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So You Want To Be A Rap Superstar?



By Nick Donnelly

Growing up one of my greatest memories was watching music videos constantly on MTV Base and Kiss; without the invention of an Ipod and no money to buy an album, my playlist would be the same American rap songs that I would VHS record and replay; from Dre Still D.R.E. to Jay-Z Big Pimpin, it was the big budget blockbuster of the hip hop video that got me obsessed with this lifestyle and tempted me on a decision on where I wanted my career to be. I would then step outside the house to feel the traditional gloomy British lifestyle and  I would quickly come to terms with my reality: I wasn’t really going to be able to turn up on LA’s doorstep and get myself a job directing one day was I?

There wasn’t really a hope for me to get into this industry – I was never prepared to work my way up a corporate ladder to get the big budgets, and the only way you could be seen to direct is with 50,000 (dollars) or more. I decided that my Hip Hop  dream shall remain nothing more than a mere enjoyment of the culture and that I would instead try my hand at writing to try and go to film. This, rather ridiculously, seemed a more realistic and potentially easier opportunity for me to explore than to get into Hip Hop – I figured I would just chill with Jay-Z at the Oscars.


The internet then came about, the independent dream.
I, like a lot of this UK rap scene, owe a lot to Youtube: I went from shooting ‘amateur’ (although well received and rent paying) nightclub promos in Newcastle to a million hits on a video and invitation into the professional world of urban music within months. Realistically speaking to have both my areas of work at the same time on the same platform delivered to me the ultimate understanding of the grey areas that Youtube itself creates within quality control.

Where we stand now with this online product development is lacking a genre of well processed and intelligently marketed rap stars like the ones I had grown up seeing; instead we have a factory line push of domestically kept musicians who lack the man power and boardroom tactics of a superstar. These ‘artists’ are happy to just get the local kid from down the road to shoot a quick untrained video to put on Youtube and slowly destroy the beauty and power of a genre I had got such great escapism and understanding of as an audience member on my settee in a town where no rapper has even visited.

Of course I have yet to receive a budget anywhere Hypes one million that he got to play around with on that yacht I’d forever see on rotation in Big Pimpin, however I can say every artist I have had the pleasure of working with has been a unique character – I have turned down a lot of money and work to keep making sure that all the artists I work with do have that superstar appeal that the audience will understand and that the 13 year old kid in Burnley will understand. This is how I can have belief that what we are fighting to achieve does have a great future, that Hip Hop can once again get people to put down the mic and sit back, enjoy and watch the professionals at work.

I am just one person though I am not an industry, all I can ask is that if you are reading this and you respect our genre you think twice about the temptation of rushing into a release on youtube and you instead focus your attention on making the Hip Hop scene as exciting and original as it had to be for us to even be interested in it today.


Follow Nick Donnelly on Twitter: @TheNickDonnelly