I never saw myself playing in a band with Slum Village…my plan was to stay focused on how to make Ab & The Souljourners the next big thing. On the other hand, God had other plans and had taken me outside of my comfort zone.
As the Slum Village European tour continued, my expertise on putting the show together also continued. Our first night at London Jazz Cafe was great but we were facing a dilemma the night of our show at Paradiso in Amsterdam. On the way to sound check their manager told us we had a 90 minute set that night and our current set was only 60 minutes. I remember that day like yesterday....Paradiso was like a big cathedral house with a balcony surrounding the entire place. It looked like an old church turned into a performance hall. We were sound checking and I was on stage playing and singing Ab & The Souljourners material to keep that fresh in my head while T3 and El Zhi discussed possible songs that they could perform to extend the set time.....and that's when it happened! T3 was listening to me playing and singing and asked "What is that?" I told him it was a cover song that I sing during my set with my band. He told me right then and there that I was singing that song in the set tonight. Then he asked me to come up with an instrumental part that me and Dez could perform after I sang. I was thinking to myself...he has to be kidding...this is the Slum Village show, not the Ab show so why would he give me the spotlight two weeks into the tour?
I was constantly being put on the spot and lots of pressure was on my shoulders. That night at Paradiso they were expecting 1,000+ people to attend. I had never sang in front of this many people before. T3 told me that him and El Zhi were going to leave the stage when I sang as well. It's one thing when you are performing with a popular group that people are coming to see but it's totally different thing when you have to perform by yourself in front of people who don't know you at all.
I had to continuously find courage on this Slum Village gig. All this time I had been asking for opportunity to become this big soul artist and T3 was offering the experience I needed to get to my destination but It was always spontaneous. I constantly found myself wanting more time to practice and be comfortable but I refused to voice what I wanted because it wasn't about me. I was in a new world with new rules and I couldn't lose this opportunity because I was uncomfortable.
That night the crew was chillin' in the green room and Pharoahe Monch walks in. Of course they know each other so everyone is greeting and I'm chillin' in the corner reading a book (I wish I can remember what I was reading at the time). T3 introduces me to Pharoahe Monch by saying: "This is Ab, our new Music Director." I thought to myself....Am I?...but I didn't question it, I shook his hand and sat back down and began to think about how this gig was turning into something that was so far from what I expected. I was so nervous about singing in front of all those people mainly because it wasn't my name on the line as much as it was Slum Village's. It was their show and I didn't want to let them down. I left a green room filled with laughter and classic tour stories with hopes of settling my nerves but before I could get a grasp on them It was showtime.
I stepped out on stage to a full house of people ready to see Slum Village. Sad to say I wasn't looking forward to my part of the show but it came quickly and before I knew it....it was just me and Dez on stage with 1,000+ people staring at me....
I was nervous and shaking but I sang....I sang scared....and I was scared the entire time I sang but I made it through...scared and all. My scared vocals were on point though.... People cheered so loud after I was done. I couldn't believe it. It was one of those things in which I was so nervous and uncomfortable that I didn't enjoy the moment but nevertheless it was a great moment for the show, the audience, and most importantly myself.
That night was a stepping stone for my solo career and I didn't even know it at the time. We got back to the green room and everyone in the group was blown away! Especially the manager who had missed sound check. The next day I had a conversation with him and he told me that I was doing an excellent job as the Music Director and he needed me to keep the guys focused. He wanted me to keep bringing my ideas to the table at sound check and push them to perform records that they don't want to perform if I knew it was good for the show. Last but not least he said: "T3 likes and respects you more than you know, this is only the beginning for you....you're a part of this family now." I said ok and the conversation was over.
I have no clue when they decided that I was the Music Director but it didn't matter at that point because that was my title and I accepted. Every night for the rest of the tour I performed my section of the show and became very comfortable with it no matter if it was 500 people present or the big festival crowds of 10,000+ people. Looking back on it, I could've easily backed down from T3's request of singing an entire song in the midst of their set at Paradiso because I was scared and uncomfortable. The Slum Village tour experience was uncharted waters....but it was in those waters that I learned to swim. I learned the difference between European fans and American fans and that was something T3 knew about that I didn't. He knew from the minute that he heard me sing in sound check that the European fans would embrace me. I learned that in order for me to get to my destination I had to do things I didn't want to do and sometimes I would have to do them scared and all. If I would've let me fear get the best of me I would've missed out on an opportunity to grow as an individual and an artist.
I wonder if T3 decided right at that sound check in Paradiso to make me MD of Slum Village because I stepped up to the challenge...
Are you stepping up to challenges to grow in your life and career?
What uncharted waters are you suppose to dive into in order to learn how to swim?
Something to think about....
P.S. the story isn't over.....