When I was younger, I loved to read. Whether it was Harry Potter and other fictional stories or biographies of celebrities I looked up to, especially Eminem, I’d often have my head in a book in my early teens. My favourite book of all time, Slam, now has a Netflix adaptation I’m scared to watch in case it ruins my memory of the story.
I don’t know when or why I stopped reading books, and instead started to spend evenings binge watching Netflix series’. While planning content for TheRootMusic relaunch I made a note of the fact today is Read A Book Day. I thought to myself about hip-hop books I’d read, and realised that I hadn’t read a book since Uni, and even then I only really Google searched for quotes I needed to back up my point.
So many books have been released recently that I want to get into. DJ Semtex’s Hip-Hop Raised Me and DJ Target’s Grime Kids and even The Book Of Yoh, a collection of Travis ‘Yoh’ Phillip’s best work as part of Amir Said’s Best Damn Hip Hop Writing series. These are all people I look up to. All people who’s words I know will leave a lasting impression on not only my career, but my personal life too. Yet, I keep telling myself I won’t have time to read them.
I’m too busy trying to build my own career to get to the point where maybe I can write a book. I’ll listen to Semtex and Target on radio and read Yoh’s DJ Booth features regularly but a book feels like a big commitment.
Last night, I made the conscious effort to dig out one of the last books I read. Jamal Edwards’ Self Belief The Vision has sat in a drawer gathering dust for a couple of years now. The book works on two fronts. On one hand it gives insight to Jamal Edwards’ brain and his story as he built SBTV to become the behemoth business it is today. On the other hand Self Belief The Vision is a self-help book setting challenges for readers to build confidence and lay foundations to launch a project.
I must have first read the interactive book when I was around 19 or 20. Probably too old at the time for the books target audience. Looking back, Self Belief The Vision is perfect for kids in the latter stages of High School who have an idea of what they want to do. The problem is I didn’t have a clue what my career would be when I was 16. I flipped from chef to translator to graphic designer to film maker before eventually finding a passion in music media when I was 18.
I started TheRootMusic when I was 18 years old, without a clue it was a potential business. It was meant to just be an outlet that happened to help with mental health issues I had at the time. The blog quickly became something way more but it was also way before I was ready.
I found myself reading Self Belief The Vision but in a passive way. I appreciated Jamal’s words of wisdom but there was no way anxiety filled 19 year old me would have ever followed any of the challenges consciously, and I felt I’d already gone beyond the start up process at this point.. Besides living on the outskirts of Newcastle, there’s not exactly a load of opportunity to walk past media company buildings when there aren’t any between my house, work, school, college etc., anyway.
Instead, I’ve apparently unconsciously taken on Self Belief The Vision’s challenges as the years have gone by. Maybe Jamal’s words were planted in my mind or maybe these things just happened naturally but I found even the coincidence incredibly as I read back through the book last night.
I don’t necessarily have a mentor as such, but I’ve reached out to a number of people throughout the years and received advice from a number of them. From Tim Katoga who gets a thank you in Self Belief The Vision to a number of journalists I look up to. I’ve found myself becoming very good at making contacts, although perhaps less good at using them practically – I still don’t get paid regularly after all this time.
Instead I’m focusing on relaunching TheRootMusic and rather than work for free for other publications try and monetise my own platform. While this article started as a way to get eyes on TheRootMusic, I have found myself genuinely becoming reinvested in Self Belief The Vision. Although I’m possibly a little late in my career not to do some of those challenges, there are certain things that have clicked in hindsight.
One particular gem which is repeated throughout the book is “chase the dream not the competition.”
I’m ridiculously guilty of paying too much attention to what others are doing. Whether its internationally renowned names like the DJ Booth team or the writing team from a couple years ago at SBTV and even recently a friendly local rival in RideMusic. I’ve watched them all probably a little too closely be very good at what they do, and lost sight of what I’m good at in the process.
I’ve been rejected from DJBooth and completely get why. Despite positive social media interactions working with SBTV’s web team never materialised. A collaboration with RideMusic feels inevitable but meetings discussing mergers fell apart too. There’s never been any grudge held there, simply motivation to work harder and develop my skills further.
Which brings us to the relaunch of TheRootMusic. I’m still going to be watching website traffic stats, Facebook insights and Twitter analytics but instead of pulling my hair out trying to compete with others its time to focus on what I’m good at.
I’ve been told I’m a talented writer, and at this point I’ve just accepted that but I don’t necessarily have a conscious technique – I just write. Instead I find my strength lies in ideas for content and networking with people to get them in the right places, to the right audience. Even more, my strength lies in my work rate. I don’t have much of a social life, I don’t work too many hours and 2018 is the first time in 20 years I’ve not been in education. Almost all of my time goes into media work.
There’s going to be at least 100 blog posts on TheRootMusic in September. I’ve written them all, I’ve handled all the SEO details and scheduled all social media. There’s a chance I won’t get the results I’m expecting, but it’ll not be comparatively. It’ll be based on the standards I set myself. This relaunch feels like make or break, its time to chase the dream and not the competition – and maybe get back to reading more books.