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Hip Hop (Un)Scene: I'm Burnt

Artists can use 'burn-out' phases to refuel and reflect

By ill poetic · June 23rd, 2010 · Music
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I didn’t like my last two columns. Straight up.

What started out as lessons for independent artists felt like some holier-than-thou shit. And that’s not cool. At all.

So I’m sidestepping for a minute to write what will be the natural third arc in this column trilogy: the burn-out.

I didn’t write a column last month because of space issues with CityBeat. But, really, I wouldn’t have been able to write 850 words worth reading past the first 20, so it was a blessing in disguise. This month I want to write about burning out. This column by no means fits into my “Grand Scheme” idea of columns that I started with, but I won’t be able to reach any of those if I don’t write this out first.

If a burn-out was a 500-piece puzzle picture of an adorable puppy overdosing on methamphetamines, this column would be me pouring the pieces onto a spinning plate and trying to put them together in front of you while blindfolded with duct tape. With three minutes to spare. I’m just that cold.

Burn-outs are nothing new to me. They happen every two to three years. Or, even more precisely, they happen every time I begin wrapping up my next album or end a tour.

The combination of being away from my own reality, whether in another city or inside my own head creating a record, mixed with a constantly hectic schedule is an ever-evolving mindfuck.

What should be some festive, celebratory occasion actually has an opposite effect. It tends to jade me. The same way it jades Neil Armstrong to look at the Earth from the Moon’s perspective, stare in amazement, questioning the vast mysteries of the Universe and God’s purpose for us all, then within the blink of an eye murmur to himself, “Ehh, let’s get home.”

Burn-outs are a temporary hiccup in what’s usually been a momentous run of focus and drive toward all parts of life.

I think all musicians go through burn-out. Not from making music, but from dealing with all the life stuff that gets in the way. I usually start recognizing the signs of burn-out about three seconds too late. It’s like recognizing your plane is going down after the pilot snatched the last parachute. You might as well just embrace the impact and make an S.O.S. sign from some debris.

I know this sounds border-line insane, but it’s not. There’s no borderline. All musicians have a certain element of insanity. Rather, all humans have a certain element of insanity to them; musicians are just stuck with the gift of putting our insanity on full display. And if we’re lucky, you sing along to it when it’s all said and done.

The greatest thing about burn-outs, though, are just how important they are. They’re the moments when you can no longer hold up your house of cards. They’re the moments when you realize that your plans will have to bend to the will of the Earth before the Earth will bend its will to your plans.

The Earth is annoying like that. But it allows you to take time out and really re-establish the balances in life that you’ve chosen and sacrificed for music.

Some of those sacrifices are worth it. Some aren’t. And it’s different for everybody.

All I can say is, use these moments of depression and burn-out as the tools they are supposed to be. Stop worrying about your career. Stop worrying about relationship issues. Stop worrying about money problems. Let it all go for a minute. Let it go before it feels like some doctor just pumped your brain with anesthesia. Let it go before it takes an electro-shock therapy jolt to the temple just to make you feel a tingle in your spine.

The most amazing thing about burn-outs, for me at least, is that they are almost always followed by some of the most amazing runs in my life. Whether career or personal or both. It’s all a matter of navigating through it. If you’re really special, make it rhyme to a melody and you might just a have a real song on your hands. And it might just be worth it. Or not. Who knows?

So embrace the burn-out. Embrace everything that comes with it. It can truly be one of the most beautiful tragedies you’ll ever watch, and it’s right there on the back of your eyelids. I’m watching mine right now. Needless to say, I need a vacation.

But this is an advice column. So as far as advice goes, ummm … Don’t do drugs. Live for the moment. Think glass half full. Unless the glass is half-full of bleach. Then don’t even think. Just smile and drink it.

See you next month!



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