For our 12th Anniversary issue, XXL came up with a 12 Step Program for rappers to improve their chances in this ailing music industry. Steps included: Negotiate a contract that makes sense for you, do your own marketing, and stay out of jail. Along with the steps, we spoke to a “sponsor” who offered advice for each; they also provided their own suggestions on how to get the rap game back in tip-top shape. Below are their personal steps.

Pick up the September issue for the complete package and to see the full interviews from each sponsor.

FLO RIDA: “In order to be a great leader you must be a great follower. I feel artists of today and the new up-and-coming artists/producers need to study the history of music. You should never feel afraid to try new things.”

MAINO: “Some of the elder rappers need to step aside. Out wit the with the new!”

MALICE: “The Internet could either be the demise of your career or it can propel your career. So you need to just try other avenues of making yourself available and accessible to the people. You can’t just wait on the record company to do everything. Just do everything that you can for yourself. Even in our hiatus, [the Clipse] were putting out mixtapes and doing a lot of shows and just staying busy where the record company couldn’t help us.”

PRODIGY: “People need to be unique. That is the key: being yourself. Not following what everybody does. Just because you hear Jay-Z ‘swagger’ doesn’t mean you gotta say it a million times, call your record company Swagger, now you got rappers named swagger and you got clothes called swagger. Stop following what people do so much! Everybody tryna copy what everybody else is doing and say what everybody else is saying, dress how everybody else is dressing, cut your hair like everybody else got they hair cut, do this, everybody got a fuckin’ Mohawk, everybody got the peasy afro, everybody got the fuckin’ Ray Bans on… Yo cut it out. Be unique and that will save muthafuckin’ music.”

SLIM THUG: “Focus on the music and give people a quality album instead of just hit songs. It ain’t like it used to be when you had a few greats. People get lucky ’cause it’s more muthafuckas who can record on a fucking computer. Anybody can do it now, so people lucking out and having a hit song but that’s all they got. So if an artist focus on the music and give people a solid album full of good songs, its not only gon’ give em longevity in the game but it’s gon’ give em that quality brand.”

MICKEY FACTZ: “Rappers need to be themselves. Now, there’s a ton of clones in the industry and nobody really wants to try to improve what’s going on in music especially in hip-hop, I think the stage shows aren’t creative enough. I think it’s just a lot of the same thing over and over again instead of innovative situations.”

BOOSIE: “It’s gon’ be hard to improve the rap game ’cause computers done took over the rap game, really. Putting out mixtapes and putting out more music will help the rap game instead of just one album every couple years. When I do my mixtapes, I do ’em myself and ship ’em to a distributor.”

BUN B: “Destroy the World Wide Web. It's made consumers and artists too lazy and compromising.”

WENDY DAY: “Do the homework. Learn how the industry works inside and out.”

CORTEZ BRYANT: “Build up your management before your deal. That only makes you more attractive. If you got a banger and a good team to work it, put together a marketing plan to establish what kind of artist you’re going to be. Establish your brand. From there, that’s when you go get a contract.”

JOELL ORTIZ: “Surround yourself with people who believe in you as much—if not more—than you do. People who believe in you as a person. Sky’s the limit from there, because when you got people that push for you on days when you’re discouraged, tired or ready to give up, nothing will ever stop you. You are your team. I have a machine team—me, Mike Heron and Dennis Wynn. It’s been us three the hard way since the beginning, and that’s not gonna change.”—Clover Hope