There’s too much music. We’ve over saturated the market and weakened the value of our product. On any given day, you can go to 2dopeboyz.com and find 20 new songs from hip-hop artists, and that doesn’t even account for the mixtapes and all the hundreds of songs that won’t get posted by a site of that caliber.
John Regan, the Baltimore hip-hop artists who I partnered with to create Sorry I’m Late, might never release another song as long as he’s alive, but he’ll always be associated with quality. If five years from now he decides to record music again, it’ll be welcomed with open arms because they’ll associate him with the quality of Sorry I’m Late. Matter of fact, we’ve been having a disagreement lately because he wants me to send him the sessions for some of the tracks that didn’t make the album so he can “put them out (whatever that means). We have records produced by J. Cardim and Frequency, and songs that feature some well respected artists. Solid ideas, great beats, but just not finished songs. I refuse to send them to him. I told him if he wants to release them, invest the money to go into the studio and finish them properly. I refuse to release sub-par, lower quality music under my brand. He’s upset about it now, but he’ll be happy that I held my ground down the line.
This is a huge problem in the urban industry. Rappers release so much music that’s below their talent level. Rihanna would never release songs where she’s singing off key. Drake has amazing control of what’s released. Even his unfinished songs are mixed well, him singing on key, and most of all – good songs. Rappers tend to record something, email a verse to someone else, throw a quick mix, then send it to nahright.com. Sure, it keeps their name out there, but now we’re associating this weaker music with their brand.
I understand, not every artist can do what Jay and Kanye did. Basically take nine months off and fly around together to record a project, bringing in each contributor and keeping the circle tight. But they can take better care of their product.
So many albums, specifically independent projects, spend all their budget on beats and features and save nothing for mixing and mastering. They’ll also record up until the last second and not leave the appropriate amount of time for a quality mix. They’ll spend $10,000 on a Nottz beat, but will find some kid to mix and master the album for free. See, the features are sexy, but the mix is boring. But guess what? The mix is such an important part of the process. A good or bad mix can completely change how people view your work.
The most obvious example of this would be Joe Buddens. He’s one of the most talented rappers in the industry but suffers from some of the worst quality issues this side of MySpace. In this day and age, there’s just no excuse for poor quality. It’s as if he feels his words are so powerful that his beats and mixes don’t matter. It’s so bad that J. Cardim actually released the Joe Buddens Mood Muzik 4 instrumentals so people could see how the beats were supposed to sound. The mixing was so bad that they actually ruined the beats. I’ve had a couple of the other producers involved in his projects email me their original beats after I critiqued them just so I could hear what they had originally submitted. It ruins the listening experience. When I have a playlist of my favorite songs, I can’t add anything from Joe (sans his self-titled debut that was handled by Def Jam) because the drop off in quality and sound is too severe. As a fan, it’s frustrating.
There is a lack of attention to detail in everything he does. His last official album, Padded Room, actually had his name spelled incorrectly on the CD spine (Joe Buddden). His book, Enter the Mind of Joe Budden, had his wrong website link. It also claimed to be a “lyric book that gives fans a closer look at his personality and his songwriting methods. Handwritten lyrics of Joe’s hit songs“, yet was nothing more than typed lyrics copied from a website with no insight to his “songwriting methods”. Tactics like this, and charing money to fans for a “VIP” experience to meet Buddens, are what bring some short term money but injure your brand in the long term. Artists need to focus on building quality again. His theme seems to sign a front-loaded deal with a small, obscure label and then complain later when they don’t handle him properly. Well, every artist is responsible for who they partner with. A better idea would be to partner with a more established group and take less up-front money but secure a better fu ture. Sure, doing things his way makes a little more money in the short term, and you save money by cutting corners with mixing and mastering, but your brand loses value and you lose a lot more in the long term. This industry is built on residual income, not one-time cash advances.
Buddens is hardly the only one, just the most noticeable. But poor sound quality and too many records are only two parts of the problem. A third is the way that albums are presented. These leaks have to be better controlled. Leaking seven songs from an album before the release ruins the listening experience. We’ve seen through the years that it’s “monkey see, monkey do” when it comes to Jay, so I’m assuming we’ll see a lot more staggered digital/physical release dates in the coming months (let’s just be glad he didn’t tell us to all wear diapers outside of our clothes, or else the Huggies stock would be through the roof right now). But that’s only part of it. Artists can’t send songs all over the place. They need better control of their product. They need to invest more time.
Take Skyzoo, for example. He’s an independent artist, but all of his music sounds crisp and clean as if it was released by a major label. Sky isn’t a billionaire. How come his music always sounds pristine? It’s because he invests time and money into his work. He takes pride in what he releases. There’s not enough pride in urban music these days. There’s plenty of egos, but not enough pride. Rappers are so concerned with their words that they forget they’re supposed to be making music.
Artists need to remember – everything they release is a direct reflection of their brand. You release a quick freestyle or an unmixed collaboration and that becomes a part of your legacy. You never know when someone is listening to you for the first time. The only records that should be leaking out are records that you believe are a positive representation of you. Artists need to take better care of their brand.
Also, don’t be in such a rush to release music. Put it out when it’s right. If you’re working on a collaboration and the featured artist isn’t adding anything to the song, don’t be afraid to cut it off. Don’t leave it on just for the name. If you must, save the verse for a remix or something, but have the balls to make a call on your music. Not to call him out again, but Buddens had a song on MM4, Remember the Titans, that had Royce the 5’9”, Lloyd Banks and Fabolous on it. It was beyond obvious that Banks didn’t fit on the record. His flow was lazy and boring and brought the song down. Instead of cutting the verse, he left it on – either for the name recognition or because he couldn’t bare to tell an artist that he begged for a feature that he was leaving him off. Either way, it severely hurt the song.
Remember, this is your music. The only way you should collaborate with someone is if it’s adding to the music. Unfortunately, because of constantly updated blogs and the instant availability of music, artists force themselves to play the “quantity” game and it’s killing the industry. Don’t continue to dilute our genre. Keep it exclusive. Take pride in yourself and your music.
Just my two cents. Please leave comments, I’d love to get your feedback.
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