Admit You Have a Problem
Hip-hop is a lot like a sick patient currently in a state of relapse. The glory days are behind us, and the past few years have seen constant change in and around the culture. In spite of drooping sales, a love/hate Internet revolution and a decrepit economy, though, hip-hop is still our No. 1 obsession, no matter how little money it makes. But what happens when an addict needs help? He might look into a 12-step program. From mild to extreme cases, this recovery process is designed for those suffering from any type of dependency or dysfunctional habit. A system of actions to heal the weak. Well, on the business side, hip-hop is in delicate shape. The combination of sales troubles, the Web, and record-label breakdowns has made it harder than ever for rappers to become superstars and have lasting success. Luckily, now is a good time to start anew. A new president is in place. Old systems are being overhauled. And the wheel is ripe for reinvention. It’s an age when everyone’s trying to figure things out, including XXL. Like a proud parent, we love hip-hop and its participants, but there’s always room for improvement, right? So, in honor of our 12th anniversary, we came up with a 12-step program for rappers to recover from the music-industry slump. The first step: Admit that you have a problem. Paging Dr. Carter... Dr. Mathers?
A revolution of sorts is already underway. See: Jay-Z lyrically eradicating Auto-Tune, Young Jeezy calling out “too much bullshit” in hip-hop, the cries of excessive swagger/too little quality, and fans hating on, well, everything. We’ll spare you the “it’s not you, it’s me” and simply say rappers need teaching. To that end, we updated some of the traditional elements of the rap game for MCs of today and tomorrow. These aren’t your parents’ rules, and they’re not merely for new faces, but veterans, too. Within the next few pages, you’ll find XXL’s proposed 12-step program for recovery, with help from a few sponsors. Follow our steps. It’s the road to success.
Create a Buzz Record
The right song, the right hook, the right hit can change a career. Whether you’re a new artist seeking buzz or an established MC in need of a comeback, the buzz record is your entry point, and you must get it right (i.e., 50 Cent’s “Wankster” and Eminem’s “My Name Is”).
Before “Hi Hater” became a hood favorite, Brooklyn rapper Maino developed an underground following through rap battles and street-DVD cameos, shuffling through several bad songs before finding a gem. “We got plenty of examples of artists that were on the grind and had street records, but they wasn’t able to make the proper single to connect the streets and the radio at the same time,” says Maino, whose gold-selling second single, “All the Above,” features T-Pain. “As far as record spins, [‘Hi Hater’] did well, but it feels like it was bigger than it actually was. That’s because it was a novelty record, and it tapped into the culture of hip-hop, like with the shirts and the slogan, with everybody saying it. I was able to score not only a good first single but a record that you could never forget.”
The good part is that a song these days can be introduced in various ways—radio, blogs, virally, Twitter, P. Twitty TV... Whether it’s successful is all in the setup. “Once you got a record that everybody feels could work, a record needs a plan. [You can’t] just put a record out and expect it to work,” says Maino. “It’s no real formula. I had another record that I thought was gon’ work but didn’t perform as well. ‘Hood Love,’ with Trey Songz, came out after ‘Hi Hater.’ That was actually supposed to be my second single, but it didn’t move as fast, so I had to cook some more stuff up. So you might not always get it, but you gotta keep fighting.”
Until you find that number one.
To read more of the Detox feature, make sure to pick up XXL's September issue on newsstands now.