Monday, July 21, 2014

You are your Brand: Kamau Sadiki

Hello world,

I, like many of you, was born with a name given to me by my parents. As a child I never enjoyed my name too much because I never found it on one of those fancy license plates, and I never met anyone else with my name until I was 17. He was a 3 year old, and while his mother called for him, I thought she was talking to me. Throughout my life people have misquoted my name, spelled it differently/wrong (even though I gave them the letters slowly), referred to my cousins name (it’s a 1 letter difference and his name is admittedly more popular but I’m older and they chose his name based on mine), and of course shortened my name to its first initial.
Hello my name is Kamau (Swahili for Silent Warrior), and at age 15 I decided I was going to start recording songs under the name “K Da 1’1 Deuce” sometimes stylized as “K Da One 1 Deuce”. Now I can guess what you are thinking, why would I have a name that people often get wrong, and then pick another complicated name for people to get wrong? Well my fine feathered friends, originally I wanted to be known as K-Deuce because of my two middle names. A quick Google search will show you, that I am far from the only one who decided to use said name. To separate myself for the hordes of imitators I decided I’d be the “One and Only” deuce, but that sounded cheesy and “The one one Deuce “ kind of just rolled off the tongue, at least for me. Naturally people would shorten it to “K-Deuce” much like they shortened Kamau to K. This caused some confusion and to my dismay and lackluster conclusion some people simply can’t sound out letters (Kamau) or spell simple word “Deuce”.
Fast forward to today, I still use these names, and I now look at my real name with a sense of pride. I also look at my stage name with a sense of pride. Thanks to the people I've met, the things I've done, and the stories I will be able to tell for years to come. With that said I've decided to change my stage name and not look back. When I was trying to decide on my new stage name I wanted something people could easily remember, or something that had a good meaning behind it. So much like Ray Charles, Talib Kweli, and countless others, I decided to go with my first and middle name: Kamau Sadiki (It translates to Silent warrior, Brave warrior). I know it’s not the easiest of names, I know people will probably mess it up, BUT it’s my name and besides people have been doing that for the last few decades anyway.
Along with the changing of my name comes, the changing of my logo, a new publicist (I've been my own this whole time), new sound, new website, and lastly a new identity. What comes with all these new things you ask? Well essentially, whatever I please. The whole point of re-branding is establishing a new identity. Some people choose to use their past as their foundation, much in the light of late 80s early 90s Bobby Brown. Sometimes a title change is all that is necessary to re-brand. Lil Wayne proclaimed himself as the “Best Rapper Alive” and within 3 years he won a Grammy and the highest selling release date for artist of his genre EVER.

So to help some of you fellow Earthlings ease the transition into your new identity (in no particular order) I’ve provided these 5 Rules:

1. If you’re going to change your name, make it something personal.

This first step is a little loose, because when David Jones decided to be David Bowie so he wasn't confused for one of the Monkees and when Kentucky Fried Chicken decided to be KFC are two different reasons. One was to stay modern, and one was for less confusion. Make sure you define the reason, and you agree with it. Most importantly make sure it’s something you can stand behind.

2. Who cares what they’re thinking, you’re the most important person in the relationship.

I often cite this as relationship advice to friends and colleagues but it’s a universal law that can be used during any interaction. When Prince and Cat Stevens (Both respected musicians and writers in their own right) decided to change their name to, well, different names (or symbols).  A lot of fans did not support it, but guess what? They still have successful careers years after the fact and continue to tour and release albums. Though Prince did eventually change his name back after 7 years, he forced the entire music industry to bend at his whim and accept this unorthodox name or symbol or whatever.

3. Correct anyone who attempts to refer to you solely by your old name.

When Cassius Clay joined the Nation of Islam and converted to Muslim, for a brief stint his name was Cassius X. Soon after his name was changed to and has since been “Mohammad Ali”. If you can find any archived footage or one of those celebrity biopics, you will clearly see them attempt to refer to Mr. Ali as Mr. Clay. This did not last long. Not only was he the heavy weight champion of the world, but he could not be swayed or moved to ease the world’s comprehension of his name change. Also when Bell Atlantic merged with a few other phone companies they formed Verizon. If you called their customer service to tell them you didn't like the changes Bell Atlantic was going through, they would be quick to tell you “Verizon is doing all they can, to accommodate former Bell Atlantic customers, etc.” The fact remains, good or bad, the new name is here to stay.

4. Don’t change too much, too often, if you want it to stick.

Russell Jones had many names in his career before he died, do you know what name they always called him? Old Dirty Bastard, and he will forever be that because people can’t handle and don’t accept excessive compulsive behavior. It seemed as though every time ODB was released from Jail he had a new name. The thing was, most of us liked the old one, and if you’re going to keep changing your name, it’s obvious you’re not entirely sure what you’d like to be called. We can help, by referring to you as the name we like the most and have come to identify you with. As they say on Trailer Park Boys “Way she goes”

5. Pace yourself, sudden changes can cause a shock to the system.

Miley Cyrus took 2 years off before she came back with her “Bad Girl” image. When Justin Timberlake “brought sexy back” it was years after we had to “cry him a river”. As many people will tell you “Timing is everything”. Just because you have a good idea doesn't mean you should immediately take it to market. Do you remember when Pizza Hut attempted to become Pasta Hut? Exactly. Lastly Sean Combs has had more accepted nicknames for one profession than any other person (to my knowledge) in this century. Puffy, Puff Daddy, P Diddy, Diddy, Diddy Dirty Money, Sean “Diddy” Combs (redundant but used), and recently Dr. Diddy (in honor of his honorary doctorate degree from Howard University). A big factor for his easy transition is he stays mildly relevant only to briefly fade away and return to reinvent himself to reinvigorate his career and of course change his name.

Follow these rules and even your mother will call you something different than the name she gave you. Probably not, but it’s worth a shot right?

                                                                                    Sincerely, 
                                                                                                 Kamau Sadiki