Dear Milwaukee Hip Hop artists,
There will be many of you offended by what you're about to read. Many of you will be so wrapped up in trying to read into it and find a reason to be offended or feel dissed that you will completely miss the point of what I'm about to say. Adversely, there will be a VERY few of you that will read this, understand my point and whether you agree or disagree, will respect it.
So, with that said...
Our city's hip hop scene is...well, DYING. In case you haven't noticed, show attendance is down all over the city. More and more clubs/venues are turning their backs and a blind eye to our music. Despite the flurry of quality album and mixtape releases in the past year, the media (Newspapers, online blogs, radio, etc) which was already virtually delinquent in their coverage or acknowledgement of our music, are losing what little interest they have FAST. The sad thing about this is, it's all happened very quickly. And by quickly I mean within ONE YEAR. Take a look at the Onion AVclub's top 15 albums of 2010 list. There's only ONE Hip-Hop album on that list. While it's their perogotive to publish whatever they consider ear-candy, one can't help but see red flags shooting off by the ommision of at least 3 Hip-Hop albums that were certainly worthy of acknowledgement.
There was a time recently, that there was coverage of Milwaukee's hip hop music all over the place. From the ShepEx, OnionAVclub, OnMilwaukee...even the Journel-Sentinel got in on it. From Prophetic to KHB to Rusty P's to Melissa Czarnik to JC Poppe to AUTOMatic to Ray Nitti to Streetz n' Young Dueces...Milwaukee music was getting coverage from all over the darn place. And rightfully so as all of those artists had something that unfortunately a vast majority of us DO NOT...
Call it what you want, but the music business is NOT "your block". Althogh the similarites are abundant, it is in fact NOT THE DOPE GAME. While it is a rabid business, full of cut-throat backstabbing, it is also A BUSINESS, with rules and regulations that were set long before any of us picked up a microphone. There is a way of going about handling "your business" that, pardon my rhetoric, NIGGAS DON'T FUCKING GET.
See, nobody is obligated to give you anything. NOTHING. If you want publicity for your record, GO GET IT. Know why the press doesn't publish anything about your music? Most likely because they, along with many other people that don't know you personally, DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU EXIST. So while your ranting and as I view it, BITCHING about "lack of support" in your facebook/twitter/myspace statuses is somewhat entertaining at times, really it just comes off as juvenile trantrum throwing. I learned a long time ago from my grandfather, if I didn't know what to do, either go to the library and LEARN HOW or pay someone for the services I need that DOES know how. Unfortuntely my grandfather wasn't that for a lot of other artists.
As artists, we're starving, I know. Despite the lyrics of "ballin & bling" we're a struggling bunch, with bills, kids and real jobs. We live in a struggling economy in a city that is struggling fiscally more and more, year after year. But as with ANY business venture, if you can't invest in yourself, why should you expect anyone else to invest in YOU?
And that leads me to another problem...
Let's be real for just one moment, please. There isn't a "community" as far as the hip hop artists are concerned. There are small - large cliques of artists that work together on various projects, sure. But all this faux holding hands singing kumbaya around the 24" Rims at the lakefront; I just don't believe in it. I'm speaking of the 414-Luv's and every other incarnation of it that's come along in the past 5yrs. With the exception of WIHip-Hop, these are nothing more than personal agendas cooked up by masked capitalists, being sold as great rallying cries that the people (especially and most inclusively the artists) can buy into. Literally, as the "if you don't buy a 414 LUV T-Shirt, you don't support Milwaukee Hip Hop" statement tells us. I've been a part of this music scene as an artist, producer, engineer, promoter, DJ...I've done it all. From the Northside, to the east side, to the southside. And ultimately, while we all want support for our music, the shit is futile til artists focus on the reality that 98% of us don't have a fucking clue what we're doing or how to do it professionally. There's a thin line between doing it for the love and doing it to hopefully blow up. We all want to be able to do what we love and feed our families in the process, but that's just not realistic. Less than 2% of all the musicians out there "make it". You'd have been better off taking a shot with your hoop dreams. The market is oversaturated by people that have no business making "music" and has ultimately driven hip hop as a whole to the state it's in now...
There simply isn't any value on our music anymore because it's been shown time and time again that "anybody can do it". While most of us know that is certainly not the case, we live in a society where perception is reality, therefore the that view of our music is more damning than ever. Let's face it, Hip Hop has always been viewed as crude, juvenile and unsophisticated by most critics and music purists. Add to that the complete over-saturation of unoriginal, swagger driven, substance deficient, spiritless, manufactured dreck that we hear on the radio and VIOLA! Disposable music that nobody truly cares about because as soon as one wack-a-mole rapper gets flushed out of the system, another is happily ready to shuck and jive it up in the prior's place. On this very blog, we've had a reader champion the effort of NOT pushing the envelope or attempting to do something different; even if only for the principle of musicianship. Honestly, if the industry needs another "Atlanta style" rapper/group, why wouldn't they just get one authentically from Atlanta? Not some knock off from Milwaukee, which isn't even a marketable...market.
In closing Milwaukee, I implore you...have some pride. Have more respect for the reputation of the city you so loudly proclaim so much love and adoration for. We, as a community, nor any single artist, will ever truly blip on a national radar until we first support our own. Monetarily, in spirit and in interest. But most importantly, as artists, none of us will succeed til we create something of OUR OWN. A sound and style that no other region can take from us...but only envy and mimic, as we have done to them.
Til that day, we will always be Chicago's smaller step-brother and the often disrespected, yet moreso ignored bootleg southern & backpack knockoff's of the Hip-Hop world.