Second Home

moment captured by ArtLikeUs

moment captured by ArtLikeUs

This past weekend was a bit of a blur. The crew and I set out to perform at two events in Pittsburgh. The first event was the DreamOn Festival at Market Square on August 4th and the second was Writings On The Wall IV w/ Tribe Eternal at Flow Lounge on August 5th. The DreamOn Festival was familiar territory because we performed there last year . Becoming a staple in an annual festival is a BIG deal so I definitely don't take it for granted. The vibe was incredible and it was dope we got the chance to be a vendor as well. We set up shop both days of the festival and that RTC merchandise went flying off the rack. People loved what we represented and it didn't hurt that our merch is dope.

The Writings On The Wall IV w/ Tribe Eternal was a new experience though. First off, Tribe Eternal is such a dope collective as well as dope people. They're humble as hell, work hard as hell and are in love with the music. It was evident when speaking with them after our performance on Friday. We spoke about the need for a safe space to participate in art and just be, how our music scenes are similar but different, the violence in the city and more. We vibed right away. The Flow Lounge, which they owned, was littered with paintings, drawings, pictures and life! I knew this show was gonna be special. No doubt when the next night rolled around I wasn't disappointed.

Soooo many people came out to support and show love. There was body painting, drinks, food, a wall with a canvas for everyone to paint on, henna tattooing, jam sessions, DJ's mixing, etc. All around dope vibes. Just beautiful people having a great time. Mic Blaque, DJ Skate Key, Obeah, The Muse & I rocked the hell out of that crowd. Everyone was moving and smiling and all around having a good time. The energy was unreal. After our set we mingled with people, sold more merch and acquired some new opportunities out there that I can't speak on till it's finalized. Pittsburgh is definitely becoming my second home.

#UnfinishedFriday

So I've recently decided to start a series where I drop a new joint on Fridays called #UnfinishedFriday. This will be an amalgam of previously unreleased, unfinished, unpolished records and freestyles recorded these past few years. Some joints didn't make Appreciation Day and others were songs I've recorded for projects that will never see the light of day. I usually hold onto records until I feel they're perfect but I wanted to share this with ya'll while I continue working on more music. It's gonna be a mixed bag lol. I hope you enjoy this.

 

Team Appreciation

No wo(man) is an island. We admire those that have fought their way from the bottom into a more comfortable space. But no one is actually self made. Help comes in many forms. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Those that came before us and paved the road with their blood, sweat and hard work so we'd have a smoother ride.

 

Being a creative/entrepreneur is a 24/7/365 painstaking process of making mistakes, learning, researching, planning, executing, taking losses and counting your blessings when you win. Doing it alone would mean to wear all the hats and, though not impossible, is a move many of us literally cannot afford to make. We need a team. Not just a crew of rappers that all do the same thing and can't figure out why they aren't progressing. A team of creatives where each person has a different skill set that contributes to the advancement of the individual as well as the whole.

 

I've seen and experienced first hand the difference a team can make in ones career. From photographers/videographers that give you impeccable visuals, engineers for those quality records, producers  that can help shape your sound, stylist for the fresh look, marketing strategists that implement plans to promote music, merch, shows, etc. and so on. These are the people that help shape you as an artist and create your content. This can be the difference between achieving ones goal and failure.

 

So dear artist, if you have these people on your team, or you employ them when needed, make sure you appreciate them. Shout them out, tag them in work that they've done for you and for the love of God, don't use the IG filter on their work.

Travels: Pittsburgh

Last summer me and the squad went on a tour where we performed at festivals in and out of town as well as local shows in our hometown, which we called Respect The Summer. The entire experience was amazing but I enjoyed one show the most. It was The DreamOn Festival, which is a 2 day music, ice cream and arts event on August 5th-6th in Market Square, Pittsburgh, PA. There's a couple of reasons as to why this gig was my favorite.

So we arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday evening and the city was beautiful. The buildings surrounding Market Square were interesting because none of the architecture matched. Each building had its own unique, creative structure, giving it a very artsy scenery. After checking in to the hotel, we headed back to Market Square to check out the area and watch some of the performers scheduled for that day. 

One of the most awesome things about The Dream On Festival is that it's organized and run primarily by teenagers. The kids, man! From shirt designs, artists booked, customer engagement and so on. I'm proud to experience an event put together by kids that was about community, fun and unity amongst that community. The adults were awesome for nurturing these teenagers ideas and helping them flourish. Mentorship is so important. I cannot stress that enough.

 The performance was amazing! We had a 40 minute set and utilized every second of it. Mic Blaque, Lindsay Leelong, Dj Skate Key and I left it all on the stage that day. It felt as if we were on 100%. We had so much fun and the crowd reciprocated that energy. They were so surprisingly receptive(I'm always pleasantly surprised when anyone rocks with me lol). You could see folks really listening to the lyrics of each song, dancing and enjoying themselves. 

I haven't performed at too many festivals and I've never performed in Pittsburgh before so rocking at The DreamOn Festival was like killing two birds with one stone. Being able to go OT and spread my music is a blessing so I'm glad I had the opportunity to do so. This particular show gave me the desire to want to do more festivals. It showed me that there's an untapped market that I wasn't exploiting before. Basically, it opened my eyes to more opportunities. It's helped to give me direction. That's why it's my favorite show I've done last year. Hopefully they'll invite us back out this summer. I can't wait.

Happy New Year

    

Happy New Year family. February is when we really start lol. Here we are again. Another year. Another time to get it right. Amidst all the craziness that life has been throwing at us recently I feel invigorated, revitalized, focused. More focused than I've been before. I know what I want, have a good idea on how to obtain it and am willing to do the work.

 For the past two years I've performed at WAY more shows than before but the ones that have encouraged this new focus are the few festivals I've been able to perform in. I did the Brooklyn Music Festival on Governor's Island, the African Arts Festival in Brooklyn, NY and the DreamOn Festival in Pittsburgh, PA. Each one was unique and amazing, though I admit Pittsburgh was the most fun.

 This was entirely new territory and I loved every minute of it. Being able to travel, perform in front of big crowds and introduce my brand, music and merchandise was an eye opening experience. I'm grateful for the opportunities and plan to expand my horizons.

 I say all that to say this: stop holding yourself back! Don't be afraid of your light. Don't be afraid to tread new territory. Don't be afraid to fall. Don't be afraid of your strength.  This will be a year of prosperity. I believe in you the same way you believe in me. Thanks for continuing to ride with me.

Oh, new music on the way!

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The Balancing Act: Artist And Entrepreneur

photo by MoNae Mayweather

photo by MoNae Mayweather

Working on your craft as a creative is extremely time consuming. We dedicate hours, days, weeks, months, years even, learning and developing ourselves. Figuring out our strengths and weaknesses. Finding our limitations and pushing pass them. We constantly strive to be better at what we love to do. Some say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. This is truly a grueling, beautiful process.

None of us want to become that cliche starving artist. Struggling to make ends meet while giving the world amazing art. We'd love to turn our passion into a viable career. Record companies dissolving artist development departments left many of us to figure out how to amass a sizable fanbase, garner attention from music publications, market our music, pay attention to analytics and so on. I don't know about you but this is alot to handle. To be thrust out of the care free artist stable that we were so comfortable in to full on entrepreneur is perplexing. Many of us never reach our potential and fall into obscurity while others are able to get a handle on the situation.

Learning to be an entrepreneur is just as time consuming as being an artist. The sheer volume of attention required to run a business and have it be prosperous is abundant. Let alone focusing on writing, recording, performances, etc. I've seen people abandon one for the other. It isn't easy to balance the two.

I think I'm finally at the point where I comprehend why some artists' art may suffer. Why their work might not be as good as it was before. I'm not excusing it but I understand it. To focus on running your business(es) and creating art is difficult. I've learned this firsthand while working with Respect The Cool. Putting shows together, keeping track of finances, researching different methods of promotion and looking at analytics is some of the things I handle. There are times where I don't write anything for months because of all the work that goes on behind the scenes.

My advice is to pace yourself. Allow yourself time to take all the necessary steps in understanding how to run your business. Separate the creative work from the business aspect and fully submerge yourself into one or the other. It's completely okay if you fall to pieces juggling both. Give the transition time. The business is what draws people to the music but the music is what makes them stay. You want to give 100% to both.

 

Overcoming Jealously As An Artist

As artists we are very confident in our abilities to craft grooves that the world would/should fall in love with. We spend time writing songs, rehearsing for shows, perfecting flows/styles, creating plans to achieve our goals and aiming high. We work to be the best and sometimes feel we are, if only more people could hear us. Here you are; working your ass off to materialize your music career then you hear your friends talking about some other artists. Someone that's amassing a bunch of buzz with their mediocre (or even dope) song. This could be an emerging Kendrick Lamar or Trinidad James. The artists may not make a difference to you. You think to yourself "I'm better, if not just as good, as this person! Why are they on and I'm not? They don't deserve that spot! I do!" You find yourself spending more time being angry and trashing other artists than you do working on your career. You've now stepped into the territory of jealously and envy. You aren't angry at them, you're angry with yourself. You're angry you aren't getting the attention, critical acclaim, mainstream radio interviews, XXL cover, BET cypher, tour dates with packed venues and so on. You want to BE them!

Here's a quick guideline to moving pass these emotions and making them productive.

1. Acknowledge that these feelings exist. It may seem like an obvious step but without doing so you won't be able to move forward and be productive with your craft.

2. Stop comparing your journey to someone else's. That's the quickest way to distract yourself and kill your passion. Some people don't pop until later (Jay-Z at 27) while others get their careers going pretty young (Bow Wow at 13). Your story isn't anyone else's. Embrace that. Move forward. You'll be alright.

3. Turn them into inspirations. Research what these artists did to put themselves in the position they're in. Did they hire PR to help them work a project? Did they make connections with local DJs? Did they perform whenever possible (open mics, pay to perform) or be selective about opportunities that came their way? How did they get to the point where they can sell out a 300 capacity venue? You'd be surprised how much can be learned even from an artist you don't like.

4. Ask yourself if you are doing everything possible to take your career to the next level. Have you researched different marketing plans? Have you sacrificed hanging out with the homies/family/significant other to spend time or save up for your career? Are you applying for day jobs with a higher pay? Are you learning how to navigate and be effective on social media? Did you copyright your artist name? Too often we, specifically lyricist, expect our music to do all the leg work. We forget that this is the MUSIC BUSINESS. Do yourself a favor and brush up on the business side of this industry. You won't regret it.

5. Remember, many of these overnight success' are actually years in the making. Some folk claim to only be pursuing music for a short time before they fell into success but many more have been working at this for many long, grueling years. From performing in front of 5 people at a nightclub, hearing NO more times than they can count, juggling a day job, sacrificing time with loved ones, making mistakes along the way and so on. These people are just like you! They've struggled just like you. They've seen others succeed and had to wait for their stars to align. You can/will do the same.

 

To wrap it up, don't compare your journey to anyone else's. Research other artists to see what they've done right. Exhaust all your resources in advancing your career.  Keep in mind these artists are just like you. Work hard on you. Through smart work and dedication this life is very attainable.

 

P.S. Stop hating.

The Appreciation Day Show Recap

WHAT. A. NIGHT. Thee Appreciation Day show was a success! THANK YOU to everyone that came out and supported the young gods. It's because of good folk like you why the show was phenomenal! Shout out to my team and the band as well. You guys are great!

 

 So this was the first Respect The Cool event of 2016 as well as the first event centered around my Appreciation Day [EP]. I almost had a breakdown putting this event together hahaa. Seriously! I wanted it to be as close to perfect as possible. From the performance to the gift bags to the DeeJay to the merchandise to the aesthetics to the winnings for the raffles and so on.  So much work and preparation went into this event. I wanted it to be an intimate experience so we set up chairs and dimmed the lights so folk would be able to relax and enjoy themselves.

 

One hour before the doors opened me and the band, RTC Experience: Justin Clouden on the drums, Hassan on bass & Tina K on vocals, did a quick rehearsal to make sure we had everything down pat. I was visibly a nervous wreck up until that point. This was my first event after all and I was so uncertain of how the turn out would be. By 7pm the deejay, Skate Key, started spinning and thirty minutes later people started pouring in.

 

Lindsay Lee Long hosted the event. She was as charismatic as ever, disarming the crowd with her charm and prepping them for the night ahead. The homie Mic Blaque opened up the show with an electrifying performance once people were seated and comfortable with their drinks and snacks. The crowd loved his high energy, hard hitting lyrics, African centered message and occasional jokes. 

 

After Mic's performance we had a brief intermission to do the raffle tickets and give out the prizes. I gave out 3 prizes which consisted of an RTC hat, RTC hoodie and an Appreciation Day shirt. I even gave away an extra Appreciation Day shirt because I felt so good about how things were going. It was time to dim the lights again and start my performance.

 

 I've trained for this! I've put my time, energy, money and life force into this! I've gotten little to no claps before. I've gotten blank stares before. I've listened to all the constructive critiques from my peers and teammates. Everything I've been through culminated through my performance that night! All the anxieties, self doubt, depression, glossophobia, brilliance, arrogance, short comings and so on were put on display. I let people inside my world that night. I gave them all of me and left no stone unturned.

 

I played with RTC Experience to give the music a live element to it. I would have the band groove in-between songs so I could speak about the experiences that lead me to write each record. I ended the show by displaying two unrecorded songs, the band only heard the music but not the songs, which the crowd welcomed with applause.

 

After the performance I was met with hand shakes and hugs. People told me I inspired them! Me! They connected with me that night. I connected with them. We related to one another through our pains, aspirations, hopes and goals with the help of a funky bass, hard drums, sultry vocals and ferocious yet emotion filled lyrics.

 

It was an experience that i'll never forget. thank you to everyone that came out to the Appreciation Day show. Thank you for lending your ears for my 1 hour on stage. Thank you for the love and support. Thank you.

 

Check out the photo gallery of the show at the bottom.

 

                          All photos by MoNae Mayweather

Moving Back

I am from Brooklyn, NY. Born and raised. Spent most of my life here. Moving to another state was a big deal for me. Away from everything that I knew. My family, my friends, my job, my music, my city. It's been a year and a half since I was gone. A year and a half since I've performed, recorded or even attended a show. So much anger and frustration was building at this point. So much doubt in my own ability to achieve my goals. I wrote a lot during those times.

         

                                                                                           

                                                                                           

 

Fast forward to July, 17th 2014. My first day back in NY. The Big Apple. The Concrete Jungle. Home. It felt invigorating. Refreshing. Seeing my little nieces surprised faces, dapping my eldest nephew, feeling my mothers tight embrace, feeling that love from my family. I enjoyed two weeks of down time with them. Two weeks of being Sparky the horse to my nieces' Sheriff Callie. Two weeks of helping my parents around the house. Two weeks of catching up with the latest shenanigans of my siblings. I missed it. I've been gone for too long. Being with my loved ones again brought me a joy I can't describe. A great sadness began receding. I knew I'd have to get back to work. Rebuilding my brand wasn't going to be an easy process. But I was ready.

 

I've kept in contact with Mic Blaque, rapper/engineer in Brooklyn, the entire time I was away. We've built a great relationship with one another while I was in NY.  We've performed together a lot and I've recorded at his old studio. He even featured me on his Intermission project in 2011. He was more than just a rapper I knew or an engineer that recorded me. We were friends.

 

He was building and growing his brand. Performing and connecting with various people that could help him along his journey. I always showed him support in any way that I could. We were both excited that I would be joining his movement. Formed to help each other and others catapult our careers to higher heights. Mic was the one that motivated me to release some new music in 2015. I had so many ideas I didn't know where to start or how to organize them. An inspiring( and tiring) conversation with Blaque at 3am helped to give birth to my Appreciation Day EP. Took some months to knock that out and the response has been great so far.

 

I've accomplished more this past year than I have the past 10 years of pursuing music. I've performed at many shows and have helped to put successful events together. From SOBs to Spike Hill to Smash Studios and a slew of venues around NYC. In Oct 2014 I opened for Nitty Scott at The Paper Box. I've also helped to organize a show out in Washington, DC ( my first out of town show ). I've spent more time in the studio, most times all day and night, perfecting my own tracks as well as working with other members of the team. I shortened my name from Abyss Da Dark to A.B. so that I could potentially broaden my audience. I helped to turn Respect The Cool into a company and we now run Respect The Cool Studios which is currently located downtown Brooklyn.

 

It makes me very emotional when I think about how much has changed for me in a year. I promised myself that my life would be different and it is. There's a lot to be proud of. But, much more work needs to be done. And this is only the beginning.

Travels: DC

What a weekend! This post is coming a tad late but hey, better late than never. I wanted to express my experiences while traveling out to DC to attend the 20th year anniversary of the Million Man March and performing out of town as well. Where to start?

So the team and I have been planning an event out in DC to take place the day after the #JusticeOrElse March in partnership with #CHACCDC x @kayemjay6 called #RespectTheDream. It was to be a night of entertainment, art and discussions.

Most of us arrived in DC Friday night at Union Station. After a 4 hour ride on a small bus I just wanted to eat and relax. This was going to be a busy weekend. Early Saturday morning we headed out to get a good spot.  We reached around 10 a.m. and it was already packed! A sea of people as far as your eyes could see. Many beautiful shades of brown faces filled with pain, hope, joy and anticipation. Many people from different religious, ethnic, social and economical backgrounds tied together by this shared experience of struggle, discrimination and otherness. Signs, flags, shirts and buttons conveying this message of rage and unity. It was overwhelming. Black and brown people all around building with one another. We bumped into some like minded folk and shared our struggles as artist creating spaces to unite and spread this motivational message.

Saturday was invigorating.

Sunday was our event #RespectTheDream. It was being held at Congress Heights Arts & Culture Center located in Southeast DC. This was our first out of town event we were putting together. I don't know about the rest of the team, but I was a little nervous.

Everyone involved did a lot of promoting, but you can never be too sure how it'll turn out. Fortunately, my fears were put aside once people started spilling in. We provided food and drinks for the people. Very chill and laid back kind of crowd. The performance portion couldn't have went any better. Me, Mic and Akil bared our soul to the audience.

Everyone was soooo receptive to our message of motivation, inspiration, love and unity. The energy was unforgettable. I love the intimacy of small crowds. Looking everyone in the face as your give them all of you - seeing each and every person's reaction to your words. I've performed in packed venues that hold 100 people and it doesn't compare to that feeling. We were able to build with everyone there after our performance.

I'm really proud of my team. We came together to work this event and it was a success. I can't wait to go back to DC.

All photos by MoNae Mayweather

Travels: PA

Saturday, May 30th 

First off: peace to the mighty mighty Marsten House. I asked for the opportunity to be a part of Circuit Cyphers. I sent them my EP and they gave me a slot. So I'd like to thank them guys for that. Any artists looking to expand their brands and meet some dope folks, I'd suggest hitting them up.

MoNae Mayweather, #TeamRTC's creative director, and I left early that morning to hop on the YoBus to Philadelphia. From Philly, we hopped on 2 buses to Abington, PA. It took about 3 hours all together. So you can imagine we were a little tired... and hot. It was so hot that day, like 80 degrees, I think. Definitely hot.

When we finally reached the studio, it was nothing but love. Artists from Milwaukee, Chicago, Arizona, New Jersey, and a host of local talent all under one roof. No egos involved.

Everyone was there to spit bars and build. It was my first time hearing the beat I'd rap over. As I'm there reciting lyrics in my head, I realized the verse I wrote didn't match the beat.

So I did what any artist would do: improvise. I spit a different verse in the cypher and used the original on the acapella. You can peep my acapella video below.

All and all, the experience was great. After the cypher, we hung for a bit and spoke about being more than just a "rappity rapper"... being able to write songs and give a great performance on stage. It felt good to run into artists that are cool, down to earth and dope.

We left the studio a little later than expected and ended up missing our intended bus back. We had to leave an hour later and didn't reach NY til around 10. Didn't reach Brooklyn til 11. It was a fun, productive, exhausting day.

all my photos by nae

Appreciation Day

Appreciation Day is my thank you to all of the people who have supported, inspired or encouraged me along this journey of mine. Thank you for contributing & keeping me on track. May this project help to return the favor.

This EP is inspired by a 2 year hiatus, personal problems & a 3AM conversation with friend/rapper Mic Blaque. This is for all the folk who never give up on their dreams.

Artwork by MoNae Mayweather.

New Music: Dreamers Anthem (1st Single off the Appreciation Day EP)

Prepping for the release of his EP, "Appreciation Day", A.B. (formally known as Abyss Da Dark) hits you with the first single entitled "Dreamers Anthem".

For those not satisfied with the 9-5 routine.
For those willing to sacrifice and endure.
For the creatives, eccentrics, weirdos, outsiders.
For those that do not fit so neatly into the monotony of society.
For those that dare to dream.