Years back, I realised that my love for music was here to stay. It was either I ignore it or play the tune. However, one problem stood in my way - money. And many potential entrepreneurs cite that challenge in messages to me or when we meet.
One morning I went to Gikomba market, which was a 10-minute walk from where we used to live. I bought four plain T-shirts for a total of Sh800. To wear? No. This is how I used that Sh800 investment to record my 17-track album.
But first, always put yourself in someone’s shoes before you ask for a favour from them. This has been a tactic that I have applied over the years.
It was my dream to work with DJ Loop, a well-known producer, but since he was famous it meant everyone was asking favours from him. We mostly praise the artistes, yet the producer is just as important. I decided to appreciate DJ Loop.
I borrowed an idea I had seen in Source Magazine where one of the ATL rappers had a T-shirt but with a face painting of Jimmy Hendrix. I took the T-shirts I had bought and painted four portraits on them; Jay Z, Ludacris, Snoop and DJ Loop. Since it was a new form of art, everyone wanted a piece, literally.
That was 2006 and the Music Week was being held at Sarit Centre, where I knew DJ Loop had a stand for his studio. Since I couldn’t afford a stand of my own, I went to the one that was right next to DJ Loop’s and asked if they were willing to help me display the T-shirts. I offered to pay them a commission on every sale.
My real intention was not to sell the shirts but to get an opportunity to tell DJ Loop that I needed studio time. Since I knew that was a song that he heard every day, the T-shirt represented me well. His reaction was out of this world; he bought the T-shirt and to top it all, he asked for my phone number.
We met the following Monday and he asked what else I could do. I told him I was training myself graphic design - which indeed I was, at ‘The YouTube University’.
I used to pay daily subscriptions of Sh250 at a cyber café and before you know it, I was selling logos and eventually launched Taurus Media, my first company.
I did not tell Loop that I was a rapper. But being around him showed me how he handled the music business differently from other local producers.
One lesson was that as much as you love music, make sure you know the business behind it. It was one major lesson Loop taught me.
He was the first producer I saw in a suit and he had this briefcase that he always carried when going for meetings.
We fall in love with what our passions dictate but we fall short when we have to learn the dynamics that run the business. Three times a week, Loop would have guests at the studio and they would also be in suits. It’s a life I admired.
How you look is the first language you speak before you open your mouth. There is the street creed that I treasured so badly, and we tend not to look ‘neat’ just to stay grounded to the streets.
But then the more I hung around Loop, I noticed that corporate Kenya controlled the economy. The street is one of the biggest suppliers but the offices run the country. Loop gave me this theory and always asked me “Kaka, where is the money?” to the point I almost forgot why I had befriended him in the first place.
Skill is forever
Two, is that the skill is forever. I saw there was an opportunity with Loop, since most of the time he was out of the studio doing meetings. I asked him if I could step in whenever he was not available.
By the fourth month, Loop taught me how to produce music as well as sound engineering. This helped me for many years. Since he trusted me with the studio, he gave me the keys and every Sunday I would record myself.
One year later, I had a 17-track album that featured Harry Kimani, Chiwawa, Zakah and others. All this from the Sh800 that I used to buy the T-shirts. Not only did I have a production from DJ Loop but he became a mentor and a teacher.
The lesson is, when you want something so bad, make sure that patience is ingrained in your habit. It is a highly rewarding virtue.
The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.
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