THE MUSIC BUSINESS HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH MUSIC

There is so much written on the internet (and elsewhere) by people who pose as Hip Hop experts but really don’t know their azz from a bucket that it’s always great to see somebody who really gets it. So I gotta give a shout out to the world famous DJ Julian Bevan who dropped some truth nuggets in the bio on his site. His Wu-Tang in-the-studio story is a classic (I thought ODB pissed on the LL Cool J plaques, though, not spat on them). But I personally loved some of my man’s views on the music biz. A few of my favorite excerpts:

“Working at Chung King, I learned a great deal about the music industry. Most important of which was just how awful and ruthless it is. I watched group after group pour their hearts into their entire album, only to have it shelved, and their careers forever frozen in contract limbo. For so many of these kids, rapping or singing was pretty much their one shot at a a decent life. Their one ticket out of poverty. And to see their dreams built up so high and then smashed to bits, simply for some record label’s tax break, was really heartbreaking. This happened more times than I can count. It really made me realize that the record label career I had been considering for a moment was definitely the wrong path. The music business has very little to do with music, and everything to do with business.”

“Towards the end of the 90s, the music began to shift, at least from my perspective. Hip Hop, that was once something cool and underground and shunned by the big clubs, became WAY too popular. The parties that were once filled with people you’d actually want to hang out with were now getting over-run with outer-borough thugs, low-level gangsters, knucklehead bridge and tunnel types, fake-ass promoters, and cheesy fucking celebrities. I’ll never forget DJing at The Tunnel and watching some stupid suburban kid standing on a speaker, with his crew of Jersey white boys, miming the lyrics to Tupac‘s “Hail Mary” like he was some kind of gansta. It was embarrassing. The genie was definitely out of the bottle. Hip Hop was now main stream, and the new Hip Hop generation was pretty fucking scary from where I stood.”

“To add insult to injury, even the music started to suck. From the late 80s thru the mid-90s, being a Hip Hop DJ was great, because you never had to play a bad song. There was so much great music. And since Hip Hop was still not quite mainstream American pop culture, your crowd still had relatively good taste. They weren’t in to top 40, they were hip hop heads. Once Hip Hop became top 40, everything changed. Everything changed because the masses, in general, have lousy fucking taste. Yet it was the masses that were now dictating what hip hop song was popular, and you only have to tunr on the radio to see what kind of results that has yielded us. There was another factor worth mentioning, and that is the great schism between mainstream Hip Hop and indie Hip Hop, also known as “underground Hip Hop” or “backpacker Hip Hop”. Prior to the late 90s, indie Hip Hop was not really even a separate genre. Indie Hip Hop was simply Hip Hop on an independent label that hadn’t quite hit it big yet. Yet it always had that potential. And it had potential for club airplay because it was still dance music as Hip Hop had always been. Then along came Wu Tang Clan. I blame Wu Tang as the root cause of the great schism for two reasons: 1) They made totally weird, original music; with unorthodox flows that bordered on freeform conspiracy rants. 2) They really wore the term “underground” as a badge of honor. They bragged about it constantly. None of those things are a bad thing, mind you, but it was their legions of inspired white boy followers that took those two elements to heart, whilst disregarding one of the founding principles of Hip Hop: IT’S PARTY MUSIC. At least it used to be. Wu-Tang, however, struck the perfect balance. They made banging fucking tracks that were truly like nothing anyone had ever heard before. On the other hand, the kids that followed in their footsteps seemingly didn’t care if anyone ever danced again. It seemed like their successors just wanted to find the craziest sample they could, and cram as many fucking words in to a sentence as possible, while bragging about being underground. My #1 example of this would be Company Flow. Maybe the schism is really their fault. They made some interesting shit, no doubt, but did anyone want to hear that shit in a club? Hells no! And from there, it was all downhill. If you wanted to stay in the bigger clubs, where women actually danced and DJs made decent money, you left the indie shit at home and you put the top 40 shit in your crate and you called your cab. And thanks to Hip Hop now being top 40, what was left in your crate was Jermaine Dupri and Jay-Z and DMX and the sleeping giant known as “dirty south” music. It didn’t help that Swizz Beats and Master P were determined to bring the tempos back down to 72 bpm either. This is right about the time I said “Fuck this, I’m done”. I had a good run, but once I stopped enjoying the music and the people, I figured the writing was on the wall.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, dun. You can read Bev’s full bio here… good schitt.
Oh, and PS: Hip Hop Lessons- The Xmas Miracle Edition is COMING.

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10 Comments

  1. PREACH ON!That first half in the second paragraph about not having to play bad music because there was hardly any, should sum it up 100%That cat couldn’t have put it better.

  2. JEWEL!!! Changes in the music (Wu Tang, Co Flow, 72 bpm, etc.) is a really great point.I’m a younger cat so I don’t have the same perspective, it’s funny an older cat that I learned to DJ from said the same exact thing to me when 8 Steps to perfection came out.As ridiculous of a movie it is, Fly By Night makes the same point about I from the King and I, “He scares the girls”

  3. “Hip hop was at its best when it lacked television”can-ox, 2001I think el-p would agree that everything changed in the late 90’s. It wasn’t suppose to be live, party music. Can’t hip hop have multiple experiences? I’d rather party at the lq in 1982, and grew up with spoonie gee flows. But co-flow and other el-p productions got me through many a sitting still all day till 3 am drawing sessions (I’m a visual artist) with the headphones on. It also brought me back into hip hop after that top 40/biggie/2pac/gangstah/etc era that I just hated.multiplicity. Beyond that one criticism, what a great read.

  4. i actually do agree with you, dj.no.one… every rap song doesn’t have to be something that makes you wanna get jiggy on the dance floor. ain’t nothin’ wrong with some moody, somber schitt or some lyrics that take it to a deeper level. some schitt that people actually LISTEN to rather than just dance to. But like J. Bev said, it still has to be remembered that Hip Hop started out as party music. That’s the roots of this schitt. Taking it to new places and doing different things with it is cool but when you TOTALLY lose focus on the origins of the music then is it really even Hip Hop anymore? I just think it got real twisted when underground backpack Hip Hop no longer = schitt you can dance to. Schitt got real backwards, yo.

  5. Good read ! May be I’m wrong but I feel the end of hip hop as party music was initiated by Mobb Deep as well as the Wu-Tang

  6. right around the time that folks like Wu and Mobb were at their hottest their was clearly a shift in what was going on in hip hop…. you had the jiggy <>Puff Daddy<> people, then you had the ultra grimey dudes who were still tryin’ to keep it real, like CNN and whoever else. I just remember selling at the Roosevelt record shows and I was hittin’ all the producers off with ez listening and string samples (I didn’t invent the idea of sampling that schitt but I sure as hell helped it to proliferate with all the stuff i was selling to producers back then!). I remember very clearly that producers would come to me looking for hot schitt and would tell me “no funk… I don’t want anything that sounds funky at all”. I would be like WTF is going on here??? But that’s how it was… things were most definitely changing.

  7. yes and no. there was plenty of slower to mid-tempo hip hop from the the mid-80’s through the point when hip hop “jumped the shark” in the later 90’s that was dope AND danceable but not uptempo at all. And i don’t agree that a decline in BPM’s necessarily hurt the music. Primo’s hottest joints from the 90’s, except DWYCK and a few others, are not “danceable” by today’s standards. Co-Flow and all that shit went to one extreme with the music and i consider that to be a fringe element of hip-hop–not really an influential factor. The true tipping point imho was when Diddy (not the Wu), Mister “I’ma make you dance” himself, gained a stranglehold on the music. This is when radio and club playlists converged and when danceability trumped creativity in the music. shit became discofied, in a bad way. Big money was to be made, performance royalties for radio spins and other streams of revenue came into the pot. The club became a promotional vehicle, not a place to hear the new hot shit.

  8. Yo Jamal- I hear you but some of that Diddy schitt was HOT, son! The Benjamins? Schitt gets no realer than that joint right there. That was another sign to me that schitt was gettin’ all f**ked up, when i was hearin’ the backpack contingent saying that The Benjamins was wack. Some of that other Bad Boy schitt okay, but the Benjamins?!? Naw, money. And as for that 90’s Primo schitt not being danceable, I thoroughly disagree with that! I think I know what you mean, I guess that schitt WOULD clear a dancefloor once hip hop = pop music in the latter 90’s, but when hip hop was still hip hop almost ALL that Primo schitt was the sureshot. Late 90’s Primo wasn’t danceable only because the people in the clubs by that time were a bunch of soulless robots whose minds had been reprogrammed by the forces all around them. that’s how I feel about it anyway, and since this is my blog and I run schitt around here… I’m right.

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