Last week, Rap Coalition founder Wendy Day took time away from writing her new series of books entitled “The Knowledge to Succeed” so she could speak with me for this article.
Wendy said she’s happy to talk with me about any number of topics because I’m talking to a segment of people that nobody really focuses on. While she’s trying to help established artists get (and get out of) deals, I’m trying help aspiring artists build a strong foundation so that one day they might be able to actually pursue a deal.
She tackles many different topics that I’d love to hear your comments on. Also, we’ll be chatting again in the near future, so please leave your suggestions for future topics that you’d like to hear Wendy speak on in the comment section below.
It’s a very good read and something I recommend for all aspiring artists. I’ve included excerpts of the audio as well. Here are Wendy Day’s thoughts:
Talent vs. Buzz:
A talented rapper has way more value in my house than somebody who doesn’t, but if you wanna spread larger than inside of my house, then you have to show that there’s a financial reason for somebody to fuck with you. If you are the most talented motherfucker in the world, that is so wonderful, but if you don’t have a following, you could have all the talent in the world and it just doesn’t matter. Once you decide to make this a business, you have to look at it differently. If you’re just gonna do it as an art form, and you have a 9-to-5 job, and you’re gonna press up your own mix CDs and hand them out because you love this? God bless you! That’s so fucking wonderful! But the day you decide that this is going to make you money and become a business for you, you have to treat it like a business and you have to look at like it a business. You can no longer look at it from the fan perspective, you gotta take off your fan sunglasses and you gotta look at it like the business that it is. And to succeed in this business, there has to be a market for it, meaning there has to be somebody who’s willing to trade something of value –meaning money– for your music. And once you can prove to somebody that there’s somebody willing to give money for your music, especially if there’s a lot of people that are willing to do it, that’s where you can really create a wonderful career, something that will sustain you and feed yourself and your family for years to come. Once you can prove to either an investor or a larger record label that there is a reason they should invest in you, you’re good to go. Until then, it’s just a hobby.
Artists say they make music because they love it, then get mad that they don’t get a deal
Absolutely! If it’s about art, you’re gonna get all the respect in the world inside of my house. Inside of my house, in my car, my favorite fucking rapper in the world is Ras Kass but, outside of my car and my house, I’m rolling with Young Beezy because he’s gonna sell more records, ‘cuz it’s a business. It’s not just about “what does Wendy like?” I listen to what I like, I even buy Ras Kass albums, but the bottom line is I’m one of the select few that understand him and that can relate to him.
Why aspiring artists shouldn’t hate Lil’ B & Soulja Boy
I remember in ’92 or ’93, and I guess this is where it’s cool that I go back so far in the business of hip-hop, because I remember when it wasn’t cool to like Will Smith (The Fresh Prince). I remember when he was a gimmick. I remember when he was what Souja Boy is today, and it’s always funny to me to say this to people because they look at him as like an icon. Like “Oh my God, he’s in Bad Boys! He’s like a 30 million dollar fucking actor, what do you mean nobody respected him?” But there was a time where playful, gimmick rap was not acceptable. Everything around that time was like Cypress Hill and it was Geto Boys, Public Enemy, EPMD and De La Soul, it was much more serious, and then here comes this guys rapping about your parents don’t fucking understand.
He won the very first Grammy that was ever given to rap, and I wrote an article for The Source talking about wanting to throw a brick through my TV because it’s equivalent of today Soulja Boy winning an award. Time changes everything, and what that tells me is that Fresh Prince was just really ahead of his time. He was the precursor to knowing where rap was going. It was just the stodgy people like me that weren’t willing to let it go and let it change and let it grow, and thank God that it did because it became a billion-dollar fucking industry.
Soulja Boy can make money and feed his family today because Will Smith made music that was mass-popular but not considered ‘keeping it real’ in the hip-hop community, and what taught me back then was… It doesn’t matter what type of music you make, you jut have to be true to yourself. In other words, don’t diss the next man because you don’t like what they’re doing. Who cares what @fucktyler is doing? Who cares what Soulja Boy is doing? Who cares what Lil B is doing? Be true to yourself. Make music for you and for your fans. Don’t down the next man — because why? Let him have his fans. It’s not like there’s fans out there saying “oh, I have to like either you or Lil B, and it’s gonna be Lil B ‘cuz he was a bigger Twitter following”. It’s not like that. There’s enough for everybody. If you make great music, the fans will come. You don’t have to down somebody just because ‘cuz your opinion is the variance, it’s opinion, O-PIN-ION!
I’m putting my soapbox away now.
Somebody who’s listening to Lil B probably isn’t listening to you anyway. They’re probably not the typical, y’know, ‘underground hip-hop fan. They’re probably a more commercial, Black Eyed Peas-type fan anyway, so it’s not taking anything away from the culture, it’s not taking anything away from rap, it’s not taking anything away from artists. Thank God people don’t follow their opinions. I personally don’t like Kanye’s music. Imagine if I were in a position of power where I could’ve stopped him from coming through. Wouldn’t that have been fucked up? I mean, I would never do that, ‘cuz I’m not that kind of person, but I think you get my point, where if it were about opinion at the top, there’d be no diversity, there’d be no different types of music. There’d be no industry. Now there’s something for everybody, thank fucking God.
Is Twitter good or bad for artists?
Before Twitter, yes, we didn’t have access. You couldn’t necessarily get a message to Puffy and have him read it, or Kanye and have him read it, or Just Blaze — great example by the way, ‘cuz he’s real active on Twitter– and have him read it, whereas now you can. But here’s the downside of that: a lot of artists go on Twitter and they show a side of their personality that they probably shouldn’t, and maybe they think it’s cute to sort of have that type of asshole personality, or asshole aura about them, I just find it not cute, y’know?. There’s some — and I’m not gonna blow anybody up, because I do have to run an organization that supports artists — but there’s people I had to stop following because I realized “wow, this is just a terrible, miserable, unhappy, bitch-ass of a human being. Like, I don’t even wanna read this person’s bio anymore, and it’s sad because these are people that were some of my favorite rappers. These are people I aspired to do deals for, and now their name is mentioned and the hair on the back of my neck stands up like “eww!” So I think that’s the downside of Twitter and I’m guilty of this myself because I find Twitter to be an excellent place to bitch and moan. It’s nothing for me to be sitting in traffic and I’ll go on Twitter and I’ll say “maaan… fuck this Atlanta traffic, it’s ridiculous!” and then another thought will come into my head and I’ll move onto the next thing and I’ll be happy, but when I’m happy I don’t necessarily pull out my Twitter and say “oh, man, I just did this deal and I’m so excited!”. I don’t use it for the upside, but I seem to use it for the negative side. I realized this about a year ago, I went through and I read some of my own tweets, and I’m like “wow, I’m really negative”. When you get to know me, though, I’m really not and I was showing a side of me that’s not real, because it was just too convenient for me to blast somebody on Twitter, complain on Twitter, bitch and moan on Twitter, and I wasn’t giving people the full access to my personality, so I try not to do that anymore and It’s hard, because I’ll tell ya: boy is Twitter great for complaining! You go on there and you bitch about the weather, and there’s 50 other people that are like “yeah, fuck the weather!” You know what I mean, it’s like camaraderie, it’s just a wonderful way to vent and then once you get it out, you’re done, and it’s good, but the problem is the people don’t realize that you move on 30 seconds later. They go back and they read your tweets and it’s like “negative tweet, negative tweet, negative tweet, negative tweet” and they think “wow, this bitch was negative all day”. Well, no: I just had four miserable times and talked about it for 140 characters, it’s only four minutes out of my day. The rest of the day I was happy and floating and doing backflips.
It’s too easy to show a side that’s not real, and I try to take that into consideration when I read the tweets of guys like Joe Budden and Royce ‘Da 5’9″. I try to take into consideration that maybe they’re just having a bad moment out of the day as opposed to being miserable. I think that familiarity breeds contempt.
Aspiring artists get mad if you don’t listen to their music
Oh, I get dissed all the time. Oh my God, I can’t even imagine what happens with a Just Blaze or Jay-Z that actually have a reason to listen to somebody’s music. I’m a nobody with no reason to listen to your demo ever and if I say “no, I’m too busy”, I get people dissing me, so I can’t even imagine what they must go through.
But artists aren’t at fault because they don’t know any better…
That’s their fault. I hold them responsible and there was a day — this is, by the way, a full about-face for me, like a full 180 flip from where I was ten years ago. Ten years ago, I blamed the gatekeepers for not sharing information, but there’s such a proliferation of information out there. You can Google “how to build a Twitter following”, “how to build an email list” and you can read the right way to do it, so for somebody to just sit down and assume “ok, the best way to get attention is to spam them my link” is just ignorant to me. It would be like me sitting down on my front steps and saying “the best way for me to get the attention of my next door neighbor is to ring the doorbell and when they open the door punch them in the face as hard as I can”. And yes, I will get their attention, but what kind of attention am I getting? Sometimes, that’s what artists do: they think “I need to get attention, what’s the best way to do it? Let me diss this person”, or “let me come at them crazy so that I stand out”. It’s just not the way to do shit. There’s just too much free info out there that educates artists on how to do it properly that when I see it, I used to complain about it… I don’t even complain about it anymore, I just block ’em.
Some artists feel it’s worth spamming for the few people that will actually listen
I don’t even know if there is a handful of people that listen and if there are, they’re people that are listening for a reason: either they want to jack a song, they wanna jack an idea. It’s not like Puffy is sitting back in his office saying “ok, let me find the ten best Twitter songs, I’m gonna sign them to multimillion-dollar deals”. It doesn’t work that way. So what they’re doing is they’re just diluting their brand and they’re saying “hey, I’m stupid, I don’t know what I’m doing”. In fact, to be honest with you, I’d respect them more if they sent me a tweet that said that. Basically, that’s what they’re saying. They’re saying “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, I didn’t take the time to learn this shit and you may take it serious, Wendy Day, but I don’t, so fuck you, here’s my spam”.
Artists who spam, then claim it’s not their fault because other people are using their account (assuming responsibility for your brand)
I’m already assuming that he’s lying and he’s full of shit, and that he did it, and he can’t just accept the fact that he pissed you off, and he’s trying to make himself look smarter and more in control by saying “oh it wasn’t me, it was the next guy”, so I already think he’s full of shit. I don’t know that I would want somebody to assume that I’m full of shit as my first foray into the music business, that’s already full of people who are full of shit. So already I’m thinking “man, this dude’s a fuckboy”. He can’t even man up and say “yeah, you know what? You’re right, I shouldn’t have done that. I didn’t know any better, now I know better, I’ll take control of my shit”. Why even go through the “ohh, it’s not my fault, somebody else used my account!”, why even tell you that shit? You don’t care. You know what I mean? It’s like, dude, come on. I already think you’re full of shit now. He may not even be full of shit. It may be that his assistant did that, but like you said, he’s responsible for his assistant. I’m responsible for my team. If my team fucks up, it’s not that my team fucked up: it’s that I fucked up.
Don’t send music that isn’t finished
If you do it once, that memory is what’s gonna stay with the person. Perception is reality. If I perceive your music to be half-assed, you could be mastered by Bernie Grundman the next and my impression is that your music is half-assed, because the first time I heard it, it was half-assed.
What’s more important: internet, performances or radio?
You need to focus on everything. You can’t just focus on one piece of the pie. Remember how we were just talking about perception is reality? If the perception of someone who’s in a position to help you is that your internet game is tight but everything else is weak, they may be less likely to help you even if you’re more deserving than the next artist because the next artist may be more well-rounded. Meaning they’re good at the blogs, they’re good at internet, they’ve got a street following, they’re doing shows in their area — and it may just be their own local city, they may not have gone regional yet — it may just be a small following, but the point is: they’ve got all the pieces of the pie to come together to make a whole pie. This industry is about the whole pie. It’s not about being good at one piece of the pie, it’s being good about the whole pie. If you’re just gonna focus on one aspect and — this is the downside of the internet, because a lot of people that don’t have the funding to do this came into the industry thinking “oh I can promote myself for free, because the internet is free” — well, that’s really wonderful, but name one superstar who became big just from the internet. And don’t say Soulja Boy, because Soulja Boy had a great street following, Soulja Boy was doing shows in the mid-south. He’s from Mississippi just south of Memphis, and he had a following from Mississippi all the way over to Atlanta before Mr. Collipark found him. So he was already bumpin’ in other areas other than just the internet, it’s just that people from New York and California thought it was just an internet following that he had, therefore their perception was “he’s an internet rapper”, but he’s not. I promise you he’s not. I’ve gotten to sit on panels with Mr. Collipark and he gets really, really furious when people say that because he knows how much money he spent and he knows what he did in order to get Soulja Boy that whole pie. That’s what people look for, they look for the whole pie, so if you’re only delivering one slice of the pie you’re already failing, even at a small level. Even at a new level, even at a brand-new level.
How far an artist needs to perform in order to build a local following
Three hours. Draw a circle around your city, three-hour drive in all directions. That’s your market. Start with that.
Go to college campuses. Go to high schools. At the lunch hour, when classes are letting out — like more high school, when classes are letting out at two o’clock, three o’clock– you’ve got a captive audience of five-six hundred people. Just start rapping. Start handing out your shit. On college campuses, it’s lunch time. At the mall, it’s Saturdays. And that doesn’t cost a whole lot. If you can’t press up flyers, you’re in the wrong business anyways. If you can’t press up CDs, you’re REALLY in the wrong business.
When we can expect Wendy’s new book and website
My best guess is August. I’m finishing it now, and the thing about writing a book for me is that as I go back and proofread it, I keep adding shit. And then I think “oh oh oh I need to add this!” Something will wake me up at like 5 in the morning and I’ll come downstairs and boot up my laptop and quick add something else and all of a sudden it’s like, twelve thousand pages. (laughs) The quick answer is I don’t have a release date for it yet, but the real answer is it should be coming within the next 30 days. There’s a point –I set myself a deadline so that I’ll stop adding stuff and stop tweaking it here and tweaking it there, overkill. It should be out in August. And then the slavesnomore.com website should be up, probably –I was shooting for August, it’s not realistic anymore, my designer’s a little bit slow, so we’re looking at probably September.