Last week I had the joy of attending the A3C conference and music festival in Atlanta, GA. It was a 5-day event with a conference, Action Summit, and over 70 live music events culminating with a weekend festival with headliners such as Wu-Tang Clan (Saturday) and Liil Wayne (Sunday).
My motivation to show up was to network and learn from innovators, entrepreneurs, and music makers that shape Hip Hop music and culture. I went as a representative and the founder of Elemental Financial, where our mission is to empower musicians and artists to take ownership of their wealth potential.
I wasn’t on a panel, I wasn’t a sponsor, I wasn’t invited to speak -- at least not yet. I was there to seek knowledge, I was there to make connections, perform market research, discover new artists, and explore my vision for Elemental Financial and how we can provide a service that meets the needs of artists and supports their purpose.
As I reflect back on what I learned, who I met, and what was accomplished – one thing is for sure. I maximized my time and my energy but I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do and that’s ok. I did what I could.
For starters, going to a 5-day event with a working partner and two kids younger than 5 is a nearly impossible feat in itself. I’m so fortunate to have the support that I have from my wife Stephanie. (Big shout out to Steph – thanks for going to the negotiation table with me!) So, instead of 5 days I was able to pull off 3 full days, setting aside Thursday and Friday for the conference & Action Summit along with the first day of the music festival which highlighted some of my favorite artists like Wu-Tang, Royce da 5’9 & J.I.D.
There was so much happening I couldn’t do it all. I couldn't find the time to fit in sessions featured on Wednesday during the day and a showcase specifically to highlight Carolina artists. Throughout the day there were conference sessions, talks, activities that were happening from 10:30 – 7:30, and simultaneous live shows throughout the city every night from 8:00 – 2:00 am.
Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I had to make hard choices. Choices on what to learn, choices on when to approach someone that I wanted to meet, choices on whether to go to the showcase featuring Ras Kass or the showcase featuring CyHi the Prince, choices on when to take a break to catch my thoughts, take a walk, and Facetime with my wife and kids. With an event like this -- an event that doesn't stop and never sleeps -- you can easily get caught up in the buzz, in the excitement, the continuous events. You have to make the most of the opportunity from the choices that are available.
Whether you are an artist, an entrepreneur, or conference attendee, ask yourself: Can I do it all? Who do I need on my team?
I thought about all of this after the Wu-Tang Clan finished their set (which, consisted of the entire Enter the 36 Chambers album followed by over a dozen solo project songs and Wu-Tang Forever tracks). As I made the 20 minute urban hike through downtown Atlanta by myself, I had a realization about the past three days and what it means for my personal journey.
I went to Atlanta by myself, I went to multiple shows by myself, I am the sole owner of my business, Elemental Financial and have been building it by myself. I was here by myself in the flesh but I felt the spirit of everyone in my life that has shaped me to get to this point; my wife and kids being first and foremost. The path that I am paving is about us – Stephanie, Cyrus & Zachary are my inspirations, they are the retina to my vision. My parents have always given me the wings to fly – they have always supported me in my independence. If they thought I was crazy (for studying Egyptology, or graduating college and becoming a taxi driver, or starting an apparel business that travelled the country for 3 months) they would ask questions, but they never openly questioned my choices.
I arrived at the hotel, sat at the bar with a nightcap and continued my reflection with my notebook to write down these thoughts. I was working on a list of my brothers and friends and our journey together with a soundtrack that influenced our pursuit for wisdom. I looked up out of chance and I spot U God walking to the bar. I went back to writing for a moment but I catch, out of the corner of my eye, GZA, the Genius and a few moments later here comes Inspektah Deck, and then the RZA. All of a sudden half of the clan is at the bar ordering an after show meal.
I’m a little in shock but my mind is in processing mode. I am having this introspective moment about those who are joining me on my journey and I'm envisioning building a team that will support me on this journey in the future. After hearing RZA speak yesterday, seeing the Wu perform on stage celebrating 25 years since their first album, and then seeing them across the table from me, I can’t be more excited about my current thought process and the goals that I’m writing about: building a team – having a clan – creating unity and culture, and being able to accomplish more by bringing our minds and energy together.
The Wu changed the landscape of Hip Hop and extended the music and culture on a global scale. They have provided a blueprint as a team: artists that can hold their own on solo projects but when they combine forces – they changed the world.
I can’t do it all! I’m ready to be a part of a team and build on this movement.