I hope today is a lesson for all my brothers. The same people you’re banging ACs to impress will be the first to laugh the day you get shifted. Live your life with all of its ups and downs.
Yes, entertainers can be down to their last 18p in the account. Kanye is a 21-time Grammy award winning musician and he is $53 million in debt. Why is this? Because creatives tend to be passionate individuals who accept higher risks for higher rewards. When it works out it’s wonderful, but we also work in an industry that preys on weakness. For entertainers, especially male ones, to admit to financial weakness is like defeat in the highest. Not only does it kill you but also your perception as an entertainer. You may not realise how much you do it, but we all respond to displays of wealth. When someone lives a good life, we assume they’re doing well, then we want to know about them, support them and give them more money and free stuff. There are a few artists who can get away with appearing poor, but even that is a carefully managed publicity situation.
Here in the UK, so many of your favourite artists are living off illegitimate money to keep up appearances and supplement poor earnings. Some still have bricks in the hood as well as tracks in the charts. If all UK rappers acted like their bank balance, the UK market would value them less and continue valuing US rappers more (even though many of them still do dirt too).
It’s a tough thing to say, but I’m living my truth. I make a living. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make a modest living doing what I love. Is it enough to stunt with and be all “showbiz” with? No. I’m just one of a few professional stand-up comics working in this country, passionate about their craft and handling their responsibilities. I don’t put my finances out there because it’s between my wife and I, but I feel no way in making it clear that without my wife’s support there are times I may not have made it through financially and that’s real. I do this so when the millions come, she can really enjoy. That kind of loyalty should be rewarded, not tested. There, that’s where I’m at.
I can drive but I don’t have a car. I won’t get one so I can keep up appearances. I’m going to get one when I can afford to run one comfortably. It’s easy to talk reckless about how much SOME entertainers get paid but how many of you would do your office job if you had to be broke/in debt for 5 years and a 1/100 chance that after 5 years you may make anywhere between a modest living and an extravagant amount of money, with little guarantee of how long it will last? How about if in order to keep your entry-level office job, you also had to look and live like an executive to have a chance of promotion? Even forget about all of that, how many of you could handle only making money when you shine at your job? If you only got paid when you excelled and stayed on your game, how many of you would survive? I respect everyone’s hustle, because I know I’m not built for the office life, in the same way, most aren’t built for entertainment entrepreneurship. I have so many examples of how broke I have been. I do travel and eat out, but I know where I had to make sacrifices for this dream.
When my wife and I started seeing each other, I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in almost traphouse conditions. The first time I went to America after graduating, I went to New York for 4 weeks. Halfway through week 3, I had run out of money. This forced me to make the 2 hour journey into Manhattan every night, regardless of how I felt and try to get a 10 minute spot somewhere so I could impress the crowd and tell them I’d be at the door with my DVDs. I let people pay what they want and by putting all those $2-5 donations together I would eat the next day. There was a time I used to only turn the boiler on when it’s time to do dishes only because my fingers would freeze trying to wash them with cold water. The day I met Chris Rock, I had zero in my account but I had a bus pass. It was because I worked in Abercrombie & Fitch that I had free VIP entry to the club he was partying in. I did the 90 min bus journey up, just to wait for him, hand him my sh*tty DVD and leave.
If you’re an entertainer reading this, I’m sure you have your own stories. Be encouraged. Be true. If you’re a civilian reading this, then I can’t demand your respect. However, I can simply ask that you have an awareness of how much money affects creativity. This life is not as easy as most entertainers make it look on Instagram. When it’s sweet, trust me it is sweet. When it’s not sweet, you’ll be surprised how quickly you consider deets.