A large portion of my friends are currently working to start up their own record label in New York City. They often ask me for help when it comes to copywriting and advertising topics, which is awesome.
Recently, I asked why they haven't been able to find any hip hop gurus who we could sign. They immediately shot down the idea with an emphatic "NO!"
This was not a normal no. The way they reacted? You would have thought I asked to set fire to their recording equipment. I asked what gives; we had plenty of junglists, DNB artists, and hardstyle artists who we reached out to.
As it turns out, my friends gave up on trying to get record deals for rappers. Most aspiring hip hop stars are total nightmares when it comes to their professionalism. They were so hard to deal with, my friends gave up on them.
Are you a rapper wondering why you are not getting the attention you believe you need? Here's what I learned about the biggest mistakes aspiring rappers make when they're trying to get signed.
They have nothing published on their name—or have really badly recorded tracks.
Though a lot of my colleagues would say that having a Soundcloud filled with rap doesn't make for a record deal, I'd beg to differ. Lil' Pump got his start there, as did a bunch of others.
With their Soundcloud success came a million copycats hoping to catch the same success. Most do not see that success, and rightfully so. They do some of the biggest mistakes aspiring rappers make with their music.
Most of these guys only have one or two tracks to their name. Of those who have more, quality is usually pretty bad. The vast majority of them also don't pay for professional production, so their sounds are all wonky and unbalanced.
If you have a shitty product, you will always have a shitty audience. Such is the name of the game.
They have no following and show no social media prowess.
These days, record labels look at your online following to determine whether you're worth signing. They want to see that you are working to make yourself known, and that you have the potential to make it big.
If you have no followers, record execs will see you as lazy, and lower your value as a potential artist. Musicians have to have a crazy work ethic if they want to make it to the levels of Kanye or Snoop Dogg.
Contrary to popular belief, record labels don't do all the work for you. You still have to promote yourself in most situations. If they think you'll slack, you're out.
Rap is a risky game for record labels. They play it safe. A typical, decent record label will only sign a rapper who is already an influencer on at least one platform and has at least a million views on YouTube.
They have no day job.
Look, I'm going to be honest. One of the biggest mistakes aspiring rappers make is their blind belief that "somehow" they will make it big and, therefore, don't need a day job.
The truth of the matter is that there are exceptionally talented rappers who never see a record deal in their lives. Label-backed rappers are rare, and even rarer are the ones who make it big.
Without income, you can't pay for studio equipment or recording time. You can't pay for production gear. You can't even pay for beats or your first music video. How can you afford your career if you have no income to invest in it?!
They refuse to hire professionals to help them out.
You never just start rapping and suddenly get a windfall. It doesn't work like that. I don't care how sick your words are; you need help to make your rhymes label-worthy.
If you don't have professionally-produced singles, people will not want to listen to your stuff. If you don't have nice album art, people will notice and assume you're not that good of a rapper. A self-shot music video will not hold up against others that have went the production process.
You don't have to spend a fortune to get a professional single out there. You do, however, need the help of professionals who can enhance your talent. In music, you often have to spend money to make money.
No man is an island. Please, for your own career's sake, ask for help.
They don't maintain relationships or network with others.
Relationships are crucial if you want to be a rapper. Most of the time, it's not what you know, but who you know, when it comes to being signed. If you don't network and try to keep up professional ties, you will not have a career as a rapper.
Your best bet is to go to clubs, network with promoters, talk to music industry members of all ranks, and keep in your rap clique. The more connections you have, the better off you'll be.
They act like rock stars before they earn it.
Yes, we all know about the excesses rappers enjoy. It's part of the lifestyle. There's a large push, in the industry, to behave that way, but there's a catch. You're only going to be accepted in music circles if you act like a rap star when you earn that right.
Don't be the guy who blows his whole paycheck at a club, only to find out he's banned for grabbing women. Don't be the guy who shows up to gigs too hungover to rap. It's a bad look, and will end your career before it starts in many cases.
It's hard to make a big impact, but you shouldn't act like you've done something like influence an entire generation of rappers unless you truly have. And if you're starting out, there's no gentle way to say it, you haven't yet.
They claim gang affiliation in order to get street cred.
This isn't just one of the biggest mistakes aspiring rappers make; it's also one of the deadliest. Gang affiliation isn't something you should ever lie about, because if members find out you're faking, you will end up in serious trouble.
There have been some rappers who have gotten shot, had their careers sabotaged, or have gotten shaken down for it. You don't have to be a gangster to be a badass; don't put your life at risk by claiming a flag you don't fly.
They don't practice or try to learn new techniques.
Rapping is just like any other art form. You need to practice to get good, and you need to learn more to become great. The more you learn, the better you become. If you refuse to take criticism, then you're not going to go anywhere.
Evolve! Don't get angry when people point out flaws. Learn to adore criticism, and you will perform a lot better as a result.
A lot of the underground rappers you need to listen to are constantly trying to learn new techniques to make their work more unique and distinctive.
They don't have a brand and they don't advertise.
I just don't get some artists, man. They have a great sound, an awesome look, and do nothing to promote themselves in a smart, efficient manner. They end up having a brand that's not unified that doesn't have the same logos and URLs across the board, or simply don't put effort into creating one.
Rapping is partly a branding game. No brand means you won't get signed—or famous—any time soon. It doesn't give off a good vibe. That's why it's one of the biggest mistakes aspiring rappers make.
If you hear about a new or underground rapper, it's probably because they're working hard to build their brand. Out of all the female rappers to tune into for 2019, every single one of them is trying to make her name known, which is a great example of what can happen when you own your brand well.
They bring drama.
Is rap a hard game to deal with? Absolutely. It's cutthroat as all get-out. Drama will happen, but it should not happen to the point that it cripples your ability to make it to shows or keep a cool exterior. If it gets to that point, it's all over. This is one of those mistakes aspiring rappers make that you want to avoid at all costs; no label wants a troublemaker.