Dear Rappers, Here’s How To Not Fail

Written by on October 30, 2014

I’m not a rapper so how can I possibly discuss anything about the rap world you ask? Here’s how.  I’ve been involved in every facet of this rap shit for the last 20 years.  I’ve produced, I’ve written, I’ve been an A&R, I’ve deejayed, I’ve promoted, I’ve marketed and blah, blah, blah.  Everything I’ve done has somehow revolved around rappers on a business level and/or personally.  Over the years I’ve watched and been amazed at the lengths rappers will go through just to fail.  There is nothing more annoying than listening to dudes my age (high 30’s) talk about how their about to go to the studio.  For what?  To not make a hit?  As a rapper you have to be realistic about the fact that you might never get famous.  For those who don’t believe in getting famous (whatever) you may never get to that level that you are aspiring for.  As one who has been observing the rise and subsequent fall of rappers for two decades I feel like I can throw out a few pointers that might help you on your road to stardom or whatever you idiots who claim you don’t want stardom want.

 

Don’t Be A Douchebag (unless you reach Kanye status)

This should be cardinal rule number one.  If you aren’t really sure who you are talking to….turn off the douche.  That person could possibly change your life with one phone call.  Even if you do know the person you never know what they can do for you or what type of connections they have.  Be nice to everyone because any help is good help.  Don’t assume everyone is jocking you.  Some people may have a vested interest in you and what you do. Remember….douche-baggery and swag are two different things.

 

Get Rid Of “Yes Men”

“Yes Men” will be the death of you.  Your friends want to join you in the limelight so they will do what is necessary to guaranty their placement on the “team”.  That includes agreeing with everything you say.  Sometimes a song is just wack.  Rappers need to be told this.  You need to hear this.  You need to be removed from your pedestal and told straight up; “This shit is weak yo.”  This will force you to do better.  I promise…on my momma.

 

Have A Plan In Place

Don’t just start going to the studio and expect wonderful things to happen.  Write out a strategic plan of what you are really trying to do with this rap shit.  Are you trying to do live shows?  Are you planning on an album or EP?  How many producers do you need and do you even know any?  These are valid questions.  The most important is- how much are you prepared to spend?  An album can be extremely costly unless you are like many emcees who skip that whole “mastering” thing.  Remember, rap is a business; especially if you want to make a career of it.  It’s like any other job.  You have to budget for the future and be ready to pick up the pieces if things fall apart.   Make a plan, Stan.

 

There Is More To Hip Hop Than Just Getting Laid

I’ve seen many, many men fail due to excursions with women.  I’m was a deejay; I get it.  Many women are turned on by the guy onstage.  While that’s a pretty general statement we’ve all seen or experienced it personally.   It comes with the territory.  I’ve witnessed many rappers realize that power and begin to perform for that one purpose; to get laid.  They forget about money, business decisions and other obligations in pursuit of some poon.  Let’s be real for a moment though.  There is occasionally that one “bad bitch” you can’t pass up but in the grand scheme of things she is not going to get you to where you want to be in your career.  Just make sure to use your better judgement and handle anything that will benefit you before handling her.  Nobody likes to say it or hear it but women are just as thirsty as men when it comes to the hip hop scene.

 

Reinvent Yourself (if you are old)

If you were hot in the Golden Age (the 90’s) that doesn’t mean much today.  There’s been an influx of younger rappers like never before.  I don’t recommend assimilating to fit in but jumping on stage with Timberlands, a backpack and ski goggles is not hot, son.  you can reinvent yourself without killing your style.  You have to find your audience to see what they appreciate and what they are willing to pay for.  Your original audience is now at home with spouses and children; and a normal job.  You have to find a way to be heard by them and the new school audience at the same damn time.  It’s tricky but not impossible.

 

Never Say You Have Bars And Immediately Start Rapping

As a hip hop radio show host I meet emcees daily whether in person or through social media.  If we happen to meet in person never, never, never, ever say “I got bars” and start flowing immediately.  Give me or whoever you are torturing a chance to process who and what you are first.  Busting a freestyle does not necessarily equate to you being good on wax.  How many times have you heard a clever freestyle then heard a garbage album?  For me, it’s been a lot.  Besides the fact that I personally hate listening to people freestyle, it’s just kind of rude to force that on people.  It’s loud, obnoxious and I ALWAYS get spit on.  I got over it in the 90’s.  It’s just not the same.  Plus nobody comes of the top-of-the-dome anymore.

 

Stop Saying “I’m Going To The Studio” Constantly And Never Dropping Anything

This one really erks me.  It’s almost to the point of bragging sometimes.  If you truly are always in the studio (which I highly doubt) stop telling me about it and show me a finished project or at least a song.  If you are constantly on the studio you should realize that due to the Internets, peoples attention spans are extremely short.  That means that they want constant entertainment.  If you drop a hot track and “go to the studio” for three months straight afterwards you will be forgotten.

 

Get Your Stuff Mixed And Mastered….Please  

Being on the radio I can tell you from experience that nothing halts a career faster than a poorly mixed and non-mastered song.  Nobody wants to hear a muffled mess of 10 tracks.  It does cost a lot sometimes but it’s crucial if you want radio or deejay play.  If you are one of those dudes who doesn’t care about being heard; then by all means continue putting out crappy music.

 

Respect The Deejay (unless her name is Paris Hilton)

The deejay controls your life on stage so pay him/her homage.  It’s been my experience that the deejay is the last thing on an emcees list when planning a show.  Deejays have lives too.  Give them proper notice so that they can plan their lives and your set.  Practicing with the deejay is also helpful so that you have a tight show with little lag time or errors.  Besides all of that, the deejay shouldn’t be treated as a second class citizen.  The deejay keeps your party alive by spinning joints that he can only pray the crowd likes.  They also get the crowd ready for your ass.

 

Control Your Drinking and Drug Use

If you are a performer you need to always be at the top of your game.  Many will say that drugs and alcohol help them in this situation but that’s not necessarily true.  I’ve seen people get straight up sloppy and grab a mic only to disappoint the paying audience.  I’ve also been witness to hours of studio time being wasted because the artist was too stoned or sipped too much lean.  That’s money down the drain and angry fans.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with getting “turnt up” but have a little respect for people around you who have invested time and money into your skill set.

 

Travel

 

I say travel just to get an idea of the sheer magnitude of what you are up against.  It seems as though many emcee’s live in the bubble of their city and don’t realize how many rappers, just like them, are out there.  I’ve traveled the world and I have yet to be in a city where there isn’t a large number of rappers.  Even overseas you are bombarded with people trying to sell their music to you.  There are literally thousands of rappers out there.  This is mostly due to the internet and the ease of recording at home.  Those thousands of rappers are your competition.  One of two things has to happen in order to make it; you have to be at the right place at the right time or you have to stand out from the others.  That said, take some trips and study other hip hop scenes.  You’ll be very surprised.

 

That’s all I have for now.  I’ll be back soon with more suggestions.  If you are in any way offended by this article it’s probably because you are a terrible rapper and you do all the things I suggest not to do.  Man up yo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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