Tierra Whack is one of the most creative and unique artists in hip hop today. The Philly native had an unconventional path, gaining notoriety at a young age in the Philly freestyle rap community before willingly leaving to cut her teeth in the music scene in Atlanta in her late teens, before returning to her home of Philadelphia. Going through bouts of homelessness when she came back her path wasn’t always straight forward but she made it through to become one of raps next big names. What did she do to get to where she is that young artists can learn from? Let’s take a look. 1. Your Imagination Is Your Best Creative Asset
Artists with a vision for how they want to look are at an inherent advantage. Whether it’s wardrobe styling or music video aesthetics having a ‘look’ thought out in your head as an artist is one of the best things possible to stick out in the rat race. Whack’s breakout video ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ was mainly based on Whack’s perspective of a visit to the dentist!
You don’t need to have it all figured out to be creative. Just run with feelings and styles you like and don’t overthink it! At the end of the day just be decisive. With your imagination you can make almost any restriction into a strength. 2. Be Ready For Your Moment
When Whack was driving around with her mother one day as a 15 year old in Philly she saw a group of people freestyling. Her mother encouraged her to go out and rap for the group of people and she didn’t waver. Tierra went out and although she started out a little rocky, she captured the approval of the crowd and the video went viral. It made the rounds in many Philly rap circles and led to her meeting Meek Mill. This was her first taste of what being a star was like. It would never have happened had she not gotten out of that car that day. 3. Visual Aesthetic is a Key Differentiator
Audio + visuals have always had a good relationship. But in 2020 in the instagram/Youtube era they are completely intertwined. If you are trying to promote music without some sort of visuals behind it, you’re going to be running uphill for your entire release campaign. Artists who stick in your mind for having a sound and look all their own are rare. That’s why defining them early is key to growth. Whack knows this, she took a storytelling in film course at school. She always writes her own treatments in her head before deciding to put out a song.
Citing people like Missy Elliott and Ludacris for their engaging world building music videos. 4. Recognize Your Constraints & Learn How To Make The Best Of Them
Whack World and the length for each video was inspired by Instagram’s 1 minute limit on videos. Whack realized the best way to maximize her fan engagement was to work within their preferred format. Not only this but it suited her strengths due to her quick hitting delivery and ability to pack in loads of syllables in her flows.
The overall trend of embracing shorter formats for music is easy to trace back to social media and is only going to continue so get used to it. Learn how to work within the landscape or spend your career playing catch up. 5. Find Your Sound
Whack realized after her breakout street freestyle performance that writing bars is great but making great music takes more than dope punchlines and flows. It takes a certain amount of songwriting ability, vision, & musical self awareness to be a great artist and more than a freestyle rapper. Plenty of people can think of great punchlines but how many can write great songs? 6. You HAVE To Trust Yourself
Whack said when she was younger she used to let people discourage her. Now she feels that she won’t change a thing if she doesn’t believe it wholeheartedly. Being an artist can be lonely but at the end of the day you are your own boss. If you have a vision then it’s your duty to yourself to believe in it. And by extension yourself. Otherwise who can you trust? 7. Find The Time & Tools To Self Record
Being a recording artist before the 21st century you didn’t need to know how to record yourself. That was the engineers job and their job alone. Now in 2020 it’s imperative that an artist even if they don’t always record themself understand what it is that they do to make their sound unique to themselves. What delivery styles make you sound authentic, which don’t. What register are you most comfortable with when singing?
Learning these things while paying for a studio is costly and a waste of your time. Whack cites Getting a mic and computer to record herself at home alone as the reason she was able to find her sound and be her true self. 8. Learn Financial Discipline
Whack’s first job when she moved to Atlanta from Philadelphia was at a carwash
. She used this time in her life as a way to escape the freestyle culture of Philly to hunker down and find herself as an artist. She was a finisher at one the most popular car washes in Atlanta, working 10-14 hours a day in the Atlanta heat. Her manager said she never complained, just learned how to get along and impress customers.
Even if the job didn’t pay well this was how she invested in herself and bought her first computer to record herself. Without taking this seemingly mundane job seriously or blowing the money made there on needless vanity purchases, who knows how she would have developed as an artist.
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