So, it’s December 31, 2009. The last day of the 00s. My intention was to drop in with some yearly highlights from my career, which has existed entirely in the noughties: In 2000, I recorded my first single and sold more copies on cassette than CD. In 2001, I put my first full-length release together. In 2002, I performed my first live show and put my first solo project out. In 2003, I got played on the radio for the first time and started getting paid for shows. In 2004, I began co-hosting my own radio show and making real industry connects. In 2005, I performed in more states and got serious about completing my full-length solo debut. In 2006, I first performed at the New York City Marathon, appeared on MTV, and put my album out and performed my favorite concert to date on the same night. In 2007, I signed with my favorite record label growing up (who re-released the album I recorded and previously put out myself on a much larger scale), hosted my own TV show, and appeared in XXL Magazine. In 2008, I shot my first music video complete with actors and extras, dropped a single that charted with mainstream radio and club spins, and performed at the biggest New Year’s show in Los Angeles alongside DJ AM and Travis Barker with Dr. Dre and other legends in the audience. In 2009, I saw my next single outperform Keri Hilson and other artists with huge budgets on sites like Vlad TV, and released Family Business which is definitively the best project I’ve ever worked on. (Get the album from iTunes now if you don’t already have it.)
Looking back, this condensed timeline proves that a decade of dedication will get you places. I know I’ve achieved more than most artists ever will for the sole reason that I’ve worked so hard. It does not, however, do the past 10 years justice. Much more happened than I could enumerate in one sitting, and honestly I almost feel this makes it all seem too glamorous: persisting in spite of endless sacrifices, lost sleep/friends/weight, frustration, roadblocks, and heartbreak is more noteworthy than any symbolic milestone. Therefore, I don’t want this writing to be a pat on the back for select accomplishments of the past. They call it New Year’s Eve for a reason. A friend of mine astutely pointed out on Facebook yesterday that there is always utility in reflection. But right now, I’d like to look to the future.
In 2010 and beyond, I want to focus my efforts on making a lasting impression on this world. If that sounds vague, it’s because it is. I believe I was blessed with the ability to contribute to society in many ways, and I plan on living up to my full potential. I want to do things that have never been done before. When I say that, I don’t mean it in the cliché Hip Hop way, which for some reason seems to mean doing things that have been done a million times before. I really want to push the boundaries. Earlier this year, I ripped up a scholarship offer from a law school on stage. It was all part of the show, and those in attendance saw it in the context of the story being told. The next day, I explained the significance of the gesture was that I would not sell myself short and I was holding out for the undeniable offer. I got it from a better school, and decided to take it. If you know of another established Hip Hop act (meaning an artist with solo releases on a reputable label) who’s becoming a lawyer, let me know. I just finished my first semester, and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I would like to run for public office someday. I plan to have a book called Seventeen Bars published soon. The way I see it, being ambitious is the epitome of being Hip Hop. Neither of my parents went to college, and I’ve come this far. If it’s cool to rap and start a clothing line, it should be cool to rap and fight for people’s rights.
Musically, I have 80% of the next Pizon album written. The beats are done and most of the lyrics are already in my head. It’s called Honest Conversation, and it’s unabashedly different but nonetheless palatable. I’m challenging myself to make not only the best album I’ve ever made, but the best album anyone is making in music. It will either win the Grammy, or you’ll be mad that it didn’t. And I’m dead serious about that, so I reserve the right to take my time with it. I would not be surprised if the album goes through a thousand revisions before I’m satisfied with it. I’m also toying with the idea of releasing a side project called No More Mr. Nice Pi for promo. My aim is not to become rich and famous but to create quality music that’s truly representative of someone with as much to say as me. I only participate in the industry because I want to make sure my work reaches people. I feel like everything I’ve done these past 10 years was the groundwork for what I’m about to do now. I’ve matured artistically, and gained the experience necessary to make a serious impact. As you probably know, the tried and true methods of the music business are now failing and people are being forced to reinvent the wheel. One of the primary challenges of the new decade will be figuring out how to navigate this jacked up road.
We just need to be daring enough to try new approaches.
My theory is that life is like a game of Skee Ball. The easiest way to earn points is to try to land perfectly inside the box, in the most centered and unassuming pocket on the board. Movements in any other direction — whether stronger or weaker — are penalized. If you’re shooting for the box, you’d better land safely in the middle. It’s a strategy that rewards steady mediocrity. But the truly great players avoid the box altogether. It may be harder to hit and it comes with greater risk, but the most points are scored by hitting that pocket all the way out in left field. The one that most players don’t even shoot for, because they fear they’ll miss and get no points at all.
Now, more than ever before, my mission in life is to hit that left field pocket. Win, lose, or draw, I hereby refuse to put myself in a box — and starting in the new year I encourage all of you to do the same.
Welcome to the future.
Mike “Pizon” Scala