I always try to look ahead before accepting any position, to think strategically about how it will fit into my overall trajectory."
But then I noticed early into the job that my day to day duties skewed more to the personal side of things. I talked to him about it a few times and things didn't change, and I feared it would have a lasting negative effect on my career trajectory, so I quit. (I did not have another job and student loan payments were going to start kicking in soon.) I was scared, but I decided that my convictions had to outweigh my fear. And, in the end, it was worth betting on myself to better position my career direction. I took some time to reflect and regroup, and after a few months of interviewing across a few labels and media companies, I got an unexpected call from Diddy's sister. She worked at Bad Boy in digital marketing and said she needed my help working across some projects that were coming out. Although I was reluctant, I knew that this was the right opportunity at the right time, so I said, "yes," and was able to take the lead in the marketing of a Notorious B.I.G. album. The job put me on the map even though I was making peanuts. I realized, too, that having the right opportunities and experience would lead to money at the proper time.
This business is designed to weed people out. It's a "no" business. You have to stick with it and stay encouraged because the world needs art. The world needs fresh voices."
And then a college friend helped you to take it to the next level?
Somewhere between UMG and Epic I started getting asked to appear on TV shows to provide cultural context. This opportunity came from a conversation on a bus ride in Brooklyn with one of my classmates from my MBA program at Florida A&M University. She worked as a producer at VH1 on a countdown show, remember those? She said they could use someone with my background and experience and asked if I was interested in taping a major countdown show of the "100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All-Time". Even though she recommended me, and thought I would be great, I didn't have name recognition. I was still early into my career, only a few years out of NYU, but I really wanted this. I reached out to Diddy and asked if he could call and email the executive producer of the show and endorse me as a "young rising voice to be heard." Diddy didn't hesitate. He made the call and sent the email, and I got hired as a pundit.
I want to be a voice in the room for those who are often overlooked and undervalued."
What advice do you give to young artists who are entering the workforce?
Your sense of purpose cannot come from a job. Believe me, I get it. A job and career makes us feel like we are contributing to the world, but know that you can contribute to the world with or without the job. If you understand that before you get the job then you can make the decisions that you need to make once you have the job. Focus on your purpose, your "why?". Ask yourself what you are in this for. Ask yourself that often and challenge it. My purpose is simple: be a blessing to others and a light in this world. Once I was clear on that it helped everything else fall into place and guide my decision making along the way. The job will come. The money will come. Get anchored in purpose.
Also, this business is designed to weed people out. It's a "no" business. You have to stick with it and stay encouraged because the world needs art. The world needs fresh voices. Music and entertainment helps people get through their day and gives us all something to look forward to. Don't give up and be persistent, but make sure you are led by purpose.
"Stride" was inspired by Susan B. Anthony and the pioneering feminists of her time.
Kaya Henderson, Danielle Nierenberg, and Julie Tolentino bring expertise in education, food systems, and performance art as NYU Steinhardt’s 2021-2022 Dean’s Scholars-in-Residence.
Members of the Class of 2021 from the department's Vocal Performance and Dance Education programs came together to create a video of the new song for the Steinhardt graduation ceremony.