One year ago,
I planned a trip out to California to meet with some artists, businesses, producers, and more. It would’ve been my first trip to the West Coast. I would’ve lectured at Virginia Union University for a marketing class about how I network within the various hip-hop, poetry, and Virginia communities. If that happened, I would have lectured at every four-year university in the 804; already lectured at VCU, VSU, and the University of Richmond at that point on numerous things back in 2019. Then COVID hit us HARD.
To give a brief summary of what I am: a poet, quasi-emcee, journalist, and health professional. A Swiss Army knife of different things would be the best way to describe me. When the pandemic hit, I know it affected plenty of rappers, poets, and business owners of all aspects in harsh ways. At the beginning of March, before COVID testing was even available, I went through the severe symptoms of COVID. Shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, constant diarrhea, and more. I was sleeping for ten to twelve hours on a daily for two and a half weeks. At the time I didn’t know I had it until months later when I became more educated on COVID through my health job at the time.
While bouncing back from the illness in late March, I was a part of the RVA Rap Elite March Madness tournament. It was a sixty-four emcee competition where the page would post two emcee’s sixty-second videos and whoever had more comments won the rounds. I saw that as an opportunity to promote my poetry. Then as a writer for FeelGood RVA, I saw it as a perfect time to interview video director Alex Acosta (visual credits for Flo Rida’s “My House”, Styles P, and Netflix to name a few). We talked about how he balances his health with a busy job as a video director.
I kept writing to stay creative. I even did some murals at a local community center with some close friends and kept posting poetry on Instagram and Twitter. When every profession outside of the health field hit a simultaneous pause, I saw it as a way to create and find inspiration through the stillness. There were thoughts of publishing a book at the start of COVID, but that didn’t happen until later on in September. I was constantly in online open mics via Zoom and Instagram lives, published articles for the likes of RVA Mag along with numerous articles on FeelGood RVA from interviewing social media strategist Michell Clark and wrote various health articles. Eventually, in 202, I would interview Lil B The Based God, Singer Christine Ariya, and wrote various health articles. Not to mention, I published my first poetry book in September 2020.
At that point in September, I solidified myself as a constant social media presence, had credentials during the pandemic to help support my book, and much more. I even had one of my works from the book featured for a film for Mississippi State University and GoldPrint Entertainment. I started to perform poetry on national platforms and got paid the most I ever did poetry for on any platform. I was being interviewed. The book is in three continents and eleven states. It’s not a New York Times Best Seller like every book is, but Lil B The Based God got a book after I interviewed him for FeelGood RVA, so that means more to me than an NYT accolade. The persistence I had within putting out content as a means of finding myself through the pandemic led me to network with big names. I was even featured in a New Zealand metal band music video shot by Zev Deans (video credits for Denzel Curry’s Clout Cobain and Vengeance along with Action Bronson’s Mongolia). I even landed a feature with former LOC and SMACK URL battle rapper, Sonny Kolfax on his Bruce Leroy project under his Cult Classic moniker, and I don’t even make music [and hadn’t since 2016].
The primary focus of why I created so much was so I can stay healthy and present within the moment. There were plenty of personal battles I endured and people I sifted from that hurt greatly. In a sense, all I did was a form of therapy through unemployment, breakups, and realizing some major flaws that I continue to fix and unlearn on a consistent basis. Thanks to the introduction of Clubhouse in late 2020, the app helped me push my book and creative endeavors even further when Clubhouse was the trending topic everywhere on social media.
The things I started doing and continued with during COVID:
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable as a creative. Thanks to the versatility we have with all social media platforms, it’s essential to experiment with the different platforms and find ways to best share your content. Hence, it allowed me to diversify who I can market to such as poets, rappers, producers, and various platforms.
Stop being afraid to not put something out. I honestly saw myself as a conversationalist during all this. I longed for social interaction albeit with the various restrictions we have gone through in a year, but I didn’t limit myself on who to talk to. Nor did I limit my own capabilities on what platforms to write for such as The MSQ Shop, FeelGood RVA, RVA Magazine, and The Cheats Movement in one year.
Don’t feel pressured to constantly put something out. Yes, I contradict the consistency I just mentioned throughout the article. From March through May, I wasn’t creating constantly. From December through until February, I was quiet as a poet, author, and journalist. People aren’t going to expect you to put something out every day. When you realize that the only person that controls when you need to put something out is you, and you only, you lifted a great weight off your shoulders. Don’t rush art. Artistic blocks do happen. Use those moments to breathe and relax. In the moments that I wasn’t creating, I focused on other aspects of life as that needs attention and growth to develop.
With the weather warming up and shows starting to return and venues opening up, we don’t know how long this will last. Whether we go back to a lockdown or if this is a sign of good things to come in regards to returning to a “normal” world, that is yet to be determined. For now, I’m still taking my precautions and won’t be out for many events. Yet people can always catch me on social media putting out articles or sharing other’s music or art. I'm still recording my words and putting them out whether it's for poetry or now for album features.
Whatever you do, dial into your mission. The Mission Is About Passion. The Mission Is About Love. The Mission Is About Selfishness. The Mission Is About Progression. The Mission Is Too Great.
Check out my website here for all my past works. https://justinhisprime.wordpress.com
Written by: Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media.