Posts Tagged ‘Music Industry’

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While “The Choice is Yours” may be Black Sheep’s defining moment, Dres’ latest song is his most important to date. “Propagation”, a tribute to his young son, finds Dres delivering a heartfelt tribute to his son and all young brothers across the world who need guidance and encouragement.
I had a chance to connect with Dres via video chat to speak about his latest project and what fatherhood means to him.
Check out the interview followed by the song “Propagation” .

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When you have the opportunity to interview a Hip Hop pioneer like Grand Wizard Theodore, the inventor of scratching, you don’t want to pass up on it. So when you’re 3000 miles away and unable to fly to New York to make it happen, you do the next best thing and have another die-hard Hip Hop head conduct the interview on your behalf!  Thanks to Eric Rivas from Diamond Minds Films and cameraman the RedHooker for sitting down with the legend and allowing us to enter Grand Wizard Theodore’s world.

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Racism comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s blatant and in-your-face, other times, it’s nuanced and cloaked in sarcasm, like ValleyWag’s latest article taking subtle shots at Venture Capitalist Ben Horowitz’s friendship with underground rapper Divine. It isn’t the first time that the tech-gossip blog (yes, there’s such a thing, courtesy of Gawker Media) has mocked Horowitz’s passion for Hip Hop culture. Editor Sam Biddle has practically made it his personal mission to attack Ben every chance he gets. However, RapRehab’s recent article, “How an Underground Rapper Befriended a Billionaire Venture Capitalist”, featuring Divine who shares his incredible journey from running Brooklyn streets with criminals to dining with Ben in Silicon Valley, seems to have rekindled ValleyWag’s penchant for ridiculing the billionaire rap fan.

Blog co-editor Nitasha Tiku bases her entire piece, “Why Does Andreessen Horowitz Have an Official Rapper”, on but a mere fragment of Divine’s uplifting story. Whereas she could have written a stirring article about the unlikely but inspirational tale of how the formerly incarcerated young artist turned his life around, Ms. Tiku opted to focus on a minor chapter in the rapper’s amazing journey: a song Divine wrote for Andreessen Horowitz’s company podcast. Drenched in condescending undertones, Tiku extracts quotes from various online interviews and strategically manages to only include the rapper’s most colloquial expressions in a cheap and obvious attempt at trivializing the nature of Ben and Divine’s relationship. Painting the artist in a negative light, Tiku excludes the majority of Divine’s heartfelt words, in favor of exploiting typical rap stereotypes and playing to an elitist readership who already buys into the “rappers-are-idiots” mentality. Just check the comment section for confirmation.

Throughout the article, Tiku incorporates pictures of Ben and Divine, including one of the pair both sporting shirts that read “VC Life – Inspired by Ben Horowitz”, a slogan created by Divine. This also appears to be fodder for jokes as the author and commenters imply, directly and indirectly, that Divine is a kiss-ass and Ben has found a new pet in the rapper. The implications here reek of classism and a healthy dose of good old racism. But from the looks of it, Tiku’s veiled jabs parrot her editor’s obsessive hatred for Horowitz as well as her readers’ sycophantic sentiments. Birds of a feather really do flock together.

Is it just too uncomfortable for some to see a Black man on his rise to success? Does it go against the narrative that ValleyWag writers and readers subscribe to? The fact that Ben is being scoffed at for his love of Hip Hop and association with rappers says a lot about the general public’s notion that Black and White, rich and poor, hood and suburbs, just shouldn’t mix. This form of “harmless” mockery conceals the belief that the disenfranchised and disadvantaged should stay in their place, unable to dream, unable to hope, unable to taste success. It says that the idea of a Black man, a rapper, socializing with a wealthy White man is so bizarre and in contrast with popular perception that it is worthy of belittlement and a disparaging article on a blog whose very popularity is predicated on sensationalism, unsubstantiated reporting, and the notorious click-baiting tactics of its otherwise mediocre writers. Ms. Tiku can poke fun at Divine and Ben all she wants. At the end of the day, she’s just a blogger who gets underpaid to write about billionaires. Oh, the irony.

Here’s Divine’s open letter to ValleyWag and Nitasha Tiku:

Ms. Tiku:

Peace Queen! Great morning.

This is Divine. I just recently came across an article you wrote where I was a co-subject.

I was trying to figure out the angle of the article and purpose you had in writing it…I felt the undertones of it were based in sarcasm and an attempt to undermine the positive essence of my story relative to Ben Horowitz beyond the mere trivial aspect of me being told by Ben that I was now the official a16z rapper once I co-wrote a song for the firm’s podcast.

My real life story of my criminal past and life struggles to eventually get the opportunity to be amongst a man of Ben’s stature is much more deeper than simply Andreessen Horowitz having an official rapper. To highlight that minimal and irrelevant point of a mere statement Ben made to me is ridiculous.

I’m not an employee of Andreessen Horowitz, nor am I a paid in-house rapper. I’m simply a friend of Ben’s and a friend of the firm, a real life flesh and blood human being who had an unfortunate life that put me on a negative path and who used spirituality and the love of Hip-Hop music as a means to persevere through a lengthy federal prison sentence while still a teenager, who only completed the 8th grade and got my GED to become self-taught, and so many other positive accomplishments I’ve made against the odds and won.

I’m a true and living inspiration and my relationship with Ben serves as a reminder that some of the greatest gifts of the human spirit are that of faith, hope, kindness, forgiveness and compassion. My life is no joking matter to be undermined and presented in media as mere sensational gossip with no deeper value beyond entertainment.

There are so many positive stories and social ills that can be addressed and brought out for dialog from my story. This isn’t about Ben having billions of dollars and what that can afford him like he “bought” himself a rapper.  This is about the dynamics of life on a higher level where the authentic love of Hip-Hop brought two totally different individuals together who would have never crossed paths otherwise, who were from two different walks of life and ends of the socio-economic spectrum.

And let’s not forget that Ben is self-made. He worked and leveraged his intelligence, education and opportunities to be where he is today.  Nothing was handed to him. He wasn’t born rich. He understands poverty and furthermore the plight of black people, their culture and history, etc. and it’s not because his wife is black either. He’s authentic in who he is. He doesn’t have to reach for acceptance.  He naturally embraces the black experience ’cause that’s what he naturally feels. To be criticized for being successful and true to oneself is insanity on the part of the critical. Why? Because it’s unfounded…but that’s just what haters do. The written and spoken word affect and direct the people who affect the world around ‘em.  It’s wise to be ever mindful of the ideas we manifest to give life in the written and/or spoken word and in deed.

No ill feelings, I just wanted to share some deeper insight on your article since I was a co-subject and my story was the foundation of it. I close how I opened.

Bless! Peace!

Welcome to the August edition of my “Top 5 Hip Hop Picks of the Month”. Every month, I’ll be picking my top 5 favorite Hip Hop related items. This could include artists, videos, songs, events, books, shows or anything else that represents the best in Hip Hop culture for that month. Keep in mind that my picks are strictly a matter of opinion. In no particular order, this list is just my way of celebrating what’s right with Hip Hop. Readers are free to agree or disagree. Don’t hesitate to share your feedback. Enjoy! Peace.

1. Priest – “Street Corners” (Produced by Phoniks)
Over a soulful, melancholic sample and 90’s era drums, Priest chronicles the story of a man who allows life to slip away from him. This song has been on repeat since I first hit play!

 

2. Rah Digga – “Storm Comin’ Remix” Featuring Chuck D and Jon Connor
It’s been a minute since Rah Digga blessed us with her voice. On the Storm Comin’ remix, she’s joined by Chuck D and Jon Connors to round out this trio of hard-hitting MC’s, rockin’ a signature Marco Polo track.

3. Rahzel Jr. aka Razah Rahz – “The Culture”
The son of beatbox legend Rahzel releases a passionate ode to Hip Hop culture over an epic !llmind track. Also, check him out break down the lyrics in a video titled “The Culture Decoded”.

 

4. Afrika Bambaataa’s Vinyl Collection
Fuse TV digs in the crate with the great Afrika Bambaataa, one of the architects of Hip Hop culture.

5. Hip Hop Protests the Murder of Michael Brown
Moved by the murder of Michael Brown, various rappers including Talib Kweli, J. Cole and Prince EA, visit Ferguson to stand side by side with the people and support protesters. Killer Mike expresses his pain and frustration through a heartfelt Op-Ed in Billboard.com and an appearance on CNN.

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While watching the video for “Hot N****” by  Epic Records’ newest artist Bobby Shmurda, I could hear a voice in my head repeatedly cry out, “the music industry hates Black people.”

Out of countless amazingly talented unsigned artists waiting for their big break, why would a record company sign yet another half-ass artist whose message is all about death, murder, guns, and more death? It couldn’t possibly be about all the money they project making off this Youtube one-hit wonder since the past couple of years have shown us that viral video stars like Trinidad James and Chief Keef don’t necessarily translate to real-world superstardom.

Why would music industry executives who are supposedly astute businessmen invest in the type of artists other labels don’t seem to have been very successful with? While these rappers may achieve short-term popularity, the amount of free mixtapes, guest appearances, and YouTube-to-MP3 music they put out can’t be profitable for the companies.

Why would someone like Bobby Shmurda get a major label deal on the strength of one poorly-produced video?  Is it because Beyonce did the Shmoney Dance (Bobby’s signature move) during one of her shows? Is it because Jay Z shouted out the dance in a freestyle at a concert? Is it because Drake, Meek Mill, Raekwon (WTF Rae?) and Busta Rhymes co-signed Shmurda?

Why would a label invest in a mediocre rapper who may be “hot” for a minute but will undoubtedly fade into oblivion like so many of his forgettable predecessors? Is it because Bobby Shmurda is an underground sensation who kids in NY have been listening to for the past few months so Epic Records jumped on who they felt might be rap’s next flavor-of-the-moment before someone else does?

Or is it simply because the music industry’s agenda to promote death and dysfunction to Black youth is bigger than its desire to make money?

Yes, I’m a conspiracy theorist. I don’t care how many people ridicule me. I don’t care how many “real street cats” call me an out-of-touch Hip Hop purist who doesn’t know what today’s kids are into. I don’t care how many industry execs mock my extreme views and so-called lack of music business knowledge. I don’t care how many idiots call me a race-baiter. I don’t care how many call me a hater for criticizing a kid I don’t personally know without even giving him a chance to shine. I don’t care how many dumb asses try to convince me that if he didn’t get a record deal, he’d be out shooting or robbing folks (that seems to be a popular opinion on the internet right now). I don’t care how many tell me that Hip Hop can’t always be positive or that I need to leave the days of De La Soul and Public Enemy behind. I don’t care how many fools try to sell me on the idea that the labels are just giving the fans the kind of music they want. I don’t care how many of you tell me that a record company’s goal is to make money, not save lives. I don’t care how many major artists co-sign this misled kid. And I don’t care how many of his fans insult me.

Nothing you can say negates the fact that Bobby Shmurda and other similar rappers are promoting the worst kind of images and messages. Nothing you can argue negates the fact that what these labels are marketing is toxic, criminal, and racist. No other form of entertainment, be it pop, rock, country, electronic, video games, movies, or TV, glorifies the blatant death and destruction of Black people while passing it off as entertainment you can do a trendy dance to. Mainstream rap is the only form of entertainment that prides itself on depicting reality yet ends up only promoting the ugliest part of that “reality”, often resulting in real-life drama, murder, arrests, and jail sentences. Why does the music industry keep promoting something that any other industry would consider a poor investment and a huge liability? What kind of business can you think of, beyond the field of entertainment, that would knowingly employ someone who glorifies crime and all other forms of disturbing behavior…unless there was a damn good reason?
So what are the music industry’s reasons? Does it have anything to do with “the commercial rap to prison pipeline“? Is it about selling a lifestyle that will send impressionable youth to the private prisons media conglomerates invest in?
I know most of you hate conspiracy theories and will accuse me of spreading baseless allegations. However, how many of you can provide a perfectly ethical answer as to why promoting Black death has become “business as usual”?  Please don’t tell me that it’s based on the age-old business model of  “supply and demand” when we know that the social and financial cons of signing an artist like Bobby Shmurda outweigh the pros.
However, don’t let the Beyonces and Pharells of the world fool you. These pop artists exist because their mass appeal generates millions for the industry. Their success doesn’t take away from the fact that the worst kind of messages and images are still filtered through many Black artists who, despite never achieving megastar status, become popular enough to have a huge influence on fragile young minds, even if their limited success isn’t profitable for their label. These are the artists in question here.

If it really just came down to the argument that sex and violence in music sells, we’d see it equally produced by all ethnic groups and equally targeting all ethnic groups. However, besides Black people, I can’t think of another group, be it White, Asian, Latino, Christian, Jewish, etc, that the music industry feels as comfortable overtly disparaging without a second thought.

Shame on Sha Money XL, who got Shmurda signed, and shame on L.A. Reid, Epic Records’ CEO, for contributing to the perception of Black people as criminals at a time when so many police officers around the nation already see them as a threat for no other reason than being Black. I’m sure the money and accolades make it all worth it. I can’t help but wonder if L.A. Reid would’ve been as open to Shmurda’s “talent” during his time as a judge on X Factor.

Ultimately, once Bobby Shmurda’s 15 minutes of fame are up, record labels will quickly move on to the next “shoot-em-up rapper” and the industry’s big decision makers (Jimmy Iovine, The Lipmans, Barry Weiss, Doug Morris, etc) who market this poison will continue to remain silent and unseen, just like Klansmen protected by the anonymity of their hooded sheets. In the meantime, the deaf, dumb, and blind co-signers will keep making excuses for an industry that celebrates the death and destruction of Black people.
This article can also be found on RapRehab at http://raprehab.com/the-music-industry-hates-black-people/

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By now, the latest Hot 97 fiasco is already old news.  The station’s annual Summer Jam occurred, stupidity ensued, Chuck D took to Twitter to express his disgust with Hot 97′s misrepresentation of Hip Hop, and the station’s morning hosts, Ebro and Rosenberg, proceeded to insult Chuck by questioning his position and relevance in Hip Hop.  Rosenberg, self-proclaimed champion of Hip Hop had the audacity to say, “No one elected you president of Hip Hop. What are you doing to support this culture besides tweeting confusing messages in a 140 characters or less?

Hey Rosenberg, did you attend Chuck’s successful 2012 Hip Hop Gods tour that stations like Hot 97 never even promoted? Does that count as “supporting this culture”? Are you aware of everything that Chuck is working on or are you just a little out of sync with what’s going on outside of your station’s commercial rap world?

Message to Rosenberg and company: Hip Hop has its leaders and authority figures who have been appointed as such by virtue of their years in the culture, iconic status, commitment, and on-going contributions to Hip Hop. Only a fool would think otherwise.

But Rosenberg, Ebro, and the rest of the station’s staff are but a small part of the problem. Behind Hot 97′s lackeys stands Emmis Broadcasting, a company which owns various stations across the United States, including Hot 97 and Power 106 in Los Angeles. Both ranked as the world’s top “Hip Hop” radio stations, these two networks were launched by Rick Cummings, Emmis’ current President of Radio Programming.  Although he isn’t responsible for each and every song played on these stations, he’s undoubtedly the big dog programmer who Hot 97 and Power 106 program directors have to answer to.

Cummings, along with his colleagues, is the person who allows the N word, sex, violence, misogyny, drugs, and general disrespect of Black people to be promoted and glorified on his airwaves and events. He’s the guy who profits off the marketing of “entertainment” that celebrates dysfunction and ignorance. He’s the type of person who can remain virtually invisible and dodge any and all accountability because he has loyal worker bees who gladly defend the station’s agenda, no matter how destructive it is. He’s the type of cat who presents himself as a respectable professional while everything he promotes is far from respectable and professional behavior. He’s a culture vulture who makes it his business to exploit something he would never personally associate with if it wasn’t for the paycheck that comes with it.

But Cummings isn’t the only industry executive who maintains anonymity while cornball figureheads do the bidding of their unseen superiors. It happens all the time and these vampire-like execs always find someone willing to take the heat for them while they remain safe in the shadows. For fame and a little money, people can always be bought, even if it’s against their own self-interest.  Ebro and Rosenberg are just pawns in a huge chess game and Emmis isn’t even the biggest broadcasting company. Clear Channel, Radio One, Viacom and other media conglomerates all have their own program directors and sellout representatives who operate the same way for a paycheck. Today it’s Hot 97, next week it’ll be somebody else…and those who pull the strings will continue to remain hidden while the Rosenbergs of the world maintain their role as powerless yes-men.
You can also read this article at http://raprehab.com/who-really-runs-the-show-hot-97

 

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Exhausted with the music industry’s shenanigans, I left the world of PR in early 2013 with the intent of never looking back. But as fate would have it, it wouldn’t be long before I found myself helping artists once again, this time not as a publicist but as a consultant. The role was perfect for me and much more rewarding as it allowed me to assist artists in ways that my job as a publicist wouldn’t permit. Sebastien Elkouby, the creative consultant was born.

Being a creative consultant has given me the opportunity to be much more hands-on with artists than ever before. Depending on the client’s needs, my services range from critiquing content and production to outlining unique marketing strategies. I love what I do because I see my clients truly evolve as a result of our collaboration.  On the downside, my job also shows me how absolutely clueless some aspiring artists can be. And sometimes, I have to be tough and tell them things they’re not always happy to hear. Fortunately, they’re in good hands as there aren’t too many other Hip Hop creative consultants who understand both the music industry and Hip Hop culture.

So if you’re an aspiring rapper looking to pursue a career in the music industry, here are 3 reasons why you need a creative consultant.

1. Honest Constructive Criticism:
Let me start by being brutally honest. Most aspiring rappers are mildly to severely delusional. Some believe they’re much more talented than they really are.  Others are flat out convinced that they’re the best thing to come out since the wheel was invented, never mind the fact that they can barely spit two cohesive bars. And because they’re surrounded by equally delusional yes-men (and women), they never get to hear the truth about their talent…or lack thereof.

Every week I still receive emails from artists looking for PR who are unaware that I’ve transitioned to consulting. I listen to their music, watch their videos, and visit their websites before informing them of my new role. What is shocking to me is the number of artists who don’t realize that before they reach out to a publicist, their material has to meet certain basic standards. You cannot have subpar material and expect a publicist, or any other professional, to represent you…unless they’re scamming you out of your money. Secondly, the project needs to possess some type of artistic merit. The rapper who still thinks that rapping about sex, cars, drugs, and violence in 2014 will get them noticed is fooling himself. There are hundreds of interesting and unique things to rap about that can actually help an artist set them apart from other dime-a-dozen rappers. Contrary to popular belief, originality and skills still matter. A creative consultant can help you identify areas of improvement to increase your odds of success but you have to come to the table ready to learn and willing to grow.

2. Learning about the latest music business trends:
The music industry is an ever-changing field. Yet, many artists are holding on to erroneous or outdated beliefs about how today’s business works. The game is already much more different than it was just a couple of years ago. Many aspiring rappers are still under the impression that social media and getting popular blogs to review their music are the end-all, be-all strategies for self-promoting. While it might have appeared that simple in the recent past, it’s going to take much more to make an impact nowadays.

Everything from how music is marketed to how artists make money is evolving to adapt to the newest technology and how audiences consume entertainment. Sometimes, all it takes is for one trend to take off and cause a ground-breaking chain reaction throughout the industry, forcing everyone to readjust or risk becoming irrelevant. Of course, most aspiring artists aren’t privy to the inner workings of the music business and end up missing out on valuable information that could otherwise give them a leg up over their less-knowledgeable competitors. A creative consultant can give you the edge you need to move forward in your career.

3. Mapping out a realistic plan of action:
Once you’ve gained a greater understanding of how the game is played, you can begin mapping out a 3 to 6 months plan of action that will help you go from point A to B, C, and D.  It’ll keep you on track and help you achieve your desired short term goals. However, the plan must be realistic. It has to be within your budget, timeline, and realm of expertise. If your entire team is involved, all parties must agree on the plan and remain committed to the mission.  All successful businesses have a plan so if you’re serious about your career, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have one as well.

Make no mistake, no creative consultant can make you a star overnight.  However, they can help you get closer to your goals. I’ve worked with many artists, some famous, some up-and-coming, and regardless of how talented they are, they’ve all benefited from the services of a creative consultant.
In an industry flooded with thousands of rappers competing for exposure, isn’t it about time you put the odds in your favor and get the right person on your team?
You can read this article at http://goo.gl/dt88R8