The 3 Things You Need to Make It In This Rap Game


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.

Creativity works.

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.

Be relentless.

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

  • PHD

    excellent advice.

    But that “lame Canadian TV show” has a huge audience, over a decade on the air, a built in fan base spanning a huge demo (especially disposable income music buying teen girls) and is the lynch pin of a highly watched teen cable network.

    I think “played a cripple in a wheelchair who never got any ass” who actually rapped on the show helped a little.

    don’t you think?

    most would kill for that type of exposure.

    don’t let Saigon’s failure on Entourage fool you.

    • Shlomo

      Fuck you.

  • Jimminy

    This is a bit muddled.

    He says be good on the mic and repeats that, but the actual advice is be good AT MARKETING, be creative AT MARKETING, and market yourself relentlessly.
    That’s how come all these wack rappers are on, because they’re good at pushing themselves, so I don’t know why he adds the part about having to be nice on mic, but it’s not required, as you can tell just by switching on the radio.

    • http://www.ollimediaworks.com mrblackbox

      Marketing is the key
      followed by a team who can market
      followed by an artist who is marketable…
      the radio is over saturated with the same BS you here all day everyday…

  • http://www.thewatcherz.com Ricky Retardo

    I must say out of all the blogs you have written this is by far the best of the bunch. I tell cats all the time that in order for you to make it…you gotta 1st have the determination to willing to do anything to get in. don’t lose your self respect but don’t carry around foolish pride. the proof is in the pudding.

    Talent would only get you a foot in. your work ethic and overall grind will only further your chances. anything else is divine intervention.

    I wish i could share my story but i’ll wait till Nov 22. HFM2. copped that.

  • sb

    very good post

  • http://www.xxlmag.com/?p=96087 SMOKIN BLUNTS FAST

    HEll yea real good advice that shit inspired me even more to get ont he grind. GUD LUK

  • Malik

    I agree with what you wrote, but Soulja Boy is a bad example. Well, not bad, but he blew up because he made dance music. And dance is the ONLY type of music that never goes out of style.

    • posted up

      you kinda sorta defended soulja boy so guess what faggot? i wish death on you and your whole family fuck nigga

      i hope any children in your entire family tree are raped by homeless people and beaten to death

      fuck you for saying anything about the south that isnt pure dismisal

      eat shit faggot nigga

      • Poster Board

        ^^^^

        Someone is in serious need of a hug… and some pussy.

        Calm down, you crazy fuck. It’s an editorial, he can say whatever he wants. Don’t curse anyone’s family. Just for that, you’re going to lose something because karma is a bitch. For real.

        Also, fuck you for disrespecting the South. Half of the shit your favorite rappers do probably came from the south, hell most of the music you listen to has roots in southern music. Instead of being a fucking troll on a hip-hop website comment board, why don’t you read a book, you ignorant fuck.

        This is why Niggas can’t have nice things.

        • PVA

          @Poster Board: “This is why Niggas can’t have nice things.”

          Fuckin racist piece of shit! Get off this site white homo!

        • raekwon the chef from the wu tang clan yall already know what it is b i got the gold rolex on n all that son

          fuck you poster board

          slap the shit out you nigga

  • http://www.allianceofachievers.yolasite.com CULTUREBROWN

    GREETINGS,
    THAT WAS FOOD FOR THOUGHT. AND THE BRETHREN THAT ENDED CONCLUDED WITH UNDERSTANDING.AND THE BRETHREN THAT BROUGHT THE FOOD,WE DO RECEIVE. SO IF THIS IS A CULTURE, LET’S JOIN AS AN ALLIANCE. JOIN MY ALLIANCE OF ACHIEVERS TO CONVINCE THESE SUCCESSFUL ENGINEERS THAT ARE PAVING OUR CULTURE, TO SUPPORT US BACK RIGHT NOW. WE MEET, COME TOGETHER, AND PUT FUNDS TOGETHER. TO HELP US ALL, EVEN IF WE THINK WE DON’T NEED IT. BY: CONTACTING US,AND SPONSOR LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS WITHIN THE USA, THAT HELP INDIVIUALS AND FAMILIES PAY RENTAL AND UTILITY.CONNECT WITH US TO OPEN BUSINESSES AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING.UNTIL WE SERVE ATLEAST HALF OF THE MAJORITY,WHICH IS NOW THE MINORITY. WE CAN MEET TOMORROW,NO QUESTION… OH YEAH DON’T FORGET TO VOTE TUESDAY 9,2010

    • PUSSEE BEETAH

      whut

  • b.e.z.

    nigga fuck you

  • http://shlomo.posterous.com Shlomo (tha real one)

    thanks for the feedback and love fam.

    • Shlomo

      Quit using my name faggot. Adding “(tha real one)” doesn’t make you the real one.

  • Fabio

    ive read the stuff here at xxl for a while and your shit was by far the best ive ever read. you better put up some more good blogs cuz that fleischer douche is starting to piss me off with his boring crap.

  • tripul phat gewse

    i pimp hoez nigga
    aint bout no fuk shyt
    im frum dat miami nigga
    we push that powda nigga
    kill yo munke azz ova a pinny
    boom go da shotgun nigga
    mia nigga
    real nigga nigga
    kang a dis shyt

  • AYO

    YOU PUSSY

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  • culturebrown

    aYO, PARDON MY LANGUAGE BUT, FUCK aYO BACK! HE A RACIST SON! AND THOSE ARE THE TYPE OF PARENTLESS CHILDREN, THAT WE HAVE TO BUILD OR DESTROY. THEY ARE HELPING THE WHITE SUPREMEST IN POWER DESTROY US WITH THAT BRAIN WASHED MENTALITY. ONLY THING WE COULD USE THOSE LIKE THAT FOR, IS FRONT LINE MATERIAL SINCE THEY WANT TO STAND OUT WITH THERE REBELLIONS AND CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHEN THERE’S FOOD FOR THOUGHT TO BE RECEIVING. YOU WANNA DO SOMETHING, GET THE ONES WHO ARE TRYING TO DESTROY YOUR AS BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE. THEY GONNA TRY AND LOCK YOUR ASS UP, BUT YA DUMB AS CAN’T THINK OF NOTHING ELSE TO DO, USE THAT REBELLION LIKE HUEY P. NEWTON OR SOMEBODY.KNOW YOUR PLACE IN LIFE BRO. “A MAN THAT HAS NOTHING TO STAND FOR WILL FALL FOR ANYTHING.” AND BROTHER, YOU FALLING AS OF TODAY! IF YOU WANT THINGS TO CHANGE AFTER THIS WEEK, CONTACT WITH US FOR A REAL CAUSE TO CUSS AND FUSS FOR. PEACE OTHER LORDS…THIS NIGGA AT THE HATERS BALL, AND DUDE YOU CORNY!!!!

  • mellowvova

    real shit, this blog gave some good ideas so now ima grind harder.

  • CULTUREBROWN

    yALL DIDN’T VOTE RIGHT? I HOPE I DIDN’T THROW ANYONE OFF BY PUTTING NOV. 9th AS THE DATE FOR VOTING. BUT YOU NIGGAZ SHOULD OF KNOWN! THEY PLAYED IT ON TV SHIT! BUT THIS SHIT PISSES A NIGGA OFF BECAUSE I WASN’T ABLE TO FIND THE TIME TO GO OUT AND REMIND MY PEOPLE TO VOTE! YALL DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS DO YOU? THE REPUBLICANS HAVE TOOKEN OVER, WE ARE HEADING BACK INTO SLAVERY!!! SO WHAT NOW! WHO SIDE ARE YOU ON! YOU KNOW THEIR NEXT MISSION WILL BE TO STOP HIPHOP, FOR A RACE WAR. TO ERASE US SO THAT THEY CONTROL. LIKE THEY HAVE PLANNED! WHERE MY GODS AND EARTHS AT, MY BLACK CIVILS RIGHT LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS, FOLLOWERS OF HIPHOP, WHAT UP! RAPPERS, ACTORS, MAN YALL DON’T COME THROUGH ON THIS CAUSE, WITH ME, IF NO RAPPER WITH THE KNOWLEDGE RESPOND THEN YALL NIGGAZ WEAK AND HOPLESS!! HIPHOP WILL DIE! BUT IT WILL RECREATE, BUT NOT IN THIS DIMEION, MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE. YALL AINT TRUE TO MUSIC CAUSE YOU AIN’T TRUE TO YOURSELVES! YOU GET RICH AND FORGET WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT! HELP THE PEOPLE THAT OR IN THESE MINIRITY PLACE OF THE U.S. THAT ARE BEING PUNISHED BY THESE DEVILS! YALL AIN’T DOING SHIT FOR US! WE STILL OUT HERE STRUGGLING WITH THE DEVIL WHILE YALL ON TOUR MAKING MILLIONS TALKING ABOUT THE PEOPLE I LIKE CAUSE DIDN’T NO ONE HELP YOU SO YOU SAY FORGET THEM.WELL WHEN THEY START REALLY COMING DOWN ON US, YOU SEE YOUR PEOPLE WERE THE ONES WHO HELPED YOU GET THERE WERE YOU ARE. WHERE THERE IT WAS NEGATIVE OR POSITIVE IT WHAT PUSHED YOU! I BET HUEY, MALCOLM, MARTIN, ALL OUR MESSEGER THAT HAVE COME TO SHOW US HOW TO PREPARE AND COME TOGETHER ARE TURNING OVER IN THERE GRAVES WHEN THEY SEE AND HEAR YOU NEGATIVE ASS DOING IT FOR NOTHING JUST WANT TO BE CELEBRITIES! I WILL CONVINCE THE PEOPLE NOT TO WORSHIP IDOLS. ANSWER BACK THEN TRADERS…..

  • mellownova

    @culturebrown: yo i respect the cause bro but all these assholes on here arent gonna take these matters seriously. ignorance has our brothers blind so they turn to these fake ass rappers for guidance not even realizing they are falling into the plan. a revolution is neccesary and its up to us to spread the truth, when i say us i mean those who are willing to listen and accept the word and those who are true to the essence of hiphop, if enough people listened to underground rappers instead of these industry puppets, it would be a whole different game. and i feel that these matters should be discussed elsewhere for its irrelevant to this blog and we need the right minds to take part.

    but i will keep the grind alive! if i die trying im gonna take my talent and use it for the good of the people, i do it for the culture, HIP HOP WONT STOP!

  • CULTUREBROWN

    YOU COULDN’T SAID IT NO BETTER THAN THAT BRETHREN! SO CHECK US OUT AT http://www.allianceofachivers.yolasite.com, AND LET US KNOW…..

    • mellownova

      it seems to be a false link.

  • cise_life

    aint you that white nigga who be at the open mics?

  • R2j

    I think the music biz gets even more complicated than that. It gets real deep.
    Sure, you gotta be relentless getting in it but remember, it’s about what you do when you’re in it. It’s no longer about talent or marketing skills. The labels are going to look at 1 thing and 1 thing only. That’s money.

    And here’s how these labels and A&R’s will
    view ya:
    Can you be the next big thing?
    Can you sell records and make it go platinum?
    Will you make that label enough money?
    Will you sellout your own image to make more money?

    These are things you gotta be aware of. Plus, it’s very tough trying to get established artists these demos. I guess you gotta catch Game and Ye’ at a good time cause normally they either reject you, ignore you or take your demo and never hear it. I consider Big Sean and the others very very lucky. Especially trying to convince Kanye after he’s known for his untimable meltdowns. I guess what I’m saying is
    it’s not the fact that you have to be a good rapper and MC, you don’t have to be stellar at marketing and business. You gotta have that 1 thing and it’s Really special and that thing would be……. Luck.

  • http://drankanddank.blogspot.com drankanddank.blogspot.com

    That was a good post, he was articulate, and wrote with purpose.

  • CULTUREBROWN

    yo this is like my third time sending this messege go to my site from your browser! peace xxl is where it’s at.

  • http://www.TrackHustle.com/buybeats.php Indy Fontaine

    I love this article! You just inspired me to step my pen game up.

  • CULTUREBROWN

    i know RIGHT!?

  • http://www.youtube.com/justaphella Justa Phella

    3 things you need to stay in the game: Self Education (school or no school), Your own Hip Hop Movement that Defines you, & Last but not least, your love for your music…no gimmics…

    You don’t need to be signed to be in the game. Or this article needs to be retitled. You will get known by how much work you put in yourself, you don’t need a lable.

  • BrianRaider

    O My God! Shlomo I Dont Know U But Cot Damn! Profound Is All I Can Say! Fuckin Profound. It Was Meant For Me To Read This! I Will Keep All This In Mind! ButSometimes … Well I Wrote U Guys And Explained This. I Need Fuel… And Its Not Too Many… Well The Gas Stations Around Here Think They Are Fuckin gods Or God’s Gift. Fuckin Bitches. Well Anyways Thank U For This!