Rap Music Is The Way Out The Hood Yo

As if it’s any surprise to folks who really pay attention to rap music, before this culture went completely pop it was sort of a rags to riches experience for people who made it in the music business. Even legendary author Tom Wolfe knows that.

For a guy as knee deep in the entertainment business as I am, I still keep things pretty ground level. So I come in contact with a fair share of street corner CEOs. These are the guys who read some article in XXL or Vibe about how such and such rap CEO (take your pick: Suge Knight, Diddy, Jay-Z, 50, Ted Lucas, J Prince) flipped some street money into an independent record label, which in turn became successful and them yielded them millions. Dudes come out of jail and the first thing they want to do is own a record label. That’s just the way it is.

But if you do the knowledge to the music business, you’ll know that the business of music has always had some aspect of street corner culture involved in it. This goes all the way back to MCA being tied up with Chicago mob connects, band booking, and things of that nature from the 1920s on. This is a seedy racket, no matter how you cut the cake.

So it was interesting, yesterday, when I was on the line with a rep from Sweetwater. Anybody who buys music gear knows about Sweetwater, they’re one of the best companies in the business. They provide more than customer service, those dudes are your friends. (Could be criminals too though, hey ya never know)

Somehow, in the midst of our friendly conversation, we get to talking about fraud. He told me that with gear purchases, most of the incidences of fraud that the company experiences come from the production and DJing world. That people will make huge purchases on big ticket items like MPC 5000‘s. They’ll make the purchase with stolen credit card numbers and then ask for overnight delivery, tell the sales rep that they need it ASAP for a session or something. He said a lot of these people won’t have any sales history with Sweetwater (they’ve got past purchases on file), and so immediately a flag goes up. He indicated to me that there is a LOT of this type of fraud taking place, and the biggest sector, again, is with gear that is used for production and DJing.

Now how we got to this topic, that was from us talking about Sweetwater’s marketing and advertising efforts. I basically asked why Sweetwater never advertised in Scratch when the mag existed, and he said because of all this fraud, they’re not really sure how much they want to target that audience. I thought that was a decent explanation.

It got me thinking (and as you can see now, writing) about people’s goals and aspirations in the music business, and the topic of conversation sort of jibed with Clover Hope’s “Why Be A Rapper?” blog post from yesterday. I think on the whole, people look at the music business as as get rich quick scheme, or at the very least a viable business that can be used to “clean” money (see: BMF).

Now that’s not to say every street corner hustler with a dollar and a dream is trying to flip stolen credit card numbers into a full-blown production studio. No, a lot of folks are legitimately taking the cash they have stuffed in between a mattress and buying music gear, trying to make something out of nothing. And even if I think on the whole that they’re fucking up the game and don’t really know how to do business, I’ve got to applaud their effort.

One could only imagine how well their efforts would go over though, had they invested their hard earned (or stolen) dough in a business that was actually experiencing some growth. Far be it to call the music business a place where people can get rich right now. In fact, if you’re thinking about getting into the music business, you might actually want to reconsider, and possibly go back to selling crack or what have you. There is a strong possibility that you might make more money doing that. What with the country in such a depression and all, it’s just a matter of time before folks– not just the hood– turn back to that rock to console them. Better yet, if you have a stolen credit card– fuck an MPC– right now you might actually want to just stock up on the essentials, like food.

But in all seriousness, I kinda sorta felt good when he told me that the frauds try to buy MPCs. In my twisted logic, the way I see it, this again reinforces just how popular hip-hop is. People wanna get in so bad that they’re committing crimes to make hip-hop. How many people you know slanging rocks for a guitar or drum set? Ok then. I don’t know that many folks just getting home from prison and talking about how their guitars going to get them out of their fucked up situation. In fact, it’s all the rich suburban kids, who actually have garages, messing with that kinda shit. They’ve got garages, hip-hop has garageband.

It really just begs the question, this music, how bad do you really want it?

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  • Phil

    Well, I’m not a hood or grimy dude like that. I had both parents growing up, and my father was real supportive. He gave me a choice, thought, when I wanted the Ensoniq EPS-16+ back in 1991. “We could get you a car with that money…or this keyboard you want.”

    My little sister bitched and moaned in jealousy, but I took the EPS and never looked back. Thanks, Dad.

  • amar

    in that blog from yesterday that inspired u, i read some bullsht like “hip hop is often the only option for making money in the hood” and i thoght about what a load of shit that was.

    I came from waaaaaay worse conditions than your typical slum, ghetto or waht have you and i’m educated, making legit money and not using hip hop to do it. And I’m no genius or anything special. I just work hard. As another example, look at mcdonalds’ ceos and execs and higher ups making the crazy dough. Most started out flipping fries and moved up over the years. That’s a fact.

    So my point is that the reason criminals go for music rather than as u said, a more secure investment, is the same reason criminals are criminals in the first place: they need money NOW and wanna get rich or die trying by any means.


    Crime is throughout the entertainment world even comic books were sponsored by the mob back in the day. But the whole get rich quick ethos in rap music destroys much of it’s hope as an art. Besides music has such a high failure rate it takes a idiot to think you will get a good ROI. Oh but you did say hood.

  • Lester Diamond

    I hate how everyone and their grandmother tries to produce shit. If I could, I would go back in time and kill the guy that created Fruity Loops. Hip-hop is just oversaturated with everything. Too many producers, to many wack MCs, too many clothing lines and the list goes on. I guess if there ain’t much money in it anymore, wack niggas will stop trying to get in the game. For most dudes it’s just a childhood fantasy that will never happen. In reality, musicians are known for struggling.

    • Lester Diamond

      Oh another thing, has anybody addressed the trend of rappers picking up guitars and pretending to play the motherfucker? Jay-Z…guilty. Lil Wayne…guilty. I seen a video the other day with Lil Wayne in it holding a guitar, pretending to play it with some white dude. That shit just makes me sick.

      • Lester Diamond

        Them niggas is like Bill & Ted.

      • Silky Johnson

        The thing is, Jay-Z has been doing things with rockers for a while. Linkin Park, Coldplay, etc etc….Weezy is just in this spiral of self-destruction where he thinks people like hearing his auto-tuned syruped out voice moan over a guitar loop.

  • Chris Mac

    Some good points made in this blog dude. But i think most people who really do the dirt jus try to stay above water. Theres a few that hit it big as a kingpin,musician,athelete,buisness men, but half us still tryin to eat. Thats what I think the rap game is missin nowadays……hunger. As far as someone fcukin wit fruity loops and all that shit, i’d way rather have a dj wit a thousand records that I gotta help him carry. Entertainment is directly related to the hood, some fuckin hit it big, some jus die.

  • Mutada al sader the king

    I used to complain about FL Studio and the drag and drop, look mom I’m a producer Ilk. But whats the fucking point. Let people do what the fuck they want to do. This is the same shit that we went through when Midi became popular, and all the muscians were saying that midi production is not “real music”. The same shit people were talking when digital recording became popular, the same shit every wahsed up engineer says in every mix mag article about “non pros” having access to expensive effects processors and plug ins. Whats the fucking point do you and stop worring about it.