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I often say that dark appearances are facades for bright souls. It is a common theme that these types of souls find a love and outlet in the arts. However, when and how is this love being reciprocated?
For centuries, music has unified the differences of people and has been an outlet for creatives. Hip Hop, however, happens to be a genre of music that became a medicine and purpose for an entire demographic of creatives from every art form: the Black and Latinx people in impoverished communities. Whether you are a listener or an artist, Hip Hop speaks a truth that is personal to the experiences of the ever changing eras, culture and social dynamics in the these communities.
Rightfully so, Hip Hop has evolved into something bigger than us all by becoming a solid representation of primarily the Black culture and the prominent existence of Black Americans. From the notable fashion to the collective of dialects and vernacular of different regions across the United States that were initially only highlighted and emulated throughout the nation; the genre now has recognizable global impact across all industries whether it is transportation, technology, health care, food, education or financial. The influence is so remarkable that the developmental concept of how Hip Hop came into existence has been successfully executed throughout other ethnic cultures to create their very own uniquely identifiable musical genres that represent their specific demographic of people in their own countries who typically come from similar communities and.
All in all, Hip Hop has broken numerous barriers and crossed over into a variety of genres, but as it has been stated by many before me, we brought it to life and gave it that power. Just as you would a baby, when there is a creation of something so pure, it has to be protected and respected; every aspect of it.
With the recent deaths of Earl “DMX” Simmons, Robert “Black Rob” Ross and Gregory Edward Jacobs, professionally known as “Shock G”, many in the community are asking, “What do we do? Where do we go from here? How can we prevent these untimely deaths?” These are questions we seem to repeatedly ask whenever a vastly influential artist in Hip Hop dies prematurely. I’ve scrolled through numerous headlines that to point the finger at executives, public figures, artists, labels and even the personal choices that these stars make. None of these seem to bring solutions or a pathway to a plan. Among the various political and social issues in our community, this is also one we must come together for. While we are still “somewhat” inside and on pause, let’s discuss.
Back in 2019, Joe Budden, a former major-label rapper and now podcast star, attempted to shake the table and bring about a much needed discussion on his popular podcast show by proposing a strike in Hip Hop that would be led by rapper, 2 Chainz. As ridiculous and farfetched as it sounded, it sparked a wave of conversation, but nothing came of it. So, here we are again, but this time with heavy hearts and more impactful members of the Hip Hop community who are no longer here.
Death and disparity causes many to reflect upon what could have been done differently. These past few weeks, I’ve looked at various concepts of what a more practical musicians’ union would look like for independent artists; specifically those of the Hip Hop community. Practical, because there are actually two unions that currently exist for musicians, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and AFM (American Federation of Musicians), but these unions, like many other resources in the Black community are not common knowledge.
When SAG is brought up in my personal conversations I’ve had with a few creatives, they generally think that this union is only for actors; which the name initially states. However, the latter part of the initials stands for “radio artists”, and that can be very convoluted when it comes to an independent artist. Many independent artists do aspire to have their music played on the radio, but there are others who simply want to be loved and heard, period. Without even diving too deep into it, this union would not and does not fit every musician or artist. Not to mention, there are roughly only about 5,000 vocalists that are active members and most happen to be well-known, successful recording artists.
As far as the AFM, it rarely comes up in conversation. The first time I learned of its existence was in a discussion I had with an instrumental musician I was friends with in college. To my knowledge, the majority, if not all, the members of AFM are instrumentalists. Therefore, once again, this is another union that really doesn’t fit the needs of every musician or artist. In order to effectively create a union, the entire entity from the board to its members must collectively want the same objective. Hence the name, union. All parties act in unison and majority with the best interests of the organization in mind.
Upon various research of opinions, statements and posts on social media, it seems as if most of the Hip Hop community share the same wants and needs. We all want the artists and public figures we love to have the proper protection: rights to healthcare and their creative works, financial resources, support after their time in the “limelight wanes, and last but not least, to cease being taken advantage of by those in the industry they’ve entrusted to guide them through their careers. A union of this dynamic is possible and it has to be cultivated to fit the creatives in Hip Hop. Many of the contributors start out as our peers in the community. Like most Hip Hop artists, They come from overlooked neighborhoods and communities. This means that this union has to be relatable with an inclusive dynamic of educational resources that provides guidance to help anyone, from every walk of life, to be successful in the industry.
Presently, there is an astronomical amount of independent artists in the Hip Hop community, which is why I chose to write this article as my debut work for Record Drop. This company and platform is something I strongly believe in. It aligns with what we all foresee the music industry eventually morphing into the era of the independent artist.
Many who follow, know my work, or who know me personally, know that I root for the “underdog” because I often see myself as such. Record Drop is the safe space and transparency that a dark appearance with a bright soul needs to thrive, and as a person of that very description and a part of its team, I will personally make sure we continue to use our collective resources and growing influence to push the agenda of creating a union or system to support our gems, new and old, of the Hip Hop community.
Dedicated to all the forever cherished legendary dark appearances with bright souls who have left us physically in the creative world.
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