So you're a aspiring rapper. Congratulations. You're among millions who aspire the same. I'm here to help you though. The talent part is up to you but the things I can help you control I'll try and help you with. Here is my advice on how to succeed as a rapper in 2016.
WHAT'S YOUR STORY?
I don't give a fuck about your bars. What is your story? If you can rap ya ass off and you got bars that's a plus but if you have no story guess what? You're boring. If Jay-Z never rapped about Marcy Projects or his former drug dealing I wouldn't care. Go battle rap or rap in cyphers if you want to have strictly bars and no story. If you have no story you're fucked. A story is what helps fans relate to you not only as an artist but as a human. Which leads me to my next point.
DO THEY BELIEVE YOU OR WANNA BE YOU?
People have to want to be you or believe you as the legendary Lenny S has stated. If they do both then that's perfect, but you have to have at least one or the other happening. Kids wanted to dress like Tyler The Creator. People believe DMX's story. The end result was they bought their product and gave their support to those artists. Curren$y and Wiz stopped smoking blunts. Guess how many teens and adults stopped smoking blunts because they did? A lot. You need to have one or the other. It's perfect if you have both.
DON'T MARKET AND FORGET THE ART
Some aspiring artists I can't even tell if they're rappers or marketers. Pushing your music is important but please do not lose sight of the art. Your art is what's important. The quality of it. Your care for it. You're making a first impression to a lot of people. Never forget that. If you're just focused on spamming links all day your art is becoming secondary. Trust me if you're art is high quality it will catch ears. I see local artists promo games on the A level but the music is a D minus. If you put that energy of how much you promo into the art it will benefit you more. Everything is balance. Create the art. Take your time with it. Complete it, then go to the marketing.
CD'S ARE PRETTY MUCH DEAD
If you have a reliable fan base. By reliable I mean you without a doubt can sell 1000 copies and you have many shows out of state then go ahead push cd's if they're in high demand from your fanbase. If you're up and coming this may not be the move for you. Why in the hell would you go print up 500 cd's and you cant even sell 100 copies in your city? They're cd's I've gotten 5 years ago and I NEVER listened to them. Laptops and cars are starting to come without cd drives in them. Streaming/Aux has taken over. Honestly you're better off having business cards with your soundcloud on them but people don't care for business cards sometimes. They'll take your card and use them as filters for smoking or rolling up the tree. Get a banner made of your soundcloud, snapchat, facebook, twitter handles on it and have it for your live shows and point it out to the crowd throughout your performance. Everyone lives in their phone so you have to play to that strength of the market.
I remember when I saw Pharrell speak in LA and he told us that if you give him a CD he will never listen to it mainly for the reasons I stated above and that he can't put it in his pockets so he always loses them. I had a friend of mine buy a ipod nano put his beats on it and give it to a well known producer and that producer listened to it ASAP and got back to him for an opportunity. Why did that work? The ease of access. My homie spent 150 on a new ipod and gave it to who he intended to and the producer was impressed at the creativity. It showed my homie was serious because he dropped money on a ipod just to give away. 150 ain't shit either yall buy Jordan's every month. You can also buy a bunch of flash drives and put your best tracks and a pic of your social media handles on it and hand a bunch of them out. I bet you people will get back to you faster. If you disagree with me and still believe in cd's please do not print up more than 100. Trust me.
YOU DON'T NEED RADIO
This is nothing against radio. I haven't heard Tech N9NE on the radio in almost 15 years. He's doing just fine. Never heard Vince Staples on the radio he's good. There are so many artists who don't get radio play and they're touring and have huge fan bases. If you do get on radio great but this isn't 10 years ago. The internet changed the game with streaming. It leveled the playing field. Vic Mensa isn't played on the radio but that didn't stop Jay-Z from signing him. He signed him because he saw his shows were sold out, his consistently high soundcloud numbers and he was playing music festivals. Send your music to the radio stations if you want but it's not as important as it used to be. There's also tons of internet podcast out here who are looking for music to play. You're better off linking with those people because the internet is their platform and the internet is king. Also don't focus on trying to make a "hit" single. Just do you. Never go to studio and say I need to make something for the club, girls, etc or copy what you hear on the radio. Make what you feel. It has to be organic.
MULTIPLE SONGS > MULTIPLE ALBUMS
This is a tricky situation also. If you're starting out just put all your energy into a song and push that song. Music video included. A EP is also a option. Just make 4-5 GREAT songs and push and perform them. Make a video for each track also. Albums and Mixtapes are cool but the attention span of the listener today is short unless you're already proven like a Kanye, Kendrick, etc. Fans will listen to a 20 plus track project from those guys not you. They will listen to multiple albums from those guys because they've paid their dues. Upcoming Atlanta Rapper Playboi Carti is a perfect example of this. He has not released his first mixtape yet and he's only touring off his songs on soundcloud. These songs are a year old. All of them have millions of plays. When A$AP Rocky came on the scene he had 2 STRONG songs that he shot videos for and that got him poppin. When the public demanded he drop a project he finally did. He only has 3 solo projects. Quality over Quantity. If you have a strong fanbase like a Curren$y then yeah dropping multiple projects is okay. He's constantly touring and he will profit from it. You're trying to earn the ears of people still so you doing this would be pointless. If you're going to make a album or multiple albums in one year don't give them out for free. You might as well sell them. Profit.
YOUR LIVE SHOW IS EVERYTHING!
I've seen rappers who I don't listen to at home but if I see that they're performing I'd pay money to see them because they put on one hell of a show. Your live show has to be on point. It's the one thing rappers are making the bulk of their money from today. If a person sees you for the first time and you put on a dope ass show they will want to know everything about you. From what new music you have coming to where you'll be performing next. You earn customers. You have to treat every performance as if there is a billion dollars on the line. Whether it's 10 people in the crowd or 1000. Bring the heat. Rehearse your sets. Practice. Practice. Practice. You're not Iverson. Don't be that guy with 10 random dudes on stage with you not doing anything. Take pride in your live shows.
SNAPCHAT AND FACEBOOK VIDEO/LIVE
Snapchat is the best app right now. Why? It took the flaws of every other social media app and eliminated them. Facebook offered 3 billion to buy Snapchat. The creator said he's never selling. He knows something we don't know. Who turns down 3 billion dollars? This app is perfect for artists. You can preview new tracks. Have someone snap your performances. Takeover other people/startup businesses Snapchats while you're performing. It's just easy for you and your fans to handle. If a artist doesn't have Snapchat they're losing. Facebook live is kind of new but it's very efficient also for rappers. You can Facebook live your whole studio session and video shoot and give fans a look into your creative process. Just post up videos of your work ethic. Those 2 social media apps are more crucial than Twitter and Instagram. Twitter has too much traffic, it's easy for you and your content to get lost and Instagram has just gone downhill. I don't even check mine anymore. Put your Facebook and Snapchat in the info of your Soundcloud. This will hold you over until you get your own website which would be smart to have in the future.
TARGET FANS... NOT RAPPERS
I'm a artist. What does it benefit you by sending me a link of your music? None. I check out music regardless. The streets talk. The internet talks. If the feedback is good I'll check it out. I see a lot of rappers worried about getting their music to other rappers when they should be looking for potential fans. The best way to get fans today is your live show and your Soundcloud. This is why I said your live show must be incredible. Go out and meet people and have mini flyers of your shows and try your best to get them to come out. Exchange social media info. Build with them. There's nothing worse than performing in a room full of rappers instead of fans.
OPENING UP FOR KNOWN ACTS DON'T = YOU MADE IT
If you get the opportunity to open up for a well known rapper. Take the opportunity. Where some aspiring rappers get confused is that they think it matters in the aspect of "Okay, I made it." No you didn't. This isn't 1994 there isn't A&R's in the crowd. It's a great chance to gain fans for sure but honestly these days it's just another performance for you. No one cares who you opened up for. Fans don't care. If you still looking to get signed (Which is dumb) labels don't care either. Are your shows packed? Is there a fanbase? That's what they care about. Now if the well known artist personally asks you to open up while traveling with them on their tour that's a different story. You've taken a huge step. Also please be mindful of who you're opening up for and what type of fanbase they have. I've seen people open up for trap artists and try to to come with that super lyrical shit and the crowd wasn't having it. Now if that rapper did those songs at a Wu-Tang, Tech N9NE, or Freddie Gibbs show the response would likely be better. You supposed to be versatile anyway so have some songs in your catalog that touch all bases.
KEEP A USB OF A SHOW SET ON YOU AT ALL TIMES
You never know when a opportunity will arise for you to perform. Keep a usb of your show set on you at all times. Someone could drop out a show. You could end up at a open mic. You never know. You don't want to miss out on the chance to gain potential fans. It's one thing to say you rap. It's another thing to show people what to expect.
SHOW YOUR FACE
This is really important. You can't just sit on the internet all day spamming unwanted links of your music. You have to show your face in these streets. Go to events even if you don't know nobody and meet some promoters and DJ's. Go to events even if you're not booked to perform at them. Hop in some cyphers to showcase your skill. You don't have to be the best but show people that your sword is sharp. You can sit on the internet all day but it's not going to ensure you success. People have to know you're real. Show people that you're a good person outside of rap. People support good people. I've seen rappers that aren't that good skill wise but they're likable and good people so people come out to support them. You can't expect to get performances on certain scenes and you don't come out to the events or introduce yourself to anyone. We have rappers trying to get on VIBES (July 30th) and they've never been to one event or introduced themselves to anyone on the scene. They just want to perform because they see it's poppin and that's cool. It's totally human to feel that way but come get to know people. Come experience it then work hard, make dope shit, and stay in contact with the right people and your chances are way better to get that opportunity next time.
INVEST IN YOUR PASSION
Quit getting these trash ass covers. Go find a quality artist and pay for it. Never look or ask for free shit. Free shit is often followed up with fuckery. If you want to print cd's pay good money for some legit shit. Find a good studio with a reliable engineer. Don't do shitty photo shoots from your homie who has no idea what he or she is doing. Seek out someone with a good rep in your city art and business wise and pay the money. If they're higher than your budget then ask them are they willing to take what you have. You'll be surprised at how many people are willing to work with your budget. If you're not willing to invest in yourself then no one will.
WORKING > TALKING
No one cares that YOU call your album a classic. If it's self proclaimed then it holds no weight. You'll never say your music isn't great. Of course you will think that your music is the greatest thing on earth. The masses has to make that claim for you. The streets has to make that call. Not you. People who don't know you personally have to say that. Let the art speak. People don't give a fuck about you saying you can kill any rapper on a beat. Like I said on the first point they care about your story. Only thing you should be talking about is releases, show dates, where they can purchase your merch and music. We don't care if you say you're the best in the city. What the fuck does that mean? Is there an actual throne you sit on? A actual crown? If you were doing a show with just you on the bill would it sellout? Would there be more strangers than family and friends that attend? If not. Shut the fuck up and create. Stop telling us what to expect day in and day out from an upcoming project with nothing to show. Drop snippets. Talking gets old very fast. The people want action. They want work. Work more than you talk.
PLEASE DON'T ANNOY ME
Last but not least. If I didn't ask for your music don't send me that shit. #IStillLoveYou. This applies especially in St.Louis. If you got that shit you won't have to send me anything, trust me I'LL FIND YOU. Let your art do the talking.