Julie Wenah’s 40 x 400 Experience explains what’s blocking artists’ success

Photo by Brittany Mackins for rolling out

Julie Wenah sat with Kiotti Brown, an in-arena host for the Houston Rockets; and Dante Higgins, hip-hop artist, ghost writer and poet, for the 40 x 400: The Experience. The Experience was created by Wenah to highlight 40 years of Houston’s hip-hop artists, the culture, storytelling, the Black experience and how music has contributed to Black people healing after 400 years of being enslaved in the U.S.

Audience member: What do you think about the belief that somebody is stopping you from being true to yourself, your authenticity, and your music and also making it?


Higgins: A lot of people just don’t work. You rap when you rap. Do what you do. Don’t let anyone give you any amount of money to do what they want you to do because then you’ll be depressed, rapping about things you don’t want to rap about. And I always took that with me. People said, “you need the songs, you need the light, the radio, the jewelry” and that’s not what I do. I’m not comfortable with doing that. I’m actually good. I’m taking care of my family. I’m financially good. I’m going to do what affects me. A lot of people get caught up in that and they get depressed.

I listened to J. Cole when he talked about depression from doing the things he doesn’t want to do along with Kendrick Lamar and Mariah Carey. I’ve been depressed. It happened when my best friend died and I didn’t know until a year later that I was in that state. A lot of people wait until it’s too late and they sometimes kill themselves. I don’t want to take a chance and I don’t want to stop doing music because it’s something that I love.


Brown: There are issues on both sides. Is somebody stopping you? Yes, the person who is stopping them is them, most of the time. One thing I’ve seen in this business is that consistency is a problem. The first time somebody tells you “no” or the first time you find a way to make more money faster, music is no longer the priority. A lot of people are hustlers and don’t really love the music like they say they do. They’re going where the bag is. Also, the system has been messed up for a long time because the people who were in key places didn’t do key things to help people get into key places.

The third part is that the business is wrong. There are people [who] still don’t understand the music business. Streaming is monopolized. People selling mixtapes in the parking lot of the club made more money on the spot than those streaming their music on Spotify. Some of the biggest artists in the world didn’t understand their contracts and got played because they didn’t know the business. Whenever you have consistency, with passion, and love with good business on the side, the system gets fixed.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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