Bittersweet Knowledge of Talent and Business

A subject I am very well acquainted with.
I myself have been into music since 94. A serious recording artist 99.
Blessed to be around and see folks come and go, has been humbling.

But now, one cant help but to wonder is it a curse!
See as a hip-hop artists its a lonely walk. In that you watch what people misconstrue as “real” based on whats TV. Then you have “purists” who complain there is no “real” hip-hop around. Hip-hop purists are like religious fundamentalists, in that they are staunch in their view, not allowing an artist to grow or make money, because they will be viewed as being a “sell out” (I wonder does Garth Brooks and Santana have to worry about such idiosyncracies)

At my level, of “up and coming” artists. It borderlines the insane and genius as that one is constantly looking to expand their brand by making the public aware of their product without being annoying.

The stories I could tell would make this blog quite long, but to give you an idea; folks will swear that they will be at your show, then not show, then give you a bs excuse.. CONSTANTLY. Folks will say they will buy your alubm but NEVER do it, and duck when they see you. (I take ironic joy in knowing that grown adults have to dodge me after they proactively lied to me, but I digress lol.)

Then its the business!
Like any other craft, trade, or profession, you have to network and barter to move up in the world, but in music. I often am amazed at the unsavory characters one runs across as it can be at times one step above the Underworld. Many folks backstabbing, all the while you are holding on to your dream of expression, while folks of lesser quality and morals flourish.
Folks trying to hustle your talent to make money off of your back in exchange to get you “exposure” (Though in many cases you have to sell tickets to people who know you thus how are you exposing yourself to a new crowd? Once again I digress lol)

Which leads me to me.. A moment of frustration I will attribute it to, but I cant help but wonder.. in the arts is it destined to be the issue of the talentless and profitable, with the talented and broke?

Farbeit from me to be the ultimate dictum of all that is good, but in my genre, we have such denigrating images of “rappers” like Soulja Boy and Wacka Flocka Flame (I am dead serious that is his stage name) who are able to share such foolishness on a grand scale, and yet my very own “fans” dont do the same to support on a basic level!

Some would say try harder, or put out better music!!! I am up for the challenge!!! But what is the use when folks will ultimate do their best to undermine your work? And lack of consistent support in some artists case have driven some to physical ailments like ulcers (This is know from personal experience)

As I write this, I realize this maybe almost prima donna-ish in tone, but as an artist, i have prided myself on rational clarity in my thought process not being driven by impetuous emotion in my view and approach.

To those that I have heard mine or others music in hip-hop
Why do you support or NOT support
What can the artist do to make the product more attractive to purchase (if anything)
Do you believe that on the basis of you knowing the artist they should give it to you for free?
Do you respect their craft and the time they put into or do you think they are waisting their time, and if so would you be so gracious to tell them?

I ask, because most artist are too afraid to ask such questions. I partially ask this because very recently I came really close to walking away from music for good! Mostly because it seems people dont want to hear it! I love what I do and will continue to do it, but EVERY artist has the narcisistic element (or more extreme, i.e. Kanye) that wants to be heard, and when not heard, it makes you re-evaluate a lot.

At this point, I am going to take my re-evaluation public not for pity or sympathy but to ask what is it, that you the fan/listener/consumer feel and hopefully get some more artists to weigh in on this and create a dialog

Godspeed
N

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6 Comments

  1. Dawg I understand where your coming more than words can imagine. Personally I feel its the People.. They say they want music with substance and Honesty in it. But yet and still they settle For simple Minded Bullshit. I call it the idiot syndrome Dont say you want something “meaningfull” but then show no love within the process.. Keep up the good work And you are supported regardless. Peace And Love my nigga. K.A.S AKA THE GRAND IMPERIAL……

  2. I understand how you feel and what you mean. Doing what we do is not easy at all, it is harder than having a 9-5. But as an artist and the love of what you are doing no one else should matter but you and God. When you are doing things for him, he stands firm by your side and will control the outcome. Do not get frustrated just stay encouraged and be full. It is a blessing to have the talent that we have. I love you and I am always gonna be here for you and will sing for you as well. but then again you know that. Lyrical

  3. I understand how you feel and I will answer your questions:

    Why do you support or NOT support?

    I support not because you are crew and such, but I’ve always supported from the first cipher back in 2001 in front of the Hokin at Columbia College. When I bought In Due Time, I was excited to know of such talent from those who were in the same age, school, career interest as myself. Over the years I watched the progression from that album to ReDFined Xpression and you’ve ALWAYS had that good soul music. Plus, you speak on real life situations in your songs and you’re not afraid to get personal. Honestly, Soulja Boy, Waka, Gucci, etc. are necessary to hip-hop because it’s all RAP. Yes the industry and the radio have pretty much been sucked in to this type of music because that is what makes them money! But when you look at album sales, Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye, Drake, Lil Wayne…sell the most albums!! So, keep doing you!

    What can the artist do to make the product more attractive to purchase (if anything)?

    I’ve recently learned that there are different ways to promote your music on the Internet (FB, Twitter, Myspace) and honestly, most artists do it wrong! I’m not saying spend your entire day on the computer like most people do, but in todays digital word, anyone looking to you for your talent wants to see how strong of an Internet presence you have. Not just merely having your album on Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, etc. because that’s not enough. Since people’s “people skills” are lacking nowadays in person, we retract to interacting mostly online. So as artists, we have to do a little more and/or promote a little better online to develop a loyal fanbase.

    Do you believe that on the basis of you knowing the artist they should give it to you for free?

    No we shouldn’t expect to get your music for free. But in some cases we as the artists shouldn’t turn our noses up at giving music away for free. As a fan and as a friend of a artist, no I shouldn’t expect anything for free. I should always show my support in some way. If I can’t buy the album, I’ll support the show, I’ll spread the word, etc.

    Do you respect their craft and the time they put into or do you think they are waisting their time, and if so would you be so gracious to tell them?

    Well truthfully people put 10,000 hrs into what they believe will be a masterpiece and it comes out sub par. I would give what’s asked of me. If you don’t want my opinion, then I won’t give it to you.

  4. To answer your questions

    1. Hiphop Purist do not buy records. Music fans and pop fans do. Hiphop purist generally consist of apsiring/failed artists or critics. They aren’t forward thinking in terms of culture or commerce. They think their praise is worth more than money. They think being a legend in their eyes is more important than you making a living and achieving your goals. STOP MARKETING TO THEM!

    They are a good crowd to get a buzz going and earn respect but honestly dog you’ve done that. You have strong roots in the hood, no need for you to hang around the same folks giving you the same pats on the back that equal no money.

    See your brand more as a soul artist and look to expand out into marketplaces that cater to Jazz, Soul Music, Alternative Music etc. These are the people who understand you as an artists who makes a living off entertainment, not as a cultural figure who spits purely for the passion or respect for his “craft”.

    2. Hooks! i know it sounds stupid but the hook is the song. Start singing your favorite song, odds are you are singing the chorus of that song. You are already great at this as an artist, I can think of atleast 5 joints you got that I can walk around singing(even if I’m not a skilled emcee who can follow your flow, any layman with access to 1.99 on pay pal can sing along to Skate Music) Market these joints, again to other outlets than just hiphop spots. Get them to a point where they are sellable singles etc.

    I mean look at Eminem, best example of a quality emcee who can move units(yeah he’s white but so is Qwels, Aesop Rock, Eyedea, and Atmosphere and where are their platinum plaques). Every album the lead single is a pop corn, Slim Shady song with a catchy hook and a Weird Al meets Family Guy sort of feel. Perfect for selling records. The follow up single, heavier content that fans relate to, all with singable/chantable hooks. He saves the punchline beast joint for features/album cuts. Imagine you taking your soulful joints and aiming at the Steppers sets, jazz, blues, soul, neo soul, and alternative joints(especially overseas) and then continuing to hit the internet/the block with the punchline sickness that you are so notorious for. No reason why an artist of your calibur ins’t opening for Essence Jazz Fest, Neo Soul Exploision and the like.(making real money and getting real exposure)

    3. Finally, People who know you take you for granted and many of them are not serious about their goals and assume the same about those around them. They don’t see you “making it” so they treat it like it’s your hobby. Don’t count on friends to support you as an artist. Most of them don’t understand, very few of our people understand the power they have to change things and so they act helpless, that hook up shit is a symptom of that. Market yourself to people outside your circle. Music fans will support music they like, friends will expect a hook up. That’s that.
    I personally don’t knock aspiring artists even if I’m not feeling them, because you never know. I’m sure Wocka Flocka knows niggas who listen to quality music and told him he was garbage, but he’s on. I give positive feedback and constructive fedback to those who can take it. I encourage everyone I know to be the best they can be. I try to buy music that I like(but not hard enough, I could manage my money better so that I can make it to shows etc. but I have never promised to come out and not shown up, never asked for a free ticket or free album from anyone).

    Sorry this was long. I hope it helped.

  5. Thought this was super interesting though you shouldn’t leave music for the scandalous few. Don’t have answers to all the questions but provoked some.

    I don’t think people should expect music for free because they know someone, however I think people do need to get a taste before they commit to buy. Its hard to want to spend money on something you don’t have a relationship with. That’s why leaked songs and albums from even respected artists actually end up with greater sales, because people have the chance to listen and get involved, and the relationship to the music (not the person) makes them want to buy.

    I personally wish I could give my work away for free. Of course you can’t afford to do that, DVDs, CDs, whatever, all cost $. Plus the time and effort you took to put it together. When I made a short film some people I gave the movie to just because, and many didn’t offer anything in return. Some insisted on paying. Many supported and paid the nominal fee, and one good friend even paid $50, and this is a person who is by no means wealthy. That one person’s $50 certainly eclipsed the 50 people who paid nothing from a perspective of giving me the encouragement to move ahead.

    What makes me support? In hip hop its good beats, being incredible sharp and smart lyrically, and being entertaining (which I must say Kanye is) but its also heart. Not everyone can sense heart in a good performer but those who can are touched even further.

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