From years of running Strictly Beats ( a benchmark in Instrumental Hip-Hip / Beat Tape sites ) and also trying to merge another popular blog that I was a part of HHB ( hip-hop bootleggers ) I’ve been digging music for years online and off. Some of my favorite artists have faded away, while others have stood the test of time and found ways of navigating through the changing music environment. I feel like these 5 albums were really amazing pieces of work that would’ve gone a lot further had the internet been more like it is now. From content to production, delivery and cadence, and the emcees/producers/dj’s involved. These projects definitely had a fair share of quality control and all deserve a second life / resurface. Check them out in their entirety, and tell a friend…
1. Stories About Nothing : Intuition – Los Angeles, CA
2. Stick Figures : Prolyphic & Robust – Chicago & Rhode Island
( Unfortunately I can’t find a full album link but you can purchase it at the link below )
In my 10 years of working at various capacities in and around this industry, I never once took into consideration how difficult, complicated and overwhelming things must be for aspiring talent that lacks proper guidance to “make it” as they say… We all know the internet has provided several articles, tutorials and resources for people to independently help themselves become as aware and knowledgeable as possible. With the addition of social media and platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, it’s become even easier for you to project yourself to the masses and correspond with potential investors to your brand (fans). My question is, what happens when you get offline? Like, ok great! You’ve been featured all over the world and your mixes, songs and videos have thousands of plays, you’ve got a little blog traction and managed to open for a few established acts that you can namedrop into your bio, but what’s next? I feel like several talented people hit this peak and then unfortunately start questioning what they are doing or drag their feet. This is when we start to look at other options like Agents, Managers, PR/Publicists and Peers for help.
*Now I must really like you guys, because I’ve decided to put together this basic visual aid to illustrate what happens at this moment.
Alright, so that was quick and painless right? Now I’m not saying all artists follow this pattern, but through the ones I’ve mentored, managed, and coached from the sidelines and on the field. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was a very real and common thing,
so congrats, you’re not alone.
Here’s my tips on how to land more bookings, more often (and help improve your overall self)
Be Transparent. In all interactions. any communication. I know I don’t have to tell you how far integrity, modesty and honesty go but I’m going to anyways. You don’t know how many times people have asked me to manage them bragging about working with this person, or that label, or performing on xyz stage while I smile and nod. Then get home, reach for my phone, shoot a text out and see if what you said is true. – Technology is a blessing and a curse, it’s your choice on whether you want it to work with you or against you. One of the easiest ways to avoid it malfunctioning or not working out in your favor is keeping it 100.
Friendliness – I understand you may not like Joe Blow’s music, or think Kristi Kokane and The Kirkland Krew are trash, but that doesn’t mean you have to be rude or disrespectful. In an industry where all you have is your word, use yours wisely and for good. It costs nothing to be nice, and there isn’t a gun to your head to support said act, but you could have one at your head if you decide to speak up and degrade someone else’s efforts. Social Media may sometimes encourage bad behavior, but you can use it to showcase your personality and really leverage friendships and new connections, just by being positive.
Organization – Having your EPK (electronic press kit) in order will surely help you get more placement and better gigs. Business Cards & Websites are synonymous with this as well. For me to take someone seriously, I need to know they’ve invested in themselves before they are trying to ask for money from me. No Joke, I spend a quarter of the year re-producing these for people who went on craigslist or through a friend and got a price hookup, but an abomination of work. Make sure you put your best foot forward on all fronts. Collecting Emails and Numbers then dissecting them when you get home, into an excel spreadsheet is a great way to work on your organization and launch concentrated marketing efforts. This also goes for making a list of Radio Stations, Blogs, Magazines, and other areas that you want to reach utilizing their submission addresses & emails.
Put some Bass in your voice –Confidence, not cockiness, when introducing yourself to others at events will go a long way, throw in some humor and you’re in! If you are at an event, whether performing or not, chances are the people who produced it are also in attendance. Now keeping in mind there is a time and place for everything. I don’t necessarily suggest going out of your way to bother these people ( I am one of these people ) but if you do happen to cross paths with them. Say a quick hello, introduce yourself quickly, and depending on the vibe, either keep it moving or pay them a compliment. First impressions go along way, and set the tone for any future correspondence. Small talk isn’t required, and what you say “can” hurt you, so use some tact. Depending on your approach, you should’ve opened the door for yourself to at least see each other again, briefly and have a slightly longer conversation, until eventually your rapport is at a point that you can share your music. Who knows, you may even get requested for your EPK. You can be proud and accomplished without being arrogant or conceited, much like a vegan or crossfitter can be a vegan or crossfitter, without telling anyone they’re vegan or do crossfit.
Support by attending!– Another great way to get the attention of the players in the scene is being active. Seven years ago when I moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t know much of anyone or anything with an exception to people I’ve met in the past when they were on the east coast (NY) or the south (ATX) for specific events (Jumpoff/SXSW/etc). Now I’m happy and lucky enough to say that I’m known throughout several scenes and circles and get warm greetings, because of my consistent support and interactions. By frequenting events that fit a demographic you’re interested in, you’ll open several doors because generally the attendees are interested in the same things as you. The best part is, not all of them are there promoting themselves, and several potential fans are listening and watching you move. This is where that whole first impressions are lasting thing comes into play. If you connect with others in social environments and keep it cordial, you’d be surprised how far that goes and where it translates into your income. If you do the opposite keep in mind that those who you talk to, can talk too. If you go to an event consistently enough, you get to meet the residents and coordinators casually, which opens the doors of opportunity if you get along. Two things I DO NOT suggest is, attempting to get booked for events you haven’t attended more than a few times, and DO NOT become a pushy overbearing salesperson. Nothing is worse then the guy who interrupts the conversation or cipher to push his latest frisbee. Again, use tact (and common sense) because you never know who is watching.
Think Outside Of The Box – I dropped a mix on 200 cd’s a few months back and gave them to L.A. Uber & Lyft Drivers. This mix + my cards got my website traffic boosted by 1200 people, I made 17 new connections on social media, and my soundcloud had a few addtl thousand plays on the week. When I worked for Viacom/MTV Networks in NY at 1515 Broadway – I used to sneak into the library and mail room and stick my event flyers & cd’s into everyone’s cubby. When I was in high school I dropped my poetry and a mixtape into the women’s locker room 3 vent slots on valentine’s day and made a lot of people happy 🙂 – These are just examples of the lengths in which I’ve personally gone to reach a broader demographic. Sure the internet is great between Reddit, Buzzfeed, Social Media, and all the other outlets. Although if you want to make a real splash where you’re the small fish in a big pond, you’ve gotta be creative. Find unique methods of packaging and delivering your content to people. Think about who you want to reach, and where they will be. I used to always be amazed by all the luxury vehicles Los Angeles had floating in the streets daily, to the point that I started asking anyone in a 80k+ vehicle what they did for a living? The result? some blew me off, some told me, and some followed up with “Why do you ask” and took what I had to offer ( a business card, resume, and cd ) and managed to connect me with some top industry professionals. I urge people to never be afraid of the unknown, and just weight “what’s the worst that can happen” before acting to yield best results. As long as your promotion and marketing attempts are not disruptive or destructive, I definitely co-sign pushing the ante on distribution tactics. *Note:This does not include tagging the side of the 10 freeway with your soundcloud link.
Professionalism – I can’t count on all my fingers and toes how many times people have shown up late, complained about irrelevant bullshit, gotten too tipsy/turnt before their set, or too faded on the patio when they should’ve been setting up. If you want to be treated like a professional, act like one. Show up early, make yourself useful, show that you’re invested in the show and it’s not just a quick snatch & grab of some promoters cash by promoting the event to the best of your abilities. ( Trust me, social media has definitely made this task a no-brainer for you ) – If you are granted a few guestlist slots, don’t abuse them by showing up at the door every 5 minutes giving my doorgirl lip about letting a broke homie in. If they spent the time/money to get to your event, they’ve got the financial means to support you. Not to mention, let’s be honest – the doorgirl may throw you the fuck out. Please bring all required music on a USB/Phone/CD and have a backup, unless you like performing acapella or over other people’s instrumentals. Do not hastle promoters or coordinators for drink tickets, we understand you can’t survive on water all night, and need to get your booze to boost your buzz and confidence levels. Be supportive. I can’t stress this enough, I’m not talking emotional support, or child support. Applaud other acts, watch your time, don’t infringe on others by going over your designated slot, and don’t be a dick. Make it easy for us to pay you and book you again. I’ve noticed the talent that gets booked the most, tend to have their shit together (being organized) and arrive on time, perform on time, say thank you, abide by the house rules, are responsive by text/email, and can send me an invoice via venmo, square, paypal, etc. if they aren’t paid the night of. As in any career, being a professional will take you far and doesn’t go unnoticed. Act like you know.
DIY – Do it yourself, alright so you are determined to get on. You don’t do “Pay To Play” showcases (never do p2p showcases), you’ve hit the Open Mics on a weekly basis for a few months now. You’ve gone to nearby cities to try to get a feel for a different crowd. You’ve done everything I’ve said above before, and then some… At this point, I’d suggest trying to throw your own event. Now event production and coordinating is *NOT* for everybody, and *NOT* to be taken lightly. I cannot emphasize enough how much we don’t need more poorly put together functions that hang on by a thread and waste people’s time and money. I’m also not saying that if nobody will book you, then you book yourself. What I am saying is, if you have established a bit of a name for yourself, you can draw a decent 15-50 person paying crowd, and you’ve made a few connections through the events you’ve supported. Maybe it’s in your best interest to produce your own function. Find a venue, work out a deal, run it by a few friends to make sure it’s a solid one, book yourself to perform and a few supplemental acts that make sense for your sound or theme of the night. I know when doing talent booking and artist management/development with people who have no names. I was able to build names for them by producing a series that featured them as residents or near-headliners. You can do this for yourself without too much difficulty, but I really only suggest taking this route once you’ve reached the minimum requirements mentioned above, and already do everything else listed within this post. I’d hate to hear you followed a beat junkies blog posting from some guy named spiv and got evicted because you put your rent on the line and had a poorly designed flyer and a weak lineup with no gas.
Be Yourself. – Most of this stuff above is self-explanatory, or one would think. Unfortunately, I see these tools of the trade get tangled up and forgotten very rapidly, especially when one gets a little shine. At the end of the day, people will book you based on who you are. If they aren’t booking you, it doesn’t mean nobody likes you, it means you’ve got room for improvement. Never stop practicing and progressing to be the best you, that you can be. If you’re not seeing the results in what you’re doing, change what you’re doing, or how you’re doing it, until you see the response you want to receive. The Los Angeles and New York markets for music are savage, and the fakes, jakes, and snakes get weeded out quickly. You have to learn before you earn, and always keep a guard up. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No party or event is worth losing sleep over. Overcompensating for accomplishments you don’t have yet, is unnecessary and you are only as good as your word, so keep that shit golden. None of the things mentioned in this article prevent you from being yourself, and at the end of the day, the real ones get the work.
Maybe in the next Artist Essential piece on The Beat Junkies site, I’ll we can break down the differences between expectations and duties of Agents, Managers and Publicists.
I’ll leave you with this last nugget of advice. At the end of the day, It’s all about how you serve it up.
If you have the worst food in the world and it looks amazing — People will give it a shot. If you have the best food in the world, and it looks like shit — People won’t touch it.
Swap out food with Events, Music, Art, Film, Photos, etc and the lesson is the same. Presentation, Connection, and Communication are Keys To Success. Don’t do anything rushed or forced, don’t put out half-assed looking event flyers or album artwork. Spend a little extra time and money on things you value most, so others can recognize that when they feel, see, and hear the product you are delivering, especially when that product is yourself.
Hope this helps you land more bookings, as it has for a handful of others whom I see living off of their craft. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
On the first Wednesday of each month, we’ll be turning the spotlight on five select artists that you should probably know, if you don’t already. While the internet has definitely bridged the gap for aspiring talent to reach new heights and larger audiences faster than ever before. It’s also created a bit of a surplus problem in regards to the quantity of projects not matching the quality expectations that we were once accustomed to. While I won’t say that it’s all bad, It’s definitely thrown the music industry into a whirlwind and really requires more finesse and strategy than ever to really push your way to the top. That being said, the goal of this section isn’t necessarily to give you deep interviews that talk about your favorite rappers prior charges, drug habits, or executive producers who squandered away their royalties. The goal here is to focus on discovery, exploration, and hopefully to put you up on some talented individuals you’ve missed in the streets and on the web.
( Artist )
Bisco Smith, is an artist steadily in search of his own personal truth and most raw expression. His aim is to blend his experiences in life with the energy in the moment and create work that moves, questions, and inspires. His work is a blend of graffiti deconstruction, graphic design, and fine art that captures the untamed energy and uncharted environments of street style and expresses a sense of duality, spontaneity, and movement. He is currently living and working in Venice, CA with New York and Miami on the sides. Currently looking for a wall near you.
( Emcee )
Aaron Cohen is an artist from Seattle, Washington. After graduating high school, Cohen moved to New York and began his music career. Known for his laid back flow and dark yet catchy hooks, Cohen’s lyrics interweave cynical observations of the world and himself. Cohen has previously released mixtapes via Mishka Records as well as Decon/Mass Appeal. Cohen’s music utilizes a wide range of production styles, but tends to lean towards more ambient sounds as displayed on Cohen’s newest release “Home Less.” Cohen has toured in Europe and the United States. He is working on a new untitled EP for release later this year. Cohen is a member of New York City based collective “Inner City Kids.”
Notable collaborations: Flume, Ryan Hemsworth, A$AP Ty Beats, Tommy Kruise.
A couple weeks ago, a TV station in France called OFIVE TV had some crazy technical difficulty and ended up playing one of his music videos on repeat for four days straight. Obviously, it generated a lot of buzz out there. Here’s the video that got stuck on repeat:
( Emcee )
LA based rapper, Henry Canyons, transcends your typical boundaries of hip-hop identity. The self-described Brooklinite-French-Jew took to music at a young age; from his training as a jazz saxophonist to his teenage years spent in Brooklyn ciphers, his melodic style and bilingual lyrical integrity reflect a diverse musical background. After graduating college, Canyons moved to LA intent on following his passion for the art form. Since then Henry has steadily worked at his craft, putting out several different projects. “the Brooklyn-turned-LA native stays within a lane equal parts humor and quality hip-hop, generating impeccably delivered lyrics.” Emerging as a new artist on the scene, Paul Thompson of Passion of the Weiss assures listeners that, “Fortunately, the man at the mic has your attention. Canyons casts himself as the young Leo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can—alternately reckless and over-thinking, but with enough inimitable cool to pull it off.” Below is a link to his latest project that features smooth jazzy, boom bap-centric and introspective sounds guaranteed to leave listeners wanting more.
Zackey Force Funk ( Producer/Singer/DJ ) Zackey Force Funk was born into this wild world in Tucson, AZ in 1974. In and out of prison since the age of 17, ZFF began producing on pirated software his brother gave to him once he had given up a life crime to focus on writing tunes and raising his family.
First discovered by Kutmah back in the golden era of Myspace, Zackey’s signature “Force Funk Sound” swiftly grabbed the attention of a number of formidable producers. Collaborations followed shortly after with the likes of Salva, Lazer Sword, Lorn, Baron Zen, Daedelus and B. Bravo, as well as forming the group Demon Queen with Tobacco. As these tunes were scattered across various labels, finding their homes on their respective collaborator’s projects, ZFF continued to hone his style, delving deeper into the psychedelic future funk realm of which he has created for himself. The fruits of his discipline all add up to his forthcoming debut LP entitled ‘Money Green Viper”, to be released in July of 2014 on LA based collective Hit+Run.
When Zackey Force Funk isn’t robbing banks with baseball bats he’s rocking late night discotheques with soul songs for the armageddon.
Below is a link to his album on Hit+Run called Money Green Viper, which was also released on a limited edition emerald green skin vinyl by his crew.
NiceGuyxVinny ( Producer / DJ ) Vinny is one of those silent but deadly artists’ with extreme versatility in his production. You can tell he thinks about every sequence, sound and sample incorporated into his tracks and isn’t afraid to do something different. These days when the market is flooded with so many repetitive sounds, it’s very refreshing to have guys like this creating more of an abstract mood music to take you through your week. He’s based out of Long Beach, and also part of the Soulection crew, occasionally you can catch him live in a beat or dj set spreading more of the good vibes throughout dance floors across your city. Modest. Creative. Solid.
Below is what he had to say about his instrumental project titled “Vista” which is also embedded below and available for Name Your Price. Pick it up and support him if you get a chance to. ” Dedicated to & inspired by the people in my life. Each track is named after someone who I feel has made a huge impact on my life & the way I see the world. I got sounds that reminded me of them (favorite songs,movie scenes,etc.) and made tracks from those samples after I would spend time with them..talk to them..or even just think of them. I tried to put whatever emotion I had from those moments into song form. During the time I was making this project I had a lot of things going on with my life..working on these songs helped me get my mind off everything. It was great because I didn’t have to leave my own room to go to another place,all I had to do was close my eyes and listen. It was a fun idea that turned into a whole project that helped me more than I thought it was. I’m happy to share it with you. Much love to anyone who supports my music & all I wish for is to inspire some minds…”
If you’re in the Los Angeles area & you’re truly a Hip Hop Afficinado, you must check out the “Return Of The Mecca” Book Exhibit, currated by LA’s own Sohail Daulatzai. All happening at the William Grant Still Arts Center, which is currently happening thru November 22, 2014.
Here’s an description of the book and exhibition:
“Rakim. Public Enemy. A Tribe Called Quest. Gang Starr. Ice Cube. The Wu-Tang Clan. Mos Def. Lupe Fiasco. Jay Electronica. To many, these are some of hip-hop’s most significant artists. But few know that these artists, like many others, identify as Muslim and/or are connected to the larger world of Islam. Through the influence of figures such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, hip-hop culture was dominated, if not deeply influenced by its relationship to Islam, from the foundation of Zulu Nation in the early 1970’s, to the “Golden Age” of hip-hop (1986-1995), and onto the present. Return of the Mecca will showcase how Islam deeply impacted the world of art and culture, creating an alternative Black consciousness, one where Black people imagined themselves not as a national minority, but as part of a global majority.
The exhibit features the work of legendary photographers Jamel Shabazz, Ernie Paniccioli, B+, Cognito, and Katina Parker, as well as archival materials from Paraidise Gray and Alden Kimbrough, and album cover art, flyers and other ephemera.
Limited Edition, 120 page full color exhibit book featuring an extended interview with Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), essays by Chuck D and Sohail Daulatzai, photos by Jamel Shabazz, Ernie Paniccioli, B+, Katina Parker and Cognito, as well as other artwork and ephemera. Available at http://www.returnofthemecca.com/“