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Belgian artists on their hustle to turn their life into their stage

The artistic industry is a place of hustle. Claiming your spot at the table takes time, effort, and a lot of perseverance. Rockstar® Energy Drink - the go-to energy drink for hustlers - wants to encourage young artists and support them in their journey. Through a Studio Contest, Rockstar® Energy Drink is giving away a day in DAFT Studios, one of the best music studios in Belgium. We sat down with some of Belgium’s biggest artists of the moment to talk about their journey to the top.

Article by Yaell Monas, pictures by Agneskena. This article is a collaboration with Rockstar® Energy Drink.

Saráh Phenom (22) - Music artist and all-round creative

I used to work in fashion and PR, but my passion has always been music. When my mother asked me as a kid what I wanted to become, I always said “I want to be like Janet Jackson”. My mother was always very supportive. Unfortunately, we tend to take compliments from people close to us for granted as we expect them to be encouraging out of love. So I never believed it when someone told me I was talented.

But deep down in my heart I knew I wanted to be an entertainer. I was always singing around and participated in school talent shows and open mics. When my sister started her career I became her background vocalist and she’d tend to impromptu bring us to the front of the stage to let us sing in front of everyone. I was TERRIFIED!

That’s kind of where everything started! Through bar tours, travelling to the south of France, to London... I loved it and it gave me more confidence. I got the drive to pursue my dream by seeing people so close to me doing what they love.

To me, Instagram is a very powerful tool if you use it the right way. I mainly utilize it to reach out to people. Once I messaged this guy who did video capsules with Belgian artists, saying that I wanted to feature in one of his upcoming videos. He had never heard me sing before the session, yet he accepted. That same week he came to Brussels from Paris, we recorded the song and shot the video a few weeks later. It turned out to be one of the most viewed videos on his platform! So that’s when it came to me that I just had to continue to follow my dream.

People always try to put you in a box, and that’s fine if you’re like me and you don’t care about the box. At the end of the day, it’s your life, and you should be able to control its narrative. As an artist, I aim to constantly reinvent myself, learn and grow! Not because I’m not trying to “fit in a box” but just because otherwise I’ll get bored. I learned the hard way that people will always have something to say so yeah, just do whatever you want, find ways, just go for it.

The best advice I could ever give to anyone is: trust the process, trust your process.

Lil Skid (22) - Music artist/Rapper

Back in 2017, I released my fourth single on SoundCloud, and in a few days, it reached 8000 plays. Back then, that was a big deal to me. My former songs never went that high in numbers. Those early days were truly a hustle, but also a lot of fun. Everybody wanted to be a rapper and I just wanted to try the same thing but make it my own.

I got a lot of pleasure out of seeing my streams and views grow over time. And even though my career started coming off the ground, I kept seeing things as fun because I didn’t want to start to live beyond my means.

In my own eyes, I don’t even feel famous yet. But once I come out in public, people do start asking for pictures. I love it, but sometimes I’m just not completely representable the way I would want to be to take pictures with fans. I definitely underestimated what it does to your privacy. But I will always be the fun kid, so I won’t be changing myself for anything considering fame.

Having a career changes people around you. That’s a thing every artist has to learn the hard way, I guess. Friends change, people want or expect different things from you. At some point, you might have to make hard choices. In the beginning, people don’t even believe in you. I definitely had to prove to my family that what I was doing, wasn’t a joke. You can imagine my father wasn’t happy when I quit school for this. I even lost a good relationship because of this lifestyle. It’s not always as beautiful as it looks.

To the winners of the Rockstar Energy contest who get the chance to work in Daft Studios, y’all just got to have fun in there. What Rockstar Energy is offering is huge, enjoy it. There are so many opportunities these days, have fun with them and take them with both hands.

Raia Maria-Laura (24) - Photographer

As a kid, I wanted to become a lawyer, so being a photographer wasn’t really on my wish list. But when I was 15, I attended the art academy and quickly realized that holding a camera was my thing.

I just started photographing, and in my last year of high school, my teachers got tears in their eyes when seeing my pictures for my graduation. I think that’s when it hit me that I really had to keep going for it. Another one of those moments was when Usher DM’ed me to ask if he could get a picture that I had taken of him.

Photography really is a man’s world. In the beginning, I got judged a lot for being young and female. So it was definitely hard to crush those prejudices, but it was totally worth it. Nobody really believed in me apart from myself.

I keep struggling with being a woman in the photography world. But I always told myself that I’m talented, even when I was really insecure at some points. I’m still dying on the inside sometimes, but I just keep my shit together and make myself proud.

Being born in America would’ve definitely benefited me. Back when I started, pursuing art was seen as taboo. In the past ten years, opportunities and possibilities have changed in a very positive way. For artists to take part in contests such as this Rockstar® Energy Drink one is literally such a big opportunity.

As for myself, I participated in the Kunstbende (an art contest in Belgium, founded in 1999, which offered teenagers coaching sessions, exhibitions to be part of, and other art-related advantages) and through that, I got to display my work at exhibitions. That was a huge push for me. After that, I jumped, and I always caught myself.

Yung Mavu (20) - Music artist

For me, everything started with making a mocking rap song about Harry Potter. I have always been in touch with music, I used to dance and I attended the art academy. There has been a time when I didn’t like the Harry Potter song, but now I just own that moment because it blessed me with many opportunities afterwards. I even remember telling my producer that it would be nice to get 1500 views on that video but within 10 minutes we reached 10.000. It’s that one lucky shot that can literally launch your whole career.

The hardest thing I went through was definitely the Covid-19 pandemic. I had a lot of big shows coming up at the beginning of 2020, which all got canceled. I remember hating being in lockdown. I don’t really see myself as a natural-born musician, but I am 100% born to perform. Being on stage feels like coming home to me. Entertaining and performing serve me the most dopamine, and the lockdown took that from me.

I definitely underestimated a career in music, because it made me grow up really fast. The hate comments and the jealousy were something I did not know how to deal with, but by growing up, I got better at ignoring them.

I also had to leave people behind because they did not support me. Some friends’ energy shifted because they couldn’t handle the fact that I was always busy. A year ago, I was hanging with people who were throwing away many chances. And it made me lazy too. But in the end, I don’t regret anything, except for starting to smoke.

The artists who’ll win the Rockstar® Energy Drink contest will be so blessed, I’m literally jealous because they’ll get to tape something in one of the best music studios in Belgium. If I could’ve joined and if I would’ve won this contest at the beginning of my career, it definitely would’ve helped me, as music studios are just not that accessible as a young artist.

I now have the blessing to be part of 32Worldwide, which is nice because our team fixes cool opportunities in studios. But to the winners? Get into that studio, shut your phone down and be in that moment. Use every single second of that priceless day, because this opportunity is off this earth.

Do you want to get a shot at winning a studio day in Daft Studios with producer Jeroen (aka One Track Brain) from The Subs? Find all information and terms about the contest and sign up before the 3rd of October via the Rockstar® Energy Drink website.

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