Grinding The Right Way: Using Your Mind, Not Your Body To Get Ahead in Your Career

A few years ago, after a string of small performances at local cafes and schools, I was asked to open up for a rising underground emcee. Well, I must admit, I wasn’t the only one. There were three other female poets who were also asked to present during other intervals during the show.

I walked into the dressing room, where the other girls were already adorning their faces with foundation and giggling galore. They inquired quickly, before asking my name, if I knew whom I was about to perform for. They awaited my answer, excited to hear my take on their adoration. I shrugged; I’d only heard one song he’d done with a famous mainstream artist.

They instantly schooled me: Grammy bound, poetic and cute. He had morals and values, unlike most of the other hip-hop artists they confronted.

I snickered at their clamor while I threw on a tee with fresh Nikes. Even the enlightened and intellectual buzzed with hopeless romantic and crush.

Soon we were confronted by spotlight. We spit rhythmic verses that descended into the crowd and correlated with the songs that were up next. The adrenaline sifted through my veins and promised that I’d stand on a literary platform several times during my future.

There was a euphoria that laced the dressing rooms as we tumbled backstage. We swung our legs from the tall stools and bantered our experiences. In the middle of our chatter, the door flung open. The emcee we’d just opened up for, stood at the door, lit up with pride, “You guys did an amazing job! Man, I wish I could have you spit every time.”

We swarmed him, questioning his plans and lyricism. After an incredible set, even I was now enthralled by his work. After an hour-long conversation, his “posse” came to fetch him, ready to hit the road.

It was then he uttered those magic words. Words that groupies and good girls alike often yearn to hear from “men like him.”

“You guys want to come back to the hotel with us? We can finish the conversation there.”

Pause. Stop. Halt.

Conscious, indie or mainstream; I wasn’t following any rapper anywhere. Yes, it’s possible he might have good intentions, but even on the first date you don’t shadow a brother home. (Or the second & third, for that matter.)

The other girls accepted immediately and I started to pack my bag.

“You down love?” He asked.

I looked him up and down and then around at the too eager faces of the other people in the room.

“Nah, I’ll rain check this one.”

I threw my backpack over my shoulder and headed out while waving small goodbyes to everyone. As I left the arena, I heard quick footsteps behind me. It was Mr. Underground Emcee. His hand was pushed forward, handing me a business card.

“In case you ever need a feature, feisty girl.” He laughed.

I smiled, “Sure.”

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