Why I Almost Quit The Music Business

Common said it best, “I used to love her”  Her being hip-hop. My her was the music business overall.  You see, when I started my journey into the music business, I thought I wanted to be a rap star, nah fuck that, I wanted to be a mogul!  But as I grew into the business, I quickly realized that wasn’t what I truly wanted at all.

My love for music started extremely young. Maybe that’s why my parents made my brothers and I take piano lessons.  As I started to dive deep into the exploration of hip hop, my world changed. I wanted to rap ever so badly. I used to move from my friends cribs, who were DJ’s and had instrumentals and microphones. We used to make these tapes (remember those?) back in the day.   

As an artist I felt I couldn’t be touched. I was from the Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop. I felt that nothing could stop me. That was until I realized that producers wouldn’t give me any beats. Guys who had equipment, wouldn’t part with their beloved beats. So I needed a plan .  Fuck it, I dropped some money into some equipment and learned how to make beats with the help of an OG from my block.  (Shout out to Infinity Phree!) 

I would literally spend hours upon hours working on music.  It was like the air I needed to become alive. Soon after I found out my cousin was also into music and we immediately started to share ideas.  Fast forward, we started to achieve; scoring platinum and gold records from the most legendary artist hip hop has to offer. We had gotten a large production deal and we were working the best of the best in the business. When we were flying at our highest, I literally felt my lowest.  

Some would think all of this success would bring a sense of fulfillment, happiness even.  I felt neither. I spent more time in the studio, but it didn’t work. We had large dinner parties, and vacations.  I spent money on things hoping it would make me feel better. Under it all, I had created a vacuum for myself. I felt a level of pressure and expectation that I could never be ready for.  You see, each record we produced was unique in itself. Handcrafted and artfully made with the gifts of sound. As we ascended, artists began the, we want a joint like you gave so and so. So there was a tremendous amount of pressure to maintain a sound, that we wanted to evolve from.

On top of that, there was the endless social pressures of the industry.  I didn’t smoke, and barely drank, but in this industry it was commonplace.  At times I felt that we couldn’t build better relationships with artist solely based on the fact that we didn’t indulge.   Then there was the keeping up with fashion trends. Gold is played out, now its platinum, Rolexes, cars, etc. There was the pressure to look as successful as you were. I found myself slipping away into the excesses of the industry that are only designed to do two things, make you dead, or broke. The third may be make you insane. As your ego can take over, and makes you choose the worst decisions,

Slipping into the abyss of the industry.  Over-fucking indulgence, Work-a-holic, Overeating. Overspending.  Too much alcohol.  Way too many women.  It was a recipe for disaster.

To add insult to injury, the music business had the nerve to switch gears.  New York no longer dominated the charts. Everything switched down south. We went from sampled boom bap to Trap and 808s. What the fuck?  We had to make adjustments. It was like having to learn how to make music all over again.

Nevertheless we made those adjustments. We linked with Scrappy, Shawty Lo, Waka Flocka, Alley Boy, Trouble, Killer Mike and countless others. We started to make waves again. But I was still unhappy. Empty almost. There was a time, when smoke filled studios, blaring music, with bigger than life artists,  surrounded by dozens of goons and guns, was well.. Fun? I guess I’m just a guy from the Bronx, and at that time I felt like I was in my element. Once you get a bit older and have a family, the glitz and glam of the industry just didn’t do much for you anymore.  So I decided to take some time off. No more late night sessions, no beats, no artists consulting, nothing. I wanted to just live , dare I say, normal? For a while it was refreshing.   

When I started to truly analyze how I was feeling, it basically came down to inspiration. The politics and basic music industry bullshit, made me uninspired. So how did this happen?

The music industry in general can be exhausting.  Between the creative process and then the task of getting your music into the right hands, is essentially enough to drive a person crazy. Let’s not even talk about the process of getting paid, and getting the appropriate credit for your work.  In this game you have to have a tolerance for rejection/disappointment, be disciplined, and have an unparalleled amount of patience.  As we progressed into a more computer driven production game, the competition grew larger, but the rewards grew smaller.  As the rewards began to vanish, I essentially lost sight of my goals. Granted we all want to be successful to a degree, but I blurred my goals, with success. My main goal when I started to get into the music industry was to work with raps elite. Once that was accomplished, I should have felt successful. But I didn’t. Looking back, the success was just being able to make music and support my family. It wasn’t a platinum plaque, or a billboard top 10.

My other goal was to leave behind a legacy of music.  I totally lost sight of this goal. It became about chasing a check and not making the best music, and that’s why I felt so empty.   When you’re young, and you don’t have a plethora of responsibilities, you can be as creative as you like with no real consequences. As  you get older, your responsibilities change.   You can’t let that get in the way of why you started on the goal in the first place.

So after some serious soul searching, and at the ultimate behest of my production partner, I got back in. I started to make music for me again.  Not for the next hot rap dude, not a gold or platinum record, or for a Grammy nomination, but for me. Now, If a rap dude happens to like the music, spit the illest verse, goes platinum, and wins a Grammy at the same time,  I’m OK with that shit too.  

The difference now, is that I’m invested in doing it for me, and I hope ya’ll like the shit I create too.  For all my producers just getting in, stay loyal to yourself and the love of the music.  It will make your journey more fulfilling.

Keep grinding.

Jugrnaut is part of production duo Arkatech Beatz (formerly known as The Infinite Arkatechz). Arkatech Beatz are a Grammy nominated hip-hop production team from New York now based in Atlanta. They were affiliated with Loud Records/Sony Music Entertainment as A&R’s and have produced for artists such as Big Pun, Nas, Raekwon, Jadakiss, The Game, Waka Flocka Flame, Lil Scrappy, Killer Mike, Shawty Lo, Mýa, Alley Boy, Trouble,  Max B and others. Arkatech Beatz consists of members Jugrnaut & Mike “Trauma” D .