Sunday, July 12, 2009
The big trend now is calling yourself a "boss" and creating your own record label. On the one hand I don't have a big problem with it, if you know what you're doing. Running a record label is empowering and the different types offer varying levels of independence balanced with exposure.
Here is my biggest problem with rappers running labels, if you don't have a solid career yourself, why would you think that you can control someone else's? More importantly why would an up and coming artist sign to the label of someone who cannot handle their own business. Take Jae Hood for example, starting as a young kid, he followed behind the Lox, looking up to them as neighborhood heroes, signing to their imprint, D Block records. He could have never known at his young age that things would not work out, even though adults knew the Lox had tremendous problems with Puffy. Undoubtedly they spun the story to him so that they were the victims.
However, Papoose didn't have the same excuse. He signed to a management deal with Busta Rhymes who was on his third label in 5 years and had an entire squad that was hoping for a second release and DJ Kayslay who had a limited sphere of influence at its very best. Why would you sign to these guys when they have no track record of success? Why not hit up Violator Management?
They have represented LL, 50 Cent, Mase, Mysonne, CNN, Busta himself, and countless others over the years with a large record of success. (as a note Paoose is now listed directly as an artist under violator management giving him a better chance at success.) Murda Mook was signed to Bow wow's record label. Nicki Minaj, Tyga, Jae Millz, and Drake are signed to Young Money which is distributed through Cash Money/Universal, meaning if these guys ever come out their money is getting divided up an extra slice for no reason at all. Big Kuntry Kang didn't get a hot 1/2 page ad in The Source, so what is his label supposed to be doing?
Realistically, signing to the label run by an artist who still wants to be an artist is a bad decision. There is no way that hip-hop artists who are all self-serving can direct your career and their own objectively. Look at Kanye West, he hoards the best tracks for himself and then tosses some good, albeit leftover joints to people like Common who deserve the cream of the crop.
More recently, Aubrey "Drake" Graham, turned down a deal of his own at Universal, which he probably could have used to create his own imprint to sign a deal through Young Money. This is a case where being your own boss should have been an advantage since he got to this position on his own in the first place.
Unless he figured that there were a lot of things that he cannot do on his own then it makes sense, however anything he can get from Young Money, he can get directly from Universal without having to cut in an extra person on the deal. Most people just aren't qualified to start out as their own boss. It is actually best to get with someone who knows the game and watch what they do to market other artists on their label and learn from it; not just sit down and wait to see what will be done for them.
You see the game has changed, it is all about marketing in different ways and driving incremental (I learned that term from work) listens in order to give your performances value because that is where you're going to make money these days. I'm not against guys taking control but you have to take your time and do it right if you're going to be your own boss. Everyone isn't ready for it.