As you may be aware, the homie EJ recently wrote a blog called “The New York Hip-Hop Scene Is Bullshit” in which he had some pretty harsh things to say. Obviously frustrated by a lack of fanfare in the birthplace of Hip Hop, he went as far as wishing that those who didn’t come out to shows would get ran over repeatedly by a bus, bitches (his words). Now, I understand you’re just trying to rile people up, E… but I won’t wish that on people. Not a bus. Maybe a two-door Coupe de Ville. But not a bus.
In all seriousness, I understand where he’s coming from. We’ve had conversations about this. The first step to fixing a problem is to acknowledge that it exists, and I think we can all pretty much agree that NYC Hip Hop is on life support (other regions as well, but New York is the mecca). Yes, the fans’ refusal to come to shows has a lot to do with it. This relates to the “chicken-and-the-egg” argument about buying music and serves as a microcosm of the entire music industry. Consumers say they no longer support artists since their output isn’t good enough. Unfortunately, even the good artists are affected by this trend: They stop putting their all into the music since people aren’t going to support it anyway. In the end, no one wins. I often hear, “CD sales may be down, but at least artists can still make money off shows.” When people stop coming to shows, it’s easy to see why we’d be tempted to put the mic down and get behind that wheel. Don’t do it, E. Not just yet anyway.
IF YOU’RE A FAN…
Here’s my plead to the fans: Support the artists you like.
As much as we like to hear how much you love us, that doesn’t pay our bills. You may look at it as a selfish thing on our behalf, but it really isn’t. More than anything else, we want to do our part to entertain you and improve the state of music. Unfortunately, we can’t do that without tangible support. I’m always hearing things like, “I wish more people like you would make it to the mainstream.” Don’t wish. Do something about it! You know that business is all about the bottom line. Record companies (ie, the corporations with the real money and influence to impact change directly) are only concerned with numbers. By purchasing my album, you’re not just putting money in my pocket so that I can continue to make music, you’re also showing the industry that there’s a demand for good Hip Hop music — every sale gets scanned and tallied.
I realize I’m largely preaching to the choir since many of you reading this have already bought my album, but if you haven’t: What the hell are you waiting for? And it isn’t just mine you should be buying. It’s any artist you like and want to see succeed.
More than that, come to the shows. Some people are going to claim that they don’t have money for a CD (lame as that may be), but everyone goes out sometimes. Let’s stop with the excuses. If an artist you like is doing a show in your area, go. I’m tired of people telling me they’re my “number one fan” yet I have not once seen their face at a show. Conversely, there’s a dude from Baltimore named Brian (what up, Truplaya?!) who has traveled to see me perform in THREE states — NY, PA, and MD — joined the street team, purchased every project I’ve released since day one, and not once claimed to be my “number one fan.” Don’t tell me you love me. Show me.
The power to turn this around is in YOUR hands. I think people are short-sighted and don’t understand how their contribution makes a difference to the big picture. Barack Obama just became the first African-American to be nominated for President by a major party. He beat the machine because people believed that every vote counted. Which leads me to my next point…
IF YOU’RE AN ARTIST…
Artists, don’t half-ass it.
Senator Obama was only able to beat the machine because he convinced people that he could. I’m not going to try to convince you that you aren’t the next great hope, but give people reason to be excited. There’s a reason fans aren’t buying music and coming to shows anymore. Yes, it’s easy to get discouraged, but it’s our job to turn up the heat. Use the recession as inspiration. This game is ripe for the picking.
Now, beyond those vague pointers, there are fundamental things you keep doing wrong. First of all, stop empowering these wack “promoters” by paying them money to perform (this includes audition fees, having to sell tickets to your friends, and any other scam they can cook up). Have some respect for yourself. You’re the artist. Your job is to entertain. The promoter’s job is to promote. Sounds crazy, right? I’m not saying you’ll cake off every show, and you should absolutely promote yourself, but don’t be conned into doing someone else’s job for him. The reason I stress this is because this has much to do with the Hip Hop scene going to shit. I’ve not once paid anybody to get on stage. It’s always been the other way around. And if you’re thinking, “Yeah, but Pi, you’re signed to a label that was a subsidiary of Universal with gold and platinum albums, you’ve been on MTV, you’re a star,” consider this. Back in 2004, when my biggest claim to fame was producing some songs that got played on the radio in the Bahamas, I was getting paid $500 to do college shows. Don’t believe me? Here’s a paystub:
If the thought of anyone paying you money to do your thing on stage seems weird, step your game up. If you aren’t able to perform your songs live (adlibbing over your recorded tracks like a fool doesn’t count), you aren’t ready to take the stage. If you don’t have original production, you aren’t ready to take the stage. No one wants to see you do karaoke. If you don’t know how to engage a crowd and give them their money’s worth, elevate your craft. My first show was in January 2002. I recorded my first song in 1999. I waited three years before I got on stage because I wanted to be ready, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When I did think it was time to get on stage, I flew myself to Tallahassee to perform with people more experienced than me in front of a Hip Hop crowd who could give me some real feedback. Why? Because I cared about what I did. Granted, I was a little tentative my first time and didn’t have much showmanship, but I held it down. Running drills won’t get you the same experience as spending time on the court, but that doesn’t mean you should skip training and start as a pro. The difference between me and many artists is that they haven’t been doing it three years and already think they’re entitled to be a star. Pay your dues.
If artists took their craft more seriously, the fans would come back. Quite honestly, if more artists realized what was expected of them to be an artist, many of them would go back to being fans themselves. This is a full time job. How are you gonna treat it like a side hustle and expect people to spend their hard-earned money on it? Even when I get on stage in front of a crowd full of haters who wished they were in my position, they grudgingly show love because I’m well trained in the art of moving the crowd. There is not one group of people on the planet who I can’t get to shout “I’m getting head from my homegirls” back at me, and I take pride in that.
For real, son. I could do a show at the Vatican and get that response.
So, the solution is two-fold. One, fans need to support the artists they like (buy my album, bitches), and two, artists need to stop being douchebags and try harder. There’s no reason to keep your arms folded and front like you should be in my shoes. You shouldn’t. Or else you would be. I worked hard to get where I’m at, and I’m still working harder than you now. Embrace that fact and leave this alone, or step it up and provide that healthy competition that kept us all hungry in the good ole days. Then we’ll start seeing more fans at shows with their hands up, rushing to the merchandise table between acts.
Let’s make Hip Hop fun for everyone again.