live and direct from san francisco, ca
knowledge + independent hustle
live and direct from san francisco, ca
live and direct from san francisco, ca
knowledge + independent hustle
Today I received a tweet from World Star Hip-Hop offering me their promotional services. Now, this is a common occurrence for my peers in the music world (especially rap) but the rest of y’all might not be familiar and I decided to use this experience as a teaching tool.
I responded to WSHH by asking if they would promote the perseverance of our culture and positivity to the youth. I was just fuckin’ with them; if you know anything about World Star you know that’s NOT what they do. But surprisingly they said they were down! Here’s the catch (and most of y’all will probably see this coming):
YOU HAVE TO PAY THEM FOR IT!
$300 for one post, $600 for a medium box, $900 for the top box, $500 for a banner, $200 for an ad- PER DAY. Pretty damn expensive, but they can easily advertise those prices. According to Alexa Internet, Inc., a company that provides data on web traffic, World Star averages over 3.6 million visitors per day. So let’s do the math on that.
Let’s say you’re a young, aspiring rapper who just finished shooting the video to the hottest song you’ve made and have self-released the song on iTunes. If you spent $900 on the top box on WSHH, would you see a return on your investment? Meaning, would that purchase make you at least $900 back? It’s possible. All you would need is 900 out of World Star’s millions of visitors to see your video on the site, and like it so much they run straight to iTunes and spend $0.99 on your single. If 1,800 people do that, you’ve doubled your money. If 100,000 people (still less than just 1/3rd of WSHH’s daily viewers) buy the song, you’ll be ballin’ as soon as that iTunes check comes in and you would most likely skyrocket into being one of the hottest rappers in the underground (at least, during that month).
On the flip-side, let’s say that out of those million of viewers, only 450 decide to buy your single after watching the video. Well, you’ll have made half your money back, which ain’t bad, and most likely many hundreds more will have at least seen your video, even if they don’t buy the song. But what if thousands of people see your video that day, and none of them really like it? What if, all of a sudden, Jay-Z decides to drop a free album on the day you bought your space on World Star and all of a sudden nobody gives a shit about anything else going on in hip-hop for the next 24 hours? Then your shot at instant internet fame has missed and you’re $900 poorer than you were before- which in the case of most rappers means you’re either flat broke or all of a sudden you owe somebody money. Maybe that’s your grandma, who believed in her grandson’s dreams enough to give you 9 bills? Aww. Most likely though, the weed man will want his 900 back and he’s pissed he invested in your shitty song.
My point is the average up-and-coming musician doesn’t usually have $900 laying around, or even $200 for a simple ad, and your success is not guaranteed. More than that, it’s actually quite unlikely, even with World Star’s huge numbers of daily viewers. How many of you have bought a song or album immediately after hearing the artist for the first time? How many of you even click on links to new music by unknown artists? In most cases, it will take a while of seeing someone around, hearing other people talk about them, and actually becoming familiar with an artist before a consumer decides to buy their music (and even then, they’ll probably just download it for free). This was less the case in previous years, where even just producing your own music was a rare feat and enough to get someone’s attention, but with the prominence of the internet and the complete over-saturation of the music industry, it’s harder for new, independent artists to break out.
World Star is not the only outlet available to artists, though. There’s radio, TV, magazines, blogs, and live performances. Unfortunately, just like World Star, the outlets with the biggest audiences tend to charge artists for their services- shit, even the outlets with barely any audience will try to get over on artists. This is detrimental to these media outlets themselves. The message is, that instead of valuing an artist’s talent, creativity, and message, the only thing that an artists has of value to these companies is their money. That’s been nothing new in the mainstream, where major labels have often paid for airplay and print space. But when independent/underground media sources are playing the same game, how can struggling independent artists compete with a major label promotional budget?
When talent is sacrificed for money or commercial value, you start seeing a lot of WACK SHIT. Even the wackest of the wack can become a hit if it’s played enough times by enough people. If a label can afford World Star ads, KMEL spins, music video rotation on MTV, and the cover of The Source, enough people are going to hear their music and eventually accept it. On the other end, the content and integrity of these media outlets are sorely compromised. Instead of seeking out dope, original, new music to showcase, they are simply waiting for the next customer and will promote something even if it sucks. Even if you got booed of the stage at your last gig at some dive bar, you can open up for Wu-Tang if you buy and resell presage tickets for the promoter. You can get your shitty, poorly-mixed song played on the radio 50 times a day, if you drop off a fat loaf of bread for the program director. You can get a 5-page cover story in a magazine even if you’ve only been rapping for a month, if the editor gets a few racks. And World Star Hip Hop will promote drug use and violence, as well as my positive message to the youth- as long as they’re getting paid for it.
So where does that leave us? Well, for the most part, those of us who really love the culture of hip-hop are fucked. But we pretty much already knew that. Hey, if spending thousands of dollars on World Star placement works for you, more power to you- go for it. But fortunately, there are other avenues and outlets that exist for underground artists to be heard. Community and internet radio, small blogs, social media, and most importantly, the people themselves. We may not be able to compete with the monster that the music industry has become, but we can still push on, get our music heard, and hopefully make a lil’ scratch for ourselves.
The biggest point I wish to convey to you is that success in music can be and usually is PAID FOR. WSHH is just one example but just about every major media outlet and many independent ones function the same way. So the next time you can’t stop hearing about the latest hit smash from a new artist, ask whether that artist found success because he’s talented, or because he paid for it.
Monday, social media went wild about the Ray Rice scandal, in which he was kicked out of the NFL after video footage surfaced of him brutally beating his wife in an elevator. Most posts I read condemned Rice. Some made jokes about the situation. Some criticized his wife, Janay, for staying with him. However, very few people took issue with the NFL. Of course, kicking him out of the league seems like a reasonable way to deal with the situation. However, this incident happened seven months ago, and their initial response was only to suspend him for two games. It was only after this footage came out and public outrage was expressed that the NFL decided to take further action.
What’s the overall message being sent here? It’s not that the NFL truly cares about domestic violence and its victims. The message is that only after people and institutions are held accountable will they take actions to address issues such as domestic abuse.
Why should it be so challenging to hold those who abuse women accountable? Well, the honest answer is that, in the eyes of many (particularly people in power), violence and abuse towards women is simply not a problem. In this country we tend to forget that the modern-day rights and comforts we enjoy were won in hard-fought battles, and it wasn’t very long ago that women (much like people of color; and even more so amongst women of color) were regarded as second-class citizens. That actually might even be putting it nicely; it’s more like they were regarded as property whose only purpose was to be completely beholden and obedient to their man (husband, father, brother, employer, etc.), perform all domestic duties within the household, and satisfy mens’ sexual needs.
Despite the advancements that women have fought for, there are still many who hold on to these beliefs. It reflects in the salary gap between equally-qualified men and women in the workforce. It’s apparent in the lack of diversity for roles of women being presented in the media. It’s especially apparent in the social media banter of people who blame rape victims for getting attacked. You can feel it anytime a woman decides to come out about her abuse and has to deal with people calling her a liar, gold-digger, or attention-whore. Also, the statistics of women who have been victims of and even killed by domestic violence are off the chart. We still have a long way to go.
Very few people seem willing to address this, especially within mainstream society. As much as it shouldn’t have taken a recorded phone call for the folks in the NBA to know Donald Sterling was a racist, it shouldn’t have taken video footage for the NFL to know that Ray Rice had viciously abused his wife. When Sterling was sued by his employees and tenants on different occasions for racism, the NBA didn’t have to address it. When Rice was arrested and convicted for domestic assault, the NFL didn’t have to address it. It was only when recorded footage of those scenarios began to receive national attention that these organizations decided to take a hard stance against the issues and give the appearance that they were taking action. Why? The NFL, NBA, and every other major social institution in our society are ran by men, the majority of whom are beneficiaries of patriarchy. Much like it’s difficult for people of European descent to acknowledge the privilege they hold over people of color, it’s difficult for us men to acknowledge our privilege over women. Especially when we, as men, benefit from this system that is designed to keep males in power- particularly wealthy, white ones.
To illustrate my point that abuse against women is being treated as “no big deal” by the powers that be and our society as a whole, below I have compiled a list of celebrities who have been accused or convicted of domestic violence, rape, assault, and sexual and emotional abuse yet continue to enjoy their careers and celebrity status. I’m not saying that these people should all be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood, or locked up for life, but how serious can we take violence against women when the most famous perpetrators of this crime aren’t taking it seriously at all? How can we as a society condemn Ray Rice while ignoring so many others? Some of these men have multiple complaints about them going back more than 25 years ago.
As the NFL first looked at Ray Rice before the footage surfaced and basically said, “Well, he messed up, but he’s still a good football player!” how are we to perceive other male abusers who have contributed great things to sports, music, and film? Are we to completely disregard their crimes and continue watching their movies, or do we put them on a lifelong boycott list? Does the crime of committing violence or abuse against women completely stain everything they’ve done and will do? Well, yes and no. For example, I can’t buy a ticket to an R. Kelly concert and dance to his music knowing that supports a man who filmed himself urinating on a teenager and got away with it. At the same time, I have a hard time respecting James Brown on a personal level because of his assaults against women, but I can’t completely deny his discography and contribution to music. In another example, I feel like Mike Tyson is a product of an abusive environment, media crucifixion, and a troubled past that he has made significant effort to overcome, much of which includes acknowledging his mistakes. That doesn’t wipe away his past actions, but it shows that people can change, and should be encouraged and supported in doing so. It doesn’t help anyone to ignore the issues of men such as these.
The key to this lies in acknowledgement. I’m not one of those people that rejoices when I hear of child molesters being abused in prison or wishes death and torture upon them, because I don’t think that fixes the problem. Most abusers are former victims of abuse themselves. I believe there are psychological, social, and spiritual solutions to abuse- but none of them will ever be reached until we fully acknowledge this problem. It’s one thing for victims and those of us who wish to support them to hold abusers accountable; it’s another for the abuser themselves to acknowledge their wrong-doing and hold themselves accountable.
Unfortunately, I feel like almost none on this list below has truly held themselves accountable. Now, I don’t wish to air out anyone’s dirty laundry, or attack anyone’s character, or vilify anyone. Other than a little online research, I can’t confirm all of these claims. Of course there have been situations where a woman has lied about someone abusing her as an attack on that person, or for her own personal gain. However, those cases are rare and don’t take away from the gravity of these true accounts. Some will say that some women provoke men into physical attacks- I won’t deny that it’s possible for women to attack men emotionally or physically and of course there’s nothing wrong with self-defense. None of that could possibly justify a man punching, kicking, biting, raping, or assaulting a woman in any way. There’s a thin line between self-defense and intentionally causing harm on someone.
I can speak on this from experience; as painful as it is for me to admit, I’ve been involved in a few (very minor) physical disputes with girls when I was a teenager. I’ve never been an abuser, but I’ve reacted out of anger and intoxication and been in situations as a young man that I’m wise enough to avoid now as an adult. When I was a teenager, rap music, the media and a lack of strong community values somehow implanted in my mind that it was cool to “pimp-slap bitches;” and I saw other kids who hit girls reach new levels of social fame. Then of course there’s the old saying, “I won’t hit a woman but I’ll hit a bitch.” Unfortunately, these are social norms still being expressed on the playgrounds of our communities and I’ve had to work very hard for years to break down this frame of thinking. As men, it is on us to destroy this misogynist, patriarchal, destructive mind state so that our sons and younger brothers don’t grow up to repeat our mistakes.
Now, there’s quite a big difference in my incident of getting drunk and punching a girl in the chest for trying to physically kick me out of a party when I was 16 and Sean Penn’s case of tying Madonna to a chair and beating on her for hours when he was 25. There are also similarities. Of course they’re different in severity but they both require the same effort toward acknowledgement and accountability. In my case, I had to realize on my own how wrong I was and why women should never be harmed. I have dedicated a substantial amount of energy and understanding towards the issues facing women; which has led me to develop a great appreciation for their struggles. I have tried to atone for my wrong-doing by being intentional about the way I treat the women in my life. I’ve taught the young men I’ve worked with to treat them the same, while modeling an example of a positive, respectful male for the young ladies. I still have work to do on this front. Now, as far as Sean Penn, I can’t say that he hasn’t undergone the same personal discoveries that I have, but I don’t see him or any of these other abusers use their celebrity influence and wealth to make any contributions towards uplifting women and attacking patriarchy. As a wealthy actor, Penn has been very public about his philanthropic activities in Haiti and hurricane-stricken New Orleans. Yet what’s to stop him from atoning for his past mistakes by funding domestic violence shelters? Or speaking out against this abuse? Or producing or starring in a film to raise awareness about the issue? The same could be asked of any of the celebs on my list.
In closing, we must acknowledge the issue of abuse and the systematic inequalities of patriarchy. We must also hold abusers accountable whenever and wherever abuse prevents itself. As you can see below, our society has done a terrible job at those things. This is a quick list and there are many more names, famous or not, that could be added to it, but the length of it and the severity of some of the cases mentioned should tell you that there are many of us who support abusers everyday, whether knowingly or unknowingly. On a darker note, most of these men have received little or no repercussion for their actions, which sends the message that violence against women is OK.
We must show our society that violence against women is NOT OK, and not just when video footage of it goes viral.
During my video shoot for the song "Revolutionaries" with White Mic, we stopped to chop it up with the legendary Spie One of TDK crew. We got some footage of graff murals where one of Oakland’s premiere yards, the 23rd Yard, used to be, and Spie gave us a tour and broke down the history of the Yard and its connection to the king Mike DREAM (RIP).
I decided to post this today because Saturday is DREAM DAY, a celebration of Mike’s life and legacy. Dream has always been an inspiration and one of my heroes, even though I was very young when he passed and never got to personally meet him. Saturday will be a great day of art, music, and community and I’m proud to be performing there along with some other Bay Legends.
There’s nothing more refreshing than hearing a nice voice hit some soulful melodies. It’s even more impressive when that voice can bounce back and forth between signing and rapping, all over some unique production. That’s the homegirl Are Too in a nutshell. She’s been pushing a hard line to follow her dreams and get her music out there, which I really respect. Her debut album, Life Injected, features banging production and introspective songs that really give the listener a good sense of just who she is as a person. This is some good music to kick back and relax to, or to bump on a nice cruise through the town. Like I said, she’s been working really hard- she also works with children in Oakland- so she definitely deserves your support. Check her out.
Today’s interview features the beautiful Jenny Spitz, a dope photographer, spoken word artist, and community activist from Sacramento. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing this young lady for a while now and she definitely inspires me with her passion for creativity and her wisdom which is beyond her age.
1. Who are you, where are you from, and why are you here?
I am a spoken word artist, photographer in the making & a learning-skills counselor. I am from Paracho Michoacan, Mexico, but I was raised in the city of Sacramento. I believe I am here to enjoy a life full of experience and growth, but most importantly I am here to help my community in any way possible. To help them is also to help myself, to educate them is also to educate myself. I am here to stand up for what I believe, to create art and work hard while also enjoying the beauty of life.
2. What is one defining experience from your life that helped make you who you are?
There are many things that have shaped me into the person I am today. The loss of relatives, heart-breaks, lies, and my own mistakes have all been learning experiences. Where there is pain there is also growth, so all the hardships in the past have just been the pipeline to todays strength.
3. Who are some of your biggest influences?
Many people have influenced me along the way. From Malcolm X and Angela Davis to My parents and the people in my community.
4. What are some of the challenges you’re currently facing, and what have you been doing to overcome them?
I have been currently facing the challenge of juggling a full time student schedule, part-time learning-skills counselor work, and trying to make room for friends and family as well as time for my art. Keeping a detailed calendar of events, due dates, and work schedule helps me feel organized and less stressed. Making sure I have at least one day out of the week dedicated to friends/family and or Poetry/photography has been helpful. Keeping in mind that some days its not a bad thing to ditch the school books for some quality time with loved ones.
5. What gives you the inspiration/motivation to push on everyday?
Motivation comes within, if i didn’t believe in myself then where would I be today? Inspiration to keep pushing also comes from my mother, father, and people around me. The youth inspire me to be a better me, to keep pushing for my dreams.
6. (Bonus) You are both a skilled photographer and spoken word artist- how do you use each of these as a form of expression?
There is beauty in capturing a real life moment, those candid shots are more than just images. They are memories, real life memories. Capturing the beauty of life itself through camera lenses is a form of expression. Spoken word poetry is a way of reaching out to all kinds of people, it is a way to connect with strangers and share your truth through metophors and rhymes. Poetry is a way to vent, to speak for the voiceless and represent for people who come from the same crazy detailed metaphors as mine.
Keep up with Jenny on IG and Twitter: @jennyspitz
What up everyone, thanks for checking out the first installation of my reading list. My father always wanted to be a writer, but had to give it up, so from early on he pushed me towards reading and helped me fall in love with letters. I don’t think he expected my love of letters to be expressed through rap and graffiti, though. Ha. Nowadays I read for fun and to learn about new things, or even about myself. It wasn’t always like that, though. I think our school system does a bad job at teaching literature; making us read books that aren’t interesting or culturally relevant. It’s up to us to change that, so my solution is to show folks that reading and learning are actually dope things to do. So on this segment of my blog you’ll find novels, comics, poetry, and all types of non-fiction that will not only entertain you but challenge the way you think.
Before getting into my favorite books and comics that probably aren’t too well-known, I wanted to talk about a novel that’s loved by many for my first segment. This book is so popular it almost feels like it’d be redundant for me to spread the word about. But then I realize there’s still probably plenty of folks out there who haven’t read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and need to. So maybe this blog post will serve as the start of your journey to read and come to love this book.
That’s what The Alchemist is all about: a young boy’s journey towards fulfilling his own Personal Legend. When Santiago, a teenage shepard in Spain, has recurring dreams about the pyramids in Egypt, he feels compelled to ask a gypsy woman to interpret the dream for him. The gypsy encourages him to visit the pyramids and find a treasure buried there. Doubting her, the boy is about to dismiss her prediction when he meets a strange old man who seems to know everything about him, and says that the treasure is his Personal Legend. This leads to a mysterious sequence of events, where the boy is guided by omens and chance encounters with people who change his life forever- and vice versa.
It’s my experience that our society often kills the dreams and hopes of young children like Santiago. How many of us are working day in and day out, not to pursue our own destinies, but simply to survive and put food on the table? How many of us have chosen to ignore our own hearts and souls’ desires in order to do what we thought we had to do? The boy encounters people who have failed to pursue their Personal Legends- they may not even realize they’ve failed, but for some of them the question, “What if?” is a constant presence in their life. In our world, sometimes, the voice of family, friends, loved ones, society that kills our dreams. Sometimes, it’s our own doubts that keep us from living out our full potential.
“Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”
The plot reads something like a children’s adventure fable, but it’s not the sequence of the story that makes The Alchemist such an incredible book, it’s the way that it’s written and the themes and messages hidden in the details. Almost every line in this book is a profound message about the workings of life, the world, and our own hearts. In the same way, almost every event and detail in our lives is a message about the way the world works- that’s something The Alchemist will get you thinking about it.
Like the boy Santiago, we can find omens throughout our daily lives that will let us know whether or not we’re on track to achieving our own Personal Legend. Your Personal Legend may not be as grand as hidden treasure buried at the pyramids, but I believe that each of us has a destiny and calling that needs to be fulfilled. Personally, I’m tired of seeing my peers live their lives unfulfilled. I’ve had plenty of times myself where I’ve questioned what I’ve been doing and where I’m headed, coming really close to giving up on things I’ve worked hard to accomplish. But one lesson the boy learns that resonated with me is that events that seem unfortunate can lead to positive results- it’s all on how we bare with them, and what we chose to learn from the experience.
The Alchemist is one of the best-selling books of the last 20 years and has been translated into dozens of languages. I think Paulo Coelho succeeded in writing a story that truly speaks the Language of the World, as he calls it in the book. When he writes it’s like he’s speaking to the inner child in all of us, one with all the curiosity and courage to dream before we grow up and get hit with reality. If you could use some inspiration and motivation, this book will give it to you.
Paulo Coelho, the author who has inspired millions.