I work with a rapper from Dover, Delaware named Splitfaces who has around 15 albums in the bank and God knows how many additional songs and verses. I didn’t realize until recently, that he literally writes every single day- no matter what. He keeps his artistic muscles in shape and it shows. I’ve worked with the man for decades and I’ve had the pleasure of watching him grow into a masterful MC. He’s like the old ninja in a karate movie that young cats should never fuck with because they will certainly die by the hands of his lyrical sword. He’s like Musashi, the greatest of all Japanese Samurais.... You. Don’t. Want It.
I got into the arts at a relatively late age and have really only accepted myself as a true artist until maybe 3 years ago. I’m always late to the party of realizing basic truths, but it is crystal clear to me that the main trait an artist must possess is discipline; the same discipline as a professional fighter. It’s no coincidence that boxers and Jiu Jitsu practitioners are, in fact, martial ARTISTS. Art is a discipline, and not just a moment that we await. Quality art requires the same degree of craftsmanship as a builder of Amish furniture, a watchmaker, or an engineer.
And it’s not a coincidence that I’ve reached these realizations while in the midst of learning the martial ART of Muay Thai. After watching real fighters train and tune their bodies with the same fervor as a classical pianist, I’ve realized how they are essentially doing the same thing as me. And then I looked at the degree to which the best of them trained and realized how much LESS I train than them, as an artist. Fighters have to stay in shape or they could end up with a broken face. My worst case scenario is only a broken ego if I come to the stage unprepared and “out of shape”.
Artists work with creative muscles, literally and figuratively. From my vocal chords to my creativity it’s all about training and repitition. I should be able to construct a song just like a structural engineer can construct a bridge at any given moment. It’s gotta be reflexive...that’s the ideal.
Yes, inspiration matters. Waking up to a melody in my head at 3:30am is one of my favorite experiences as an artist. It’s beautiful. It’s like God or an angel walks into your mind and spirit, and gives you a gift to share. But if the angels ain’t playing Santa Claus, you’ve still gotta have the artistic capacity to use the tools of your craft to move the The People. Art can’t always wait for your timetable. If a record company needs a song or if something happens in the world that needs an artist’s voice immediately, you might not have two weeks to wait for the Holy Ghost to enter. You’ve gotta be able to fill up your well now and pour it out for the masses to drink.
It’s all about discipline. As I prepare to take myself to the next level of artistry, I will be using the same discipline as Splitfaces and the fighters I train with. I will stay sharp and prepared, and work even when I’m not “feeling it” because like the writer Jack London said…“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.“ So, get your asses to work, artists! The People need you. Pray for inspiration and work for mastery of your craft.