An Interview w/ Ise Lyfe on Business, Haters and Leadership

This is a great article interview  w/ Bay Area artist Ise Lyfe.. He offers some keen insight in the arenas of leadership, starting your own business and the complex relationship those who are in the ‘struggle’ have with making money.. It initially appeared in Nor Cal Magazine..

On starting your own business:  

The business you start should be an organized expression of your spiritual self. Essentially this means that you should start a business that provides you with an opportunity to make money being who you naturally are. If you are working for someone else before or while you’re starting your own business don’t resent that. Don’t get too comfortable there either… But while you’re there my advice is to seek out and focus on interacting with experiences and people that are involved with things that trigger your passion.

When I started LP my vision was to create a company that made education provocative. I also wanted to be a part of producing events and products that were hella fresh and good for people; where entertainment and progressiveness went hand and hand. I’m living that now, but it didn’t begin that way. I’ll even admit that the first couple years I didn’t even know if it was possible.

The key was finding professional confidence in the way that people were reacting to me. You see, if your business is TRULY an organized expression of your spiritual self, then if people connect with you they’ll probably connect with your business or product! People often misstep when they pose or bend in attempt to survive in the market. This causes them to be looked over by most and ignored. When you’re posing, lying, or over compromising you’re not being yourself. Your self is the foundation of your business. Foundations are made of concrete and steel, not plastic and fluff. Trust that you’re great and step out with that.

On Getting Money:

It’s rarely discussed, but people who are considered “conscious” or socially aware have a real complex about making money, keeping money, and being financially astute. Somehow “struggling” is viewed as a badge of honor. But if you say things like “I’m committed to the struggle” and you struggle your whole life- then you have won in your task to stay struggling and should be happy with that.

I am of the knowledge that some struggle is divine and inherit to the beauty of life. However, the centuries of struggling that our people have gone through are nothing to marry or commit to. I believe that our commitment should be to always be one with and an advocate for our own personal salvation and the salvation of all people struggling. But if I was on a stretcher coughing (struggling) and the doctor walked in coughing over me (struggling) I wouldn’t think “Yo, that’s what’s up, we in this cough thing together!” No… I’d be like damn can we get somebody in here for both of us!? This fool has germs! 🙂

I make a lot of money. Especially compared to most educators and independent artist out there. In fact, many independent artist are also educators either in the classroom or in after school programs as either a passion or just a way to make ends meet while they’re waiting for their careers to take off. Sadly, most of those folks live financially challenged, which is a tragedy because they offer so much goodness. Not only am I an independent artist and an educator, but my work is deemed “conscious.” This makes my particular status of wealth really rarefied air because in general if you show me a “conscious” artist I’ll show you a broke person!  However, there are a lot of folks out there with a powerful, conscious, and necessary message that are making money and doing what they love at the same time. Not only that, what they love to do is good for other people too! But they do not speak on and will even deny their wealth. Part of it comes from humility, but I believe much of the secrecy is due to guilt and or how misinformed bozo’s in the community will put them down or condemn them for not being broke.

The biggest lie artist are told is that you can’t (or shouldn’t) make real music and be heard and successfull. Hell (heaven), I was sitting in my office with six staff members, fresh off a tropical vacation, with two cars parked underneath me in the garage (all financed by my “conscious” work) and a music industry cat looked me dead in my face and said, “Ise, nobody wants to hear that conscious s*^%…” I would argue that nobody wants to hear that dumb s*^%, but its all that gets played… Imagine if a mother stopped up all the water faucets in her home, never exposed her children to water, and only gave them double chocolate milkshakes to drink. Then, as her kids got fatter and more out of shape the mother says, “What can I say, they ain’t with that water s*^%…”

Here’s some math:

Jill Scott- 4,192,900 albums sold
Erykah Badu– 5,018,000 albums sold
Lupe Fiasco– 3,500,000 albums sold
India Arie– 10 million albums sold worldwide
Common– 2,727,000 albums sold

Clearly, some people do wanna hear a different message…

So what I’m saying is if you are an Artist or anybody striving to live your dream you need to shamelessly ball on these fools. If you are a good person with morals and ethics your good fortune and abundance will naturally be a positive thing for your community. It will empower you to employ people, donate to youth, support family members, invest in projects you believe in, support organizations, and inspire others. These are all things that I’ve experienced first hand and they are the cornerstones of bliss in my life.

On haters:

Haters baffle the player because we cannot at all relate to their existence. By player I mean people who are actually manifesting and progressing in life. Haters normally are just bothered by people who remind them of what they’re not doing. I use to try to win the hearts of haters by trying to reason with them. I realized though that it is impossible to reason with a hater because reason takes rational thought and honesty. Haters are filled with no rational thought and won’t honestly confront how wack they’re being, so there is no point in even approaching the conversation.

An adviser once told me, “Ise, when you argue with a fool after awhile it gets hard to tell who the fool is.” So keep it pushing and be grateful to be one of the few players in this world of puzzled ass lames. If you’re a hater and you’re reading this I send you my love and encourage you to tap into your inner light and believe in yourself. You can do anything!

On being in leadership:

First off, as children most of us are told that we are “The leaders of tomorrow!” Ehh, I disagree. Everyone is not a leader. That may sound harsh but it is reality. However, many people want to be in leadership roles because we live in a society that has a verticle view of roles and power that puts leadership “on top” and everyone else “beneath.” So naturally many people desire to be viewed as leadership but do not desire or have the ability to carry out the responsibility that comes with the role.

I’ve visited parts of the world where all roles are placed in a circle, not stacked on top of each other. So leadership roles are right beside the other EQUALLY important roles that make up systems. The first key to being a great leader is understanding that your role as leader does not mean you are higher up, superior, or better than the other people you are working with. This thinking contradicts terms that we normally hear like “This is my superior in the company”, “Upper management”, and ”Lower tier.”

Being the leader of a company, project, or family simply means that your job is to have a fully encompassed understanding of everything that is happening while bringing out and supporting the best attributes of the people and elements that you are working with.

To survive as a leader you have to keep your emotions in check at all times. Leadership responsibilities will stir up all sorts of emotions in you!
Some are good: Passion, joy, happiness, satisfaction…
Others not so good: Rage, fear, disappointment, confusion…

Thing is, any emotion whether its one that feels good or one that feels bad can blur your vision and affect your judgment as a leader. Make moves and decisions based on what’s best for the goal, not based on what makes you feel best.

This part is important:

Many people who once loved and admired you, promised you loyalty, and who owe a lot of their success to you will at some point resent you, not be impressed by you, fear you, and may even betray you. This is not your concern in relation to leadership, but because it will affect you it is important to be prepared for this. Don’t take it personally (though it will hurt like shit at times), it comes with the territory.

People question and curse God, so of course they’ll question and curse something much smaller in comparison like an earthly leader. My aim is to make sure that everyone that comes into contact with me as a leader leaves more informed, experienced, and better equipped to fulfill their purpose than they were when they arrived. No one has ever left my company and this not be the case. Doesn’t matter if they feel great about me or have some different feeling, the fact is that they are better now because of being in contact with me and that is what matters (whether they’ll admit that or not).

For example there’s a person who was fired from my company that went on a pointless tirade of trying to slander me and our company. They even stole out of our office and tried to hold our property at ransom for a payout. We all just shrugged and laughed and kept pushing forward. But the real reward (beyond the good laugh) is that I know I impacted this person’s life and put them on a path they NEVER would have been on if they had never worked for me. Before being at LP they were doing menial cubicle drone work and were  miserable. They were inspired while at my company to start their own company and even named it after a nickname I gave them. So now, even when they’re off speaking ill of me, every time they say their company’s name they have to think of me! If they change the name because it reminds them of me they’ll have to think of me as the reason they changed the name.

 So you see, leadership is not about popularity or being loved- even though it is sublime to have that experience. Your job is to support people in maximizing their human potential. Its good for business and good for the world.

……………………………………………………………

Ise Lyfe (Oakland, CA) is an HBO Def Poet, Educator, and Executive Director of Lyfe Productives- a social marketing and education firm focused on product development. 

ISE LYFE BREAKS DOWN ALL 20 ITEMS IN THE PHOTO SELECTED FOR THIS ARTICLE AND WHAT THEY MEAN TO HIM: 

 

1. Jay-Z’s “Decoded” is a fresh textbook. It reveals and reminds us all that Hip-Hop like all other art comes from a foundation of humanity and struggle.

2. It is hard to see it in the shot but this book is a book of poetry by Marcus Garvey. It reveals Garvey as an Artist and true user of heart.

3. This book “Freedom” is a picture history of Black people in the United States from slavery to present day. It is impressively thorough and touching.

4. “The Missing Piece Meets the BIG O” is the best book I’ve ever read on relationships. I want to read it to someone.

5. As an emcee it was a trip to record an audio book. The 1st time I saw it on a shelf at Barnes & Noble was surreal. I never would’ve imagined that. Lesson learned…

6. This is a copy of my 1st book, “Pistols & Prayers. I dedicated it to my mother, which was a great feeling. I hope it makes up for all the janky hand made birthday cards when I was a kid!

7. Prince Cometh

8. I’ve had this rhyme bad since I was 17. It hasn’t even been on purpose that I’ve kept it. It just always resurfaces wherever I’m at. Thought i’d add it to the heap…

9. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is a thorough indictment of the exploitation of Africa for western world benefit. Out of all the books in my home this is probably the most significant one I have in relation to understanding the deliberate attack on Africa.

10. The Husia is love.

11. Solid gold from Mali…

12. This is the 1st copy printed of my 1st albim, “spreadtheWORD”. I remember how juiced I was to open it up and play it for the first time. Having this in my house reminds me to not get jaded and stay enthusiastic about everything.

13. I think the reconciliation of Malcolm and Martin is so deep on so many levels. Forget whatever beef you might have in the streets, these brothers were beefing over the destiny of our people and found a way to move through their differences and set eyes on a common goal.

14. Every morning when I rise I sit up and check in spiritually. The first thing you do in the morning should not be checking Twitter on your cellphone! Anyway, sage always centers me and genuinely holds power.

15. I never walk around with this much money on me, nor do I keep it in my house. In the hood you learn to keep hella g’s on you to floss but as you mature you learn that that isn’t what’s up. Money isn’t power, it is a manifestation of power. For intensive purposes though I pulled several (several) thousands in cash out to authenticate what I knew would be in the article. Then it was right back to the bank cousin…

16. 789= Balance Infinite Completion

17. I keep it modest on the designer/name brand tip- but I’ll admit that I’m weak for Ray-Bans. I WON’T ADMIT HOW MANY i’VE BOUGHT…

18. One day

19. This is Steve Jobs. I read his biography four times. Homie was flawed as we all are, but he never relented in building what he saw in his mind and making it a reality. I’ve studied and I’m learning from his successes AND mistakes.

20. WEAR condoms.

Peace, this has been fun.
Ise

An Incredible Commentary: I am NOT Trayvon Martin

This woman goes in a drops lots of gems on this commentary around Trayvon Martin… She addresses the issue of race, white privilege and activism in the wake of Trayvon’s murder.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBRwiuJ8K7w

Transcript:
I AM NOT TRAYVON MARTIN.
I AM NOT TROY DAVIS.

and to the middle class, white, socially concerned activist who wears a shirt emblazoned with those slogans, you are wrong.

I know you wear that shirt to stand in solidarity with Trayvon, Troy, and other victims of injustice. The purpose of those shirts is to humanize these victims of our society, by likening them to the middle class white activist wearing it. And once we’ve humanized the victims, this proves to us the arbitrariness of their deaths and thereby the injustice at play.

But the fact of the matter is that these men’s deaths are anything but arbitrary. The fact that the real Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin and countless other victims of oppression are buried under 6 feet of cold dirt while we middle class white activists are alive, marching, and wearing their names is an indication that our societal system is working exactly as it’s intended.

A more accurate t-shirt to display on my white body would be “I AM GEORGE ZIMMERMAN.” Zimmerman and I were indoctrinated in the same American discourse where we learned that the “other,” particularly black men like Trayvon and Troy, were less human and were to be feared. Society taught me that as a little white girl, I must preserve my purity and goodness, and that the presence of young single males threatened it. Society taught me that being in the presence of a BLACK man compounds that threat exponentially. I have been taught that male, black, bodies are an immediate threat to my safety and the well being of society as a whole, and Zimmerman was taught the same damn thing. We’re all taught it.

I look at George Zimmerman and think, “there, but for the grace of god, go I.” Had it not been for a decent education, intense critical thinking, and some truly excellent parenting, I would never have questioned the societal norms that Zimmerman and I were both taught, and I would have ended up feeling his attack on Trayvon was justified, just as he did, and the state of Florida does.

If we are to effect real change in the wake of Trayvon’s murder, we have to realize this. Realizing that you more closely resemble a homicidal oppressive force than a helpless victim is a really uncomfortable thing to do. I know. But wanting to identify with the victim is weak, and immature when it is not an accurate representation of reality. Real change is effected when we own up to our actions, our privilege, and our complicity with the system that murdered Trayvon and countless others.

Us privileged activists have to realize just how easy it is to be Zimmerman, and work to change this. Subvert stereotypes. Make it harder for others to buy into the bullshit that we’re fed our whole lives about race, class, gender, and other people by identifying and critiquing these messed up norms. Force adults to confront these norms, and raise children without indoctrinating them with the same old bullshit. Use your privilege to actively dismantle this messed up system. Listen to marginalized people like Trayvon’s family and Troy’s family and insure them access to the discourse. Listen to them, stand in solidarity with them. But do not, I repeat, DO NOT claim to be them.

 

Killer Mike is a NRA Member, Says Black People Need Be Stockpiling Guns to Fight Domestic Terror

Killer Mike is one of my favorite artists, because he’s willing to speak truth to power with passion and conviction. Unlike many of his mainstream counterparts, Mike is willing to tackle important social issues and put it in his music..We saw him do that in songs like The Pressure w/ Ice Cube and the the song Burnwhere he had compelling videos..that captured the hearts  and minds of those who have long felt disenfranchised and voiceless.

The other day he sat down with Sway of MTV and expressed his anger with Reverend Jesse Jackson. He was upset that Jesse was directing people to lobby congress to get rid of assault rifles..He felt that Jesse who was speaking out on the back of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. He noted that Trayvon wasn’t killed by an assault rifle and that most people who die are killed by handguns not assault rifles.

Killer Mike said we shouldnt be banning assault rifles, we as Black folks should be stockpiling them and arming ourselves more. He noted that we should have  Black men at every corner who are armed, not just to protect ourselves against the George Zimmerman‘s of the world, but also to make sure our daughters aren’t being harassed by thugs on the corner as they go to school.

You can peep the video HERE

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:uma:video:mtv.com:753924/cp~vid%3D753924%26uri%3Dmgid%3Auma%3Avideo%3Amtv.com%3A753924

During his interview Killer Mike  also noted that we as a Black community need to get back to a point where we not only protect ourselves from fake authority figures, but also know how to survive on our own in case of mass blackouts or any other situation where we no longer have electricity and the modern comforts of life. In short, he talked about how important it is for all of us to know how to fish, hunt and survive the land. He said every family member needs to know how to handle themselves and be familiar with guns.

Killer Mike noted that we are under terrorist attack and we need to be protecting ourselves. He said its a damn shame that Black men as old as Dick Gregory to men his own age and little boys as young as 10 are afraid of the police when we see them.. He said no other group until recently with Arab-Americans after 9-11 has been subjected to that sort of terror.

Killer Mike during his interview noted that he recently joined Al Sharpton‘s organization National Action Network and he’s member of the NRA.. That remark drew a lot of raised eyebrows, primarily because the NRA is a lobbying arm that has long supported causes that have led to further eroding of rights and eventual suppression of Black folks.. Someone was upset and even posted a video where Malcolm X speaks to this issue.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3oLTy0C4MA

This just in.. Killer Mike upon seeing this article responded in the comment section.. Here’s his take on the video..and the NRA

This Is Killer Mike. I joined the NRA as a Public display that WE as BLACKS can use that organization to “Protect” our 2cd amendment rights also. I think it be more important to stop blacks from joining the 700 club but, I digress. Here is why i joined.

My Father was a Cop. He taught me Gun Safety and has in his life been a member also. It’s about using every resource available at your disposal to ensure we can have the full American Experience. The NRA offers many classes on Gun safety and gun owner responsibility and rights. These are things all Gun owners need to know. In short their practicality for advancing safe gun ownership and rights out weigh their political stance because Black NEED that knowledge in the NOW.

WE HAVE NO BLACK NRA and until we do i will continue to use the organization that my white counter parts use to “Protect” them against law makers infringing upon 2cd Amendment rights. I hunt and Fish. I shot with my father and wife. My kids will begin shooting this year. I am glad that I have an organization that has programs and classes for all of us to use at our disposal.

Malcolm has a grand idea and I will be asking my black friends to join me in organizing a shooting club.

Salute and Love.

On a side note.. the way this conversation with Killer Mike has been framed is he is angry with Black leadership..I disagree, Killer Mike is angry with Jesse Jackson and at this point in time when you are over 30, have kids and a platform to speak to the masses you are also Black leadership. Many of the old guard i.e Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others were all leaders in their community at young ages. They were folks barely out of their teens and in their early 20s. We saw this with many of the leaders in SNCC, The Black Panthers and numerous other organizations.

We can no longer be upset with 60 and 70 year old men who we call Black leadership as if we aren’t able to go out and help craft solutions and implement them.. This doesn’t mean we have to go and reinvent the wheel or be in some sort of competition, but at a date and time where there is so much need in our respective hoods, there’s no excuse for us not to be out there filling the voids and being ‘leaders’ in our own right.. We should be helping fortify or building institutions and not be to be tripping too hard with elders in our community. We can definitely disagree. We can and should debate. But again at this stage in the game we should all be helping lead those who are coming up behind us..and be factors in our respective communities.