What’s good, good people?!? Thanks to Holley for having me on as a guest. Now allow me to introduce myself… I am CJ Kendricks, a singer, songwriter, producer, actor, and Atlanta native. Yes… “ATLien 4 Life”, and as I lead into the topic of discussion, its important to note that I do not identify as an Atlantan, but rather an ATLien (a fact that will be relevant in the later points of the post).
Fame is a very fleeting thing. All artists of all art forms desire it in some way or another, and anyone that says otherwise is either lying to themselves or just full of it. But chasing fame, success, and recognition in today’s music industry poses new challenges to those of us courageous and determined enough to pursue it. That is thanks in part to the impact that the internet and social media has had on the industry and society as a whole.
The biggest of those challenges seems to be maintaining one’s artistic integrity in this age of viral videos and global access. Long gone are the days of submitting to A&R of your desired label. Today the measure of success, particularly for the independent artist, is directly linked to one’s social media presence and online persona.
To some extent, the concept of “selling out” is extinct. Rather than being focused on the music, it has become required that an artist be focused on their budget. It’s the most common phrase I’ve heard over the past few years in my own pursuits of success when trying to broker deals and build my team…. “what’s your budget?” In addition to this, we now have to navigate through online marketing with a roll of the dice, deciding whether or not to buy Likes/Views/Comments/Subscribers/etc.
Pressure from those that would aid in your journey to change or hide parts of yourself and the current socio-political climate also poses great challenges to artists such as myself, who skate a thin line of defying genres. In the age of hashtags with #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, NFL player protests, immigration issues and international issues, it has become just as easy to offend and alienate your audience, as it is to entice and intrigue them.
Being from The South, and in particular being from ATL, has afforded me a unique perspective on the industry and all the aforementioned challenges. I’ve been blessed to watch Atlanta blossom, and see the “The Hood” become Hollywood South. I’ve been on the front lines of bringing southern swagger to the world, and continue to honor my fellow ATLiens and pioneers of swag. The face of hip-hop and pop and even the Film and TV industries have been flooded with gems from the Dungeon Family, SoSoDef and more.
Ultimately it is up to each individual to decide what their limits are in terms of what one is or isn’t willing to do for success, and just what this thing called fame means to them.