(AllHipHop Features) Ask Duck Down co-founder/artist Buckshot about the music industry structure, and he’ll hit you with some quick quotes that help define his position on the power of indie labels in today’s marketplace.
Statements like “independent, we’re definitely more than major” and “the only line is online” reflect Buck’s business approach of keeping profits in-house by using the Internet to market his brand and roster.
Teaming with producer P-Money for the new album BackPack Travels, Buck is further extending his independent streak with another LP from the label that brought the world Black Moon’s War Zone, Sean Price’s Monkey Barz, Pharoahe Monch’s W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), and many other underground Hip Hop classics.
In part 2 of AllHipHop.com’s exclusive interview with Buckshot, the New York emcee provides 20 years worth of insight about the record business and the role he played in bucking the system.
You dropped the video “Majors vs. Minors,” and it features a discussion you had with Hot 97’s Ebro Darden. In recent weeks that station has gotten some backlash from people in the Hip Hop community because of the way they treated [Public Enemy's] Chuck D. Do you feel in any way vindicated for the points you were making during that interview where you suggested that mainstream radio doesn’t really represent Hip Hop culture?
Yeah, there was a time when Public Enemy was on the radio. Either that means the people that spin radio records - the DJs and the program directors - were different or that means Public Enemy is not making the same quality of records that they used to back in the day. It could be some of everything, but that’s what his point was. That it’s more of an issue of you not spinning the type of records as a DJ and as a programmer.
It’s just a natural cycle of life. When we first started out, Hip Hop was shunned by the majors, by the programmers. They were all like, “What’s that street crap?” So of course they wouldn’t program the records. Of course they wouldn't spin the records. “I’m not spinning that street crap!” That was the beginning. We broke the mold when we showed them you can’t stop the power.
Eventually, they said, “You know what. Let the DJs spin it.” They still said, “We have control over the station, but we’ll let the DJs spin it.” Eventually those programmers got pushed out, and we got cool Hip Hop programmers. Problem with that is those programmers - like with everybody - they start off uncomfortable, then they get comfortable. They start off having respect, then they start disrespecting when they get comfortable.
The programmers - people like Ebro - that at one time had a certain type of flare say, “You know what? I think it would be cool to go in this direction, so we can beef things up a little bit.” Whatever that plan was for him to try to beef things up wound up backfiring.
You’ve said that radio is a dying medium because of the Internet. Do you feel that way about major labels too? Do artists even need a major at this point?
I proved that. What people have to understand is that there’s no question you would get more exposure, but you get less money. That’s the problem. It’s like the Walmart theory. The reason why I don’t have my new sneakers in a place like Walmart is because Walmart would take 95% of what sells. They’re gonna give you 5%.
They’re gonna take 100 millions copies, so you’re gonna get rich because you got 5% of 100 million. But they make 95% of the money that you put out. They say, “That’s ours.” So let’s say they made $10 billion. You made $100 million. I feel you. I’m not mad at you at all. Go back to the hood and say, “At least I have $100 million.”
I’m not mad at that, but I personally could not do that. That was my choice. I can’t. I’d rather have $1 billion of my own money, than to say, “I’m trying to get light and shine, so I took $100 million and my label made $10 billion.” I can’t do it.
I showed them that with Nervous Records back in the day. Came out with my own label - Duck Down. A lot of people were like, “Are you kidding me?” Then we broke the mold, and showed them that it’s possible. Before us there really weren’t any independents out there. Everybody was on a major [label]. Everybody - Wu-Tang, Snoop Dogg, Death Row, Jay Z, whoever. You name them. They were on a major.
It seems like a lot of artists out now are deciding not to sign with majors.
If you sign to a major today you’re done. You might as well put your head on the chopping block, because they got something called a 360 deal. For most record labels right now, especially if you’re major, that’s not even an option. They’re automatically taking 360s. That was set up by [former Warner Music Group CEO] Lyor Cohen. Shout out to Lyor. Cool guy, but I would never sign a contract with him as far as that level. He’s a cool dude though.
As far as Lyor setting up the whole 360 concept, he did that because he said, “Hip Hop artists are doing a lot of work,” and the majors said, “We’re tired of putting out ‘MC Ra Ra’, and he sells platinum. Because he sells platinum we have all the rights to Ra Ra, but we don’t have the rights to the Ra Ra soap, the Ra Ra juice, or the Ra Ra fashion wear."
So if some major fashion company comes to MC Ra Ra and says, “I’ll give you $10 gazillion if you do something with me cause you’re hot right now,” the major labels sit back and say, “We don’t get none of this bread? We’re the ones who made him hot.” So the majors one day said we’re simply gonna create a 360 deal where everything you do we get a percentage of that.
Once again you look at it as something nice like, “360. That’s great. They’re gonna give me money for my clothes. They’re gonna assign a percentage of me to all of their areas, and if I move I got to give them bread.” That’s crazy.
You just dropped the joint album with P-Money. Is it possible you may do more collaborative projects? Maybe another one with 9th Wonder or KRS-One?
No question. People haven’t really gotten the chance to know what I’m all about. I’m an everybody person. I’m the person that’s trying to put everybody on. I’ve been doing that from the beginning. I put on Smif-N-Wessun. I put on Heltah Skeltah. I put on O.G.C. I put on the Boot Camp. I put on other people after that. I’ve always been putting people on.
People don’t know I had 9th Wonder. I had the B-Real from Cypress Hill project. KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Black Rob - I had a lot of projects on the low. I’m the person that when people say “I need somewhere to come and put out a project, and get it done right.” I say, “Alright, come to my spot, because we know how to move this through our system.” That’s what we’re all about.
The P-Money project is because we’re also international. We have Promise from Toronto. David Dallas from Australia. Now we got P-Money from New Zealand. I’ve always been an international artist and label. I think a lot of people don’t know as much about the business Buck as the artist Buck.
In part 1 of AllHipHop.com's interview, Buckshot talks about his new BackPack Travels album with P-Money, what aspect of New York Hip Hop he's not a fan of, and Hip Hop's association with the Illuminati. To read the article click here.
For more information about Buckshot and Duck Down Music visit duckdown.com.
Download Buckshot & P-Money’s BackPack Travels on iTunes.