I’ve got some good news, and some bad news…
The good news, for bum rappers, is that major labels are back signing mixtape rappers. The bad news, for people who like rap music, is that major labels are back signing mixtape rappers.
I read about it just now in a big New York Times-style trend piece in Billboard. In this case, the three probably random instances that constitute a trend are the mixtape rappers Hayes, Pill, and Chalie Boy (me neither) all signing deals with major labels on the hunt for the next Drake, or Gucci Mane. It’s a trend not unlike how a buncha bum-ass mixtape rappers got deals in the wake of Fiddy Cent’s ascent, back in the middle of the aughts, except this time around the focus is on rappers who put out mixtapes full of original production – street albums, essentially – rather than rappers who rhyme over other people’s shit, lest they end up with another 50 Cent. God forbid.
You’ll recall that the trend last year was to sign a buncha kids in tight jeans who got famous, so to speak, by emailing a shedload of shitty freestyles to the shitty freestyle posting service Nah Right. Which obviously didn’t work out too well for them. Asher Roth was probably the most successful of the artists who appeared on that Freshman 10 issue of XXL, unless I’m forgetting somebody, and his career should only be viewed as a cautionary tale. The only other ones I can even think of off the top of my head (which is all the effort I’m willing to put forth) are Charles Hamilton and Wale. Damn. Yeah, those guys all put out mixtapes, but they were more along the lines of your typical mixtape, compared to, say, a Hayes mixtape. Or so I’ve been told. Plus, and the story in Billboard didn’t get into this, perhaps because they’re more concerned with the business side of things than with the culture itself, but this new crop of mixtape rappers seems more alpha. Or at least more unfortunate – which is the same as alpha, right? I, for one, don’t have any problem with the least fortunate amongst us thinking that, even if it isn’t true. The guys from your high school could totally kick the crap out of the guys from my high school, despite their asthma. And the girls are better-looking, too. Like queens.
But I digress. Now, where was I? Ah yes, the TIs snatching up random yokels who put out “street allbums,” as opposed to emo kids who don’t know when to shut the fuck up on Twitter. Never mind whether or not the likes of Hayes and Pill are as successful this year as Drake and Gucci Mane were last year – neither of those two sold very many albums anyway. I’m actually more concerned with what this means for Nah Right. Could this be yet another sign of its decline in influence? The first of which being a post on Oh Word last year about how worthless a post on Nah Right has become, since there’s so many of them. Videos posted on Nah Right are viewed less times than if they were posted on a shitty site like ByronCrawford.com: The Mindset of a Champion. They could lighten up the deluge of posts, so that people would actually have time to “read” them, but why should they give a shit? They make their money from advertising, and the more posts they publish, the more pageviews they get. You can see why an artist who blows up on a site like that might not necessarily be worth a shit – the number of people who actually download their songs or watch their videos is probably minuscule compared to the overall number of people who visit the site, and if the site’s not gonna put any effort into curating its content, the fact alone that an artist is posted there isn’t particularly meaningful.
Whether or not Hayes, Pill, and Chalie Boy suffer the same fate as last year’s crop of no-talents remains to be seen, but I think one thing has been made abundantly clear: There’s no way you can scheme your way into being a successful major label artist through cunning use of technology. It might get you a deal, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’re gonna get anything other than made fun of on the Internets.