These artists made it because they were fearless and feisty despite the overwhelming odds.
Music. Everyone needs it in their lives, whether you’re into the classics or rock. It can help us when we’re going through difficult times and when we’re celebrating our achievements. The American singer, Billy Joel, famous for the song ‘Uptown Girl’ once said:
‘I think music in itself is healing. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music’.
Joel was very right about this. Music certainly has the power to develop and represent our personality to the world. Young people often define themselves through music and build friendships around commonly liked artists. As the lockdown period continues, music has never been more significant in supporting our mental health and helping us be more creative.
Music has changed through the generations, with Elvis Presley dominating the ’50s and unique talents like Michael Jackson shining through the ’80s. These musical souls inspired us to get through tough situations like economic downturns and wars, and they can help us now during the current pandemic. As I sat thinking about this, I began considering specific individuals who despite facing adversity managed to carve out fruitful careers.
Here I want to focus on one particular music genre which is American Rap/Hip Hop and the artists that helped reinvent and perpetuate it. For me, that’s Eminem, Jennifer Lopez and 50 Cent.
Eminem, frequently viewed as a controversial character due to some risqué lyrics, is nevertheless inspiring. Some of my favourite songs from him have to be, ‘Loose Yourself’, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Cinderella Man’ because there is something motivating about them.
Eminem, otherwise known as Marshall Bruce Mathers III didn’t have the best start in life. His father walked out on him and his mother struggled with a drug addiction as he got bullied at school. But Eminem discovered solace in the rap scene at 14, which set him up for a very successful career. At 47 he’s just a few years shy of turning 50, with his life being a great lesson in dedication and perseverance. Despite years of closed doors, he never give up on his dream of rapping to the world. Eventually, he met music producer Dr.Dre who released his second studio album titled The Slim Shady LP, which sold more than 3 million copies and gained a Grammy.
Success wasn’t without criticism. Many saw him as the ‘white guy’ disrupting African American rap music. That didn’t kill his passion for performing though, which was later portrayed in the semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile — which incidentally made $242.9 million USD.
Eminem is someone I truly relate to. He’s all about staying real and true to oneself by sticking to what you have passion for and staying focused.
Jennifer Lopez who (believe it or not) is now 50, epitomises female accomplishment with her triple talent in music, fashion and acting. Staring in feel-good comedies such as Made in Manhattan and releasing catchy yet defiant songs like ‘Jenny From the Block’ — which reached number 3 on the Billboard chart in 2002 — J.Lo showed that you could have it all and still stay grounded. She has since won notable awards such as the Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2018, but through it all Lopez has never forgotten where she came from, just like her song lyrics state:
‘Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got, I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block.
Used to have a little, now I have a lot.
No matter where I go, I know where I came from (from the Bronx!)’
Now a multimillionaire with her face instantly recognizable, things weren’t always like this. Jennifer Lopez came from an ordinary background with an insurance broker fro a father and a homemaker for a mother. The family lived in the Bronx of New York City, known for its gang culture and poverty. As a young girl she dreamt of more, so took singing, dancing and acting lessons to build the foundation she needed for a career in the entertainment industry. Film offers came slowly but surly with memorable roles in Anaconda, Selena and most recently Hustlers, which earned many approving nods for her tough and impressionable performance as a former striper.
Aged 50, it seems nothing can hold this woman back. Lopez is a force of nature who entices and wows audiences. Her strength has been her focus on goals and not being afraid to reinvent yourself. In her own words:
‘be committed to what makes your heart sing and your spirits soar … be relentless in the pursuit of your passions’.
50 Cent, now 44, was born Curtis James Jackson III. He grew up in in Queens New York, in the South Jamaica neighbourhood known for its gang violence. His road to success was challenging, with time spent in a youth prison for selling cocaine. But he worked hard and got his big break which came following the release of his first album titled, Get Rich Or Die Tryin. The album reached Number 1 on the Billboard 200 and managed to sell 872,000 copies in its first week.
Despite some financial downturns over the years, 50 Cent has remained a highly motivated individual who never gives up and never lets past mistakes stop him from moving forward — no matter what anyone says.
You might disagree with my selection, but these three individuals are influential to me because they achieved success through believing in themselves despite the odds. They kept knocking on doors and networking with people from different backgrounds and life stations to theirs. There is a lesson to be learned here for all young people in our current situation. The uncertainty produced by the pandemic should make us readier to fight for our dreams and believe we can achieve our career goals – whatever the odds and in spite of the obstacles.