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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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

Versace1————————————————————————————————-

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

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)

At The Top It’s Just Us

10spot

“You never see me on lists inside these magazines /
But I’m The Source of rap discussions, they Vibe-in with Ortiz”

– Joell Ortiz (“Nursery Rhyme“)

Last January, I wrote an article titled Too Many Indians, Not Enough Chiefs. The article expressed my views on the over saturated hip-hop industry and its correlation to XXL Magazine’s Freshman list. Again, this year the publication has selected 50 artists to fight for a chance to land on the “covenant” list. Through the power of Twitter, fans have the ability to vote and contribute; generally, the list is released in February. Below are my predictions for who will end up on the cover, honorable mentions, and wildcards.

XXL-freshman-cover

Personally, I don’t think this list is very relevant anymore. We are at a point in time where we are seeing many artist reach a level of success their own way, independently. Nonetheless, many people tend not to agree with the final list, but it makes for good debates. I have selected my lists based on popularity, impact, and regional dominance. What’s talent these days, anyway?

Last year, I got 5 out of the 10 correct and 3 of my honorable mentions made the list as well. Feel free to share your list with me: You can post your list in the comment section at the bottom of the page or Tweet me @BreezyOnTheBeat!

To vote, click here

Predictions for Cover:

Ab-Soul | Action Bronson | Casey Veggies | Hit-Boy

Gunplay | Lil’ Reese | Rockie Fresh | Schoolboy Q | Trinidad James | Joey Bada$$

Honorable Mentions:

A$AP Ferg | Chinx Drugz | Chris Webby | Lil’ Durk | Riff Raff | Troy Ave

Wildcards:

Tito Lopez | Young Scooter | Ty$ | King L

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Updated with official list: I got 5 out of 10 again this year. Let me know your thoughts! Twitter: @BreezyOnTheBeat

xxl-freshmen-2013-cover1

                                  Ab-Soul | Action Bronson | Logic | Kirko Bangz

Angel Haze | Travi$ Scott | Dizzy Wright | Schoolboy Q | Trinidad James | Joey Bada$$

Turn My Beat Up

“As my world turns, the heart beats

Not only in my chest, but the heart in the streets

So when they feel this, they feel me

But I can’t feel nothin’, outside these Dre Beats”

– Machine Gun Kelly (“Invincible”)

Clothing, sneakers, alcohol, and now headphones. These are the business endeavors your favorite artists partake in until they go out of style or don’t seem profitable anymore.

When’s the last time you’ve seen a rapper wear a football jersey in a music video? I’ll wait…

Fabolous circa early 2000’s

It’s amazing how one Jay-Z line in his Pharrell-assisted song “Change Closes” ultimately changed how the entire hip-hop culture dress.

“Jiggy this is probably purple label

Or that BBC or it’s probably tailored

But y’all niggas acting way to tough

Throw on a suit get it tapered up”

–       Jay-Z (“Change Clothes”)

I think the only person who was happy with this line was David Stern, but that’s another story. Once the clothes were done, hip-hop moved to alcohol. The owner of the Jay-Z favorite, Cristal, asked rappers to stop drinking his champagne, dumbass, so Jay-Z brought his troops over to the world of Ace of Spade. Additionally, Ludacris came out with Conjure, and Diddy gave us the ever-popular Ciroc. We’re not done yet people!

Besides money, cars, and woman, what else do rappers ACTUALLY need to make a living? Headphones, duh! When Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovien founded Beats by Dre in 2008, nobody imagined the impact it would have. Four years later, Dre’s product is featured in Chrysler vehicles, HP laptops, HTC cell phones, and every electronic store in the country – and generating of $500 million (in 2011); half of the revenue of the $1 billion industry. Of course other artists took notice of the doctors success and knew they wanted in. Superstars, Diddy, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber all partnered with Beats by Dre for their own line of headphones in the company.

Beats By Dre

But that’s not all. Since the launch of Beats by Dre, we now see Ludacris (Soul), 50 Cent (SMS), RZA (Chambers), and Daddy Yankee (Section8) joining the industry. I’m all for new music products, and yes hip-hop has become the driving force behind most consumer products, but why do we all need to launch the same product at the same time!!! Sound isn’t being manipulated in so many ways that each product is completely different from each other.

SMS by 50

Music is about being creative and that is definitely what is lacking these days. Step it up people and lets come out with something new!

Update: Business Insider shows us which headphones your favorite DJ uses

 

 

Too Many Indians, Not Enough Chiefs

“Too many chiefs, but not enough Indians

See everybody needs to play they position”

– E-40 (“It’s All Gravity”)

Every year, XXL Magazine, one of the largest hip-hop publications, releases their top freshman class for the upcoming year. Some past alums have gone on to be successful such as Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B., and Wiz Khalifa; and some have gone on to be the biggest busts in hip-hop history. Shout out to Charles Hamilton and Papoose! But what is it about this list that excites everyone UNTIL the actual cover is released and your favorite new artist didn’t make it? Everyone is a critic these days. The power of the blogs has created the ability for people to post comments and share their thoughts: the modern day industry executive.

This year XXL decided to do something different. They posted 50 nominees on their website, and fans got to vote 1 time for their favorite artist. 50 artists!!!! That right there is problem #1. For an industry that is so small, and already saturated, there are too many people trying to enter the game. GO TO SCHOOL PEOPLE! GET AN EDUCATION! Just because you “rap,” have a computer, and can upload a video to YouTube doesn’t mean you have talent or ability to succeed in the industry! Yes it’s true that you don’t actually need a record deal to achieve success in this day in age (See Maintaining Independence: Hip-Hop’s New Business Model), but use some common sense people! It’s cooler to tell someone that you’re a doctor or a lawyer rather than saying you’re an up and coming rapper, because (1.) it’s bullshit and (2.) it sounds silly. If you really wanted to drive a fancy car or buy out the bar, get a profession that actually gives you that ability!

Cortez Bryant – manager to Lil’ Wayne, Nicki Minaj & Drake – via Twitter, Jan. 18

Be smart and invest in yourself wisely!

Anyway, XXL only chooses 10 artists for the cover so here are my predictions. I put honorable mentions as well.

My Predictions:

Don Trip                                          Danny Brown

Chase N Cashe                             A$AP Rocky

MGK                                               Future

Casey Veggies                               French Montana

Stalley                                            Schoolboy Q

Other close possibilities: Action Bronson, Chip Tha Ripper, Roscoe Dash, Chevy Woods, Kirko Bangz, Los, Iggy Azalea, Macklemore, and Slim The Mobster

Top freshman producers: Hit-Boy, Mike Will Made It, Clams Casino, Beat Billionaire, Lil’ Lody, and Jahlil Beats

What’s In A Name?

“Yo police blitzed the crack game


Drug alias switched to rap names


Fat chains attract fame


Innocent wigs get split when gats flame”

– Ali Vegas (“Theme of New York”)

Al Pachino as Scarface

Who would have ever thought that one of hip-hops most talked about artists in 2011 would be a rapper named Tity Boi? With over 30 guest features, 150+ shows, and a hit single “Spend It,” Tity Boi has became a household name within the hip-hop community. Even though this is a great accomplishment for the former protégé of hip-hop superstar Ludacris, Tity Boi had to change his rap name in order to take his career to the next level. Enter 2 Chainz. The self-proclaimed “Codeine Cowboy” now has the ability to capitalize off of his 2011 success with his new name and solo[1] endeavors. Whether 2 Chainz is seeking fame or fortune, the real question is this: Does a grown man really want people calling him Tity Boi?

Name changes have almost become essential within the hip-hop community. Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy, Ol’ Dirty Bastard to ODB, Mos Def to Yasiin, rappers always looking to reinvent themselves for various reasons. With an overabundance of rappers who have continuously named themselves after drug kingpins, mobsters, and the dangerous surroundings they grew up around, we are starting to see a change in those who have realized that these names will not allow them to reach the success they have always strived for.

Rappers with Drug Affiliated Names           Rappers with Mobster Affiliated Names

Tony Yayo                                                          Freeway

French Montana                                                 Rick Ross

Peedi Crakk (changed to Peedi Peedi)             Capone-N-Noreaga (Changed to CNN)

Pusha T                                                              Irv Gotti

Scarface                                                             Machine Gun Kelly

Rappers with Names Associated to Violence

Cory Gunz (Named after his father, rapper Peter Gunz)

Ghostface Killah

Uncle Murda

Killer Mike

40 Glocc

Mack 10

Gunplay

C-Murder (Currently serving a life in prison term)

In Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s popular and bestselling book Freakonomics, the author’s devote an entire chapter on the socioeconomic patterns of naming children, particularly within the African American community. The idea between correlation vs. causation can be compared to the names rappers choose for themselves. In the book, we establish the relationship between predicting a child’s success and his or her parent’s socio-economic characteristics. Ultimately, the author’s conclude that the given name does not matter; it’s the characteristics of the parents that are more important. Unfortunately, we can infer based on the stories that artists depict that their parents were addicted to drugs, poor, abusive, or completely out of their lives.

Most hip-hop artists only know about the things they grew up around. That’s their comfort zone and why they always talk about it. Therefore, why wouldn’t we expect them to incorporate the name of a gun or elements of violence in their image?

The moral of the story is this: name and image are everything in the entertainment industry. You create your own destiny so choose it wisely.


[1] 2 Chainz is a member of hip-hop group Playaz Circle; known for hit single “Duffle Bag Boy” in 2007