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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lupe Fiasco On The Future Of Hip-Hop

In this very interesting interview with Professor Michael Eric Dyson and recording artist Lupe Fiasco some very interesting issues were raised and addressed.

Early in the interview Lupe states his firm opinion opposing 360 deals. The 360 deal format emerged as a result of the decline in record sales. In an attempt increase the profit margin for the major record labels this new deal structure was created and it has polarized the industry. Artists have been largely opposed to this particular deal structure because it allows the record company to tap into revenue generated from performances and merchandise which has traditionally been the main source income for artists. In principal this means less of a percentage for the artist but my question is whether or not this automatically means less money. If the company can help to generate more total revenue by helping with live show productions and the merchandise sales then the deal could potentially be lucrative for the artist. Right?

The deal will only be beneficial for the artist if the record company is ready, willing and able to support the efforts of the artist and expand the artist brand. A lot of artist who experienced success in the era of heavy CD sales have already established and built brands under the old industry format. Also, many artists have experienced independent success and have very profitable businesses. Therefore, many of these artists and companies feel that a 360 deal would take away artist revenue without necessarily contributing to the building of the brand. On the other hand, a new artist without an established brand or fan base may have an extra incentive to do such a deal.

The deal structure in general may be more beneficial to newer less established artists and with the old format being phased out a lot of the artist who were successful in it will ultimately be left out in the cold.

As artists and Major record labels compete and scramble to find the next lucrative business model, many of yesterday’s popular artist will find that without serious adaptation they will not be able to survive. The industry is changing in a way that is forcing artists to be creative not only with their music but with their business strategies also.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Album reviews 11/23

This week I will review some of the most significant Hip Hop and R&B releases from major artists in the week of 11/23/2010.  I review mainly based on three things:  First I rate the artist creativity and content, next I judge based on the production and the overall quality of the music.  And lastly I rate the commercial appeal of the album from a sales perspective.   The biggest difference between the ratings in my blog and other ratings is the fact that I always rate from the perspective of the artist’s fan as opposed to an average critic.  I fully understand that different artists cater to their own unique demographics.  In other words, I rate from the perspective of the fan and judge based on whether or not the album is worthy of purchase. 

Lloyd Banks -  HFM2 (Hunger For More vol. 2)

First up is Lloyd Banks who is releasing his first album since his “rotten apple” in 2006.  The album is the sequel to Bank’s debut “The Hunger for More(2004).”  HFM2 is laced with hit singles that helped generate a healthy momentum leading up to the release.  Songs like “Beamer, Benz, and Bentley” saw heavy success at radio and served as the launching pad for the album's release.  Bank’s hiatus doesn't seem to have slowed him down at all.  He is now more popular than ever and was able to build up a healthy anticipation for the album.  He definitely follows through with what his true fans have been waiting for.  His trademark sharp delivery and potent lyrics are backed by very solid production throughout.  Lloyd Bank's loyal fans will appreciate this offering in that it is very well rounded.  He manages to satisfy his current fan base while gaining new fans by way of some clever collaborations with artists like Kanye West and Lloyd.  Overall the album is a project that is well worth the purchase price.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

This album is simply put some of the most creative and though provoking music that I have had in a very long time.   The music on the surface is obviously well polished and Kanye’s tireless work ethic shines through on the production of every track.   The album continues to shine as you dig deeper.  This album is laced with underlying themes and emotions that people can truly relate to.  From beginning to end the album is masterfully composed and the lyrics are unrivaled.  I applaud Kanye for being one of the most prominent artist of today yet social commentary is a mainstay in his music.

"Hey teacher teacher tell me how do you respond to students,
and refresh the page and restart the memory.
Re-spark the soul and re-build the energy. 
We stop the ignorance, we kill the enemy..." 

Kanye has always been the type to challenge the status quo and push forward the art form as a whole.  The Dark Twisted Fantasy is a far departure from traditional album and song formatting.  Many songs on the album are 6 minutes or over and there is even a 9 minute version of the hit single "Runaway."

The album was preceded by the release of the short film also entitled "Runaway."  The film, which features very strong imagery, is the perfect complement to the album.  Kanye combines the very different worlds of hip hop and ballerinas in a way that hasn't quite been captured in movies or music videos.  His musical production style has laid the foundation for a similar film making style in which the traditional rules are frequently broken.

This album is a definite must buy and the short film is a must see.

Curren$y - Pilot Talk II 
Currensy is an artist that has generated a nice following in the underground that is more than a decade in the making.  He stays true to his fans and delivers what they have come to know him for.  The production is on point but the subject matter can dwindle at certain points throughout the project.  This is to be expected from Currensy to some extent.  There are plenty of weed references and a level of quality that is above average.  However there is not much pushing the envelope for Currensy on this effort.  Just alot of sticking to the script.  This album is well worth a listen and even a download but I wont be spending my money for this one. 

Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday
A masterfully constructed buzz has created the most anticipation surrounding a female hip hop album in a very long time.  I was suprised by many of the tracks on this album and as a whole the fans will be truly pleased
Nicki Minaj is one of the most polarizing figures in the music business as everyone seemingly either loves her or hates her.  If you don' already love Nicki, don't expect this to change your mond.  However if you are a true Nicki Minaj fan then you will not be disappointed.  Expect to hear her cater to her loyal following as well as experiment with some different styles and sounds.  Overall this album is very consistent with the monster that has become Nicki Minaj.  If you are a fan it's a must buy.  If you're not a fan you'll want to listen but pass on the purchase.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Future of the Music Video Industry: Taj Stansberry Interview

In the wake of slumping record sales the evaporation of music business revenue, professionals in all areas of the industry have been forced to adapt.  I recently sat down with prominent music video director Taj Stansberry to discuss his industry experiences and how he continues to thrive in this declining industry.  He is definitely doing his thing.  Check out his latest work with the pop icon J-Lo followed by an insightful interview.

Who is Taj?
I’m a film-maker and a photographer but more importantly someone who really tries to push himself creatively and visually.  I consider myself a visionary and a dreamer.   I make thoughts and dreams become a reality.  I love being inspired and I love learning.

I really enjoy and am appreciative of the honor to visually represent someone’s music and when I do that I try to put just as much or more effort into the visual as the artist put into the songs.

What changes in technology have had the biggest impact on the industry since you‘ve been in it?

Cameras… cameras man.  Cannon has put out these 5D and 7D cameras that can shoot HD video with all of these different lenses, adapters, and filters along with these downloads and firmwares.   Your work can look really good and it’s not as expensive as the red camera or obviously film cameras… And so everyone has the opportunity.  All you have to do is press record and you can start practicing and the quality can be very close to what you see on TV.  With everyone doing that, it has increased the amount of content on web sites like worldstarhiphop.com and all of the other viral video sites.

So now, with a camera, Final Cut Pro, a hard drive and a laptop you can shoot a music video, you can shoot a commercial, you can do anything you want. They’ve made it easy for a consumer to become the next Spike Lee, or the next Michael Mann or Spike Jonze.  There are now more music video directors than ever.

Given the oversaturation of the industry with new directors and producers, how do you see the quality of videos being affected?

Well, talent speaks for itself and although a camera can enhance your work, it can’t give you talent.  It’s easy to recognize real film-makers.  A camera can’t make you a film-maker… that’s one thing you can’t buy at the store.  But at the same time, there are recording artists that don’t have the budget and just want the cheap price… just simple content to put on the internet and basically be seen.  In that case, you may not want to pay for the talent.  You just want the person that has the camera and knows how to get it done.  This would allow you to put out a few videos per week.
So, for that, you just need the kid with the camera who knows how to press record, and cut it.  You can fix things in post[production] and put your two cents in and he’s not going to charge you a lot.  So there is a demand for music videos of all different quality levels but obviously the goal is to maximize the quality with limited resources.

With music videos getting less TV airplay and other media outlets losing ground to the internet, where do you see the music video industry going?

Hopefully not away... It has treated me well and I’ve had a lot of success in this industry.  I know that the industry isn’t going anywhere.  With the VMA’s (Video Music Awards) and things like that, we know that there is still interest in the music video.  There may not be as much money as there once was but the interest is still very high and that’s why music videos are still being produced.  

Quality music videos are still being made, maybe less often but this just means we have to work harder. Talent and hard work will get the job done and everything else will fall to the wayside.  You have to work hard and continue to be creative in order to stay in the small circle that’s getting smaller by the day.  So I just continue to do what I do, continue to grow, build my resume, build my reel and ultimately my brand.

What things have you and your company The Popular Kid done to stay profitable in the industry?

I’ve created more work for myself per artist and more opportunities.  I’m now not just offering to do one music video.  I’m going for it all.  I want to do all of the artist’s music videos.  I want to do the viral videos, the album cover artwork and the photo shoots for anything that the artist may need… and just remain consistent.  I’m basically going for it all because the budgets have been cut, for music videos in particular.  So I asked myself, ‘what can I do to stay profitable?’   You have to bring more to the table and work harder… create more work and find more ways to use talent in order to maximize profit.

So what’s in the future for you?

The next step for me is feature films.  That’s where I’m going.  I still have a love for music and music videos.  I love making visuals for songs and being forever attached to that song.  Being forever attached to Nas’s “Hero” or artists like Ne-Yo, Rhianna, Ludacris or Jeezy and their careers is extremely gratifying.  Especially working with artists like Nio tha Gift, who is a rising young star.  When he does finally get his moment it will be a great honor to be able to say, ‘I was a part of that!’  To contribute to the success of an artist, that’s the greatest honor.

Here is some more of his recent work.

Check out his reel below and follow Taj on twitter @TAJ_TPK

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Reputation of Integrity ... or Lack Thereof

On Friday November 12, 2010 Jay –Z announced the signing of Jay Electronica to Roc Nation.  This came as surprise to many including Sean “Diddy” Combs who was the unofficial manager of Jay Electronica and had hopes of signing him to his Bad Boy imprint. The decision to sign with Jay-z's ROC Nation led to an interesting twitter exchange between the two.

First, Diddy expresses disappointment in a twitter post that was seemingly directed at Jay Electronica.
The posting of this tweet prompted twitter followers to post several responses speculating that the comment could have been directed at either Jay-Z or Electronica.  

Then, Erykah Badu (the mother of Jay Electronica’s daughter) tweeted shortly after …
The next day, Diddy made a half-hearted attempt to clear the air with this tweet. 

Electronica responded to Diddy with the following comments.

Diddy responded with:

…wanna do is see you win! All love.

And Jay Electronica made this statement to end the conversation.
Diddy is obviously hurt at the missed opportunity of signing Jay Electronica and he has never made any direct statement to indicate otherwise.  Diddy of all people should know that the business is never personal and to make a business decision solely based on a friendship would be foolish.   After all, he has a very well established reputation of verbally abusing and taking advantage of his artists.  Day 26, Shyne, The Lox, Black Rob, G-dep, Mase, (and pretty much everyone else who has been signed to Diddy) have all made claims of shady business practices on the part of Diddy.   Although Diddy seemingly continues be successful, his lack of integrity will always hold him back.  Whether or not all these things are true is not necessarily important.  The fact still remains that the rumors have let to a consensus on Diddy as a shady businessman.  That’s not to say he couldn’t change his reputation but he has a long way to go.  As for Jay Electronica…. Who can blame you??

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kanye West Speaks His Mind: On The Media, Michael Jackson, George Bush & Being "Cheated" From Winning At Award Shows

Kanye West is one of the most creative minds that we have in the music industry.  He constantly challenges the antiquated concepts that restrict us as artists and people.This blog post is in response to a video interview in which Kanye West speaks on many of his most memorable media moments including the infamous Taylor Swift stage crashing incident.  However, I wanted to concentrate on the portion of the interview where he discusses the  influence that society and the media has had on his career and the industry as a whole.  Kanye speaks of his struggle to stay creative while the media and society encourage us to conform to the standards that they deem appropriate.  In the interview he recites these thought provoking lyrics from one of his songs:

"Jesus died for our sins.  Michael [Jackson] died for the sins of our media.
Jesus had the bible, [Michael Jackson] had Wikipedia."

He goes on to explain how he fights the same battle that Michael Jackson and other brilliant minds have fought, only he does it with explanations.  And in doing so he feels as though he speaks for all creatives.  He talks about being subjected to the scrutiny of the media as well as the blogs and how that has impacted him as a person.

"I don't base my taste level on the what the trends are or what the common perception is."

In my opinion,  Kanye's non-conformance is what has made him so successful as an artist.  After all, the main goal of an artist is to be creative but the industry allows for some artist to experience success by following a certain formula or presenting the public with concepts that are not necessarily unique.

He goes on to explain his frustration with the music industry award system and how many artists do not get the recognition that they deserve.  He provides some very interesting insight into his perspective as a well respected artist in the industry and his take on the inequities that he has experienced in the industry.
He feels that his recent experiences have made him a much more expressive artist due to the fact that he has had so much taken away from him and ultimately has relieved him of the fear that suppressed his creativity.

Kanye West is a true genius.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Artists and their legal troubles

It seems to be a trend amongst athletes and entertainers to get arrested and go to jail.  There are countless examples of this happening.  Whatever the cause, some entertainers and athletes simply cannot stay out of trouble.  From Lil Wayne, to Gucci Mane to a host of athletes, trouble seems to follow them everywhere they go.  With all of the legal fees, time spent behind bars and the loss of wages, one would think that there is enough incentive for celebrities to stay out of jail.

But are there some advantages of an artist spending time behind bars?  Unlike many athletes, entertainers have more than one source of income.  So while they will miss out on performance revenues they can tap into other revenue streams to make up for the loss.  Rappers T.I., Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne have all constructed effective strategies to stay relevant and satisfy their fan bases to the point that their physical presence was hardly missed.  Lil Wayne spent the majority of this year in jail.  However he dropped two albums and was recently named one of the Forbes magazine's top "Cash Kings."

Is this sending the wrong message to impressionable fans? Maybe. But when faced with an adverse situation, the only option is to make the best out of it.  And while jail is nothing to be proud of, these artist can certainly be proud of turning a negative into a positive.  Positive cash flow.

But what happens when the positives outweigh the negatives?
Just ask T.I. He's already on his way back.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

About Me

My name is Hugh Daniel and I'm Richmond, California.  I graduated from Fresno State University in 2005 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Mathematics. Some of my interests include sports, music, fashion and reading.

For the past 5 years I have worked professionally as an Electrical Design Engineer the state of California while also acting as President/Label manager at SNF (Succeed Never Fail) Entertainment. Through SNF Ent., I have become heavily involved with the production, promotion, marketing and distribution of music and music videos. Since January of this year I have been working with SNF Ent. full time.

I am currently enrolled in the Entertainment Business program at Full Sail University and hoping to take my professional career to the next level through passionate and meaningful work.