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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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)

How An All-American Baseball Player Became A Successful Rapper: An Interview With Mike Stud

On October 4th, Mike Stud brought the Stud Nation Tour to Ithaca, NY. I had a chance to sit down with the All-American baseball player turned rapper after the show to talk about The Stud Nation tour, his musical journey, education, and more.  

First, I want to congratulate you. Last month you sold out the Highline Ballroom in NYC. As a relatively new, independent artist, what was your reaction to the show?

It’s crazy. Like I said on stage, I really appreciate it. I don’t take anything for granted. My agents thought we could do it, but I didn’t know we sold it out 10 days ahead of time, which is nuts. A huge thank you to everyone who came, it’s dope.

You’re currently on the Stud Nation Tour. What’s the concept of the tour and what are you hoping to accomplish out on the road?

The concept is something my manager came up with. The Stud Nation thing is kind of a play on the presidential theme; you see the portrait, it looks like a president portrait. They’re just trying to play off my background. I went to some very uppity schools [Duke University & Georgetown University] and that I’m more for the Middle American kids. I make music for the people who relate to me and that’s Middle America, so we thought Stud Nation would be a cool theme.

You, along with your good friend Huey Mack, and a few others, are ultimately the ambassadors of the “college hip-hop” movement; I think a lot of kids out there tonight saw a little bit of themselves in you. With that being said, how do plan to grow and remain at the forefront?

I’m not exactly sure what the whole “college music” thing is. I just think kids in college like my music. If you listen, most of my records, especially the newest ones, are not about partying or college. Sure, the one that popped off was “College Humor” and that’s fine, but I think people that really take a listen and write off the superstitions behind it will see a real artist. You’re going to start to hear more singing in my new songs and more of an artist feel, and not just a “frat boy.” I was never a frat boy; I’m a white kid that played baseball.

Mike Stud pitching for Duke University

Something I notice about you is that you aren’t afraid to collaborate with other aspiring artists. What’s your rationale behind that? Do you think it will lead to any criticism?

I don’t think that’s a real argument, because I just collaborate with people that I like. I don’t collaborate with people I don’t know, and I don’t collaborate with people whose music I don’t like. The people that I’ve worked with, I stand behind them, and I support them; we all have the same markets and fan bases.

Huey and I are splitting images. A lot of time we’re in the same city and we just meet up, we made the mixtape [Click] on a limb.

My favorite one is “You Don’t Know Me” with Tarik…

He’s the homie. He’s dope. I did that shit because he deserves more fans. Everyone on my business side said that it didn’t make sense to do that collaboration with him because he has a much smaller fan base, but he’s dope and very humble.

One of the things about you that I want to understand a little better is your social media presence. As we know, your baseball injury led you to music, but anybody can do that. Like you said on stage, it’s only been 14 months since you released your first mixtape. How did you know who to target and make the Mike Stud brand an Internet sensation?  

Honestly, I have no idea. I made “College Humor” for baseball parties at Georgetown. My teammates kept saying, “Yo! I like your music, keep making songs.” I made the song on Garageband; I had no engineer. I just recorded it in my dorm room, drunk. The fact that everywhere I go that’s the song everybody knows, it’s crazy.

So it was just word of mouth?

Yeah.

Photo by Nick DeJohn

Mike Stud at The Haunt in Ithaca
Photo by Nick DeJohn

Now you have Jon Kilmer on tour with you. Every kid wants him to direct their video, you have your sponsorship with Freshletes, and your music steadily brings traffic to all the blog sites.

It came out of nowhere; I can’t thank the people enough.

I read that you went to Georgetown University graduate school to study sports management and finance. How has your educated helped you in the music industry so far?

I’m just way more involved than people understand. Most artists don’t even care about the business side. I’m in on every meeting, the behind the scenes stuff at this point is pretty crazy, and so I’m very involved. That’s how I like it. 

With booking powerhouse Peter Schwartz and The Agency Group behind you, I’m sure many opportunities that are starting to present themselves. What’s next for you and what are you hoping to accomplish in the near future? 

As much as Peter and those guys are going to take their expertise and grow my brand, it’s still about the music. I’m not big enough to just go do tours. I’m one mixtape in; I haven’t done shit. I know that, and I don’t think I’ve made it at all. We’re working everyday; there are no days off. At this point, I’m just working harder because my foot is in the door.

Peter is great, and I’m blessed to have a lot of great industry people behind me right now, most who we haven’t mentioned to the public yet. I’m going to use those tools, but right now it’s all driven by the music.

Interviewing Mike Stud

For more on Mike Stud and to see if the Stud Nation Tour is coming to a city near you, visit Mike’s website, Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube!

Maintaining Independence: Hip-Hop’s New Business Model

This past semester I took a course titled Hip-Hop Cultures. Now of course your first reaction is, “You’re paying to take a college course on hip-hop?” As we learned, the title was the professors trick to reel us in, but in the end it was worth it (although I didn’t agree with most of the course, another story). For our final project we had to incorporate the main elements of hip-hop and write about them based on course material, personal experience, etc.

For my project, I chose to write about one of the new trends in music. Independent record labels and independent artists are at the forefront of the industry, and are becoming the most successful. Since the paper is 19 pages, I have attached it below. Some of the artists I focused on include Mac Miller, Tech N9ne, Wiz Khalifa, and Cash Money Records.

Enjoy!

Hip-Hop’s New Business Model