The greatest thing about hip-hop is that anybody can get in. Big Sean got signed because he heard Kanye was at a Detroit radio station, got his ass over there, freestyled for a reluctant Kanye, and subsequently got a deal. BWS rapper Juice got signed because he bulldozed through Game’s bodyguards to get his demo tape into Game’s hands. Lex Luger got on because he sent Waka 30 beats a day. In 1998, DJ Clark Kent heard Shyne freestyling in a barber shop and set up a deal. LL Cool J got signed by tirelessly sending out his demos to anything with a postal address. I could go on. But I choose not to. Because, well, you get the point.
As anyone can see, hip-hop is one of the most open areas available, with unlimited potential. Everyone is invited. Other fields include a lot of unfeasible requirements. One could be an amazing singer, but probably won’t become a pop star. There might be someone who is intelligent with political aspirations, but without connections, probably won’t be able to run for office. And in Hollywood, even if one is talented, his or her chances of making it onto a major movie are super-slim. But in hip-hop, if you’re good, creative, and relentless, you can make it.
Being good is the most important thing. At a university hip-hop symposium (at which Joe Budden was a no-show), I once heard an aspiring rapper ask DJ Cut what he had to do to get on. Cut responded with two words: “Be good.”
Terse, but true.
Although the aspiring rapper sighed, the point was made, as the audience nodded in agreement. Being good is the most important aspect of a rapper. Sure, any label can take an untalented rapper and make him big. But for the aspiring rapper stuck in his local open mic, being good is the first and foremost attribute one needs. If you’re going to peddle a product, make sure it’s good. And if you’re not good, then get to work. Keep writing and writing. And if you’re still not good, then open up a lemonade stand and stay the fuck out of hip-hop. There are enough wack rappers already. ☺
Now before you go ahead and say, “What about Soulja Boy, he’s wack and he made it big on his own,” I need to correct you. Soulja Boy isn’t wack. In fact, he’s everything that every aspiring rapper wants to be. He may not be a talented lyricist, but he made up for it with production, marketing, and creativity.
That leads to the next requirement to make it. Creativity. Soulja Boy admittedly boasts that he used to write names like 50 Cent and Britney Spears in his song titles to get more clicks. He came up with a catchy song and dance until he got on. SB made up for his lack of lyrical talent in what would be a marketer’s dream. He came up with a product that the buying public became attached to. Sure, he has faults. But he’s on.
The greatest thing about creativity is that anything can work. Fashawn got some PR when he announced that he would be redoing Illmatic with the same instrumentals. Crooked I probably got the Slaughterhouse call because of his dope once-a-week track for a year series. And Skillz just got a BET Awards cypher invite for next year from Stephen Hill, after he posted his own impressive BET-style cypher through Twitter.
If there’s an aspiring rapper out there who is nice but can’t seem to get on, then think outside the box. Camp outside of Def Jam’s offices with a stereo playing your music 24-7. Wait outside a major radio station and freestyle for every rapper who goes in and out. Break into the coat check room at the next BET Awards and slip your demo into all of the pockets. Make a mixtape of every Dre beat from the past 10 years with a verse on each track and send it to him. And if that sounds like too much work, maybe you don’t have the final ingredient.
If a normal job is from 9-5, then trying to make it in hip-hop is 24-7. Don’t stop until you get it. In life, one is much more likely to succeed if he or she is working toward a specific goal. Create that goal and do not stop until you get it. The worst thing one could do is give up. Because the second you stop, someone less talented will take your spot.
The most amazing thing is that it doesn’t matter what kind of history you have. I don’t care if you were in jail for eight years because you robbed a bank or if you received an outstanding citizen award from your local neighborhood watch. If you’re nice, you’re nice.
End of story.
No one can take that away from you. Look at Drake. Dude played a cripple in a wheelchair who never got any ass on a lame Canadian TV show and became the biggest hip-hop rookie since 50 Cent.
“Jaz made me believe this shit was real.”
Thank God that Jaz convinced Jay-Z to try hip-hop. This shit is real. Be true to yourself and don’t compromise on who you are. I’m proud to support hip-hop. I believe it is the realest, most authentic, straight up, raw to the bone art form in the world, because it lets the artist speak directly to the people. Where else can you get this? Just remember that it’s competitive, ruthless, and cutthroat. So be nice… on the mic.
Thanks for rocking with me for the whole week, y’all. I really appreciate the love. —Shlomo