A Few Facts About The Detroit Hip-Hop Scene
Last night I hosted one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. The line up was full of real artists who make real music. I realized a few things, though…
1. The “Tastemakers” in Detroit have no taste.
Argue if you may, but this is why there are no major A&R’s in “MOTOWN”. They wouldn’t know talent if it kicked them in their cocky asses. Everyone is trying to get to the next level, so getting ahead a little bit shouldn’t be means to turn your nose up. It should motivate you to build a stronger bond with the local music scene, so you can lift the whole city up.
The fact that the “tastemakers” are pushing one style of Detroit music has turned a lot of local music fans off. Having a selection of styles on the main stage is what makes Atlanta pop. Everything ain’t for everybody. Hearing people say, “You don’t sound like you’re from Detroit” means someone isn’t doing their job, because it’s a thousand dope artists who hear this everyday. This is why most of the local “showcases” or “open mic” shows are only filled with other artists and their immediate family.
No artist that blew from Detroit blew in Detroit and the artists that were big here that got signed are either back here or nowhere to be found. This goes back from Eminem and Royce Da 5’9 to Big Sean, Dej Loaf, or more recently Tee Grizzly. So how important is it to be a part of the “in-crowd” in and around Detroit? Obviously, not important at all. This lack of a local pipeline is why there has never been a real Detroit “movement” in hip-hop. The closest we’ve seen was Eminem and Shady Records, but Proof seemed to be Eminem’s connection to Detroit’s Hip-Hop scene and his untimely death left a gap between the two. Big Sean tried it with Finally Famous the mixtape, but it really didn’t put anyone else on.
2. Detroit is big on talent and small on business.
As an artist, myself, I have worked with other artists who have been in the “music business” around Detroit for a decade or two and as talented as a lot of them are, they don’t know and don’t care to know anything about the business side of music. This is not new or uncommon, though. The problem is that the music industry has evolved. The artists are becoming the labels and the labels are less inclined to sign artists who have to be baby sat.
The fact of the matter is that there are independent artists who are performing better than major artists and raking up bucks, so majors are trying to sign those artists, because their input will be minimum and they are going to make a profit immediately. Gone are the days when you sent in your “demo” and someone listened to it and thought about how great you’d be with a little work… NOPE. If you aren’t already doing numbers a major wouldn’t waste it’s time listening to anything you have to say.
To the artists believing that they’re just going to put a video on YouTube and go viral… It’s not impossible, but it’s highly improbable. Even if you did get this lucky, you’d still have to have your business in order or you’d be a viral sensation in your mom’s basement.
There are artists in Detroit with ten times as many views as I have, but they’re not making the money I make from music, because they haven’t taken the time to actually learn the business. Everybody moves different, but business is business. What good is a million views if they don’t put a dollar in your pocket? I did a Music Business Crash Course and there were only a dozen people in attendance. I threw an impromptu open mic and there were 15 artists and about 50 fans there. Something is definitely wrong here.
3. The music scene in Detroit is being sucked dry.
Business is pretty simple. In a thriving economy, money moves. In Detroit, the money that’s made in the inner city is rushed outside before it has a chance to circulate. The local music scene is no different. Everyone is for themselves, so it’s kill or be killed. The video directors aren’t buying albums. The producers aren’t buying albums. Hell, most artists aren’t buying albums. So, artists are paying all of these people and they are not spending the money inside the music community. Gucci or Fendi aren’t going to support your craft, so now the dollar is gone.
Over 90 percent of the people in the music community have jobs or hustles outside of the industry to keep their bills paid and help fund their dreams. This is rediculous, considering the amount of talent and skill in one room on any given day. A mastermind group is not unrealistic, but it’s a lot less likely when every man is for themself. In order to have a real movement inside the city, some great minds are going to have to get together and pool resources and skills. The competitive nature of a Detroiter has made this very difficult, but until it’s done with the right people, the whole city will continue to scramble.
Overall, there are some really talented people in The Motor City. Last night’s lineup included a lot of them, but only a couple had projects to sell. Those same few have music videos online. Those same few have a publishing number. Those same few… Well, you get the point. Talent will only take you so far. You have to be willing to learn this business or at least be able to hire someone who does.