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A Lesson From Kobe Bryant and Spike Lee

28 Apr


(photo from InsideSocial.com)

One of my favorite methods of procrastination/escapism is watching movies. The storylines and comedy help me get away from my workload for a couple hours, and I can usually find a message in the film that gives me ample reason to get back to my hustle.

The latest film to help in both fronts is “Kobe Doin’ Work,” a 2009 Spike Lee Joint that follows Kobe Bryant around during one of his game days. The bulk of the film is Kobe Bryant breaking down every minute of the game: why he makes certain plays, how he studies his opponents to exploit their weaknesses, the ways he uses and encourages his teammates, and more.

The film connected with me because it felt like a companion piece to my Becoming Undeniable post a while back. Kobe’s definitely a talented basketball player, but his focus to detail was the determining factor in his victory. He knew his opponents’ statistics to exploit their weaknesses, their playing tendencies to always be one step ahead, and he even spoke in other languages to communicate with teammates from other countries. As a manager, I need the same attentiveness: I need to know my opponent – in this case, the music industry – like the back of my hand, and I need to know my teammates’ skills so I can put them in ideal situations to score. As a journalist, I need to keep a keen eye on the latest music news – especially of my interview subjects – and craft my pitches and writing methods accordingly.

Some thought the film was boring, but I felt that the tediousness only made it resonate more. All my fellow journalists know that transcribing interviews is one of the most monotonous tasks of the job. On the management tip, dealing with booking, media and sponsorship logistics is a pain in the ass too. But the game isn’t fun for every minute of every quarter, and you don’t nab that alley-oop on Sportscenter unless you do the grunt work to execute it.

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A Challenge: This Is My Week!

16 Jan

Every December and January, people motivate themselves by saying, “This is my year!” The objective is to make the next 12 months be the gateway to achieving lifelong goals: losing weight, making more money, and more.

But why wait that long? Often, this perspective breeds procrastination, and lacks the planning for immediate results.

I issued a challenge to myself last night: go as hard as I can every day this week. I’ve set lofty goals for myself this year just like anyone else, and the only way I’m going to achieve them is if I make every moment count along the way.

So instead of saying, “This is my year,” starting today, I’ll be declaring something different: “This is my week.” Or even better, “This is my day.” I’m looking to develop the urgency to consistently plant seeds every day, and to hone the patience to watch them grow.

Becoming Undeniable.

31 Aug

One of my true role models in the blogging game, Marcus Troy (above), published a post earlier that really spoke to me. The post was called “Become Undeniable.” An excerpt:

Concentrate, focus and invest your time and energy to becoming undeniable, everything else will fall into place. If you work on being the best at what you do, it will be very hard for anyone to deny you anything. If you become the best candidate for a given position, how can anyone deny you?

…Too many times we just half ass things and scream foul when things don’t go our way. When you are undeniable and the people you perceive to have power decide not to give you that chance, then you can chalk it up to hate. Until then I suggest that you work on becoming undeniable.

Read the rest of the post HERE. For those not familiar, Troy has made himself undeniable in his craft. As one of the premier bloggers and tastemakers in the fashion industry, his resume speaks for itself. His posts are consistently dope. Since his posts are dope, readers trust him. And since readers trust him, companies find his opinion valuable, and they prove his value by consulting him for their products, collaborating with him on other products, and inviting him out to their events all around the world. Though I haven’t spoken to him in detail about this (which I need to, lol), I’m sure he’d say that it all started by focusing on his blog and his networking.

I gave an artist I work with, FowL (@soFowL), the same speech. He was tweeting about how certain artists and fans don’t give him the support and respect he feels he deserves. I hit him up and told him to not be upset when people don’t give him the attention he wants; instead, be so good and make moves so serious that would-be sleepers don’t have a choice but to pay attention. A month or so later, he wins a battle in Detroit that was judged by Eminem (pictured above), and he gets praise from the state’s most respected emcees, and garners coverage from newspapers, magazines and web sites from around the world. He’s still got a long career ahead of him, but this battle was a big step in making him undeniable. It’s tough to deny someone’s ability when he defeats some of the country’s most capable opponents on a national stage judged by the three of the most successful people in that field.

Now, it’s time for me to do the same. I’ve been trying to make myself undeniable for the better part of past decade, and to a certain extent, I have. I’ve written stories that people told me have changed their lives. I’ve landed articles in some of the most respected publications in urban music. I’ve collaborated with superstar artists and producers, and I’ve met and/or built relationships with other artists that inspire me on a regular basis. I’ve spoken to college classes about what I do. I’ve helped mentor young journalists, and see them develop into writers with work that can put me to shame.

But there’s still a lot more work to be done.

XXL, HipHopDX, and URB have all been amazing opportunities for me, but I want to get my work in other magazines I read, like GQ, COMPLEX and others. I want to be like @KelleyLCarter, whose name alone sparks interest amongst every major music publication in the industry. I’m already one of the undeniable voices for Michigan’s hip-hop scene, but I want to build that reputation even more. I co-manage a collective of artists (@BLATpack),  and I want to get myself to the point of role models/mentors like @HexMurda and @Six_Two, where my artists’ success speaks to my abilities and my hustle. I want to make

And furthermore? I want to drive something crispy, and lay my head in a home that’s even crispier. I want to be able to buy things without having to look at how much they cost. I want to get deals like Eskay of NahRight, who got pegged by Nokia to endorse their line of laptop computers; or Marcus Troy, whose opinion is so valued that he’s able to become a creative part of the products that he has enjoyed for so long. I want to be like LeBron James, where even my bad decisions end up raising millions of dollars for people in need.

How will I do these things? By becoming undeniable.

Creating deadlines. Meeting deadlines. Utilizing every damn one of my contact entries in my BLAT!berry. Milking every possible creative idea from my mind, and making them a reality with my talents, my network, and my ambition. Get follow-through like Ray Allen’s jump shot. Create a viable, digestible brand for every one of my artists. Knock out a certain amount of album reviews and feature interviews every week, no matter what. Three album or mixtape reviews, and one feature interview – whether it’s for another publication, or for this here web site Speech Is My Hammer. Wake up every morning by 8AM, no matter how late I’m up working. Leaving the crib in a button-up shirt, tie, slacks and suit on a daily basis; if I’m not at work already, I better be on my way to work, or be dressed for the occasion if duty calls.

Let’s get it.

Success + Challenges = Progress.

18 Jun

Throughout my professional career, success and challenges have been equally important to me. Challenges give me something to strive toward, but success lets me know that I’m doing something right. Matter of fact, I think that’s my personal new definition of “progress”: success + challenge. It’s something I’ve come up with through my incredible group of colleagues: Kelley L. Carter, Marcus Troy, Meka Udoh, Marcel Friday, Arasia Graham, and others have found a way to get both of these, and it’s how I can tell they’re moving forward.

Less than two hours ago, I interviewed one of my idols, Pharrell Williams, as a part of N.E.R.D. for HipHopDX. About minutes ago, I received an email asking me to write my fourth article for AOL Black Voices’ new site, theBVX.com, about technology – a field I’ve never covered professionally before now. And I’m typing on my Blackberry as we speak, half an hour away from counseling/mentoring juvenile delinquents to help them change their lives. And I’m co-A&Ring my second project with one of the most respected brands in street music.

Success.

But I can still become a better manager for my artists, JYoung The General and p2dahi. My editor for theBVX.com is pushing me to work on innovative ideas instead of normal humdrum tech stories. My dude Meka is speaking on blogging panels and getting featured in The Source magazine (HE’S getting interviewed, not the other way around), he has a column on XXL’s web site, AND he’s DJing. Marcus Troy is a true tastemaker, covering events and what he loves while traveling around the world. And Kelley Carter is freelancing her ASS off right now for goto publications. I want to do everything these cats are doing.

Challenge.

Thanks to those who have helped or supported my succeess and even more thanks to those who keep pushing me. I won’t let you down.

-William

Sunday Sentiments (10-18-09)

18 Oct

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This past Tuesday, I spoke to a journalism class at Michigan State University about the ups, downs, ins and outs of freelancing. I was nervous as shit – I knew that my opinion/experience was valuable, but I thought I’d get scatterbrained and get off-focus – but it turned out really well.  The students were receptive, and some of them even asked questions. The professor was cool too. I felt really good when I walked out of there, because as much as I love what I do, I love it even more when I can help someone else do something they’re passionate about as well. Also, my pops is an English professor at a college, so it felt like a passing of the torch of sorts.

Other Sunday sentiments:

  • Last night, I went to a benefit concert for Hex Murda, a Detroit hip-hop manager/bodyguard/everythingelse who’s in the hospital after having a stroke. Incredible music, incredible vibes, etc. I want to be the type of person that can influences so many people that their name alone can bring together hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people for a united cause. Seeing that many egos, artists, and aspiring hustlers all in one place, but putting all of their ulterior motives aside to work for one cause was really moving to me. That’s what I hope to be someday, and I think I’m on my way.
  • Don’t be friends with people that are toxic to your life. I’ve tried to just decrease my interactions with people that weren’t contributing a lot – just contribute a little to them the same way they only contribute a little to me – but it’s not working. I go hard for everybody in my crew, it’s too difficult to differentiate who deserves what. So it looks like I’m having to make my circle smaller (c) Guilty Simpson.
  • It’s amazing how people try to put so much emphasis on “right” and “wrong,” when it almost never has anything to do with…well, anything. Instead, it’s either about the perception of what’s right or wrong, how someone can benefit from it, or how someone feels. You can argue with a woman and be completely right…but the way that she feels is going to dictate where the relationship goes. You can pitch an idea to a company that’s charitable to a great cause, but if that cause isn’t going to get positive press or future money for the company, then it’s not going to happen. I know this is a given, but it’s still a trip seeing it in action every day.
  • I’m proud of Royce Da 5’9″. He’s always had some of the best talent in rap, but with this album Street Hop, he finally has an album that shows everything that he can do. One of the Top 10 albums of the year. Review coming soon via Metro Times.

Talent & Winning.

19 Jan

My homie Danya Steele put me onto Rev. Run’s Words of Wisdom, which are the tidbits that Run types in his blackberry at the end of every episode of Run’s House. They get to my email address every morning, they’re almost always relevant to what I’ve got going on at the time. This morning’s:

Good morning. God gave you talent… Now what? Develop it!  –John Maxwell

Yeah, back to work.