As a creative consultant and publicist, I’ve worked with many Hip Hop artists, some big names, some up and coming. While half of them were a pleasure to work with, the rest were borderline insane, ego maniacs…or at the very least delusional. Although this is probably what most of us expect from superstar celebrities, it is even more amusing to witness the same behavior from unknown, unsigned, and no-name artists. These “special” characters usually fall under the following six categories for which I’ve included some of my best examples.
1. The delusional
I was recently contacted by a rapper, and I’m using the term loosely, who had an amazingly poorly written business plan, void of punctuation, grammar, and logic, outlining a nonsensical strategy for hiring fans to sell his CD’s. He even factored in getting the staff of Hot 97 to sell his music during their off days. Unbelievable! Surely, such a bold plan will be backed up by phenomenal music, right? But when I finally listened to his music, I thought I was on an episode of Punk’d. And then I started thinking that a friend might be playing a joke on me. Sadly, this was very real. Not only was this “rapper” completely off beats but his songs sounded as if they had been recorded on an old school cassette recorder, somewhere deep in a cave. To make matters worse, you could hear his mouth bumping into the mic every few seconds. I reread his initial email to wrap my mind around the absurdity of his request and noticed that I had previously overlooked his asking me how quickly I could get him 50,000 Twitter followers. Right then and there, I knew Mr. Delusional wasn’t dealing with a full deck and would soon be used as an example in this story.
2. The Dreamer
When this special lady reached out to me, she was looking for a publicist to take her career to the next level. She told me music was in her blood; she was born to do this. She said she had always dreamed of becoming a star. When I asked her to send me music to review, she nonchalantly informed me that she had never recorded any. WTF! Without missing a beat, she eagerly offered to rap for me over the phone. Hiding my shock and holding in my laughter, I declined and let her know that it would be impossible for anyone to take her seriously without any recorded material. She pleaded with me to give her a chance, which I did because I’m not a complete a**hole, but she was average at best. I gave her a reality check and gently let her go. Weeks later, I received an email from another rapper who also admitted to never having recorded anything but included her written lyrics, guaranteeing me she could make me millions. Being famous was her dream, she said. Honestly, I don’t remember what my exact response was but I never did make those millions she promised!
3. The Broke Ass
Unfortunately, the majority of people who contact me fall into this category. These artists want everything for free. Many of them have the basics (music, video, pictures, bio) but haven’t budgeted for anything else. I’ve had too many rappers sing the same sad song about having what it takes to make it but not having money for publicity and promotion. A handful of them have even challenged my love of Hip Hop for being unwilling to provide my services to them free of charge. Others promise they’ll have the money once they get their next paycheck. You’d think rappers who spend most of their time bragging about how much money they make would have stacks to invest in what they claim is their dream. Don’t get me wrong, I know times are tough, but the day I can afford to work for free is the day I no longer need to work at all.
4. The Sloppy Communicator
This artist has the social skills of a doorknob.
how much do u charge
This is an actual email, one of hundreds like it. No capitalization, punctuation, hello or goodbye. If first impressions matter, we’re off to a horrible start. Nine out of 10 times, nothing will come from such individual. I’ve gotten the same type of delightful introduction from artists who call my business line and respond to MY greeting with, “who’s this?” Ridiculous! And this is supposed to make me want to work with you? Others will also leave mumbled voice mails, sounding like they’re gargling rocks, as if anything about their inaudible message could even remotely motivate me to call back. C’mon people…a little common sense and effort please!
5. The Vanishing Act
This artist makes a good first impression. They say all the right things, appear to have done the research, and come off friendly and courteous. They ask the right questions and seem to have a grasp on the music business and where their career is heading. They schedule an appointment to start working, and then, POOF!… they disappear to never be heard from ever again. No replies to emails or phone calls. In the early days, I used to take this personal, assuming that I had done something wrong. What I found out long ago is that this is common among all professionals who work with aspiring artists. Nonetheless, to this day, I’m still taken back by this behavior.
6. The Social Media/Blog Whore
This individual thinks social media is the “end-all, be-all” to publicity. They believe Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram will launch their career overnight because so and so was discovered on the internet. One artist, who had very little recorded material, was only interested in getting views, likes, and followers. At no point had it clicked for him that making more music should be his priority. When I told him to focus on perfecting his craft before worrying about followers, he got upset and was never heard from again. Some inexperienced artists also look at blogs as the epitome of success. Don’t get me wrong, blogs can generate a whole lot of publicity, but again, content is necessary. A while ago, an unknown duo asked what they could get for $150. I wrote a press release for their video and reached out to my media contacts. I told them that the chances of getting major exposure are slim considering their anonymity and that the money spent on their lavish video could’ve been used for publicity. I told them not to expect miracles with a $150 investment. A week later, they called me upset because they weren’t featured in HipHopDX, RapRadar, and WorldStarHipHop. I set them straight and sent them on their merry way.
There are many more categories but these are the ones most aspiring artist I’ve come across seem to fall under. Who knows, maybe I attract the “crazies”. But based on countless conversations with my industry colleagues, this phenomenon appears to be a national epidemic. And sadly, I don’t think we’re going to see the end of it anytime soon.
Sebastien Elkouby is a Hip Hop Culture historian, freelance writer, consultant, and award-winning educator. Check out his educational program, Global Awareness Through Hip Hop Culture and his blog, SebIsHipHop.wordpress.com. For more info about his services, contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @SebIsHipHop (Although he rarely uses it!)