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Album Leaks: The Record Spill: Hip-Hop Reform

I’d like to start off by saying that the term “Hip-Hop

Reform™” has been a baby of mine for the past three years. It is not a

movement, it’s a revolution. Hip-Hop began as a form of expression between

urban youth. Then it grew into a way to feed families. Now it is a billion

dollar industry, lacking structure, direction and accountability. We are

sitting on the most influential culture in the world today. Yet, we have no

control or influence over its path? Reform is necessary. So when you hear this

term or more than likely begin to hear this term used by others, you’ll know

where it came from.

 

President Obama can’t fix everything, right? Just check out

this man’s plate: two wars, illegal immigration, Wall Street, Unemployment, our

slumped economy, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,

and most recently the massive oil spill in the Gulf. President Obama is being

pulled in every direction, being told that he is doing too much, that he is not

doing enough, that he is too smooth to lead and just about anything else the

Republicans could influence Americans to believe. All that matters is how he

handles our countries dirty laundry. He is doing a great job for what its worth.

Hip-Hop has its own dirty laundry: our female representation is little to none

(R&B singers, heavy in swagger have inched their way into the strong woman

role that the female emcee once ruled), too many amateurs on the come-up, not

enough quality growth on the professional level, limited touring, lyrical

altercations for promotional use, “Veteran to Newbie” emcee disconnect,

sluggage record sales, and album leaks, just to name a few. We have a daunting

task on our hands as well; time that we talk about them and do something about

them.

 

While the President deals with a country that doesn’t want

the government in its healthcare business, yet criticizes the government for

slow rolling in organizing a more immediate stop to the oil spill in the Gulf,

I’ll take on our spill, or shall I say LEAK.

 

It never fails me. Whenever an album is running wild on the

internet, weeks before its official release, I become an angry soul. It doesn’t

matter which artist it happens to. I can’t escape feeling some type of way that

we haven’t fixed this issue years ago. It feels like only yesterday when the

industry was in an uproar for albums getting leaked the Friday before its

release. Nowadays, a leak can happen up to a month before. Some call the leak a

sign of the times. They’ll tell you that record sales have dropped in every

genre. However, I have yet to see or hear about any leaked, bootlegged Miley

Cyrus product.

 

The new millennium ushered in the “Copycat Hustler”. If

there was money being made somewhere, and the job specs required an elementary

school education, everybody was on it. Moving bootlegged (unauthorized) product

was one of the hustles. In the mid-to-late 90’s, our neighborhood secret

salesman was limited to moving mixtapes until there was a price for

soon-to-be-released product.

 

We can be honest here. When unauthorized product first hit

the trunks of these secret salesmen, the effect on authorized product being

sold was at a minimum. Artists like 50 Cent, Eminem and Kanye West were still 500,000+

units in the first week. When those type of numbers are moved, who’s

complaining? As a matter of fact, some artists admitted to bootlegging their

own product as a source of promotion and a quick paycheck from the bootlegger.

No harm done? Wrong!!!

 

Because now, supply and demand for soon-to-be-released

product shot through the roof. Personal computers came equipped with CD

burners. And if everybody is selling unauthorized product, who’s buying it? On

top of that statement, as I’ve said years ago until people began picking up on

it, “If there are too many rappers, there are not enough fans.” Add both of

these statements as one, equals the current state of our industry in direct

connection to record sales.

 

And that’s not even the kicker. Online social networking

sites, forums and knuckleheads with access to the music are sharing exclusive

information. Yes, a few execs, publicists, journalists and front desk operators

have shared their exclusivity with family and friends over the years. Do you

honestly believe that your third party pals have any responsibility to not

share the goods? Do you see what being a show off gets us?

 

Reasons why the Record Spill spread…

 

People will tell you that albums leak due to demand.

Really?! Then why not hold onto the album and build up anticipation for it,

against that demand?! Maybe we’ll see lines forming outside of record stores

again. Instead, the music gets leaked, ill-fated reviews appear online and

potential sells are lost. Older women will tell you, “give up the sex too soon

and your relationship is doomed.” Yes, we need to play hard to get with our

music.

 

“Everyone thinks it’s just the record companies,

artists, and producers that are the ones losing because of piracy. The real

truth is that we all lose because the lack of money available doesn’t allow for

people to take more chances, or time to develop talent the way it should be,

which hurts music overall.” – Wayne Wilkins, Producer and Songwriter

 

People will tell you that record sales don’t matter; that

record labels make more money from other ventures. Yes, that is true. But check

out this spill. When record sales suffer, the pool of bankable urban artists

decrease. Which results in urban publications receiving less advertising

dollars. Weak advertising, results in bills not getting paid, and ultimately, a

cut in staff. Did you ever stop to think as to why urban publications closed

their doors at a higher rate than any other publication in 2009? Irony is when

an industry professional leaks music, and then loses their job because their

publication can’t pay their salary.

 “A lot of people think music is free, when all you are going

to do is put your favorite artist out of business by downloading the music, not

paying for it. That’s why you’re not getting records from the people you used

to get music from.” – Ice Cube, Songwriter, Lyrical architect of the West Coast

Sound

 

People will tell you that today’s music isn’t worth the

cost; that there isn’t a point in spending $15.99 for an album that has 3 good

songs on it. Wow, and this is coming from a generation that paid $2.99 for a 30

second ringtone. Detach yourself for a moment. Radio has been telling you

what’s hot for years. Have you ever bought an album and thought it was a dud,

until you heard a new song on the radio and realized this song was on your dud?

I won’t figure you to admit it, but it happens a lot. If you buy an album with

15 songs, because of one song, you’ll listen to that one song 10x more than the

others. And you’ll skip 6 songs to get to it. So now, you want to hear an

entire album before you buy it. And let me guess, if the leak is hot, you’ll

still support the artist and buy the official record, right? For what, the

inserts? When did the Hip-Hop fan become so insecure? You’re trying to curve

your disappointment just to say, “At least I didn’t buy it.” And then you’re

mad when your favorite rapper becomes kind of an actor? You can’t have it both

ways.

 

“I think it all boils down to a lack of respect for what

we do. The people that really suffer are the songwriters and producers, because

the artist can still go out and get “Show Money” if the song becomes popular on

the internet. But we get zero compensation. It’s all a game to these hackers

(leakers) and they are getting what they want right now by having us even

comment on this topic. They live for this. The key is to continue making great

music and pray that ultimately, great songs prevail evil… #TurntheLightsOn” –

Rico Love, Grammy Award Winning Songwriter

 

We must slow this Record Spill to a drastic halt (no Top

Kill). We owe it to the producers and songwriters, the artists and journalist,

the fans and future stars alike, that we get on our job and plug this leak up

for good. We need to get back to the pride and accountability. Yes, I’m talking

to the professionals. We play a major part in the Record Spill, outside of

distribution warehouses and now, hackers. Let go of this “self proclaimed

right” that you have in not paying for anything, and buy something; it just

might save your job. Also, please tell me people are out there buying and

downloading bootlegged product, with hopes of breaking into the music industry?

Really?! You don’t see anything wrong with this picture? When you’re 35 years

old, and never sold a unit, you’re welcome! And please, get rid of the, “Why buy

an album when it only has 3 good songs,” routine. The digital platform has made

it easier for anyone to buy the songs they want, without buying the entire

album.

 

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of when this

world lost one of the greatest entertainers of our time, Michael Jackson. He

said it best, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at

yourself and then make a change.”

 

Let’s get back to the pride, the exclusivity and back on our

stage as the most influential culture in the world. So please, reach out to us

at AllHipHop.com with your suggestions on how we all can stop the leak. With

enough support, we can form a committee that will ultimately put food back on

the tables of many, and pride back in the heart of our culture. This is Hip-Hop

Reform.

 

 

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