I can say is that I put my all into it, and will continue to do so until I feel that I’m no longer influenced by myself. At that moment, it would be time to go to Las Vegas and drink myself into oblivion.
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.