Hip Hop (Un)Scene: Greatest Hits

The dirty dozen: a year's worth of artist advice columns recapped

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I’ve officially written 12 columns for CityBeat, which technically amounts to a year (although it’s now been more than a year). Hey, it’s a free paper, so who’s counting?

What I want to do is write a quick recap of what the first year’s worth of advice has amounted to. Awesome how I can just cram it into one column. If you’ve never read the column up to this point, I’d advise going back to the archives to expand on all these ideas (click on "full column" after each summary).

Column No. 1 (“Looking Back and Hustling Forward”)
We can’t expect industry hand-outs. The industry has changed entirely in the past six years. We have to build our scene ourselves, develop our own distinctive sound(s) and build our own structure for success. (Full column here.)

Column No. 2 (“Beats, Rhymes and Life”)
The way we begin building our sounds is to create actual albums, building chemistry between the artist and producer, much how Ohio Funk groups did it in the 1970’s (Ohio Players influenced Roger Troutman, etc.). Everyone made each other strive to be better. It’s cool to rap over other folks beats once in a while, but the less you do it, the more of a sound you will have for yourself, and the more it will mean when you actually do rap over a beat. (Full column)

Column No. 3 (“Turn My Headphones Up”)
Once you’ve developed and practiced recording your music, it’s time to record. Prepare to be as efficient and money-saving as possible. Work with the engineer as much as possible to get a better product. Learn as much about the jobs of the people who can help you become a better you. The better you can communicate with them, the better your final product will come out. (Full column)

Column No. 4 (“The MC/DJ Relationship”)
Once you’ve been developing your sound and recording your music, it’s time to find a DJ or band (though a DJ is easiest to start with) and develop a good stage show. This means no rapping over your vocals. (Full column)

Column No. 5 (“What About Your Friends?”)
As you begin making music with your friends, you’ll have to simultaneously begin developing a business format with them. The best groups were friends that broke up over business disagreements, so get the foundation down strong on paper. Separate the business relationship from the artistic relationship and friendship as early as possible. (Full column)

Column No. 6 (“The Future Is Unwritten”)
Before you step out into the scene to build your name and brand, really question why you’re doing this. The greatest and longest-lasting careers are all built off artists who feel as if they have no other choice except to make music. Someone once said, “You will be successful when no one has to pay you a dime to do it and you’re still happy.” (Full column)

Column No. 7 (“Online Etiquette”)
After developing the basis of your sound and recording, it’s time to start developing your online fan base. Starting mostly with Facebook, since that’s your strongest online network of friends, continue branching out. Just don’t become a “MySpace Rapper.” (Full column)

Column No. 8 (“Smells Like Scene Spirit”)
What truly creates a unique and long-lasting scene is the combination of creative minds that are open for collaboration and want to build the scene off of a creative platform, not for demographics of fan base or to clean dirty money out. Astronauts become astronauts because they want to walk on the moon, not to make quick money. No different with music. (Full column)

Column No. 9 (“Ego Trippin’ ”)
A continuation of the last column. The second you start valuing your status in a scene over what you create is the second you fall off. The second you start paying attention to status in a local scene is the second you give yourself a ceiling. No ceilings. (Full column)

Column No. 10 (“I’m Burnt”)
Every so often, the deeper you get into the Music Game, the greater the chance of a burn-out. I find them a lot after touring. Sometimes burn-outs are necessary. Sometimes what you think is failure is the set-up to an awesome moment of clarity. Embrace the burn-out and learn from it so you won’t have to go through it again for as long as possible. (Full column)

Column No. 11 (“That’s My DJ”)
So you’ve recorded songs and begun performing in the scene. You’ve built your own sound and are developing a stage show to match it. You’ve begun networking your early online fanbase and promoting your shows. You should start to notice things happening that you don’t even have to set in motion at this point. By now, folks approach you for opportunities. If your music fits the lane, one thing to consider is going the route of the mixtape DJ to help spread awareness of your sound and build your buzz in the club scene. (Full column)

Column No. 12 (“Be Here Now”)
We wrap up the first 12 columns with another deep one. Dharma is the idea of letting your dream build itself instead of forcing it into what you think it should be. You might not be the rapper you think you’re supposed to be. Which is fine. Find where you succeed the strongest. Don’t let the rapper-ego get in the way of you making a living off of what you’re happy doing. Don’t let someone else’s dream define yours. (Full column)

There, one dozen columns wrapped up in a pretty package for you. See you next time when I pick up the thread.

ILL POETIC is a multi-tasking Hip Hop producer/performer. Contact him via [email protected] or illpoetic.com.

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