For an artist living in a small city, it’s a struggle to protect your dreams and goals. Especially when you have no problem sharing your dreams. Ultimately, because your goal is to inspire people, not simply being the first to do it. When you live around hustlers that could easily sponsor your mission but they’d rather use your ideas for clout or profit, it can be disheartening. You try not to be selfish and say to yourself, “Well, the point was to inspire…right?”.
One major reason why artist are so protective of their craft is because they always take the bumps and bruises before people have the courage to try things. You go from being teased for being different, to watching everyone claim it as the new wave. You show people that it’s possible. Then you think back on all the times you were teased. All the times you dared to try, while people told you to pick a more solid goal. It’s a frustrating feeling.
There’s this Tupac quote that I love. I heard it in the intro of Cyhi da Prince’s song “Great”.
“I’m not saying I’m gonna rule the world or I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world. And that’s our job, It’s to spark somebody else watching us.”
You try to see things this way. That you’ve inspired someone. But for some strange reason you feel ripped off. Artist are very protective of their work. Each seed that you plant becomes your baby. A baby you wouldn’t want to see in the wrong hands or mistreated. When you know the impact of what you want something to have on the people, you almost get selfish on how it’s presented. Example. Think about the hit sketch show “In Living Color” or the animated tv series “The Boondocks”. Both shows were taken over and ended because the higher ups screwed with how the show was presented to the masses. Took away from it’s creativity and stripped it of it’s love.
Real artist almost always hates the business side of things. Dealing with dead lines, rushed work, making things marketable, over saturation, and especially not being able to be impulsive. Art is an impulsive hobby. You get inspired and you just go. Do something prematurely, and it’s at risk of being stolen or watered down. So how do you do it? How do you survive as an artist in a world that doesn’t have much appreciation for the arts over money? Reinvent yourself (which I’ve done a lot)? That’s one way. But first you have to understand each art. Art is more than just drawings and paintings. Music, Photography & Video, Martial ARTS, creative writing, dance, and the list goes on. They all fall under the same umbrella. I’ll tell you my different experiences with several arts I’ve explored and how they were encroached.
I love music. It’s therapeutic in many ways. Even if you break down the science of it you start to realize the benefits certain vibrations and frequencies can have on our bodies chemistry. In my opinion, music should feel like an investment. Just like getting a nice haircut, buying a stylish outfit, buying healthy foods, or a useful tool kit. When music speaks to you soul it can inspire you and also help you through tough situations in your life. That, in my opinion, is a great investment. This is the reason why I still purchase records. Good music, real music, signifies a great moment in time. A time in the culture where thought processes changed. A time where art was advanced to another level. Think about every time Lil Wayne dropped an album/mixtape or when Kendrick drops a project. Those moments are defining moments in the culture. Moments worth preserving.
I recorded my very first song in 2004. I actually still have the original master copy. A little beaten up but I have it, nonetheless.
In 2007, I finally was discovered by a record label in California. I was one of the first in my city to sign a real record deal. A record deal with high quality audio production and tv quality music videos. I did two 2 year deals with them before I went independent. I was able to release one commercial album (Daytona Dreams) and two tv quality music videos while under the label.
The business side of it killed some of my momentum, though. I was in desperate need of a resurgence of passion towards a goal. I decided I was going to be an Mixed Martial Arts fighter when I returned to Florida. But we’ll get to the martial arts later on.
The first time I dealt with disheartening business with music was after my record deal. I was in a chat group dedicated to our local artist. One day we were discussing the local rappers and their legacies along with their impact in the city. I discussed how I didn’t think I was appreciated as much, especially since I did a lot of stuff in Cali versus in Florida. The other artist showed their respect and appreciated the things I had done. Yet, there was one female that didn’t agree. I guess she wanted to feel important. I’m not even sure what she actually did. I guess she was a promoter. She proceeded to tell me that no one knew who I was. That I never paid DJ’s to spin my records, she never saw me in clubs, etc. It was hard to understand because everyone in the chat knew who I was. She was the only one that didn’t. Instead of getting upset and arguing I simply proceeded to say “Just watch”. She made me understand that there was a difference between having fans who loved your talent and a artist who had great business relations.
So I played the game. Paid for the major features. I grabbed the biggest artist in my city and the biggest artist in Orlando at the time. I put them on one song. Cost me around 1k. I used that as promotion for a project. I released the audio version that quickly gained 10k plays on Youtube. Next, I released a single titled “The Long Way” which I shot a $900 video for. For the third single I decided to up the ante. I decided to shoot a music video for this song “Doin’ My G” as a short film. This would be my first major production. It also changed the quality of production that would come out of my city.
During this production I ended up writing a full screen play. I rented out a classroom at a school, rented out a pool hall, rented a luxury limo, bought a blank firing gun, fake glass beer bottle, prop money, costumes (police uniform, prison jumpsuit, tuxedo etc), and paid all production cost. Plus, I paid a local studio to do an in studio interview to promote. This complete production cost me close to 3k. So we’re looking at 5k invested in this project so far. This isn’t even including studio cost. This is coming from a kid working a regular job at about 11 a hour at the time.
I created a nice buzz. I seemed to have regained my creative spark. Then I had realized two things. The first thing I realized was that an artist that I had in my music video had tried to copy my idea and release it before me. As if he thought of it first. I sent him the script so he could know his role in the short film. I had a sequence in the music video where I fell asleep in a classroom making everything that happened afterwards a dream. You don’t realize it’s a dream until the end of the video where I woke up and realized it was all a dream. An artist that was in my video took that same idea with the dream sequence and was able to release his version before mine since my production was more extensive and took longer to release. His impact was no where near mine because he didn’t put in nearly as much work as I did. I couldn’t understand why someone would do that, though. It seemed like you would take pride in your own work. Not only that, why would you try to screw over someone who helped promote you in a major production that cost you nothing? To put the icing on the cake, the lady who sparked my entire promo run was no where to be found. She didn’t plan on pushing the music at all. Just wanted to make herself seem like a prominent figure in our local music scene. She wanted to show me that I wasn’t in her in crowd. This would be my last real musical push. I dropped a couple of dope videos afterwards but no real projects. The game was fake. It wasn’t about talent at all, to be honest. People were already chosen.
I stepped away but I still have a lot of love and appreciation for music. I still have an in home studio and can record music at my leisure. My music is a lot more meaningful but more importantly I do it for me. I’ve learned to use the voice I had for better. To uplift my peers and the youth. I also make sure that all of my productions have a meaning or purpose.
Mixed Martial Arts
I’ve always had a love for the art of combat. I was well know in my area for what we called “wrapping-up”. Basically, it’s wrestling and bear hugging but you slam your opponent to the ground with force. You would basically bear hugged each other and fought for a good position until one person was able to lift the other off their feet and slam the other to the ground. That’s how you would win. Crazy I know. We were rough kids. I prided myself on being the king of that. I was short, low to the ground, great center of balance. Very strong for my size, as well. I literally went from neighborhood to neighborhood looking to crown myself. I guess it was short man syndrome.
I didn’t get a real chance to appreciate the art until my little brother introduced me to UFC. This was before they even had weight classes. It was a very brutal sport then. It wasn’t until it’s later years were I could really appreciate the art side of it. When the only difference between two opponents was skill and training. Not just strength and size. I studied fighters as they threw highly skilled punches. Seeing fighters blocks brutal head kicks with proper techniques amazed me. Submissions that would make opponents tap out or even go to sleep left me speechless. It definitely became a sport were you couldn’t just jump in it. You had to be highly skilled. I got into watching Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan after finding out about their Drunken Monkey and Wing Chun techniques. I started to understand the beautiful art behind combat and gained a new appreciation.
My career didn’t start until 2011. I fought my first fight in South Florida. Had 6 months to train. I was very dominant my first fight. I had over trained, though. My arms were completely burnt out. From this experience I learned to never weight train while doing mixed martial arts training.
After a few wins I worked my way up to a title fight. During the process, whoever, a close friend and training partner passed away. His funeral landed on the same day as the title fight. Even though I didn’t want to fight on the same day as my friends funeral I was kind of persuaded to go. “Do it for him”, was the push behind it. I felt he wouldn’t have cared wether I went or not but i didn’t want to let anyone down. I went and ended up losing which made me feel worse. Crazy part is, I was actually winning up until the last 10 seconds of the fight where he got me in a sneaky submission. Once again I was blown back. I felt like the push behind me had started to get the music industry feel. Pressure to produce, win, etc. It wasn’t fun for me any more. Especially after all the training memories came from me and my close friend who had passed. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the sport and tried to fight again several times. I remember jogging the bridges days just crying my eyes out. I wanted to avenge him by stepping back in the ring. But the stars never aligned again. Wether it was due to opponent injury, injuring myself, no shows, missed weight, etc. The title fight would be my last fight. I wasn’t a fan of the harsh weight cuts either. People would cut 20-40 pounds before weigh ins just to gain an advantage of being heavier on fight day. I wasn’t willing to risk it any more.
During my career I suffered a broken nose that required stitches, cracked ribs, stitches in my eyebrow from a nasty elbow, and stitches under my right eye due to an illegal knee. Needless to stay I literally took bumps and bruises for the love of the sport.
I didn’t get the feeling that people used this dream but I did learn a valuable lesson. When I lost that championship fight on the day of my friends funeral I questioned God. Just being honest. Especially after I was winning convincingly. It took a couple years for me to realize that God showed me something. First was I should have went with my heart and not fought. My friend would have loved me for following my heart not trying to prove my love by fighting. Second was just because you love something doesn’t mean its your calling. I inspired a lot of people along the way and helped people gain a lot of appreciation for the sport as well as caring about their health. I still help people learn the basics of striking and grappling. I actually have a gym opening in 2020 that will serve as a gym and community center. I think my proudest moment was when a mother sent her troubled kid to me for boxing classes so that he could stay off the streets. That’s what inspired me to open a gym.
Film & Photography
My interest in film and photography came about in different ways. The first inspiration came when I was signed to my record deal. I was apart of real productions. I’m talking about cranes that held cameras above my head, green screen rooms, huge productions lights, you name it. One of the models I worked with happened to be friends with Paris Hilton which was very dope. I gained a higher appreciation for what it took to put together high quality work. Also, it made me realize that we were entering a new wave of video production, which was the DSLR.
Before DSLR’s, getting high quality production without a major budget seemed impossible without a movie studio or record deal. With the new wave of affordable, yet, high quality equipment great production was right at our figure tips. It seems that almost anyone can take a decent photo. We even have cell phones equip for that now. When I became aware of SLR’s I invested immediately, but let me tell you the sequence of events.
After canceling a fight at a major event a I felt unreliable since it had been two canceled fights in a row. I body just didn’t like the weight cuts. I wanted to make it up to the promoter any way that I could. The promoter said that I could help build and break down the cage. Which was cool, but I wanted to help in more ways. So I offered to interview winners after their fight.
At the time, I only had a small hand held camera. After seeing the first set of interviews I wasn’t satisfied with the quality. When I joined forces with Keedie’s Corner Online Magazine to help write & publish articles it motivated me to invest. I bought a canon t3i, which was a great starter camera for people shooting short films and documentaries. This is what started my journey towards the art of film and photography.
I can admit, I was rushed into this field. I never really got a chance to learn key fundamentals because it kicked off so quickly. I sort of learned everything through trial and error. I only showed my work to promote the interviews for the fighting events. Afterwards, I only wanted to use the camera for personal projects of mine. Instead, I started getting work. I did photos at performances for such artist as Trina, Rich Homie Quan, Trina, Plies, Benzino, Peewee Longway, and others. No big deal but being able to be on stage with them was a surreal moment. I never really wanted to be a photographer. I simply got tired of waiting on people to film things.
When I was able to get up and do my own projects I had a lot of fun. I was able to express in videos what I couldn’t in the music. It’s only when the business side of it got hectic is when I lost a little passion. People not understanding that I had a regular job and wasn’t available 24/7. People that didn’t want to pay at all. People that thought they could negotiate prices. Dealing with people that didn’t understand how long it took to edit. A myriad of things. I slowly backed away from taking gigs. I didn’t even care about the money any more.
Then came the over saturation. Every one became a photographer around me. I had inspired people to pick up a camera which I should have taken as a compliment. Don’t get me wrong, I could very well be one of those people who thought I could just pick up a camera and go. There are people who actually went to school for photography. In my defense, I never wanted to take any gigs. It was for personal projects. Visions of mine that I wanted to see come to life. I wasn’t in it for the money. The market went down quickly, nonetheless. To the point where you could barely make money unless you had industry standard equipment. I wasn’t prepared for that. Some people around me were. They even came to me to tell me I inspired the push. I just wanted to shoot my own stuff at this point. Be completely in control of things. Besides, I always felt like a true artist could always reinvent himself.
I still do persona projects for myself. I’ve released more short films and full length documentaries. I do have a professional goal of directing major films. I’ve learned that with some arts, such as film & photography, you have to choose your gigs wisely. Don’t always say yes to money. Have a standard. Believe in what you are shooting or else it will become a job and not a passion.
When you watch a great movie I think it hardly ever comes to any one’s mind that a person wrote this first. That’s how I think when I watch a film. Like “Wow, who ever wrote this movie was in the zone”. Some actual scripts or screenplays I’ve downloaded and read were “Crash”, “Antwone Fisher”, and “The Pursuit of Happiness”. Another film that I love is “Newly Weeds”.Beautifully written. Watching a film is one thing but reading it is a totally different thing. You get a chance to appreciate the work. A chance to appreciate the writers thought process. You get a chance to appreciate that art of creative writing.
Creative writing was a thing that stuck with me from elementary school. I remember winning several writing contest for my poems and essays. I loved my english and literature classes growing up. I guess being a quiet person made me very expressive through writing. I always had a vivid imagination.
The idea of writing books didn’t come until later on in my life. I simply out grew the short film canvas. I needed to get the stories out of my head. I really did try to do a full production. I simply didn’t have the funds. No support and that’s not anyone’s fault. Support is a privilege that some people have gained through experiences in life. I never cared about gaining relationships. Never thought it would or could effect me until I tried to shoot a film. When you don’t have the budget to hire actors or actresses, you simply have to convince them that it will pay off. Unfortunately, I never created the comfortability for people. I just had a vision I believed in. I expected others to see it. That’s very hard to do. So the next step was to write it and try to get the screen play picked up by a production company.
The novel “Daytona Dreams” started off as a screen play titled “A Game Called Life”. I actually just drew the book cover with colored pencil. After writing the first version on yellow legal paper, I did research on screenwriting. I was actually highly inspired by Antwone Fisher and his story. This is when I learned the format of screen writing. Or should I say the “art” of screen writing. I was fortunate enough to get a screen writing app for free. As a guy was working on my laptop I explained to him what I was working on and why I needed the laptop to be fixed. He was able to transfer his script writing app to my laptop for free. This is what elevated my writing in a major way.
After completing the script I learned a valuable lesson about certain platforms such as screen writing. The people who receive scripts, receive tons of them. They weed them out by how they are formatted. If they aren’t formatted correctly it isn’t even read, it’s throw in the trash. They are also very protective of this industry. They don’t want some random person who just started writing yesterday to land a feature film on the big screen. It wasn’t as simple as sending your script and boom you’re a millionaire. You needed connections. So, in other words, I was back at square one.
The script sat for a while. I worked on a couple of documentaries as a waited. Finally, I told myself this story had to be released. I decided to write it in novel form. I converted the entire story into novel format. Probably took a couple months. If you understand how screen plays are written you would understand why it’s a lengthy process. A screen play is basically a script on steroids. You have superimposes which tells vital information before a scene starts, you have to create the scenery in a visionary way, and the formatting is a bit more complex. Converting this into a story means you have to fill in a lot of space. You have to create more narrative.
Through all the bumps I finally finished the novel. Now it was time to get it edited. I passed my novel around a lot. I never found a solid person to proof read my book. It was odd to me. Didn’t think it would be that difficult. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places. I got tired of waiting so I bought a program inside of Google Docs that had an awesome proof reader. It caught the majority of my mistakes. For the remaining errors I simply had to read my book over and over again trying to catch things. It doesn’t seem that difficult to catch a mistake but when you’re reading something you wrote yourself and you know what’s coming next you tend to inadvertently skim through things. It’s hard to explain. Imagine recoding a song and then doing karaoke night and that song pops up. You probably wouldn’t even read the lyrics because you know the song. So how would you catch errors that flew past on the screen? That’s the best analogy I could come up with
When I gained confidence in the manuscript, I then began trying to get cover art. Again, to no avail. I ended up having to take the pictures myself and create my won cover art. In some cases, I was actually trying to make people apart of the project. I knew I could have done these things myself. The book was literally named after my city. I wanted that native push.
I promoted the book and sold a good number but everyone knew the main goal was to turn it into a film. I never did get that push. To be honest, most of the people who bought the book didn’t even read it. They just bought it to be supportive. I did inspire the city in the process. Several films were released afterwards. Films that had a lot of cameos. I can’t lie, I was a little hurt that I wasn’t apart of those things. It only made sense, to me. I had to look at it in a different way. I inspired people. That’s the only thing that kept me sane. I dug into poetry during this stint, as well. Did a couple of performances and wrote pieces for books. A real artist was always able to reinvent himself, though.
Currently I have four books ready to be published. One fiction, two non-fiction, and a children’s books. When the time is right I will release these things eventually. What I learned through out the years is you can’t always be impulsive with releasing things. Sometimes you have to chose a great time. Now that I have projects lined up I can chose a great time to go on a smooth role. Most importantly I will be able to do things on my time without any stress.
Drawing is another platform that I was into early. In elementary school several of my art pieces were chosen for different projects and promotions. The school put me in a special class for two reasons. The first reason was because they needed a student to help with creative projects. Second, they got tired of me drawing on their desk. I remember selling my artwork in school. Kids would pay me to draw their names creatively.
My art wold have a big gap between elementary and middle school where I was stagnant. Meaning I was just drawing at home or for personal things. It was a great way for a quiet kid to express himself. My family went through some rough times. I became more focused on being a class clown. Anything to get a laugh. I guess it was to drown out the depression. Not major depression but it was rough. I didn’t get another push with art until my 20’s.
Expressing myself through art was an awesome thing because it took real skill. It also took real patience with certain projects. When you had to layer things you had to let the paint dry. When you have a lot of layers a painting can actually take weeks. Exploring art also added a new edge to story telling. With art, you only had one shot to tell the story. You had to cram everything you wanted to say on one canvas or paper. The awesome thing about it was it left so much to the imagination. A viewer could get a totally different outlook than another. Take the famous Mona Lisa painting as an example. People don’t really know why it;s so unique and you may hear several different reasons.
I had a lot of love for Basquiat and the Basquiat-Warhol tandem, which is why I chose to bring out the Calvin Klein Warhol edition jacket for this article (black & white jacket above). I never understood abstract until I got into their art.
The majority of my early work was mostly colored pencil. Colored pencil work didn’t preserve as well. So I got into acrylic painting. Not as expensive as oil paint but effective. After showing off a few of y acrylic paintings just to get a social media buzz for a different project I inspired a wave of art through the city which was very dope. I also learned that it was easy to label something art if you either called it abstract or if kept it very simple.
I’ll be honest, at this point in my life I was tired. I was tired of trying to prove that I was a REAL artist. A true talent. Not a person trying to hustle, be famous, or gain street cred. Artist use art to prove that they aren’t weird but unique. Watching idea after idea being used for the a different purpose depressed me a bit. I had to remind myself what pushed me in the first place.
I had to learn that it wasn’t always about getting credit. I had to stop being selfish. I had to ask myself “Are you doing this for the culture to grow, or doing it to feel good about yourself?”. The honest answer was kind of both. I had to remind myself of the lives I inspired. One guy told me I inspired him to go to college after watching one of my short films. I’ll never forget that. The purpose isn’t to gain the glory, it’s to improve or inspire your community. Don’t get me wrong, My goal is still to make a living off my creativity. I just have to keep my heart in a good place.
J.Cole has a lyric in his song “Too Deep For The Intro” where he says,
“I gotta’ make a move, I gotta do it now / If they don’t know your dreams, then they can’t shoot em’ down.”
At the end of the day I can say all this sentimental stuff but we are surrounded by business. We all have to make money to survive. I had to teach my self that I can speak things into existence but be careful who I tell. People will even act as if they aren’t paying attention just to pop up with your idea and act like they had no clue that you put it in the atmosphere. I’d rather not live like that but it’s reality. No one cares about your dreams if they can make a dollar. Some people close to me surprised me. Hurt me even. That’s the business side that will always be cold. Yet, every sacrifice, all the risk, all the money, it was all for the culture. Something you can never take away.
As far as my paintings go I don’t plan on selling any. I pray that all my plans go through with my other goals which will increase the value of the paintings. When I say increase the value I don’t mean monetarily, which is always nice. I mean that people would understand the art and meaning behind the paintings more if I become an established author, director, or videographer. Does that make sense? If it does then I think you get the gist of this article.
So Bruce, what’s the point of this article? The point is art is that art is literally the embodiment of inspiration. Think about all the artist out that were inspired by Michael Jackson, like Chris Brown. All the ball players inspired by Jordan, like Kobe. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t talented themselves. And it doesn’t make them a copy cat either. It simply means they had enough appreciation for the art, and the art that was created, that it inspired them to embody it. It inspired them to recreate that classic moment. I had to get out of my feelings and understand that side of things. Don’t get me wrong, I will conduct my business more professionally, but I won’t take inspiration the wrong way again. It’s all sacrifices for the love of art.
Written by : Bruce Walton Jr