Hustling Dope, The Hip-Hop Kind Pt. 1

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Have you ever been approached by an unknown rapper on the street, trying to sell you his music? This is the true story of their hustle. I spent some time with a couple of rappers that I met and gained new insight on what they do for a living. I wrote this a while ago and it never got picked up, but I love it so much that I decided to give it new life and repost. Enjoy…

Words by Gangstarr Girl

Hustling is not a foreign concept to the Hip-Hop culture. Numerous references to “the hustle” and “the struggle” by various rappers can be found on vinyl, disc, MP3s or anywhere Hip-Hop is sold. Some hustles are illegal, others are legit, but the concept surmounts simply being recorded and transcends into reality. H the Great, Marvo (formerly known as Marvalous) and Creature are living proof.

It’s a warm early-autumn day, and the temperature is a comfortable 68 degrees; a motley crew of New Yorkers and tourists mill about SoHo, traveling from one end to another, window-shopping and making purchases. Amidst the shopping and browsing is a secret world hiding in plain site, the “Hip-Hop Guys” ─ rappers, stationed throughout New York City trying to get people to stop, listen and buy their CDs.

“I see them standing outside every time I’m in the village,” says Stoney, a New York University student. “The Hip-Hop dudes are always trying to get people to buy their CDs but I usually just keep walking. I don’t see how they can do that all day.”
Some people oblige, some don’t, and others suggest they get a real job, not realizing that CD hustlers are the new entrepreneur, or as Creature says, “artistpreneur.”

“Check out my music?” H the Great offers his CD, Great Music, to a young stylish woman who continues looking straight ahead, pretending she doesn’t hear him. “Take some Brooklyn home with you,” he persists unsuccessfully. “Yo, I’m talking to you,” he calls after her firmly only half-joking, bits of his Bed-Stuy swagger surfacing.

Working what he refers to as “the day shift,” he stands in front of The Pottery Barn on the corner of Houston and Lafayette streets. Dressed in a plain white t-shirt and blue jeans, he’s been selling his CDs at this location for about an hour.

“I like to work the strip (up and down Broadway, between SoHo and NoHo). I was just at Canal Street, in front of YRB [Yellow Rat Bastard] for a little while. I was in their magazine last year.”

At this point, three passersby have ignored H the Great.

“They not being nice to me today,” he says. But he persists. For him, this is an everyday job that pays off. “The money I make from this allows me to travel, and I meet people like this. I make so many contacts doing this as opposed to just meeting people at open mics and clubs or whatever ─ They see I’m about my business.”

In addition to being featured in YRB, he appeared in a European Volkswagen commercial last year, went on a 25-city U.S. tour with other underground rappers and appeared in Lil’ Kim’s “Lighters Up” video.

“Now I can add that I’m an actor to my resume,” he says.

After more coaxing, his alluring Bed-Stuy demeanor exudes confidence, and finally, he begins to reel people in.
His first customer in that location was a twenty-something-year-old man. He was stylish in a hipster sort of way and appeared to be Middle Eastern. H the Great, who happens to be Muslim, muttered something in Arabic and the young man became increasingly more interested. Always prepared, H the Great keeps his CD player handy for situations where people want to listen to his music before making a purchase ─ this being one such case. The young man listened attentively and asked for a price. H The Great usually requests a “donation” of $10, sometimes more or less depending on the person’s generosity and aura. In this case, the man donated $5.

“Some is better than none,” H The Great says humbly, “You see how I got him though?” He laughs.
Although H the Great sells his CDs seven days a week, he is his own publicist, booker, manager, accountant and A&R rep.

“I like this because I’m my own boss. I don’t have to switch up my voice on some ‘hey how you doing’ (speaks in an extremely proper tone), I can wear what I want, I can be myself and I get to travel. You know, I can go anywhere. I just came back from Virginia yesterday. I just take CDs and pay for my way while I’m down there.”

His favorite place is New York City, however sometimes territory is an issue. The Virgin Mega Store at Union Square (on 14th Street) is a popular area where the rules of competition can include more than verbal sales pitches and persuasive bravado. The area sometimes gets cluttered, which sometimes breeds persuasion tactics for top sales shine.

“Me, personally, I don’t be on 14th Street like that ’cause them other cats don’t know how to act,” he said.
H the Great didn’t go into full detail about why he sometimes avoids 14th Street, but Marvo and Creature elaborate. They are selling their CDs on the other side of town, in the West Village. They’re working “the night shift” in front of Fat Beats (a premiere Hip-Hop music store in New York) at around 8:00. They each have their own individual projects but they sell their CDs together.
“Fourteenth Street is somebody else’s thing during the day and they have a different sales approach than we do. It’s a little bit more aggressive.”

Creature, deciding that Marvo is being too diplomatic, says, “Let’s be honest, they’re very barbaric and Neanderthal…I don’t know, people have said that they’ve been extremely aggressive and barbaric in their tactics.

He likens the unspecific measures to those sometimes used in the pursuit of the American dream.

“Who am I to say? They said America was built on barbaric tactics. So, I’m not going to say anything, but I don’t want to be associated with that kind of behavior.”

TO BE CONTINUED

  • OG Matt Herbz

    Interesting choice of hustle…

    There was a dude selling CDs, right outside a Kroger down here in Atlanta. It was cold, so I just had the driver pull up next to him in the the Esky. He wanted $10 for that shit so I told him we’d listen to it first and if that shit bumped, I’d pay him. My driver grabbed the CD, put it on blast and waited for further instruction. I heard about 10 seconds of the first song and I flashed him the thumbs-down signal. He ejected the CD, flung it like a frisbee out the window, then stepped out the truck and stuck him to the curb with a .45 He cleaned dude for the cash in his pockets and a silver-plated chain. We confiscated his other CDs, too, and tossed em along the side of 285–right over the Chattahoochee River bridge.

    –OG Matt Herbz–

    • BEE

      OG Matt Herbz that makes you gangsta right. For being a Bitch about it. If the shit was weak you should have just bounced. Grow up Dude really.

    • JAY STONE

      LOL.
      i see these fools catching feelings.
      it`s called sarcasm dumbass

    • tony grand$

      Herbz, crazy ass white boy! That shit was fuckin hilarious! Lmmfao!

      “He ejected the CD, and flung it like a frisbee out the window, then stepped out the truck and stuck him to the curb with a .45″

      ROFL!!!

      Dude, that shit was ignorant as hell, but funny then a motherfucker!!

      Good look on the laughter!

  • OGKountry

    To OG Matt Herbz.

    You would only tell someshit like that online cause u pussy. quit lyin bitch boy. ida got ya license number, had my nigga at the dmv run it and we woulda been at yo house that same night. Then you woulda got you clocked cleaned you e-thug! Eat a dicc!

  • http://www.streetjournal.net Mal

    May Jesus have mercy on your soul, you stupid bastard. That man just out trying to make money to feed his kids and you on the internet bragging about robbing a starving rap artist. I guess that made you feel proud to tell us that story.

  • capcobra

    i believe nas said it best when he said the rap game is like the crack game…the hand to hand is always a good hustle long as the market ain’t cluttered…the trouble comes when niguz be coming out the house with too much of that low quality low budget product..fucking it up for each other…like i wouldn’t buy homie cd just because of the way the artwork look…i’d tell him nah and keep going…i don’t wanna buy a picture of him with a silly ass smirk..then the title of the cd is all out..but i don’t see nothing that symbolizes all out…so little shit like that prevents niguz from getting those extra sales…not to mention that everybody in the world knows a rapper trying to sell a cd….niguz is better off plugging up the equipment and spitting live…almost like a singer/musician or dancer nowadays…show ‘em the talent and they’ll show you the money…it’s real simple if you know how to hustle….I DO.

  • adam

    I wish I could have finished this, but it has the literary value of a 6th grader’s essay on how to play Pokemon cards.

  • http://www.prettypancakes.com amar

    if ur like this guy and u actually love the job and don’t mind being treated like shit or not making money, hell i’d buy your cd just cause of that. Unfortunately I wouldn’t have the time or patience to listen to a sales pitch which would be able to convince me of that.

    So these dudes usually are over-aggresive and are only nice to u before u reject them and show their true colours afterwards. Unfortunately seems like most of them are bout trynna blow up quick instead of working hard and being passionate about rap, no matter the conditions. Obviously it pays off for this guy, which I guess goes to show u that if u truly enjoy something and put effort into it, u’ll be succesful

    http://www.prettypancakes.com

  • Justice4All

    OG Matt Herbz: It’s people like you that make the Death Penalty a viable and attractive option. I’m a Artist and label owner that thrives on CD sales in the streets. It’s actually a tribute to your parents that you rob people who are trying to use their gift and create a buisness of their own. I guess you were raised to take what you don’t deserve because you feel like it. I know one thing though, you reap what you sow.

    • OG Matt Herbz

      So, where can I sample your product? Or better yet, where can I stick you for your sterling silver chain? Bitch ass nigga, you ain’t no artist or a label owner. Just because you press CDs and sell them with your name and label on it, this makes you a “label owner?” I ain’t mad at you, though, you’re hip-hop, mang. And by that, I mean everybody’s an artist, thriving off the streets, and their mans is the label owner. What’s your nom de guerre, homeboy? What’s your “label’s” name, too?

      –OG Matt Herbz–

      • tony grand$

        “Nome de guerre”

        U a fuckin fool!!!!!!
        Lmmfao again!

        “So, where can I sample your product? Or better yet, where can I stick you for your sterling silver chain?”

        You & G.U.K. Need to do an effin comedy album.

      • Justice4All

        Jesus Loves You.

  • justice4all is a douchebag

    lol at justice4all this clown actually believes what he reads on these sites. these dudes are all clowns. i saw someone on 42nd st. trying to sell some cds but i just didn’t have any money but is good to see trying to come up and get their money.

  • paychexx

    man the grind is not pretty sometimes. people can be cold. but the problem is, it too many rappers. so most people feel if i heard them once i heard them all. that mess up becuz there are some very good artists out there.

    • http://www.GangstarrGirl.com Gangstarr Girl

      @ Paycheck. You’re right homie. I personally get bombarded every day with artists who want me to check out their music but at this point it happens so much that I’m desensitized so I just keep it moving. But with H, there was something about his personality that struck a note so when I actually found out that that’s what he did, i just started doing my research and realized that this isn’t just some fly by night thing for them. But you’re right it ain’t pretty. And although so many rappers do it now, it’s fascinating that they have that much dedication. With the dudes I spoke to, it wasn’t so much about getting put on as it was about making money to survive.

  • http://kirk-francosmodernlife.blogspot.com/ Kirk

    Good read. Inspiring journalism. Keep it up.

  • http://www.GangstarrGirl.com Gangstarr Girl

    Thanks Kirk. I think people forget that hip-hop culture and journalism actually can go together. We tend to get so wrapped up in rants and opinion pieces…

  • http://myspace.com/paulscientific Paul Scientific

    My suggestion is that these starving artists get a job and use the money from the job to finance their music. I used to be able to understand the plight of the street salesman (as I’m an MC too), but I find that its hard to compete in todays marketplace selling your cd when the bootleg man got lil wayne’s cd cheaper than yours and the average music fan knows who he is, and his music is easier and cheaper to acquire than yours. We gotta realize that people gonna front on you and not support you when you tryin to make it, and will be on your jockstrap when you actually do (make it). I’d rather work my nine to five, and give away cds because at this point, i’d rather have some exposure than the $50-$100 (at best) that i can make selling cds hand to hand (when you consider how much you sell and how long it takes to sell them, you’d be better off giving them away and working hard at your day job to supplement it). especially in today’s climate where everyone seems to want to rap, regardless of talent. I’m willing to bet that many of these same artists are unwilling to get their music critiqued by professionals to be sure their music is actually quality before they try to sell it to the average person. I believe that in today’s music market, it has become so easy to make music, and so cheap to do it that rappers and singers have come out of the woodworks because they can buy the equipment and record it themselves. This is good and bad for several reasons. good because it allows you to be able to record with little or no budget. it is bad because honestly, 90 percent of these aspiring rappers suck, and its just been made easier to infect the market with their weak music.

    as it relates to people selling music on the street, 9 out of every 10 cds i’ve ever bought were frisbees. its hard to feel that you have to support those trying to make it, when most of those trying should leave rap to talented cats like myself, Paul Scientific. If you doubt this claim, check the myspace.com/paulscientific page. I got a free download in my blog section. Its crazy. I’m giving away better music than most of these dudes attempt to sell.

  • http://hiphoponmymind.blogspot.com/ DJ Daddy Mack

    WOW THIS IS A WONDERFUL PIECE. I SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT SOME SHIT LIKE DIS. LOL. GREAT JOB. KEEP IT UP.

  • BIGNAT

    oh my god h the great i ran into that fool like 3 times in one week. in front of the virgin mega store twice and once around bleeker a couple years ago. i finally bought one of his cd’s for 5 bucks never listened to that joint i am sure it’s a weed coaster in my brothers house. it was him some other guy with a crazy ass name he gave me his joint for free he was drunk off his ass.
    i don’t see to many guys in nyc doing that no more. i use to see them in central park doing that time square near the bus station. catch people coming into town try to get there cd in the peoples hand. also madison square park and 125th east or west you walking they was out there.

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  • Moi

    anyone who responded to matt herbz in seriousness should be sent to a work camp as your brain is on ice and you cannot contribute to any society on the face of the earth.

    that aside, creature’s disc is collecting dust but he did manage to get some money outta me once. marvo too i think (more dust). wolf from castle hill got left at my last apartment. i think.

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