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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.

    whereamigoing

    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.

    10khrs

    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.

    8246808706_cbdf8c39e2

    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.

    Goal-setting-its-not-all-about-me

    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.

    72percent

    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.

    Its-All-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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    Interview w/ Run The Jewels by Spin About “Tragedy in Ferguson and Racist Idiots”


    I love reading and watching interviews with these two fellas. Besides the humorous aspects of it, they are always extremely real. Head over to Spin to read the full interview, and check out a couple of my favorite lines from it below.

    El, how was your day yesterday watching Mike on CNN?
    El-P: Well, I don’t have cable because years ago I decided that my only chance at sanity was to not let the world penetrate my brain at that rate. I had to watch it and catch up at the end of the day, and I spent about basically two hours just watching my friend bring truth to those who don’t want to hear it. It was a beautiful thing. I’m immensely proud, glad, and thankful that Mike’s voice is able to get out there because I can’t think of a better person to express what he expressed. Also, I’m terrified and disgusted by some of the reactions.

    Killer Mike: If we didn’t have these types of conversations off-camera for years, I probably would’ve went up there either babbling like a fool or talking like an insane angry man.

    El-P: The debate in this country is so fucking skewed, it’s never about what is actually happening. It’s all about impressions. Even the murder — “Hey, maybe the kid deserved it!” That whole subtle bullshit, “Maybe the kid deserved to be killed, maybe he wasn’t a good kid.” The fact that that’s even being suggested is some of the most appalling shit on the planet. It’s like, “Thank you so much for that relevant video clip of a kid in a store being an asshole, because we all know, here in America, that shoplifting a cigar is punishable by firing squad.” I’m also very weirded out that they had to go to Killer Mike!

    Killer Mike: We’re just rappers!

    El-P: Yeah! You got to us! We’re not even at the top of the fucking pile of rappers.

    Killer Mike: But we are the best rap group in the world.

    El-P: Well, yeah.

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    Killer Mike Talks Ferguson & More on CNN (Video)

    After his piece on Billboard Online about everything currently going on in St. Louis, Killer Mike today talked with CNN. Read his Op-Ed piece here, and watch the interview above.

    “This week I have seen tanks, rubber bullets and tear gas used by police against the citizens that pay them.”

    I have searched all night and day for new and better words that could express my feelings and fear for the people of this country. I found no new words. I have no hope-filled insight to deliver. I only have this warning to all Americans: Whatever this country is willing to do to the least of us, it will one day do to us all.

    The police are paid by the public and carry a public trust, and they take an oath to protect us as citizens. The police have lost sight of that and must be reminded that we pay them to protect us, not to simply engage and cage us.

    We trust police with the power of life and death and with that trust comes a greater responsibility to be better than the current standard of policing I see across America everyday. Being a cop must be hard. My dad was one, and never wanted any of his children to follow in his footsteps. Being a cop is often seeing the worst of the human condition and behavior. With all of that said, there is no reason that Mike Brown and also Eric Garner are dead today — except bad policing, excessive force and the hunt-and-capture-prey mentality many thrill-seeking cops have adapted.

    This week I have seen tanks, rubber bullets and tear gas used by police against the citizens that pay them. This is not Egypt or Syria or Palestine, but today it feels that way. It feels as if death can come, without reason, from a uniformed government official and, if we do not press back against this Blue Wall of Silence and gang-like mentality of our local police, we all are in danger. Whether it is illegal rd stops & checkpoints, where your rights are being violated — through being forced to answer questions that the 5th Amendment protects you from, or illegal stop-and-frisk that the 4th Amendment is designed to protect you from — all of our rights are violated and in danger when any American’s rights are violated.

    I have chimed in about the brutality that killed this child, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, and so many others. It’s shameful, but these are not simply words to commiserate; these words, I hope, serve as a wake-up call to all Americans. Our rights are being violated by people we pay daily. This must end, or every American has failed.

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    Record Store Day 2014 | #rsd2014


    It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Record Store Day 2014 is tomorrow and you better get up and out early because this year is guaranteed to bring out some bangers, as well as, some classics that will be re-released. There will even be some new-to-vinyl exclusive releases. You can check out where you need to be tomorrow by clicking here. And for a complete list of records being dropped you can go here. Happy hunting, hip-hop heads!

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    Nuvo Lists 100 Best Hoosier Albums Ever


    This week in Nuvo, a committee of more than 20 has put together an all-out 100 Best Hoosier Albums. There’s a grand list, and they’ve even opened up the forums for discussion of anybody they might have missed for you to nominate. Ones that they listed from the hip hop genre, and associated genres that we might share, are listed below:

    DMA – Pheel Phree (2013)
    Dorsh – Neapolitan (2012)
    Freddie Gibbs – The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs (2009)
    J Brookinz – Gateway 3 (2012)
    Mudkids – 4trackmind (1998)
    Oreo Jones – Betty (2012)
    The Proforms – Atavism (2011)
    Scott Matelic – Primitive Pessimist (2004)
    Sirius Blvck – Year of the Snvke (2014)
    Twilight Sentinels – Meanwhile (2007)

    Those are definitely a great group of projects that if one was delving into Indiana music, would be a great start. Many of these albums have actually been nominated in our more in-depth hip hop and Indiana voting in the last couple of years. Below I’m going to share an additional five releases that happen to be some of my personal favorite releases from Indiana hip hop artists (minus my own because of course I think my own are great):

    Sirius Blvck – Ancient Lights (2013)
    Mr. Kinetik – Black Hole Rap (2012)
    Echomaker – Concrete Seeds (2012)
    Cas One – The Monster and the Wishing Well (2013)
    Tony Styxx – It’s Bigger Than Me (2011)

    Make sure to head on over to Nuvo and check out the rest of the article, and get hip to some good Indiana music!

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    Ace One Covers Nuvo | @ACE_ONE_


    The Rap Monster, also known as ACE ONE, is featured on the cover of Indianapolis’ Nuvo this week. The Cut Camp representative goes into detail on many things, and the interview comes in support of his recent BDTB sponsored Rap Monster: Remixed and Remastered album. Check a snippet of the article below, but head over to our friends at Nuvo to get the full story. Congrats to Ace!

    It’s well past midnight on a snowy Tuesday night when Ace One pulls up to Sam Ash, a music megastore on Indy’s Northside. Music shops like Sam Ash can be a sort of repository for unfulfilled dreams. Nearly every customer who walks through the door has some desire to achieve fame and fortune in the music business — and very few will ever come close.

    Ace One is a bit different, though. The MC has achieved an impressive level of success in Indianapolis music. But Ace isn’t at Sam Ash on this night to pick out a new piece of expensive music gear.

    He’s there to clean the carpets.

    Over the years I’ve often heard the charismatic rap veteran, born Michael Cobbs, referred to as the “the hardest working man in Indianapolis hip-hop.” I always assumed the title was a nod to his energy-fueled stage presence and rigorous live performance schedule, or perhaps even his large and tangled lineage of group affiliations and artistic collaborations. That’s all definitely part of it. However, while writing this story I would learn of another, entirely different dimension to that designation.

    It’s an irony I can’t help but notice as I observe Ace preparing for our interview, his first major cover story, while simultaneously readying himself for a night of hard manual labor. After several days of negotiation, this was the only time Ace could find to fit an interview into his relentless schedule of band practices, live performances and work obligations.

    “I work for a company doing carpet care. I’m the chief crew technician. I’m really good at what I do.” Ace says this with a tone of pride. “I try to be good at everything I do. I don’t believe in wasting my time or anybody else’s.”

    “It’s a physically draining job,” he admits, as I strain to hear him over the noise of his carpet vacuum. I’m asking how he balances his intense work routine with his even more intense artistic life.

    “It’s not about balance. It’s the realization that it has to be done. The music has gotta get done and it’s gonna get done no matter how tired I am. You take a shot and you keep going. You smoke a joint and you get busy.”

    Spending time with Ace, one gets the sense that he’s ready for anything at any moment. In fact, that’s how he earned his name.

    “Ace is an acronym. It stands for Always Come Equipped,” he says. “That name came around 1999 when I started doing music with Justice League and Wormusic. We would get together and do all night sessions — meet each other around noon and not leave until the next day type of shit. Whenever we would get together I would always have a backpack. The amount of stuff I would carry in my backpack was ridiculous; it was almost like a suitcase. So if somebody cut their finger, I’d literally have Neosporin and a Band-Aid.”

    Read the entire article by clicking here.

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    Deckademics Launches Weekly Classes Today | @deckademics


    The brand new, and first and only, DJ school in Indianapolis opened its doors on Saturday, but today the new school has started their regular weekly classes.

    Founded by DJ MetroGnome and “Sir” Doug Morris (of Old Soul Entertainment), Deckademics will operate Monday through Saturday with multiple classes each day for aspiring deejays. The classes aren’t just for beginners either as they offer classes for four different skill sets. The skill sets are listed below:

    NOVICE: An Introduction To DJ’ing (6 weeks)
    This introduction course will provide the framework to becoming a great DJ. You’ll learn the fundamentals such as the basics of scratching and mixing, counting BPM’s and recognizing song structure, dropping the song on beat, as well as historical and functional training. This class will set the standard for becoming the best DJ you can be!

    AMATEUR: Application of Fundamentals (12 weeks)
    This 12-week long course will allow you to build on to the knowledge base you gathered in the NOVICE class. In the AMATEUR course, you’ll delve deeper into scratching and mixing mechanics, beat-matching, and how to use a hands-on approach effectively with both the gear and the music simultaneously.

    INTERMEDIATE: Studying the Craft (12 weeks)
    This 12-week long course will allow you to flourish as you explore and implement new techniques. Here you’ll hone in on the art of blending, incorporating scratch combinations, utilizing the digital platform(s) & functions, learn how to effectively use different transition techniques and EQ’ing.

    ADVANCED: Practice Makes Perfect (6 weeks)
    This 6-week long course will provide you with final set of skills to master the turntables. You’ll focus on controlling a crowd, beat juggling, advanced scratch techniques, creating scratch sentences, and incorporating digital effects into your mix effectively.

    Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Still not sure if you want to commit? Well, Deckademics also offers something they call a “Weekend Warrior” crash course, which is a four-hour class held each and every Saturday that is an ideal economic option for those wanting to get familiar with the art of DJing, but may not want to invest that type of money or time right away.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m interested.

    You can check out more information on their classes schedule here, and go and check out their website here.

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