Espresso machine with black portafilter

How A Coffee Machine Is The Key To My Music Business

I get a lot of questions from people asking me about the secret to how I get so much done. The truth is, it’s not much of a secret. It is coffee. Specifically, it is my Ascaso dream espresso machine, which I bought several years ago. I got the version with the black portafilter, but without PID.

Espresso machine with black portafilter

Before the Ascaso, I was using an Espresso Works all-in-one machine. It was quite good, but it was nowhere near what this Ascaso can do. This new coffee machine changed my life. It turned coffee from a bitter tasting drink I had just in order to not fall asleep into something I really enjoyed.

And learning to love coffee is much as I do now is what made it possible for me to be so successful. That is because I have learned to de-stress simply by having a nice cup of espresso. It helps me relax, takes my mind off things, and at the same time gives me that boost of energy I need to get right back to work and push through whatever task I need to finish.

Taking this moment to enjoy a cup of espresso might take a short time out of my day a few times per day, but it allows me to get so much more done apart from that time. And that has been the key to my productivity.

People ask me how I can do so many things. Even just in the few articles on this website, I have talked about so many of the things I’m involved in. I have mentioned trumpet playing, I have mentioned singing, I have mentioned DJing and I have mentioned, obviously, the writing I do, both for this blog and for other publications.

A coffee machine portafilter

I can’t even remember if I have mentioned my music production, but that actually keeps me busier than anything else these days. I love producing music for myself and for other artists. I am also starting to do more promotion for some of the artists I work with and I will be taking over management for some of them as well. Finally, I am getting into cannabis cultivation. Now that marijuana is legal, I have bought a warehouse and a bunch of LED grow lights and am starting up a marijuana grow operation.

All of this takes a lot of time and it leaves me with very few hours to sleep at night. I need the caffeine boost that comes from coffee. If I didn’t enjoy coffee, as was the case before, I don’t think I would be able to get this boost. Even if I did, it wouldn’t be a pleasant moment that would allow me to unwind briefly.

And that to me is the key. It’s not just the caffeine intake, it is also taking a timeout from the stresses of the day. And that I would not be able to do unless I enjoyed coffee. And the reason I enjoy coffee is that new dream machine that I bought from Ascaso. It really and truly has changed the way I run my music business.

I don’t necessarily recommend you emulate this, unless you already drink coffee and enjoy it. If you don’t like coffee, I don’t recommend getting a more expensive espresso machine so that you end up liking it. There are healthier things you could drink to get your caffeine fix. I suggest you get started with one of those, instead of getting into coffee.

I mean, why not get your caffeine from something healthier. That is not to say that coffee is unhealthy. Coffee is actually good for us, but it is not as healthy as something like tea. And there are many different types of tea that are all healthy and all give you caffeine. You can also simply take caffeine pills.

Of course, the best thing to do would be to get enough sleep and not need caffeine at all. But who has time for that these days?

Almost everyone is too busy to get enough sleep, and someone in the music industry doing the kind of work I do will never be able to get enough sleep. Especially if you’re doing all the different things I do with the singing and the trumpeting and the DJin and the managing and the producing. It simply isn’t possible. And that is why I rely on my many daily espresso breaks.

Sevendust: A Metal Band With A Black Lead Singer

One thing I wanted to do with this site is highlight black musicians, especially in genres and roles where they are not very common. And you can definitely say that about heavy metal. There are a few excellent black heavy metal singers, but far fewer than there are white ones. One of my favorite heavy metal bands is Sevendust and their lead singer is Lajon Witherspoon.

sevendust on stage

By JodoOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Sevendust was formed in 1994 and continues to this day. They have put out something like seven studio albums. Not all are masterpieces, but several of them are very good. In an era when nu metal ruled and most bands sounded very similar to each other, Sevendust stood out. They did so for two reasons. One was the guitar work and songwriting of Chris Lowery and the other was the vocals of Witherspoon.

When most people first saw the band, they assumed they would be a rap metal band, since there were quite a few of them at that time and they were pretty popular. Korn was one of the most popular bands period, back then and Limp Bizkit was doing very well too. At this point I should interject and point out that I was in no way ever a fan of Limp Bizkit. I just want to make that clear. Korn was all right but I wasn’t a huge fan of theirs either, but I was definitely not a fan of Limp Bizkit.

Anyway, the point was that Sevendust was not a rap metal band. Witherspoon can growl with the best of them, but he also has something very melodic in his voice that most metal singers at that time did not have. This combination made his voice unique and is one of the things that really carried Sevendust.

I mentioned before that Sevendust has brought out seven albums. Actually, that is not quite true. They have 10 albums. I guess I missed a few of the newer ones. I was a big fan back in the day, but I haven’t listened to them quite as much the past few years. I really should get into them again and have actually been listening to a song every day lately, during one of my daily espresso breaks.

The albums in order of release are the self-titled album called Sevendust, Home, Animosity, Seasons, Next, Alpha, Chapter VII: Hope And Sorrow, Hold A Memory, Black Out The Sun and Kill The Floor. I own the first six and they’re all wonderful.

Sevendust were lumped into a bunch of different genres, but never fit any of them perfectly. For that reason no one really knows what they are exactly. They themselves say they are some combination of rock and metal and blues and aggressiveness. They cite Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera and Nine Inch Nails as influences.

You can hear all of those influences in their music for sure. They are characterized by the guitar playing and the lyrics, as mentioned. Lowery, the guitarist, uses techniques that have never been seen or heard before. He uses very low baritone tunings and also new six string tunings that have never been heard before.

If you haven’t heard of Sevendust yet, check out some of their videos on YouTube. Here is one I like a lot.

What did you think? Good huh? If you like that, you should check out more. They are also really great live. I’ve seen them three times and their shows always have a ton of energy. The crowd goes wild and it’s just a blast to be there. And Witherspoon is a huge part of that. He’s very charismatic and energetic. Actually, the whole band are.

a rapper singing

Best Way To Improve Your Singing Voice

The majority of our audience is comprised of DJs and rappers, with a few instrumentalists thrown in, most notably trumpeters and guitarists. Among the rappers, a lot of them ask us questions about how they can improve their singing voice. A few of the DJs also ask about this and, of course, some guitarists. The trumpeters don’t. I hope it is obvious to you why they don’t.

Usually our advice is simple: get yourself a vocal coach. That is the best way to learn to sing, but it also costs a lot of money and for people who just want to improve their voice a bit, so that they can add some singing hooks to their music, it doesn’t always make sense to spend a lot of money. So we decided to add this post to our site to give some advice on how to learn to sing.

a rapper singing

Getting an actual singing instructor is still the best and the fastest way to improve your voice. It doesn’t even have to be a real live instructor, it can be someone far away who teaches using Skype or some other online video chat service. The advantage here is that you can hire a well-known instructor, even if you live far away. Many people live in small towns and really have no other option.

You might think these online instructors might be a bit cheaper than a local one, but usually they aren’t. So you’re definitely not saving much money here. It’s more about having access to a much larger pool of instructors.

If you want to go completely free, there are a ton of videos on YouTube and a ton of articles online that teach you how to sing. The problem with this is that most of these articles and videos are not very good. You have to sift through all the bad ones to find the ones that are good.

Moreover, they are just individual articles and videos. They are not part of a comprehensive course. This means that you need to come up with your own schedule for when to learn what and for which things you need to practice daily. Personally, I feel this is too much work and it usually ends up demotivating the person and they end up giving up and never becoming a better singer.

Much better than this is buying an online course. This is different than an instructor. You still get an instructor and usually a famous one, but they don’t actually teach you live. Instead, they’ve recorded hours and hours of video or audio lessons. You follow along, completing the lessons in order.

Any good course will also include practice exercises that you do every day. This way you have a detailed schedule to follow. All you have to do is not fall behind and do all the exercises as presented. This will not make you sound like Mariah Carey, but it will get you sounding a lot better. The improvement in your voice after going through one of these courses, especially if you start out as a complete beginner, is pretty large. That is why we always recommend an online course like this for complete beginners. If you are not a beginner and you actually want to sound really professional, then we are back to hiring your own teacher.

So there you have it. Those are basically your main options. You can get online courses that generally cost a few hundred dollars, although most of them are often on sale for under a hundred. You can also get completely free courses, but the amount of time it takes to find the good ones and to come up with the useful schedule is daunting. And to me, it is not worth it. Finally you can get an actual instructor. This is obviously the simplest and best option, but it is also the most expensive.

If you’re a rapper or a DJ who just wants to sing a chorus every now and then, this is probably more money than you need to spend. Either way, we wish you good luck and hope you manage to improve your voice and get to the level you want.

DJ spinning on turntable record players

Best Turntable Record Players For DJs

Becoming a DJ is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of practice. And more than the technical skills, it takes a lot of networking. That’s the hardest part for most DJs. The hate advertising themselves, they hate selling themselves, they hate sucking up to people. But all of that is necessary if you want to be a DJ.

That said, the biggest expense by far is the equipment. I’ve already written a post about the equipment you will need to become a DJ, but this time I want to focus in on the most important piece of equipment for a DJ: the turntable.

DJ spinning on turntable record players

A DJ spinning records on turntables

Now, I know you will say that turntables are obsolete and you don’t need them anymore these days. That is true. But I’m writing this for those traditionalists who still love to spin on actual record players. This is how most of the DJs who are currently in their 30s and 40s began and even many of the younger DJs got their start on real turntables, because they felt you should learn that way first, before moving on to digital DJing. I agree with that sentiment.

controller and laptop setup

A DJ setup using controllers and laptop

I know that these days everyone can just use a controller and it works great. Actually, it works better than turntables, let’s be honest. You don’t have to carry around a large, heavy record collection and you don’t have to worry about your records being scratched. You don’t need the additional equipment of having two turntables and then a mixer. You also don’t need to worry about needles and cartridges and all of that stuff. It’s just a lot easier. But is it as much fun?

Personally, I don’t think so. There’s nothing like getting a real record player and actually feeling the vinyl record under your fingers as you are scratching. I also love the act of swapping out records during my set. I don’t know, I think it just looks cooler than choosing the next song on a laptop.

I know most people don’t do that these days and there’s really no point in doing it, but it’s just a cooler way of  DJing, isn’t it? I myself mostly use controllers these days, but I do love using turntable whenever I get the chance. I still practice a lot at home on turntables and I just love doing that.

The question is: which turntable do you want? There are so many different types on the market today, many of them very expensive and many with a ton of gimmicks. You can also get a lot of record player turntables that cost less than $100. Let’s address the gimmicky ones first.

You don’t need any of these gimmicks. You don’t need a record player that also plays CDs or radio or whatever. You don’t need one with internal speakers or anything else that adds weight and cost. You want a turntable that plays records and nothing else. Ideally you want a direct drive turntable, that has features like pitch control and different sliders that allow you more control over your spinning. You definitely want one that can play in reverse.

You can get really expensive ones like the Technics turntables, but a cheaper Audio Technica works just fine. These days when you have a a big gig, you probably use a controller anyway, so there is no point in getting really expensive turntables. They are more of a hobby nowadays. You use them mainly at home or at smaller gigs just for fun. For that, you don’t need the most expensive ones. You just need one that’s solid and that works and that doesn’t break down. And that’s what most of the Audio Technica turntables give you.

If you’re a DJ who wants to feel what it was like for us old folks, get yourself some cheap turntables. Cheap is the wrong word. Get yourself some inexpensive quality turntables. Then learn how to mix records on those and you’ll quickly see exactly what I’m talking about. It’s just so much more fun, isn’t it?

The Basics of DJ Equipment: What You Need to Start Your Activity

If you consider taking up DJing seriously, you have to know about the basic DJ equipment you will need to get started. Firstly, decide what kind of decks you will work with: CD or vinyl ones. There’s no good or bad option, there’s what is more comfortable for you, so it would be great to try both.

You can rent CD and vinyl decks to try your skills on both types and decide which is the best for you. Then consider buying your own deck and all supportive equipment of the brand that is currently considered of the best quality. Here in the article there will be no brands mentioned, as the article may serve beginners years later, and the brands come and go.

What DJ Equipment is Needed to Have a Good Start

If you have chosen CD DJing, you will need:

  • 2 CD-players.
  • 1 mixer.
  • 1 pair of headphones.

In case your choice is a good old vinyl, you will need a bit more:

  • 2 turntables.
  • 2 slipmats.
  • 2 cartridges and needles.
  • 1 mixer.
  • 1 pair of headphones.
  • 1 microphone, if you plan to do any singing

The most frequently asked question within beginners is why they need two players or turntables. You need them to work more comfortably and professionally, as when you have two decks, the transition between the songs will be smooth. This is called mixing and you do it with the help of the pitch control. Modern professional CD players usually have features like instant start and others, but you still need two decks.

The second question is whether you really need slipmats for vinyl decks – yes, you do. These are soft plates that are placed between the record and the turntable to avoid excess rubbing and damaging. Moreover, this helps you handle the record to achieve the best DJing you are able to achieve.

For the vinyl, you will also need cartridges and needles which will make the record sound good. There are turntables that come in combination with the slipmats, cartridges, and needles, but it’s not always a set, so you need to clarify it when buying. Some people think it’s too much for a beginner’s DJ equipment, but very often people work for a long time with their first hardware.

The Importance of Mixer and Headphones

The mixer is the main instrument of any DJ that transforms the track and allows you to prepare the next song. You can work on one turntable to deliver the sound to the dancefloor, and use another one to listen to the next track and work on it. You also can use both turntables at once if you have everything ready.

Headphones are also highly important as they allow you to listen to the track you’re preparing. Remember that you need to choose special DJ headphones that differ from regular ones, as they sound better and are more ergonomic. They help you isolate sound, which is very important when you are working at a club.


These are the most important things for you as for a DJ, not including the amplifies and speakers that you can get anytime. Many DJs have all their practice done only with the headphones, so you can get the speakers right before your first gig. Many venues provide DJs with their speakers, so you may even work without your own. Make sure you choose high-quality hardware, as the sound you deliver highly depends on the DJ equipment you use.

Things to Know to Master the Trumpet

Playing a musical instrument is a good way to spend your time and improve abilities, both physical and mental. The part of choosing your instrument might be slightly confusing and take some time, and it’s impossible to decide without taking a closer look at some of them. Let’s focus on a trumpet today and see what do you need in order to master this brass instrument.

Trumpet Tips for Beginners​

If you look at it, you might think it’s hard enough to play it, but once you try and do at least something simple with it – you’ll fall in love with the sound. The trumpet has been the instrument of choice for a lot of black musicians throughout history and that is one reason I want to focus on it here. This site will always highlight African Americans in music.

  • Get yourself an instrument.
    Before you start playing, you need to get your own trumpet, of course. Don’t rush to a store and get the most expensive thing there is, students’ trumpets often come unlabeled, but check the instrument itself to make sure it’s not damaged anywhere and all ready for you to use it.
  • Practice sounds without your trumpet.
    If you just got yourself an instrument and don’t understand what to do with it yet, don’t push the valves or try to blow into the horn, actually find some basic trumpet sounds and try to do them without your instrument at first. Even mastering this basic buzzing sound can take you quite some time, so prepare yourself for that.
  • Master correct breathing.
    Make sure you always take this good deep breath and don’t tense up. Try to relax your shoulders, if possible – imagine the air coming down to your lungs and filling all of you. Remember, when trying to play the brass instrument – air and breathing are crucial.
  • Learn how to hold it.
    There are many keys to that one. Trumpet is a fairly complicated instrument, so make sure you treat it right. Even the way you press the valves is important, since if you’re doing it wrong – you’ll soon get jamming.
  • Practice makes perfect.
    This is the most important thing so far. Playing will be hard, you’ll probably feel like giving up and forgetting it all, but that’s how the learning goes. Try to practice daily and do it calmly, no rush, even some minutes a day are better than nothing.
  • Get a good espresso machine.
    A good coffee machine can make all the difference. I never liked coffee until I got myself an expensive espresso machine. Now I love coffee, which means I’m not just sucking it down to give me a boost, but actually enjoying the moment and really relaxing. That brief moment outside the daily stresses adds to the caffeine boost and really gives me the jolt I need to work extra hard.

Why Learn Trumpet?

Since this instrument is indeed quite difficult to master, let’s look what benefits are you getting from mastering it.

  • Trumpet involves your breathing and is technically good for your lungs and health in general. Plus, it will feel good. Like the breathing yoga techniques or meditation breathing skills, it makes you feel connected and nice.
  • The sound itself.
    It’s awesome and different and there are plenty of different pieces of music to master. Trumpet sounds heroic and deep, and this is probably why it’s so often comes in front of other in an ensemble.
  • Inspiring players.
    Even Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis are worth learning it. But there are many others, and watching them playing is an amazing experience.
  • Comparing to other instruments, trumpets are fairly cheap and you can definitely spare some money to get yourself one, maybe even a used one from a student. There is nothing bad about that, as long as you check the instrument itself and it’s not damaged.

As you see, the instrument itself is worth trying to learn. Yes, it might be difficult enough, but the challenge only makes the desire stronger. And if you ever think you don’t have enough motivation to continue – watching Armstrong will give you inspiration and open this second breath in you.

A 7-Step Beginner’s Guide for Those Striving to Become DJs

You can get closer to becoming a real beginner DJ if you follow a 7-step guide which involves the understanding of the occupation, learning new things about it, and practicing. Trust us on this. I, and several other Black Prophet writers, are DJs in our spare time, as mentioned on our about page.

The path of a wannabe DJ has to include the following steps:

    1. Understanding the DJs work.
      Anyone who plays pre-recorded music at any event is a DJ, officially. If you want to become a pro, you need to choose the sphere you will work at: club DJ, guest DJ, wedding DJ, radio DJ, etc.
    2. Thinking why you want to start.
      Do you want to become famous? Or you just have a passion for music and want to share? The second case is better, as fame comes only to those who love what they do.
    3. Testing some software.
      There are many free programs that can help you try your beginner DJ skills and practice them. Download some free demo versions of programs and try to play with the music you have.
    4. Learning basics.
      You need to know more on the basic skills you will need, including phrasing, prep, beatmatching, mixing, etc. All of them have their own difficulties, so learn and practice as much as possible.
    5. Getting some hardware.
      After you become familiar with the software, it’s time to get some beginner DJ equipment. Start with a keyboard or go farther and buy an all-in-one control route or a CDJ.

  1. Making the first record.
    After you learn something and practice a bit, try to record your first mix and analyze it. You may find your favorite software and hardware by then, and don’t be afraid to use them at your best.
  2. Advertising yourself.
    After you are satisfied with the recordings you make, create a tiny advertisement campaign. Create an account in an SNS, ask your friends to share the news, make yourself popular.
  3. Bonus step.
    I decided to add an additional bonus step, because this is something that helped me a lot. And that is to get yourself a high quality espresso machine. Coffee fuels my business. Without coffee, I would not be able to do 20% of the work I do daily. But it took a really good espresso machine to actually get me to enjoy coffee. And it is the enjoyment, the little breaks I get throughout the day to have my espresso and simply take a time out from all the stress, that really makes the difference. Of course, the caffeine helps too.

After that, you will get your first gig offers, then you will be able to hire an agent, and maybe even become famous. Don’t forget to practice and learn new things, like maybe singing, even if you are cool enough to have your own gigs. This is the most important thing if you want to be a high-quality DJ.

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