This post was reblogged from Next Level, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Meridian International Center; and written by Joe Schloss, Next Level Education and Alumni Outreach Director.
People come to Next Level with a wide range of life experiences. Some are just setting out on their artistic path, while others already have years of experience behind them. Beatmaker Glen “DiViNCi” Valencia falls into the latter category, which provided him with a unique perspective on his Next Level experience as part of Team Honduras in 2016.
Best known as a pioneer of “controllerism,” the practice of performing live music on samplers, he is also a founding member and producer of the Orlando-based hip-hop group Solillaquists of Sound, a longtime musical collaborator of Ms. Lauryn Hill, and a sought-after theorist and facilitator of the creative process through his guided self-development and education platform, Studio Sensei.
As a result of these experiences, DiViNCi has become particularly interested in creating systems and structures that can transform a momentary creative inspiration into an ongoing endeavor.
“I’m no longer mystified by the power of creativity alone,” he says. “On a personal level, it’s very simple to be creative. And if you don’t know how, I could teach you – that’s what I do with Studio Sensei. But the other thing that I wind up teaching is how that personal expression can become something that can be shared. Something that can be enough of a success to be sustained in sharing.”
Next Level, he says, provided him with an example of how that process could work. “I felt the magic of the events that we did with Next Level,” he says. “And it inspired me to get my stock together in a way that would allow me to replicate that. That’s why my biggest takeaway from that whole experience was how it was organized.”
“Miracles take work,” he observed. “And that’s why I recognize Next Level for what it is: some people put the work in to make a miracle machine. And that is incredible. And I love that. And it’s inspiring.”
In fact, that relationship – between creativity and practical sustainability – has become the core of his current work. “What I teach through Studio Sensei is what I call the Sustainable Practice Model. And all of it is about how you can consistently succeed. How you can consistently recreate the results that you favor. Because I’ve had so many incredible things happen in my life, and it’s great. But it being a one-shot is not acceptable to me. I want real momentum. I want an unstoppable, it’s-moving-on-its-own type of thing. So that was a big inspirational thing for me. Like, “OK this is fantastic, but it’s so fantastic that I don’t want it to stop here.”
DiViNCi joined us and performed recently for Next Level Live, a new virtual program series on Hip Hop Diplomacy hosted by Meridian International Center.
Next Level, he says, helped him to see the larger social-cultural and economic relationships that contribute to sustainable creativity. “Here’s what happens,” he explains. “You have people who are influenced by a culture. In this scenario, it’s hip-hop. It touches people, and that’s the impetus. It’s inspiring enough that they feel compelled to be involved in it themselves. Now, how are they involved? There’s only a few avenues that are obvious: dance, music, producing, emceeing, deejaying. But the culture is bigger than that.”
“And I’d argue that a lot of people latched on to hip-hop in the first place, not even because they liked hip-hop so much, but because they liked what it represented. So you have people that have this dream energy inside them and they’re assigning it to the nearest, closest thing. Which is hip-hop. It’s like a high school guidance counselor saying, “Oh, you like this, this, and this? You need to be a doctor.”
“But the thing is – where we’re at today in the world – we’re seeing the birth of all these other job titles and avenues associated with hip-hop culture. They’re so new that a normal person growing up isn’t going to know about them. So that’s why people come away from the Next Level experience and say, ‘I didn’t even know this is what I want to be doing, but this is exactly what I want to be doing.’”
“But that’s only because it fits the criteria of latching on to that dream energy that they already have, and assigning it a purpose that has reciprocation embedded into it – in money, love, and helping others. And all of those things work together to define a tangible value for the people involved.”
“Because the basis of it is ‘I want to be doing something with inspirational energy, in a way that’s sustainable.’ That’s what it is. And that’s what everybody in this program wants.”
“You know, that same thing happened for me when I started working for Lauryn Hill. All of sudden there was somebody of great authority in the world that I had been working in, who was requesting exactly the things that I had to bring to the table. It’s a moment of great fulfillment and purpose. And to feed that is to feed the stock of self-trust and self-empowerment. Because any time that anybody gets shown that the unique cocktail of their life has a purpose, it is a miracle. It’s an incredible thing that is one of the biggest reaffirming energies that you could invest in.”
“And that reaffirming energy creates such a huge impact. Not just to individuals, but to communities. And then, therefore, the world.”