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    BABA: You Really Must Have Great Music & Great Perseverance

    It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for our Be A Better Artist series, and today I wanted to touch on something that most of us artists tend to overlook. Well, it’s really a rambling of thoughts that I’ve collected through my 12 years as a hip hop artist and producer, mixed with my last five years as a blogger, kind of focused with a general point, but you know what I mean. The main point: you really must have great perseverance at what you do to have longevity in the music business…as an artist. I hate even calling it “the music business” because quite frankly, most are nowhere near the etheric plane on the business aspect. I know this because I’ve lived it. Let me rewind a bit first.

    Most of us that have been making music for a while understand the levels of our growth. I remember when I started making beats and rapping, and how good I thought I was. I remember thinking a couple years after that how bad I was before, but how good I was then. This cycle recurs and continues to do so to this day for the most part. Granted, there are always gems, but the process and knowledge behind everything becomes advanced to the point where I understand myself and path more than I did before. This can only be accomplished through time, in my opinion. You know, that whole “find yourself” as a musician thing.


    It’s important to note, as I have in the past, that I’ve lived through a couple different eras in the music business. I was “coming up” when the digital age was taking off. I started making music in 2002 and didn’t put anything out online until 2005. That’s three years, and although it seems like a lifetime in today’s standards, I really wasn’t shit until about 2006 (just as much of the music that is submitted to us at BDTB today seems to be so). Sure, I had flashes of genius, but I didn’t truly know what was good and what wasn’t, and most of the time I didn’t even know how I was making the stuff that was good. It was just like, an accident. Sure, I liked stuff I was doing, but I was kind of oblivious outside of my bubble. Granted, not everyone grows the same as me, but not everybody has my understanding because of the way I chose to grow. I remember when all I did was make beats and try stuff out with my homies, and it’s cool to see some younger cats I know do the same stuff that I was at their age. I was that Kanye West “lock myself in the basement for three summers” beat maker. I had thousands of beats (before that fatal dropping of the hard drive thing back in 2008). I was that guy. I think that I’ve probably officially put in my 10,000 hours 12 years later.


    Why do I say all of this? It’s not to boast, as it’s nothing to boast about; it’s to put things in perspective.

    It was literally three years of nightly work before I paid any real attention to trying to get my music out of my apartment, and a couple more after that before I really took it semi-serious. Sure, it was in the back of my mind, but I never did anything to actually pursue it. That simply will not ever happen again because of technology. Before Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, and modern day Facebook, there was just MySpace, Soundclick, and college Facebook. I remember trying to figure out the next big thing and how to get my music out there. I started doing remix contests online. I was in forum beat-sample-flipping-battles on Stones Throw’s website back in the mid 2000’s, and I joined many message boards including ones where I’ve created some really cool acquaintances (shouts to all of my Access/Ban’t homies). This was before blogs were “the thing” to allegedly get on for independent artists. I was feeling around for the best way to get my music out because I honestly had no idea how to share my music moving forward, and I wanted to figure out what the new way was going to be.

    Then blogs really started to strive. I remember the first blog I got on was in 2007, and it had no relevance of importance for me. I was just like “that’s cool.” This was all around the same time I had the idea for BDTB. From there I moved to Indianapolis in 2008 and went to every single hip hop related event that I could find. I tried my best not to be that “thirsty” artist (a topic for another day) that demanded a conversation, but I wanted people to know I was around. I passed out my latest project and ended up striking some good conversations with some likeminded folks. Eventually people heard my music, liked it, and then things evolved. I only started doing this because it was the next logical step…I didn’t know what else to do. There was no “guideline” to success in this new digital era. I learned that regardless of that fact, that speaking face to face with people was one way to create fans and respect. It was necessary to succeed in my world.


    From 2009-2011, my group Hinx Jones was doing some really good things in Indianapolis, but we were struggling outside of the city. We were 1 of 5 acts selected to perform at the A3C Festival on their Sonic Bids stage. We actually performed there the year before too. We were in the green room like flies on the wall with Rhymefest, Tanya Morgan, DJ Booth’s DJ Z, the fellas at 2dopeboyz, Homeboy Sandman, 9th Wonder, Statik Selektah, and you name it. We did multiple festivals around Indiana too. We were travelling and performing in Chicago. We were featured on a national mixtape by Fake Shore Drive. We were getting booked left and right and had lots of local anticipation for our next album, “Frozen Liquor.” On the surface, that looks amazing, yeah? Well, there’s more to it than that.

    We wanted more people to hear our music. I submitted our music to blog after blog, but really didn’t take the time to do it the right way. I’d find emails and send music to a bunch of people (never do this). I didn’t know anything of formatting emails or how to appropriately create relationships (learn this). This was before BDTB was really jumping; I learned it all on the fly. I remember thinking “we got a video on Kevin Nottingham a year ago so we’re good there,” yet they wouldn’t post any of our new stuff. It was a trying time because we thought we were making great music, and doing everything we should be, but couldn’t get anybody to really pay attention to us outside of Indianapolis. That’s the musician dilemma, isn’t it?

    In retrospect, years later and thousands of music submissions reviewed by me, myself for BDTB, maybe our early recorded material “quality” should have been better if we wanted to reach a larger market. Sure, we were the new guys to like in Indianapolis, but we weren’t just competing with Indianapolis anymore. We were competing with the world. We were competing with hundreds of thousands of submissions and people just like us, and nobody knew who we were. We were competing with media outlets, individuals with lives, time, and so much more. We all want to be heard. I’ll touch more on this later, but what we artists don’t initially understand is that we bloggers have lives too.

    It’s important to read that a few times and let it sync. I am an artist and musician, producer, entrepreneur, boyfriend, friend, son, and I have a job on the side. I have a mortgage. Artists like to assume that it’s the job of the blogger to share great stuff the moment it’s given to them, but that’s just a pipe dream at best. You might get lucky and I might have a Wednesday where all I have to do is go out and search for the greatest talent abroad and find you, but it’s more likely that I’ll go through our submissions, delete the stuff I don’t like, forward the stuff I do to the queue, check a few sites to see what just dropped, work on my business, and if I’m lucky be able to make a few beats before I cook dinner. There are certainly blogs where the owners can truly dedicate most of their work-space-time towards these things, but the point I am making supersedes this. It’s important to keep in mind that you are not living in a utopia, and that no matter the blog, person, store, producer, artist or whatever – people will always have other things to prioritize. Let me simplify this a bit.


    Why should I pay attention to you more than someone else, or hell, even myself?

    I mean, really ask yourself: what are you offering that will make me want to stop what I am doing and focus on you? I’m not talking about me per se, I’m talking about anybody that you want to pay attention to you. I’m not talking about money either, I’m talking this: is your music really bringing value to the website you want to be featured on, or to the person who is listening? You need to stop thinking as if you’re deserving of a charity post from these sites, and that people are blessed to be able to hear your words. How about a step further: is your music going to stimulate me to a point to where I really want to know more about you? A decent song is not good enough because anybody can make a decent song, and the web is OVERSATURATED with decentness. Not everybody can make a great song that you can feel. Ask yourself: seriously, is what I am doing forgettable?

    That’s not all. Let me take it a step further and a bit to the side: what do us as people do when we are overwhelmed? You know, you want me to check out your stuff, but I’ve got bills due, hours to pick up, and this article to write. I would either completely ignore the extra stuff or, perhaps, really focus on what is really worth my time. Where do you fall in that situation? Keep these things in mind.


    We at BDTB realized that the submission and music race was one that we were never going to win. We can’t nitpick between handfuls of “decent” songs; we simply must make it so that everything shared is something we absolutely enjoy. That’s why we have the submission guidelines and form we have. We eliminated email for a reason. We want to cut all of the guess work out. We press play, and if there’s a hint of doubt of if we like it or not, we delete it. It’s that simple now.

    It has to be like this.

    It has to be like this because otherwise we are not doing the submitter, ourselves or our fans and followers justice. You need to feel honored to be shared. Not because of any type of power trip, but because we as artists need to know what we are doing is appreciated, and that what we are doing is going down the right path (for a lack of better terms at the moment). We need to be held accountable if we put out subpar music. We need to be told about ourselves from people that actually have taste. That can be a friend, blogger, producer, DJ, or anybody worthy of such in between. It’s up to you to determine who that person is, and if you submit music to a blog that you do not respect, your selection is the main problem. At that point you are not doing yourself justice.

    This whole segment I’ve been talking about is bigger than blogs. In the last few months I’ve witnessed the stronghold of blogs seemingly fade a bit, which is great in my opinion, as artists (for at least a good 2-3 years) were depending on blogs (and only a few of them at that) to get their music out. This is backwards because the focus is then not based around building a fan base themselves. They are then relying on people to randomly “happen upon” them on a website. You really have to stop that.

    sheep zombie

    This confusion is/was like a deadly zombie apocalypse. It spread really fast and convinced nearly everybody of its importance. Getting on blogs is/was like the old being signed. Sometimes it’s hard for an artist to switch his/her mind from art to business because when their main focus is “make good music,” all they want to do is “get people to hear it” as soon as possible. Let me tell you, I had two different remixes that had nearly 25,000 plays in a day because it was featured on a major blog(s). I woke up to the numbers the next day and felt great, but my life has not significantly changed because of this. There are a couple bumps to the ego, but otherwise it is really still business as usual and you have to keep the momentum going.

    You must realize that to keep that momentum going you have to actually have fans. Sure, I have fans, but I didn’t really have any in that aspect. I was just the producer in this case, and a remix producer at that. I then realized how finicky this whole thing is. The success fairy didn’t just drop out of the sky and scoop me up; I’ve been and still am working at it. All that it did was help me understand another level of what I was pursuing. It was a great feat accomplished, but I’m not playing the short game. I’m playing the long game, and most of you reading this are too. Don’t get caught in trying to play the short game if you are a long game artist. Sometimes the homerun isn’t available and you have to realize that a base hit can eventually accomplish the same outcome.

    All being said, having blogs share your music is great for your career, but it is not where the battle is won. Do not fall victim to “depending on bloggers (you don’t know)” and instead focus on creating real relationships with people you do know (including bloggers). Confusing eh? Well, this is how you get fans. Build relationships. Yes, it’s a long process that you have to work at. Blogs do help, but knowing the blogger personally helps more. Having a cosign does help, but making music with the consignee helps you more in the long run. Don’t get stuck on the surface. Understand why things happen, and understand the levels.

    Let me go back a bit to touch on music quality.

    When I talked briefly about how the music I made could have been better, I was a bit bland. When we (Hinx Jones) were making the “11 Piece” back in 2009-2010, we really just put it out as a feeler to see what people liked from us. We were fresh. We put it out without a lot of expectations, and although we succeeded and grew in many ways, I feel that our recordings were a bit too “raw” for most blogs (it was the first project I recorded and mixed fully in Pro Tools, so I had a bit of a learning curve). One thing you’ll notice is that most people and blogs don’t mind sharing “raw” or different sounding music from people they know, but they won’t from people they don’t know. It’s a popular and familiarity thing. It is not blog specific. Fans from “Blog A” would’ve probably rather heard Blu than us on the particular day we submitted our music, the same way our fans would have rather heard a song by us than some other act from Indiana. It’s relative.


    Learning all of that took time to really understand. We’re dealing with people, not robots. We personally had to go through it to truly get it, and it was still quite disappointing to realize that we still had to play the popularity game. I took it as paying my dues. Sometimes you have to find stuff out on your own. I am close with many artists who are trying to get over that hump, and we’ve all tried (and are trying) different things to get ahead of the curve. I think the one common denominator though, for all musicians that take this serious, is that you need to focus on building relationships. You need to build your own fan base from the ground up and through the relationships you build. You need to build relationships with people that are like you in your field of expertise, and all of the associated fields. You need to go out of your way for people. You might need to take some losses sometimes in order to build in other areas you need to, and you might need to get out and go on tour. It is important for you to get out of your comfort zone and meet people you don’t already know. For example: I have personally thrown shows for artists so that I could have the chance to build with them. I may have come out of pocket, but it was a great way for me to build and become friends with a lot of people I’m close with today. It’s not about the money; it’s about finding those people that are like you and build a valuable relationship with them. It’s different for everybody. “Let’s continue to do cool shit and try to pay our homies.” My friend DJ Castle said that recently when chatting about my Drums Bang project, and it’s exactly what I strive for. It’s what a lot of us strive for.

    To succeed in anything worthwhile, at least in my experience in life, is to tactfully try and do repetitively until something works. Not just try. Try and do. We do not always know the best way to do things, and the processes are changing all around us, but unless you work at these things and improve to the point of one day becoming great, you’re in for a hard time. Good luck.

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    Drums Bang Interview w/ ILL Brown (Video) | @ILLBrown @ProducerBeatBox

    We orchestrated, along side Drums Bang, an interview with Chicago bred producer ILL Brown a few weeks ago. This interview was in light of him launching a Producer Beat Box with Drums Bang, and you can check out more about all of that by hitting this link. You will be able to download his drum kit by itself on 9/1/14 at Drums Bang’s website.

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    ILL Brown ft. Waterr “Bar-Baric” Video | @ILLBrown @Maja7th

    Red August has supplied the visuals for ILL Brown‘s latest video from his Return of the Hardcore album. The track features rhymes from oft-collaborator Waterr and is producer by Maja 7th. Bump above and cop return of the Hardcore here. You might be interested in ILL Brown’s Producer Beat Box too, which features a gaggle of goodies from him and others, including his personal drum kit, acapellas, an exclusive version of ROTH, and some art. Check that out here at Drums Bang.

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    Eligh “Pac-Man” | @therealeligh

    The Living Legend’s own Eligh decided to share this song due to everything going on in the media in the last few weeks. Check the song below, as well as what he had to say about. Lyrics and download available at his Soundcloud page. This smooth banger was produced by DNAE.

    I wrote this song for my upcoming album, “80Hrtz” many months ago. This album isn’t finished yet, but I can’t sit by and not share this song with you all right now. The paranoia, bigotry, ignorance, and gang mentality being displayed by police over and over again in this country makes me nauseous. I wrote this song about being ignorant to my friends feelings of fear, and hatred towards the police, being the one white kid in the group most of the time. I sampled the movie “Colors” where the main officer was nicknamed “Pac-man” by the neighborhood folks he terrorized. This song is dedicated to every person angered and saddened by the events unfolding in Ferguson. An American city, under siege by its own Police force. Black people under siege, once again. Racism, alive and well. My love to everyone in pain over this madness.

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    BDTB Presents: Writer’s Block Beat Tape “Volume 2″ Release

    Now I normally only share beats and beat projects on Sunday, but this project is now available to all. As with all of our beat tapes through our Writer’s Block series, this one is free for download. If you want an exclusive physical copy of this, we have them available – kind of. If you purchase the new Drums Bang Producer Beat Box for August 2014, you will get this project along with over $100+ worth of gear aimed for producers. Drum kits, samples, beat tapes, music, gear, discounts, and more! This project is brought to you buy us at BDTB, Drums Bang and Deckademics DJ School.

    1. DVient – Thin Line 02:28
    2. Cheyne Queezy – Fragile 01:40
    3. Mr. Kinetik – Summer Bop 03:08
    4. LONEgevity – Ubuntu 04:38
    5. Maja 7th – Four 01:41
    6. Mvstermind – Cutlass 422 04:51
    7. Keith D – E.T 01:58
    8. Rise Sovereign – The Remedy 03:34
    9. Harry Otaku – Fever 02:27
    10. The Mefadone Klinik – 277 05:42

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    #INDIANA: John Stamps “Naked Lunch” Release | @IYamJohnStamps

    Hailing from 46201, emcee John Stamps has unleashed his Naked Lunch project today with ten tracks of jams. The project is collective of different styles, as he has some wavy tracks produced by KNags, a Chuck Inglish groove, and a boom-bap track from TXTBOOK. I suggest giving this a listen below, and if you dig it you can download for five bucks from Bandcamp.

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    Star Captains “New Freedoms” Release & “Love Is” Video | @Narai_ @StarCaptains

    Grab your morning coffee and donut, and press play on this smooth and groovy album from the Star Captains. I’ve also added the video their main single from the project. Video by Shea Pollard and Benjamin Schuetze.

    Star Captains consist of seven members and are based in Vancouver, BC. Their music carries the spirit of 70s soul, complimented with modern sound design and instrumental technology. A beat-laced fusion of analog synthesizers and classic guitar tones played through tube-driven amps provides the edgy instrumental tracks behind hypnotic lead vocals.

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    BABA: 5 Year Old Jordan Writes A Hip Hop Song (Video)

    I’m just going to throw this out there: this song by 5 Year Old Jordan is better than a lot of the submissions we get. Regardless of if this is somehow a spoof or not, as there’s definitely some help with the writing (although it looks as if he’s really making these beats), there’s a lesson in this somewhere. I think. I’m classifying this in the Be A Better Artist category because of that. Let this marinate a bit.

    And if you have a problem just deal with it.

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    Moses Sumney “Man On The Moon” Video | @MosesSumney

    Check out some dope stop-motion from Moses Sumney‘s recent “Man On The Moon” track/video. The track is off os his debut Mid-City Island EP, which I’ve attached down below too. This is dope.

    I started making “Mid-City Island” in the fall, after a producer friend lent me an ’80s 4-track recorder and suggested I try recording myself before going into proper studio sessions. It was my first time recording myself, capturing songs immediately to cassette tape as I was writing them. I later decided it would be cool to share these ideas in their infancy so you can trace their development over time.

    This project for me is about learning how to let go and share ideas that are raw, simple, and unfiltered. A lot of the parts are thus one-take and improvised. “Mumblin’,” which I recorded with my loop pedal connected to the tape machine, is completely made up on the spot and was only done once.

    There’s a requisite honesty that comes with bedroom recordings. Thematically, the songs center around living alone in the middle of a big city like Los Angeles, finding the balance between isolation and over stimulation.

    “Mid-City Island” will be available digitally and on cassette!

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