I‘ve been to more than a few Hip Hop shows in my life. It would seem too many on nights like this. As I sat in the back of the venue, it became painfully obvious that we are in dire straits my friends. I watched a string of lackluster performances. One guy stood in one in the same spot while his partner jumped around like his feet were on fire screaming at us to “Get the fxck up”. One MC wore sunglasses and didn’t look up from the floor during his set. Another was so in love with his own verses that he kept forcing the DJ to stop the track to let us hear his “cat/scat/gat/rat-ta-tat-tat” rhyme schemes. I’ve been here before. Nothing new for me really, that’s part of the job. But what struck me on this night is the always curious occurrence I see at shows: Each performer was greeted by someone who, in spite of seeing the same foolishness I just did, told them how great they were.
Wait. What? Did you just see the train wreck of a performance I saw? I felt like the only sober person in a crack house. Everyone is high as a giraffe’s earlobe on their own bullshxt. By not telling the truth that night, the friends of those artists committed the most treasonous of Hip Hop offenses; they let wackiness ride.
Our politeness is killing us. The truth is that calling out the foolishness is not hate. It’s an act of love. Love should be our driver even in our discontent. One of the reasons that you are able to read this is because of my love of live music. The idea of being able to direct people toward standout work is at the heart of this music writing thing. My basic purpose is to go out and find dope shxt, then come back and tell you about it.
In an era when entitlement and self-aggrandizing braggadocio seem to be in the DNA of every artist and the bar has dipped so low that an ant can Dougie his way under the damn thing, we are in need of some brutal honesty. Here are a few suggestions that may keep you from getting rotten vegetables thrown at you during your next 100-bar freestyle.
1. Dress like you are going some damn where to do something you want people to remember. I understand being on par with you audience but damn it if you look like you just rolled out of bed . I appreciate the everyman approach but even the everyman gets fresh once and a while.
2. Put together an entertaining show. You walking in a circle not looking at the crowd is not exactly high powered entertainment. As an entertainer you should be put some thought into how you present your music. Just bouncing around and being “turnt up” will get you by for a while but eventually someone is going to want their money’s worth. Great artists make it look seem like they just showed up and rocked.
3. Seek feedback beyond your inner circle. If you never leave the cocoon of people telling you that you’re dope, you will never find out if you are. Getting all your people to co-sign you isn’t notable – it’s expected. If you can’t get your people on your side then you’re really losing. On the other side of your comfort zone is where you will find out if you’re hot.
4. Realize that you probably don’t have haters. You just have people who are not yes men. Sometimes what you interpret as “hate” is the world telling you that you aren’t as ill as you think. As an audience, we don’t lie. You might not like what we say, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So listen and watch. Analyze your work and look for cues of a good and bad performance. Study other dope artists and look for things that work with your presentation. You would be surprised at how many shows I go to of major artists and NEVER seen locals. How is it that you love this so much and you are “grinding” but you never see what’s hot in your arena? That’s like a top basketball prospect that never watches the NBA. You are cutting yourself off from valuable info. Take all that in and build something hot. The people will let you know when you get it right. Remember. The audience doesn’t lie. If you rock, then we rock.
5. Stop all that “People need to support” whining. And while youre at it STOP trying to make us feel like traitorous heathens because you can’t count bars or don’t know what a decent hook sounds like. We don’t know you like that, B. So don’t get upset that we aren’t jumping out of our skin at the very fact that you walked onstage. Constantly begging for support instead of earning it through giving us dope shit doesn’t work. The whole give support to get support is just flawed. It creates basically a network of enablers. No genuine connection based on mutual respect is a different animal. But trying to shame us into being with you won’t work? No one in the history of the music biz has ever become a star by hitting the audience with a guilt trip. What do you want? Real fans or pity?
6. Y’all gotta stop acting like EVERY club was smashed and EVERY show was rocked. Either everyone has the worst luck ever and always misses the good shxt or y’all out here with TALL tales b. It always cracks me up to see the tweets about how the spot got “bodied” and I know for a fact there were only two people in the damn room. I get it. You want to create excitement but you just might be having a negative effect. In the age of social media the truth is way easy to find. The hype beast actually turns off your crowd once they get the truth. By never giving any real critical feedback to ourselves we are committed to repeating the same mistakes. Take in the lesson then move on and do something dope the next time. No one said this was going to be easy. In fact you have to work hard to get great. Question is “are you up to the challenge?”