Atlanta rhymeslinger Jarren Benton, who signed later that year, tells a similar story. “Dame said, ‘Come check a show out in Arizona.’ I’m sitting outside, and the line is wrapped around the building. I thought, ‘No way this shit is for Hopsin!’ The fanbase really caught me.”
Once they’re signed to Funk Volume, the artists have in their corner a creative, hands-off leader in Hopsin, a dedicated day-to-day manager and CEO in Ritter and a growing platform working on their behalf. From a music standpoint, though, not much changes. Outside of a group conference call every Tuesday, where the rappers talk studio sessions and video shoots and Ritter updates them on show schedules and money and merchandise, the businessman handles the business while the rappers handle the rap.
“Whatever you put into Funk Volume is what you’ll get back,” says SwizZz. “It’s up to the artist, really.”
It’s August, and a highly productive summer is coming to an end for Funk Volume. While a cost-conscious Ritter has spent the bulk of the third quarter of the year focused on increasing profitability (“there’s new revenue streams popping up—YouTube being a big one”), the artists have been busy creating. In July, Benton released his debut album, My Grandma’s Basement, which peaked at No. 152 on the Billboard 200. Later that month, Hopsin announced a release date (November 26) for his long-awaited album, Knock Madness. In August, Wright released his well-received mixtape, The Golden Age. All the while, each of them—as well as a slow-burning SwizZz—dropped multiple videos, performed on many stages and engaged their hundreds of thousands of fans on social media. The idea is to make the interaction feel nonstop, to always leave the label’s ravenous fans feeling connected, if not in person than at least 140 characters at a time. “As far as fans, we’re not that hard to reach,” says Hopsin. “That’s what separates Funk Volume from a lot of other dudes.”
Ritter agrees and eagerly explains how Funk Volume created such a dedicated social networking fanbase (powerful enough to help vote Dizzy into the Freshman Class). “We constantly built, organically and slow, to this point. We didn’t just have 190,000 [Facebook] fans come out of nowhere. We had 5,000, and we went to 10,000. Around the time we toured for the first time, it went 20, 30, 40,000. Tech N9ne and Hopsin [collaborating on “Am I A Psycho” in 2012], XXL [Freshmen] covers, we’re at 100,000. We have a real connection to fans… To me, it’s not magic: These guys are talented as shit, the platform is getting bigger and bigger,” says Ritter. “Now that we have momentum, I can never see it stopping.”