mixtape

EDITORIAL: The Saturation of The Mixtape Game

The Free Mixtape/Street Album phenomena is killing the revenue flow in the Hip-Hop game. Artists are not getting paid, producers are not getting paid, etc.. I say, leave the MULTIPLE Mixtapes for the DJs, and the rappers should go back to giving out singles and samplers and creating quality EPs or Albums that they can market and sell.

Rappers have trained their audience to expect free music all of the time with the multiple releases of Free Street Albums…CRAZY!

Stop painting rap fans with a broad brush. Not every rap fan wants free throwaway music. Rap fans are not demanding this free clutter music; it’s being shoved on them. Many aspiring Rock & Roll, Pop, Country and R&B artists are building solid fanbases without giving away free albums. Rappers Take Note!

You can put out a free single or sampler, and still spark a lot of interest in your brand. Who told you that you MUST put out a FREE Street Album/mixtape?

Your fans must either want to be you or believe you. You must know your target market, and your music has to resonate with them. As an Artist, you must understand that your Fans don’t just buy your music; they buy your Lifestyle, your Brand, and your Movement as well.

You don’t have to keep putting out multiple free street album/mixtapes of original music to attract fans. You can release other free content from your brand like music videos, freestyles, video diaries, audio from radio interviews, video from concert performances, etc. Nowadays, it’s no longer just about selling CDs. It’s about selling or providing “Content” and conveying the mission of your Brand and your movement.

Try something different to build a fanbase. Look into the possibility of producing and starring in your own short films or long version music videos, and add your music as the score. Think outside of your circumference.

Give away a single or a sampler to attract fans, and then get them excited about buying a full length album or EP from you. Give them something to look forward to. When rappers constantly give away whole street albums of original music right out of the gate, it’s like a woman giving up everything on the first date. There is no momentum, no excitement, and no build up to what comes next – because she gave up everything on the first date. And it’s the same with artists.

Many upcoming rappers take the mystique and excitement out of their brand by giving away everything up front in the form of FREE Street Albums.

At least 70 percent of the independent rappers who put out multiple FREE Street Albums last year did not make a dime from their endeavors. FACT!

The crazy thing is that my next door neighbor’s 10-year-old daughter made more money selling lemonade last summer than many unsigned rappers made all year from their music endeavors – which included Free Mixtapes and Showcase performances. The little girl gave out samples, she advertised, did a raffle, and then she sold lots of lemonade drinks and ices. (Apply basic business principles to your music projects and watch your revenue grow by three-fold.)

The game plan for most unsigned rappers consists of giving away Free Street Album/Mixtapes and paying to be in showcases. And that’s it.

The average rapper spends $1,500 to put out his Free Mixtape/Street Album.. Who’s getting paid off of your FREE MIXTAPE/STREET ALBUM? LET’S SEE (Count With Me): The Studio, the engineer, the graphic designer for the cover, the CD manufacturer, perhaps the DJ you paid to host it, and perhaps the producers of the original tracks, the mixtape marketing company, and Datpiff or any other mixtape website that posts your mixtape in order to draw traffic to their site with the expectation of selling ads based on that traffic, etc.

I know an unsigned rapper who paid $2,500 to a well-known DJ to host the rapper’s FREE mixtape/street album. And the DJ didn’t even promote it. Next, the rapper spent $1,500 to get a collaboration on a song with a popular upcoming MC that went on the FREE mixtape/street album. Then, the rapper paid the studio and engineer to record and mix the FREE mixtape/street album, and he paid a graphic designer to design the cover. Then, the rapper spent $500 duplicating the CDs. And finally, the rapper paid $1,500 to a mixtape marketing company to promote the Free mixtape/street album.

At the end of the day, this rapper spent close to $7,000 on a Mixtape/Street album that he gave away for free. He got 12,500 downloads at the end of the day. Was it worth it? I say NO! Most independent rappers are just following Lil Wayne and Drake, and have no idea what they are doing.

Equally important, when you put a Free mixtape/street album on any mixtape site and generate thousands of downloads, do you know the demographics (Sex, Race or Age) of those downloading your mixtape? NO! Can you obtain the email addresses of those downloading your mixtape? NO! Do you know the location of those downloading your mixtape? NO! On these mixtape sites, you don’t receive any real stats, and thus, you don’t know who your potential consumers are. The only thing that you are doing is making money for the mixtape site. They use the traffic you draw to their site to sell advertisements.

RAPPERS WAKE UP! For many rappers, these Free Mixtape/street albums are just vanity projects and an expensive hobby. And many spend little money advertising the mixtape releases. Most rappers put out multiple free mixtape/street albums just to stroke their ego, but they have no understanding that, in many cases, they’re just throwing away money and cluttering up the already saturated Mixtape market.

And, some rappers are even going as far as to buy Mixtape Site downloads and manufactured stats.

Fake Downloads On Mixtape Site X + Fake Views On YouTube + Fake Followers On Twitter + Fake Fans On Facebook = FAKE MOVEMENT.

Just about every independent rapper has a FREE Street Album/Mixtape cluttering the market place. Try Something Different. Be Unique. Stand Out

It would make more sense to put the mixtape on your own website and draw traffic there. You can set it up so that people must enter a name and an e-mail in order to download it. Also, you can put a traffic tracker on your own website, and gather analytic demographic data of the unique visitors who visit your site. Moreover, you can also sell advertisements, bonus singles, merchandise, etc. on your own site, based on the traffic you draw there.

The bottom line is that many rappers are just following a trend. Instead of having a plan, most indie artists just make music, and put it out like they’re throwing darts against the wall hoping to get lucky.

If Lil Wayne comes out tomorrow and states that the Mixtape game is dead and he will no longer deal with it, then watch how many rappers follow his lead…SMH.

What worked for Lil Wayne, Drake and Wiz Khalifa as it relates to giving away Free Street Album/Mixtapes of original music will not work for every indie rapper out there.

Furthermore, if Rap Music Songwriters and producers understood the importance of publishing revenue and copyright ownership, they would not be giving their original music away for free so easily. Your music catalogue is an ASSET, and it has revenue generating potential. I can understand giving out free samplers or free singles. But CONSTANTLY giving away whole street albums of original music to try to build a fanbase doesn’t make sense.

ATTENTION INDEPENDENT ARTISTS: Are you receiving publishing Checks? Do you sell merchandise? Do you sell digital downloads? Are you getting paid from shows? Have you generated revenue by licensing your music? Have you obtained funds from Endorsements or Sponsorships? Do you get paid from doing features? Who is your target market? What is your distribution network?

Do you have a marketing plan and budget in place? Do you keep track of money you spend and money you take in regarding your music? Do you pay taxes based on income generated from your musical endeavors? How much did you earn last year from your music endeavors? How much do you expect to earn this year? How much did you invest in Promotion last year? How much do you plan to invest in promotion this year?

One hit single can generate millions for an artist via digital sales, publishing, paid shows, endorsements, ring tones, etc.

It is very important that every aspiring artist and producer know and learn the multiple revenue streams in the music business. Some of the Music Biz Revenue Streams include CD Sales, Digital Download Sales, Merchandising Sales, Tour Income, Licensing Revenue, Publishing Income, Ringtone Revenue, Endorsement Deals, and Sponsorship Revenue.

The key is to ATTRACT the masses to your music. Convert folks into fans and capture them by being unconventional. As an artist, you have to get out there and meet with the people, engage your supporters, hand out flyers, T-Shirts etc..

Don’t be a backwards hustler. What dude you know in the streets who gives away all of his product and is able to grow in the streets?

Big corporations give away free SAMPLES to attract buyers, but they also invest in advertising and marketing to sell the products as well.

PepsiCo is boosting its overall marketing budget this year by as much as $600 million. SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES INVEST IN PROMOTION. FACT!!

If you believe that nobody buys music anymore, then you’ve already lost. You’re just basically stating that you’re music career is a hobby.

There’s a big difference between FREE music and GOOD music, and some rappers confuse the two. Most Rap fans don’t want FREE music. They want GOOD music that appeals to their emotions. And they will pay for it if it’s marketed right.

Forget about putting out three (3) mediocre FREE mixtapes in a row, and concentrate on creating one (1) CLASSIC ALBUM that you can market and sell.

The music business is NOT the LOTTERY. That “Dollar and a Dream” mentality will not cut it. Get a Budget! Get a Plan! And, Get To Work! Do Remixes, Do Music Videos, Do Video Logs, Do Contests, Do Shows, Do Interviews, Get your own Merchandise, Connect with DJs and your fans.

There are millions of aspiring artists and producers. So how do you expect to STAND OUT if you look, talk and sound just like everyone else?

The music game is all “Smoke and Mirrors.” Don’t get caught up in the illusion and slight of hand. Study and learn the biz for yourself.

MONETIZE YOUR MOVEMENT AND MAKE YOUR MOVEMENTS MAKE SENSE.

Contributor Jesse Atkinson is CEO of Urban Threshold Inc. and founder of the Underground Music Awards and The A&R Power Summit.

Photo courtesy of EverythingEsteban.com

  • water_ur_seeds

    i buy albums cds, viynls and 12″ all the time… i download the odd mixtape to put on my gym ipod, thats about it…

    thing is rappers dont make money much from albums these days, all there money comes from touring and shows… if a rapper drops enough mixtapes to create an intrest then they can earn money from shows etc…

    so i guess its worth it…

    • true but that formula doesnt work for all rappers … all rappers cant capitolize off shows unless thier making club or radio records or if you name is lil b lol ….

      • water_ur_seeds

        you dont need a club or radio record to do shows… you just need a following, which you can build up thru dropping mixtapes and things, but if you the type of rapper that does make club or radio friendly joints.. rappers who build up underground following like jedi mind tricks and immortal technqiue for example make a fortune from shows… although they do make good money from albums these days to, they sell alot records independently… but rappers like hasan salaam, doap nixton, q unique, diabolic etc for example to or you could just get shot and start a beef lol

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM

        true but most artist do especially if you want to bank $10k or more without having to open up for a bigger name … which is why you rarely see local shows featuring guys like jcole, kendrick lemar, etc…. but there are exceptions and i have no idea how this character built a fan base but you have exceptions like lil b …………. but guys like 2chainz, waka ect… perform all over for top dollar cause they make club/radio ….

    • they dont make money because there is so much access to download it for free. But why even create the free image. Make people pay for it that wanna pay for it just to support your music.

      • water_ur_seeds

        thats what this is about though… people dont buy music because theres is no money in albums now… people are to stingy to support their music, they wanna get it for free… so they give out free music hoping to attrack them to their shows and create a buzz, unfortunately thats the state of hip hop… i dont download, i buy cds and vinyl…

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  • who ever wrote this is a bitch and a hater trynna take away our free music, ur obviously a republican

    • ccwaterbound32

      can’t knock someone with business sense dude!

    • Dont make sense what your saying dude

  • @shiftafras@shiftafras@shiftafras@shiftafras@shiftafras@shiftafras@shiftafras@shiftafras

  • I haven’t read this entire article yet, but I’ll like the title.

  • ehhh’, i disagree. U put out mixtapes, but sell albums. It’s always been that way in the Hip Hop world. N ppl have been successful putting out these mixtapes. Why sell a mixtape when ppl never even heard of you before??? Thats y ppl put out a FREE mixtape soo ppl can hear what ur about, b4 they think about buying an album from you.

    • true but what he is saying there are artist out there dropping the album material on the mixtape and never ever ever ever have an album to sale …. lol 😉

    • Its hasnt always been that way bro…mixtapes just started. Artist would put out a couple of singles to promote themselves generating a buzz for when the album comes out. But they only gave away free singles.

    • DefSoulCity

      u hustlin backwards….

  • Blackstallion777

    Rappers aren’t giving out free tapes by choice. They have to create a buzz. This ain’t the 90’s anymore. Onyx was able to drop an album every 4 years and do just fine. Can’t do that anymore. Kendrick Lamar blew up off of a free EP. And no one is copying Drake and Lil Wayne. I stopped listening to the radio a long time ago. Back then, underground artist were on sites like dubcnn and westcoast2k (the only two sites I was on back then, there were probably more than those two). But underground cats were putting out free stuff to get people to listen cause they weren’t getting radio or tv rotations. Mainstream artists like Wayne had yet to jump on the bandwagon. Very few mainstream artist were giving away anything at all at that time. Right now, it’s all about getting paid for shows and features. Kendrick Lamar made back last year (according to him) on just shows and features.

    • Nothings wrong with giving out the free music. I wouldnt give out a whole album…why not give out a cd with 3 or 4 songs on it. This isnt the generation where you here a whole album thats great anyway. The people that blow up off an album are people with a gameplan.

      • Blackstallion777

        That’s cause nobody wants a cd with just 3 or 4 songs on it. It would be considered a waste of time by many fans.

  • Matt Jelmini

    i think it shows a good point about saturation. but what about those that are releasing music cost efficiently and still making a buzz generated by these proclaimed $7000 budgets for mixtapes smh….$7000 for a mixtape??? we use that to buy pre-amps

    • daRealMigos ▬|ι═══════ﺤ

      what kind of sound do you get with a $7k pre-amp?

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM

        lol i wouldnt know but im guessing thats a rhetorical question anyway LOL 😉

      • daRealMigos ▬|ι═══════ﺤ

        that question wasn’t for you…

    • have you seen the mixtapes the game dropped over the last couple of years ??? im pretty sure his mixtapes cost him more than 20k to release if not something close too 100k the way they be looking but im sure with games leverage they not hurting him like that but im pretty sure do spends alot of $$$$$$ on releasing them tapes

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  • WillVetterGoodin

    Truth is, no one is making that much money off “mixtapes” or “beats” these days, its hard to sell, and people only want shit for free. SMH.

    • They want it for free because everybody is giving it for free.

  • WillVetterGoodin

    Yo…lemme get that beat for $5, I jus got my paycheck but I got parking tickets I gotta pay for…….

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  • im glad somebody said it! When I was 12 yrs old I bought music from Sam Goody and cherished it. Don’t scratch the CD! Don’t mess up the credits! When I was younger I kept my tape collection clean. It was VALUABLE. We have DEVALUED our music to the point you gotta give this trash away. Stop rappin about Bugati’s and Maybachs, normal people can’t relate, hell… you can’t relate either.

    • Man I agree with you one thousand percent I come from that same era. I use go to the Wherehouse, Musicplus as well as Sam Goody’s to buy music on Tuesdays to get who was dropping that week. I couldn’t wait to see the credits of who produced what song, the features as well and all of the shout outs to other artist. Music was special hip hop was something that was ours not our parents, it came from the streets we grew up in. They talked about things that we really had back then that you or your parents could actual buy. Like hooked up Suzuki Samurai, Nissan trucks, swade Pumas, Ellese shoe you get the point. Not Aston Martins, Ferrari’s and the things the average hood person will never drive in unless they shoot ball or catching passes in the NFL. Stop the smoking mirrors and misleading people to thinking that you have things don’t actual have. I saw a dvd where a popular rapper had on jewelry and said that it was rented that he made a deal with some company. So why wouldn’t people think that some or alot of those cars are leases, think people don’t be fooled!

      • zkinter36

        Cosign

  • Word, good article. Hip Hop is the only genre that gives away music. It lessens the value of the music and artist.

    • Mongo Slade

      exactly! to some of the dudes above the writer never said don’t do a free mixtape…. he said over-saturating the market with a bunch of FREE but SUBPAR mixtape’s helps nobody and it devalues what u do…. I took the article as make a great product or the best product u can make and find a way to attract an audience and sell that product – GET A REAL PLAN

  • OnlyFaDaReal

    This article in my opinion was very informative! I agree with everything that was said!!

  • ccwaterbound32

    TABERNACLE!!!!!!!!!!!

  • mylife97

    Finally someone actually put it out there what I been thinkin for a while now. But its different strokes for different folks b cuz that approach can generate a buzz which gets u popular which gets u appearances and shows and what not. But at the same time everything said in this article was absolutely true too. So basically we just gotta choose the best route that works for u at the end of the day… Me personally, I’m with the route of this article a little more than I am with the whole mixtape circuit. tryin to get the best of both worlds, just carefully plottin my return to the underground. Anybody 24yrs and older from the west coast, especially the northwest (seattle) knows who I am. So just know “Cristos Tha don is back” 22 squad…. Go to youtube and type cristos messiah to see what I been on.

  • gomer_1

    maybe 1 or 2 mixtapes but when a rapper has dozens of mixtapes its hard to keep up with and i personally stop listening to them and don’t want to downoad after a while…

  • daRealMigos ▬|ι═══════ﺤ

    A good mixtape can get you that spotlight, think Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Meek Mill…have all come up from the mixtape circuit.

    • Yes but they had gameplan….these artist are putting out mixtapes and have no gameplan

    • DefSoulCity

      you obviously didnt read the article bruh…went right over your head

      • daRealMigos ▬|ι═══════ﺤ

        how about a rebuttal, instead of a meaningless reply.

  • Mongo Slade

    THIS IS THE TRUTH and I agree 100% – this is a business and your music or talent is your product….in any other “real” business u need a business plan and strategy on how you intend to move your product – this is why I love AHH always informative and big up Jessie Atkinson for breaking down the math!

  • Originally mixtapes were a form of promotion for various artists thru local and sometimes national deejays. the deejays actually would hunt for new material because it would promote them for having the latest and best stuff out that you couldn’t hear on the radio or they would get it before the radio. Things like exclusives came next. If Doo Wop had something no else had he sold his tape and then everyone was looking for it. Original remixes that Kid Capri would get his hands on that no one else had. Then comes our favorite business man, PUFFY, and he says “why not just feature our label with exclusives that no one else can get, you’ll be big and we’ll have our artists getting a direct street push that costs next to nothing”. “In fact, why not just be our in house mixtape DJ, don’t worry that you can’t scratch or mix, you just need to know how to scream and put an echo on your voice (something that hasn’t changed since the beginning of these things, which is remarkable in itself). Of course everyone else with money followed suit. Fast forward a couple of years and 50 says “I’ll do you one better. I’ll take my shit and mix it in with some of your shit done my way and give you some of your favorite songs like you never heard before. Also, instead of one mixtape every 3- 6 months depending on how busy the “deejay” is, I’ll hit you with 1/2 a month”. THis way you flood the market, gain market share and you become all the streets are talking about. (everybody join in) Keep in mind, the mixtape tool kept changing, but what ended up happening is while everyone started “trying to out doing each other” trying to make their stuff look and sound professional as possible they missed out on one fact. Mixtapes had music that was uncleared in terms of samples and were throw aways, things the record company wouldn’t put out for whatever reason (usually because it wasn’t radio friendly) but could still be used elsewhere. By the time you fast forward to today, you have people putting out essentially “albums”, nothing about them are really mixtape quality anymore, they tend to be commercially viable. With that being said, all you are doing is giving away free albums like my man stated. No publishing, no copyrights, no money. Just stuff, and usually with no direction. Here’s something to think about, which would you listen to first, a CD you got for free or one you paid $10 for? Of course, if the music is garbage or sounds exactly like the next guy then all bets are off and it doesn’t matter the cost because now you have a pissed off listener.

    For better or worse mixtapes have completely saturated an oversaturated market and it takes the work out of the record companies hands. Which is funny when you think about it. You spend all your money, do all the work, gain minimal to non-existent publishing, build your name and your brand and the record companies come along and sign you for less than your worth for more of a percentage that they did not earn just to grip you into a 360 deal promising distribution avenues that are really not that necessary as they once were if you get out there and put in a grind while they hope your digital career will keep them afloat before their umbrella company decides they can make more money stripping the company and leave it as a publishing giant living off of past hits and blaming today’s consumer for lacking passion and loyalty in a weak economy. then you go on the internet and complain how you should have never signed in the first place and stayed independent only to wind up back there in 3 years anyway because you are no longer a viable tax write off and they now own the name and you have to change yours to try and make a living before going back to your day job before you started all of this because you saw the newest and latest half talent and figured you could do that or better and finally make it out of the hood. But I digress. Do what you want…. sooner or later everything dies, why not this?!

    • You Went HAM!!! On This One!

      #Nicely-put

      Dream B.I.G. Ent

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  • Big Ice Bastardman ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    If an artist wants to give away free music, let them. It’s not your decision, you are not the owner of this industry, and it’s not killing any genre. Lots of artists became famous as a result of mixtapes, and that alone justifies their existence. Mixtapes are very dynamic advertisements. They’re the best form of advertising for the artist, and a 15 second snippet won’t get you anything. The “single” was there to sell a “record,” and people don’t buy records anymore because the entire album model was nonsense. They’ve been saying for decades “yeah it’s a few great tracks and the rest are filler.” Some artists are just awesome at singles, awesome at mixtapes, and awesome at freestyles, and you’re trying to rob them of their strength because you’re upset that people don’t buy CDs anymore?

  • Orus Dias Delaney

    Its cheaper to get a laptop + blanks at BestBuy, etc. and burn them on that. Find someone w/ a printer and a label program, hook it up like that. Getting it out is your stuff.

    • Orus Dias Delaney

      20+ yrs ago they had blanktapes and label makers in drugstores. They still might.

  • zkinter36

    Thank you… When you give away your music for free, you devalue the product… Not just your product, but hip hop in general. You are basically saying that your product (all hip hop) is not worthy enough to be purchased. If it’s not worthy enough to be purchased, then why put it out in the first place. You need to make sure that anything you put out is top quality. If you are not there yet, don’t try to put yourself out there like that. Otherwise, people will see you in the same regard as you see yourself… Amateurish. People don’t want to listen to your music in it’s formative stage (basically practice), they want to hear it as a finished product. If the first twenty tracks that you make are not quite up to snuff, then don’t put them out. That is practice. People don’t want to hear you practice. When I learn of a new emcee that I really like, the first thing that I do is go to iTunes to hopefully find a quality finished product that I can purchase. When I get offered “free” music, I often don’t even listen to it. When you look at other genres of music, you don’t see anything like the mix tape format that exists in hip hop. They value their product way too much to oversaturate the market with a formative product. They overstand the concept of having an “exclusive” product. When the market is not oversaturated with supply… There will be a much higher demand for a quality product.

    • zkinter36

      Also… Just because a successful artist puts out mixtapes prior to their success, doesn’t mean that the mixtape is neccesarily the reason for their success. I’m sure that there were many other factors such as the “quality” of their work, performing live, networking, continually improving, etc., etc., which led to their success.

    • A lot of the music out today does not merit purchasing it and some people are not going to pay they like getting the music for free.

  • stanley

    Artists are free spirited individuals, they don’t do music for the money!! They do it to showcase their talent, and touch the people !!!! And when thats their motive they can never saturated the genre. I love discovering independent artists, and having the opportunity to listen to their views, and life experiences. Its like a conversation. A conversation between the artist and the listener. They can never go wrong!

    • true that but how many are really in it for the artistry these days ??? :(

  • stanley

    Mixtapes always been apart of the rap genre, its Tradition ! Most these artist that can get 12,000 downloads are making money in other ways. They get booked at clubs, and other events to preform their music. Many of them have normal jobs, and do Music as a hobby, its nothing wrong with that. Not everybody is going become a Multiplatinum rapper like Drake and J.cole off a mixtape

  • Sinbk Legend

    real shit!!! a true artist knows his worth..i havent seen jay z put out a free mix tape on his own yet

    • s.carter collection dont forget that one but yeah i feel ya when you
      have the leverage its possible … but jay didnt always have that
      leverage …. you gotta find your way to gain it …. and it may require
      you to give away free music reguardless what the article says ….
      everyones path is different … if you think about it jay did way worse then give away free music … HE PAYED HIS WAY INTO THE GAME … but it worked out for him going back to my point, everyone has a different path, and it dont matter how you get there as long as you reach your destination ….. some cats just dont have the talent to
      give away free music and capitolize on it …. some may have to go as
      far as to prove that you can sell yourself …………

    • DefSoulCity

      Been saying this for a minute. You’ll never catch Jay-Z put out a mixtape

  • Guillaume Pilon

    back in the days a cd was 15$ with 16 songs and the booklet was like 50 pages

    now the cd still 15$ with 10 songs and the booklet got 5 pages

    thats why you losing money

    start by putting all the cds at the same price is also gonna help

  • THE HIP HOP GAME IS SATURATED…IF YOU DONT HAVE A GAMEPLAN STOP NOW. I understand you all having to give it away, but you have to give them a reason to even want to listen to your music. Why should I listen to your music? Because you say you are hot…just like the last 10,000 hip hop artist. You on your grind…just like the other 40,000 hip hop artist….Once again…WHY SHOULD I LISTEN TO YOUR MUSIC? Silence will be heard with about 90% of the hip hop generation. Me myself…I listen because I support hip hop and thats it. PEACE AND I AM OUT

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