Decompression is key: Don’t be afraid to take a break away from the music, social media, or whatever it is that may be causing you to lose touch with yourself. We’ve found that decompressing is super essential especially when you may be undergoing a lot of stress.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chinasa Broxton and Dashawn Daniels collectively know as the musical duo, Tribe Mafia.
From recording songs on cell phones in their high school bathrooms to touring internationally with Hip-Hop/R&B legend, Akon, on one of the biggest stages in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the group shows the world that the sky’s the limit.
For the two Austin Natives, the road to success wasn’t all that perfect. While chasing their dream with unpaid debts and college loans accumulating, Chinasa and Dashawn eventually were led into homelessness but found a very supportive community along the way. This, in turn, led them to give their support to the homeless of Austin through Austin Resource Center for the Homeless after their music gained momentum and more opportunities began to open.
Performance-wise, the duo has reached great feats. From opening at unofficial SXSW showcases in 2015 and 2019 to appearing on the official line up at SXSW 2020, the group is ready to show Austin how far they’ve come. Not only is this a big moment one to celebrate, but the group has reached almost 1 million views on their YouTube video “Like Cola.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
Dashawn: We’re from Austin, Texas, the musical capital of the world so music played a huge role in our childhood. Although I was introduced to music at an early age in my household, I really didn’t start getting into it until high school when a classmate of mine complimented the poetry I had written on my notepad. At that moment, I realized that I had some sort of lyrical flow and started to write my own songs.
Chinasa: For me, my drive for music began during my middle school years. During lunch, I would surround myself with a group of friends who would always freestyle and create beats by pounding on tables. A few years later, I met Dashawn while playing basketball at the park and later realized that he was also deeply interested in making music. We lived in the same neighborhood and ever since the day we met, we decided to make it all happen by being on the same dream team. We had the same vision and knew what goals we needed to achieve to make it happen.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of that “ah-ha” moment with us?
Dashawn: We started off performing for fun at small local venues that would hold only a few people. We would bring in about five of our supporters which were our moms, close friends, and a videographer who would record the performance. As time went on, we began discovering the importance of networking and supporting other local artists. That was basically our “ah-ha” breakthrough moment. We began to create relationships with bartenders, DJs, artists, videographers, promoters, and other fans which helped our name grow exponentially. That’s when fans started trickling into our shows. Our audience of five multiplied by twenty. Gathering recognition around our city landed us placements into headlining acts for promising shows.
Chinasa: We were gaining so much momentum from our local fan base. After creating “Like Cola” which has reached over one million views on YouTube, we were asked to go on tour with rap/pop legend Akon in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We were growing even more connections with our fans across the globe so we learned how to stretch our brand to the next level through selling merchandise at events. We learned how to turn our hobby into something that not only we enjoy but that others care about as well.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in talking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Dashawn: Being okay with failing is the first step to overcoming any challenge. As long as you are learning from your mistakes, you’re making progress. We, as humans, often fear taking risks. The only way to overcome any challenge is to do whatever it is you are trying to do. The odds are that you will either get what you want or you will fail at that attempt. If you remain resistant to taking no chances you are one hundred percent passing up any opportunities that you would have possibly gained.
Chinasa: Over the course of our careers we have overcome many challenges by keeping a positive mindset. Win some, lose some is always our perspective on life.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Chinasa: Our advice is simple: just do it! We are only promised to live one life in this universe, so spend your time wisely and work on doing what you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Take a leap of faith and soar!
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Dashawn: When it comes to creating new music, we pretty much get inspiration from the people we meet when we travel on tour, when we listen to old jams on the radio, or when we’re living our everyday life experiences. Since we are continuing to face new challenges as artists each day, we never run out of ideas to create when pouring out lyrics for a new song.
Chinasa: When it comes to performing sets, we like to keep them fresh and enjoyable by interacting with our fans. That can be by grabbing a fan’s cell phone to record a selfie video when performing or making a hardcore fan rap a song of ours on stage in exchange for a prize. Dashawn will also spice things up by doing various stunts such as backflips or even crowd surfing. I think the most fun we get out of performing is figuring out the kind of energy the audience is having towards us and how we can get the best reaction out of them.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
Dashawn: What we enjoy the most as artists is traveling. We love exploring new areas and finding new fans to gravitate towards our music. We absolutely love our career, there is no other job at the moment that can bring us this much excitement. There is nothing like performing with an audience who are more excited about seeing us than we are about seeing them. There is something special about hearing a raging audience screaming out lyrics back at us with such passion. That honestly fuels us to keep going back to the studio and creating more music.
Chinasa: On the other hand, the downside of this business is working with other talents who aren’t as motivated or driven as we are. As much as we love to collaborate with others, it’s a real pain when we are the ones who do all of the work but have to share the title with someone who has done nothing. For example, our last song, “Like Cola,” which just hit over 1 million views on Youtube, is credited to us as the writers, composers, and owners of that song. Unfortunately, we have not received a dime in compensation. Overcoming this issue is a tricky one, but by taking steps the legal way, we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, our fans will usually be there to defend our name if things get out of line.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought it would be?
Chinasa: We think the most striking difference between running your own music business versus how we thought it would be is mostly on the topic of marketing. Before we started gaining traction in our music, we thought that it would be easy to market ourselves and promote content. We began to realize that posting up songs or an album isn’t efficient without any business plan or budget behind it. We had to learn how to correctly market ourselves and promote every piece of content we share efficiently. We are always still learning about new methods to promote ourselves.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
Dashawn: There have been numerous times! But like any other job, you’ll have some off days and some really good days. We try not to focus on the bad days we have, even when times get really rough for us we always have to keep a prayer ready. Our faith in God has always been our go-to method for overcoming any obstacles. For artists who are just starting off in their music career, do not be discouraged from performing in front of 3 people. Keep working hard at expanding your name. If we can do it, so can you!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Chinasa: To revisit past experiences on funny mistakes we’ve made, our most dreadful mistake we made would be at our first sold-out unofficial SXSW showcase. We were co-headliners with a popular artist from Houston named Lil’ Flip. This was our first huge showcase that we have ever done. Dashawn came up with an idea of throwing money at the audience so they would never forget our performance (for any other artist who has considered throwing money, please refrain from doing that). Long story short, we accidentally threw our rent money at the audience and ended up paying our rent late. In conclusion, always make sure you are throwing ones and not hundred dollar bills at your fans.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Dashawn: I think for the both of us, my mother and father are great leaders that we aspire to be. They have always been our biggest supporters and most incredible source of inspiration. Together they have taught us the importance of self-worth, self-confidence, family and business values, and self-discipline. They are always the first to critique our performances on a music track, interview, or stage.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Chinasa: Just last year we curated our own event called “The Tribe Mafia Listening Party.” This event has helped other local independent artists and businesses create a name for themselves by performing or networking with one another. Not only was this a great opportunity for those who are trying to familiarize themselves in the community, but we also donated to local charities and nonprofits from the money we’ve made from this event.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- Take risks: Taking risks is how we evolve. Remember that opportunities also arise first to those who take a chance on themselves.
- Be aware of scammers: We’ve lost a good sum of money due to a scam that has happened to us online. At some point in your career scammers will approach you and serenade you with false dreams that every independent artist could fathom. Don’t fall for it!
- Copyright your songs: It is important that you protect your music with the appropriate documentation. You don’t want to be involved in a case of copyright infringement, it can be a major headache. If a person is trying to steal your work, make sure to have proof of your documents.
- Decompression is key: Don’t be afraid to take a break away from the music, social media, or whatever it is that may be causing you to lose touch with yourself. We’ve found that decompressing is super essential especially when you may be undergoing a lot of stress.
- Expenses: We wish someone told us about how expensive it is to be an independent artist. Independent artists pay for everything which includes the music, videos, studio session, equipment, photoshoots, etc.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Dashawn: We would inspire others to keep building a community of empowerment. Empowering others to do what they love is key to living a fulfilling life. We think a great movement would be to start an engagement party filled with entrepreneurs who can offer everyone a service in what they specialize in.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Chinasa: My favorite life lesson quote would have to be “You have not, because you asked not,” as the scripted verse from the Bible, Mathew 7:7. As an independent artist, I learned that it is extremely important for us “indies” to seek as much help as we can. Applying this quote to my life has allowed me to drop my ego and pick up on skills for communication, which comes very handy in this field where networking is the key to success.
Dashawn: “Fake people don’t surprise me anymore, loyal people do, show me loyalty.” There’s so many people in this industry who aren’t who they say they are behind all the likes and followers. This quote has guided me to not pay much attention to what appears to be glamorous to others.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Dashawn: A private lunch with Ellen DeGeneres or Chance The Rapper would be interesting. They are both free-spirited and always making our world a better place. If we had the opportunity to share a moment with one of them over brunch or lunch, we would seek advice on how to respond back institutional bullies.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.