Last month I ended my column on artist burn-out with the advice to drink bleach. I took my own advice, and it really brightened my perspective. Thus my burn-out is over. Writing that column put the nail in its coffin.
So now back to advice. I’ve chosen to go back and cover something specific this time. Nothing too deep, just simple advice.
And not even my advice. This advice comes from Cincinnati’s (and now Atlanta’s) own DJ Drizzle.
This column is a sequel to one from last November in which I interviewed my homie Rare Groove, whom I consider to be one of the greatest DJs the city has ever witnessed, specifically in helping to build an artist’s stage show into something more than five dudes rapping over vocal tracks, gunshots and tornado sirens.
But that’s not all a DJ does. There are DJs that run in the Groove lane and DJs that run in the Drizzle lane. Both types are talented and both cross over into each other’s lane at times, but at the end of the day, they have different responsibilities and offer different contributions to the game.
I wanted to follow up the Rare Groove article and present the other side of the DJ’s repertoire: The Record Pool/Club DJ/Mixtape DJ/Record & Artist Breaker. As a member of the Hittmenn DJs, I’ve always seen Drizzle as a good representation of this and wanted to get his insight on a number of things up-and-coming artists should work on when trying to get their name popping in the city, region and beyond. (For more on DJ Drizzle, hit up www.gotdrizzle.com.)
When I asked Drizzle about how the artist/DJ relationship best works, both stage-wise and promotionally, he said that a DJ is looking for an artist who has already begun establishing a work ethic and local buzz.
They want someone who’s already performing at showcases and open mics. They want someone who knows how to generate interest in themselves already. By the time they come to someone like Drizzle, they might not be as seasoned, but they won’t be scared to perform and network.
One of the best things an artist can do to make the DJ’s job easier, according to Drizzle, is to simply listen to the DJ’s feedback. They know what works. DJs are on the frontline, in a sense, every night. They control what gets played. They know what’s hot and they know what’s not. They know when to play which record at which time of the night. They know which neighborhoods, regions and coasts mesh with which records.
DJs need to get their brand out there just as much as MCs do. One should never depend on the other to handle the hustle. When collaborating on a mixtape together, an artist should make sure they’re grinding just as hard, if not harder, than the DJ, Drizzle advised. Don’t fall back on the DJ’s name or rep to carry your mixtape. All it does is sink the mixtape and make them look bad for working with you in the first place.
A DJ can help expand an artist’s fan base. A good DJ in this arena already has a huge network of connects, both online and off. According to Drizzle, anything from e-mail blasts and DJ retreats to breaking the artist’s record at clubs they’re currently spinning in works to increase awareness for the artist they’re pushing.
When asked for some basic rules/guidelines/advise for an artist to follow when trying to get a more prominent DJ to host/present their mixtape or spin their record, Drizzle said it helps if your buzz is really strong or you have a good relationship with the DJ. Otherwise, he said, don’t ask for that kind of help right away. Ask for feedback. A DJ wants to know that you’re humble and want to learn what it takes to make a song that will work in the club.
A lot of folks run up on a DJ while they’re spinning in the prime-time hours of the night, asking them to spin their record because it’s the “hottest shit” out or whatever. They might get played … if they pay. Which seems like an easy way out. But, as this column always stresses, there are no easy ways out. No skipping steps. Period. If a DJ accepts your money to play your song at the hottest point of the night, you can all watch the dance floor clear out from the DJ booth. Then you can watch the DJ lose that night for losing people, thus losing drink sales, thus losing the club owner’s money. And the club owner, trust, does not give a flying fuck about you and your boys’ new song.
So, again, don’t skip steps; it all comes back around. Get the feedback, earn stripes and build the buzz from the ground up based on the quality of the record and the quality of the hustle.
ILL POETIC is a multi-tasking Hip Hop producer/performer whose "Hip Hop (Un)scene" column appears here once a month. Contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org or illpoetic.com.