I don’t like Rappers. Many other people don’t like Rappers.
Am I being Rappist? Not at all. Matter of fact I thought Rap was very interesting when I first started hearing it and when it broke through in the Hip Hop wave of the early 90’s. Right now I am listening to Public Enemy.
Now as an important aside I will refer to all of these behaviors as Rap. I know there is Hip Hop, Trap, RnB, and a host of other sub genres in the mix but to make it easy I have been broad.
Listening to and watching Public Enemy on YouTube, it is interesting material. Do I agree with everything about Chuck D and his pals? Not at all. Do I respect them? Yes. Their Art is interesting and generally very valid. There are not only some powerful musical statements but some points worth thinking on. This is good art. It brought people in for many reasons, mostly valid.
Because of this, I wasn’t with people who were vehemently anti-Rap. Gil Scott Heron, Grandmaster Flash, Ice-T, The Rocksteady Crew & Sir Mix-a-Lot had something to offer that wasn’t there before.
Bring The Noise
Then Rap didn’t. It was all just noise with Rappers jabbering about how their penis was bigger than the other guy’s. The marketing made it all so unapproachable. It became nothing but an ego game with no real content.
As I said before, Indie Rappers are their own worst enemy. Let me show you
On Drooble there was a valid conversation happening about how to get heard but instead of joining the conversation, Cartel Tez decides that it is a great marketing idea to simply jam one of his tracks into our faces. I can’t even read that. And why do I care about all those silly names attached to everything?
I am worse than disinterested. Here was my response:
It seems to me that you decided to bomb a valid conversation with your song (it wouldn’t play so I am not sure) but if I am right you need to re-assess quick smart as right now you simply look like an ass. If you feel the need to drop your choonz places then get your own Facebook. This is a place for conversation not having to tiptoe through your leavings.
If you feel that what I said is a bit “jammed up your nose” then good as now you know how I (and many others) feel when every time I turn around some wannabe Rapper or other has decided to jam his finger up mine.
Not kind? Not useful? Not at all. I hope that this stops Mr Tez and others like him for a moment; enough to realize that perhaps there is a reason for this response and the predicament that caused it. It is good info. A way to improve.
Let me also be clear, not all Indie Rappers are making fools of themselves. I am currently working with Bao Pham Producer & Mixer in the Rap scene. I find him thoughtful & considerate, he takes advice, and has a goodly list of real credits. The first and second halves of that sentence are causally related. The former caused the latter.
Rebel Without A Pause
Backgrounding Cartel Tez I see a few attempts to get attention already but with no response. I see him progress from eager, to hopeful to sad over a few posts. Then this blatant attempt to jam himself in people’s faces. It kinda worked in that he got attention, but not good attention.
I understand. I really do. I have been doing this for 30+ years and still aren’t getting the fame. We aren’t alone in this. The big differences though are that I have resilience (sometimes easier said than done I know). Also I try to engage with people instead of talking at them, commanding that they do my bidding because I am bigger than them. Matter of fact I would be delighted to have a good conversation with Cartel Tez, even feature him in another post – if he will meet me as an equal (without the ‘tood)
Here was my first response in the real conversation (before the song bomb event):
Make stunning work. That is the absolute CORE of the thing. If you are Trailer Swift, you can skip this step as others will do it for you BUT if you are Indie, then you have to have product that is truly Passionate & Unique. It doesn’t even have to have a good mix. Just be passionate and uniquely you. Think of that lady in the Chewie mask, it was crap but it is such a touching and passionate, intimate, performance.
Then Distribution is really only needed to one place like Bandcamp (free to set up) and you drive people to it with YOUR personal promo efforts on YouTube, Facebook etc.
There is no short cut as people have to want to buy in and unless people are already talking about you in a 50 Shades sort of way, then ads will simply suck your money and spirit away.
So Whatcha Gone Do Now
People like lists. Here is a list of things to consider before you make a Marketing post. I am writing it to Cartel (and other Rappers) but ask yourself if you are falling into these traps too. I see many of you are.
- Cartel, is your stuff compelling? – I haven’t heard Cartel Tez’s track (it wouldn’t play) but you know what, I am going to gamble that it is far from stunning. I have been hearing this Public Enemy playlist for some time now. The only times I have felt the need to skip anything, it turned out to be some other act dropped in (by whom one wonders). Do I love Public Enemy? Not really. Is their stuff compelling? Shit Yeah! If your tracks aren’t getting “play” then make damned sure it is compelling. Not great mixes or any of that sidestepping, but face meltingly compelling like this Public Enemy is. Also don’t think you want or need everybody. Make it compelling for people who need what you need to express – don’t make Gena’s mistake of being off-message.
- Cartel, is there a reason that I should be interested in a list of misspelled names of people I have never heard of? – As a music fan, am I the slightest bit concerned who your Mix Engineer was? Do I care in the slightest that your music is a w4anker produktunz production? Not at all. Sure if Chuck D is guesting, that is good share. If it is a collection of randoms in a basement, I don’t care. Matter of fact, saying it makes you look small. Have a simple brand which is your name or your band name. No more. Make it a small target that can become large. The Beatles and ABBA are great examples.
- Cartel, why should I care enough to go out of my way to come spend time with your thing? – Give me a reason to get engaged enough to move. I know that this isn’t always easy but perhaps what your song is about is a clue. If your song is about massive dicks then you are in the dick enlargement business so tell me that your song will make my dick bigger. If in actual fact your song is in answer to something Eminem said in one of his tracks then discuss that issue. Don’t write smack as most of us plain don’t care. Your inter-Rapper smack talk turns us off. But if you thought Em was being a dill when he rapped about Trump in the garage then a bit of lead might bring us in. I know I would be interested to know what other people thought of that. Look at what your real core message to the world is and use that. Share the shape of your puzzle piece so matching pieces can find you.
- Cartel, why don’t you show me that you are a Pro in attitude? – Show me that you are committed to your art. Committed to your message regardless of my interest or otherwise. Share yourself without fading or stooping to song bombing or “ego posting”. I bet Public Enemy didn’t hit 10 seconds after they started. I bet there was a long slog first. Being there day in & day out pays off. Many of the fans who became all Gangsta weren’t there at the start of Rap. The fact that Rap was simply there day after day is what got a lot of people sold on it. And my respect at least. Their commitment got my attention in the end.
- Cartel, why don’t you Invest in yourself? – I bet your first thought is, “I ain’t got no coin. I’m too poor so I have to bomb to get r’spekt”. Poverty of coin has nothing to do with it. Was Bob Dylan a millionaire before he started singing? Nope. Dylan changed a lot. What I ask you to invest in is yourself; in finding real answers and the matching strategies, tactics & actions based on the list above. Overcome your poverty of courage. Once you do that in yourself then you will find doors open. Remember this post is exactly that: a door that opened. What will you do with it?
One thought on “How Rappers are their own Public Enemy – and other acts are following them”
Great post Benedict!