What does it take to be a successful artist? Furthermore, what does it take to be a successful Rap artist in 2017? Who better to ask than the A&R who signed a whole host of hit making artists including successful Rap duo Krept & Konan, but before we get to that let’s start by taking a look at the fundamentals.
As with any craft you must first master the basics. For a Rap artist this is:
– Live performance
Bars without flow, or flow without delivery is a no go. Most listeners may not be able to pinpoint each element, but you can recognise when the bars are so basic that it has no level of storytelling, paints no pictures, and you feel nothing but for it to stop. A great flow is like a new instrument in the track conveying an emotion and placing importance on what is being said, whilst the all important delivery is where the artist shares their personality with anything from a shouting or whispering style to a slick or cheeky style. Ad libs can also add to how the verse is delivered by creating the atmosphere of the track.
Once the first three elements have been mastered, many times this is honed in playgrounds or on the block without a backing track, next is the ability to ride a beat. I’ve heard rap artists get so caught up in their own flow that when attempting to match it to a beat it sounds like a complete mismatch. The art here is to find Instrumentals that convey a similar emotion to your lyrics, get the mood right and just vibe on the beat. Choose tracks that are right for you. They don’t have to be over produced or something sounding a million miles away from who you are as an artist, just music that shares the emotion of who you are.
Last, but by no means least is live performance. Earlier I mentioned rappers and MCs barring on the block and in playgrounds when first getting started. The smart artists among them will use these situations to hone their live performance skills. Saying that, most don’t and have to literally learn how to perform live by being thrown in at the deep end. Many Grime MCs have followed similar boot camp training to Dancehall artists. These Grime MCs embody a presence that only pirate radio can give you where you’re expected to deliver an epic performance there and then. This is further developed in live sets so that by the time the artist is being booked for live PAs they’re good to go.
Master the basics or come unstuck later, and be sure to create a unique identity/brand as an artist. Let your art be about the thrill of the creative process. Everyone who comes into contact with your work will feel that energy. When you become great at what you do and share your work on a consistent basis the rest will follow. Now for what Glyn Aikens, A&R Director at Virgin Records, had to say on the topic.
“Most people don’t understand the music business. It’s critically important to get people around you in your team who do understand it to give you accurate advice.
The main thing I’ve learnt in the music industry is patience and that you must always listen; these are the two things that are the most valuable lessons to me.
For me there are only two kinds of artists – the ones who are exceptionally talented and the ones who aren’t exceptionally talented but just work harder than everybody else. They are the artists that are more likely to succeed.
One of the most important things for you to do as an artist is to get out there to graft to build an audience for yourself. Build a fan base cos in the first instance no one will do it for you. Signing to a record company won’t necessarily do that for you.”
• Master the basics
• Surround yourself with people who understand the music business
• Build your fan base