(The views expressed here are not the views of the St. Louis Underground Music Festival/ 4 Elements Party)
‘Everyone in St. Louis Missouri is a RAPPER”.
But… How many rappers can call themselves ARTIST????
I thought I would take the time out to talk to all the artists, rappers in this city to try and talk frankly about hip hop in this great city, and ways you can better position yourself for success. Some of the things that you will read may upset you a bit; some of the things may open your eyes and give you a better understanding of this game of RAP. However you feel after reading this, remember this are just my observation and how I feel about the support system in this city goes. These are just my opinions.
Often, we hear a lot of artists in this city saying the same thing, time after time: NO ONE SHOWS SUPPORT FOR THE LOCAL ARTISTS… But ask yourself this: What support do you show for the Hip Hop scene in your city. Too often artists feel like there isn’t a support system in place for them to be recognized, but the truth of the matter is that artists should never use this excuse as a crutch for why they are not being recognized. Let me explain: JUST BECAUSE YOU WAKE UP ONE DAY AND DECIDE TO BE A RAPPER, DOES NOT MAKES YOU AN ARTIST. DOCTORS, LAWYERS, AND ENGINEERS, ETC ALL TRAIN AND GO TO SCHOOL FIRST TO LEARN THE PROPER PROTOCOLS, PROCEDURES COUNTLESS HOURS OF INTERNING AND APPRENTICESHIPS BEFORE THEY EVEN ENTER THE FIELD OF THEIR DESIRE. The hip hop music scene is vast in St. Louis. There are a lot of avenues that an artist can go to be seen or heard. The problem with some artists in this city is that a lot of them get into the rap game with delusions of grandeur that they will be the next big thing out of this city, yet their music does not reflect this. It’s hard to jump out the gate in this game and think you need to be positioned on top of the St. Louis Hip Hop music scene, and you’re not putting out quality material.
Artists need to realize that even if you’re a seasoned veteran in the rap game in this city, you may never get an opportunity to sign with a major record label. That’s just the cold hard facts. Artists also need to realize that if they’re not producing quality music then they shouldn’t try and push it on consumers like it is, and then get upset when people are not feeling their music. Even with that being said, if you do have quality music, you must realize that EVERYONE WILL NOT LIKE YOUR MUSIC. As an artist, you have to get out of that cycle of always saying and believing that “Everyone just hates on me/us”. It sometimes frustrates me to deal with some artist when I try and give constructive criticism about their music and then they get upset with me and call me a hater. Even with all the negative comments and messages we sometimes get from a few artists, I still believe that artists do need an outlet to be heard and seen so I want to give you aspiring artists a few tips that may help you in your journey to become great in your quest to be recognized. These may or may not work 100%, but hopefully you can use these as guidelines and apply them to fit your needs. Let’s just call these the
“ROB BOO RAP RULES”…
- “Have a support team in place”: In all music endeavors, you must start off with a team of folks that have your back 100%, and who believes in you. You will not make it in this game without a team that will help you with promotions, creative ideals, song/beat selections, truthfully critiquing your music, and keeping you grounded. Your team must never have any YES MEN/WOMEN on it (Note: Yes Men are people who just goes with whatever ideals you come up with, whether good or bad, without even thinking or discussing things thoroughly). Yes Men can easily kill your dreams in a heartbeat. The Yes Men only mission is to position themselves to be with you if you ever get on top. A good support team has only your best interests in mind and they stand by your side, through thick or thin. So remember that.
- “Take the Time to Make Good Music for the People”: I cannot stress this enough. Artists have to ask themselves this question when creating music: “Am I making music for the PEOPLE, or am I making music for MYSELF?” The music you make should be influenced by what you feel, but it should also cater to your targeted audience. There isn’t anything wrong with making songs that you want to put out, but you have to remember that everyone may or may not receive the song that well. Artists should also remember that they shouldn’t force music on fans. If the fans like the music, they will gravitate towards it. Artists should also be receptive to constructive criticism. A lot of times, the artist get their feelings hurt when they receive an unsavory review about their projects. If someone critiques your work, try not to call that person a
HATER. Instead, use what that person said as motivation. If people are not feeling your project, find out what they think is missing and see if you could possibly take their suggestions and use it to better your project.
- “Promote Yourself and Your Music the Right Way”: This probably is my greatest pet peeve when it comes to new artists, (and some veterans). A lot of artists do not know the correct way to properly promote themselves. Promotion is more than just being on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram all day. You have to find events in the city and talk with folks. Artists need to learn how to network with people MORE. If you’re at an event, you have to be a salesperson for you. You have to convince the masses that you have a product worth listening to. This can sometime be tricky because some people may not want to be bothered with trying to hear what you have to say. You just have to be persistent, but not in the sense that you are annoying people. The same thing applies to online promotions of your product. You do not have to post the same thing 20 times a day. You also have to invest in your promotion. A lot of artists take shortcuts when spending money on promotion. “If you spend $1.99 on promotions, it will look and be worthless.” If you believe in your product, then there shouldn’t be an issue about spending some money on good promotional items. You have to consider yourself as a “BUSINESS”, and to sell a business, you need ADVERTISEMENT (promotion). As an artist, you should never truly rely on anyone to help promote you and your projects unless you are paying them and you can hold them accountable for it. Your homies, your friends and family will have good intentions but they could potentially drop the ball when you really need them, and you cannot truly be upset with them for FREE HELP (you get what you pay for). Ultimately, YOU ARE THE NUMBER ONE PROMOTER OF YOU!
- “Quit Looking for Handouts”: Too often artists feel like the “GAME” owes them something. They feel like deals, shows, music productions, and promotions should be afforded to them at little to no cost at all. NOBODY OWES YOU ANYTHING!!! If you’re in the rap game, then YOU CHOSE to be in it. It’s very tiresome to always get complaints from artist like, “Why won’t y’all put us on your showcase? How come I can’t open up for (artist favorite rapper name here)? Why are y’all not giving young artists a chance?” Artist you have to remember that PROMOTERS are no responsible for getting you ON THE SCENE. Promoters create avenues for artists to be showcased, but all promoters still have to SELL THEIR SHOW. Promoters invest a great deal of their time and money into a show, and they want to gain a return on their investment. So how can you fault a promoter for that? In the case of S.L.U.M. Fest, the organizations tries to promote the artists, but with so many artists in this city, we cannot possible promote EVERYONE at once. An artist needs to learn to be patient. We at S.L.U.M Fest carefully listen to artists’ music and we keep our ears to the street for artists. We however will not go from club to club to seek out artists. It’s not on the organization to go looking for artists (See rule #4.). An artist needs to understand that promoters can pick and choose who they want on their events because the promoters are the ones funding the events; That’s their rights. It’s very bold for an artist to tell a promoter or a club owner what they should do with their event. This rap game doesn’t owe the artist anything. An artist needs to realize that, and from there they can move forward in their endeavors.
- “Build a Rapport with Club/Radio DJ’s”: All artists, no matter who they are will always need a DJ to play their music in some sort of capacity. As an artist there is NO WAY around this. For this reason, artists must build relationships with DJ’s. When building relationships with DJ’s, the artist must realize that there are certain things they have to avoid.
a.) Never go to a club and hound a DJ to play your song: DJs HATE THIS!!!!! When at a club, the DJ’s job is to set the tone for the night. They have enough issues with dealing with patrons’ crazy songs requests. When an artist goes to a DJ in the club and ask a DJ to play their song, the DJ will probably ignore your request. For one, he or she is busy and cannot take the time out to discuss playing your music. Secondly, a DJ will never play a song that they have never listened to. DJ’s don’t know what your song sounds like, and they will not take that chance at that moment to find out either. The only thing you can do in that situation is to hand the DJ your music and hope that they listen to you music somewhere down the line. Don’t sit around all night in the club, waiting for the DJ to play your song, and then get yourself upset because he didn’t play your song.
b.) When it comes to getting your song played on the radio, it’s almost impossible to achieve this. Some stations may have an outlet for you to be heard, but for the most part I recommend that you try internet radio/ public access radio as oppose to regular radio. Radio DJ’s most of the time; do not have control on the music that’s being played on the radio. Program Directors control most of that. So when you as the artists get mad at radio DJ’s, it’s really not their fault. They have a job to do. A lot of artists feel like radio do not support local artists; it’s not their job to support local artists. Radio is in the business to make money, and most radio stations feel like they won’t make money with local artists (unless your buzz in the streets and clubs is crazy). If you’re not making money for the radio stations, you can forget ever getting on the radio (You have to remember this).
Artists should always remember that a good relationship with local DJ’s can help further your career. Most local DJ’s don’t have a problem with playing local artists music in different avenues, especially if your song is a hit.
- “Stop Making a Hundred Songs a Week”: Artists feel like if they validated by having a large catalogue of songs. True, you may have a lot of songs and put in a lot of work, but how many of those songs are HITS? As an artist, you should strive on putting out the best work possible, and take the time to make sure everything is right with your music. Putting out a gang of songs only makes the consumers show a lack of interests because they cannot keep up with all the songs you have out. Artist should make albums, and have a few songs they push hard as the main singles on the album.
- “BE REAL WITH YOURSELF”: Artist knows when they are not making good music. They know when they do not know how to rock a crowd. The artist even knows that they are not that good. If you have been in the game for 15-20 years, and you are still doing the same thing that you were doing when you first started; STOP AND QUIT!!!! You have to be real with yourself as an artist when you know that maybe the rap game isn’t for you. You cannot keep trying time after time, trying to get it right, while you’re still making the same mistakes. This business isn’t for everyone. A lot of new artist get into this, looking for a quick payday, but lack the basic skills to even be worthy of being called a HIP HOP ARTIST. If you find yourself pondering about your skills as an artist, and you cannot find the way to build on your skills, or it’s taking you too long to build on your skills, then maybe you need to re-evaluate being a Hip Hop Artist. This game is ever evolving, and it will not wait for you to get your shit together. You have to approach this like you’re taking a final in college: You have to study the game and all of its many perks and flaws.
- “To Get Support, You must Give Support”: This rule goes without saying. Some artists always ask for support from this city. They scream it from the top of their lungs, but at the same time they are SELFISH and will never support others. You will never make it in this city without showing support for others. Artists sometimes say that this city will not support its own but they are the main culprits not showing support.
- “To Make it Out of Town, You need to Make it in your OWN CITY”: A lot of artists get frustrated with the support from this city, and they decide that they need to move away to make it. This only works for a small percentage of artists in St. Louis. You always have to remember that if you are an artist from STL, and you want to make it nationally: ALL ROADS LEADS BACK TO YOUR CITY!!! Record labels do their research on artists very thoroughly and they will find out how much love you are getting in your city. If you cannot rock your city, how do you expect to rock it in another city, let alone get a deal from a record label? You should remember this when you’re trying to dismiss your city, as far as local support goes.
- “Humble Yourselves”: This rule isn’t for all the artists in this city. From my experiences, a lot of artists are truly humbled when I deal with them. But, there are a lot of artists who feel like if they get a little notoriety that they can become assholes and they can start acting like they’re on top of the world. These artists ultimately commit career suicide because no one wants to deal with their madness. Then these same artists wonder why they don’t get the “LOVE” from the hip hop community anymore. Always remember, the same people you see going up, you’ll have to see going back down so continue to build bridge and don’t burn them, you’ll never know when you will need other person’s help.
- “STAY HUNGRY”: If your career takes off, never forget your struggle to get where you are. If you lose that fire in your belly that made you grind for days and nights and mash out hits, and gave you the knowledge and skills to rock stage after stage, you could potentially end your career. Never become complacent as an artist and always have progression in your music and in your career.
I hope that you as the artist could use these rules to guide you in the right direction in gaining some support in the St. Louis Hip Hop scene. They may work for you… They may not, but hopefully you can take something from and have better understanding on some of the things that are needed in order to have a chance to make it in this city and beyond…