I bailed on NYC for the New Year. Yeah, I shuttled off to London by myself to ring in 2011. Suffice it to say, getting there was a major pain, considering the blizzard that hit the day before I was scheduled to leave. Nevertheless, I made it there a day later than planned, and accomplished my goal.
I cracked my eyelids on the first day of 2011 in another country
The first two nights in London I stayed in the Astor Hyde Park hostel, which was a few blocks walk from the Gloucester Road underground station. I want to sit here and say my first time staying at a hostel was this sort of comfy experience and tell you that it’s the best way to experience London on the cheap, because I think in total those two nights may have only cost me about 50 bucks. But in reality my time there was sort of shitty. There were a few girls staying in the shared room I booked and they were just loud and inconsiderate and I really couldn’t get any sleep other than during the day. That’s kinda pointless when you’re visiting a new city. I ended up bailing on the hostel situation, figuring NYE was going to be a drunken mess for anyone I was sharing a room with, so I booked a hotel not far from the hostel. Cost a grip but I couldn’t stand to not get any sleep for another day. I was already jetlagged and exhausted from walking around the city for two days.
One thing that helped me a lot on this trip was having a cell phone that worked in London. Prior to going, I thought I was going to rack up crazy roaming charges on T-Mobile because they don’t offer any real international usage plan. But I got hipped to unlocking my blackberry, which allowed me to use it with a UK sim. I was able to purchase one right in the airport from a vending machine like a soda. Crazy. Having my blackberry allowed me to use google maps, which gave me a good tool for navigating the city and its surrounding areas. Just little things, like finding where the nearest tube station was, not saying it’d have been impossible without google maps, but that app definitely helped speed up the process. Hip-hop hooray for google.
I never really did make it onto London time. Nor did I stay on New York time. I think I wound up somewhere in the middle, and that was largely due to those first two days where I didn’t get much rest. On the day of New Year’s eve, which was basically my third day- the day I checked into the hotel- I slept like all day, and that just threw the schedule all out of whack. So for the most part I was waking up at around 5am every day. It was cool though, because I was able to get up early, have breakfast near where I was staying, and take things at a leisurely pace.
The exchange rate from USD to british pounds is terrible. I don’t know what it is off top and I’m too lazy to google it (I know, lazy, right?), but I just know everything I spent money on there seemed like it was going to end up costing a grip in American dollars. Why? Because you would think that things would be priced on scale. I know there’s some economic term for what I’m referring to, but I’m not an economics guy. So let’s just use this as an example. If a british pound is 60 pence compared to 1 USD, then a 10 dollar hamburger should cost 6 pounds. But it doesn’t. A 10 dollar hamburger costs 10 pounds. Like a soda from a corner store the United States, which costs 1.50, still costs 1.50 there. The fuck? So yeah, your finances are taking a beating by going to London. Mine definitely did.
I can say this much, I’ve traveled alone before, but never to another country. It was definitely sort of an interesting feeling, just getting off that Gloucester Road stop when I initially arrived in London. It seemed busy there, it was mid-day. It kind of reminded me of New York in a sense, but then, not so much. People didn’t seem too friendly. Typically I can chat up the average person pretty easily. In London, that didn’t seem to work. I don’t know what it was. Maybe I was giving off a touristy vibe- that’s fine, I was a tourist- but it didn’t seem like conversations were easy to strike up. It could have also been just me. Like, I don’t know that I was super enthused about talking to anyone. I was kind of cool with the idea of people watching, just walking around and chilling, mostly. At any instant, I would pop into a little cafe for a coffee and a croissant. I would just sit and listen to the words and conversations I was hearing around me. Watching people’s mannerisms, the way their hands move, how they interact with others, what they’re wearing, and so on. It was kind of like a study of British people, in a sense.
I don’t really know how much I did in London compared to what other people do when they visit. I just know whatever I did worked for me. I had visited London about ten years ago, in August of 2001. At the time, I was 19 years old and was heading into my second year of college. College is really what put the bug in my ear, and subsequently my mother’s ear, that London was a place to visit that summer. I had an international politics class my second semester of the first year, and I recall needing a big book of maps for it. We basically looked at those maps for the entire semester, and went through histories of so many different countries. It definitely wasn’t the first time I’d looked at a map, but I think it was the first time I had added context, and I began to understand more why each country existed in a certain space and so on. Or, maybe it was just the first time I ever paid attention. Whatever the case, it made me want to see the world so badly. So going to London in 2001 was the first step towards that. That trip, however, wasn’t how I envisioned it. It was mostly sightseeing and typical tourist stuff, which was fine, except for me, I like to do that stuff in my own way. Kind of digest in the way that works for me. I think I had one day where I got to do something completely solo. I shopped for vinyl and books, nerdy stuff that guys like me are into. Had my whole trip been that way, I’d have called it a success.
This time around, I wanted to take that one day from the 2001 trip and basically extend it. I wanted to just float and do my own thing. I pretty much did that. Saw Stonehenge. Saw Buckingham Palace. Saw Royal Albert monument. Saw Queen Victoria Monument. Shopped in Camden Town. Shopped in Leicester Square. Went up to the park at Hampstead Heath. Saw the London Eye. Went to Harrod’s. Went to Carnaby Street. Kicked it in Soho one night. Went to Natural Science Museum. Saw the Adrian Boot photo exhibit at the Proud Galleries in Camden Town. Saw the High Society exhibit at the Wellcome Collection. Ate a lot of good food, drank some pretty strong coffee. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things.
It was very cold and rainy there. Colder and rainer than NYC in the winter, for sure. And I had just left a blizzard. I don’t think I saw the sun the entire time I was there. One peculiar observation, folks in London don’t really drink coffee the way we do here. If you were to order a coffee there and want milk in, you would order a white coffee. Otherwise, the coffee is coming to you black. But even at that, drip coffee was hard to come by. They make americanos there. I’m not a fan.
As far as women, my god, I wouldn’t even know where to start. If you took the top 10% most fashionable women in New York, cloned them and made thousands of duplicate super fashionable beautiful women, you would have London’s entire female demographic. I’m not really the gawking type. Typically, I’m not even that impressed by…. well, anyone. That’s not my ego or anything, it’s just, I don’t get goo gaga over appearance. Beauty is more than that. But there, I couldn’t help but stare. So. Many. Beautiful. Women. Even the older women looked amazing and dressed to kill. I know some of my female friends, ones who are super into all this high fashion stuff, they would have had a ball out there just people watching. Everyone dressed well.
Below, some pictures. I snapped over 400 pictures there, be it on the Canon Rebel t2i or my blackberry’s camera phone. I also shot some video as well, which I’ll probably post at some point soon. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the slideshow, it’s just kind of random. If I had a little more patience I could probably say where each photo was, and maybe at some point I’ll do that. For now, enjoy.
So anyway, in a bit of randomness, I somehow ended up in on the front page of the Pro Keds website. To make a long story really short, I’d reached out about getting my client, Theo Martins, in this Pro Keds shoot this past August (I know, I’m so late updating this thing). Somehow someway, Pro Keds already had enough people in the shoot that wore Theo’s size, so he couldn’t be in it. But they asked me to be in it instead.
So I guess that was my modeling debut lol.
Regarding the shoot itself, that was easily the fucking hottest and longest day of my entire life, and I feel like I’ve seen some pretty stressful days before. It was early August, in Queens New York, the sun was blazing at something numberswiki.com
like 95 degrees. I soaked through three shirts that day. I barely slept a wink before going out for the shoot (not a good thing), so I was beat tired. I ended up pretty sun burnt. As well, it took me a day or so just to get over the heat exhaustion.
I came away with a better appreciation for models. I can only imagine what it must be like for actors. Having worked in production on a few TV shows, I see how crazy it is just for the people behind the scenes. If I had some lines to remember, geez. Or well, maybe it’s not so bad. It’s just this idea that you have to be in character and look good and all this other jazz, despite being in somewhat ridiculous conditions. Difficult to say the least.
I’d gladly do some more though. Ummm… holler at me? lol
Last week (7/6) I attended Peter Rosenberg’s “Noisemakers” series at 92y Tribeca in NYC. His interview subject for the evening was none other than the veritable Quincy Jones of our generation, Puff Daddy.
I think Diddy’s an amazing business man and has an undeniable passion for music. That much was evident from just hearing him talk about his experiences working for Andre Harrell, babysitting Jodeci, spitshining Mary J. Blige into the voice of the ghetto everywoman, recording with Biggie and so on. People tend to forget Puff, much like Jermaine Dupri, started his career as a dancer. Just goes to show you what type of linearity you can have in this business if you know what you want.
On the other hand, I think the Diddy effect created lots of the current problems in hip-hop. It takes years for a culture to be affected on a macro level by micro events, but all that shiny suit shit from the late 90s, the million dollar videos, the big first week sales, the Source Power 30 jockeying… all that stuff was great for the business of rap, terrible for the music itself.
And still, looking back, Bad Boy was an incredible label. Even in its lean years (mostly post-2000, G-Dep era), it was a better label than whatever flavor of the month powerhouses exist now (Young Money and…. Young Money?).
Ten years ago I never thought I’d be rationalizing the value of Puffy. But whatever, times change, and my view may be obscured (watching him stand around for hours in blazing heat on the set of “Making His Band” last summer increased my respect for the guy). He’s an elder statesman now, and I can only tip my hat. The following are my notes from Noisemakers. Things I just jotted down while he was talking.
- Was a corner back/running back in high school (Mt Saint Michaels Academy in the Bronx) Thought he’d win Heisman and Super Bowl, but broke his leg on last day of camp. “If you were out for the season, the coach just stopped talking to you.”
- Worked as a doorman at the Marriot during Howard college years. “I didn’t have no ego. Doormen had to wear crazy hats. I looked like Troy, Roman times. I looked like two weeks after slavery ended. Made good money.” Made 1000 dollars a week, mostly from tips. Also says his parties were bringing in 5000 a week. Moved into a duplex.
- When he was trying to get a music industry internship, he interviewed with Lyor Cohen. Lyor doesn’t even remember him. Heavy D introduced him to Andre Harrell, who he knew from Mt. Vernon.
- Locked himself in bathroom on Amtrak to go back and forth from Howard to his internship at Uptown Records.
- Father MC’s “I’ll Do For You” is hist first credit on record
- First complete LP he worked on was Mary J. Blige’s What’s the 411?
- Big break was making sure Jodeci got back and forth to studio. A producer was supposed to show up to remix “Come and Talk To Me” and didn’t show up. Puff put EPMD’s “You’re A Customer” under it. Sold 2 million records.
- Method Man/Mary J. Blige remix for “All I Need” is his favorite collaboration ever. The song was credited to Rza (who produced the original version), so Diddy never got sent the Grammy they won for the track. “I need to call Def Jam.”
- Why Craig Mack? His style, his flow. Always attracted to melody. So unorthodox. His tone too. Big fan of EPMD, and Craig was down with them.
- First saw Biggie in The Source’s unsigned hype. It was the era of pretty boy type rappers. Matty C told him about Big. “He didn’t have no six pack. I was like, what am I gonna do? But I just heard the tape and I knew he was gonna be a supertar. I also knew he’d be a sex symbol.”
- He had to teach Biggie how to count bars and write a chorus.
- Puffy and Big butted heads on “Juicy” and “Big Poppa.” Big wanted “Machine Gun Funk” to be a single. “[We] was studying what Dre and them was doing, with Niggaz4Life and The Chronic. I wanted to come with the sound of the soul of New York.”
- The unknown edit on “Gimme The Loot” was made because of Puff’s religious beliefs. “I don’t care if your pregnant, gimme baby ring and the number 1 mom pendant.”
- Was strongly against the record “Suicidal Thoughts.”
- “My eye was never on competing with other hip-hop artists. My eye was on competing with rock artists, [because there’s] no point in being in the game if you’re not being heard.”
- Got idea for Bad Boy being a real business when he saw Mahogany. Modeled himself after Berry Gordy. He had a film division. “If he would have came out with a Diana Ross clothing line it’d be crazy.”
- Artist he passed on- Ludacris
- On Rick Ross: “I never compared Ross to Biggie. Biggie is a one of one. I liked Ross separately as an artist. I saw him going into a certain zone. I felt I had some information to give him. He has a great sense of music and musicality. He has a unique flow, unique style. On “Angels,” I explained it to him like it was inspired by Big. I told him when he did his part I felt the spirit of Big.”
- On Jay Electronica: “We work together in an unofficial capacity. He’s just a friend of mine. I think there’s a way for me to work with jay from the sidelines and be a part of his success.”
Last night Just Blaze held the final goodbye for his legendary Baseline recording studio. Naturally, I found out about the evening’s festivities, which reportedly were a walk-through and tour sort of thing, super late. I wound up making my way over around 10pm, after leaving the ego trip film screening. Timmhotep came with. I entered the studio to see what looked like actual organized confusion in the lounge. Boxes everywhere, records packed up, gear laying around, sneakers, pool balls and assorted memorabilia. I’d once been involved with the closing of a major studio (Mystic Studios, in Staten Island, where a lot of classic material was recorded), and remember the disaster which became of the studio space when the equipment was broken down and storage spaces were cleaned out. It’s really a trip down memory lane.
I wish I could say I had a really close relationship with Baseline, but I didn’t. That’s not to say I don’t have my memories of it like anyone else. Here are a few that come to mind.
– My first time playing beats in the A room. This was around December of 2002. The Blueprint 2 had just come out, and somehow someway a friend of mine met Geda K at a party or something, and asked him for music for these DJ Storm mixtapes we were recording out of the Staten Island studio I had at the time. We wound up at Baseline that night, and playing beats for Geda K and the rest of the Get Low Records artists. That was the first time I met Just Blaze. I recall being ushered out of the studio super late that night- Mariah Carey had arrived and to the best of my knowledge they cut “Oh Boy” in that session.
– I would occasionally go back to check the Get Low Records rappers, and they cut a few songs to beats of mine, but nothing ever came of it. I didn’t get back into Baseline really until the Spring of 2004, when Matt Fingaz brought myself and my then manager, Gello Jones, up there during a session with Ayatollah in the B room. During that session I met the rapper Smitty, who at the time was signed to J Records, and gave him a beat CD, but didn’t really get his contacts or anything. The results of me handing him that beat CD wound up being the song “It’s Alright” which somehow got miscredited to 9th Wonder when it was released on an independent Smitty album in 2006. Till this day I’ve probably had five conversations with 9th Wonder and have never once broached this subject. I don’t even think he knows about it.
– A few months later I wound up interviewing Just Blaze for a XXL article on Beat Society that never made it into the magazine. That was my first front of the book piece for XXL. At the end of our interview I asked if I could play him some beats. He obliged. He picked two that he liked. One he wanted for Saigon, the other he asked me to bring back so he could re-produce it. I remember dropping the files off at Baseline a few days later and exchanging some emails with Just about it, saying that I don’t give files out for anything unless money is exchanging hands, but that I trusted him. A few days later I was at the XXL office and Bonsu Thompson told me Just was talking to him about me. I think he embellished a bit and said Just might want to sign me or something as a producer. That was a nice pipe dream while it lasted. Ha!
– The next fond memory I have of Baseline is coming up there to play beats for Freeway. This was either December of 2004, or 2005. Caveman Rosario, who cut my first check ever for a beat (“Through My Rearview” on Freeway’s Ice City: Welcome to the Hood LP) in 2004, wanted me to get on Free at Last. Free had already recorded to one of my beats and I was there to play more. I waited hours for Freeway to arrive. Scram Jones showed up too. I ended up playing the tracks at like 2am or something. The interesting thing about this night was this was the infamous session Freeway claims he didn’t have with Just Blaze, when he said Just was too busy for him. In fact, Just spent hours working on this one beat for him. So that’s the end of that.
– We also did the Scratch Magazine feature (NOT the cover story with Saigon) with Just Blaze and Roland V-Synth GT that was in the last issue of the magazine ever (with 50 Cent and Timbaland on the cover). I remember Scratch’s Editor-in-Chief looking at me kinda crazy when I suggested Just Blaze to do that review. He was like, “Are you just trying to get the biggest producers possible for your section of the magazine?” I replied, “Ummm… yeah.” And sure enough, Just was down for it. And in that interview is where you first heard him talk about doing more electronic-sounding music, a la TI’s “Live Your Life.”
Outside of that, I can remember meeting DJ Green Lantern at Baseline for the first time. I can remember Dan Solomito allowing me to come play beats for Naledge and Double-O of Kidz in the Hall during their 3-marathon recording session of School Was My Hustle. I remember giving Royce the 5’9 some beats outside of the studio one night. I remember playing beats for Young Guru one night when I was there for god knows what reason.
Let me not forgot, there was also that night I waited outside for something like three hours for Just to show up, just so I could play him some new shit. That was the grind back then.
To sum it up, it was a great place, a sort of crossroads for a lot of different types of folks in the music and media business. There used to be many of those types of studios in Manhattan. Now sadly many of them are gone, and we add Baseline to the list.
Just Blaze with the last call for alcohol
Just Blaze freestyling over Exhibit C
Pardon the terrible quality on these videos. I found out about the baseline closing event super late and was armed with only a blackberry camera phone.
Music is like the movies in that there’s only so long certain characters can remain in supporting roles. Ask the The Kickdrums. The Cleveland-bred duo, comprised of singer/songwriter/producer Alex Fitts and DJ/producer Matt Penttila played the background in the hip-hop world as beatmakers for a number of years, crafting tracks/remixes for artists like 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Ray Cash (peep this XXL review from ’06, where I was first drawn to their sound), Kid Cudi, Joe Budden and Little Brother, among others. But it wasn’t until 2007, when they decided to fall back from producing others, and start working on their own material, that they began to see the cameras shift in their direction (well, sometimes they still play the background). Earlier this year, The Kickdrums left Cleveland and settled in New York, and in June they released their debut project, Just A Game. The album was well-received and by September they were opening for Miike Snow at Mercury Lounge. Earlier this week, the group teamed with URB.com to release their second project this year, the EP There Might Be Blood. We recently talked via email, our conversation follows.
Your new EP’s title is a play on There Will Be Blood. What’s the story behind that?
Alex- Originally the EP was going to be called “no-fi” but after watching that flick I thought of that play on words and it stuck in my head. It ended up being a solid theme for us as the songs developed. Almost like a concept.
Matt- The name matches the tone of the album and definitely grabs your interest when you hear it. It sounds threatening and kind of reckless, like the music.
This record is noticeably darker in tone than Just A Game, the riffs are faster, everything is just more aggressive. A little more heavy metal than soul rock. What influenced that change in sonic direction?
Alex- After Just a Game we wanted to do something a little heavier and faster. Just to blow off some steam. I guess playing that fast in general will make the songs come out more aggressive. Just A Game had a lot of dark lyrics too. The music was just lighter.
You’ve said the project was inspired by trying to create something containing natural noises- reverbs, echos, distortion, feedback- an effort to use these things in a musical way, to have them be instruments unto themselves. Do you think that you achieved your goal, were you able to successfully pull this off?
Alex- I was always a big fan of Sonic Youth and the whole Lo-fi movement while growing up. They would build their own stomp boxes while recording to create weird effects and crazy distortion tones that would define each project. I thought that was the coolest fucking shit you could possibly do as a musician. I can’t really build my own stuff like them but I really wanted to try and create some signature tones for the album. I wanted everything to be somewhat distorted but still listenable. I also wanted to incorporate a lot of vocals that weren’t necessarily saying anything like “la la la’s” ect. That’s where a lot of verb and echo came into play.
I think I’m most proud of the guitar distortion I designed for this album. It was so intense that the second I stopped playing it would feedback like crazy but I kinda learned to control it and strategically cue it up. In my opinion it’s terrible sounding in a beautiful way lol. It happens through out the whole album but the best example might be the eight bars after the chorus in “Walking Dream.”
A song that really jumps out at me is “Watch for White Noise,” which doesn’t even have any real song structure from a lyric standpoint, but has these sort of repeated chants and the words “bring out the dead” taking center stage. I can’t even tell if that’s your voice or something you sampled. Talk to me a little about that song, how it was conceptualized and put together. It’s such an interesting piece of music, I feel like I can literally see it in concert while I’m listening to it.
Matt – When searching for samples you look for things that sound good or for things that make sense. In this case, it sounds good and makes sense, which is the best possible scenario. This record works in so many ways. It contains a sample of punk garage rock pioneers, MC5’s classic, “Kick Out the Jams.” Our album leans in that direction so it feels right to pay homage to the originators by respectfully flipping one of their cuts and adding our own Kickdrums twist to it. Besides, it just makes sense for The Kickdrums to flip a track called “Kick Out the Jams.”
Besides the obvious answer (“just something cool looking”), is there anything more to the EP artwork than meets the eye? It’s a very striking image.
Matt- I heard a quote once that if it’s not about life and death, it’s not worth talking about. I think Alex does a great job tackling the subject in his lyrics without spelling it out for you. I wanted the cover to be the same way. If you read between the lines, you’re staring Death in the face, you’re life and possibly your soul is on the line, and you’ve gotta make a move. There “might” be blood, or there “might” not be, depending the choice you make. What do you do? I kept it simple to leave more to the viewers imagination. On a lighter note, we were releasing the album on Halloween and we wanted something spooky looking.
Was the record’s release around Halloween a planned approach or was that something that just happened coincidentally?
Alex- That idea happened in one of those “light bulb” moments. It wasn’t planned very far out though. We we’re looking for a cool way to release it because it had been done since June and we hate hanging on to music (or even worse, potentially never putting it out.) With our next major album Meet Your Ghost slowly wrapping up the window was closing. Halloween seemed to fit just right for it.
How did you link with URB.com to present the project, and what went into informing your decision to go ahead and do it with them?
Alex- We were introduced to Joshua [Glazer] over there through Mick Boogie. We’ve always been fans of their magazine and thought it would be a good home for the album. I think partnering up with a site/publication is a win/win for everyone. They get some cool exclusive content and get to introduce people to a new act and we get exposure in a different demographic.
This is your second project that you’ve given away for free. What are your goals moving forward, will you be continuing to give away free music in attempt to get more shows and so on, or are you looking to start charging for the music at some point?
Alex- This project was kinda short and sweet. I guess we didn’t see the value in going super hard for sales on it. Although we did team up with a great distro company, Foundation Media to make sure it was on all the digital sites for the people who wanted to show us love or get the high quality WAVs. The plan is still to take a chunk of our first months iTunes sales and dump that into limited edition 10″ vinyl. To us that’s where an album like this belongs.
Meet Your Ghost will be our first pure retail album. We’re hoping that through these first two releases we’ve made a lot of fans and gained people’s respect. We’re gonna really step up the number of shows as well. It’s been so busy that we had to adopt a “one step at a time” approach to manage everything. So we’re just getting around to the full production of our live set. We’re putting together our performance like an album in itself.
Should people expect some Rik Cordero-directed videos from this EP?
Alex- Yeah we’ve talked about it! I guess the right answer would be “Walking Dream” but to be honest, I’d rather do “Merry Go Round.”
What’s going on outside of The Kickdrums as a band? You’ve both moved to New York, is anything in the pipeline production-wise?
Alex- Ironically, we really moved here to be a band. We’ve had a ton of people reach out for production but its just not as appealing as it used to be. We rather just keep building our own brand as artists. But I’m sure well end up producing a few tracks next year.
I make an appearance at 4:05. I know that’s all you came here to see, right?
Yesterday I covered what an industry party actually is. Today, I’ll assume you made your way in the door. Now you’re looking around the room asking yourself, who the hell are these people? Don’t be ashamed. After seven years in the music/media/entertainment business, I still ask myself that every time I walk into an event.
Truth is, most people at events don’t know more than a handful of folks. And the ones who do seem to know everyone, well, that’s not always the sign of a winner. That’s just the sign of someone who goes out too much.
In my experience, you’re going to meet different types of folks at every event you go to. They will most likely be one of the following:
1) The Networking Jerk– I borrow this term from the book Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. This is the type of person who talks to you with their eyes darting around the room, looking for the next important person to introduce themselves to. They’ve always got their blackberry out, pretending to send important emails (nobody’s sending important email in a club, particularly mid-conversation), then they’re handing you their business card before doing their 1, 2 step like Ciara on to the next person. This jerk will leave the event with 100 new contacts, and will most likely never get a return phone call or email from any of them. Think of this person as the email address that keeps spamming you with MP3’s and invitations to an event you wouldn’t attend even if your own mother was being buried at it. I’m not saying you should ignore them, just don’t let it be you!
2) The Industry Chick– this is pretty self explanatory. These are chicks who work in the business. They’re typically attractive, dressed cute, with a nice smile and a “happy to meet you” attitude. Industry chicks are bubbly bastions of beauty, and they know everyone! If you get in good with them, you’re home free. They will introduce you to all their pals. Just give them the rhythm they give you. If it looks like the chick’s trying to make it more than a casual thing, then take it where it needs to go. You remember how Tom Cruise lucked up with that broad in Cocktail, right? That could be you. Just don’t brag about it. This is a small business and word spreads quickly.
3) The Do Nothing Guy- this person is sort of an oxymoron. In fact, it’s not that he does nothing, it’s that he does everything. He’s the 30 year old guy who started out in the business as a rapper, then became a manager, then an A&R, then wound up in marketing. Now he runs his own company called Get Bucks Entertainment (or something equally as silly), which is sort of a multi-tiered company with artists, producers, recording studio, marketing company and event production all in one. Not one of these ventures yields income, so that’s why he’s at this event, handing out free Vista Print business cards, in hopes of landing a client. Hey, a sucker’s born every minute!
4) The Aspriring Artist– *sigh* It’s not that you don’t want to talk to artists, it’s just that they rarely approach in a respectable way. Instead, they try to shove mixtapes in your pockets. That said, some aspiring artists are great to talk to. In five or ten minutes, if you’re asking the right questions, you can get their whole story and the reason why they do what they do. A lot of times artists who are “on their grind” wear their hearts on their sleeves, and for industry folks- generally a pretty jaded bunch- it can be rather inspiring to see the fire in their eyes, to see the passion with which they’re selling themselves, and to feel the energy they’re expending just trying to get in the game. This is not just limited to rappers or singers. It can be anyone trying to make it in entertainment. When it’s coming from an organic place, their energy can be very contagious. Embrace those moments.
5) The Employee- what, you thought everyone at this event was going to be LA Reid status? Get real, there are regular people who work in the industry too. It’s an industry like any other, filled with accountants, HR folks, plain jane sales and marketing people, tech support… etc. Don’t believe that everyone in real life wants to get rich or die trying. There are people in this game with real jobs, who go to work 9 to 5 (ok, more like 10 to 6), have significant others and families. They just want to let loose, shoot the shit with their coworkers and grab a few drinks at an open bar. They’re not looking to network or connect or really do anything other than chill the f*%k out. Because of this, they are some of the best people to party with. When in their company, just relax and let the good times roll.
Part 3 “How Do I Act?” coming tomorrow!!!
Over the weekend I attended Dallas Penn and Combat Jack’s first annual Bring Your Own Blogger BBQ. It was a grand event, filled with positive vibes and good energy, people looking to show love to others, and overall I had a great time. But I had one conversation, with an aspiring rapper, which put a slight damper on things. In the midst of our casual conversation, said rapper- clearly not knowing who I was- asked me to “sell myself” to him. Confused as to why any human, specifically a rapper without a glimmer of a buzz, without any money, and furthermore without a record deal, would resort to such tom foolery in a convo, I chalked it up to one thing, this dude just goes to too many “industry” parties.
Ah yes, parties. The supposed lifeblood of the music industry. Everywhere you turn there’s an “industry” party to go to. But what’s an industry party anyway? Why should or shouldn’t you go to them? How should you act there? And what should you take from your experience?
An industry party is an event that will usually draw a large number of people who work (or in this day and age, used to work) as professionals in the music business. I want to hone in on that word professional, because it’s a very loose term when applied to music, and the amount of professionals who attend an event will most likely correlate with the value gleaned from attending the event in the first place.
In Part 1 of The Essential Guide to Music Industry Parties, the answer to the question, “What Is A Music Industry Party Anyway?”
1) Listening Session- This is an event where an artist’s record label marketing department gets a whole bunch of tastemakers (journalists, DJs, bloggers, media personalities… etc) in one room, usually a studio space or an intimate lounge setting, and plays the artist’s new album. The purpose is to draw attention to the body of work that the artist just spent the past year of his/her life working into the wee hours of the morning in a dark secluded recording studio to create. More often than not, industry folks use it as an excuse to chit chat while getting free food and liquor before heading on to another event. Usually by the day of the listening session, a bazillion people
who make no money on the periphery of the biz have found out about it, and they swoop down on the location like vultures, in some misguided attempt to “get on.” Unless you’re a tastemaker, stay away from this type of event. You’re not wanted, needed or accepted here.
2) Album Release Party- Typically, there are two types of album release parties. There is a party that goes on in the early part of the evening, some time around 7ish, and then there’s a party that starts around 10, at a nightclub. Before you go to either event, you need to ask yourself who you are and who you want to be around. At the earlier party, you will most likely be surrounded by more professional people. You will drink and eat for free, and the artist in question will be receptive, jovial and appear genuinely appreciative of your support, no matter who the hell you are. At the later party, you will encounter a long line outside the club, groupies (depending on who the artist is), pay for drinks… hey, you may even have to cop a bottle or two just to get in the door. Here, you’ll fix your eyes on the VIP section, where the artist will be posted up with weed carriers, clearly ignoring you. Even if you do get a minute to chat with the artist, he’s so drunk and fixated on groupie pussy that he won’t remember you in the AM anyway.
3) Networking events- parties that are put together for the sole purpose of having people meet one another are the gift and the curse. People in positions of influence are generally too busy to attend events like these. Rather, you find a collection of meandering middle men, aspiring CEOs, artists and executives, people who are self-employed and just a melange of folks who you may never call after meeting them. Still, every now and again someone of importance strolls through, and maybe meeting that person for five minutes is all you need. Then again, there are dozens of other people bending their ear thinking the same thing. That’s one of the reasons why so few people who really work in the industry attend these things.
4) Charity Event- A large number of the people who attend charity events are those fortuitous enough to be charitable in the first place. That means either a) they’re just flat out rich or b) successful in whatever it is they do. Regardless, charity events draw a different type of crowd and vibe. People are at the event for a good cause, they’re around many of their peers, they want to drink and be merry, but look respectable at the same time. It is rather easy to bend someone’s ear at a charity event, hold their attention, and have a real conversation. But you may want to swallow your pride and throw a blazer on instead of that Stop Snitching t-shirt.
5) Product Launch- Usually accompanied by a red carpet and paparazzi (note the paparazzi), product launches are great for meeting people provided you show up before everyone is too trashed to talk. Come late and you may wind up having 16 conversations in 30 minutes and not one of those people will be even remotely sober. But since red carpets tend to draw high profile celebs, the lists at the doors are usually more strict, and if you can finagle your way in, you’ll probably be around some pretty official people. At the very least, you’ll be able to tweet that you’re at such and such’s red carpet event. And that’s worth something, right?
In Part 2 of The Essential Guide to Music Industry Parties, we’ll tackle the different types of people you meet at these events.
A few weeks ago, XXLmag.com reported that Alchemist was paid 350k for producing “You Ain’t Got Nuthin” Lil Wayne’s Carter 3. When I caught up with Alchemist last week, he admitted that he was joking in that interview.
I can’t front, I was lying. Because the truth is, they really paid me 1.5 mill. 750 was the first half…. I was joking. I guess 350 was believable. No, I don’t get paid 350 grand for a beat.
The Lil Wayne/Travis McCoy collabo for Chemical Warfare that ended up on the cutting room floor leaked earlier today. Listen here. I think this joint should have made the album.
And here’s Al talking about the new electric, up-tempo sound of urban music.
“It’s quite electric. It’s like you gotta plug in. CDs come with a plug now. I just wired a special switch now to all my equipment. It’s a swag switch. When you hit that shit, boy, a disco ball comes out… you start doing John Travolta moves.