What Rappers Must Do to Succeed in These Changing Times

Originally posted on my MySpace blog, but I figured I want to showcase it here too:

I actually drew up a new lengthy internet piece as a response to a conversation from an editor from Fader Magazine and blogger extraordinaire Eskay of Nah Right. In this piece, they speak on the fact that very few rap albums are coming out on major labels and the ones that do tend to suck.

This has struck a chord with me as I am gearing up to try to influence hip hop artists to become more aware of this moment and capitalize on it. In a time of seemingly great despair, we have the resources to start new indie labels, much like the old Rap-A-Lots and No Limits of days past. It is obvious to me that Rhymesayers is not just a label that releases backpack rap, but they have a model that understands the conditions of their market. They utilize the resources available to them and use them quite well as indicative of the viral responses on the internet (my only gauge).

Here is an e-mail I sent to Eskay in response to the piece I linked up above. It’s lengthy, but I feel it is a pertinent. Let me know what you think. I am open to criticism – always.

Greetings Eskay,
I wanted to comment on your discussion with Eric Ducker regarding the ability of contemporary rappers to make actual albums, instead of working towards making a viral hit single and slapping together an accompanying project of failed attempts. I enjoyed your position and I plan to highlight it on one of my blog spaces in the near future. I would like hip hop artists to take heed to the futile missions they have chosen to achieve.

I feel that hip hop – in general – has been responding to the radio 7-second delay for a little too long. There’s just an extreme lag in response to the changes in the music industry climate. Like, I don’t understand why more indie labels, a la No Limit have not sparked up over the internet. Hip hop is just as old as the internet (well within the same generation), but hip hop doesn’t get the internet. I would think things would be hand-in-hand, but as I was reminded back in the early days of hip hop internet buzz for folks like Eminem, dudes from the ‘hood weren’t seeing the message board threads. Hip hop today is in a place where even the folks that are adopting the new instruments of the trade are showing they do not truly get what they are doing.

I know what I just said above goes a bit deeper than how I put it, but the essence is still true. Hip hop is not getting the internet yet.

I respond this way to encourage someone like you to continue to urge the folks that listen to you to truly learn how to use social media in a way that will benefit them in the long run. Setting up a MySpace page and barking at people to listen to your new single is not the move if you were not already well-established before the year 2005. Marketing experts are showing that the traffic you do get is not earnest and it will not result in sales.

Rappers need to go back to doing what we do best – speaking about what we know that is happening in our neighborhoods. We need to engage our audience and have them feel involved in what you do. People need to like you before they will accept your work. Rappers read stories in The Source and XXL about dudes hustling wares out the trunk, but what they forget is that they probably knew countless dudes that attempted the same method. Yet only a few made it successfully. I proffer that they actually had people that liked them as a person – whether a mass of regulars or a couple of powerful ones – as to why they were able to break the pack. Skill only goes so far and as a rapper myself, I know that the funk doesn’t last forever.

I’m from the great city of Detroit and the most popular rap acts that aren’t on majors are not super eMCees. They are much like today’s trap rappers, who just so happened to be very connected to the neighborhoods they are from. Backpack rappers are nomads and do not understand they need a community behind them to really succeed. Great visual, right?

Anyway, keep up the great work, Eskay. I don’t really check your blog as much, because everything you post gets to me via another blog or an IMed link. I know what you’re about though and I appreciate your efforts. I hope you continue to support quality hip hop. I also hope that hip hop artists will get wise and start to commission folks like us to help them initiate progressive branding campaigns that can get them the type of success in music that they can actually muster on their own with a little work.

Thanks for your time. I’ll see you around in the blogosphere.

Peace,
Hubert Sawyers III / Brother G.A.M.

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  • justin bardic

    It always surprises me to see so few comments on your most thoughtful posts, like this one and your words on Detroit Branding. Just to show somebody’s reading, here’s a little feedback:

    Rappers vs. Internet:
    Yeah we don’t get it, and the interacting vs. broadcasting is a point that every rapper who plasters my comments section with advertisements needs to take heed to.

    At the same time, I’m not sure anybody’s figured out the internet yet. Is it a place to network? A place where people can find info about products? What about for large companies like Coca-Cola, why would I want them to network with me? What should they do besides broadcast?

    Also, isn’t there kind of a correlation between record sales going down since people have taken up with networking sites? (obviously mp3s play a larger role) I would make the argument that a star like Eminem could actually tarnish his image by interacting too much with his fans. The more reachable he is, the more average he would seem, dimming his star quality, and like many of our favorite local rappers, leaving him more open to being taken for granted.

  • justin bardic

    It always surprises me to see so few comments on your most thoughtful posts, like this one and your words on Detroit Branding. Just to show somebody’s reading, here’s a little feedback:Rappers vs. Internet:Yeah we don’t get it, and the interacting vs. broadcasting is a point that every rapper who plasters my comments section with advertisements needs to take heed to. At the same time, I’m not sure anybody’s figured out the internet yet. Is it a place to network? A place where people can find info about products? What about for large companies like Coca-Cola, why would I want them to network with me? What should they do besides broadcast?Also, isn’t there kind of a correlation between record sales going down since people have taken up with networking sites? (obviously mp3s play a larger role) I would make the argument that a star like Eminem could actually tarnish his image by interacting too much with his fans. The more reachable he is, the more average he would seem, dimming his star quality, and like many of our favorite local rappers, leaving him more open to being taken for granted.

  • Hubert

    Oh man, ghost of Christmas past! Mr. Bardic, glad to see you around these parts.

    I will admit that, yes, no one has truly figured the internet out yet, but I feel that this is the best time to try to make the best of what folks do understand. There are people that are fairly major internet-wise that built up their presence in the most organic of e-fashions. The cats that used MySpace early on to promote their music benefited from broadcasting, now the market is flooded and it doesn’t really work anymore.

    In your question for major superstars, I don’t think that it would tarnish a person. They obviously cannot respond to millions of e-mails, but the occasional blog post probably would do a lot of good. Diddy never responds directly to any of his MySpace comments; neither does Kanye. Both of those guys see immense traffic though. I think social media has helped them, if anything.

    In terms of where you are status-wise, there is probably a unique strategy you must use to gain or sustain fans. Most rap acts should be trying to build their fanbase, so we should see more interaction from them – serious interaction though. Like, with (potential) fans.

    Thanks so much for your comment. I kind of feel a bit awkward when my most incendiary posts get no responses. I post a random rap track and I get 5 comments. Weird…

  • Hubert

    Oh man, ghost of Christmas past! Mr. Bardic, glad to see you around these parts.I will admit that, yes, no one has truly figured the internet out yet, but I feel that this is the best time to try to make the best of what folks do understand. There are people that are fairly major internet-wise that built up their presence in the most organic of e-fashions. The cats that used MySpace early on to promote their music benefited from broadcasting, now the market is flooded and it doesn’t really work anymore.In your question for major superstars, I don’t think that it would tarnish a person. They obviously cannot respond to millions of e-mails, but the occasional blog post probably would do a lot of good. Diddy never responds directly to any of his MySpace comments; neither does Kanye. Both of those guys see immense traffic though. I think social media has helped them, if anything.In terms of where you are status-wise, there is probably a unique strategy you must use to gain or sustain fans. Most rap acts should be trying to build their fanbase, so we should see more interaction from them – serious interaction though. Like, with (potential) fans.Thanks so much for your comment. I kind of feel a bit awkward when my most incendiary posts get no responses. I post a random rap track and I get 5 comments. Weird…

  • Neutralcue

    im a rapper i do my own choruses rock style im white and im from memphis i started out in a rock band called NEUTRAL CUE but we broke up and i kept the name as a stage name. i think now is a great time for white rappers. it seems like we are starting to have a chance in the hip hop culture. seeing eminem, yelawolf, mac miller, and machine gun kelly blow up like they have.