With the ways celebrities make their own rules and fully opt out of society sometimes it’s hard to remember that they were once normal people like you and I. Between all the Twitter beef, self entitlement and outlandish behaviour, it’s a struggle to picture them doing normal things like the rest of us do. For those reasons I want to take a look back at what these super stars did before they hit it big in the music industry.
Nicki Minaj, better known as Onika Miraj, had a slew of random jobs before she signed to Young Money and blew up. Nicki was reported to have worked as a waitress at Red Lobster, an administrative assistant, an office manager and finally a customer service rep before she hit it big. She even questioned her decision to quit her last 9-5 as her music wasn’t heading in a steady direction, “I went home and looked in my refrigerator and cabinets, and there was nothing there. My bank account was empty. For a slight moment, I was like, 'They're right. I need to go back home to my mother” (Fuse.TV). Well luckily Ms. Minaj kept on pushing herself and released 3 mixtapes between 2007 and 2009 before Lil Wayne and co. discovered the ravishing rhymer.
Yazz the Greatest Aka Bryshere Gray plays Hakeem Lyon on Empire. I think we’ve all probably tuned into and loved the show’s first dramatic and addictive season. Yazz plays very spoiled Hakeem who wants to make his play for the family’s empire with his rap skills. Our boy Yazz is the complete opposite of this character in real life and actually had to work hard at his craft to get where he is today. The 21 year old first started rapping at 16 after a football injury and decided to take it further. He took rapping so seriously that he would write song lyrics at his Pizza Hut job which eventually got him fired. It was actually Pizza Hut money that helped him to pay for his first music video, 'Homework'. After that, little Yazz kept performing his heart out all over the place, the streets, festivals and wherever else until he was discovered by Charlie Mack, a friend of Will Smith, who got him to audition for Empire.
Tyler the Creator is definitely an interesting dude with his raunchy rhymes and obscure concepts; would you believe that before hitting it big that he worked at Starbucks? Yes, that’s right, Tyler Okonma was a pleasant customer service employee for two and a half years before he made his breakthrough album Bastard. Like many of our musical heroes, he was also fired. Maybe the manager didn’t like him as he speculates, but it also could have been that he was stealing cheese danishes on the daily. He then later released his second album Goblin which got him his deal with XL records.
The last rapper I want to bring some attention to is our main man Kanye West. Like many others, Kanye also had a crappy job before he made it big; he worked at the Gap. Kanye didn’t seem to like the Gap very much and raps about them in his song Spaceship off his College Dropout album, “Let's go back, back to the Gap / Look at my check, wasn't no scratch / So if I stole, wasn't my fault / Yeah I stole, never got caught / They take me to the back and pat me / Askin' me about some khakis / But let some black people walk in / I bet they show off their token blackie / Oh now they love Kanye, let's put him all in the front of the store / Saw him on break next to the 'No Smoking' sign with a blunt and a Mall' / Takin' my hits, writin' my hits / Writin' my rhymes, playin' my mind / This f***in job can't help him / So I quit, y'all welcome.” Let’s hope that they didn’t actually treat him that badly. On the plus side, that stressful job gave him excellent fuel for that powerful album. He had to sweat it out selling sweaters for a bit and look at him now.
As we can see, fame doesn’t come overnight for everyone. There are those rare cases I mentioned in a previous article, but that’s just not the way it goes for everyone. Some people are able to build connections while others have to put their blood, sweat and tears into their careers before it finally takes off. Either way there is no shame in how you get to the top as long you’re okay with everything you’re doing and what you have to sacrifice for it. Although all of these celebrities started off with crappy jobs, it’s that crappy money that helped support them until they made it. My advice to anyone who wants to pursue music full time is to go hard on your production and practice, but please don’t quit your day job until you have a reason; y’all need to eat too! - Asha Mullings