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BLOG: R.I.P. Ringtone Rapper

Finally I’ve arrived/So we can say our goodbyes/to the ringtone rapper/That crap’ll never survive.” —Saigon

Who knew Saigon was such a prophet. Not the part about arriving—he can’t drop an album to save his life—but about ringtone rappers not surviving. Just a year ago (around fall 2007), the ringtone rap craze was in full effect. You couldn’t stroll down the street without hearing someone’s cell phone annoyingly blasting “Party Like a Rock Star or “Crank Dat” or “This is Why I’m Hot.” A rapper, primarily of the Southern variety, could earn a quick buck with a hit ringtone single and then disappear. Or if lucky, a New York cat named Mims could make decent money off a song based on simple preschool logic: “I’m hot ’cause I’m fly. You ain’t ’cause you not.” Thus the ringtone rapper was birthed.

Where are they now? One-hit-Wonderville. For one, record labels caught on and started including clauses (or something or another) that would give a larger percentage of digital and ringtone revenue to the label instead of the rapper. Now, the ringtone hit is just another part of the deal. More and more artists are getting song deals instead of album deals, and I’ve seen several EPs released recently (Yung Berg, Cool Kids, etc), perhaps as a way to test the waters before making a monetary sacrifice on an album. Then there are 360 deals, which focus on the artist as a “brand.” These have been around for a few years but only recently have they become more widespread and now, pretty much the standard. Not surprisingly, they’re mostly done with new acts, who are more inclined to give up a big portion of any kind of money they generate to the label. “Your soul” is also written in fine print. As a result, fewer and fewer artists are able to survive, ringtone rappers included.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the fad has died down, leaving Soulja Boy holding the torch. Or, at the least, it’s dissolved into hip-hop and become a part of the norm, like when any “new” trend is introduced, i.e. chopped-and-screwed and soul sampling. It gets overused, Superheaded if you will, and then integrated so much that you barely notice. In other words, there will come a day when you hear Beanie Sigel on Auto-Tune and think nothing of it.

So in the end, the ringtone dudes sort of lost. I wonder how much money these rappers made off their one song and whether they would’ve earned more had their albums sold better. Then again, last month, Chamillionaire became the first “Mastertone” artist in history for selling over 5 million ring tones of “Ridin’ Dirty.” Really? You guys still buying ringtones like that? It’s still what’s poppin’? A dollar for anyone still doing the Aunt Jackie… —clovito

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