I'm always excited when an artist that I already admire comes onto the James Altucher Podcast. This last week it was Mac Lethal, the self made rapper and artist from Kansas City.
My favorite aspect of the interview was when they talked about the progressions of a maturing artist. Here's what I took from the conversation:
- In the beginning, you do something because you love it. Or because you're bored. Mac Lethal started writing raps to amuse himself in high school, when he was bored during study hall.
- The first big evolution, the first big step, is to simply create a product that doesn't suck. This is surprisingly harder than it sounds. For Mac Lethal, this meant creating songs that were bearable to listen to. For a writer, it's the difference between writing confusing babble, and writing something that the reader can actually finish. It takes at least 3-5 years to get through this step.
- Eventually you learn ways to get your art into people's hands, and you have to get creative. When a young Mac Lethal recorded his first collection of songs, he bought 1,500 CD's for a dollar a piece from a company in Canada. He had no record deal, nobody pushing his music. He sold his own CD's by hand to his friends and family for $10. Looking back, he says that first exchange is vital - the first time you create something, believe it has value, and see someone else pay for your product. That's a powerful first step and a critical moment in the process.
- You can't get down on yourself when nobody likes your art - when they either bash it or they simply don't care enough to look at it. Your only job is to keep creating. Mac Lethal says he never reads the youtube or the facebook comments on his work, he just makes the next thing.
- You hone your craft by imitating your favorites, by copying your influences, and simply by trying to mimic the professionals in your field. Mac Lethal said that after 17 years of producing music, he feels that he's just now starting to find his voice. He's starting to have a good sense of what's "original" for him, what he wants to say, and how to do it.
- That's a long time! Possibly 20 years of daily, grinding work before you're finally making some original material, something that lives up to your full potential as an artist. But it's a brilliant thing to witness. Mac Lethal's art is much different now than when I started listening to him 5 years ago. It's obvious that these days, he's the only one doing exactly his style of art. 10 years ago that wasn't the case.
This was a super inspiring interview for any artist, and I would recommend anyone who's interested to the "Ask Altucher" podcast.