They say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I’m sure I constantly amused Him. For nearly 25 years, my “plan” was to be in the music business. I was doggedly in pursuit of the wealth and notoriety that being an artist or manager could bring. So much so that I now look back and realize that as the universe was carving my path, I was stubbornly steering against the grain.
There are a lot of folks who don’t know that I come from the world of journalism. I came through the mighty Mass Communications Department at Jackson State University roaming the halls of the Blackburn Language Arts building as one of Doris Saunders’ babies. But that degree for me was only a placeholder until I achieved my ultimate goal of becoming a Hip Hop artist. I had “the fever” as I call it, and it turned into an obsession. God smirked.
My very first job after college was working as a Staff Writer for the Jackson Advocate – the oldest Black-owned newspaper in the state and one of the oldest in the nation. I was hired by Charles Tisdale after having a couple conversations with him and showing him a few writing samples. It was at the Advocate that I learned how to publish a newspaper. I not only had to head hunt stories and write them, I had to take the photos, develop them in a makeshift darkroom, and help with the layout of the pages my stories would appear on. And if things got really tight, I’d help with delivering the papers to subscribers. You could say I learned some of my entrepreneurial chops from Charles and Alice Tisdale.
But you couldn’t tell me that writing was going to be my lot in life, at least not for any news publication. I was going to be in the music business come hell or high water. And that caused conflicts – a lot of them. I was subsequently fired from the Advocate, on three separate occasions if memory serves. And not only there, I was hired…and fired…by every news publication in the city. (And one TV station). That fever even made me leave the Associated Press after a mentor of mine, Robert Naylor, took a chance on me. See, I had decided that the “journalism” thing wasn’t for me. Corporate America wasn’t for me. Any distraction to that effect was going to hinder my success in the music business. God chuckled.
Now it was nowhere near a bust. I experienced some amazing highs. David Banner and I signed to a major label when it was unheard of for Mississippi artists. As Crooked Lettaz, we traveled the world. As a solo artist, I started an independent label, won awards, and even performed in front of thousands of fans in the Czech Republic and Ghana. As an artist manager, I saw one of my artists go viral and sign a major partnership with RCA/Sony. But there were some devastating lows. Music doesn’t bring a “steady” check. The ebb and flow of the business brought financial struggles, familial problems, and mental wear and tear. Even as opportunities to write presented themselves, even as podcast hosting offers came through, I rebuked them. “I’m in the music business!” I said. And in order to make it I had to devote 100 percent to it right? It was at this point that God probably doubled over with laughter.
In the spring of 2020, a worldwide pandemic hit. Covid forced us all into quarantine, and life as we knew it changed. Life for me changed. You don’t realize what it’s like not being on the road, not being in the studio, not closing deals, until you can’t. Venues closed. Studios closed. Businesses were shuttered. For nearly a year, I couldn’t look to music to take care of my family. And it drove me into depression. A virus made me take a long hard look at my mortality. The only refuge I found in that time was writing. I started journaling. I started writing my thoughts on social media and folks began telling me how much they enjoyed my posts. I bought some equipment and started podcasting. And as the quarantine ended and venues opened back up again, the music business no longer felt the same for me. For the very first time in my adult life, music wasn’t number one. I had put it ahead of family, friends, and my own mental health. The status and look of being “Kamikaze, the Entertainment Guy” had become more important to me than taking care of my household. And suddenly, I began to think about my legacy in my community.
Then, a Facebook friend tagged me in a post. The Advocate was looking for a Managing Editor. It took me a few days and many prayerful moments to even apply for the position. Could I still write? Is this what’s next? Am I mentally prepared for a “job”? What will the people think? Does this mean I was a failure at the music business? So many thoughts ran through my head. But one thought was most prevalent. It was the memory of my late mother, a teacher, telling me at 8-years-old that I was going to be a great writer one day. So for now, I’m letting something that I love go, and trying something different – searching for different results.
Today marks one week of me being the new Managing Editor for the Jackson Advocate. Life has come full circle. Crazy isn’t it? The very first place that I worked after college. The first publication to give me a chance to write. The first place that trusted me to be a Managing Editor 25 years ago is now home again. Instead of working with Charles and Alice Tisdale, I’m working with their daughter DeAnna, who is continuing their legacy.
See, there’s that word again, “legacy”. And we plan on creating more of it with this new generation of Advocate writers. You can expect great storytelling with an updated flair. You can expect responsible journalism not sensationalism. You can expect content with integrity. You can expect us to help change and shape the narrative about our city and state. We’re going to cover the positive things and people that get buried under negative click baiting you see from some other local media outlets. We’re not going to run from or ignore the truth, we’re just committed to giving you the whole truth. Our energy and tone are going to be overwhelmingly positive. Look for us to jump head-first into the podcasting world. Look for more YouTube content. Look for a more aggressive social media presence.
Kamikaze’s not “gone”. It’s just that Brad Franklin has to handle some unfinished business. As Tina Turner once said, I don’t do anything “nice and easy”. And if I show up, we damn sure aren’t coming to be average. I’m here to do my part to keep the Jackson Advocate as “the Voice of Black Mississippians”. Hopefully, God is smiling and not laughing this time.