Master The Moment.
Years ago, I wrote a personal editorial on AllHipHop.com, because I felt like the culture itself has finally learned to "master the moment." This write up referred to the period affectionately known as the second Golden Era. I'm not certain if that the "Master The Moment" phrase had ever been used before, but I felt it was appropriate for the crop of ambitious, determined and business savvy artists that were successfully melding branding with marketing with commerce with art.
It all seemed to go hand in hand, like the Boy's Club logo.
Strategically, this created stars, in front of the camera and behind. Most notably - but not limited to - is the team over at Def Jam Records, who repeatedly knocked it out of the park with Survival of the Illest, Month of the Man (Red & Meth) and other initiatives. Not to be forgotten were folks like Steve Rifkind and Loud Records, Jay-Z, Dame and Roc, and other collectives like the Duck Down crew, who remain a powerful brand. During that time, the artists and their team's timing was impeccable. Biggie and Puff Daddy (P. Diddy) were supremely tactical in their approach to the game, something that often goes unnoticed these days. DMX was right on time when he broke out of the shiny suit era with "Get At Me Dog." All systems were a-go, from the streets to the board room.
In present day, the "machine" and all of its various cogs seem out of synch. And I'm hoping that the new generation of Rap stars know the value of mastering the moment like their predecessors. But, I'll admit I am not certain.
There is hope, if they take heed.
Nicki Minaj recently scrapped her touring plans with pop princess Rihanna in order to work on her album, which is now slated for a September release. Barbz I'm sorry 2 say I will not be going out on RiRi's tour. I've decided 2 use that time 4 the completion of my album. Hope u understand, Nicki tweeted, of her album that I'd like to see manifest before the September 2010 scheduled release date. Well, if Nicki's reasoning it true, she is probably preparing herself to win the war of longevity as opposed to winning battles for fast cash.
Speaking of cash, I believe quick money is the reason why a bunch of newer acts fail to master the moment. Rappers and other artists as well have the ability to pay their bills in ways unimagined before thanks to the internet. The loved and loathed one known as Waka Flocka is living proof of this. While many abhor this product of Atlanta, he's tours getting about $15 - $17 thousand per show. Sometimes he does two shows a night, one for adults and one for teens. He's admitted his reluctance to drop an album, because it could serve as a buzz kill if its not well received.
Then there is Drake, who is closely related to Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne's Young Money. Drake seemed to be set in the year 2009, as he had several smash hit records like "Best I Ever Had" and "Successful." Furthermore, he's already won numerous awards and has been nominated for a Grammy. This success has continued into 2010, where he's graced VIBE's recent cover and will cover XXL's issue with the aforementioned Nicki Minaj. So, with Sprite commercials, Drake is still a bankable artist. In many ways, I do wish So Far Gone was turned into an album so all the accolades surrounding it could represent his "moment."
Hip-Hop will continue to need stars on every level, including the underground. Take Jay Electronica for instance. He's been resolute in creating a feverish demand, especially with his song "Exhibit C." But, in a recent interview, he admitted that he wasn't prepared for the demand.
I saw this video on 2dopeboyz.com, where the comments were particularly interesting and pointed to Jay Electronica's ability to master this moment. Here is a random sampling.
"Im not even asking for Act II, an album, or a mixtape .just put out a new song dude."
"Everytime I see Jay Electronicas name I think its a new song but nope, more interviews haha "
"ok so i didnt wanna be one of the people always complaining, because i usually dont freak out when stuff is pushed back and whatever but seriously where the f**k is act 2?"
I really "need" Electronica to hit the masses with a video and then an album, but his fans mostly just want a new song. "Exhibit C" not only excited Hip-Hop's core, but it rejuvenated those that have abandoned rap. A friend of mine hit me like, "Have you heard of this dude Jayo Electronica?" That's no typo - JAYO. He had never so much as heard of Jay until that song. Yet, the follow up has been sluggish to say the least and I'm hoping the Jay's moment isn't escaping him.
But, Jay Electronica and others are in the driver's seat of their careers and move at their own pace, and perhaps the pace of their base. Furthermore, they have the ability to generate revenue through touring and singles without a label. Why rush an album when you get $15, 000 per show like Waka Flocka or in Nicki's case $30,000 to host parties during the NBA's All-Star weekend?
I admittedly think of the classic album as the basis from which hometown heroes can transcend into timeless legends by way of their art. Every legend has at least one classic album, but that is a fleeting notion with the way CDs sales are down and rappers are dropping stray tracks daily. Nevertheless, timing is everything. Take Joe Budden for example. I still consider Mood Muzik 2 his classic album, even though it was a highly revered mixtape. It came out at a time when people thought it was over for the "streets draft pick." Lil Wayne made it practice to flood the streets and the internet with song after song, mixtape after mixtape until the demand was unparalleled. Both artists made the moment their master, not the other way around.
So, where does that leave us.
It leaves us back to the basics with a modern twist.
Jay-Z is an excellent example. While Jay is revered as a solo artist, he's never ever been truly solo. He and his team (whichever team that has been through the years) have always been a master at capturing moments in time. Just look at last year alone. He did the September 11 benefit, which coincided with his scheduled album release for Blueprint 3, which happened to coincide with the September 11, 2001 release of The (original) Blueprint. He released a quintessential pop ode to New York City ("Empire State of Mind") when New York rap is still climbing back into prominence. If you look back, you can chart when Jay' and his team (I emphatically stress team) were on the same accord and the results. Lastly, Jay has known when to change gears, when to collaborate with who and when to leave the past in the past. Sure, there have been missteps, but the moves have been overwhelmingly positive time and time again.
I can't say the same for many of my favorite artist, who often look like they were an astronaut floating in space with no jet pack. Confused and directionless.
The moments in time became their master and they fell off, even though they were skillful artists.
With that, I charge this new generation of creatives (and some older ones) to keep pushing forward as aggressively as possible, but know when to pump the brakes, push the pedal to the metal and definitely know what kind of "vehicle" you are in. Employ your resources wisely in a way that allows you to maximize the impact of your talents. Generally, the moment is bestowed upon you and other times created by you. Whichever is the case, you better be ready and I hope you are, because the time is now.