BABA: You Might Be Failing As A Rapper Part 1 – You’re Not Honest With Yourself
Last week I shared a bit about some often noticed, yet less notified things that rappers seem to commonly screw up on. It happens, I know. Today, since I got such a huge response last week, I’m going to talk more in depth about the first part: You’re Not Honest With Yourself. And, I’m going to start a new series called
“Lone’s Weekly Tips” Be A Better Artist that will touch on stuff like this. What I shared last week is below, and I’ll add commentary afterwards.
You are not being honest with yourself, and you do not have QUALITY ORIGINAL CONTENT. Those last three lines are capitalized for a reason! Maybe you’re simply not that great at what you do yet, and fall victim to the societal brainwashing that content in any form is better than none. You’ve been mislead. One thing many artists seem to lack these days is a good quality control system. Sounds funny when written, but not everything you do needs to be heard by the masses. The information age has changed the whole “pay your dues” process (for lack of a more descriptive word at the moment) because of how easy it is to do music. I honed my craft for 3-4 years before I ever tried to let the masses hear it, yet that doesn’t really seem feasible anymore because of the information wave. Still, this does not mean that bloggers, writers, and everybody that is looking out for talent will be less critical of your music because of that reason. It’s important to take note of that.
Sure, share your songs to your friends, but us bloggers do not want to hear halfway done, non-mastered and unpolished confusing raps. Especially if you’re new and it’s your first impression to us. Maybe you don’t have any great producers around you so you jack beats. Maybe then you think that nobody will notice. Maybe you try to say that you’re paying homage? Well, we’ll not only notice, but we’ll classify you as that certain type of artist. The blog world is fast – we don’t have time to learn about all of the things that make you cool – you have to strike quick, confidently, and with a certain type of respect and class. As a blogger, if we don’t know who you are to begin with, and you don’t have original music, we cannot take you seriously as an artist. It’s that simple. You need to show us you are taking yourself serious before we can try to.
I think the thing that is the hardest to comprehend is that yeah, you really have to be polished to be well received in this music world. Or, have some sort of crazy gimmick; intentionally or not (see Lil B, Riff Raff, Kreayshawn, Turquoise Jeep, etc). Not to be locally famous, that’s easy; I’m talking about the pulsating fame/success you desire. You simply won’t see a lot of unpolished acts make it much bigger than the local stage to even opening for a medium-range tour act without a gimmick or specific uniqueness. What do I mean by unpolished? Well…I’ll touch on that later.
I recently listened to a lecture/interview that ?uestlove (of The Roots) did with Red Bull, and he touched on just how much work it takes to master a craft. 10,000 hours. Yep, 10,000 hours was the number buzzing in numerous music heads and producer circles alike when this video dropped (I highly suggest you find two hours and watch it). I think how we interpret that says something about what type artist we are. You know? Are you an artist that is willing to work to where he/she needs/wants to be, or are you going to give up at your 1,483 hour mark and say f#*k it I’m going to smang this shit? Quest touched on it in his book, Mo’ Meta Blues, which he actually took from a book by Malcolm Gladwell. ?uesto stated:
Gladwell in the book basically says that perfection and genius becomes and starts when you reach 10,000 hours of practice. That’s where he breaks down Bill Gates’ genius. The fact that Bill Gates spent 10,000 plus hours in college inside of his computer lab which led him to invent the PC. He breaks down certain soccer players, how many hours they practice a day and that type of thing. He broke down The Beatles, he breaks down pretty much everyone that’s applauded in history. You go in thinking that this person is just naturally genius and then you leave saying, “Wow if I just put in 8 hours of practice a day, that could have been something.” That’s pretty much my advice.
Even if you feel as though, like “we play this song every night so what’s our motivation for doing it here.” I don’t know but there’s this feeling that you get once you a song under your thumb for so long that once you’re on stage it’s like second nature. Then you able able to elevate the performance of the song. People still (confuse) entertaining and performing a song. It’s easy to perform a song, it’s just doing the song that you wrote. It’s another thing when you entertain. It all starts with practice with me. That’s important.
Now, I’m not saying that you should wait until you hit five digits in the crafting-hours mark before you put out music or rock an event, but I do feel you should be conscious of what your skill level actually is. I used to be great at sampling melodies but horrible at getting knocking drums and bass. I took about 6-7 months and studied bass lines. I tried things out. I experimented and finally got the grooves down. I did the same thing with drums. This was over seven years ago when I was working on music at least 4-5 hours a day. We know you feel entitled to make music, and you are, but know that damn near everybody else wants in on it too. Stand out in a good way.
Sometimes you want to put stuff out there to get a feel, and that is completely fine. That is what your social network is for. That’s how you build your first fans. That’s how you test the waters. Understand its limits though. Sure, you might argue if this is really the best route for your music career. One could certainly argue that if you are a perfectionist, and a lot of you really try to be, you may be that artist that never puts out any music. Everybody knows this person in their local music scene. “Yeah, that cat is dope…he just doesn’t put any music out.” No, you don’t want to be that guy either. You do need to know what areas you are NOT good in yet though. What are some specific areas? Well:
- Maybe you have great lyrics but a horrid delivery. What good are great lyrics if it’s a pain to listen to you?
- Maybe your recordings sound really bad. Maybe your vocals are grainy. Maybe your track is over-compressed. Maybe it’s too soft and not mastered. Maybe your adlibs drown out or conflict with your vocals (remember Silk The Shocker?). Maybe the mixing is just a train wreck. Do you understand transitions? Maybe it sounds great in headphones but not in a car. Maybe your adlibs are too loud. Maybe your song is structured bad. Maybe your fake trumpet sound is too loud. Do you need reverb? Your bass might sound good in your no-bass-having system but it could still sound HORRIBLE in a decent one. Do you need to cut more of that mid-range on the vocals to get it to pop and not sound muddy? Know these things or hire someone to!
- Maybe your beats miss the right swing. Are they too quantized? Not enough? Maybe your bass lines suck, or worse, aren’t in key. Maybe you use corny stock sounds. Do you know chord structures? Do you know how that can elevate your sound? Maybe your drums don’t really knock the right way and sound…fake. Does your music actually sound like…music? Or, does it sound like a bunch of strange sounds that seem to be trying to act like it’s music? I mean, I’m semi-joking, but I’m also serious. Maybe you’re a great rapper but only decent at beats. Maybe flipped. Know what you’re lacking and build on it! Build, learn, and go the extra mile.
- Maybe you have a great delivery and voice, but you aren’t saying shit worth remembering. I’m personally biased because I feel if this is you, you should just stop
makingputting out music altogether until you find a purpose. Put some more time into your craft.
- I know that there is music for all occasions, and I know this is just my opinion, but I just do not buy into the argument that it has to be ignorant. And, you’re not being honest with yourself if you think a site similar to BDTB will share this type of music. This goes into the whole “know your lane” part from last weeks column. Not all blogs are built and run the same. This seems like common knowledge, but there are a lot of confused artists out there. Don’t expect respect from people with a certain type of taste if you make a certain type of tasteless music. Be honest with yourself; aspire to be great – not lame!
The last thing I’ll say is that I’m not trying to discourage anybody. We all have stepping stones and areas we can grow in; even the greatest. Learn to push your strong points to the front while you work on your weaker areas. Be smart. Do NOT find excuses for being wack though because people will love to point them out. God speed.