Why Would Anyone Ever Set Out To Be A Rapper?
Photo illustration by John Seaborn Gray
Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday (that isn't a national holiday) Rocks Off will have some of them hear discussing issues relevant to their culture.
This Week's Panel: Fat Tony, Yung Redd, Thurogood Wordsmith and Kyle Hubbard.
Not Invited: KRS-One's "Mine Is The Only Opinion That Matters" routine. Yeah, sure, he's a bonafide hip-hop legend. But that doesn't make him any less annoying.
We went to the 50 Cent show last night and, no kidding, on our way out was handed CDs by at least three different aspiring rappers. This brought to mind something of a bit of a down question.
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It seems like there are an unprecedented amount of rappers trying to "break it big" these days. Yet with a few notable exceptions, record sales have been pretty abysmal these last few years. Now, for the most part, you all are fairly young with regards to the respective ages of your rap careers. So we guess the question is, Why? We listen to each of y'all's music pretty regularly, and some of you all we even openly root for, but why would you voluntarily choose to pursue something that, in all likelihood, will end in failure? We mean, what you're doing is the equivalent to trying to play "Through The Fire And Flames" on expert level on Guitar Hero with your cock (or vagina).
Fat Tony: The industry is fucked, but I don't give a fuck. I'm in it to sell records, I'm in it to sell myself as an artist and as a "brand." I'm in it to make a living off touring, licensing and royalties. I'm in it to one day move up in the industry from being just an artist and be more of a consultant/A&R/etc. role that I can fit where I can groom and shape new artists like myself.
Besides those career goals, I am ultimately in this for respect. No matter how much of a buzz an artist has or how many records they sell if they don't have respect then they aren't shit. For example, B.O.B. had a great buzz and tons of respect from the hip-hop community online and offline until he dropped his major label debut which is so far from his original mixtapes and so much a packaged pop record designed for 104.1 KRBE it's sickening. He's celebrated by some for having a number one record and two singles in the top ten, but what is that really? That doesn't guarantee longevity. Respect betters an artist's chances to remain relevant for years to come.
Look at 50 Cent. 50 Cent's debut is one of the last classic rap albums to be released in the past 10 years. Because it was so well received critically he was given a chance to shine on his latter albums even though he was a huge commercial success, something that is often shunned by nerd ass rap guys with computers and old men who claim they guard the rap gates; very poorly, might I add.
Now speaking for me personally, I believe respect has been earned locally. And with the plans I have, the team I'm working with, and the records I'll be releasing with RABDARGAB and in the future, that respect will spread. I'm known simply for two major things: working hard -- whatever y'all perceive my hard work is - probably playing shows often and traveling and making friends nationally -- and making an attempt to actually be an artist and not just put out mixtape after mixtape of monotonous material with no real focus or theme.
I will not let you down.
Yung Redd: I think if more [of] the records were played it would be easy, but that's not realistic. There is a lot of underhanded activity in the Houston rap world on all fronts, but there is a few of us that remain hopeful because anything can happen. You could be a nobody today or tomorrow, but I think the game needs to be sorted out bad.
Thurogood: That's a good question. I ask myself the same thing.
I feel that hip-hop chose me. After the first song I ever recorded, I was instantly hooked; almost like a drug addiction.
If your only goal in rapping is to "break it big," then you are destined for failure. I feel that I've already succeeded in many areas of my music. Do I want to sell millions of records? Fuck yeah. But first and foremost I love creating and performing raps.
And if you are doing what you love, you can't fail.
Kyle Hubbard: To even have this conversation I need to remove the filter that I have worked so hard to keep on when speaking to press people, but this is an important discussion so let Kyle Hubbard the rapper step out so the person can speak.
I believe in my talent. I think that if talent were the only issue, I would have this shit in the bag. But it isn't about talent. If I had to bet on my own future right now, I would have to put my money on me not making it.
The industry is a beast, a huge ugly beast, and talent is expendable. I know this, and even when I am up this fact is always at the pit of my stomach ready to take me back down to reality. I have been on mixtapes hosted by heroes of mine which include Chamillionaire, Crooked I, Stat Quo, Lloyd Banks, and I still get up at 7 am in the morning to go work my real job so I can keep this dream of mine afloat.
I just got nominated [for] Houston Press Underground Hip-Hop of the Year and my band, The Krunkquistadors, was nominated best mainstream hip hop against cats like Chamillionaire, Bun B, Slim Thug, Devin The Dude, and Z Ro. But I am still getting ready to go into the office tomorrow morning. Even with all the things I have done thus far, I still feel like I am walking a tight rope without a net and I just got a charlie horse in both my legs.
Let's be for real for real. Everybody and their mom has a goddamn rap career. I am bound to meet an aspiring rapper every time I go out to bar hop or whatever. The scene is over saturated to the max. Its actually sickening. How the fuck am I, or anyone with true talent, supposed to stand out when our potential fans are attacked with CDs from Lil Whoeverthefuck, and Young Cantwritearhyme? Cats like me get grouped with this people. For every dope rapper in the scene there is 10 whack motherfuckers fighting for your ear. It's frustrating.
I have accomplished things in my career I never thought I would, and I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far.
Of course, the goal is to get signed to something major and rub shoulders with Jay-Z types, but I have to look at this shit through open eyes. I know that this could all be taken away from me on the drop of a dime. I know that whatever trickle of buzz I have today can diminish by tonight. But I am prepared for it.
If I have already reached my peak I can sleep with it. I did shit I never thought I would and for a moment in the Houston hip-hop scene I mattered. I will continue to do everything I can to realize my dream but I know its out of my hands at a certain point, but so be it.
So my question is, if this is where it ends, if I never reach the majors or get on MTV, am I failure? As long as my father grabs me by the shoulder and tells me he is proud of me I will never be a failure in my own eyes, I will never regret anything I did to advance my music.
So this brings me back to your original question, Why? Because I am dope as fuck and I deserve it even if I won't ever get it. I am not going to let an oversaturated scene or a fucked up industry take me away from my pen and my pad.
I hate the scene. I hate the industry. I love hip-hop.
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