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Year of Local: Sarnian carves out career as musician, speaker

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This is the second in a series of submitted stories produced by the Year of Local, a collaborative project highlighting businesses and not-for-profit organizations in Sarnia.

Laura Greaves

D.O. (Defy the Odds) Gibson is a rapper, motivational speaker, music producer and anti-bullying advocate.

In 2003 he set the Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle rap. He grew up in Sarnia, began his musical career here and currently calls Toronto home.

Gibson’s love of music came first, and he recalls performing his own music in high school and meeting friends at Tim Hortons to discuss their plans for opening a record label.

His speaking career began a few years later when he finished university. His mother encouraged him to come and speak to her class to motivate her students.

“I was nervous going into it. What was I going to talk about for an hour? When I finished that first presentation I was surprised when I got something called an honorarium,” he said.

Since then, he’s honed his message on anti-bullying.

“I’ve been doing it for the last 15 years. I’ve put together a whole show on anti-bullying that’s entertaining, with hip hop and freestyle, but also delivers a solid message.”

He’s spoken in front of more than a thousand classes.

As well as motivational speaking and performing his own music, D.O. has been sharing his experience with other musicians and helping them succeed.

“The primary reason I created my business was to qualify for certain grants. You could only apply for these grants if you were an incorporated management company,” he said.

He registered North Star Entertainment in 2002.

“I knew it would be a headache trying to learn about being a corporation, but also that at tax time it was going to save me, and it has. It has elevated my business.”

D.O. attributes his success to grants he’s received and connections he’s made, including trips to various conferences. “When I first went to the Midem Music Conference [in Cannes, France], it was to represent myself as an artist. It was tough because I was trying to promote myself and I didn’t have any connections or any opportunities to perform … going to that conference really opened my eyes of the possibilities.”

He has now attended the conference eight times and been able to bring along performers he’s mentoring. “What I really enjoy is bringing artists with me in person to the conference. While I am there performing, I am also representing these guys.”

D.O. is satisfied that his career combines motivational speaking and rap.

“When most people think about rap, they think of negative, swearing, bling-bling,” he said. “On the other side they think of motivational speaking as Tony Robbins and thinking positive. It’s been unique to put them together. This has separated me from the pack.”


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