“Can’t Knock the Hustle”
(Hard Work Really Does Pay Off!)
Jay-Z definitely got his hustle on, and so did I. I’ve been working since I was 13. I sold candy in middle school, worked at an ice cream parlor in the 9th grade, at Six Flags in the 10th grade, served as a Security guard in the 11th grade and did a telemarketing gig in the 12th grade. Once I realized my passion was music, I was a beast and I wouldn’t stop until I got a job in the business. Like Soulja Boy said: “We gotta hop up out that bed and turn our Swag on!”
I got up every day, put a smile on my face and knew I had to “Make It Happen,” just like Kevin Liles did! When I was in high school, I used to go up to V-103 radio in Atlanta and volunteer with Ray Boyd (then Program Director). I knew it would be a great starting point for me to get into music.
Although I got my start back in the early 90’s, some of the same principles still apply. By the time I was in college at Syracuse University (SU), where I majored in Television, Radio & Film at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications --everyone thought I already had a full-time position in the game. It was like Eve’s hit “Who’s That Girl?” I was at every necessary function I could attend. You have to be aggressive and learn to get involved in lots of activities relative to your area of interest. At SU, I was an on-air disc jockey, promotions director at the campus radio station Z-89, and a staff music writer for the campus newsletter. I also attended various hip-hop and music industry conferences, and networked with as many folks as I could who were already in the music business (shout out to the Judy Lane crew – JD, Tina, Skeeter Rock, Pat, Chantel & Christi).
Some of the conferences/events included: Jack the Rapper (thanks to Mike Mauldin for getting me a pass), NBPC, BRE, Impact (Def Jam Saturday night party!), Sprite Soul Train Pre-Show, Million Dollar Music Conference and the Hip-Hop Cultural Initiative at Howard University, where I landed my first radio drop from 2Pac for my radio show, and where I first met Diddy (he was known as “Puff Daddy” back then – and I still call him “Puffy”). These were all good people to know and learn from and good people to help me get to where I wanted to go.
By the time the summer of my sophomore year rolled around, I landed a job at Capitol Records as a promotions assistant to Keith Frye, the vice president of urban promotions. I hustled all summer, doing everything that was asked of me, and then some. Next summer Dee Dee Murray, the young lady I was filling in for, returned from maternity leave, but they still asked me back because of the job I had done the previous summer (shout out to Tisha Campbell-Martin and Mona for allowing me to work with them and assist on Tisha’s promo run).
It’s funny, while at Capitol, I realized that the offices for LaFace Records were upstairs from our office. Instead of coffee breaks, I took “LaFace” breaks. I tried to take advantage of every moment possible! I used to go up and hang with Lamont Boles and Sharliss Asbury and they would give me guidance/insight into the biz. They were about to release the “Boomerang” soundtrack, which went on to become a huge hit! I knew that’s where I wanted to be!!
I was well on my way to making my mark in the business because I worked extremely hard, was committed to succeeding, and did not take any of those opportunities for granted. I held myself accountable and let my work speak for itself. You don’t have to front when you’ve got the quality work to show for it. And I did all of this while carrying myself like a lady and respecting myself, which is absolutely essential in a male-dominated industry. That’s what it takes. That’s the choice we have to make to stay on the right path.
-So ladies, as Busta Rhymes said: “What’s it gonna be?”