16. I’m relatively handsome
We can all attest that looks don’t matter half as much as the industry would have you believe. IF they matter at all. The success of some of the biggest rappers in the last 2 decades has hinged more on their personas and characters than their sex appeal. Rappers tend to find their niche and make you like the story that they create with their image. Being a physical specimen to be gawked at only works if you’re aiming to pigeonhole yourself and attract a limited demographic. But it never hurts to be a bit easy on the eyes. If you can spit, and attract the opposite sex to the point where you can be taken seriously when you make records about relations, it always increases how far you can reach. And as subjective as this matter may be, it’s not up for debate that I’m unattractive or have any weird or distracting features. At most, I look like a regular ol’ nigga. At Best, I’m a fly dude.
15. I’m From A Cool Place
Harlem is an ambiguous territory to hail from. It’s famous, legendary and an epicenter of trends. Yet and still, it’s produced a very short list of successful rappers. It’s a 2 way street for a rapper hailing from this hometown. I won’t necessarily be putting it on the map, but with a huge gap left between Doug E. Fresh‘s era and Mase and Diddy’s run, to the space left since Dipset held the crown, there’s room for someone to return it to glory and take it further than it’s ever been.
14. I Can Freestyle
Tho it may not hold much weight anymore, Ask anyone about how they’ve come to know me, and they’ll mention this quality. Not mixtape freestyling. No, I mean off the top of the head, stream of consciousness. It makes for good in person spontaneous entertainment and display of ability. It also shows dexterity and demonstrates quick wit and ability to think sharp. One of my most famous YouTube videos is one where I’m freestyling over Lil Wayne‘s “Prom Queen” instrumental. It’s what got me last contract.
13. I’m Self-Sufficient
I have many affiliations, yet when you see me on stage, it’s just me. No hypeman. I may invite a bunch of my musician friends each time (as pointed out by my homegirl TDJ), but it’s still a one man operation. Since 2006 I’ve been the motor behind every aspect of my career from the sequencing of my projects, to the design of my sites. I haven’t had the luxury of having some immaculate team of pros executing my ideas for me, so I hire professional individuals to get the jobs done that I can’t and I always have a collaborative hand in the planning and final product. All this means is that I don’t wait on anyone, make excuses for myself or lean on anything. Everything you see is a reflection of my creativity. Now this may be a headache for some A&R somewhere who’s still working off of the idea that artists need to be handheld and told what to do every step of the way, but for a company looking to have less overhead and expedite their profit by banking on an all-encompassing artist…There you have it…
12. I’ve Grinded
Piggy-backing off of that last point, I’ve been pursuing this long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. Both for me as a rapper and for other artists. I’ve studied this game. I’ve been a songwriter and sat in the offices with some of the heads behind some of the biggest projects. Falling and failing have given me the advantage of seeing where my appeal and approach can be strengthened, so there’s less weak spots now. I’ve hit the angles, put in the elbow grease and leg work, so I have a story to tell. It may be one of trial and error, but It’s a story nonetheless. This is no dollar and a dream.
11. I’m A Student Of The Game
I didn’t just pick up a pen and decide that I wanted to rap because it was cool to do it. I started out as a child, formed a little rap group around the time of the ABC and Kriss Kross boom and made up 10 bar raps in my head all the time. In high school, I listened to underground radio strictly for years. In college, I loved the club stuff. I’ve read the books, been a fan, been a schemer, been desperate, been jaded. But I still love the music at the end of the day. I change with the times, while staying close to the roots that got me involved and interested. All this has brought me to sense of well roundedness where I don’t lean too far to any side because I understand why each one exists and I see room for the middle. These are the elements that I’m among and which have influenced me.
10. I Have A Story
Tho it can’t be summed up in a one nuclear sentence by me. Maybe a publicist can do that. It’s undeniably there. Being from a place like Harlem and being raised in the 1980’s should already color the landscape for any listener wondering how I became the product that I am. I almost defy every stereotype there is about what is equated with my region. College educated, no drugs or alcohol, no criminal record, no fashion trends. But balance that with being a dropout, with drug dealing and using parents and a street-based belief in self preservation…Not to mention a long rap history of winning awards, honors and being the first unsigned rapper to grace the legendary booth on BET‘s RapCity. There’s plenty of story there…Just put it together.
9. I’m Not Region Specific
Some say you should have your city on your back first, but there’s millions of rappers who go elsewhere and blow before they really make it national. Again, this is another old industry standard which has been shattered. I always believe that a person should rep their area and never forget where they came from, but the point of being an artist is to reach as many people as possible. Too many rappers, and especially New York rappers, have a tendency to rap in ways that only could be relatable to people in their locality. Because I’ve lived in Georgia and D.C. and Iam indeed a student of the game, I’ve been exposed to all kinds of sounds and patterns of speech. Most importantly, I’ve gotten to experience why certain things resonate with certain people in certain places, and what things are generally universal across the board. Without sounding contrived, this has soaked into my sound. I’m not your typical New York rapper, rapping about New York shit or using flows only New Yorkers would appreciate.
8. I’m Not Stuck In An Era, Movement or Niche Market
Yeah. I’m not trying to bring the golden era back, neither in rap nor fashion. I’d rather sound like the sum of my influences that have given birth to something new than sound like one big homage to them. I don’t want to bring back the spirit of any particular rapper and I certainly wouldn’t limit myself to having a gimmick or angle that would pigeonhole me like the whole horror-core meets hipster schtick, or the stupid weed-rap clicks, not even emo-rap. I can’t be associated with a wave. I’m not for the moment. I have no limits and no bounds. The old industry standard says that you MUST pick a route. I say that wall was broken a long time ago and that myth debunked with artists like Kanye who prove that there are rappers who can be real rappers but not be defined by one kind of subject matter or one kind of beat or guest appearance. As long as you don’t spread yourself too thin and look out of your box trying to do a little of everything like Wyclef, you can be an expansive M.C. that can’t be defined in one category. Not even Jay can be considered one kind of rap at this point.
7. I Got a Good Voice
GURU said it in ’94. “It’s mostly the voice”. Mine sits somewhere in the best place possible. Flexible and not too light, not too deep. Once again, in the middle. Some gravelly voiced rappers sound made for hardcore anthems, but out of place on smoother records. Some whispery or buttery rappers couldn’t pull of attempts over harder beats. I don’t have either. Just a nice New York tone with southern twangs that pop up here and there. I emphasize words and here and there, and color my speech. So it’s never that flat, lifeless thing that Diddy does. But I’m also not yelling like Meek Mill or Papoose. There’s a natural melodiousness and sometimes it comes out in my cadence. As noted on my second mixtape, I’m not a singer…But I can hold a note…
6. I Actually Talk About Something
Picture that. For all of these neo movements, nobody’s really talking about anything directly. The rise of emo rap has given birth to a bunch of rappers who have no qualms about whining about themselves and their fame. The stresses of these mostly suburban cats is so immense that they have to smoke weed everyday and build superficial relationships with women. Cry me a river. On the other side of that coin, you got a bunch of other heads that think they’re talking about something because they sprinkle in some words like “Free” and “fuck the government”. I’m willing to make that the WHOLE song. AND make it just as catchy as the most ignorant song out. Remember when Dead Prez came out with “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop”, or “Jesus Walks” by Kanye?? Those songs were getting played at parties and clubs and no one stopped the record and said, ‘hey! you can’t play that cause it’s conscious’. Without coming off as a conscious rapper or beating listeners over the head with preachy content, I dare to be the guy who has as many songs about real life as I have about fly life. In my time I’ve rapped about everything from the color Black to the month of October to teenage pregnancy to suicide to over-drinking, to street life to comparing life to one big party. And I don’t mean making mention of it, no I mean whole songs dedicated to each topic. And I stay on topic. With swag!
5. I Got Flows
So many people still don’t quite understand this concept. Alot of this has to do with the fact that there are interchangeable words that get tossed around. This is also known as pattern or delivery. The tricky thing is that delivery also has to do with vocal inflection. Luda‘s flows are only as good as the animation in his voice when he lands on certain words. But most importantly, these things are so important because you only notice them when a rapper gets stuck in a flow. Detractors of 2Pac’s number 1 critique of him is that he raps the same way and uses the same pattern on every song. Is that true? No. But he’s done it enough throughout his career that it can be a valid point. he’s known by it. Being known by a particular flow can make a name for a rapper, but it can also be their undoing. It can limit their appeal and make them the subject of easy ridicule. It’s been noted that Jadakiss‘ refusal to evolve his flow has stunted his own mass appeal. He always raps the same. Fab was in danger of this before he stepped it up years ago. Most New York and southern rappers have trouble with this after amassing enough regional fame. There’s a comfort level there. I don’t have a definite pattern. And while no one has really truly invented a new flow probably since the days of Bone, what we all are now are products of the greatest flows ever! If we haven’t absorbed those and implemented them into our repertoire in ways that sound refreshing, then what’s the point?? I rap slow, I rap fast. I use compounds, I use sing-song cadences. I rhymes lines inside of lines. I take big pauses sometimes. Timing is the crucial element to using flows. I never want anyone to listen to more than 3 tracks of mine and say I rap the same way for a whole project. I don’t even keep one pattern all the way thru one song. And I don’t want to make slight changes where it’s not noticeable, nor do I want to make dramatic changes where it sounds like I’m doing too much and going out of my range. You may not realize it til after you think about it, but you appreciate that fact about me. I made a whole track about using other people’s flows. Just to show that I understand why It’s important. It’s over 7 minutes long, and the only reason why people listen until the end, is because the switch in flows keeps their attention.
4. I Know How To Make Songs
Which brings me to this point. What good is being the nicest rapper with all these wordy and ridiculous bars if you can’t condense them into a song format that makes people want to listen?! Any true fan of yours is going to try to vouch for you. But not enough people will reinforce that sentiment if you just don’t have the knack or make the music to show and prove. I use Saigon as an example of this once again. People love him. But not enough. Just Blaze is considered one of the best producers ever. You have him at your disposal and STILL couldn’t deliver songs that stuck with anyone. Song construction is the biggest test that I throw at any rapper. What good are all of your mixtape freestyles or viral cyphers if you sound wack in 16 bar format? The even bigger challenge is making a song with mass appeal. Do you know what kind of beats get reactions from people? What instruments go well together and what sounds cheesy? Do you pay attention to PEOPLE enough to know what THEY like as opposed to giving them what you THINK they’ll like?? Or having your head so far up your ass that you think they’re just going to gravitate to you with your self-indulgent abstract shit?? There’s a crowd for everything. And anyone can get a group of followers and supporters who like them even to tolerate that. Even Charles Hamilton has devoted stans. But does that translate to sold out shows or longevity? probably not. I guess the question becomes, how far do you want to go in rap?? See, someone like me cares about what girls like as much as I care about what the niggas on my corner like, and any corner in the world at that, as much as I care about what my family can respond to. So I make my music with that in mind, following music theory methods which have been tried and true. Taking cues from successful songs in rap’s history. Taking cues from artists who got respect for killing mixtapes and battles as well as radio. I tell stories that are linear, I make memorable hooks, I don’t use abstract shit that can isolate a whole cluster of people.
3. I know The Difference Between Punchlines With Similes And Metaphors And Other Rhetorical Devices…And I Use Them!
I’m a product of lots of special english courses. I know what hyperbole and alliteration are. I make good use of such things and place them where they need to go. I use metaphors as metaphors. Sometimes my whole song is a metaphor. I know similies and I make sure they’re not lazy ones (i.e. “rush like Limbaugh” – wack!). Ever since I learned the importance of using punchlines as a teenager after getting demolished in a battle, I’ve built up my strength with them. A rap song doesn’t really feel good without these clever things. Wit is respected by every rap crowd, in every locale. I use it all the time. I put punchlines in my deeper songs, I put them in my songs about girls, and I kill them in my braggadocious rhymes! I use every instrument of wordplay in the arsenal. My favorite is the double entendre. The phonetic homophone-based ones can be tricky, but again, timing makes everything right. Now put that together with the fact that I use different flows and make catchy songs. It’s not an easy feat.
2. I’m Charismatic And Compelling
None of the above things that I mentioned are worth a damn if this isn’t in place. Perhaps this arises from coming from a cool place, having a story and being student of the game, but I have character. Not a character. But character. And it comes out in my songs. Without this, my club songs would not come off as believable. My stories wouldn’t grip anyone and make them want to listen to the end to hear the climax. My boasts would seem empty. You wouldn’t take my girl songs seriously if you think I don’t get girls. Some of this is very subjective, but for the most part, My voice is not full of pain like some rappers, but there’s a charm and sincerity that comes with how I say things. I’m also honest to a fault. I don’t make any reservations about sharing my highs and lows, lamenting on my mistakes and failures, or poking fun at my shortcomings. I don’t rap about anything that someone can comeback to me and say I haven’t or wouldn’t do. Sure, there’s plenty of exaggeration in Hip-Hop, but I don’t go overboard or glorify, or lie. I’m me all day in my recordings. I can sleep comfortably knowing I gave the world my truth. The way my projects are sequenced and all of the means I’ve executed to get my point across should have you feeling like I’m a pretty cool and interesting dude afterwards. Basically, listening to my rap should make you at least somewhat intrigued to meet me in person. If you don’t care about a rapper as you listen, then they haven’t made you care from their music. Anybody can rap, it’s the soul and the passion of the person rapping that make you want to go back again and again to hear what they have to say.
1. I’m A Dope Performer
Last and certainly not least, since we’re talking about wanting to see an artist in person, A performance is one of the greatest ways to do so. it’s the final frontier for anyone who wants to do this for real. A true performer gives you a great look at their personality during a performance. You hear them talk, see their facial expressions. See their crew and supporters and how much they rely on them. As someone who’s so used to doing most things alone, and being involved in every aspect, you can be sure that I polly with the people behind the music at a show and get my arrangements right. I don’t mob the stage with my crew, I don’t stand in one place, I also don’t say corny things like “Make noise”. Yet what I do is take into account what kinds of crowds I’m performing for, I survey them, get a feel, and always try to get them involved. I make small talk with them, I joke, I get them interacting in my call and response hooks in ways that may relate to them. I walk off stage with the mic. I act out my words. I wear eye-catching stuff based on the song I’m performing. I freestyle. I ‘ve performed with bands and with djs. I’m comfortable with both. I have breath control and you can hear every word I say, even when I rap fast. And most importantly, I know how to hold the fuckin mic properly!