10% (being the best)

Written by Wil

I’ve seen a lot of artists brag about accomplishing more than their peers. “My last mixtape was on so many more websites than ________”. But if their peers are other unsigned, unsuccessful artists, then what does that really mean? If you’re trying to make it to the NBA, being better than the kids in your building doesn’t really mean much.

I’ve met artists who are better than 90% of other artists and work harder than 90% of other artists. But to be successful, you need to be better than 99%, not 90%. That’s what this blog is for. To bridge the gap for an artist so you can make up that other 10%. That’s actually the hardest part – being better than those top few artists. Being better than a lot of people is great. But being part of and better than that upper class takes a lot more than talent. The world is packed with unfulfilled potential. And it only gets harder the further along that you get.

So your goal can’t be to be better than most people. It has to be being better than the best. Your expectations for yourself have to be higher than anybody else’s expectations of you. As you create more and better music, you’ll (hopefully) acquire more fans. More people pointing out all the great things you’re doing.

That isn’t what you want to focus on.

You need to worry about your shortcomings. The things that are wrong with your music. You need to constantly be improving. Even artists of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s stature are always looking for new ways to improve their craft. That has to be your 100% focus – improving every day as an artist.

That’s one characteristic about me that makes me an asshole, but also great at what I do. I never rest on what we’ve accomplished. I’m always pushing for more. I probably need to find a better balance eventually, but I dunno, it’s just not in my DNA.

When John and I were recording Sorry I’m Late, I was always pushing the envelope. The album came out better than I ever imagined – because I wouldn’t settle – BUT I can’t help thinking about how much better it could’ve been. That’s my nature. When Marsha Ambrosius agreed to sing on All I Got to Give – which was nothing more than a pipe dream for us when we thought of it – my mind wouldn’t accept that accomplishment. I immediately started thinking of how we could improve the mix and the beat, and if we could bring in some top professional instrumentalists.

That needs to be the mentality. Not “oh good, DJ Kay Slay is hosting my mixtape”. But “okay, So Kay Slay is hosting the mixtape, I wonder if I could get Flex to do it”, or “how can I maximize Kay’s involvement”. Always think ahead. Always think of the next step. No matter what you’ve accomplished, it’s not enough. Not in this industry. There’s no winning or losing. You’re constantly playing the same game and you’re always under pressure to keep moving forward. You need to adapt this mentality, because those who you’re competing with – the already successful artists – already have.

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