Glowing Up In The Dark: On XV and Personal Progress

A common trope in rap music is the “grind” mentality. You overcome circumstances and disprove critics by working non-stop. But instead of sharpening the sword that grind can turn you into dust. I realized I was going through a recurring cycle:

  1. Feel productive
  2. Don’t see the results I want
  3. Go through my mind on what I can do differently
  4. Slack off
  5. Start trying to be productive again

I needed to hit the reset button. So I revisited the XV song of the same name. For those unfamiliar, XV is a rapper out of Kansas who first emerged from the blogosphere a decade ago. His debut album with Warner Bros. never materialized and the last fans heard of him was 2014. Like many fans I assumed battles with a major label and the rapid change in rap’s trends pushed him out. I would play his Zero Heroes and Popular Culture mixtapes and wonder what could have been. Until….

I found an interview from February shortly after he announced his return to the public eye. Apparently after a few comeback attempts, XV decided to step away from social media. Music was not fulfilling him, so he pursued his other passions. He would still write but did not hold himself to a deadline. And in the process, XV had his long-awaited album.

In that moment something clicked. I needed to get out of the hamster-wheel mentality and find purpose in what I was doing every day. I had the answer in the lyrics for “In The Dark” all along.

Remind myself why this hobby had its start
Find my outlet turning everything off

Social media celebrities and a 24-hour news cycle can create pressure to show the world how active you are, even at the expense of actual productivity. You get swept up in tracking the timeline of your successes against others. The path of XV in the music industry reminded me that the real work is done when no one is watching.

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