When I was a senior in college, I used to download music all day, every day. I would click on an artist I liked and download hundreds of their songs, CD’s, and remixes. I was downloading Trey Songz one day when I stumbled upon “Replacement Girl.” I listened and heard an unfamiliar voice laying an incredible verse and I immediately needed to know who it was.I saw that it was Drake, and immediately found him on MySpace. I had never written to an artist, but I felt the need to encourage this kid to keep putting music out. I sent him a message telling him how incredible I thought he was and that he needed to keep following his dreams. Looks like he really needed that. LOL When he blew up with “So Far Gone,” I felt so happy and proud.
When “So Far Gone” dropped, I was living in Atlanta, doing Americorps, which is basically like the PeaceCorps, but in the states. I hated it and many things about my situation at the time, but the music was, as it always has been, an overwhelmingly enjoyable escape. We bumped that mixtape so hard the entire summer. I remember pulling up at QuickTrip, or “Club QT” as they called it, bumping the tape and having several bystanders giving me head nods and thumbs up. Everybody was rocking with it. I loved the whole mixtape but remember having a love/hate relationship with “Successful.” It evoked in me the desire to be successful, and not necessary in the terms he was referring to, but it also made me feel like maybe it would never happen.
After a tumultuous time in Atlanta and a brief stay in NYC, I headed home back to my Mom’s house, feeling depleted, defeated, and depressed. I had been through so much in the last year and I needed a safe place to rebuild. I couldn’t get out of bed for months and seriously doubted that I would ever make anything of myself, much less make the move I had always wanted to Los Angeles. Thank God for my little sister Julia, who was also living at home at the time while attending college. She is a workout fanatic and encouraged me in my depression to do the Insanity workout with her. I agreed, but only if I could choose the music. “Thank Me Later,” had just dropped, and I played it nonstop during our workouts. My jaw dropped the first time I heard “The Resistance,” when Drake rapped, “It’s happening Penny Lane, just like you said.” Penny Lane had been my nickname and in all my glory, I had run around yelling “It’s All Happening.” I used to say that quote from Almost Famous constantly, reminding myself that all my dreams are coming true and will continue to do so. When I heard Drake say it, who had such a special place in my heart from when I “discovered” him, I knew it was a sign that I had to keep going and pursue my dream. My Mom was being as supportive as possible and tried to sway me towards more “acceptable” pursuits than running off to California to work with rappers. I made up my mind that I would not get an acceptable 9-5 as she encouraged, but would waitress until I had enough money to make my dreams a reality. A year and a half and 35 grand in tips later, I was ready to make the move.
I decided that before I moved to LA, I would spend a year in San Diego. My best friend that I had studied abroad in Italy with was living in Pacific Beach. I had promised her that we would live together again, and figured it was the perfect transition before moving to LA. During that time, I listened to “Take Care” pretty much every day on my way to work. I mentally prepared myself for LA and I felt so close to my dreams while I ingested every word.
When it was finally time to move, I had an arsenal of his music to inspire and motivate me. Like I had done with Nas, I recorded “It’s happening Penny Lane, just like you said,” on my voice recorder and played in back dozens of times a day. It was my confirmation, I now understand, from God, that encouraged me to keep following my passion. When “Nothing Was The Same,” came out, I was living in LA and super excited to hear it. I went to Amoeba Music, the largest independent record store in Los Angeles, and purchased the hard copy. I listened to it over and over, and while some of the stripper odes were a bit much for my taste, the overall album really spoke to me.
What happened next proved to me that God really does speak to us in language we can understand. As a female in the industry, I’ve always been very conscious of my reputation and the level of respect I’d like to receive. Working around artists, managers, etc., you are being tested at every moment. I watched an interview Tina Davis (who co-managed Chris Brown with the owner of the company I used to work for) did where she explained that every man in the industry will try to sleep with you. They then will get mad when you turn them down. Then, hopefully, they will get over it and you’ll eventually become like a sister to them. I felt so relieved when I heard this, because I’ve had some good and some bad reactions when I’ve turned people down. Sometimes their pride is so big that they can’t even handle it. Also, you never really know what you’ll do in a situation until you are tempted.
One night I was invited to a party at a super successful entertainers house. When I showed up, he and his even more successful friend were there. I ended up spending time with both of them and having them both actively pursuing me. I was kind of surprised to be honest, as they were both coming at me hard. They are both unbelievably beautiful and talented, so like I said before, you never know what you’ll do in a situation until you are tempted. I felt so much anxiety the next day, knowing they were friends and knowing, deep down, that nothing good would come from giving in to either one. Filled with anxiety, I began to pray and listen to music, the only things that seemed to calm me down. I was standing in my room with my headphones in holding onto a cross I had received as a gift. All of the sudden, Drake’s words hit me like a ton of bricks, answering my prayer in just a few bars. “N***** talk more than bitches these days. Let that shit sink in. N***** talk more than bitches these days. Who can get the p**** quicker these days.” I had my answer. Both of them were a no go.
Coincidently, around this time, I had gone back in my arsenal and was listening to “So Far Gone” again. For the first time, as I saw all the positive changes I was undergoing, I was able to listen to “Successful,” and feel hopeful and confident. It no longer seemed far away and unattainable. I let myself become guided by the music that moved me and I started consistently seeing the fruits of my labor. God speaks to us in hope, and I whole-heartedly believe that his messages reach me through my favorite artists. It’s through these experiences that I’ve come to believe the true importance of sharing our gifts because you never know when God is using you to answer someone’s prayer.