Local rapper, producer and spoken-word artist Jarius Bush conceived his 30-16 Challenge — a call to himself and other participating rapper/poets to write 16 lines of verse a day for an entire month — for personal reasons, as a means to marshall and refocus his own flagging creative energies.
And it worked. One year on, the Theorizts and Plunderphonics frontman says he’s back on a creative roll, having released one full-length project since the 2015 Challenge and begun writing another, and having taken a more active role as a producer with the Good Guy Collective, an coalition begun with a handful of fellow DJs and rappers to provide affordable studio and promotional resources for like-minded artists.
So this year, Bush says he’s making a gesture of appreciation to his fellow challenge artists, raising funds for a Good Guy EP Scholarship, to be awarded to top artists from this year’s challenge. The award, to be funded through Indiegogo, will provide the top three finishers for 2016 with funds to record a four to five-track EP.
“We want to help them get artwork and some merchandise,” Bush explains. “And then, hopefully, we want to help those artists book a show. We want to work with them in any way we can.”
Bush began the Challenge last year during a period of personal introspection. With the Theorizts on hiatus, and Bush on the verge of fatherhood, he worried that his writing and rapping would falter as other, more urgent responsibilities took precedence. A voracious reader and a self-styled spiritual seeker, Bush turned to the self-help literature of mid-20th century writer and spoken word artist Earl Nightingale for answers.
“I was at a point where I knew I needed to push myself,” Bush says. “I realized my habits needed to change. And one of the things (Nightingale) talks about is that becoming successful at something is about forming good habits. And to make something a habit, you need to do it for 30 days straight.
“Writing wasn’t a part of my life the way it needed to be. The Challenge helped me make that commitment. Because it’s not just a commitment to yourself, but to the other artists in the Challenge as well.”
The Facebook-based Challenge drew more than 200 participants and followers last year. And for Bush, it made for a minor epiphany. “When I started the Challenge last year, it was really hard,” he says. “I’d stay up late to write verses. This year, it came a lot easier. And I had the ability to consciously expand on the way I did things — my delivery, my lyrics, my point of view. I didn’t feel any blockage this time.”
And the Challenge itself grew, too, drawing more than 1,000 followers and participants for 2016, from all over the country and even overseas, with rappers from London, Japan and Taiwan. “We definitely saw an improvement in the quality of the verse,” says Bush. “People who did it last year, they got better this year. And we saw more people write more, get farther along in the Challenge that they did before.”
For himself, Bush says this year’s Challenge pushed him outside his own creative sphere. “This year, I thought about how I could impact these other artists, give them something they could ‘take home,'” he says. “And I realized that a lot of the people who are participating don’t necessarily have recording equipment, or experience putting together a recording in the studio.”
That provided the impetus for the Indiegogo project, and establishing the Good Guy Collective EP Scholarship. Bush says he hopes to raise $3,000 to help Challenge winners record in the Good Guy Collective’s studio space.
At the awards ceremony itself, Bush says this year will see more performers, including himself and other local artists such as Spook, Bobby Fuego and Mister Ill, as well as Nashville-based rapper Sam Day. The show will also have live Skype appearances from some of the out-of-state and overseas competitors. Good Guy Collective co-founders DJ Wiggs will spin, and Mr. Kobayashi will host.
“I knew there would be a lot more going on this year,” Bush says. “Last year, the Challenge just kind of happened. This year, I knew I wanted to push it farther, take it to the next step. I think that’s what we’ve done.”
The 30-16 Challenge Awards will be held Thursday, March 10 at Scruffy City Hall featuring performances by J-Bush, Bobby Fuego, Mr. Ill, and many more.