Art Director MC

Dear Rapper

Dear Rapper #7: Don’t worry about what they say

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Ted Clayton. Ben Famous.  Harvest Works NYC, 2013

 

 

I know, I know…everyone has an opinion. I know, I know…music is changing.

I know, I know…you’re supposed to be a certain age. I know,I know…you need to sound more like him to be relevant.

I know….I just dont care.

Rap music was always about self expression and more than anything the narrative behind your journey. If there is anything people respect its hard work and dedication (copyright Money Team lol).  If you love music and are truly dedicated to this journey keep creating. I go against the grain on most things and thats what makes me unique, I also go against the grain when it comes to the age issue.

PushaT1

 

Case in point: Pusha T says in a recent record that he is 36. Thats a revelation considering that it has become the norm for rappers to lie about their age and profess to be younger to “seem” more appealing or in tune with the hip hop generation. Lmao! The hip hop generation is timeless, thats why Pusha is regarded so highly he could care less what you think about him…check Wrath of Caine mixtape he has a song about it, ha!

See the real truth at hand is the neverending question. Do you love this? Love is a strong word and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I know alot of heads who “like” to rap but that doesn’t mean they love it. You may “like” making songs and the attention it brings when you mention whatever project you been working on, but if you love this…it’s in your bloodstream. You can’t hide it and truth be told you shouldn’t want to.

So grab your rhyme books and turn off the tv and the radio…focus on being yourself and being creative, that’s what the game needs man. We don’t need any clones…just be you. If you can tune in to your zone and create something special and fearlessly share it with the world regardless of what people may say or think about it, your a rebel and a true artist. Be that. 

Just don’t forget to ask yourself that question first…”Do I love this?”

 

I love this. Amen.

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Dear Rapper #6 – Learn how to freestyle

Look fam, this rap thing is getting polluted. There are alot of pretenders running in our ranks and skimming fans, when in actuality they have no charisma, character or “it factor”. I’m tired of these dudes. Very, rarely do I get to engage into a freestyle session with an artist, but when I do,can you at least freestyle…for real???

No apologies.

I don’t want to hear a rehearsed written, thats the most boring thing that I could possibly sit through as an MC myself. Especially when your written isn’t even all that creative. Now, I gotta stand there as you spit on me and step on my sneakers in an attempt to wild out, while I pretend to care about what you are saying.

I write close to 30 hooks a week, how is that possible? Simple, I freestyle. I know how to bridge myself from concept to concept on the fly and I’m comfortable with my own flow. This allows me to just open my mouth and let the thoughts fly, instead of contemplating for days on what to say and how to say it. It happens for me, I don’t have to force it.

If you want to be a supermagnetic MC, I suggest you put some serious effort into stepping your freestyle game up. Rap over TV commercials, rhyme on techno beats, listen to 98.7 kiss fm and freestyle over oldie classics like Ghostface does on his albums. Everything doesn’t have to be murderous or gangster, be like water man, do what the track calls for.

Just DO something, stop forcing them 5 year old rehearsed battle raps that do not fall into context with the current situation you are freestyling in. You ever notice why people around you look a little uncomfortable, thats cus you are freestyling at a house party but rhyming about shooting someone on a dark corner in your hood. Cmon son…

Below is a candid behind the scenes audio file of a song being written on the fly in GDM studio. This track will appear on Megatron Bombs. The final concept is based off of what you are about to hear. Nothing changed. Simply because I’m comfortable freestyling. This method has helped me create a lot of fly tracks.

Towards the end I begin to celebrate, because I realized Gramz was recording me. lol. I wasn’t happy because I think I’m cool….I was happy because now I can go back and listen to my stream of consciousness and the song is written for me. The best rhymes are the ones you dont force…Believe that.


Dear Rapper #5 – The Hunger

 

"I still function..."

 

Welcome to 2011. A time when everyone is a genius.  We are in the land of the “know it alls” and the “do it yourself’ers”…

 

Basically, its hard to impress people. I began my rap career solely on the foundation that I was…“impressive”.  I can freestyle with a consistency that sounds written, I’m blessed with a sharp mind that allows me to do that. I can control my vocals and “1 take” in the studio, this was a necessity, I mean studio time is expensive…get it right and get out of the booth, right?  I have no fear of crowds so my stage performance is live, I get people loose and eventually bring them in so that they become apart of the show.

These were qualities that used to impress people…way back in 2001 when I started recording seriously. Now, different things impress rap fans.  It’s not necessary to get on a soap box about how music has changed and start blabbing my opinions on what “nice” is, and how wack shit gets a ton of press and attention, and about how brainwashed people are becoming…The point I am trying to get at is…

“Trying to impress people with your talent isn’t going to help you on this journey anymore.”

Wierd right? I mean, thats why I love to rhyme. I just wanted to show everyone how good I was at it. It was supposed to be that simple. Things are more complicated now. You have people who live to critique. They don’t go out on a mission of discovery and wonder, when it comes to listening to artists music or seeing them perform. Instead, they are watching and waiting for you to show your inevitable humanity. They want to see you fail, then they can blog about it and share the fuck ups with their friends via social network all the while bragging about how they know what real talent is. Welcome to 2011.

This is the future and if you intend on taking your design, brand, skill, style or whatever, onward into the future you have to make sure you never become obsolete. Otherwise you are useless and useless artists starve.

So what is an MC to do?

I recommend being yourself.

Strange? I know. I just gave you a rundown of how traditional skills don’t impress people, and here I am telling you to stay with those traditional skills…Stay with me, I’m about to make a point.

You’re talent is eternal and if you have a good voice and an ill flow. You most likely are a good rapper. There is nothing wrong with your gift, its your mindset thats going to decide whether or not…you still function. See when you are a talented artist, most of your motivation comes from those around you and their encouragement. It’s their belief in you that can put the battery in your back, and help you grind. When the people around you change, and they will, that motivation may disappear and you get fewer and fewer people pushing you. This is when an artist can “fall off”. The environment of music and media is colder now, less people want to give you a chance, less people want to discover you, less people will OFFER interest. This is where mind has to overcome matter.

If you give in to the negativity that is our scene…your music will lose steam and your art will “fall off” along with your motivation. You have to dictate your own demand, you have to make up peoples minds for them. You have to grind.

By continuing to be yourself and create…even when you feel like fuck it. Even when you feel like, there is no point. You have to get your art out and you have to continue making it available. You have to be your own biggest fan. Through will and effort, you will discover fans instead of hoping for them to discover you.  This hunger will carry you through, it will make your journey meaningful.

In other words, keep making your art, continue trying to evolve and believe.

Most of all…Continue to function.

Peace.

 

 


Dear Rapper #4 Dont let the bloggers run you

So yeah, fresh off my birthday…I had many convos with many deep thinkers in various types of “cyphers” and I feel like sharing a little insight with the masses.

The blog game got you rappers caught up…lets start at the beginning.

Rappers need(crave) exposure….enter a new blog site that has hundreds of comments on each post, it looks like the sterling opportunity to get your new song heard and make some new fans. So you search the blog, find who the authors are and you craft a friendly email that basically says, “Put me on this blog please”.  You wait for a response, and you play it from there.

Time passes…

This blog you submitted to, has more established artists in their posts and you really want to be mentioned with that company, you also hope to skim off some of the fans and get some of that interest and revenue coming your way…what do you do? You craft another email, more professional in press release format, for some blog love and you wait and see if your music surfaces on the site.

Time passes…

That blog site you love and the bloggers whom you have come to worship and mention in the comments you strain to leave( and pray they dont get moderated because they include a link to your soundclick page) have now added sponsorship…their site is looking major and you really want in, so not only do you check back 500 times a day to see if they posted your joint, you are now enamored in the glamour of it all.

Side effect…

Not only have you demoted yourself from artist to “Aspiring artist” by whoring your integrity out, you have also catapulted the blog writer from random internet dude to a “Rap God” whose approval you require to have some sort of relevance within the community that surrounds the site.

You need to navigate this shit bruh. Lets understand the machine.

You’re favorite blog will post a rapper whom you honestly dont personally like, but you see the hoard of comments they have so you not only download their song, but you become an evangelist for that guy, in hopes to affiliate yourself and be in the loop…in other words you dont want to be classified as a hater.

Thats an oxymoron…the blog writers are the biggest haters. These guys have taken a position of disdain for artist trying to establish themselves and advertise music. They refer to you guys as “rapsters”. I recently read one write up from a very smug blogger who described his visit to FatBeats as a journey into “a festival of super hungry corny rapsters who will do anything to give you their mixtape and network.” He goes on to clown the guys who have cameras trying to film the event, and says they are basically amateurs and a waste of space.

If someone feels that way about you, why in the hell would you even campaign for their support or friendship.

If you view the comments sections of these blogs on a strictly shallow level, you may see 100 comments here, 50 comments there and think, “Wow, this particular artist must be very popular.” Should you have the guts to click and read the comments you will see that of the 100 comments there are 40 people putting the artist down in an insulting way, 20 comments that have nothing to do with anything, 15 comments dissing certain people who commented, 15 people advertising their own shit and 10 comments actually showing fan support.

That makes those 100 comments seem alot less valuable now in the grand scheme, dont you think?

Now lets duplicate this experience across the web…

If you have ever noticed, the commercial blog sites mirror one another. Almost identical posts with a sprinkle of in house posts and a dash of “Im cool with this rapper” posts. You are on the outside looking in…but what do you want to be? Do you want to be a “Rapster” kissing the ass of each blogger or do you want to establish yourself?

Think deeply about this before you attend these bloggers events and before you lobby for their support and especially before you base your own success around if these people “notice you” and mention you.

In the end, you may gain a little exposure before your post is pushed out of public view and lost forever to the archives, but you dont win…the blogger wins.

Your clicks and retweets bring them traffic which they gain payment from due to them having sponsors…and every song you download from the artists they toss at you makes them money.  Those download sites they use to “leak” songs to the consumer actually pays the host for the traffic. So, not only are you making stars out of people who probably would get no respect from any real rap dude, you are making them rich and feeding their ego at the same time. Doesn’t make sense, the artist is supposed to shine. Because he is the one with the talent.

So basically what Im saying is…WE NEED TO TAKE OUR POWER BACK.

Stop hating…get involved. Advertise yourself, learn the business yourself, support yourself and cater to the people who actually like your music. The rest of the shallow blogg-ites will join your following when they catch on…which is usually late. You just need the courage to hang around and keep making quality music until it happens. These blog cats are cornballs…the cool ones will not make you grovel at their feet to support your music. If you make good songs, people with good taste should support it. If these clowns are posting music that you know sucks and getting paid to perpetuate that cycle, the last thing they need is for you to kiss their ass and inflate their unnecessary ego…

By the way, writing is an art…these guys have bad grammar and dont even know how to evaluate talent. In all actuality they are the amateurs and they need to be put in their place, which is what I make sure to do…often.

In closing, all i can say is: Stand on your own two..and be you.

Good luck…superstar.

“Out of place amongst the hipsters and the bloggers/ but Im in the same places with the hipsters and the bloggers.” – (c) Ben Famous


Dear Rapper #3 Stop hating…

Jersey City, NJ

Hating is getting played out. Actually its corny. If you can position yourself to wonder about someone elses success and how it is possible…then you can focus that same energy on yourself. That’s where it needs to be if you gonna make it out here, trust me these labels ain’t in no hurry to pay you to be good at rap. Game dont work like that. Make yourself…anyways, let me continue…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at shows and showcases(fuckery) full of rapperers and a small amount of listeners, (backwards I know) who only have energy for their friends and associates. When the other artists that they are not aware of perform, they give half hearted claps or talk over the performance, without even giving the person a chance.

I can understand the mindset, because I HAVE IT. The only difference is that, “I am not a hater.”

By respecting everyones music, you respect yourself. The biggest hurdle for any unsigned artist (if you want to be signed) is attracting that initial attention. Noone likes to be the first person to show up at a party, so you have to understand that these trendy neo hipsters will never be your “first” fan. Until someone else cosigns you or until someone becomes your fan first, they will pretend to be aloof to how dope your sound may be. This is life homey…don’t try to compensate by adopting that mind state. (I deal with it by collecting listeners, who later on become fans. Shooting for fans right away is hard, cus people dont have their own mind…they need to be told or shown what to like…thats why I love my listeners…and my readers!)

Hopefully, in the future you will be on tour and you will have to coexist with a number of artists, all diverse and from different genres…if thats the case, do you think its gonna be cool to front on them when their fans are bleeding over to your fanbase?

Nah…

So take it from someone who has performed at many Soho dives and underground “secret” cool places, that are supposed to be cutting edge. Its better to be cool than be a hater…

I remember performing at Sputnick in Brooklyn, and a certain skinny jean advocate saw me backstage and gave me the “what are you doing here” face…(with me its always an issue cus people know my music, and they know me. They just never know how I end up where they are, cus in their world, I aint supposed to be up on that…Bitch, I’m me!!…you gon’ learn)…I responded with the “I’ll slap the shit out of you face” AND STILL…extended my hand and offered peace and a good luck wish…thats how I roll. Hate is bad for the system.

As I performed dude tried his best to ignore my set in his attempt to be “cooler”..until the end where the audience response was undeniable and he had to clap like everyone else. Hypocrite…smh, don’t be that guy. Be your own person…stop hating and enjoy hip hop…if a dude is wack, let him rap. Me and a certain tastemaker have been known to chant “Let him rap!” belligerently at shows…everyone deserves their shine if they have the balls to step on stage…they may not get a second chance so let’em have their moment. Aight?…cool.

One time this rapper(not rapperer) said “I buy CD’s cus of Rap Karma…if I buy they shit…people gonna buy mine. If I’m willin to listen, I know people gonna listen to me.” I agree wit that idea to this day, especially if I have the patience to listen….I have been reapin the benefits of that because every time I check my numbers…I got a new listener every day. Thats love, not hate.

Peace.


Dear Rapper #2 Get your own gear…

I think the most important lesson I have learned in this music life, its that you need your own equipment. You can spend a lot of time and money trying to record in a professional studio somewhere and enjoy the benefits of blunt smoke, liquor drinking and women making you feel like a real “rap star” but in the end you suffer the consequence of a big bill and little to show for it.

Nice lab right? Can you say $2500 a session? Are you Celine Dion...No? I thought so.

I have a formula for the studio. I already have the songs Im recording rehearsed and arranged. I have the beat tracked out in Pro Tools so I can mix during the session. I write down notes and mark where i want certain effects and additions…most of all i show up on time. Thats just how I work. Ive been blessed to record in several Major Studios (That I wont name to protect the interests of those who snuck me in, lol). Mainly what Im saying is, I treat the studio with respect. Its expensive but necessary so Im not going to waste time. In this respect time really IS money. I always(most of the time) leave the session satisfied because I was prepared.

But there is a grey area…

The engineer may not have the proper plugins…or the gear might act up, there may be someone already there going in over your time, might even be a situation where the engineer is late and he fucks up your hustle. I mean, if you like me, you have places to be at specific times…I HATE WAITING. Regardless, the inconvenience ends up with you paying for something and not getting exactly what you want.

Thats why you need your own gear.

Dont get me wrong…A home recording, no matter how well set up, is never going to match the fidelity that a true recording studio with the proper soundproofing treatments can provide. But you can get muF*ckin close if you have the skill! You can also get your game tight for free! Instead of stumbling over verses or rushing your punchlines because you are trying to beat the clock, you can relax and focus on your performance. Now I’m not gonna sit here and tell you how to rap, I’m just trying to motivate you to save some of that recording budget you accumulated from moonlighting and grinding, and put it to good use. When you get your own gear, you can record when you want and at the pace you want. This is only gonna make you a better artist. When it’s time for the big test and you step into that Pro Studio, you will feel at home and ready. I just hope you nice…no studio can fix wackness my dude.

Pretty much what I'm trying to get my lab like. I want a booth though.

What I have at my own secret lair so far:

Shure Sm27-LC

Pro Tools 8

M-Audio BX8 Speakers

MacBook Pro

Mogami Cables

Partial Soundproofing on opposing walls and above mic


Dear rapper #1

Fact: Self sufficiency is your friend.

People dont want to solicit the idea of “amateur”. It doesn’t interest them like it used to. Now we have everything at the touch of a finger, via mobile phones, twitter, facebook and the like. Your potential listener has been spammed by so many “up and coming” “all new” rappers and singers its crazy. They dont have time for it anymore. They would rather tweet endlessly to an ocean of eyes than spend 45 seconds waiting for some unknowns myspace page to load up. The reason artists pop out of nowhereville and fill your unsigned hungry ego with “fan envy” is because they are already packaged. Regardless of how nice an artist is or how well they put a song together, its easier to gain a fan when you present them with something fan worthy.

So please….rethink your demo, how its mastered and how you market it. Im not sure if guys want to accept your 1 sleeve jewel case with a CD-R inside over some dude who is on Itunes with a trailer for his mixtape. We know the blog game is tainted and we know that insiders are pushing some of these new guys on you as self made, when in actuality they are designed by a hidden label. Its this idea that gives you your power back.

So go in the lab, pay for some quality beats and mixing, pay for a video and lobby to every media outlet you can.

or..DO IT YOURSELF, GRIND!!!

I prefer to do it myself, but I have an interesting skill set that you will come to know. Either way, get it done. No complaining…keep pushing.

p.s. then again…there is always the cosign.