Knowledge Learned Under Birmingham. J. Dotta, a rapper and part of the hip-hop trio K.L.U.B. Monsta, personifies this acronym. Everything about the city of Birmingham, Alabama, both the beautiful and the ugly, has contributed to the artistic process of J. Dotta. He finds inspiration in general conversation and world happenings, weaving his reality into the lyrics. "We're intelligent. We're smart. We know how to rap," he says. "From Birmingham, the world doesn't always expect that." In this letter, written by J. Dotta, he dives into the process behind the album, When Gawd Ready, and the struggles of creating art with an everyday job.
It could be days like work day, long hours short pay,
Before tax okay, after strawberry shortcake,
Ok let me get my days right,
Work ‘bout 10 hours ever I don’t think this check right,
It could be problems with the bank or sum,
It could be IRS garnishment
This verse is part of the final track, ‘Days Are Shorter,’ from our latest album When Gawd Ready. It is a direct reflection of my experience in the nine to five while also hustling in the studio.
Working ridiculous hours, handling a garnishment, and having no extra funds was a struggle. On top of paying bills and maintaining a household, I had to scrape together enough money to bankroll recording sessions.
Looking back, this period in my life represented a blessing in disguise. Back then, you couldn’t pay me to see the silver lining, but now I have more perspective. With my back against the wall, I wrote some of my best raps recounting the trenches of the artist-work life balance.
Rapping and becoming an artist has always been my dream. To reach the next level, I need to work to support myself until I can make a living off of music.
A few years ago, I worked in the automotive manufacturing business as an assemblyman. I clocked in seven days a week, twelve hours a day.
I never came up for air.
Suffering as an artist and as a person, I had no days off to relax or record. Even in darkness, I focused on small victories. On the job, I befriended people who became supporters of my music which helped spread the word.
Now, I work in the mining business as a Vac Truck Operator. I have more flexibility to attend shows and write in my downtime.
Things are different.
Having a set schedule, I can further accelerate my development as an artist. I can plan events, rehearsals, and studio sessions.
I have room to breathe.
The drive to create great music demands sacrifice. My finances, love life, leisure, even my thought patterns are affected. I am continuously pondering the next verse or analyzing melodies in my head.
The independent side of the business magnifies these sacrifices even more harshly. As a unit, we have absorbed multiple financial losses during the release of our latest album. Seeking the best team to make this project a reality, we paid people who did not meet our standards. We trusted talent and handed over money to partners who did not perform.
We choose to frame these losses as lessons, but this perspective does not always come easily. Learning from our missteps, we plan to do everything in our power to more thoroughly vet those who work alongside us.
This game requires thick skin.
It has taught me to stick to the plan and never venture off course. The path that works for others will not be the same for you. The quick route rarely leads to the most consistent, long-term success. In the final stages of When Gawd Ready, we never stopped hearing:
“When ya’ll dropping?”
“Where is the album?”
“What’s taking so long?”
Once people saw our billboard we designed to promote the album, the inquiries skyrocketed. The buzz generated in Birmingham South-Side was incredible. The love we felt from texts, calls, and reposting overwhelmed us.
Of course, all of this love made us feel the pressure as a unit. We wanted to drop the album but the timing wasn’t right. We still had a few more pieces of the puzzle to complete.
This project would not be determined by some else’s deadline. Only ours mattered. The extra time was worth the wait.
We had to trust OUR process.
- J. Dotta