The hip hop nerd got serious. Here, he talked to several hip-hop industry executives about the lack of major label talent development. And how it’s hurt hip-hop.
It’s been said by many Hip-Hop fans. The Hip-Hop game isn’t what it used to be. The creativity isn’t there. The talent isn’t the same…or it’s lower. Too many one-hit wonders or ringtone artists. Too many dance songs. Not enough, or any emphasis on real MCs.
All of those complaints are valid. But, the reason behind the complaints is one that not many have looked at or talked about. The lack of development of talent is what’s hurting the industry. Rappers (and singers too) aren’t built by the industry anymore. Example: Years ago, a kid could rap in a barber shop. He would get heard or discovered by a record exec, signed to a deal, and then the exec and the A&R assigned to the kid’s project would take the time to craft the artist’s songs and image. Not only for success, but long-term success. Yup. There used to be rappers who made four of five albums.
Not so much anymore. When an artist gets signed, first, they have to have “buzz”. Internet buzz, regional buzz, BDS spins buzz. Only then will a rapper get signed. Kyambo Joshua, A partner in the management firm Hip-Hop Since 1978 (they manage Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Kanye West, and Young Jeezy), said this about the new “scouting, ” Most of the development is done before hand. When a artist get to the point of having a hit record Or a regional fan base, that was probably done by a small group of people before it got to the majors”
Dave Lighty, who was once the Senior Director of A&R for Jive Records, and is now the Independent A&R/CEO of OdLight LLC (and a member of the powerful Lighty family Hip-Hop music dynasty) confirmed the new requirements for getting signed. ” Nowadays a lot of labels now expect the artist to come in with a buzz and have a foundation.”
Hatim Jean-Louis, A&R of Clockwork Music, a digital promotions/management firm, added, ” Some artists, when they get picked up such as Drake or 50 Cent, their buzz is amazing, major companies need to focus on marketing and promotion more than growth and development, compared to an upcoming MC.” Jean-Louis continued, ” Yes, the mix-tape circuit is one avenue that one can be entertained, but it’s not the last. Nowadays it’s more than a hot verse and hot mix-tape, how many views on YouTube, are you getting placement on the blog sites etc… The digital game allows one to maximizes one sales potential.”
When the rapper does sign, the label only promotes and releases the rappers music. But, there’s no development. No coaching. But why is this? Why does the business model have to be this way? Lighty explained,” Unfortunately it’s all about dollar and cents. The economy isn’t the same as it used to be when the label could spent money to develop a artist and get the return back on record sales.Sales are at an all time low the past few years, so the labels look for artists who are already developed and have a
hit and that’s very few or they find those one hit wonders which come come a dime a dozen. ”
Joshua gives his opinion, ” Major label executive spot trends more then develop them. Most of the good music come from small companies then get pick up by big company. Something like Death Row, Bad Boy, Roc A Fella, Ruff Ryda, etc. The focus that companies like this put into the music and the marketing can not be duplicated by a major so they just pick it up. ”
Jean-Louis had his take on the matter, ” The people who are making decisions in the business, don’t have the knowledge of the game, for some their Hip-Hop started with 2Pac & Biggie.” Jean-Louis added, ” We all have seen the transition in 50 Cent, Jim Jones these guys are one of the few, it seems like the new execs don’t have the tolerance for a Camron when kids like Souljah Boy are competing digitally. ”
When faced with the stark realities of the game, one has to wonder, will the game ever go back to the way it was? When Russell Simmons, Diddy, and Suge Knight were the boardroom genius that ran things? As a matter of fact, where are the new execs that can take the Hip-Hop industry to a new level? Are they out there, and we just don’t know about them? Lighty said on the subject, ” While the times are changing, the moguls that came about in the 80 and 90s have had extreme longevity and made incredible music along with keeping up with the pace of the music industry. I think that there are many outstanding new execs out there. Some are overstated and understated, and most working for your list of star execs. So it is possible for you to know them or not. I think that’s based on each individual and the companies they may work for.”
Jean-Louis stated, ” There will never ever be another Russell Simmons. We are taking about the standard, the first Exec. In comparison to Michael Jackson, there will never be another man that shaped and shifted pop culture. During the era’s of the 80’s & 90’s, hip-hop culture was primarily found in the urban settings of America. Now the 21st Century the business has changed in hip-hop, a musical genre that once was a sub-culture basically under the radar 30 years ago has now became a mainstream genre and billion dollar business, so people such as Damon Dash to Rick Rubin who had the passion and drive aren’t the faces anymore”
For any Hip-Hop heads who are looking for a nugget of optimism, Jean-Louis says this, ” Some execs and artists exceed expectations, and have the drive and aptitude to succeed.” Joshua chimes in about which labels can put out good rap music, ” Some labels are good at artist development like Interscope Def Jam and Atlantic. They have a hip hop background and understand”
This article originally appeared at Examiner.com.
Photo – Ally Aubry/Flickr