Written by Imani Wj Wright
I’ve been deeply immersed in music, not just as a fan but as an active creator and participant, since I was seven years old. Vocal lessons, rehearsals, and compositions are all activities I routinely engage in.
Having read and studied Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell on several occasions, I understand that one of the keys to becoming a master of your field is: time-on-task.
A few weeks ago, I caught up with the 32-year-old, DC native, Kevin Ross, and he described various aspects of achieving success, some of those being ways I've never heard.
As a singer, songwriter, producer and record label owner, Ross has experienced the ever going processes of building a brand. Ross has worked with major recording artists like SWV, Jamie Foxx, Nicki Minaj, etc. Last year, I had the opportunity to see him perform at the DC Chapter Recording Academy’s First Annual Block Party. Ross’ stage presence, professionalism and infectious energy was on full display. Ross never seemed to miss a beat as the audience stayed engaged the entire set.
Performing with a live band, Ross’ practice was evident, amongst his undeniable acumen. Ross and his band seamlessly weaved in and out of his original pieces to popular cover songs, without missing a beat. Ross’ performance was a product of preparation and dedication, and the same can be said about his brand. “Making a brand is all about discovery, and that’s the beauty of being an artist. It’s all factors of you, what you want to contribute to humanity, what you bring that no one else brings to the table,” Ross said.
“Also with brands, there is a necessary component of reinvention every now and then, as life takes you in different directions. You have to reinvent your brand as people in society are reinventing themselves as well,” he added.
Ross’ approach is essentially a two-way street: you acknowledge your strengths and use that to understand the scope of your audience’s holistic environment. Personally, I needed a reminder that being aware of your audience is just as important as being aware of yourself.
Here’s what else Kevin had to say:
“[Hard work] is not enough… As artists, we spend a lot of our time crafting and carving out how dope we want to be. And that’s all fine and dandy, but it’s about alignment too. It took me a while to understand that… Another thing is being visible, being where people are. It’s an ‘out of sight out of mind game. If you’re hidden in someone’s basement, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s about getting out there, making sure your name is heard, making sure that your face is seen, giving the people a face to attach to the name.”
There’s a student aspect to all of this as well. Studying and analyzing your craft. Whether it’s journalism, music or fashion, I quickly figured I couldn’t be my best without constantly discovering more about myself, those who have done it before me, and the intricacies of my fields.
Prior to my conversation with Kevin, I had a chance to speak with Grammy nominated artist, Pusha T. Pusha told me he very rarely leaves the studio, that is how he finds himself, he attempts to handle all of his mistakes in the moment. Kevin weighed in on this: "I try to give myself a routine, a regiment per se. Clock in, clock out, be a student, be a businessman, be there for family. All of that takes time and intention."
Kevin described treating the music business and your given craft as a relationship. He explained, the way you treat "it" is the way it'll treat you. He also emphasized that those who are pursuing need to always recognize their worth, and stay relentless through the pursuit. Our conversation was eye-opening for me, and I'm glad you've had the opportunity to read a bit into the mind of someone grinding, just as we are.
Follow Kevin Ross on Instagram @kevinrossmusic. In the meantime, Stay virtuous, Stay idealistic and Stay progressive.