Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Almost Famous

So I’m chilling in Ice Tea’s penthouse by the Westside Highway and 61st if memory serves me correctly and it looks just like you would expect a rapper’s penthouse should look. The huge poster of Al Pacino in Scarface that adorns the wall and the red leather sofas in the living room have got me thinking; “This is some real cliché shit”. I was there with my boy producing some tracks for anyone’s album potentially (Ice Tea, Smooth the Hustla, Trigga da Gambla, DV Alias Khryst, etc). This is one of the first times I was asked to produce on the fly and in front of strangers. Can you say scared to death? All I kept thinking was “they are gonna think these joints are corny”. It’s not terribly difficult to make saleable music once you understand what the artist is looking for. All you have to do is sonically cater to said artist’s emotions at that exact point in time. It’s like knowing exactly what to say in a language that has no clear boundaries. Piece of cake. Sidebar; I always used to laugh when A&R’s used to say” we need a potential single track.” What the hell does that mean? You basically want me to produce a track that sounds just like the songs on the radio now. Thanks for allowing me to express myself creatively. If you ever want freedom as an artist, do not ever attach the notion of business to said art. They are not compatible. In order to do business successfully, you must have a product that can be mass produced and replicated. This is why we can’t stand 85% of the music out now. It was created with the intent to sell so it has to contain certain elements of mass appeal. So if 1970’s soul samples are the item du jour, you better get your Harold Melvin albums out and get to sampling. Sidebar complete. We worked through the night and eventually came up with three tracks I could stand to listen to. Nothing ever came of those tracks except for some random freestyles and a mix tape I would eventually use them for. Close but no cigar. The saga continues.

So I am chilling in my cubicle one week after I accepted my employment offer from Lehman Brothers and the phone rings. It is my boy with some unbelievable news. “Nasir “Nasty Nas” Jones wants to use your track for his Def Jam debut. It could potentially be the second single for the Hip Hop is Dead album”. I’m sorry what did you just say? Needless to say, I did not believe a word of this. There are a million and one false starts in the music industry and I am not trying to get my hopes up again. Furthermore, how is it even possible that the first track I sell after trying to do so for the last six years of my life is purchased by one of the most respected emcees in hip hop? Who has that type of luck and how did this even happen? Apparently, my boy’s artist went up to Def Jam looking for a record deal. He used one of my tracks I had given him about a year ago on his demo. He plays the song for the A&R, Jay Brown. Jay does not want to sign the artist but he definitely wants the track for Nas and he wants to meet the producer who did it to hear more stuff. “Set it up for Friday”

So I am chilling in Jay Brown’s office at Def Jam and some guy named RJ has just introduced himself to me. I recognized his face from the lobby downstairs but I couldn’t figure out where I knew him from. All I knew was that his laughter was a very hearty laughter. The kind of merriment one emits when one’s driveway is littered with luxury vehicles. My boy handed him a business card earlier in the lobby and tells him if he is in need of hip hop tracks, he shouldn’t hesitate to come see us. We will get to the irony of this exchange shortly. Back to Jay Brown’s office. Jay is playing my tracks full blast and people are walking by the office and nodding their heads like my joints are hot. I am officially gassed! He stops playing my tracks when RJ enters the room and proceeds to pop in a CD just handed to him. In my mind, I am like, “who is this chubby, curly haired dude that you are taking my music out for?” This is supposed to be my meeting and this A& R is being unprofessional. He plays some song and they are all hype about it. Me personally, I thought the song was ok (the song turns out to be Sharissa’s new single). As I am seething internally about having my music cut off, Sean Corey Carter, affectionately known as Jay-Z walks into the room and graciously introduces himself to everyone. He starts with RJ. “Rodney! What up fam?” It finally dawns on me that RJ is Rodney Jerkins. My boy gave Whitney Houston and Brandy’s multi platinum selling producer a business card for all his hip hop production needs. Needless to say, Rodney never called. And in case you didn’t hear me the first time, JAY-Z JUST WALKED INTO THE BLOODCLOT ROOM! The Roc is officially in the building, and I am in there with him! Jay-Z hangs out for a couple of minutes then leaves. Now if the A&R still had my music on when Jay-Z walked in, Hova would have lost his mind at all the hot fire (insert Dylan here) he was hearing and would’ve had me produce the entire Blueprint 3 on the spot (and of course not but can you just let me live in my fantasy world for a minute please?) The A&R eventually selects 2 more tracks he feels would be good for Nas and sends us on our way. All in all, today was a good day!

I’m in!! All the hard work and sleepless nights spent in that cold ass Far Rockaway basement is about to pay off. I have received partial payment for the track and I have contracts with both Nas and Jay-Z’s signatures. I am seeing all kinds of unofficial track listings on the internet with my track on it (track 7) http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.4632/title.nas-hip-hop-is-dead-the-n-tracklisting. My lawyer is going back and forth with Nas’s lawyer and they are hammering out the details of royalty splits and percentages. Every one who is remotely involved is trying to squeeze a nickel out of me and although I know I am being raped financially, I am chalking it up to Industry Rule # 4080 (record company people are in fact, shady). I have alerted the free world that I did a track for Nas. Other labels are starting to call (Sony wanted a track for Kelly Rowland at one point, who is my illegitimate baby momma, she just doesn’t know it yet). Even my mom, who gave me hellus maximus every step of the way on my quest to becoming a producer is happy for me, in her own Nigerian, “don’t quit your day job” way. I have taken the liberty of preparing my Grammy acceptance speech for producer of the year, just in case. It went something like this; “If I ever make it back up here, I will thank everyone else who made this possible but tonight, I am gonna dedicate this award to my dad”. Then I would have dropped the mic to the floor like Randy Watson (sexual chocolate) in Coming to America and walked off the stage amidst the blaring feedback.

So why am I still chilling in my cubicle you ask? Well 2 weeks before the album comes out, Nas decides not to use the song at all. I went from top ten to not mentioned at all! “Nas is finicky” is the only explanation anyone at Def Jam could muster up. Never mind the fact that he has titled the song “White Man’s Paper” and for a black guy signed to a label run primarily by white guys, the likely hood of them releasing that song is slim to none. I only heard the song once and I really wasn’t that impressed to be honest but I wasn’t about to tell them that. It featured Damien Marley which made sense since I used a Bob Marley sample to make the track. The hook went something like this;

I get my news from that white mans’ paper
So I get my views from that white man’s paper
My people act the fool for that white man’s paper
And I don't think it's cool, Fuck that white man's paper

And some more relatively inflammatory content which I really have no problem with except for the fact that a song that militant is not going to garner that much radio airplay. Although the song was favorably reviewed and my first public reference was as “some new African dude” http://www.thefader.com/articles/2006/10/12/rebirth, my main concern was that my track gets maximum exposure. My other gripe was that Nas featured Damien Marley on the song and in true Nas fashion, decided to do the hook himself. WTF son! In my humble opinion, it would have been crazier if Damien did the hook. Only my “half a sold track in his entire career” ass would have the gall to criticize Nas but I felt the way I felt (but like I said, I never said anything, I ain’t stupid). It also didn’t help that Fat Joe released a song using the same Bob Marley sample just a few weeks earlier (and the song was not hot son!) Long story short, I officially did not make the album but will forever be remembered in the annals of history as an “Unreleased or unused song” in the Wikipedia credits http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_Hop_is_Dead. At least I am in good company because both Just Blaze and Kanye West also had unreleased tracks on that album. There is however a minor distinction between me and those guys; they have indentured servants writing their blogs for them and I still have to do to it myself! And oh yeah, they’re rich biotch!! Ah well. It was a growing experience and I am no longer bitter. Nope. . . not bitter one bit. . . .not at all. If any one needs me, I will be on page six of tomorrow’s Daily News. Look for the article titled “Naked Lunatic Screams Hip Hop is Dead Repeatedly as He Dives Into Oncoming Traffic”

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