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No Country for Old (Rap) Men: For the culture?

How valuable is a co-sign from your favourite rapper anyway?

Posted by Robbie Ettelson

This week, the rap blogs were quick to post up news articles/Twitter screenshots that took no small amount of pleasure from clowning former rap superstar/FBI impersonator Dark Man X for asking for trap beats on said social media platform. Responses ranged from “Please don’t go out like that” to “How dare you slander the great DMX” to “He’s trying to help expose new, young talent! Stop being jerks!” The first two are fairly predictable, so hardly warrant further discussion. The third, more indignant and self-righteous reply, is more troubling.

It operates under a number of false assumptions, the first of which being that simply pointing out what happened constitutes an utter lack of the respect deserved to a guy who sold more CDs at the height of his powers than is even physically possible today, since only Adele and Taylor Swift seem to be capable of hitting the fabled one million mark independent of streaming and digital download numbers. At this point, considering that Earl Simmons is better known for being the hapless participant in goofy videos where he gets confused about the internet and the effects of smartphone apps when he isn’t involved in bizarre legal troubles, it’s actually good press for him, since it actually puts the focus back on his music.

The second and most ridiculous idea is that we should all be ashamed of ourselves for chuckling at the fact that DMX is asking for beats on Twitter, let alone that said beats be of the ‘trap’ variety (like that even matters, considering that most old Swizz Beatz productions only seem to appeal to people with industrial deafness anyway). As fellow rap curmudgeon J-Zone is quick remind us, rap music is the one of the only industries in the world where you’re constantly expected to do shit for no money, just because you ‘love the culture’ or should ‘support indie artists’ in order to be paid ‘in exposure’. The only other group of rubes dumb enough to fall for that old parlour tricks, are, funnily enough, music writers/bloggers.

The idea that once you get to a certain level or status in the rap game, you transform into some sort of mythical ‘gatekeeper’ like Idris Elba in the first Thor movie, is unfortunately still perpetrated to this day. Apparently once you get the co-sign, the road to the riches opens up quicker than a tube of Pringles. But how many producers have gotten over by giving away free beats? Logic dictates that if you were happy to sling DMX some complimentary trap beats, why should some other aspiring rapper dude be expected to part with cash for the privilege? Especially when they can just Mac Miller a couple of your instrumentals from your Bandcamp page and assume you aren’t in a position to ‘lawyer up’.

This same mentality exists in the blog world, where from time to time some misguided ‘manager’ type will email me to ask what my rates are to post a song or video. While I’ve been known to blur the lines between basic decency on a number of occasions, I’m not enough of a scumbag to accept money to post music that I hate…although there was that one time a rapper Paypal’d money to buy a bottle of Jameson just so I’d listen to his song. I drank the whiskey, thanked him, heard the song and decided against posting it. But the point being, having your song or video posted on a few blogs doesn’t mean shit these days. Perhaps it showed you had some juice in 2007, but that was a long time ago and the tools now exist to recruit, communicate and subsequently exploit your own rabid fanbase without the need for radio, video, magazines or blogs.

Although DMX wasn’t specifically asking for ‘free beats’, it’s safe to assume that whoever emails him tracks will be fighting an uphill battle to even get their Soundcloud URL mentioned in the credit, much less any form of financial compensation. At least in the CD-R era, you might get a stack of CDs which you could then sell off to get a few bucks for the ‘hot sixteen’ or beat that you contributed. Now many up-and-comers are expected to be happy with a couple of effin’ retweets! Based on this wonderful business model, I’m currently hiring for my new pop-up CRC Bar & Grill, where the cooks and bar staff will be paid in Instagram followers, promotional t-shirts (size Smedium or 5XL only) and bottles of my new Fuckboi International Ranch Sauce. For the culture!

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