There’s a definite equation to success. It’s not even a secret. In fact, if you follow your Instagram stream you’ll find memes that lay it all out. One tells you to grind. Another tells you to never give up. Swipe left and you’ll see that you should “Be prepared because you never know when opportunities will arise.” Those sound like just lofty, inspirational ideals until you meet someone who’s lived by these to achieve, like Joseph “Jo Blaq” Macklin. Yet, if you hear his story, there’s one precept he’d offer as the most important. If you guessed “talent”, you’re right. Jo Blaq’s talent as a music producer earned him a Grammy nomination. But that’s not all there is to it for Jo. There’s the God factor.
“I believe in God. Period,” says Jo. At the same time, I have to challenge what I’ve learned. My mom told me “You have find God for yourself. I can’t force you to think you know God. It’s a relationship.” As Jo developed that relationship, his eyes opened. The problem, he says, is when we think there is only one way to the top. “We get stuck caught in the mode of tradition. We say it runs in the family. It doesn’t run in the family. It gets passed on until one of us breaks that tradition.” The traditional path tells us to get a nine-to-five, get married and have some kids.
Jo went a different route. “I owned a mortgage company in Kansas City. The market was crashing. It was time to get out. I got out. I said I’m going to pursue my dream. I had a little money saved up so I took that year to do nothing but music. Money got low. “It was hard,” he recalls, “God told me to follow this dream, believe in it. I prayed, ‘God, I don’t want to get to Christmas without being able to get my nieces and nephews something for Christmas.’ My mom and everybody was on my head. You need to get a job, a nine-to-five. ‘Cause that’s what they know. My mom said, ‘Baby you sure you don’t need to get a job?’” He affirmed, “I know what God told me to do.” As the saying goes, Look at God. Jo recounts, “Dec 17th Leo Williams, of publisher Bug Music, Inc. (now of Sony/BMG) said he wanted to sign me. Dec 20th, I got my checks in mail. The checks came to house and my mom opened them up. At that point she said, ‘I believe!’” Jo’s Christmas wish was granted. Isn’t it cool when your timeline aligns with God’s?
Time to move to LA. Jo was well-trained by a mentor, Craig Lewis, in the craft. Then, NBA friends, Earl Watson and Baron Davis believed in Jo and gave him his start in LA. He’s been there since 2011. “LA is a roller coaster,” he says. “It’s a great place to hone your talent and really find your niche and make money doing it.”
It’s not easy making the move. Jo recalls what it felt like when he first moved to L.A. “It’s new. Nobody knows me. I’m in the land of the unknown. It’s scary. It’s expensive! How do I survive?” he wondered. Yet, he had his “village” to show him the ropes.