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The Rapper’s Way

What Does it Mean to ‘Make it Big’?

TronDVD201201by Norvin Van Dunk
My brother, Darian, and I make up the hip-hop duo TRON & DVD. Over the past seven years we’ve performed in backyards across the county, local colleges, Webster Hall, SOB’s, Van’s Warped Tour, and CMJ. We’re signed to a label (Kiam Records). We’ve shared the stage with Twenty One Pilots. We’ve had our names up on the jumbo-tron at Bamboozle Music Festival. For us, these were all huge accomplishments. And yet, I’m not sure if my aspirational childhood self, the self that wrote in my elementary school yearbook that I wanted to be a rapper when I grow up, would have considered where we are now ‘making it big.’ I’m not sure I would have even considered myself to be a rapper.
It wasn’t until recently that I really understood what it means to make it big. Musicians often don’t consider themselves ‘real artists’ until they’re rich and famous. This attitude leads to the frustrating and irrelevant question, “Well are you trying to make it big?” Most will say “No” because the chances of achieving Kanye-level success are slim and they don’t want to have their dreams insulted. No one wants to look like a fool chasing a pipe dream. But me, I’d respond to that question with another question: “What do you mean trying?” Achieving the goals you’ve personally set for yourself as an artist is the secret to real success. If making art means you’re trying to make it “Big” then everyone is trying whether they want to admit it or not. The decision to be a successful artist in the public’s eye is not the artist’s to make. You can put countless hours into the promotion and marketing behind your art and never breach fame, or you can become viral from one lucky upload. The only way you can control whether you make it big from your art is if your definition comes from within yourself.
So, here it is: Once you make art, you’re an artist. Money doesn’t matter. Popularity doesn’t matter. The stages you perform on don’t matter. What matters is painting the picture that’s stuck in your mind, recording a song that satisfies you, making something that fulfils your own expectations. This is actually much tougher than achieving fame or getting rich off your creations. When I started to create, I noticed that my worst critic was myself. Nothing I did was good enough and there was always something that could be fixed. Perfectionist syndrome is very real, and in your mind it can separate real artists from someone who made some art this one time. I’ve had to learn to create and only evaluate at the end. Something can’t be good or bad if it doesn’t exist. Having no creations while claiming to be a creator is worse than failing.

In the end, making it “Big” is, simply, making it. Once you’ve made it — and by it, I mean your art — and are happy with it, then you are the most successful you’ll ever be. At least, until you make the next thing. Don’t let other people, money, or yourself get in the way, because then you won’t “make it” at all.
Norvin Van Dunk is a Nyack-based rapper who goes by TRON and plays with his brother in the hip-hop duo Tron and DVD. He recently started his own business called Lil Beats, giving children lessons in music production.
This story was originally published in Issue 2 of the Pink Monkey magazine.  The Pink Monkey is a locally based arts, adventure, and absurdity magazine. The second issue, “The BIG One,” is out now. It can be purchased in Nyack at Beast with a Million Eyes, Kiam Records, Festoon on the Hudson, Pickwick Book Shop, or ordered online

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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