You know what the worst feeling in the world is, when you have this incredible beat that you’re shopping around to everyone in the game, and you just know that it’s a hit record waiting to happen, and the one artist who records to it and actually has the bread to pay you for the track spits some horrible shit on top of it. And I don’t mean just bad lyrics, I mean the whole concept of the song is wrong, the way they deliver the rhymes is wrong, they don’t ride the beat right, they put some horrible ass singer on the hook. Truthfully, it’s like your beat is your baby, and someone’s fucking with your kid. But you gotta eat, right?
It’s really a touchy situation when this happens, particularly when you’re a newer producer and you’re sort of just breaking into the game, because one hand you wanna get the best possible song out of the situation, but on the other you don’t want to say something that will a) make the rapper not like the song anymore b) feel like you’re some young ungrateful dude who is too opinionated and c) start earning a reputation as being someone who is hard to work with.
So what do you do?
In my opinion you’ve got a few options, and they all differ depending on what your attitude is. If you’re like me, and generally think that most artists with record deals are hot steaming garbage, you’ll probably dislike anything you hear done to your beats. That’s not cause it’s wack, it’s just cause you’re pretty adamant about knowing what’s good and what isn’t, and let’s face it, most shit that industry artists do isn’t that good (why else would the industry be 3 album flops away from foreclosure at this point).
You can just flat out tell the artist that you think they can do better, that time and money permitting, the song should be re-recorded, and that you envision it being in X fashion. Do it in a nice way, don’t tell them their version sucks. You gotta always be ego-stroking in this biz, at the end of the day it’s an industry full of dick blowers. Offer any assistance you can in making it a better song, whether that be reproducing parts of the beat for them, or coaching them through the vocals. This is part of being a producer, and not a beatmaker.
You can just keep quiet, take the money and run. Which isn’t always the worst idea. It is a business, and depending on how much you’re being paid, it’ll probably dictate how much time you want to put into the song. You can make a million more hot beats.
Have some dialogue with the artist’s creative team- management, executive producer and A&R. Ultimately, these guys may have a vision for the song that differs from the artist as well. So you may not be the only one who thinks the artist’s version is weak. Songs can go through many incarnations before the final version is settled on, and if the artist is hesitant to re-record, usually their creative team can talk some sense into them.
Trust the artist. Hey, the guy got a record deal somehow, he must sort of know what he’s doing, right? Well, not always. But still, there’s a certain amount of respect you should have for the artist’s craft. Let them do what they do, and don’t try to impose too much. When you’re at superproducer level and the artists are all coming to you, that’s when you can really call the shots.
And finally, what I think is the best option, just don’t give your hits to anyone. Either be very selective with the artists who’s albums you try to place them on, or find an artist who can articulate your vision the way you want them to and put the records out yourself. If you think that isn’t the driving force behind great songwriters like Sean Garrett, Bryan Michael-Cox, The Dream, Neyo putting out their own records, you’re mistaken. Doing things for other artists is cool, but everyone gets frustrated when their vision isn’t executed properly. So either record the songs yourself, or find someone who is talented and have them do it. Worst case scenario, you end up selling the whole idea- beat and lyrics (100% publishing, woo hoo!!!)- to another artist, and that’s generally a win-win situation. Because you can always go back and make more music, whereas a generally untalented pop star or rapper who can’t play an instrument or write a song to save their life can’t do that.