The New Gatekeepers: Music, Bullshit, & The Digital Wasteland

Late rap artist XXXtentacion

Late rap artist XXXtentacion

Rap music. I used to love H.E.R.

Before I became a fight promoter, communications specialist, journalist, or brand manager, I was a budding music impresario.

Enraptured my the stories of those before me like Berry Gordy, Russell Simmons, and Sean Combs, I devoured all the info I could about the music industry.

My love first started in the early nineties during the golden age of hip hop.

Groups like A Tribe Called Quest and the collective known as the Native Tongues enlightened me. Nasir “Nas” Jones painted pictures that I saw vividly. Tupac Shakur educated me while evoking my toxic masculinity simultaneously.

Everything a teenager needed was within these recordings and I retained more info from these scribes than my prescribed textbooks.

I caught the bug and would stop at nothing until I understood how to get into this business and monetize musical creativity.

Howard University

It was after my acceptance and enrollment into Howard University that I began to strategize. I read somewhere about a book called How To Make It In The Music Business by Donald S. Passman. The book was written by a prominent music industry attorney who laid out all the mechanics of the business.

After reading the book, some collegiate peers and I decided to create a musical collective and release independent albums. Our main distribution source was the school bookstore and we moved units.

This exhilarated me and I decided to go a little further with some of the artists post-graduation. However, as we were focused on being independent and aligning with a major record label we didn’t see what was coming.

A new world where the internet and new marketing mechanism known as social media would combine to create newer methods to stay independent.

What we didn’t know was as the quest for marketshare developed among the independents and the majors was like an arms race. Ultimately, the indies would win but at the cost of a major integrity erosion creatively.

Today there is no creative integrity at all.

How To Make A Viral Star

Vulture recently published an expose on how to make a viral star aka a SoundCloud rapper.

In the article, a ten-step program is detailed that guarantees transforming a local rapper or minor celebrity into a meme and then a viral sensation using a set of proven marketing tricks.

It includes tactics like: social-media influencer campaigns, meme-ing the artist, Musical.ly placements, World Star promotions, and something called “controversy projects”.

These special projects seems to mean planting faux feuds between artist’s and igniting drama to stoke controversy and online attention.

Some of the case studies of this method are current artists: Lil Pump, XXXtentacion, Tekashi 6ix9ine, and more.

When you look at the beefs between artists like Trippie Redd and 6ix9ine and understand that they are manufactured to generate buzz, it is disgusting.

In any business, I always teach my clients that integrity is everything. Although you must build perception it is not a by-any-means-necessary business.

In fact, I always advise people that creation of a false perception is to your longterm peril.

When you think about 6ix9ine’s “affiliation” and then de-affliation with the Nine Trey Blood gang, was it real? If so, why would the artist quickly abandon the organization and its members once he was under investigation by the FBI and eventually indicted? Sure fear of prison time but most true gang members are pre-prepped of the threats of street danger or government probing prior to joining.

Artists like XXXtentacion become victims of their own success by being murdered from social media location monitoring from street individuals.

All of these occurrences prove one thing, the game is not based on music but shenanigans. True creativity has given way to marketed gimmickry and there is an engine to boost it.

To all looking to make a mark in the music business I implore you to cling to your value systems more than ever.

Your brand should stay away from trickery to be successful and you need to look no further to these unfortunate experiences by creatives as to why.

One thing is certain, the curtain has been pulled back and we no longer are guessing about the reasons why certain artists today go viral.