“Before They Were Famous” Playlist

Some of the best music in an artist’s discography occurs early in their journey to stardom. As a result, many classic tracks go unheard or under appreciated because they aren’t widely known.

 

Here’s a playlist dedicated to that idea. I’ll make additions to it as I continue to think of more artists.

 

 

If there’s an artist I haven’t included yet or one you’d like to see more of, just let me know!

 

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Underdog Story: Tito Lopez

Tito Lopez is an incredibly gifted rapper from Mississippi. He began to really generate buzz in 2011 when this video of him freestyling for Dr. Dre emerged.

 

It was confirmed he was working with Dre and all signs pointed to Lopez becoming a big name in hip-hop. Tito’s 2012 mixtape, The Hunger Game, was astounding and in that same year, he released two singles “Mama Proud” and “The Blues” which were his first works to be sold on iTunes.

 

Representing “the underdog”, Tito Lopez told a highly relatable story that resonated with listeners. His music spread like a virus to anybody who was exposed to the catchy vocals and impressive flow. In 2013, Lopez released, Y.O.U, which was a breathtaking mixtape and truly deserved to be an album. I think the project would’ve made a proper debut to introduce him to mainstream media. However, it remained a mixtape.

 

Suddenly, like the lost city of Atlantis, Tito seemingly vanished! It was as if he decided to become a monk or maybe he was kidnapped or something. I tried to find new music from him but returned empty handed.

 

In 2016, after years with absolutely no Internet presence, Tito Lopez finally came out of hiding. In an interview with Inspire Magazine, Lopez gave an update about what he’s been up to (watch the video at the bottom).

 

Simply put, he had a lot of family issues to take care of so he had to put recording to the side for some time. I respect that and, as a fan, it’s the most satisfying and understandable explanation. He chose to leave Capitol Records and he’s now with his independent label, GPT, which was his original crew. He now raps under the name Tito Lo which feels like it was a long time coming if you listen to the song “Black Dude Spanish Name.”

 

Tito seems to be making music again and hopefully he continues to do so for a long time. Check out Lo’s latest mixtape, The Emmett Trill EP, which he released in 2015. I didn’t know about its existence until recently because he changed his penname.

 

Watch the 3-part interview with Inspire below

 

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Crazy Collaborations: “Young Seattle”

Sam Lachow periodically teams up with fellow Seattle emcees resulting in some crazy collaborations. So far, there are four parts to “Young Seattle” and each one’s unique, featuring different artists and varied instrumentals.

 

My favorites are definitely part 2 and 3. What do you think?

 

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Record Deal vs Staying Independent

Every successful hip-hop artist has to choose one of two paths: remaining independent or signing with a major label.

 

Both have advantages and disadvantages.

 

Pretty much, all artists start out independent. However, once their music starts to turn heads and becomes popular, labels reach out to express their interest in the artist. If the artist continues to grow, the labels will make an offer.

 

There’s no “right or wrong” decision. I think it depends on the individual artist. Do you want to go independent and do everything yourself or do you want to sign with a label? There are benefits and drawbacks with both options.

 

 

Pros and cons of signing with a major label

Once signed to a label, you’ll have a set lifestyle. Writing and performing are the only things you’ll have to do. The label handles all the promotions, bookings, recording sessions – everything. Photo shoots, interviews, recordings are all paid for by the record company.

 

As long as your fans keep buying, the label will keep supporting you. In return for basically managing your life and trying to turn you into a global sensation, they’ll take a massive cut of the profits. The “massive cut” can be almost everything. Until they get their investment back, you won’t make any money from royalties.

 

You’ll also be expected to represent the “brand” as a whole. Your style and sound will be molded to fit the brand’s image. The loss of creative control is a key sticking point for many rappers who decide to remain independent.

 

 

Pros and cons of being an independent artist

Like anything else in business, the greater the risk the greater the reward. Probably the biggest reason rappers choose to stay independent is that they receive all the money they make. Also, they don’t have anybody dictating or changing the way their music sounds. You’ll make all the revenue and decide where you go, what you do, and when you do it.

 

However, this means you’ll need to do everything yourself. Production, distribution contracts, taxes, events, and PR will be in your hands. You’ll be spending all the money you make but you get all the acclaim and all the power.

 

 

My opinion:

All the top independent artists in the game got where they are today by struggling, working hard and constantly grinding. The right artist can become a massive success with the help of a major label. Many artists such as Logic, Drake, and Eminem have benefited greatly from being signed.

 

Conversely, many rappers end up sitting on the sidelines and become overshadowed by the bigger moneymakers on the label. For example, Soulja Boy released “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” before recieving a record deal. His debut album was a major success but each subsequent project sold less and less copies. When was the last time you heard a Soulja Boy song on the radio?

 

Artists like Joey Bada$$, Chance the Rapper, and E-40 chose the alternative   route and chose not to sign with a major label.

 

I think in the end, the formula for success comes down to the right artist, the right deal, and the right label.

 

What do you think is a better choice? Would you take the deal or stay indie?

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Vine War: ScHoolboy Q vs Action Bronson

TDE rapper, ScHoolboy Q, started a vine war with Action Bronson back in 2014. The two artists jokingly took turns making fun of each other and it was really fun to watch.

I think Action Bronson’s one of the funniest hip-hop artists around. He won the war in my opinion.

 

What do you think?

 

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10 Songs You Need to Hear: Action Bronson

Gourmet chef, TV personality, and rapper, Action Bronson is gearing up to release a new album. Blue Chips 7000 will arrive this Friday (August 25th) so I decided to honor his music with a top-10 list.

 

Here are 10 of my favorite tracks from Bronsolini’s discography:

 

“9-24-11”

From Action’s Blue Chips mixtape series, this song is one of the most epic lyrical miracles from the New York emcee.

 

“Actin Crazy”

The music video is a masterpiece that makes me love the song even more. “Actin Crazy” is definitely a standout track from Mr. Wonderful.

 

“Mike Vick”

Bronson’s affinity for luxury is highlighted in this record. His performance in “Mike Vick” is the lyrical equivalent of a pimp walk.

 

“It’s Me”

Action’s lighthearted lyrics and the whimsical tone of the instrumental highlight the comedic demeanor that made him famous.

 

“Easy Rider”

Both the song and the music video are epic.

 

“Tapas”

Action Bronson can deliver one of the best old-school flows.

 

“Tan Leather”

Bam Bam’s laid-back rhymes truly shine in “Tan Leather”. His indefinable coolness is part of what makes Action Bronson a larger than life personality.

 

“Riggs & Murtaugh” by Reks (ft. Action Bronson)

Reks is one of my favorite underground rappers. The two artists have great chemistry in “Riggs & Murtaugh”. Statik Selektah’s the only producer who could create such harmony.

 

“Hookers At The Point”

If you’re easily offended, DO NOT listen to this track.

 

“Pouches of Tuna”

Action’s voice and some string instruments are all the ingredients needed for a dose of dopeness.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Amadu Diablo

Pepe Lopez

Eggs On The Third Floor

 

What are your favorite records from Mr. Wonderful?

 

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New Token Music Videos

Boston rap prodigy, Token, recently released a couple new music videos. After touring with Hopsin for the past year as an opening act, Token announced his upcoming headlining tour.

 

On August 8, Token released a music video titled “Dirty Flesh”. On August 16, he released another called “Have You Seen Him?”. The two videos are very well-directed and almost feel like movies. “Have You Seen Him?” begins where “Dirty Flesh” ends which makes me wonder if Token’s going to release a string of songs and videos forming a longer narrative (think R. Kelly’s Hip-Hopera “Trapped in the Closet”).

 

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

 

 

What do you think of the videos?

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