How To Sell In A Recession (Word to Jeezy)

What's good, IronFlag crew? The homie Guy Fawkes gave me an opportunity to contribute to Funcrusher and since I'm always down to give my opinion, here I am. My name is BDub and I run Your Favorite White Boy. Drop by and give some dap. I rep T-Dot to the fullest, all day. Let's get into it, shall we?

Its hard out there to be a hip-hop artist. On the plus side, with technology and the internet music itself has never been easier to promote, publish or get your hands on (see: Crooked I).

But that also means that any idiot with ProTools and a laptop can (and do) now claim to be a viable artist. A struggling MC now has a virtually unlimited market for their work, but has to share that space with literally thousands of other aspiring rappers.

On top of that, as record companies struggle with new technology and everyone having lighter pockets, they're having artists to do more with less: go platinum with little/no promotion. You may cop that Benz with your advance money, but Jimmy and Russell will snatch that back right quick if you don't recoup their costs in the first week of sales.

So, what's a rapper to do? The example of a few artists gives all you wanna-be stars a clue as to how you can sell your music on your own terms. You may not like these cats, but you can't argue with their success. I wish more underground and underpromoted MC's would take some notes. The more successful talented rappers break through, the more of them get signed and (really) promoted.

1. The 50 Cent Model: Build a Buzz
50 Cent is looking played out these days, but back in 2003-04, he was one of the most anticipated artists to drop in years. The man created his own lane through his particular use of mixtapes: building a release around one rapper or artist.

But the key here is that Fif didn't stop at building buzz on the streets. He went after that suburban money hard. He didn't build a buzz, he built a trend. People understood his mixtape hustle with Guess Who's Back and 50 Cent Is The Future. But when he got put on by Em, the stroke of genius was to have "Wanksta" included on the 8 Mile soundtrack. With one song, the name 50 Cent spread through suburbia - where the real buzz begins.

When the streets are watching you may go gold. When my sister is watching out for you, you go platinum. Its straight numbers: you need to find avenues where your music gets listened to by the most people.

2. The Young Jeezy Model: Be Every Rapper's Favorite Rapper
A lot of dudes think that the best way to eat is to cook beef, but many rappers with a steady stream of work got there because they are well liked - and respected - in the industry. By most accounts, Young Jeezy is a cool cat. Other rappers and producers all say that Jeezy is someone you want to work with (translate: you want him on a track). That means cash flow.

Like any business, people want to work with others who are serious about achieving goals: in this case, creating and promoting good music and making money. Rappers want to work with artists that care about what they do, show up on time and of course, bang out a hot 16. Young Jeezy, Bun B and Ludacris are all examples.

3. The Lil Wayne Model: Be Everywhere
Heads may think being a top rapper is all about sipping Henny and bagging model chicks, but the most successful rappers in the game put in that work. Its the old saying: you get out what you put in. Lots of people hate on Weezy, but this guy is Exhibit A of how a strong work ethic can make you one rich rapper.

Wayne never misses an opportunity to get on the mic. That has had two results: 1) He had stepped his rap game up from his Hot Boyz days and 2) He has built up a hell of a lot of favors. Sure, some of his guest appearances have been suspect, even wack. But Lil Wayne has been on some of the hottest tracks and remixes, from "Make It Rain" to "I'm So Hood." Add your own hot LPs like Tha Carter III and you'll keep getting those industry paycheques.

If you have quality work, there will always be listeners to sell to. Very few rappers hit a saturation point - as long as they keep improving and evolving.

4. The Jay-Z Model: Create A Brand
Maybe Diddy was the first, but Jay is probably the most successful in selling himself as a "brand" to corporate America. Jay did so by being smart about what he put his name to and worked hard to ensure consistency in the image he presented to the street and to the rest of America.

The power of Jay and Roc-a-Fella is that they stayed true to themselves first. If you go back and look at how the crew came up, they were very, very selective on how they promoted themselves and controlled their images. This is truly "Politics as Usual": Obama and McCain could take lessons from the ROC (and the Wu, for that matter) on how to create and maintain an authentic image.

A lot of people want to mess with him, but Jay kept (and still keeps) a very tight circle. Part of being successful is knowing when to say no. Both Dame and Jay have publicly stated that they turned down lucrative offers because it didn't fit into their overall image. At the same time, they often created their own lane (Rocawear clothing line, for instance) when there wasn't an existing vehicle.

Rap artists that can spit, work hard, have a strong, consistent image and stay true to themselves will always be in demand regardless of the market. You may be hot in the streets, but if you don't sell, that's exactly where you'll stay. Remember: its hard to drop hot albums in between shifts at UPS.
Posted on 11:39 AM by BDub and filed under , , | 2 Comments »


Enigmatik said... @ October 21, 2008 at 10:36 AM

Nice write up. Rappers would be wise to observe these examples and see which category they fall in.

Phella said... @ October 21, 2008 at 4:54 PM

Dope write up...i think number 4 is the hardest but also the most effective method.