Rise pt 2 – Reality Hits You Hard, Bro.
I had all of this on my mind going into my Flavor Fest concert performance. I tried to get my mind clear by leaving the green room and just talking to the Lord. I knew this concert was going to be challenging. I only had 5 minutes to perform so I could only do one song. There was previously an option for an in-house drummer and a DJ to play along with me, but plans had changed at the last minute and I would only be doing my song with a DJ. I actually picked my song based on the fact that there would be a drummer there. As you could imagine, everybody was going to be doing their most hyped songs to get the crowd into it. I figured that I’d deliver a message that I felt we all needed to hear as a Christian hip hop community. I wanted to present a message of surrender to Jesus so I chose my song “I Surrender”. I figured that it would still have that substance that we needed plus the beat would still hit hard with drums backing it. Here’s how it ended up playing out: Canon (who has an insanely high energetic set) went on. Oh yeah, Canon brought his own drummer. Then a guy named Roy Tosh went on. Don’t mind him. He only has over a million Facebook views on one of his videos lol! And even with that, he is not as popular as some of the other artists that were there. He had a leg injury so dude walks out there with a crutch, sits on a stool, and absolutely kills his performance. I still don’t know how he had the crowd into his performance while sitting on a stool. It was obviously less energetic than Canon’s performance, but it was still crazy! And then comes my performance…without the drums. There is a switch in DJ set ups and now the legendary DJ Morphiziz is spinning my track. (DJ Morphiziz has toured with Kutless, Seventh Day Slumber, Acquire the Fire, and KJ-52 to name a few.) For some reason, the track starts out SUPER low. I ask the sound crew to turn up the music. I look at the DJ. He’s trying to figure something out as the song is playing. There’s nothing I can do except to go with it. They eventually brought the volume up about a third of the way into the song. I did my song as best as I could with the Lord help, and got off the stage. I was kind of dejected. They took me to the back to do a media interview. We passed the Rapzilla room (popular Christian rap website), because “who’s Jarrell?” We passed the Trackstarz room (semi-popular Christian rap and media site). We passed the DeMarco Films room (semi-popular), and we went into a room for the two smaller media outlets. One of them passed on an interview with me, but I was grateful for the one who did want to interview me. When my interview came around, they switched interviewers. Instead of the well spoken and energetic host that they gave to the previous popular artists, they gave me a host who would later apologize to me because he was admittedly sleepy during my interview. I was trying to be energetic. He was literally trying to stay awake. After the interview, he says “Man I’m sorry. Let me get your number so we can interview through Skype or something.” He knew that the interview was horrible lol! I had been trying to explain to this guy that we had met online years ago, but he didn’t remember me. So then came the awkward moment when he went to add me as a contact and realized that he already had my number saved in his phone lol! Gaaaaah!
It was confirmation. I realized that hardly anyone knew me outside of a number of circles in my city and a few spots on the map where I had been for my Dreams to Reality Tour. Almost everyone that I performed with at Flavor Fest had thousands of social media followers. I never really thought that was important, but apparently labels do. It’s a way that they help to determine if you have a following. And after thinking more about it, it should be important to me too. It’s not that I want to be some popular rap star. But to some degree, numbers mean influence. And influence allows a person to be a part of both cultural and industry conversations. I feel like I have something to add to the culture – the word of God that pulls people back to a hunger for the presence of God and for His justice in the earth. And I think it could bless a lot of people if they heard it from my vantage point. It’s like I said in my song Burn: “I was made to birth a movement and I can’t ignore it.” I really believe that. So here I am believing that I’m here to start a movement and here comes reality whispering, “You barely have any followers!”
I was given advice about how to increase my social platform, but remember – I’m tired. I’m not looking for another thing to put on my to-do list as an artist. If the truth be told, I’m struggling to fulfill my responsibilities at home and at work due to my music schedule picking up. I haven’t really found that balance yet. I’m trying to be faithful with the people that God has put in front of me. The last thing on my mind is trying to grow my Twitter following. I said to God in frustration, “If you really want me to have a following, then you’re gonna have to bring people to me. I don’t have the energy to chase followers.” I wouldn’t mind trying tips and tricks if being an artist was all that I did. But it’s not. I guess the bottom line is that if I’m going to be successful as an artist, then something’s gotta give. Something’s gotta go.
My wife and I had a long and honest talk on the plane ride back. We decided what we needed to cut.