Be Careful About What You Sign… Or Don’t Sign

“I’m not a businessman,

I’m a Business, Man

Let me handle my business, damn”

– Jay-Z (“Diamonds (Remix)”)

Jay-Z said it best; that’s probably why he’s one of the greatest musicians of our time. So many artists these days claim to be “about their business” or call themselves “businessmen,” but in reality, what do most of these guys really know about business? Do they know their tax ID number? Did they know which forms and licenses to obtain before starting a label? Most importantly, do they know the difference between a partnership and an LLC? The answer to these questions is probably not many.

Meet Pill. The Atlanta-based rapper signed (or not… more on that in a minute) to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group (MMG) via Warner Bros. Records has recently expressed his frustration with both labels due to the lack of promotion of his music. For those who don’t know, most artists generally make these claims. In reality, whose fault do you think it is; the artist or the label? Let’s assume the answer is the artist. Even though you think your music is good, or relevant, it’s probably not if nobody is attracted to it. Additionally, you should probably seek new management and establish a team who will guide you in the right direction. (See my article Hip-Hop’s New Business Model for more information)

Back to Pill. In his defense, he did have a single in 2009 that gained him attention from the labels, but it ultimately didn’t do that well. Once Warner Bros. picked him up, they placed him with Rick Ross in hopes of advancing his career. This worked for a few months (beginning February 2011), and Pill was featured on the crew’s debut album, MMG Presents: Self-Made Vol. 1 (Released in May 2011), but after that, you rarely saw him with the rest of the team. To those who follow Ross’ career this is odd since Meek Mill and Wale, also new acquisitions to Maybach Music, are always seen with the MMG team.

L to R: Pill, Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Wale

Fast forward to January 2012. Pill takes to his Twitter page to vent his frustrations with all parties involved. First bad move. The following day, he told MTV News that he doesn’t speak with Rick Ross and was actually never signed to MMG!!! Second bad move and most likely a lie.

Good luck ever hearing a song from Pill on your TV or radio in the future!

There are so many reasons as to why Pill messed up by deciding to speak his mind. But instead of writing out the laundry list of reasons, I’ll make it short and simple because ALL up and coming artists should follow this advice:

  • READ, READ, READ – contracts are more than just a piece of paper, they are your life
  • Understand the business, before you enter the business
  • DO NOT shout out your “Jewish lawyer” in your songs just because it sounds cool, ACTUALLY USE HIM!
  • Respect those who have given you an opportunity and remain humble
  • If you have a problem with your label, tell them, not your Twitter followers
  • Focus on the music and your brand, let your management/lawyer/accountant do the rest
 Just because your able situation may be bad doesn’t mean you don’t have the opportunity to make it right. Longevity is key, get to work and stop complaining!

… And Pill, being signed to MMG doesn’t seem to be too bad if Wale had the #2 album in the country in November and Meek Mill is one of the most talked about artists in hip-hop.

Update: Popular Memphis rapper Yo Gotti is doing the same thing!

“Holla at my Jewish lawyer

To enjoy the fruit of lettin’ my cash stack.”

– Jay-Z (“No Hook”)

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