DL Da Arsun: The Journey of A Hip Hop Entrepreneur
Andrew Lago better known in the hip hop industry as DL da ARSUN, knew at a very early age that he would want to grow up to become an entertainer. As far as what type of entertainer DL wasn’t so sure at the time. Watching television, he always admired people on TV whether they sang, dance, actors or rappers. DL would say, “I always felt if they can be on TV then I can too”.
So how did he start as a hip hop artist? In 5th grade, just joking around, DL recited his rap to his best friend Alex along with other classmates. They all burst out in laughter, thinking DL’s rap he wrote was pretty good. DL secretly kept on writing rhymes to himself throughout the years. In 1996, DL’s cousin, Gil Cuesta, took him to his first recording studio in Marin, California. At that very moment DL knew this is what he wanted to do as a career, to be a professional famous recording artist in the hip hop industry.
DL’s first visit to a recording studio was a life changing experience. From that point on, he slept, ate, and dreamt about music 24/7. It became an addiction. He didn’t know the slightest thing about recording, let alone the business aspect to the music industry. But what he did know is he was determined to do whatever it took, to learn, and become recognized in the Bay Area hip hop scene. Shall he take the same safe route that everyone is going? Or should he go the other direction and take another risky approach to life? DL decided to take the other direction and try to shoot for success as a hip hop artist.
He constantly recorded songs and shared his music to the world whether it was friends, family or even just random strangers he would meet. Feeling good about all the work he was putting into his music records, he didn’t get the response he thought he would hear. At that time, DL would let others hear his music, but to the harsh reality from negative critics hit DL like a ton of bricks. People told him he was wasting his time and a Filipino rapper would never have a chance in this world. They said he didn’t have the voice or the look to make it as a rapper. They told him he needed lots of money and connections to get to that certain level of success. Bottom line, majority of the people he would come across would discourage him from his dream of being a rapper.
Regardless of the negative comments and information that was fed into DL’s head, that right there still didn’t shake his motivation or confidence one bit. His hunger level still remained at the highest to overcome any pitfalls or obstacles that arise. As the years go by DL started to do performances in his hometown, Vallejo. He independently put out CD’s, which he funded himself for promotional purposes in attempts to build his name on the streets. Results to his hard work again weren’t good. People constantly criticizing everything from his stage presence, to his rhymes, and to his style of flow. How did DL respond this time? He would say, “its okay some people will either hate me, think I’m okay, or will love me.”
Never Giving UpThose people who hate me, just fuel the fire to make me work twice as hard.
By 2005, DL had released several retail ready CD’s. He was consistently on his grind trying to get his music exposed. He would try reaching out to other artists, producers, DJ’s, artist managers, over all people in the music industry. But no return calls, emails, or even text messages. At that time, he was constantly trying to pitch his music to local radio station DJ’s at 106.1 KMEL and WILD 94.9. The feeling of getting no responses or no returned calls was becoming all to familiar. DL was persistently submitting his music for years and years. If one door closes another will open. But the harsh reality was that it seemed 100 doors closed on him. So he put out a number of street albums, performed at locals clubs, and independently put out music videos on youtube. All this hard work to build a foundation for his career seemed to get no results at all. He noticed that his music peers in the Bay Area were getting played on the radio, spins in clubs, and some other artists were even getting record deals. Feeling the weight of financial burdens, the sleepless nights, the energy put into this dream he thought, “When is it going to be my turn?”
At this point frustration and anger was starting to take over DL’s emotions. The fact he was doing music for over 10 years and no real progress was happening, let alone, he couldn’t even get a simple response via email from people in the industry. DL felt hopeless, helpless, and ultimately even thought of giving up. The dream he once envisioned as a kid started to become blurry. Due to the difficulty of his circumstances, he felt his dream was starting to slip away right before his own eyes. The fire started to fade away. He said, “as impossible as I felt it was to continue on, I told myself this is when you gotta GRIND it out. I did one very little thing that made such a BIG DIFFERENCE… I started to think positive about everything.” “After all the people who discouraged me, the people who said I wouldn’t make it, even the people who wouldn’t respond back to my email or phone calls, I let all of those negative feelings go.”
When you feel like your stuck and stagnant and have no fight left in you to carry on, thats when you gotta dig deep into yourself, find that inner strength and GRIND IT OUT.
Shortly after DL made the critical decision to think and become even more positive throughout all the trials, tribulations, challenges, and obstacles life has thrown his way. From that point on after letting the negative go, surprisingly he gets an email from a Bay Area DJ at 106.1 KMEL stating that they would play his music on the radio. Ecstatic about the news he’s been longing to hear over 10 years of trying. Few weeks after that, DL was in an article of the Vallejo Times Herald Newspaper and was recognized as a hip hop artist out of Vallejo. The story expressed his hard work, his big dreams, and positive message. His story was perfect around that time of the economic downfall in Vallejo. What people were reading about were all the bad news, but low and behold DL’s story uplifted the hope of people from Vallejo. Finally a positive role model arises.
Months after the article was released, DL’s “Won’t Stop” music video became part of the regular rotation on Bay Area’s legendary music television show, California Music Channel with Chuy Gomez. DL described his experience as going from bad to good, sort of like a light switch. At one point everything felt as if it was all going down hill for him, and the second he started to focus on being positive in life, literally his music career did a 180 degree turn for the better.
Not only did DL’s name started to spread like wildfire throughout the hip hop industry and Filipino community, but so did his clothing company. DL made one sweater with his motto “BUILT 2 GRIND” and in just about 2 to 3 months he sold over three hundred hoodies. It wasn’t the color, fabric, or style of the sweater that made it popular and known. It was the meaning behind “BUILT 2 GRIND.” Those who worked hard and was passionate about their craft gravitated to the meaning. It means to work hard, never give up, and chase your dreams regardless to how difficult the circumstances are. Grind it out. “Getting Results is Non-Stop Determination.”
DL started to receive Facebook messages from kids and adults all throughout the world saying how the meaning of B2G changed their life. These people understood how he felt because they too felt in their life the feeling of being alone, the struggle, the fight to continue on. One teenager, Kyle from Washington, said, “Since I learned about Built 2 Grind and your music, I stopped doing drugs, started getting good grades, and I get along with my parents now.” Another random guy, J-Ross, said, “I [have] seen DL’s music video on CMC, Won’t Stop, in jail and everyone was dancing and singing to it.” Ross stated, “What makes DL different is he’s talking about positive things that makes you want to do better in life, very inspiring”. So the flip side of things, DL’s music and message was actually giving other people hope. Hope to better themselves in life.
Not only does DL get asked to perform at various venues, but he is even asked to be a motivational speaker to talk to the adolescent kids and college students. With no investor, no big name artist, or big budget behind DL he has managed to slowly but surely live his dream and inspire the world with a simple message… never give up.
Currently he had released his newest album, “I of Da GR1ND” and has been seen on big television platforms, such as, GMA Pinoy TV (Power Ng Pinoy) and the Halo Halo Show with Kat Iniba channel LA-18 in Los Angeles, CA.
DL said, “You don’t have to buy my music, my clothing, or anything from me. But if there’s anything I will ask you to get from me is knowing that you can do and be anything you want in your life. You just have to be willing to work hard for it, focus, have faith.” Sometimes we don’t understand why certain things happen in our lives, but what we can do is take these experiences, and learn and grow from it. If DL never went through the hardships in life, he would have never come up with his trademark, Built 2 Grind. As hard as it may seem follow these simple rules and you too will enjoy the fruits of your labor, “Be patient in your life, be humble, and most important trust in God that everything will fall into place.” Remember the only person who can stop you from doing what you are capable of doing is “YOU.”
(For other inspiring stories we featured in our show Power ng Pinoy, please visit www.powerngpinoy.tv or join our Facebook page at http://facebook.com/powerngpinoy. The show airs in GMA Pinoy TV every Sunday in US and Canada).