The hunt for the next Gucci Mane

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.

  • JAY STONE

    Goddam this is the best post in this new year by bol.

  • Brahsef

    I’ll fuck with Pill from time to time. Trap rapper uppin the lyrics.

  • JihaD

    Byron,

    Thanks for ethering Ashmi and the semi-literate canadian.

    Sincerely,

    JihaD

  • http://www.bboycult.com $ykotic/Don McCaine

    Oh boy.

    Everybody and their mama will drop a mixtape this year…just what we needed.

  • http://www.mikestreezy.com Mike Streezy

    I’m an independent artist trying to make it in the game and I read a lot of articles and what to do and what not to do. For the last year or so, I’ve noticed a trend of supposed insiders saying how important it is to give away FREE music. The landscape is changing and I think we just have to pray that “real” emcees stay independent and keep pushing until all of these garbage trends destroy themselves. In business, you can train your buyers to do things. McDonalds and fast food restaurants usually offer a sandwich for a low amount for an extended amount of time and you get accustomed to buying it and then all of a sudden they up the price aand it never drops again but you are still buying it. Other businesses can get you used to using their cards so that when they take away the perks you still use it. Point is, these idiots are training hip hop listeners to accept freebies and if they dont watch their ass, no one will want to pay for an album from them in the future. Train em to pay, even if its less and once you hook em with your talent, up it or keep it the same, but mixtape rappers are killing hip hop in more ways than just watering down the lyrics and albums.

    • JO

      Mike,

      I agree with you 120%. I never saw a Taylor Swift mixtape on Nah Right, Dat Piff, or any other site available for free download. When a consumer is bombarded with free material, he is less apt to purchase the “official” when it is available. However, this is indeed more prevalent in the hip hop circles than in any other genre of music.

      I’m a beatmaker and a producer, so I see this quite often. When I go to see one of my artists perform, they often hand out promotional material at the door, or have official material available for purchase at the time of the show. However, we can get away with giving away CD singles or MP3′s for free because the customer has already paid at the door. But the websites just give EVERYTHING away, leaving people with no reason to buy the “official” album.

      Plus, most music today sucks so bad that I wouldn’t want to own it anyway.

      • http://www.bboycult.com $ykotic/Don McCaine

        * 2nd post *

        Both of y’all should click my name and go to the stick figure drawing post. It’s real in the battlefield…I have answers…being moderated here….

        • http://www.jango.com/music/EmCDL EmCDL

          Co-Sign $ykotic, its good info, feed ya mind…

        • Young History in the Making

          the stick figure comic strip on your blog about buying music..

          *dead*

          ..man that shit was hilarious..

      • Josh

        A beatmaker AND a producer??? Wow. You must be super duper talented.

        • JO

          9th Wonder is a beatmaker. Quincy Jones is a producer. There is a difference, and I do both.

  • cramzy

    Man, I was jamming Chalie Boy back in 97, hadn’t heard from him for years, heard “I look good”, thought it was the worse shit ever…only to later find out it was by him. Bro been at for a minute..unfortunately he getting shine after dropping all his dope material… much like Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Lil Flip, Lil Keke, Mike Jones to an extent, and basically every Texas nigga I thougt was the shit back in 98

  • mav

    i kinda disagree new artists in hiphop do need to do mixtapes and give out free material just in most cases peoples free shit is better than what you pay for wayne blew up off mixtapes gucci and drake too but people dont buy gucci becuz his mixtape is better than his album cuz its more street but i know my mixtape r better than my album its better to get self made artist than some rappers whack ass homeboy

  • http://www.shabooty.com shabooty

    that ending throw away line is GREAT
    $

  • AVENGER XL

    @Mike Streezy,Jo and $ykotic

    Rappers don’t understand economies of scale and their market place. You cannot compare a niche music like rap/hip-hop which grows into a phenomenon and gains acceptance with fast food music like pop. Even hip-pop like drake,Wayne and Jay-z don’t do numbers like Taylor swift,Beyounce and the latest American Idol to win their 2010 star search deal. Rap,true punk,metal etc… all have a smaller demographics and thus labels will not put that much money into it because they don’t give a shit about us fans and our altruistic leanings. When hip-hop became the new bad boy on the block after rock went all hair band glam and thus too pop to have a real edge/danger(besides the occasional overdose), the labels were all too happy to cash in on the new sound that the black kids were dancing to.
    They considered it a fad that may bring in some extra coke/hooker money for the execs at the labels plus it allowed white suburban kids to continue the age old tradition of slumming started in the days of Jazz. It allowed them to safely veiw and interact with their favorite boogiemen without consequence thus defining the new cool.

    Pop artists like Taylor Swift, Beyounce and all other generic pop act have a greater reach because they lack edge and are safe and vanilla(pun intended). Labels will always put serious paper behind them because the return on investment is much greater. their are more rural areas than major cities and who do you think they are going to buy music from a blonde all american white girl singing about conservative values or music linked to inner cities and african americans?

    I say all that to say this. It is not about conditioning the fan. You have a limited universe and the labels have diluted that limited universe with hip-pop. Free may be one of the few ways to get folks to listen and then you monotize yhour efforts via shows and selling secondary product associated with the music. Even the labels are moving in the direction of this in the form of 360 deals. They just control the airwaves so they don’t have to do the free thing yet but for an indie in this landscape it may be a great chance to start a career if you market right. Especially for niche music like hip-hop

    • JO

      I understand your point to a degree; however, you fail to mention that before the internet revolution and proliferation of the blogs, hip hop/rap music WAS the biggest selling genre of music.

      50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying was one of the most violent rap albums ever produced, and it’s sold more than 13 million copies worldwide. As a result, your argument about Returns on Investment (ROI) are null.

      • AVENGER XL

        Nope not null. This was just the time period that hip-pop was white hot selling the hood fantasy of the invincble thug/pimp to hood kids and suburban wanna bes alike. But nowadays that fervor is gone and the niche is back to being a niche. As I stated labels are geared to risk aversion like all companies and they know it is easier to get some blonde girl to sing about america,god and love to make double the money of a black guy talking about anything. Even Em does better numbers than 50 overall hrrrmmm yes he is lyrically iller but when did labels care about that? His suburban demographic see him as a edgey champion that looks like them in a largely black music form.

        So overall hip-hop can make money on the pop level that is a no brainer. But right now it is more hip-pop than hip-hop because that is where labels are placing money. The labels aren’t even working wale and Drake correctly. If they were c list pop acts they would have sold more albums because of the larger target universe. More soccer moms,grand moms, nick/disney viewers, suburbanites and rural folks in general will actually purchase music from some goof on disney/nick/american idol. Than any rapper besides the beastie boys who happen to be the only rapper with solid catalog sales the true test of financial vitality in a genre long term. We will see will the numbers increase as hip-hop ages further as far as catalog sales go.

        • JO

          As stated, I agree with you to an extent. You’re dead-solid accurate that Interscope has not worked Drake properly…he’s been in position for almost a year now, and Interscope/Cash Money is leaving money on the table without the imminent release of new, original (non-mixtape) material.

          Nevertheless, here’s where we start to differ. In my opinion, the buying audience has NOT changed. Instead, the buyers have less incentive to buy for a variety of reasons:

          1. Availability. Why go pay $10 for a new release when a simple Google search yields the same content for free download on a blog or file-sharing site?

          2. Quality. Can you name 10 indisputably high-quality rap albums from 2009? Right. Therefore, if all of the content sucks, what makes a consumer want to purchase content that is out of their comfort zone? For example, if you bought the Gucci Mane CD and it sucked (which it didn’t), you would be less apt to buy the Wacka Flocka Flame CD when it drops (and it WILL SUCK.)

          3. Economy. In a soft economy post the American recession, people are less likely to put their disposable income towards the purchase of full-length records. Plus, when you add the aforementioned factors to this one, it pretty much sums up why the industry in general is slumping.

          Artists such as Jay-Z have achieved that “Beastie Boys” level that you mentioned. But unlike rock which has an older audience that GREW UP purchasing music, this new generation that is used to getting everything handed to them is less likely to be a lifelong consumer. Therefore, rappers are less likely to have lifelong streams of income from their record sales, nor are they going to be as revered later in life. I don’t want to go to a Jim Jones concert when he turns 60.

          These, and other reasons led me to the conclusion that your argument was indeed null. Further debate on either side is unnecessary at this point, so let’s agree to disagree.

        • AVENGER XL

          I agree to disagree and I just want to say I see your point. I am just saying the music industry is at fault for overpricing product and not paying artists correctly to start with. That will eventually lead to the final surrender date which is a point where music becomes a byproduct to bring money from other areas. This is a discussion that would need to be properly discussed in another format other than a message board.

          Great discusion Jo, a much needed breath of fresh air compared to many of the other comments on here.

          Peace

  • macdatruest

    I am the Peter Schiff of the rap game. I agree with Avenger and Jo. They are both right on point because both points are valid in a nutshell The decline of music is due to both reasons jointly. As Avenger stated

    A)Labels are refusing to put a real push behind non-mainstream marketable artist for fear of a lackluster return. Even if they get signed they are getting no promo. But what all these up and comers are doing to generally offset a lockout by major labels is what Jo stated

    B)giving their music away free. What this does is make things bad for even signed artist because as Jo stated you get used to not paying. Period. If I can get yo free shit Imma get that even if you drop a 15 dollar album that I gotta go way the fuck out to Best Buy to get. I’m good broski.

    c) what the game needs is a Union. Artists can market their own music worldwide now with the internet. You can make yourself hot and YOU blacklist American Radio, while opening up a worldwide market for your music that will make them play fair. You can do shows if they dont play your music. Being hot and banned from the radio would make your buzz even more rediculous in the States. Your album would sell on E-Bay to Americans for well over $25 and I guarantee people would want a hard copy for the fact They would be non existent in the U.S. What would this all amount to? bringing big labels face to face with the fact that the artist and the fans REALLY run the rap game but have greedy labels who hate niggas except when they profiting off them standing in the way. As soon as these labels collapse then rap will be cured and the true competitive measure of hip hop, raw talent will emerge. AND PEOPLE WILL BUY MUSIC AGAIN, ARTIST DIRECT!!! VIVA REVOLUTION!!!!~

    • AVENGERXL

      Mac you are correct the only thing is that even a artists union cannot correct the pandoras box of technology from being open. The way it is with downloading and filesharing. As I said above the recording industry mishandled the way the public atarted interacting with the new technology. People still buy music, however music competes with other forms of entertainment that were not all ways as prevelant.

      Once again I think a up and coming artist can use the free model as a way to connect with possible listeners and drive them to shows,T-shirts,etc…. Hell it wouldn’t hurt to give everyone who pays for a ticket to your show a cd. This also helps how well a crowd knows your music when you perform.

      Like I stated above the cat is out of the bag. The major labels will adjust to 360 deals and take fewer risks which means less rapper signings that haven’t proven people know who you are. They will take a risk on a virtually unknown good looking blonde from middle america but a rapper has to work a lot harder for that deal.

  • caino

    l hate this site!! when you write a huge comment , then it doesnt even post it !!

  • Ladidadida

    Texas has a lot of love for chalie so as a Texan when i say this dont be offended. HE IS SO FUCKING OLD!!!!!!!! He has been around about a decade +++ and he has already put out two greatest hits cd’s. This is going to be just like when Mike, WHO! (oh you forgot already) Jones got a deal with warner bros and they put out that crap album of all his old Texas tracks (everything he makes is crap but thats beside the point). Why are all these really good rappers gettin dropped? Wiz? Charles Hamilton?

  • westcoastaggie

    So Bol, what new Rap/Hip-Hop artists SHOULD we, the fan, be on the look out for?

  • caino

    ^^^ Pac Div

  • innovati

    @avengerxl

    you are spot-on with your analysis. speaking from someone in the trenches, return of investment is the name of the game.

    niche artists in subgenres (hip-hop) do no get as much play as their pop counterparts because the same effort does not garner the same results anymore. no one wants to risk promoting a passion project if it means they may possibly loose their job.

    there was a day when hip-hop was in the same breath as other pop artists in terms of sales, but these days it’s on its decline in terms of popularity. this decline can be attributed to 1) the market is crowded with too many rappers, 2) the availability of music, and 3) artists struggle to keep fans vs being flavors-of-the-month.

    i think the solution lies in truly knowing your audience inside and out and managing expectations accordingly. invest in creating fans and an organic demand for your product. the rest will follow.

  • fsucoed

    Pill’s 4075 mixtape coffins Gucci and the other shit mentioned in this article. Asher Roth… LMFAO.

    Being on a major doesn’t matter; your getting 6% of a sale per album after the label recoups expenses. Press it yourself n’ pop the trunk; keep all the loot.

    Mixtapes are fine; just don’t drop 50 a year.

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