Last Friday night my band Brother & Brother did our first 2013 performance at Recuit’s Birthday Jam at His People N1 City, alongside DJ Eazy, Jerome Rex, DJ Hearin Aid, Nobody But Jesus (NBJ), Rudolph Geldenhuys and Greenappleman 05. The event aimed to raise funds for Graceland Pre-school and I think it did well to do so, as the turn out was good.
Out of all the Brother & Brother gigs we’ve done so far, this one definitely took the cake in terms of crowd response. Even though we played as a 3-piece (minus our bass player Mark – who had to write a test that night) and the fact that I doubled up on both keyboard and bass, the crowd loved us!
The songs that ripped the roof off though was our version of Recruit’s latest single Sunrise, which features the vocal and production prowess of Greenappleman 05 and our old collaborative favourite Sing it from the Hills which features Recruit and DJ Eazy – this time though, I called Jerome Rex (who I shared the bill with at the March InZync Poetry Session) up on stage to join us, and it ripped the place right up.
Regardless, the reason why I’ve titled this piece Pay it Forward is because what struck me most about the evening, was how much the kids loved it and how much they were inspired by the entire event. Most of the crowd were under the age of 20 and were either in their teens or pre-teens.
As soon as I got off stage, one kid (16 years old) came up to me and told me he wants to be a rapper. He then asked me if I ever dreamt of becoming a rockstar when I was his age. I told him – I really just wanted to play in a band, but the thought did cross my mind a few times. He had this look of awe when I said that, since being on stage with my band must’ve (to him atleast) meant that I must be famous.
It wasn’t the first first time I’d performed for kids – the previous time, another boy asked me if I’m famous yet. I left Friday’s kid with some advice on taking his passion further by learning to play an instrument.
The next day, I received a message on my phone from another kid – this time a 14 year old.
“Hi there. Saw you guys performing last night. We’re two 14 year old rappers. We rap with one other guy sometimes and have our own producer. Just wanted to tell you that you guys were awesome. Your voice is hard to find, would love to do a track so let us know if you wanna do any work.”
And here I am, hardly an established artist – getting praise and invitations to collaborate from teenagers. How was I supposed to react to that? This kid then sent me 3 of his crew’s tracks to listen to so I can give him feedback. I have to admit that for 14 year olds, they’re doing greater things that what I was doing when I was that age.
It was obvious to me who their influences are: Lil’ Wayne and the Young Money Crew – who I absolutely loathe. What advice could I possibly give other than encourage him fully, since I knew that these kids were good at what they do? The production was tight, the lyrics were on the money and they did everything with conviction. One thing that I can’t stand though, is South African artists singing or rapping in American accents! That was one of my criticisms.
The kid couldn’t really understand what I meant by that though, I guess it’s something they’ll learn as they get older. I did however make sure that my praise for their tracks far outweighed my criticism. That for me, is the turning point.
I was once again inspired by these moments though, because I remember how passionately I felt about being a performer when I was in my teens – it was like I just knew that that was what I wanted to do with my life: make music, create art, write songs and poetry, sing, rap, be a producer – you name it. These kids believe in what they’re doing.
This is of course before life gets in the way.
What does it take to keep that momentum up, that fervour – even after life and other people hand you a few hard knocks.
What inspired me in a big way was that our sound guy for the night was a 12 year old boy. WOW, and did he manage to hold everything together. I exchanged a few words with him after and I just wanted to encourage him to carry on going – to keep practising, to keep playing piano and doing lighting and whatever else he got to do freely at church.
What a blessing that is, to be surrounded by people who encourage your love for arts and inspire you to growth.
What a great springboard for the future. This is what I think kids who have that innate desire need, a valuable support structure that will continue to motivate them.
Older artists need to pay it forward and that’s precisely what I think Recruit and DJ Eazy and the others are doing so well.
They are cultivating an atmosphere of learning and growth, and their egos are flat on the floor because they understand this concept of paying it forward. Here’s to paying it forward and paving a way for the younger generation to follow into the future.