The DIOP Circle V.33

February 23rd, 2020


Mike Ekwuaju

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're hearing from Mike "Kwaj" Ekwuaju. He's the 1,385th person to join us and he digs Sasan. Kwaj is going to share how rap set him on a journey of self discovery.

I didn’t really have a meaningful relationship with music until I turned 9. It wasn’t the typical experience where my Mom and Dad were playing records in the house when I was young. Music was deeply social. It was my friends in middle school who liked Rap music. What you were listening to mattered. We’d discuss our favorite records and then rap on the way to basketball games.

From there is where I did my own further research. I heard “Lose Yourself” by Eminem and I loved it. I just thought it was cool as hell and it made me want to rap. I would write the lyrics in my notebook a million times. Starting with those lyrics on a notepad convinced me of the importance of writing. It even gave me the confidence that I could write my own stuff. And since then I’ve never stopped.

The process of getting better happens over time. It was in college when people told me I was good. Ordinarily, I’d never tell anyone I made music. I still don’t today in casual conversation. Becoming more outgoing created a feedback loop. I’d start showing people more of my music and they would send me beats, which allowed me to make more music.

Before I did my first show, I was completely out of the loop. I didn’t understand how it worked and I thought I was owed all these shows. And when I didn’t get them, it was frustrating. I was living in Lansing, Michigan at the time. It’s funny to look back and consider that I was really just waiting for someone to come up to me and offer me a performing slot. That’s not how it works; you don’t hope, you go out and network. Rap rewards confidence and extraversion so people don’t know how much goes into branding yourself after you make the music. And because I prefer to work by myself it can be a challenge.

I met a producer online from Pittsburgh, by the name of Hobbes Duende. We’d make music together and he convinced me to come out to Pittsburgh and perform our songs at the renown Picklesburgh Festival. Hundreds of people packed a closed Roberto Clemente Bridge to see us. The show was amazing. It was really cool to be taken seriously as an artist, traveling to perform music and make friends.

Two years later, I invited him to participate in a beat battle in my city. He placed 2nd and even managed to network his way into producing an album for two local hip-hop artists, Ozay Moore & Sareem Poems. That same year, I flew out to record with Hobbes and a bunch of our friends from around the country. I was living the life I dreamed of.

From there, I knew I needed to drop an album. I didn’t have my debut project out. I was just putting out songs and booking more shows. I just knew I had to keep trying and things will fall into place. Most of the shows were in and around Michigan.

You meet a lot of musical people along the way. They hook you up, you hook them up. I was doing anything I could get my hands on, even open mics. Hell, I’d start a cypher outside a bar if I felt someone could kick a rhyme with me. It’s definitely a good feeling becoming more known in certain circles because I’m out doing what I love.

At the time I decided to make an album, I had been laid off. For three months, I’d stay in my apartment, write and record. I had to take a step back and consider my feelings and mind state. Listening to my internal monologue pushed me to talk more openly about being an introvert. After I started rapping, I knew I was introverted. Time I used to spend playing sports and hanging out with friends started to go towards writing. I wanted to get good at it, so I spent a lot of time alone. My debut album Leaves of Memories got airtime on two radio stations so it was time well spent.

My least favorite part of my experience is the writer’s block. To this day, I don’t go out a lot and sometimes it correlates directly with not having anything to write about. In order to write about things that matter, I have to be more dynamic. My favorite part of making music is gaining real fans around the world. It’s a surreal feeling getting a message from someone in France or Australia or Germany or somewhere in Africa.

Our shared love for Hip-Hop is enough to turn two strangers into friends, and it’s a beautiful thing hearing someone tell you to never stop making music. It’s a goal of mine to travel around the U.S. and other parts of the world meeting the artists and fans I’ve gotten to know online.

Any success I’ve had has been because of my willingness to go out there and meet people. I’m all about putting myself in situations where I can leave with knowledge and influential connections. The law of attraction is real. Whatever you focus on enough will happen. It may not be quick but work and luck go hand in hand.

My advice is to stay prepared and remain open to opportunity. Right now, I still have a 9 to 5 and my music is somewhere between a hobby and a career. And though I’m not ready to give up what I’m doing now, I believe things that may seem coincidental are meant to happen.


The DIOP Circle V.33

February 23rd, 2020


Mike Ekwuaju

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're hearing from Mike "Kwaj" Ekwuaju. He's the 1,385th person to join us and he digs Sasan. Kwaj is going to share how rap set him on a journey of self discovery.

I didn’t really have a meaningful relationship with music until I turned 9. It wasn’t the typical experience where my Mom and Dad were playing records in the house when I was young. Music was deeply social. It was my friends in middle school who liked Rap music. What you were listening to mattered. We’d discuss our favorite records and then rap on the way to basketball games.

From there is where I did my own further research. I heard “Lose Yourself” by Eminem and I loved it. I just thought it was cool as hell and it made me want to rap. I would write the lyrics in my notebook a million times. Starting with those lyrics on a notepad convinced me of the importance of writing. It even gave me the confidence that I could write my own stuff. And since then I’ve never stopped.

The process of getting better happens over time. It was in college when people told me I was good. Ordinarily, I’d never tell anyone I made music. I still don’t today in casual conversation. Becoming more outgoing created a feedback loop. I’d start showing people more of my music and they would send me beats, which allowed me to make more music.

Before I did my first show, I was completely out of the loop. I didn’t understand how it worked and I thought I was owed all these shows. And when I didn’t get them, it was frustrating. I was living in Lansing, Michigan at the time. It’s funny to look back and consider that I was really just waiting for someone to come up to me and offer me a performing slot. That’s not how it works; you don’t hope, you go out and network. Rap rewards confidence and extraversion so people don’t know how much goes into branding yourself after you make the music. And because I prefer to work by myself it can be a challenge.

I met a producer online from Pittsburgh, by the name of Hobbes Duende. We’d make music together and he convinced me to come out to Pittsburgh and perform our songs at the renown Picklesburgh Festival. Hundreds of people packed a closed Roberto Clemente Bridge to see us. The show was amazing. It was really cool to be taken seriously as an artist, traveling to perform music and make friends.

Two years later, I invited him to participate in a beat battle in my city. He placed 2nd and even managed to network his way into producing an album for two local hip-hop artists, Ozay Moore & Sareem Poems. That same year, I flew out to record with Hobbes and a bunch of our friends from around the country. I was living the life I dreamed of.

From there, I knew I needed to drop an album. I didn’t have my debut project out. I was just putting out songs and booking more shows. I just knew I had to keep trying and things will fall into place. Most of the shows were in and around Michigan. You meet a lot of musical people along the way. They hook you up, you hook them up. I was doing anything I could get my hands on, even open mics. Hell, I’d start a cypher outside a bar if I felt someone could kick a rhyme with me. It’s definitely a good feeling becoming more known in certain circles because I’m out doing what I love.

At the time I decided to make an album, I had been laid off. For three months, I’d stay in my apartment, write and record. I had to take a step back and consider my feelings and mind state. Listening to my internal monologue pushed me to talk more openly about being an introvert. After I started rapping, I knew I was introverted. Time I used to spend playing sports and hanging out with friends started to go towards writing. I wanted to get good at it, so I spent a lot of time alone. My debut album Leaves of Memories got airtime on two radio stations so it was time well spent.

My least favorite part of my experience is the writer’s block. To this day, I don’t go out a lot and sometimes it correlates directly with not having anything to write about. In order to write about things that matter, I have to be more dynamic. My favorite part of making music is gaining real fans around the world. It’s a surreal feeling getting a message from someone in France or Australia or Germany or somewhere in Africa.

Our shared love for Hip-Hop is enough to turn two strangers into friends, and it’s a beautiful thing hearing someone tell you to never stop making music. It’s a goal of mine to travel around the U.S. and other parts of the world meeting the artists and fans I’ve gotten to know online.

Any success I’ve had has been because of my willingness to go out there and meet people. I’m all about putting myself in situations where I can leave with knowledge and influential connections. The law of attraction is real. Whatever you focus on enough will happen. It may not be quick but work and luck go hand in hand.

My advice is to stay prepared and remain open to opportunity. Right now, I still have a 9 to 5 and my music is somewhere between a hobby and a career. And though I’m not ready to give up what I’m doing now, I believe things that may seem coincidental are meant to happen.


Mike Ekwuaju

Follow Mike Ekwuaju on Instagram @lordkwaj

His debut album "Leaves of Memories" is available on all platforms. Listen on Spotify (here).

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


- Mike Ekwuaju


Follow Mike Ekwuaju on Instagram @lordkwaj

His debut album "Leaves of Memories" is available on all platforms. Listen on Spotify (here).

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.