About Me

Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Bringing The Real – Who Are You?
Wednesday, July 09, 2008

One topic I love to discuss with artists during interviews is what they feel makes them unique. Sometimes I get a very real, honest, answer. The vast majority of the time, however, I get an answer that could be given by over half the artists out there (i.e. “I’m unique because I really bring it,” or “I’m unique because I have that Golden Era sound”), or worse, complete silence. What makes artists, and all of us, unique is something that can not only make for a great interview, provided one’s uniqueness is interesting enough, but it’s also the only thing that will separate one emcee’s rhymes from another’s. Let’s face it, there is nothing worse than putting on a rap album and hearing a barrage of repetitive stories, be they about the hood life or the good life, that could be spouted by any number of emcees. This is why today I’m going to discuss an exercise I’ve been working on the try to develop a better view of our own individual uniqueness.

Last week I looked inward a bit and wondered aloud “what makes me unique? What makes me interesting other than my choice of career?” The latter part of the second question is very important. Just the fact that I’m a writer may be interesting, but just like for every emcee out there, the fact that they have an interesting occupation isn’t going to be enough to get them very far when creating their work. I sat down with a pen and a pad and began to jot down some ideas. These ideas turned out to be far ranging.

I started by listing what I would consider to be my hobbies, the general interest things I feel most of my acquaintances know about me. An example of this would be the fact that I love Hip-Hop, working out and the New York Mets. I then looked around my place and took note of some of my less obvious interests; B-movies, counterculture books, etc. Moving into the kitchen I opened up the menus from the places I eat at most and wrote out the range of my culinary taste. It all started to come together in a long list of items that had no connection whatsoever with the lone exception that they were all distinctly me.

If you’re an artist, developing this kind of a list can help in a number of ways. First, it provides you with plenty of material to draw from when writing your rhymes, or even freestyling. Second, it can serve to remind you that you’re a lot more than just an emcee and sometimes those other aspects of yourself, even if you don’t work them into your rhymes, should be worked into your everyday conversations because nobody wants to read yet another interview about how the only thing you’ve ever loved is rap. If you really have only loved rap your album is going to be terrible. The biggest selling point for putting together this list and working with it, though, is that it gives you the ability to see who you can most easily connect with. Remember, it’s not necessarily about who has the best flow, or the tightest rhymes, it’s really all about who connects most with listeners, and if you like X there’s a good chance a lot of the other people that also like X might like you. Successful artist know this, which is a large part of the reason why they’re so successful.

In the past decade or so (yeah, I know, I’m being kind here) it has become cool for Hip-Hop artists to have a façade. Most of the emcees working in the mainstream have self-created images and the problem with this is although it may work for them it’s causing younger rappers to look to create false images for themselves, as well. Truly great and long lasting artists rhyme about what they know, but to do that one must first find out who they are. Self-discovery will always lead to tighter rhymes and more interesting interviews. So the next time someone tries to convince you they’re a gangster ask them what they truly enjoy in life, what really makes them who they are. Nine times out of ten they will have been so wrapped up in their industry image that they will have actually forgotten who they really are.

It doesn’t take long to make a list of interests. Give it a shot. See where it takes you and what kind of doors it opens in terms of artistic creativity and potential audience. You might just find your real self is a heck of a lot more interesting than the character you’ve been trying to create.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:43 AM  
  • At 12:11 AM, Blogger Dyalekt said…

    but.. what if you're not unique? take me for example. i talk in english over drums in a 4/4 time signature. plus sometimes i write comments on blogs without capitalizing ANYTHING except the word i feel like emphasizing...

  • At 9:49 PM, Blogger Claudia Alick said…

    Dyalket-- you not unique? pu-leese! you have a unique ethnicity, you got that island background and the phili and the nyc, you got a unique outlook and way of expressing yourself sometimes twisted but always funny and often politically cogent views.

    But to comment on the post.


    Nicely said my friend. The sexiness of hip-hop (and in music in generally) is in it's autobiographical content. The reason we get caught up in the stories is becuase we think thier real. In this increasing era of the super persona the music is becoming less and less interesting because it's empty.

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