Friday, December 12, 2008

How To Jerk An Artist

By, Wendy Day (www.RapCoalition.org and www.Rap-Coalition.com)

I’ve seen so many people get jerked in the 17 years that I have been pulling artists out of bad deals. And I have been vocal (for free) about how artists can protect themselves from getting jerked by less than savory managers and production companies, greedy labels, and unscrupulous scammers. Yet, every week it seems I get a new request for help. I’m not quite sure how the “protect yourself” information can be out there, and artists are STILL signing bad deals that steal their dreams from them. It’s most frustrating.

So I thought I’d write a tongue-in-cheek article on how to JERK an artist, and then maybe folks will read it and their bullshit tactics will be exposed. I realize that I run the risk of helping the scumbags jerk more people, but that’s a risk I am willing to take. So here goes….based on the numerous ways I have seen artists get jerked…

First of all, you have to be certain you are working with an artist over 18 who knows very little about the music business. How else will you be able to teach him your version of how it’s supposed to work? He definitely needs to be over 18 so a Judge doesn’t get involved and nullify the contract on the basis of a minor not being able to legally enter into a binding contract.

Definitely sign a male rapper. Yes, you run the risk of him becoming violent when he finds out you’ve scammed him, but by then you should have enough money to either be untouchable or hire security. Also, male rappers statistically sell better on average than female rappers, and if you’re going to stick somebody for their loot, it may as well be as much loot as possible. Besides, an angry female will go to further extremes if you piss her off, remember that last shorty you did wrong? She came after your ass, didn’t she.

A solo artist is less risky than a group, as it’s only one angry person to watch out for, rather than many who may team up for revenge. A younger person is often more na├»ve, and you can sell him some bullshit about the industry only wanting young artists. If you get him to lie that he’s two years younger than he really is, he’ll feel like he shares a secret with you. The more secrets you have on him, the easier it will be to control him. And if he pisses you off, you can tell the world his secrets and he’ll always be the one who looks stupid. He’ll also be too busy dodging the press, to come after you. If you can secretly record conversations that make him look bad, you can especially damage his career so he has nothing left--just in case he manages to get away from you.

It’s good to remind the artist often that you’re family and you’d never do him wrong. If he thinks you’re all sacrificing now to build something for a down-the-road payoff, you can probably get a good 4 years of loyalty out of the dupe. If you are all persons of color, you could utilize the race card to your benefit reminding him that “Black folks have to stick together because the white man has been keeping us down for long enough.” Some people even mention slavery and other assorted history to further the bond. Some phrases you could use to convince him are:
• We are family.
• I got your back.
• We are (a) soldiers, (b) warriors, (c) a team, (d) fill in the blank.
• We are building an empire
• You’re going to be a star
• You’re going to be rich
• You are doper than (a) Jay Z, (b) Tupac was, (c) Biggie was, (d) Eminem.
• You can buy your Mamma a big house
• I’m gonna make your dreams come true.
• There will be plenty for everybody
• Don’t be (a) a hater, (b) crabs in the barrel, (c) selfish, (d) fill in the blank

Make sure your artist has a “manager.” It will make him feel bigger than he is. If the person he chooses is too savvy, make sure you poo-poo his choice and allude that you can’t do a deal if he has this person in his camp. Encourage family member choices, or childhood friend choices, especially if you feel you can control them later through (a) money, (b) manipulation, (c) drug habits, (d) blackmail. An artist manager who secretly works for you is a priceless gift worth his weight in Gold. The major labels were built on this. What manager doesn’t eventually want his own label? You could dangle that carrot in front of him forever.

When the artist is in a position where he’s feeling secure and he believes in you 100%, it’s time to put that contract in front of him with a pen. Have it open to the last page and show him exactly where he should sign it. Act like you’re in a hurry. A time where you’re about to give him money, or right before a show in the parking lot of the club, or when he’s really high in the studio and hearing his boys giving him tons of “you the man” praise, are all good times to offer the contracts. Don’t worry, he’ll sign. They all do.

If he tries to look at the writing in the contract, or even tries to turn a page, snatch it back from him and act hurt. Remind him that you’re all family and if there’s no trust then maybe you should find someone else to sign. Tell him you could get him a lawyer if he really wants, but it’ll have to be in exchange for that (a) gear, (b) watch, (c) car, or (d) cash you were about to give him. If he really pushes the having his own attorney bit, and you can’t manipulate him out of the idea, make certain he has an attorney with no power. It’s important to let him use someone with some music business experience so they don’t run up the bill with your lawyer fighting for stupid stuff.

There are many new, wanna-be, and fringe (outside of the inner circle that exists in the music industry) lawyers who troll the industry for clients and will give love to whomever is paying their bill (you). They come in all colors and all prices. Just remember, a lawyer makes more money working for a label than for an artist, so most can very easily be swayed to do what you want in the deal, even for a reduced fee, with a promise of future work, even if it’s bullshit.

Lawyers get paid to do deals, not to break them, so they will usually finish the deal no matter how bad it is, rather than walk away from making their fee. They console themselves with the fact they got their client the best deal they could. It is important to find someone with reduced, or no, integrity.

Sign as many artists as you want, promising them whatever you have to, to get them to sign. Don’t worry about putting them out or doing anything at all with them. Once they are signed, you own them. Most artists really just want to be signed to a record label and that will pacify them longer than you think. Be hard to find so you won’t have to listen to their bitching. If they can’t find you, it’s not your fault you’re busy-- after all, you are running a business. If they do catch you, sympathize with them and tell them you’ll look into it, or that they are up next. Both of these excuses only work about 3 times, but if you are good at eluding the artists, that’s at least a year.

Make certain your lawyer worded the contract to sign your artists for no less than 7 albums (not years, as 7 albums is about 14 years really), give him little to no advance, take 100% of the publishing and merchandising, get 50% of everything else as his production company, and make the stat rate at 10X, 75%. Have a separate contract that assigns you as his official manager for life, for 25%. Tell him how big you are in the industry and how you can make shit happen at the drop of a hat, in fact, you left Akon or Diddy on hold just now to speak with your favorite artist (him) because he’s so important to you.

Placate him with the lie that you’re going to put him on tour with (a) Jay Z, (b) Lil Wayne, (c) R Kelly (if he also likes his females young) or (d) Plies, and that nobody else would do that for him. Remind him that with his cut of tour income like that, he won’t even notice your manager’s fee of 25%, besides you’re doing all the work: all he has to do is rap on stage for 20 minutes and get head in the limo on the way back to the hotel by the prettiest female. Tough life.

Speaking of shows, if you are lucky enough to stumble on an opportunity, make sure the artist thinks he’s only getting $1,000 to do the show, while the promoter is really paying you $5,000. Then, when the promoter sends you the first half of $2,500, tell the artist the $500 front end came in, and you keep the other $2,000. Or be a sport and tell him since you’re such a great manager you got the whole $1,000 upfront and keep the remaining $1,500 and then keep the whole backend of $2,500. You’ll be his hero. By the time the IRS sends the artist a tax notice (takes about 3 years) for the taxes he didn’t pay on all the $5,000 shows, you’ll be long gone.

A real easy way to make a lot of money is to book multiple shows for the same night and don’t show up to any except one. You can keep all the front end deposits and do nothing because it’ll be the artists’ reputation in the crapper, not yours. By the time the lawsuits come in, again, you’ll be long gone. Your lawyer can stall the suits for 3 years or better. And it’s free money. You could even book all the shows for the same night at $5,000 each and call back all the promoters the day before to tell them you’ll come to whoever is the highest bidder. You might get double the price, and if you were smart enough to ask everyone for open airplane tickets, you can cash in the ones you don’t use and make some extra cash. Again, it’s the artist reputation that suffers, not yours.
The new 360 deals are a great way for you to make even more money than you should (although it doesn’t much matter what you call the deal, you’re never going to pay him anyway). With a 360 deal you can explain to him that you are building his career so he can make a lot of show money, and then you can tap into a portion of that income. Your argument should be that you are taking all the risk financially, so you should be able to tap into all of the income sources from what your promotional dollars create. If he stalls, remember to dangle an advance in his face so he won’t be able to stall you out for long. Keep other unsigned artists around so he feels that if he doesn’t take the deal, someone else will.

It’s a good idea to keep the artist in the studio as much as possible at first, because once he realizes you’re making all the money, it’ll be hard to get him back in there. The studio is really where he wants to be anyway; he’s most comfortable there. Keep him as high and as drunk as possible. Aside from the fact that it will be easy to control him then, the addiction will also keep him coming back to you. He will want to be in the studio all the time anyway, as he will be gung-ho to make his album. Truth be told, rappers really only want fame and pussy, and when everyone thinks he has an album coming out, the women will surround him, and he will feel like a star (even if his record never comes out).

Try to get him to make as many albums as possible, but don’t tell him that’s what you’re doing. Tell him the songs he’s making don’t fit his image, or the production is inferior, or that he is so much better than what you’re hearing. If you tell him it isn’t commercial enough and needs to be more radio friendly, which is the oldest label trick in the book, you may get some static as artists may see this as “selling out,” which will hurt his core beliefs (core beliefs are hard to sway). You may need to lock him out of the studio or cut off the supply of money and drugs, to get him to come around. Once he does though, you can get a good 10 or 20 more songs with this one excuse.

If he has a lot of knuckleheads around him whispering in his ear, or savvy industry folks around him all of a sudden, send him to a studio more than a ten hour drive away. This will instantly put a stop to that crap, and being in a strange place will force him to go to the studio because he’ll have nothing else to do. You can easily control him with money (keeping him waiting a few days for money when he’s broke and hungry will take the fight out of anyone). Never give him too much at once. The stress of bills and starving are excellent incentive for him to act right, especially if he has a baby’s mama and a kid or two. Great incentive. By the time the paternity suits and child support cases roll in, you’ll be long gone.

If you do put out a record for the rapper, keep him on the road as much as possible. Aside from the show scam being a great source of income for you, it keeps him from begging you for money constantly at home. Be certain he has his boy as his “manager” (preferably with no business or music industry knowledge or connections), and has a tour manager that you assign, control, and pay, that will report back to you immediately if there are any suspicions that you aren’t doing what’s right. When you hear rumblings, fly to whatever city he’s in and spend time with him. Buy him little gifts and get high with him. Remind him he’s part of something bigger. Strip bars in any city are perfect locations for meetings. Hookers afterwards are appropriate gifts. You should be seen at all times to be taking care of his needs, especially publicly. This will attract hoards of other artists to scam.

Things won’t get rough for you until about 9 months after his record comes out and he realizes he’s still living with his Mom. If you have multiple albums done, it won’t matter as his “fame” will keep him promoting the subsequent albums. He won’t want to lose that. Without fame he’ll lose all the free stuff, all the gratuitous pussy, all the attention, all the free drinks and free blunts… Fear of losing all this will keep him in line for awhile. Rarely be kind to him. The harder you are on him, and the harder you are to please, the harder he’ll try to please you. Kindness will only be taken as weakness and he’ll control you.

Artists are not loyal. They jump to wherever the money is. If he’s more pimp than whore, he will eventually find other ways to make money: (a) appearing on other artists’ albums for $10,000 (b) shows behind your back for $5,000 which is more than you’re booking him for, (c) bootlegging his own album, or (d) selling T-shirts or drugs at his own shows. If you don’t have subsequent albums to release, it’s important that you keep him broke so you can get him back in the studio as soon as possible with the promise of money--his next advance. If he’s a man destined to be pimped, he will most likely jump ship to another camp with the same game, willing to give up a bit more upfront cash incentive to him. Have a super sharp litigator on board to sue the other company immediately, and either they’ll toss him out like a used condom or write you a fat check to let him go. It’s up to you, since you legally own him.

In general, only give your artist what you have to, in order to get him working. If you give him too much he’ll disappear til it runs out. For the second album, if you promise half now and half when he finishes the album, it’s all gravy. And if you’re slick enough to use the studio excuses again to get even more songs out of him, you’re a star! By now he knows the necessity of radio hits, so that “music needs to be more radio friendly” will go a long way. You can even entice him by getting tracks from his favorite producers, and getting artists he admires to work with him. Both of these options require an outlay of money, but you can trick multiple artists on your label with the same track or the same guest appearance opportunity. Also, you’ll sell more records in the long run, and make more money that way, so it’s worth it. If you have signed more than one artist, you can pit them against each other for maximum effect. They’ll even sabotage each other with little effort on your part. You can sit back and enjoy the show.

If you’re an artist and you’re reading this, don’t get pissed off because you got beat. For 17 years, I have offered numerous free resources that teach you how to NOT get jerked, but that would require time, investigation, and reading skills on your part, and that just always seemed like too much work didn’t it. With the plethora of info out there, and the availability of trustworthy professionals to choose for your team, if any of you do get jerked, shame on you. You have no one to blame but yourselves. You’ve been warned. Enjoy that blunt…

Haters Everywhere We Go

By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (www.WendyDay.com)

I started Rap Coalition with my own money in 1992 because I got tired of hearing about my favorite artists getting jerked by greedy labels, unsavory production companies, and unknowledgeable managers. I came to rap as a fan—started listening to rap in Philadelphia in 1980. Many of you weren’t even born yet.

I didn’t get into the industry to fuck rappers, or attend parties, or walk red carpets, or get free CDs, or to get interviewed on BET…and therefore, almost 17 years later, I still don’t do any of that shit. That industry glamour shit is fake to me. I care about the deals, the rappers, producers, and DJs getting paid, and enjoying the music (I am still a fan). And here’s the important part: MY ACTIONS MATCH MY WORDS!!

So those folks in this industry who are here to:
• solely get a check (especially those with the bullshit seminars, conferences, showcases, and award shows that are ripping folks off; or the labels and managers who are barely more than just a business card), and/or to
• rub elbows with rappers (I see the same muthaphukkas carrying a camera everywhere wishing they worked for a real magazine, but where do those photos end up besides on their bedroom wall or their Blog that no one reads?), and/or to
• dis folks actually building something and making things happen in this industry (yes, some folks are an angry bi-polar waste of space that no one listens to, and to explain that to them, one would actually have to see value in picking up a phone and calling them—which they are not deserving of…you see, they are so irrelevant that they don’t matter enough), and/or to
• fuck rappers (men and women)
won’t last very long. I’ve watched many folks come and go over the years and most are just a tiny blip on the radar screen of this industry. Some of these losers are even a joke for those in the industry with a real career and a track record of success (“let’s see what this idiot does next since she can’t get clients, and totally fucked up her bullshit award show destroying a bunch of brands along the way”). Yes, I’ve really heard people talk that way behind their backs, and some folks even have conference calls to discuss destroying and blackballing the real idiots in this industry.

While I have always taken the road of letting karma deal with the idiots who are useless in the industry, my powerful counterparts take aggressive action to throw blocks their way. For some people, the only noise they can attempt to make in this industry is by calling out someone who matters, or sending an angry email blast, or sneak dissing them in a blog or an e-newsletter. Fortunately, most of these wanna-bes would actually have to be enough of a force to be reckoned with for folks to read their angry rants, and they are not. Of course, they could always land a column at AllHipHop and take shots….but they’d have to have something tangible to offer, or some real track record of success, to actually do that.

These folks who dis, rant, and complain publicly about others are commonly referred to as HATERS. The one quality they seem to have in common is that they are irrelevant, trying to gain some relevance, not through success, but through attacking folks publicly who are good at what they do and who do have something to offer the industry. Personally, my haters have another quality in common--they are mentally unstable, and it very quickly shows itself when I try to confront them. Additionally, most of them are female.

I’m hated by many of the folks who are bad at their jobs because I actually talk about it and name names—usually in private, one on one. I am very vocal about the wack contracts I break for artists for free, and have no trouble shielding others from going down the same painful road. But every now and again I will use a column to grind an ax about someone’s ineptitude, or stupidity-- usually when I hear many people complaining about the same detractors. I am very careful to be honest and back up everything with fact, lest I be a hater myself.

I may clown someone on stage at their own event when I get the mic…but everything I say will be true-- whether they want to hear it or not is something totally different. If you suck at what you do, be prepared to be told instead of making that come up that you figured you would. Those who are looking to hit a quick lick in this industry instead of putting in time and hard work are treated as such.

With all the backstabbing, the hating, the bad deals, the ripping folks off, the black versus white bullshit (I love you Nutt!), and the unqualified idiots trying to get a quick check (UPS is hiring!)…it comes down to one thing: Most of us who are making a REAL difference in this industry are here because we love the music. What really matters most isn’t what anyone thinks or says, but the rappers, the producers, and the DJs, who ARE truly the backbone of this industry. Sadly, they are usually the last ones to get paid, but the ones who are most deserving of payment.

Maybe those in the spotlight get tired of the same “hater” bullshit that the rest of us do. And they must get it 100 times harder, because they ARE in the spotlight. I am just a tiny blip in their worlds, standing way behind them. I can’t imagine how much it must suck to be in the spotlight and constantly in the line of fire, just because they want to rhyme. B.O.B. sure was right, there are haters everywhere, while T.I. and Maino are embracing theirs and using that power to move forward and excel….”Hi Hater!” But how sad that haterism (don’t hate because I made up a word) is so pervasive that they actually had to devote songs to the subject.

I wanted to write an article about “How To Deal With The Haters,” because it seems like there is so much of it going on these days. Part of me didn’t want to give any attention to the haters, because none of them really have any success, and as I made a list and spoke to the folks in this industry who matter, I realized NONE of the main Haters were even a viable asset to this industry. So rather than give them anymore light (lest they keep it up to get attention), I will write about something really helpful to rappers (who actually matter in this industry). Let me wrap up my hater rant, however, by saying that if someone hates on you, punch them in the mother fucking mouth. Then maybe haters will think twice about saying some bullshit to get attention (since they obviously can’t get it by being good at what they do)…

Rapping is a job, if you want to actually make music for a living. I know that’s kind of obvious, but some artists really need to understand this concept. If you want to quit your day job, and make enough money as a rapper to survive (and maybe take care of a family), your music will need to have value to a consumer who is willing to buy your songs or CDs.

The way you get them to buy your music is to build awareness through promotions (on the streets, at shows, and on the internet). The goal is to build a word of mouth buzz about you, and either you can do this yourself or sign to a record label who will do it along with you. But the key here is that no one will do it FOR you. They may finance it (but more often they do not), but they won’t work harder than you do.

So, here is your job description as a rapper:

You must make music that you believe in, that others will purchase. You must build a movement around yourself. You need to give fans a reason to attract to you (your image, your subject matter, your “swag,” whatever). And it must be believable and relevant. You must believe in yourself and have some degree of talent. If your lyrical skills are lacking, you need to make up for that in other ways.

You need to find the best beats and music to rap over. If you suck at picking beats, get someone on your team that excels at that. Tupac used to openly admit that he wasn’t the best at picking beats, but towards the end of his career he had folks on deck to help him choose some real bangers! You need to talk about subjects that your fans (your niche market) will find interesting and topical. If your fans are intelligent college students, talking only about street shit will limit your market and sales severely. And vice versa. Fans of the real gutter street shit don’t want to hear raps about the Pythagorean Theorem.

You have to find a way to support yourself until the royalty checks and show money start to come in (if you don’t sell 350,000 or more CDs and you are signed to a Major label, forget about the royalty checks—they ain’t coming). If you are signed to an indie label, there is NOT enough money to support you and promote you, so get a job and opt for the budget to be spent on promotions. If you are entrepreneurial at all (and be real with yourself when you decide this one), find an investor rather than signing to a label. Control and ownership is a wonderful thing when it impacts YOUR career.

Work really hard. We all hear that word “grind” as frequently as we hear “haters” these days. Grind means to work harder than anyone else, and then when you feel you can’t possibly do one more thing, do one more thing. Work the streets: hang posters, blitz flyers in places where no one else is, work industry events networking, befriend DJs and radio personalities in markets working outwards from your hometown, go to every event and be visible, meet and talk to everyone, and get up the next day and do it all over again. Work the internet by appearing in chat rooms and on the social networking sites (there are MANY of them now, and they all matter when you are building a career).

As a rapper, it is your job to make the music and make your career happen, whether you can afford to or not. No one will ever work as hard for your career as you will. But as you start getting that all important buzz, others will flock to you. And then it becomes your job to choose the right people to be part of your team. You are only as strong as the weakest person on your team. The bottom feeders come first (because they are the ones with the spare time to look for new talent to rape) so be very careful. Find legitimate, well connected, respected, experienced people to add to your team. If not, your career will be over before it starts. And keep building your fan base, one potential consumer at a time.

And when the haters come, and they will, just know that for some reason it’s part of the territory in urban music. As long as people are insecure and weak minded (haters), they will always try to pull down the next person instead of building up themselves. Sometimes, it’s all they CAN do because they suck at what they are trying to accomplish. If you focus on them, or the anger or the hate, it will bring more of the same into your world due to the laws of attraction. If you ignore them and keep it moving, you will frustrate the haters by not giving them what they want (which is for you to be as unhappy as they are, and to call public attention to them so they can use your fame to try and get a voice). Just know that the more successful you get, the less you will have to deal with the haters—fortunately, they can’t reach very high up the ladder...

Passion

By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition
(You can now subscribe to RSS feed to this column at www.TheDayReport.com. Thanks to James Doe for educating me on the technology and making it easy for me to implement!!)

“Success is getting what you want, and happiness is wanting what you get.” -Warren Buffett, Billionaire

Passion is the undeniable love for something that keeps you getting back up every time you get knocked down. Passion is the driving force that keeps you focused and on track when the odds seem insurmountable. Passion is what keeps you going day after day even though it’s hard, and regardless of whether the money comes or not. And if you don’t have passion for what you are doing, it’s hard to compete for any duration, because those who do have passion, will be able to work longer, harder, and smarter than you.

You can’t force passion, either you have it for something or you don’t. It’s better to find something that makes you passionate and to pursue it, because it’s impossible to pick something randomly and then find the passion for it. We’ve all heard the old adage: do what you love and the money will follow. It’s also hard to be passionate about money in itself, although I know many, many people who love money.

The Love of Hip Hop

There are two major underlying reasons people get into the music business: either for the love of music, or for the money and fame. If you are getting into this for the love of the music, your road may be longer to success, but will most likely be fruitful if you can stick it out. The love and passion for the art form will keep you going when everything seems against you. The creation of the music comes more easily when it’s based in love and passion. The artist makes music that comes from inside of him or her, not based on what will sell. Decisions are then based on passion and your career, rather than money and short term goals.

In art, since the beginning of time, all artists have dealt with the issue of art versus commerce. Do you make art that is inside of you, or do you make art that you know will sell? If an artist creates from what is inside of him or her, the creation is pure-- based in emotion, passion, and feeling. But then how does the artist eat and survive? If an artist creates what he knows will sell, the creation is commercial, made with the intention to sell and to reach a wide audience. It’s the difference between “art for art’s sake,” or art for sale. Is music an art form or a business? Very few people have succeeded at both…the Fugees spring to mind from the late 90s. They made music that was classic, artistic, and that sold millions and millions of CDs. Was “Laffy Taffy” art? It’s not about one choice being right or wrong, although some people are very passionate about Hip Hop remaining an art form instead of a business. They are about 20 years too late.

I have a close friend in Detroit who owns a record label. He makes music that he feels good about. When his artists make a song, he’s trying to create a classic. He’s not just trying to make a hit record that will be hot in the club for the next 6 months, or that will get into regular rotation at radio. I have another friend who is a rapper in Atlanta, and he is specifically trying to make a song that will blow up at radio the way Biggie’s “Hypnotize” did. He wants fame and money. His hope is to have a huge song and then capitalize on it by doing endorsement deals for products and commercials. He’s thinking that maybe he can even get into TV and film through the fame his song creates. To him, hip hop is a business, not an art form. He’s not trying to positively impact the culture, he’s trying to feed his kids. Neither of my friends are wrong, they just have different visions.

The Love of Money

Many folks jumped into the music business because they saw it as if it was the new drug game: a legal hustle that brought a high rate of return for a relatively small investment. The risk of failure was kind of high, but if and when you hit big, you hit REALLY big. The urban music industry, in its infancy, used to be run by people who were passionate about the music, cared about the sound of their records, and felt that if the artist wasn’t saying something important that it had no value. Then the industry changed in the mid-90s, and the drug trade encroached into the business bringing deep pockets and lyrics that they wanted to hear: more superficial, entertaining lines (about partying, sex, expensive toys, spending loot, etc). The problem with the industry becoming fueled by money is that the passion began to wane.

Why is passion so important?

Money is a good thing. The love of money is even OK. But being a slave to money is never good. If you can be controlled by money, you are a whore in the rawest sense. People who are controlled by money will do ridiculous things just to get some—things they may even swear that they’d never, ever do…until confronted with the opportunity. Would YOU sell your soul for money?

I used to work a corporate 9 to 5 job, and I was miserable. I made a lot of money but I was not happy. In March of 1992, I started Rap Coalition. It was a tremendous risk and I had to put up half a million dollars of my own money to get started, knowing that I could very easily lose it all. I didn’t care and went for it! I have been happy almost every day since, regardless of the kind of day I’m having, regardless of whether I get paid or not, and regardless of how many hours I work each day (and I work mostly 16 hour days, 7 days a week). But I love what I do, so it doesn’t matter. I remember those unhappier days in corporate America, and I am thankful I am doing something that makes me happy. And I am even more thankful that I can pay my bills from doing this--it took me 6 years to be able to make money in the music industry, and 10 years to get to a level of being able to support myself properly. I am thankful I get paid to do something I am passionate about, and ecstatic that I don’t have to compromise my principles in order to make money.

In the 1980s, when rap first became commercial, no one was thinking about the money. It was exciting because it was a new art form and there were very few rules. The main rule was “don’t sell out.” Others, who were willing to “sell out,” stepped in and made all of the money. Today, the main rule seems to be capitalize and maximize all opportunities while retaining as much control and ownership as possible. Is that so wrong? The flip side to that is to allow someone else to pimp the culture and get rich off of something they don’t give a fuck about (hence the 1980s and 90s in rap music).

And where does passion figure into all of this. Can someone truly be happy making music that is disposable, just so they can earn enough money to buy a summer home in the Hamptons? Can they hold their heads high when their little children are singing along to some mindless dribble that won’t matter to anyone a year from now? Or is the goal to put those kids through private school, by any means necessary, and selling music is really just a job afterall?

I don’t have the answer to this one. But I do know one thing: without being happy, there is no point. Money buys a lot of shit, but it can’t buy happiness. But for many it sure does buy a lot of distractions to keep you from realizing that. Without passion, we can’t go as hard as we need to in order to succeed. Passion is the driving force that leads to happiness. Without it, I may as well just be selling shoes or Carpet Fresh. I, for one, am thankful to have found my passion. It makes getting up in the morning VERY easy. And I remember all too well those days when it was not.