After so many years “behind the scenes,” it wasn’t exactly a direct route to publishing By Way of Detours.
Now, if you’d known me in Chapel Hill, N.C., where I helped kick-start the hip-hop and spoken word scenes as a college student, playing the back may seem like the real departure. I loved testing out new material at the Durham coffee shop where I hosted a regular poetry event, or on the North Carolina Central University campus where I was a frequent open mic’er.
While most of my journalism-school peers were angling for bylines and photo credits, I leaned into the editing side of things. Copy editing, to be specific. Not only did the field come with its own reference manual – the Associated Press Stylebook – that you were expected to use on the job, I’d been an ace speller since my pre-K through sixth grade Montessori days. And at Percy Julian Junior High in Oak Park, Ill., I could diagram my way out of the longest sentences my teachers threw up on the chalkboard.
I liked being good at things. I learned early that I was good at spelling. Before long, I was good at writing.
Somewhere in between, I discovered voice recording. Me and my sister Cheronda would sing songs and talk into one of those flat cassette players with a single speaker at the top, recording over what I’m sure were some of my dad’s favorite music tapes.
Maybe Dad was being a good sport. Maybe Mom knew that it was the start of something.
Fast-forward decades later, and settling in front a microphone is still one of my favorite things to do. My rap career probably peaked when I opened up for The Roots at Cat’s Cradle near Chapel Hill, but the Mo*Audio podcast I co-hosted with Carlton Hargro and Larmarrous Shirley gave me the same thrill.
J-school paid off with an internship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I got the gig partly because of my love for hip-hop – me and the friends I MC’d with started a hip-hop newspaper. I’ve been in Atlanta ever since.
Thankfully I still get to work with words. And also thankfully, it’s at a Fortune 50 company that allows me to put all of my coaching, encouraging and building-people-up tendencies to work.
I hope you see a theme here. While one thing may have led to another, it’s not always been the direct route, let alone the expected one.
I guess you could call it strategy. Because strategy is about deciding where you’re going to “play” and how you’re going to win when you get there.
If you have even an inkling of what you like to do, or what you’re naturally good at, you’re halfway there. My aim is to offer you a little guidance on the way, and help you trust that you will get there.
The how to win part? Well, you just have to get behind the scenes and let the detours lead the way.