I knew I was gonna catch some flak for this, but I didn’t think it would come before the article actually hits the stands. I guess the Houston Press sends out webclips before the articles are actually published because last night I got an email from Julia Beverly, founder and publisher of Ozone Magazine, that said “You could have warned me first, shit.”
I had a feeling it had something to do with the article I wrote in the Houston Press about the Ozone Awards/TJ’s DJ’s Weekend. Fact is, I did warn Julia. While I was writing the piece I told her that I am going to blast on the industry a bit and talk about all the waste I saw from all these labels that look like carbon copies of one another.
And that’s what I did. Anybody who knows me, knows that I am a bit of a hater when it comes to the music business. I’ve been in it, on my own terms, for quite some time and have observed so much shit from the inside and out. It’s my opinion that in 2007, if the labels and the artists and the producers and the DJ’s are all gonna walk around asking “Why are record sales down?” all day, and basically blaming the internet (who certainly must shoulder a good part of the blame, yes), then somebody needs to give these fuckin’ goof balls an answer.
Yeah I said it, the industry is full of fuckin’ goof balls.
If you read my piece you’ll see that I certainly was not dissing Julia, TJ, Ozone or the conference/Awards show itself. In fact I took time to take a couple of the people who straight trampled on it to task. The shit was a magnanimous undertaking, and a few people tried to force it to denigrate into chaos. That’s bullshit because I know what it’s like to work on something for a year and have some drunk ass come in and fuck it all up.
There’s not a lot of “Real Talk” going on in the industry right now. You got wanna be politicians and so called “leaders” blasting rap music for its content. A couple weeks back a group of folks protested outside a record store on the north side of Houston. Man, first of all, why you gonna protest a record store? The record store is a victim in this too. They used to be the backbone of this industry, now they are struggling to stay alive. They may sell a few titles that these protestors find offensive, sure, but these protestors need to ask themselves why the market is so hot for this material. It’s because the radio and Viacom and the major magazines are only presenting a limited scope of what this hip-hop shit really is.
So why didn’t they protest the radio stations? Why’d they go after one store, in one hood, when they could have gone after the root of the problem? And shit, forget about protesting, why weren’t they out there holding signs promoting the new Common album, or Kanye’s upcoming record, or some underground Christian rap that nobody knows about, or The 144 Elite? Why can’t they go out and try to promote something positive and uplifting, rather than screaming about records they deem offensive, but probably haven’t even listened to?
What records were they protesting anyway?
This shit is getting real one-sided and the industry is fucking off an entire culture. Meanwhile, the folks who are out there still holding the ideals of hip-hop really true, and pushing the limits, are being shut out. Real talk. This music business has always been about money, but in this day and age it seems to be solely
Fuck the poetry. Fuck the art. Fuck the realities. Fuck your cousins who are dying in Iraq. Fuck $3 gasoline. Fuck murders in our schools. Fuck killer cops. Fuck the environment. Fuck our water supply. Fuck the future of our children. All that shit be damned, cuz there’s a party tonight. Sponsored by Universal Records and Crunk-Hyphy-Rockstar Juice mixed with Hennessey. (That being said, I’m all about corporations sponsoring parties and actually putting their money back into the music).
Hey, I like to party, I love to party, this site is chock full of photos from parties I have thrown and attended. I also like money, I love it in fact. I want a lot of it in fact. I’m with it, but straight up, I don’t have my hands out begging like so many of these pseudo industry muckrakers. I can make my own, and you can as well. I mean straight up, if you know like I know, you know who is winning right now. It’s not the MC, or the Producer who’s out there changing the game, bringing new sounds to the table, or “keeping it real.” It’s the dudes who are affiliated with the dudes who have the most money.
These “artists” and “labels” are spending more money on their posters and fake radio spins in imaginary markets than they are on production. They’re copying what they think they are supposed to be doing, and they are selling out the game at all new levels. The major labels are pissing on this music and the independents that want to join their ranks are following like scared little puppies in a rainstorm. It’s goofy, it’s goofy as fuck.
And yes I know that I am old, I’m 35 years old. I never wanted to be the dude to say “Hip-hop ain’t what it used to be.” But real talk, it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I remember people talking back in 1994 about how hip-hop ain’t what it used to be. I know, I know the deal. But fact is, in 2007 this shit is getting run into the ground.
Bavu Blakes asked me a question yesterday. He said, “What’s gonna happen to a lot of these rappers when grills aren’t cool anymore? When substance once again triumphs over image? What will they do? What will they rap about?” And I just laughed. The cream always rises to the top. They can fight the real all they want, but the cream will once again rise to the top.
They want to talk down on the south. The media says Houston is finished. New York rappers are sick of our swaggar and have things to say about it. But they haven’t heard Z-Ro, they haven’t heard Trae, they haven’t heard K-Rino, definitely haven’t heard Money Waters, they forgot about Young Bleed, they haven’t heard Gerald G., they don’t know about the female movement in Houston, and they don’t care. They just want to talk down, and fuck it, it’s time to throw it back in everybody’s face.
I love this art, if I gotta be the only one to talk real about it, then so be it. WHAT YOU THINK I’M NOT GONNA SAY IT? I’MA SAY IT! (Word to Bizzy Bone).
So anyway, I ran a bit long and turned in too many words, so it got a little bit edited, so below here’s the actual article that I turned in in it’s entirety. AND HERES THE LINK TO THE ARTICLE ON HOUSTON PRESS.COM
And below please find the article I turned in unedited, real talk. I love Julia Beverly and Ozone Magazine. I see TJ as being a power player in this down south industry who has helped to bring the music to all new heights. My piece is not about them, it’s about a very confused industry and why it has to change.
(P.S. There was a lot of press at the Ozone Awards. How come the reports have been so limited? How come some people only saw to fit to report about the scuffle in the hotel lobby after it was all said and done, and the cop who tackled a girl? Where’s all the real talk? The game is all fucked up.)
The 2nd Annual Ozone Awards
Hip-Hop Isn’t Dead – It Just Sold Out
By Matt Sonzala
The unrelenting cacophony was a bit hard to bear at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Pulling up to the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Miami, after an early morning flight from Houston, my eyes were still bleary, my head still foggy from the previous nights drinks, and I wasn’t really ready for the onslaught of what the hip-hop community calls “promotions.”
In a business as saturated as the rap game, and as unstable as the current music biz in general, a fledgling artist has to give it all that he or she has got in order to be noticed. Unfortunately, from the scene I saw at the Ozone Awards/TJ’s DJ’s Music Conference, “giving it all you’ve got” has less to do with making quality music than it does with marketing whatever it is you think the dwindling record buying public might want.
In fact, that was the overwhelming topic on the panels and in the hallways of the music conference portion of the weekend’s events: How Can We Sell Records (Again)?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s not the way most labels were going about it at this particular event. As I exited I-95 South and turned onto SE 2nd Avenue – a cool part of downtown Miami, rife with Cuban and Brazillian restaurants and old school mom and pop shops where you can get everything from the latest Nikes to kitchen supplies – my rental car screeched to a halt behind a seemingly endless line of traffic trying to make its way into the parking lot of the Hyatt.
The police had cordoned off the entrance and were slowly letting cars in one by one, as other officers politely asked the drivers of multi-colored, wrapped promotional vans, Hummers and even one vehicle that looked like a full sized billboard on wheels to please clear the way for the other patrons. While these vehicles jockeyed for position in front of the hotel entrance, the line of traffic extended back to the freeway. No matter, from the moment you exited the freeway to the point where you entered your hotel room, you were barraged with posters, stickers and flyers stuck to every column, phone pole and tree, some labels even hired planes to drag their banners behind. By the end of the weekend, all of these items were strewn across the area as if a hurricane had hit. Cacophony, indeed.
Inside the Hyatt, thousands of aspiring rappers, DJ’s, producers and label execs milled around pushing flyers and CDR’s on all who passed. One young Latino kid even had the foresight to bring a boom box to the event, which he carried with him everywhere, playing only one song, obviously entitled “Real Recognize Real” as those were the only lyrics to the entire song. On the first day, everywhere I’d go I’d hear the chant “REAL RECOGNIZE REAL, REAL RECOGNIZE REAL.” It certainly got stuck in my head, but like many chant-centric tunes being passed off as hip-hop these days on commercial radio and on MTV and BET, I already fucking hate it.
There’s a handful of people in the music industry still trying to support a genre that many have written off recently as being “dead.” Julia Beverly, founder and publisher of Ozone Magazine – a publication centered on down south rap music - is one of them. Hip-hop certainly hasn’t died, it still exists on practically every street corner in the world, though it could be argued that what was being celebrated on this particular weekend had less to do with hip-hop music and culture and more to do with marketing.
And perhaps that’s the new genre – Marketing Music. Lets just call it what it is. Hip-hop still lives in the streets, but in the corporate boardrooms and in the wrapped vans of those who wish to one day enter the corporate boardrooms, it’s merely a vehicle to promote tangible items, not art. In fact, one statement that I heard in passing from an unidentified man outside the Media panel was “These guys don’t give a damn about the music anymore, or making great albums, they just want to sell ring tones.” I’ll expand and add clothes, cars, liquor, and sex to that list.
The conference itself was the typical music conference. Overzealous artists mingled with record label underlings in an attempt to learn the music biz from the “pros.” By day they sat in panels and milled around the lobby of the Hyatt, by night they hit the clubs, where the big labels took control and once again, marketed their marketing music to the more than willing masses. By the time Monday had come along, I had tired of the lip-service and the advertising and was ready for the main event, the actual awards show.
The 5,000 seat James L. Knight Center, conveniently connected to the Hyatt, was about to explode – in a good way. Many of the genres big names – Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, Dipset and Fat Joe all walked the red carpet to press the flesh with the throngs of media and sponsors who lined the way. Houston artists Trae and Devin the Dude also made their way into the fray – The Dude being tailed by the legendary Blowfly, a man who has been lauded as the “Original Rapper” for his hit “Rapp Dirty” released in the 1960s.
Blowfly has called Miami his home for the better part of his life (he’s in his 70’s but won’t reveal his true age – he’d rather tell you to suck a monkeys dick in hell when asked) but no one in the throngs of hip-hop media seemed to know who this elderly man in his super hero costume was. And the “host” of the red carpet, Benji Brown of WEDR Radio in Miami, continually berated him on the microphone as if the man accompanying the Dude merely snuck onto the carpet in costume as a joke. When really Devin the Dude wanted to give some props to someone he recognizes as an originator.
Inside, the scene was a bit chaotic, as all awards shows are, but you can’t take anything away from the fact that a little, independent magazine from Florida was able to assemble some of music’s biggest stars in one room, at one time, without paying each of them their weight in gold.
The show started out on a strong note, an ensemble of heavy hitters including Trick Daddy, Fat Joe, Rick Ross, DJ Khaled, Plies and T-Pain performed a medley of hits to get the party started. Things were off to a good start, but as the night progressed the show denigrated into a bit of a disorganized frenzy, possibly initiated by the first disruption of the night, an impromptu speech by underground Atlanta rapper D.G. Yola. Yola, unknown to most outside his region, rushed the stage, grabbed a mic and requested a chance to perform, because it was his birthday. Never mind that the organizers spent over a year constructing this show and that the end results are to be broadcast on MTV Jams, the ignorant rapper just had to get his shine. Similar instances occurred from the likes of Fabo from D4L, Young City and Serius Jones, none of whom were scheduled to appear but somehow managed to get microphones.
The Texas artists in the house were a bit more reserved, none rushed the stage, none even made it to the stage except Tum Tum from Dallas, who won the “Patiently Waiting Texas” award, and Slim Thug who was an early presenter. Outside of that, the night was dominated by obvious wins, Florida and Georgia pretty much took everything, and no artists from Texas performed. This didn’t seem to bother the likes of Trae, Devin the Dude, Grit Boys or Sparkdawg, they just all seemed to want it to end. In fact, Devin the Dude was already back in his hotel room when they announced that he had won the “Most Slept On Artist” Award, the final trophy of the evening. Oh the irony.
The highlight of the night came from a group of artists from California’s Bay Area. Representing the “Hyphy” movement, an energetic new form of West Coast hip-hop, the artists Mistah Fab, Beeda Weeda, Keak the Sneak and some young unknown artists came out and actually rapped, unlike many of the artists from the south east who seemed content to lip sync their hooks in medley form.
Lil Wayne closed the show - and actually rapped as well - four hours past it’s beginning. He ran through his current hits and talked to the crowd that had by then dwindled to less than 3/4ths its original size and ended his set by throwing his microphone to the floor after announcing that he had changed his name to “hip-hop.”
Indeed Lil Wayne just may have that right. In an industry where many artists and labels put more energy into making their posters and wrapping their vans than they do making meaningful music that will last longer than a commercial break, he’s a breath of fresh air. A young buck, who’s seen it all and isn’t afraid to speak on it. As for many of the other artists on the bill that night, they need to take Pimp C’s advice and “Get they fangaz out they booty holes.” (Google it, he wasn’t lying).
How can hip-hop sell records again? Possibly by taking a cue from their predecessors and actually rapping, rather than lip synching, representing an aspect of the streets outside of cocaine selling and club hopping, and putting the money many spend on marketing back into making great music.
But really, I don’t know, and didn’t find out on this particular weekend either.
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The end. You don't have to like it. But it's true.