I recently read an article where a formerly aspiring rapper named “Corduroy” or something got his think-piece on, expressing how difficult it has been for him to get on in the rap game and declaring to the Pigeons & Planes audience that he was quitting rap. I did not listen to his raps. To me, when you expose your hand in such a manner, you make your music unpalatable before anyone presses play. Basically, the guy was complaining about having made some music that didn’t get the attention he wanted from the blogs. He never once mentioned a live performance or making any moves outside of his web browser, but says he’s giving up on his “dream” because he doesn’t have enough money to get into a studio with a “quality engineer”. Yet he manages to, instead of saying “phone” or “laptop”, finagle “iPhone 5” and “Macbook Air” in there, which was perplexing. The sense of entitlement was palpable throughout the piece. He even goes so far as to say that Pigeons & Planes, the site that posted this piece, surprised him by not posting more of his music since he had allegedly “supported” the site for five years, whatever that means. I don’t know how things work over at P&P, but over here, while I’m grateful for monetary donations and recommending my site to friends, that in no way entitles anyone to me posting their material at a whim. Even if this was just a play by the artist to draw attention to his work or a play by Pigeons & Planes to inspire outrage and responses, I see this a lot from aspiring rappers. Here’s a few take-aways we can glean from this young man’s online dragging for his swan song.
It’s not supposed to be easy to get on. Nobody owes you a single second of their time, let alone four minutes to play your song. Furthermore, however hard you think you have it now as an aspiring rapper, I promise there are a ton of older rappers who would laugh you into the fetal position for thinking that. Technology has evolved to where you will never know the feeling of trying to get someone to accept and hopefully play your demo CD, let alone your demo tape. You will probably never know the feeling of trying to sell your first album out the trunk of your Ford Escort. Aspiring rappers in 2014 seem to think getting on should be as simple as uploading your song and tweeting it to everyone on the face of the Earth, hoping the right one will actually acknowledge it. The formulas of Drake, Lil B and Odd Future seem to have people thinking that the Internet is all you need to build a career.
Everybody doesn’t need to be rapping. Being young, Black and tattooed is in no way an immediate qualifier for a successful rap career. It may look cool to you, but you may not look cool doing it, not to mention that there’s more to rapping than “cool”…or at least there should be. The kid in the article mentions Yeezus, Blueprint 3 and Watch The Throne as the three albums that inspire him the most. No disrespect to those albums (except for Yeezus, because that album was trash), but if those are the albums that come to mind as most inspirational to you as a student of hip-hop or at least someone trying to profit off of it, there’s a good chance that your rhymes won’t be bringing anything original or interesting to the table. Don’t be mad. UPS is hiring. Seriously though, the game is over-saturated because it has become way too easy to get on (though I still don’t think it is supposed to be). Whereas a label’s job used to be to create a buzz for an existing artist, labels today are looking for artists to have a buzz, image and persona intact beforehand. Thus, there is no grooming process. Thus, our ears are being assaulted by material that probably should have been left on the cutting room floor. Artists are being told how to follow the formula and sell, but not how to make records that have longevity. Rappers are aspiring to nothing more than being a hip soccer mom’s ringtone for the summer. That being said, what we need is artists with a true conviction that they are bringing a unique story to the table along with a genuine love for the art. If you don’t have that, then yes, you will be frustrated if cash isn’t in your coffers the moment you throw your little Soundcloud link on Twitter or in a blogger’s e-mail.
Stop living in your computer. Reach out and touch some people. The guy in the article talked about his music getting a spot on a blog and trying to get on other blogs, but never once talked about trying to establish a local presence or attempting to get out and book any live shows or doing open mics. Sitting in your living room e-mailing and tweeting people isn’t the kind of work you put in if this is a dream you really want to see come to fruition. If you aren’t working on building a local buzz and getting out and meeting people face to face, you’re hustling backwards. Pull together a live show experience and get people talking; it’s the shows that will get you money if you ever get on, anyway. You shouldn’t be the only one telling people your music is dope, especially via e-mail (and especially those generic “hey sir/ma’am i’m a fan of your blog…here’s a song that doesn’t fit with your content that I hope you will post even though it’s clear I don’t get what your blog is about and have never visited it before” e-mails). Most rap blogs these days just post a whole lot of whatever has SEO value with no thought given to actual quality or curating to fit a specific level of taste, so when I browse one, I click on what’s interesting to me because I usually can’t trust everything to be worth my time. Reaching out to smaller blogs and respected music critics as opposed to online sycophants that will post whatever is getting buzz may not get you tons of listeners right off, but it may get you a few quality listeners who are savvy and whose opinions matter among music people. Think of the grind as a long-term thing and if you’re not ready to put in some work, then give up or just call it what it is…a hobby…from which you can expect no returns.
So quit. I implore you. Take your ball and go home. My inbox is chock full of rappers who do not need to be rapping and I’m sure most other rap bloggers can say the same. The rap game is in dire need of some layoffs, so the more people jump ship voluntarily, the better. In all seriousness, I admire artists with the courage to create a product and put it out there for consumption, because I know as a critic than we can be incredibly harsh. I have respect for people who think outside the box and want to build a life doing what they love to do, but only if there’s an actual work ethic behind it. And with rap, a work ethic is only a piece of the puzzle. There are a lot of rappers out there putting a lot of effort into pushing really terrible music. Don’t be one more. Now you know; and of course: