Hip-Hop Taught Me Courage (Guest Blog Post by Keston De Coteau)

Keston De Coteau
Photo Credit: Emelda De Coteau

As a kid, I wanted to be a star, the emcee whose image rotated on Video Music Box, the first tv show to feature hip-hop music videos.

I remember rushing home from school to learn the lyrics of De La Soul’s “Potholes in My Lawn” 20130916-142621.jpgand Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.”The way people reacted to music amazed me. I wanted to touch them that deeply.

I didn’t know how to start until one spontaneous moment in college, liquid courage took over, and I kicked a freestyle rhyme in front of friends.

I recall it so clearly. My knees couldn’t move, my eyes were shut; I fought anxiety and paralyzing fear. I did it.

People looked at me, like wow, this guy has something. I started recording songs, and focused on getting the music to the right person at the right time. This is where I learned that anything worth getting will begin and end with no.

I spent hours sending emails to labels. I cannot recall one instance where I got a response, but that did not stop me. For years, I mailed my music. I once created an art piece, and gave my CD to Kanye West’s mother when she spoke at the Baltimore Book Festival. I wanted it like nothing else.

I meditated, prayed and read books as sources of encouragement, all of this confirmed that relentless effort leads to success. Besides, Edison’s light bulb was not created until several thousand tries. I wanted my proverbial light bulb to turn on so bad I could taste real flavors in my dreams. Bottom line is no one responded, and this left me wounded.

I would hear this question all the time from the strangers: why aren’t you signed? People had favorite songs. I was on Looperman, and would get real fan praise asking for requests to work from people all over the world. That to me was not good enough. I wanted the success of artists like Nas, Jay-Z and Young Money.

E-mail praise and personal accolades were not enough. I couldn’t enjoy it, because the realist side of me knew I could not pay a bill with compliments. So I allowed the dream to die, until the day I turned on a camera.

Photo Credit: Dominique J. Allen
The author working.
Photo Credit: Dominique J. Allen

I shifted the focus off of me, and made other people feel like stars. As a result, artistically, I grew by leaps and bounds. I have connected with amazing talents such as Marcell Russell. Some of Marcell’s work includes musical collaborations with Lorenzo Johnson who produced for Ledisi and Maysa.


Work with Marcell led me to Maysa who has performed with Stevie Wonder, and been invited to sing at the White House by the First Lady, Michelle Obama. My career also includes television production, a short about bullying (Imtimidation) which opened to a sold out crowd at Baltimore’s historic Charles Theater, and pieces for the Baltimore Ravens player, Jameel McClain.

kes and camera
Keston De Coteau
Photo Credit: Dominique J. Allen

In the end, I sacrificed my dreams to place the vision of multiple dreams in the immortal time capsule of film. By extension, I discovered this talent, and feel it is my calling. The guy who heard a million nos did that. I did it with faith and belief alone.

Those nos did not cripple, crush, or corner me. No to me is spiritual steroid providing strength to continue pushing my dreams to the ultimate level of success. No is not a cousin to failure. Failure is remaining deaf to your spiritual calling.

Find a way when there is no way. God whispers in your ear so you can hear more intently. Do not dismiss your calling. The spectacular awaits.

Live In Color – Keston
Post edited by Emelda De Coteau 

Hear Keston’s music on SoundCloud. 

Emelda De Coteau
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