Taylor Bennett Clears Up the “Only Difference” Between Independent & Major Label Artists

Taylor Bennett Clears Up the “Only Difference” Between Independent & Major Label Artists

Taylor Bennett is back with a new single alongside fellow Chicago rapper Bianca Shaw, the first signee to his very own indie label Taylor Bennett Entertainment.

Produced at Audiomack Studios by New York producer TGUT, "Only Difference" showcases the distinction between artists operating independently versus those signed to a major label.

As Taylor Bennett explained to Billboard for an interview that accompanied the song's premiere, the title reflects the duo's ability to record and release spur-of-the-moment records as they see fit, without being restricted in their decision-making process by label suits.

The reason why it’s called “Only Difference” is because the last line of the song, “The only difference all these artists gon’ get percentage,” I’m speaking towards the label standpoint of if you’re with a label most of the times, in order to make the music and be in a position to go to Audiomack like me and Bianca were able to do rather than a bunch of executives sitting at a table and marking out what the best plan for an artist should be. Being an independent record label and artist, I think it’s very important that was stressed on the song and we got a chance to talk about it.

"Only Difference" is a nice end-of-year treat from the Chicago MC and a reminder that independent artists have more access and resources to make and release music than ever before. They also get a much larger percentage of the profits.

Audiomack Studios


Top 10 Hip-Hop Producers of 2017, Ranked

Top 10 Hip-Hop Producers of 2017, Ranked

Every art form has a canvas. It's where imagination is stored, where expression is recorded, and where ideas are fully manifested. Rappers are creators, audio artists, and producers provide them with a canvas for their rhymes, ad libs, humming, and Auto-Tune gargles. They are essential architects, the foundation-builders of hip-hop’s sound. Beats are the backbone, giving structure to songs the way walls and ceilings maintain the structure of buildings.

Producers are also artists, though. They should be considered alchemists the way they turn singular noises into a bed of harmonious sounds. To talk of rap music, especially in 2017, is to speak of the architects shaping its sound and pushing the genre's boundaries.

Among all the talented producers giving sonic life to hip-hop, 10 names, in particular, stood out in 2017. Praise the rapper, but never forget who provided the canvas.

10. Monte Booker

Before T-Pain’s acknowledgment and before SZA’s tour, Monte Booker and Smino were a dynamic duo. A majority of Smino’s breakout debut blkswn is driven by Booker’s jubilant, futuristic bounce. There’s a soothing, yet exuberant feeling to Monte’s beats, a winning combination alongside a rapper with such personality and range. There’s a level of greatness a rapper is able to achieve when they have a producer who understands their style, approach, and vision, and Smino and Monte have a special synergy that made blkswn one of the best albums of the year. 

9. Pi'erre Bourne

Pi’erre Bourne, a crafter of quirky, yet infectious trap ground-shakers, exploded into prominence in ‘17 after the monstrous virality of Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia.” His zany, video game-inspired beats are becoming must-haves for the new cusp of rappers rising from SoundCloud to mainstream success, most notably Carti but also including Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Trippie Redd, Young Nudy and more. An artist in his own right, Pi’erre's production has quickly established him as one of the architects of what is poorly considered ‘mumble rap’ or ‘SoundCloud rap.’ It starts with becoming the sound of today and then expanding, and Pi’erre Bourne is looking like a rocket ship ready to burst from the trap launching pad.

8. 9th Wonder

Whatever 9th Wonder touches turns to soul. Of course, this has been the case since the genesis of his production career, but 2017 served as yet another pleasant reminder. Kendrick’s “DUCKWORTH.” is the tale of Ducky and Anthony, an incredible story, but one that wouldn’t be the same without 9th’s three eloquent beats laying underneath. Rapsody’s long-awaited Roc Nation debut, Lalia’s Wisdom, is another hub of angelic bliss, for which 9th is credited with producing or co-producing eight out of the album's 14 tracks. Age hasn’t caused any rust and the times haven’t inspired a radical change in direction; 9th Wonder is still getting better and doing it with soul in the forefront.

7. Pharrell Williams

Unlike No I.D., who aligned himself with a veteran legend, Pharrell found himself alongside young newcomers. Beautiful magic was made with Lil Uzi Vert on “Neon Guts,” Vic Mensa’s “OMG” revived Hell Hath No Fury vibes, and 2 Chainz’s “Bailan” is the glittery trap that hits with fluttering chords and striking drums. For artists seeking sonic palettes with a vibrant groove, Skateboard P is still serving the masses. For all his work with the newer generation, though, it was reuniting with Chad and Shay for the first N.E.R.D album in seven years that best showed off P's futuristic production capabilities.

6. No I.D.

No I.D. did what no other producer has ever done: produce an entire album for JAY-Z. The sparse, yet soulful infrastructure was an open world for Hov’s honest introspection. It was an album that was meant to be personal and the sound had to mirror the intimacy, a quality that No I.D. masters in. Soul music for soul-searching lyricism. Soft loops and nostalgic chops, 4:44’s production speaks a language without rhymes. If immortality comes in the form of a classic album, No I.D.’s name will be engraved in history for what he did with Hov in 2017. Based on everything he’s already accomplished in his long career, however, many pages in the history book bare his name.

5. Southside

Southside of 808 Mafia doesn’t stop. He has the work ethic of a man who is constantly chasing what’s next. The latest Gucci album, El Gato: The Human Glacier, is entirely produced by Sizzle, and that doesn't even begin to highlight his incredible year. There are smash hits from Kodak Black ("Tunnel Vision") and Gucci and Migos ("I Get The Bag"), multiple credits on albums from Future, Young Thug, 21 Saage, and Playboi Carti, and work alongside DJ Khaled, Big Sean, G Herbo, Ty Dolla $ign and more. Southside provided trunk-rattling explosions for damn near everyone and continued to prove why he's a magnet for big records and undergrounds scorchers.

4. Mike WiLL Made-It

Mike Will is known for being the powerhouse producer who gifts rap bangers to Southern rappers and molding popular music to his bass-heavy liking. Everyone from 2 Chainz to Beyoncé has gotten their hands on an EarDrummers slapper, but this year, to our surprise, the biggest records Mike made belonged to Kendrick Lamar. The two have worked together in the past, but this year they delivered “HUMBLE.,” “DNA.” and “XXX.”―three musical behemoths that sent shockwaves through bodies like the stomping presence of Godzilla. Being half of the best rapper-producer duo right now was just another piece of another banner year for Mike, one that included the release of his Ransom 2 album, producing the biggest hit of Yo Gotti's career with "Rake It Up," and helping Ty Dolla $ign turn out one of the best singles of the year in "Dawsin's Breek."

3. Frank Dukes

There’s a best kept secret quality to Frank Dukes’ production. He may be overlooked by those who aren’t aware of his name, or it could be due to the fact his production work is often a part of a collaboration. In 2017 alone, he co-produced three Blonded Radio-premiered gems from Frank Ocean ("Chanel," "Biking" and "Lens"), touched five records from Aminé’s sunny Good For You and most of Lorde's acclaimed Melodrama album, and worked on hits and fan favorites from SZA ("Go Gina"), ZAYN and PND ("Still Got Time"), Smokepurp and Travis Scott ("Fingers Blue"), Cousin Stizz ("Jo Bros"), A$AP Mob ("Feels So Good") and Drake ("Madiba Riddim"). The biggest song of his year, though, is Camila Cabello's “Havana." The Young Thug-featured single just missed the No. 1 spot and had an impressive global reach. Whether you know his name or not, Frank Dukes is producing hits for your favorite artists across all genres.

2. Teddy Walton

Quiet as kept, Memphis, Tennessee's Teddy Walton is one of 2017's biggest winners. Walton is still fairly new, a producer whose work is much bigger than his name. He laid down the beat for one of the year's biggest and best songs in “Crew,” the single that took GoldLink, Brent Faiyaz, and Shy Glizzy global. Teddy also brought to life “LOVE.,” Kendrick’s sensual single and top-20 hit. He also provided “GOD." for Kenny, the excellent “Crushed Glass” for Freddie Gibbs, and a handful of records found on Bryson Tiller’s True to Self sophomore album. As his catalog continues to grow, Teddy Walton is primed to become a force in this league of super producers. His placements may have been few, but they were big. Quality over quantity.   

1. Metro Boomin

Mainstream pop music belongs to Metro Boomin. To some, Metro’s dominance isn’t a new occurrence, but another year added to his impressive run. If you check the tape, Metro has been on fire for the last few years, but 2017 was another level of scorching for the young producer. He trampled across the charts while delivering an array of production to everyone from Lil Uzi Vert to Lana Del Rey, and produced four full-length albums—Gucci Mane, NAV, 21 Savage and Offset, and Big Sean. The infamous Metro tag was everywhere; almost every big album had his name attached or at least his influence present. Countless 2017 staples—from Future’s internet bulldozing “Mask Off” to Gucci’s “I Get The Bag” to Offset’s solo opus “Ric Flair Drip” and countless others—were Metro productions. Big singles and underground bangers, collaboration tapes and crossover records, there wasn’t anything that Metro Boomin didn’t do this year.

Metro has always declared his desire for more and this year he went and got all he could have; not in just rap but across the spectrum. While so many producers wonder how they can go pop, pop had to go Metro. He didn’t start trap music, but he is the current ruler.


Honorable C.N.O.T.E. Never Heard Trippie Redd’s Music Before Placing “Dark Knight Dummo” Beat

Honorable C.N.O.T.E. Never Heard Trippie Redd’s Music Before Placing “Dark Knight Dummo” Beat

On Tuesday, Canton, Ohio rapper Trippie Redd made his debut on the Billboard Hot 100, entering the chart at No. 72 with the Travis Scott-assisted "Dark Knight Dummo." 

The record is the first collaboration between Redd and the song's producer, Honorable C.N.O.T.E., who crafted the beat during an Instagram Live session earlier this year.

"I was sitting on that beat for a couple months before the homie Fooly Faime came by the crib and heard it," C.N.O.T.E. says.

Faime, a Dallas rapper, had been telling C.N.O.T.E. about Trippe's music and sudden rise for weeks, but the veteran Atlanta-based producer never made time to listen to his music amidst his hectic work schedule. That all changed several weeks later, however, when C.N.O.T.E got a call from Faime prior to a trip to Los Angeles.

"Fooly told me to pull up to the studio," C.N.O.T.E recalls. "When I went to the studio, I wasn’t up on Trippie's music yet. I just went in there playing beats without hearing his music. He was like, 'Nah bro, I gotta put you up on what I do.'"

Redd played "In Too Deep" and a freestyle that "was on some 'Lil Wayne shit'" for C.N.O.T.E., who says he was immediately blown away. "I was like, 'This nigga fire,' he got a voice like a '90s rock singer but he can rap too. That’s a crazy combination."

And the rest, as they say, is history. Redd selected the "Dark Knight Dummo" beat from C.N.O.T.E. and a short while later, secured Scott as the guest feature and hired Mike Dean to mix the record.

As for Honorable C.N.O.T.E., in addition to adding another Billboard charting record to his catalog, he is currently working on a tape with Decatur rapper Tracy T and an album of his own.

"I just been working and not keeping score," C.N.O.T.E. says. "I’m just tryna get better for real."


Old Man Ebro Not Sounding That Old, Calls Out Rap Fans Who Complain About Lyrics

Old Man Ebro Not Sounding That Old, Calls Out Rap Fans Who Complain About Lyrics

2017 birthed more melody-driven rap than ever before, further dissolving the barriers between hip-hop and R&B, but whether purists like it or not, the genre is evolving.

In a newly-published interview by Desire Thompson at VIBE, veteran radio host Ebro “Old Man Ebro” Darden co-signed the genre’s evolution and pushed back against the notion that lyrics are the only thing that matter in hip-hop.

"That’s another thing that I get frustrated about when people talk hip-hop because they are always demanding lyrics, lyrics, lyrics, lyrics, but what about the actual musical components that turn these lyrics into the pictures and the vivid feelings?” Ebro posits. “People be like, ‘But, their lyrics.’ Okay, well what about the music, the concerts, the vibe? There’s a lot more to it than that and in 2018 we’re going to see that."

Before you fire off an angry tweet or purchase a Lil Uzi Vert CD in the name of recreating that one scene from Office Space, it’s important to understand that Ebro is not saying “lyrics don’t matter,” but is instead suggesting that there are several elements that give today’s hip-hop a full feeling.

Music is meant to be an experience, a moment of escapism. Listeners can lose themselves in the poetics of a song just as easily as they can in the way an artist holds a note or layers their instrumental. There is more than one way to communicate an emotion, especially with all of the new production technology and the buzzing creative energy of younger artists.

Think of “the vibe” Ebro mentioned as an extension of a rapper’s delivery. A heart-wrenching written verse cannot move a fan to tears if the artist delivers it without conviction. The same is true of the musical components of a song.

For fans in search of the highest-quality music—the music that will move you the most—resist the urge to limit an artist’s creativity because of what you think hip-hop should sound like.


NAV Doesn’t Care About the Opinions of MacBook Air-Loving Bloggers Living in One-Bedroom Apartments

NAV Doesn’t Care About the Opinions of MacBook Air-Loving Bloggers Living in One-Bedroom Apartments

A good rule of thumb for creatives is to never let the haters see you sweat. Dressed in a handful of bold-colored tracksuits, NAV recently sat down for an interview with Paper Mag’s Beatrice Hazlehurst to let the world know that he doesn’t care. He really, really doesn’t care.

“You can't take one blog's opinion and think your album sucks, when another is saying something totally different,” said NAV, addressing the critical responses to his music. “Half of these dudes are hating on you because they're in their one-bedroom apartment writing on their MacBook Air. You can't take it and make it personal. At the same time, there have been some not really good reviews on my album and I really sat back and took in what they were saying.”

Something tells me NAV might actually care, just a little bit.

Under the veneer of wealth and double-talking on display throughout the interview, though, NAV still manages to deliver some salient advice. That is, nothing will stunt an artist’s creativity and growth faster than taking the words of your critics as gospel.

No artist should be making music to please a blog or a specific demographic, nor should a unanimously positive critical response ever be expected, but if the material is created from the heart, it's likely to transcend scores, ratings, and reviews. Writers, much like fellow non-writing humans, are much more likely to reward music born out of passion than music made to chase a trend.

To achieve long-term success, creatives have to learn how to sidestep their emotions when receiving feedback. To NAV’s credit, he does tell Hazlehurst that it’s imperative an artist let go of their ego if they want to move forward. No two artists’ paths are the same, but it’s safe to say that most career-artists have secured that status by way of several ego-deaths and some major self-evaluations.

NAV may not know I exist since I blog using a Lenovo, but as it turns out, I’m on his team here. Create for the love it, the accolades will follow.


CeeLo Green is “Cookin Up” a “Prequel” to Gnarls Barkley’s Brand New Album (Exclusive)

CeeLo Green is “Cookin Up” a “Prequel” to Gnarls Barkley’s Brand New Album (Exclusive)

CeeLo Green talks in metaphors. Not only on songs but in normal conversation. He spits out analogies and double entendres almost reflexively as if he is processing information in a different language.

During a recent interview with the 43-year-old, a conversation centered around his new single, "Brick Road (Cookin’ Up)," premiering exclusively today via DJBooth, Green refers to his approach as speaking “in an art form.” In under 30 minutes, the "Fuck You" singer performed more than a dozen verbal acrobatics, including but not limited to:

  • “You want to almost chaperone the listener through the first initial hit, and the first initial high.”
  • “Too many opinions can make a good feeling malfunction.”
  • “Talent can feed but one individual. Hustle can feed a household.”

This proclivity for parables is why when the 22-year veteran sings about “cooking up dope” on his new offering "Brick Road," the first single off his forthcoming mixtape Songbirds, he’s actually conjuring up something potent enough to hit you in your core and, at the same time, resurrect his Goodie Mob roots.

“Cooking up is a process, and it’s also a recipe," he says. "It’s not fast food, it’s a delicacy. I wanted to write something relative for the here and now, and let people know I’m coming from the curb, and I’m talking from the turf.”

"Brick Road"'s hauntingly beautiful beat blankets the desperation in CeeLo’s soulful voice like “razor blades making lifelines,” a play on the life-saving and life-ending duality of selling drugs. “I wanted to talk about it, but not in any typical or traditional way, so I think this is a nice marriage of narratives and nuance and harmony, but it definitely has the edge like Goodie [Mob],” Green says.

In addition to gearing up to release his new mixtape, CeeLo and Danger Mouse have been busy cooking up a brand new body of work as Gnarls Barkley, their first since 2008's The Odd Couple.

“We have already started on a new [Gnarls Barkley] album,” Green reveals. “We’re halfway in and we have some overtures from the other projects that may not have stood the test of time, we don’t know yet.”

Lo says the pair is planning to connect at the “top of the year,” and bang out the album in a week as they always have. “That’s pretty much all the time we had to do St. Elsewhere because we were heating up around that time," he says. "We were doing something recreationally.”

Though "Brick Road" isn't produced by Danger Mouse, Green believes it's the perfect appetizer for the impending Gnarls Barkley revival.

“All of this is all prequel. I think [Danger Mouse and I] are kind of rebuilding from the ground up. There is no building without a basement, it’s got to come up out the dirt; come up out the mud.”

Green has operated independently since the release of his 2015 album, Heart Blanche, and since removing the record label shackles, he says he's been able to do whatever the hell he wants—like "make a better version" of Childish Gambino’s "Redbone." 

With millions of Gnarls Barkley and CeeLo Green fans anxiously awaiting the arrival of new music, and Green’s deep knowledge of the music industry, the man who embedded the phrase and hustling ethos of “get out, get up, and get something” into hip-hop’s collective consciousness on OutKast’s 1994 classic track Git Up, Git Out seems ready to do just that. “One thing about labels and the industry, it’s very ironic, they can’t pay to guarantee, they can only pay for the possibility. With a person like CeeLo Green, it’s always possible. That’s why I’m dangerous again, I’m back on the block.”

Green is ready to pave his own path, brick by brick.


This 19-Year-Old College Student Recreated Kendrick’s ‘DAMN.’ in Stunning Photos

This 19-Year-Old College Student Recreated Kendrick’s ‘DAMN.’ in Stunning Photos

For some people, the visuals make the album, but for 19-year-old photographer Michaela Lawson, an album actually prompted her to make visuals—her own visuals.

Inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s GRAMMY-nominated album DAMN. and a handful of Reddit fan theories, Lawson tapped into her long-standing love of photography to create a stunning photo series for each of the 14 tracks on the album.

By day, Lawson is a photography major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. By night, she is trekking around New York City with heavy lighting and camera equipment, pushing to complete her DAMN. photo series. “I started shooting at the end of October and finished around November 17,” Lawson tells me over the phone, still walking through the city. “I wanted to do it as fast as possible and I shot almost every single day.”

Wholly impressed, I ask Lawson when she made time for her studies, to which she revealed she built her entire course schedule around completing the project. For creatives like Lawson, higher education can be both a help and hindrance, but FIT has been instrumental in her work, allowing Lawson to rent out lights, studio time, and lenses. Her roommate, Shannon Treadwell, even serves as a creative director, helping Lawson select the final photos for each set.

Upon hearing DAMN. for the first time on April 14, Lawson says the album undeniably unlocked something creative within her, but it was not until August that she finished ironing out all the details. “I had to sit with the album for a while,” Lawson says. “The first time I heard it, I was amazed, but I didn’t really get the message behind it yet. Over the summer, that’s when I really studied it more.”

Lawson jumped head first into the deep hole of Reddit fan theories and YouTube videos as she began brainstorming the photo series, applying each theory to the album—for better or worse. Eventually, she settled on her own hybrid theory, which she reflected in the arrangement of the photos. Half of the photos are labeled “WICKEDNESS.” and the other half “WEAKNESS.”

“After really listening, I got the idea from songs like ‘LUST.’ and ‘LOVE.’. ‘LOVE.’ is more of a weakness and ‘LUST.’ is a wickedness,” she explains. Not all of Lawson’s creative choices were quite as obvious, though. The set for “DNA.” features three photos of Lawson celebrating her Jamaican heritage, yet they live on the “WEAKNESS.” side of the project.

DAMN Photos
Photos by Michaela Lawson

“‘DNA.,’ to me, is a weakness, it’s something that you can’t really change,” Lawson elaborates. “It’s what runs through your own blood. There are wickedness factors along with everyone’s DNA, but you can’t fight it because it’s who you are.”

Lawson's suggestion that weakness is synonymous with powerlessness is complementary to “WICKEDNESS.” being portrayed as all-consuming in sets like “LUST.” and “YAH.” Unlike the other twelve, these two sets are devoid of human narrative subjects. Instead, we get agency-less moments, the remnants of humanity, captured with images of pill bottles, fingerprints, and the hypnotic blue of a computer screen.

The images for “DUCKWORTH.” and “BLOOD.” are desolate and conjure an overwhelming paranoia. The use of red and blue gels gives each set a vibrancy similar to the kinetic feel of Kendrick’s rapping and his beat selections. Lawson carefully mapped her gut reaction to each song’s production and theme, using those impulses to direct the way she blocked her models and employed color.

DAMN Photos
Photos by Michaela Lawson

The most poignant of the 14 photosets—and Lawson’s favorite—is the one for “XXX.” Breaking down her creative planning, Lawson explains why “XXX.” is the only set with a white model.

“I made sure that I asked him if he was okay with the message, [and] he said it was perfectly fine,” she says. “[‘XXX.’] represents America in general, but it can represent anything you want it to because you can’t really see the color of his hand unless I tell it to you. It can be like black-on-black crime or white-on-white crime—any crime. It’s really about America, and who we are, and how you can reach out for a helping hand and [we] end up shooting our own people.”

Lawson knows that some people may not understand the meaning of her photographs, especially since her reference material is so potent, but she is certain that “XXX.” will ultimately speak for itself.

DAMN Photos
Photos by Michaela Lawson

At the tail end of our conversation, I ask Lawson where she summoned the drive to complete such a massive, time-intensive project. Her answer is simple: it made her happy. While the endeavor has had a profound impact on those lucky enough to come across her work, Lawson walks away from the project as a completely new person.

“It brought me joy,” she says gleefully. “It pushed me to be a better photographer… The project made me a better person, and I think this sends a message to other artists, in general, that if you put your mind to it, you can do it.”


DJ Premier on His Hip-Hop Relevancy: “I Refuse to Be One of Those Old Someones”

DJ Premier on His Hip-Hop Relevancy: “I Refuse to Be One of Those Old Someones”

From his very first session with the late Guru to his work alongside Royce da 5'9" as one-half of PRhyme, DJ Premier’s production has always defined New York hip-hop. Now well into the third decade of his career, Preemo is still as active as ever, maintaining his status as a household name.

During an interview with Vulture’s Dave Tompkins, Preemo explained New York City’s role in his sustaining his relevance.

“Your relevance is the people who supported you from the get-go,” Premier said. “Everything I do is in a New York state of mind. I’m indebted to preserving the sound of the city. A lot of parts of me is based off my passion for this city. We not all gonna make it. Like JAY-Z said, I refuse to be one of those old someones.’”

In an effort to not become an “old someone,” Premier has turned his attention towards working with and supporting up-and-coming talent. He produced the majority of singer-songwriter Torii Wolf’s debut album, Flow Riiot, which was released in September. Though he told DJBooth that he appreciates Wolf’s ability “to attach her style to a gritty and dirty production,” Premier also allowed Wolf to push him outside the realm of boom bap. As a result, every song on the record is as much an eclectic bonanza as it is a piece of Preemo’s New York musical roots.

More traditionally, Premier recently produced “Our Streets” featuring Harlem’s A$AP Ferg. Premier was in his pocket on the single, driven by dusty drum loops and scratching. Ultimately, it’s the producer's ability and willingness to have one foot in the past and one in the present, along with his desire to push those forces together, that has allowed him to have a career almost as long as the lifespan of the genre.

Let DJ Premier be a reminder that there is no expiration date in hip-hop as long as you put the work in and adapt accordingly.   


dvsn Explain Why They Don’t Do Many Interviews In New Interview

dvsn Explain Why They Don’t Do Many Interviews In New Interview

When dvsn first arrived on the proverbial scene in late 2015, their introduction to the masses as Drake's newest OVO Sound act was shrouded in mystery. Eventually, the world learned that dvsn was a duo consisting of singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85, but the pair has never bum-rushed the spotlight.  

On Tuesday, in a rare interview with Ebro Darden on Beats 1, Daley and 85 explained why they prefer to remain in the shadows, allowing their music to do most of the talking.

"We try to keep our music so honest that we feel like people find a way to connect to us through that," Daley said. "So they don't feel like, "Oh I'm completely disconnected from these guys.'"

85 continued: "I think with social media today it's so easy to like overexpose yourself and do way too much. So I think I'd rather people think we didn't do enough than people [think] like, 'Ah these guys are doing too much.'"

For those who'd like to believe that dvsn has taken up this practice because of their affiliation with and signing to Drake's OVO Sound label, not so fast. While Drake has taken the duo on tour around the world, giving them a platform that they'd never have access to with him, the label traditionally hasn't spent a lot on marketing and promoting any of its artists not named Drake.

We often discuss artists saturating the marketplace with new music (oh, hey, Gucci Mane), but in 2017, social media posts and interviews are pieces of content available for mass consumption not unlike singles. Limiting the amount of content—music or otherwise—that reaches the masses isn't a strategy that all newer artists should be encouraged to employ, but Daley and 85 believe that the best way to communicate with fans is through their two full-length albums. 


Def Jam Rapper on the Perks of Signing with a Major: “I Done Met So Many Celebrities”

Def Jam Rapper on the Perks of Signing with a Major: “I Done Met So Many Celebrities”

In 2016, Jacksonville, Florida rapper Trap Beckham signed a record deal with Def Jam. Since then, the 26-year-old has only released one project—an underpromoted eight-track EP entitled Life Is Lit—but according to Beckham, linking up with a major label was about more than finding a home for his music.

During a recent guest appearance on the Grass Routes Podcast, when he was asked by co-hosts Brandon "Killa BH" Hall and Erin Ashley Simon about his expectations post-signing, Beckham instead listed three primary benefits: celebrities, a co-sign and connections.

"Def Jam has opened crazy doors for me. I done met so many celebrities, so many personalities, it's ridiculous," Beckham told GRP. "It's hard to cover the U.S. and then it's hard to cover the world. When you can have somebody like Def Jam who can co-sign and help push you to those bigger platforms, like, I don't want just be a local artist. This is why I have shows out in Cali and why I have shows up in Milwaukee, and I'm from North Florida. I would never be able to reach those people without Def Jam. It's just about the connections you make."

While it isn't surprising to hear that Beckham, a native of Jacksonville—the 34th largest city in the United States and the fourth largest in Florida—is thankful for the opportunity to get out of his own backyard and earn a stamp of approval from a legendary rap label while playing shows across the country and shaking hands with A-listers, these opportunities all come at a cost.

Obviously, I am not privy to the finer points of Beckham's specific record deal with Def Jam, but given the fact that he wasn't already booking shows on his own in markets outside of his own home state, it's likely he had very little leverage during contract negotiations. In addition to possessing what label A&Rs refer to as "cultural relevance" and boasting impressive social media and on-demand streaming metrics, a strong live performance and being able to sell out a room on the strength of your name is the best bargaining chip an artist can bring to the table.

For Beckham, signing with Def Jam has meant playing shows in cities like Los Angeles and Milwaukee, but an artist does not need a major label specifically to book shows. There are thousands of independent artists who, with the help of an experienced booking agent and a knowledgeable manager, have successfully booked regional, domestic and international tours.

The chorus of veteran artists urging younger talent to avoid signing major label record deals has only grown louder over the past few years, but if Beckham, much like his labelmate Vince Staples, signed a deal that will afford him complete creative control, he might very well be in a better position in the future than if he had continued to grind out a rap career in Nothern Florida. 


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