Old 50, New Generation

“The rap game is all fucked up now, what are we gonna do now?
How we gonna eat man? 50 back around”

– 50 Cent (“Back Down“)

During the summer of 2010, I was given an opportunity of a lifetime; a chance to intern for 50 Cent and his record label, G-Unit Records. Although many who know me well know about my time at G-Unit, it’s an experience I rarely discuss in great detail, simply for two reasons. One, I would rather show you what I learned rather than tell you. Two, when 50 Cent talks, you listen and absorb. Confidentiality is also important. With that being said, 50 Cent’s headline making antics over the last two weeks do not surprise me. After all, all press is good press, right?

Me and 50 Cent (Summer 2010)

Me and 50 Cent (Summer 2010)

Despite being a commercially successful, worldwide superstar, from a music perspective 50 Cent is a new artist in 2014. The days of gorilla style marketing that fueled early 50 Cent and G-Unit records no longer exist, and rap feuds that 50 loves to engage in have taken to social media, leaving 50 Cent no choice but to reinvent himself as a dominate artist. This means constant promotion, a strong online presence, and one or two solid radio singles. Despite the rapid, uncertain change of the music industry and how listeners consume music, 50 Cent is always going to do things his way and continue to leave people talking. Recently, we have seen this with his shift to taking the independent route and leaving his recording home of over a decade, Interscope Records, a headline making first pitch at the New York Mets game, and reuniting with his G-Unit brothers Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and Young Buck at New York’s Hot97 Summer Jam concert on June 1st.

50 Cent, Young Buck, Tony Yayo & Lloyd Banks at Hot97's Summer Jam (6/1/14)

50 Cent, Young Buck, Tony Yayo & Lloyd Banks at Hot97’s Summer Jam (6/1/14)

Leading up to his fifth studio album in five years, Animal Ambition (released June 3rd), 50 Cent decided to release both songs and visuals weekly for a majority of the songs off the album. In the June 14th issue of Billboard Magazine he said, “When I hear a song on the radio for the very first time, if it’s an artist I like, I know I would go to YouTube to hear it again. I enhanced it and made it better by having the visual already connected to it. Gain the audience, then sustain the audience instead of spending every marketing dollar to keep the audience in place.” Although 50 offers a logical explanation, I personally believe that he crossed the fine line between accessibility and oversaturation, leaving me to purchase a physical copy (yes, I still buy physical copies of CDs) more as a collectors item rather than for the interest of putting in the CD and listening to it. Of course, music and media streaming has played a role in this as well.

“I been patiently waiting for a track to explode on
You can stunt if you want and your ass’ll get rolled on
If it feels like my flow’s been hot for so long
If you thinking I’mma fuckin’ fall off, you’re so wrong”

– 50 Cent (“Patiently Waiting“) 

Often times consumers say to their favorite artist, “we want to the old so-and-so back” or “we want this sound instead,” and that is what 50 Cent did – sort of. As a long time fan, and one with an obvious bias to all things 50 Cent, I question how long 50 Cent has been sitting on this music. In fact, most of the personnel on the album have stated that the music was made four-five years ago. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing considering 50’s grimy, hard-hitting street content is what fans have always gravitated to. I do however,  question if and how a new, younger, audience will relate to this content enough to buy in to 50 Cent the rapper like many of us did back in 2003.

50-cent-animal-ambition-cover

Overall, 50 Cent’s Animal Ambition had a poor rollout, which most likely will result in this being his lowest selling album to date. This is not to say 50 Cent and his staff did not put in enough time or energy, because I know they did, perhaps the release of the album could have been handled differently. The Trey Songz assisted, Dr. Dre produced single “Smoke” (a song originally made for Dre’s “Detox”) is a perfectly capable single for commercial radio, but has not gained enough traction to earn the “hit record” status. Other songs off the album including “Pilot” and “Twisted” would be great radio contenders as well, but with the reuniting of G-Unit and new music from the group on the horizon, this may be 50 Cent’s “throw away” project.

In the end, not everyone can withstand a career of longevity and success the way 50 Cent has been able to. With the reuniting of G-Unit, 50 and the gang not only have the task of recreating the energy that once filled the air of New York City and fans all over the world, but translating their hard-hitting grassroots approach to conform to 2014 standards. So far in the 10 days they have been together, they have already flooded the Internet with four freestyles and planning for a new album by November. How about G-Unity as the title?

G-G-G-G-Unit!

 

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Return Of The Mack

2013 was truly an incredible year in music, especially in hip-hop. We got albums from Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Eminem, Kanye West, and Jay Z; Mike Will, Young Chop, and DJ Mustard made every beat, and twerking went from Atlanta strip clubs to mainstream America. Although there were many great moments this year, 2013 was the year of the ‘Mack,’ and if the momentum continues in to 2014, Mark Morrison better start planning his comeback. Mac Miller, Macklemore, and Mack Wilds all created individual lanes, dominant fan bases, and earned a total of 8 (7 for Macklemore, 1 for Mack Wilds) Grammy nominations.

“Shut your pie-hole, I’m dope and I know
/ My voice sound like it was a sample off a vinyl / I don’t mind those hating on my style /
I tend to take the high road, get stoned and fly low”

– Mac Miller (“S.D.S.”)

Me interviewing Mac Miller in Ithaca, NY - March 2011

Me interviewing Mac Miller in Ithaca, NY – March 2011

Although artists like Mac Miller and Macklemore get criticized for both the color of their skin and crossover in to the pop world, both artists have stuck to their hip-hop roots and have truly stuck with the culture. Not only has Mac Miller formed close ties and working relationships with artists including Odd Future, TDE, and Jay Electronica, but his sophomore album Watching Movies With The Sound Off was one of the years best. A complete 360 from his debut album, Blue Slide Park, “Watching Movies With The Sound Off falls somewhere between Pharrell and Madlib, deeply rooted in the sounds of Stones Throw that manages to bridge the gap to contemporary mainstream hip-hop” according to XXL Magazine. Ultimately, this can be attributed to Mac’s choice of sequencing throughout the album, as well as his production (under the Larry Fisherman). WMWTSO may have slipped under many people’s radar this year, but that doesn’t slow Mac down. In 2013, Mac had another sell out tour (The Space Migration Tour) and released a live album in December (Live From Space). While most people would generally take a break after a tour and 2 albums, Mac has no plans on stopping in 2014. Last week he told MTV News he has 4 albums ready to be released this year, along with his Pharrell-assisted Pink Slime. Whether you like Mac Miller’s music or not, there’s two things you should take in to account and respect. First, Mac Miller is still an independent artist and making the music he chooses to, and hasn’t been conformed to industry standards. Second, he’s been on the Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings list two years in a row!

See: Rap Radar ’13 Underrated Albums #1: Mac Miller Watching Movies With The Sound Off

See: Al Lindstrom’s 2013 Most Improved Artist Of The Year 

“Return of the Mack
/ Get ’em, what it is, what it does, what it is, what it isn’t”

–       Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (“Can’t Hold Us”)

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Despite what people on Twitter or some of the hip-hop community may say, Macklemore deserves everything he’s getting and he is not leaving his hip-hop roots behind him either. Before he made a name for himself, the most popular rapper to come out of Seattle, WA as Sir Mix-A-Lot; yes the guy most notable for his song “Baby Got Back.” Of course Macklemore will always have to live with the title “The “Thrift Shop” rapper, but instead of hating the song, hip-hop should embrace it for the sole fact that it has lead the genre in to corporate America; something usually lead by Jay Z and Diddy. If people gave Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ album The Heist a complete listen, they would see beyond the stigmas and understand why they are up for 7 Grammy’s and have gained the attention of the entire world. Macklemore has proved that he can speak about things most rappers do, Jordan sneakers (“Wing$“), cars (“White Walls”), and record labels (“Jimmy Iovine”), but also on social and political content (“Same Love”). My comments on Macklemore are only brief because I believe his actions and work have spoken for themselves thus far and we will only see bigger things from him in 2014, both in pop music and hip-hop. Additionally, although Macklemore is doing this all independently, he has hired Warner Music to distribute his music. Big machine + Chart topping singles = Success. Let’s not forget, Macklemore effortlessly threw a pair of the prestigious Nike Yeezy 2s in the middle of Times Square, now that’s hip-hop! Oh yeah, with a platinum album, multiplatinum single’s, and a spot on the Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, don’t be surprised when Macklemore knocks out Kendrick Lamar for the top spot at the Grammy’s!

See: The Source Magazine Names Macklemore ‘Man of the Year’

“Said I don’t mean to brag /
But I live a life that most can only dream about”

–       Mack Wilds (“Own It”)

Me interviewing Mack Wilds in NYC - December 2013

Me interviewing Mack Wilds in NYC – December 2013

The transition between singing and acting has always been exciting, and generally much better than any athlete trying to rap! LL Cool J, Tyreese, Jamie Foxx, and a host of others have all succeeded and now there’s a new actor to add to the list – Tristan ‘Mack’ Wilds. Most people know Tristan from his role as Michael Lee from The Wire or Dixon Wilson on 90210, but Mack is a confident and talented R&B singer from Staten Island, New York. Teaming up with producer Salaam Remi (credits: Nas, Amy Winehouse, Miguel) and label Sony Red, Mack Wilds released a conceptual R&B album titled New York: A Love Story in September fueled by 90’s hip-hop beats and Mack’s interest in both women and his beloved Staten Island. What’s most exciting is that not only is the album highly underrated, but for an album that only sold 2,000 copies in its first week, it is currently nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album at this years Grammy’s. With his Ne-Yo written debut single “Own It” quickly gaining speed, and his follow up “Henny” getting some attention on local New York City radio, Mack Wilds has successfully earned a position in the new class of New York City hip-hop and R&B. At his recent show at New York City’s SOBs, Mack brought out rappers A$AP Ferg, Bodega Bamz, 360, and Skyzoo, ultimately showcasing what the city has been missing.

With the right push, and a win at the Grammy’s, I see big things in Mack Wilds future. I believe that that factors are simple: continuing to push “Own It” – possibly even to Top 40 radio, TV appearances, and ship more physical copies of the album! Personally, I don’t see why he can’t be in the same position as Ne-Yo, and other great young singer-songwriters who are at the forefront of the genre and in the mainstream media. I rarely enjoy listening to an album all the way through multiple times, but New York: A Love Story is a special project that I highly encourage everyone to listen to.

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Death Over Designer

“Fashion killed rock and roll. Fashion killed contemporary art, and turned it vulgar. And if hip-hop artists are not careful it will also kill hip-hop.”

– Jean Touitou, Founder of A.P.C. (via Style.com)

Kanye West in Givenchy kilt

Kanye West in Givenchy kilt

Gianni Versace is rolling over in his grave. Not only was the legendary designer murdered, but his brand is slowly as well. The cause of death; rappers. I initially wanted to write this article six months ago when Givenchy, Balmain, and Alexander Wang were the victims, but now is the right time. With luxury rap at an all time high, at what point do consumers stop feeding into the garbage coming from their speakers and remain practical? (Do you really need an $120 white tee from the Kanye West x A.P.C. collection? Absolutely not.) First, more than half of the rappers who rap about these luxury goods can’t really afford them. Second, you all look stupid! Kilts, capes, and long shirts that look like dresses? I’ll pass…

“I made Jesus Walks, so I’m never going to hell
Couture level flow is never going on sale
Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses
Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive”

– Kanye West (“Otis“)

Whether it is considered high fashion or not, it looks ridiculous on most. Although trends are meant to be set, they don’t always have to be followed. Enter Migos; if you aren’t familiar with the Atlanta-based trio, allow me the honor of introducing you. Quavo, Offset (currently incarcerated), and TakeOff have been buzzing the streets and Internet with their latest mixtape, YRN, filled with nursery rhymes and catchy choruses. One of the songs from mixtape, titled Versace, took off and sprung the attention of Drake, who later added his own verse. The simplicity of the hook, not only has everyone singing it, but scrambling for every last nickel in their piggy banks to afford the brands clothes. For example, at the 2013 BET Awards in June, DJ Drama, J. Cole, and Brandon T. Jackson all showed up in the same sweater. Not only was this embarrassing for all three, but the Migos Halloween costume officially indicated that hip-hop has killed the brand.

BET Awards

(L to R: DJ Drama, J. Cole, Brandon T. Jackson) – 2013 BET Awards

“Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace Versace, Versace Versace

Versace, Versace Versace, Versace Versace”

– Migos (“Versace”)

With respect to the BET Awards wardrobe incident, Complex author James Harris said it best, “If anything, this serves as a very public reminder that style is not achieved by simply copping an expensive and/or rare piece and throwing it on. Creating a representation of your personal sense of style and aesthetic takes much more than that, and should be much more about attitude and perspective than price tag and brand name.” Therefore, let’s leave the styling to Kanye and A$AP Rocky who actually collaborate with designers like A.P.C., Givenchy, and Raf Simmons and appreciate the way the clothes are made.

“I rather buy 80 gold chains and go ign’ant

I know Spike Lee gone kill me but let me finish

Blame it on the pigment, we living no limits

Them gold Master P ceilings was just a figment” 

– Kanye West (“Clique”)

Of course the ultimate goal in hip-hop is to make money and live comfortably – the American dream – but there’s a right and a wrong way to do this. In the latest episode of Complex TV’s The Combat Jack Show, Yonkers MC Styles P was asked what the, “dumbest rapper shit he’s ever done” was. His response; “waste money.” He continued by saying, “Living by hip-hop standards is the stupidest fucking thing you can do.” With that being said, don’t be surprised if you see the veteran rapper riding the Metro North rather than walking the streets of SoHo! It’s always good to see a artist with longevity realize the importance of good credit and paying taxes rather than trying to maintain a high fashion wardrobe.

A$AP Rocky with designer Alexander Wang

A$AP Rocky with designer Alexander Wang

I’ll leave you with this riddle – a white rapper from Seattle, WA named Macklemore walks into a thrift shop with only $20 in his pocket. 4 minutes later, he comes out with three platinum singles and almost 900,000 copies of his album sold independently. On the other side of the United States, an Atlanta rapper named Ca$h Out buys a condo for his wrist and signs with LA Reid’s Epic Records, but most likely can no longer afford the condo he lives in and a debut album nowhere in sight. Oh yeah, don’t be surprised if Trinidad James is in a Cash4Gold commercial in the near future!

Heads up Tom Ford and MCM, hip-hop is coming for you next…

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Versace2

Update: After doing a little research, I have found some more interesting statistics on this topic. Last week, I visited the Versace store in SoHo, NYC and spoke with a salesman. After telling about my article, we began to discuss sales, and the overall business of the company. He told me that he is surprised how a predominately gay fashion line has completely crossed-over into the hip-hop culture. Furthermore, he said that all mens shoes and clothes are constantly sold out in the New York and Atlanta stores and the demand is hard to keep up with. On the other hand, sales in the women’s department aren’t as strong. As you can see from the pictures, Versace is a supporter of The Notorious B.I.G., as well as The Christopher Wallace Foundation. In fact, they even sell the glasses and jewelry he commonly wore supporting the brand. Fascinating stuff.

Versace3

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Update #2Jay Z Causes Huge Spike in Tom Ford Searches on Yahoo

Album Review: J. Cole – Born Sinner

The other day, my good friend Adam Friedman posted a lengthy review on his Facebook of J. Cole’s sophomore album Born Sinner (In stores Tuesday, June 18th). As a former blogger himself (RIP FreshRespect.Blogspot.com), and a passionate J. Cole fan, as soon as I read his review I knew need to give him this outlet to share his thoughts on the rising Roc Nation superstar. Below you will find Adam’s story on how he witnessed a young J. Cole perform in 2009 to the success he has seen him achieve in 2013. Hope you enjoy.

Born Sinner Cover

By Adam Friedman

On a cold, wet Wednesday night in 2009, a buddy of mine (the only one I could convince) and I took a drive up 81N to the Schine Student Center of Syracuse University. We had class pretty early the next morning, but the chance to see a young and budding Wale was too tempting. We rolled up in more than one way, just as some clowns from Ithaca College would be expected too.

The venue was small, dark, and literally had no stage. We stood right in front of the floor level microphone surrounded by unplugged instruments, completely oblivious to what we were in for. Some time passed, but the dim-lit student center was still far from full.

“We would like to welcome Roc Nation’s first signed artist. This is his first show as a member of Roc Nation so show him some love, ladies and gentlemen: J. Cole.” The place stayed pretty quiet as a six-foot-three St. John’s alum took a nervous walk toward the mic…

Hip hop is still a relatively young genre that over the last decade has been destroyed from the inside-out due to the average consumers need for instant gratification. Due to the invention of the iPod and the dreaded playlist, a cohesive project is no longer desired, regardless of the genre. The truth is, musicians as a whole have had no choice but to succumb to the lazy strategy of making hits over substance to stay relevant over recent years. Internet blogs (oops) and the iTunes Store have helped solidify the platform that the average listener uses as a crutch, looking for the new hit; the song that everyone is going to want to hear, as opposed to appreciating the full sound, the common theme, the cohesive project of the artist. Some of the greatest rappers of all time wouldn’t even stand a chance in today’s market.

J. Cole’s second album “Born Sinner” is a self-loathing reflection on his career thus-far, covering the mistakes and wrongdoings that he has committed due to the temptations within the industry, as well as the journey leading to it: women, money, and fame. The album is similar to a confessional at church for the sins that Cole is ultimately expected to make, as the title of the album indicates.

Villuminati is quite the introduction, not like we expected anything less. The combination of a Biggie sample and the hook “sometimes I brag like Hov” is a clear indication that Cole is ready to be compared to the best. How do you define greatness? Comparison to the best to ever do it. “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is Cole.”

The next five songs (with the exception of the Mo Money Interlude) highlight the tempting lifestyle that comes with the fame, focusing primarily on women. Each song is very different from the other, but the message is clear, women are always on Cole’s mind, and Cole loves him some pussy. In LAnd of the Snakes, he starts getting used to L.A., enjoying the simple pleasures of the beautiful women around him, especially the “Sunday’s with a cherry on-top.” He falls in love on the lead single Power Trip, as shown in the music video featuring Miguel. Cole starts to open his eyes with the help of some liquor on Trouble, “liquor all in my breath, bitches all in my sight.” He is fully aware of the predictability of the women he can bring home each and every night, and clearly, they are all trouble. Runaway is a self-reflection on his past relationships and how he continues to runaway from the commitment and consequences that they may entail. “How the fuck did my life become a damn love song?” is a confession that can be guided back to the lyrics of Power Trip and how easily one can fall in love. The bottom line is, you have to be careful about what you say and do around females, especially in his position as a rapper. Being famous makes nothing easier, as much as the average person may envy the celebrity lifestyle. Cole admits his mistakes to us and asks for forgiveness by explaining the inter-workings of his mind, most importantly as to why he committed these sins, whether it is cheating or sleeping around, and how they are basically inevitable in some situations.

The next phase of the album actually began after Power Trip with the Mo Money Interlude in which Cole has his first experience with some substantial capital gain. Life is good (so it seems), as he goes down the line on different ways different people spend their money. The focus on the temptation of money continues with Rich Niggaz, the song that sounds closest to Pre-RocNation Cole. This track centers around the uneven distribution of wealth within the industry. He uses examples of his life before fame; a fatherless kid with a hardworking mother, a drug user who still did everything she could to keep the family stable, to show how easy it is for corporations to sell you your dreams and get you a ticket out of poverty. Little do you know, you’re stepping into a different kind of struggle, although one is much worse than the other. The song focuses on the forgotten evil surrounding money, and where you put a price on selling out. “There go you, selling me dreams and, telling me things you knew, said, you got what I want, I got what you need, how much for your soul…”

Where’s Jermaine and Forbidden Fruit are the climax of the album, the indication that Jermaine has woken up and is stronger than the temptations that have arose. The gospel choir is presumably a remembrance of Fayetteville, a wake up call if you will. Forbidden Fruit is a clear play off of the story of Adam and Eve, but the message of the song lies in the shared bridge of Cole and Kendrick. “Bitches come and go (you know that), money come and go (you know that), love come and go (don’t shit last)” is a simplification of Cole’s past struggles over the course of the album. Men and women both cheat, money is spent regardless, and love is lost. Nothing lasts forever. This realization is what makes Forbidden Fruit a celebration for Cole overcoming his temptations over the course of his career, most notably with women and money. It’s also dope that he has the voice of Kendrick Lamar to help guide him.

Next up is Chaining Day, a much less dramatic song about the temptation for material things, most importantly the jesus piece, a common symbol within post 90’s hip hop culture. It’s his money and he’s going to do what he wants with it, what’s important is that it keeps coming. The song ends with “ok I lied,” the same line that the next track, Ain’t That Some Shit begins with. This next track is Cole’s bragging moment. As dark as the first half of the album was, you know Cole wasn’t going to leave us without going off on some bars about the good in his life. He now has control over his relationships, he’s traveling the world, and he’s repping his name, home, and family in the best way that he can.

The positive message behind Crooked Smile matched with the catchy hook sung by TLC will guarantee regular radio rotation all summer long. What is amazing is the ability to squeeze in a hit without making it stand out. This is what Cole will be remembered for over the course of his long career. The song is about not changing who you are for anybody, most notably his crooked smile and how far he has gotten with it. Why change now?

After the release of his debut album “Sideline Story,” it was clear that songs were grabbed from various projects and pieced together to form somewhat of a marketable product. Perhaps his biggest hit to date (Workout) was criticized by one of Cole’s biggest inspirations, Nasty Nas. Let Nas Down is the perfect way for Jermaine to tell the world that he is done with the bullshit. If a song sells, it sells, but the charts aren’t the main focus anymore. “Yeah, long live the idols, may they never be your rivals, Pac was like Jesus, Nas wrote the Bible, Now what you’re bot to hear’s a tale of glory and sin, No I.D. my mentor now let the story begin.” The hook says it all: he let down the people that he is really in the game for. This song is an indicator that change has come.

The biggest difference between this project and his debut album is the clear intention for the album to be listened to from start to finish. One could say that the strongest song of the album (Forbidden Fruit) is ruined by the 90-second conclusion in which “Lil Cole” walks into the jewelry store feeling himself, rambling about the “rose gold joint” and “the platinum watch.” The mini-skit seems out of place, until the next song Chaining Day begins. “Look at me, pathetic nigga, this chain that I bought, you mix greed pain and fame this is heinous result.” The contrast is intentional, showing how easy it is for anyone to fall off track and get distracted by the fame. The only way to understand this message is by listening to the album in order, from top to bottom. IN any other order and it loses its’ meaning entirely. The album also begins and ends with the same hook sung by James Fauntleroy, “I’m a Born Sinner, but I die better than that.” The project comes full circle, as Born Sinner acts as the ending credits for the movie that was “Born Sinner.”

Cole’s second album is far from the expected sophomore slump. Born Sinner challenges the everyday hip hop fan to listen for more than a hot beat and witty punchlines. The idea is dark, sinister, and above all honest, something that mainstream rap culture has been missing for far too long. The cohesive theme revolves around temptation, whether it be chasing money, girls, or fame. We are all born sinners, but as life goes on we get better, simple as that. J. Cole’s highly anticipated second album Born Sinner hits shelves Tuesday June 18th! Support real hip hop!!

Thinking Outside of the Box: An Interview with Billy Mann

Billy_Mann

Billy Mann

Resume:

Singer/Songwriter/Producer

 Founder/CEO of Green & Bloom/Top1ine & Chairman of management firm Manncom

GBTopline Logo

Former President of New Music A&R International and President of Global Artist Management at EMI Music

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Billy Mann is an executive you want to know. While many of the industries power players are in front of the camera promoting their labels and brands, Billy is quietly doing that same. Prior to the formation of his companies Green & Bloom/Top1ine & Manncom, Billy Mann was writing and producing for P!nk (“God Is a DJ,” “Stupid Girls,” “I’m Not Dead” and “Nobody Knows”), Robyn (“My Only Reason”), Backstreet Boys (“Poster Girl,” Panic,” “Love Will Keep You Up All Night,” and “Unexpected Sunday Afternoon”) Celine Dion (“Treat Her Like A Lady” and “Amar Haciendo el Amor”), and more. Additionally, during his time at EMI Music, Billy Mann was responsible for helping to launch David Guetta‘s worldwide career. With so much accomplished and experience behind him, having the ability to talk with him was an honor. The information being shared is something that I believe will benefit aspiring artists of all genres. I hope you enjoy this interview and acquire the same amount of knowledge as I did. Please let me know what you think! Leave a comment or send me an email.

Interview Breakdown:

Explanation of Green & Bloom/Topl1ne and Manncom  (0:08 – 3:00)

Talking about his artist Alex Aiono & the struggles aspiring artists are facing (3:01 – 5:34)

What to look for in an aspiring artist (5:35 – 7:38)

How important is it for executives to think globally (7:39 – 10:33)

The importance of publishing and other business aspects of the music industry (10:34 – 15:48)

How Billy learned the music business and his thoughts on music business programs in schools (15:49 – 18:29)

Conclusion (18:30 – 19:50)

A River of Nickels

“In business it’s about who wants you the most” 

– T.I. (Interview with Larry King for OraTV)

Record Dea;

In recent years, the phrase, “How did [insert rapper here] get a record deal when my flow and lyrics are so much better” has been said one too many times. The truth of the matter is that maybe you are better, but you are failing to make the necessary connections in order to enhance your career. Those who have generated organic, viral fans bases rather than spamming people on Twitter and Facebook have seen the greatest reward. One of the beauties of seeing your music reach maximum attention gives you the ability to understand your fan base and value your worth as a musician. 1 million followers do not translate into $1 million dollars.

“We’re a team, 360 degrees, we will reach your goals!

We’ll get a third of the merch that you sell out on the road

Along with a third of the money you make when you’re out doing your shows

Manager gets 20, booking agent gets 10

So shit, after taxes you and Ryan have 7% to split”

– Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (“Jimmy Iovine”)

Record deals come in two forms these days: 360 deals or joint venture label deals. Recently, we have see Drake form his own label through Warner Bros. Records, in 2011, A$AP Rocky’s deal with Sony/RCA Records/Polo Grounds gave him $3 million and the ability to form his own label A$AP Worldwide, and most recently Trinidad Jame$’ $2 million and Chief Keef’s $6 million deals, respectively.

Bottom line is that you get what you negotiate and despite the hate Chief Keef frequently receives, he got exactly what he wanted. In a recent article by DNAInfo.com Chicago, Keef’s lucrative deal was broken down in ways most people outside the industry rarely see.

chiefkeeffinallyrich

Below, I have simplified and broken down the deal so that aspiring artists/record label owners know what to look for and negotiate when the time comes.

  • Number of albums: 3
  • Must sell 250,000 copies of debut “Finally Rich” by Dec. 31, 2013 in order for Interscope to continue to release Keef’s music

         Note: “Finally Rich” has sold 192,137 copies as of August 1, 2013

  • Advance: Upfront money that is paid directly to a recording artist: $440,000
  • Album Budget: Money used to pay for studio time, producers, and other expenses during the creating of album: $300,000
  • Creation of imprint “Glory Boyz Entertainment (GBE)”
    • Separate 3-year deal
    • GBE Advance: $440,000; additional $180,000 + 40% ownership internship for Chief Keef & manager; additional $10,000 + 10% ownership interest to GBE rapper Fredo Santana
    • GBE Overhead Expenses: Expenses of operating a business: $200,000
    • If Interscope suffers $4.5 million in loses, contract is terminated

“You ask for slack and wanna get cut loose from the label

Not able ’cause you signed at the table

For a pretty cash advance, now they got a song and dance

That you didn’t recoup, more soup wit’ ya meal?

‘Cause this is the real when you get a record deal”

–       A Tribe Called Quest (“Show Business”)

Although Chief Keef may have had the luck of the draw, others have to earn their multi-million dollar deals by way of seniority and longevity. After the December 2012 release of his album, Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, Atlanta rapper T.I. became a free agent. After being signed to Atlantic Records for almost 11 years, rumor has it that the self-proclaimed “King of the South” is negotiating a highly structured deal that could earn him an estimated $75 million. If Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Sony, or Universal, all whom T.I. has met with, want him, they’re going to have to make some big promises.

TI-Dre

T.I. with Dr. Dre

  • 3 albums
  • 10-20% of publishing, touring, merchandise, film and TV rights
  • Endorsement deals with major corporations
  • Exclusive signing of all Grand Hustle artists

Ultimately, it’s your decision; you can be swimming in millions or you can be swimming in pennies and nickels. It’s simple; but you must recognize the difference of perception and reality first. You might be the best lyricist in the world, but can you make a hit record? You might have over 1,000,000 YouTube views, but do you have a local/regional foundation? Have you made your mark and created an impact? You also must take into consideration how times have changed. When T.I. went to L.A. Reid’s office at Arista Records in 2001, following his debut album, I’m Serious, and asked for a $2 million budget for his second album, he was dropped from the label immediately. Today, Trinidad Jame$ has one major song under his belt and limited rap experience, but earned himself his $2 million deal from Def Jam.

Remember, the same about of time you spend hating on an artist for the accomplishment, you could be spending advancing yourself; Talib Kweli taught me that!

T.I. with L.A. Reid

T.I. with L.A. Reid

Trinidad James

Trinidad Jame$

Missed my interview with T.I.? Check it out here!

Update: May 10, 2013 – T.I. Talks ‘$200 Million’ Major Label Deal & ‘G.D.O.D.’ Mixtape (via Billboard)

Understanding Musicality & Perception: An Interview with Talib Kweli

Video

Talib Kweli-Breezy

When an opportunity presents itself, you take it. As soon as I heard acclaimed rapper Talib Kweli was coming to school to speak on social justice and activism, I knew I needed to set up an interview. One week later, it happened. This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with him to talk about his new album Prisoner of Conscious (due April 23rd), the music industry, and more. Talib also took the time to call me out for spelling “Conscience” correctly on my paper, but not in the way the album is titled. Good thing it was only for radio! Enjoy!

Listen to the audio version here

Filmed & Edited by Dash Galaxy