AVG (Audio/Visual Gem): Joell Ortiz’s “Food for Thought”

I found this video on my dude Cal Ullman’s Hip Hop & Libertarianism blog. Check him out as he brings a fresh(er) perspective to the grand world of hip hop.

This song by Slaughterhouse member, Joell Ortiz,  is a take on Common’s classic ode to hip hop – “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” but what got me is the clever usage of Twitter for the video concept. Complete with well-placed @replies and RTs, it is a pretty slick idea for a video. Not to mention, the lyrics by Mr. Ortiz are pretty terrific too.  They probably should have actually recorded the tweets, so it didn’t look like it was Photoshopped. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. Check it out though, it is dope.

Music Marketing Advice: Be a Friend First, Artist Last

First, I want to say thanks to everyone’s feedback and criticism on my “value of relationships” piece. Personal connections are a lot more powerful than I have been willing to accept, because I used to feel as if superior talent and skill should carry an individual to greatness. Well, talent and skill are fairly subjective in nature when it comes to the arts. I mean, initially, it is to easy to distinguish what may be good or bad in the most basic of stages, but as one delves deeper into minuscule details it becomes an issue of taste. While I may not dig Mike Jones‘ music, I cannot hate on the thousands of people that do. It is just time to concede that there is room for everyone to get a little limelight.

Here at Frying in Vein, we recognize everyone’s entitlement to creative expression, whether we like it or not. If someone else thinks it is good, then let it be so. This doctrine is what makes the current music industry a befuddling mess. If we can just let anyone make music and expect to be considered a good musician based on one vote, then how do you set yourself apart from the pack? Well… it’s simple really, treat your artistry like a church and build a ministry on it. Evangelists are going to be your best weapons in blowing up in your respective music scenes.

Consider this a continuation of the message I tried to convey in my surface review of Mayer Hawthorne’s A Strange Arrangement. Basically, I find the music I enjoy the most these days are records that I have a personal connection with the artists. While most of these artists are at least acquaintances and many times good friends, connections can be had through reading a bio and identifying with it or checking out an interview and appreciating whatever the act has to say. This connection pushes me to want to share. Whether it be the story behind the music or how cool the artist is, it does not matter. It goes hand-in-hand with PR, “any news is good news.”

I write this from the perspective of “the fan.” You know, those people that you seek to make you feel cool and possibly make you rich or something. While I dabble in music myself, I am not thinking like an artist when I talk about relationship building and how important it is in the Internet Age.

Think about it. How many shows have you gone to where a really subpar artist seemingly had the best show because he/she/they brought the most people to cheer on their performance? I bet that made you so mad, right? Now does your anger ever make you wonder how that person/group got so many people to attend his/her/their performance?

My position on this whole scenario is this, friends are the best thing you can have as an artist. You should be trying to make as many quality connections as you can. We all know what friends do for one another. Why not leverage that power? Instead of spending so much time telling people to “buy [your] stuff,” why not spend more time making real connections with real people?

Again, think about organized religion and how they gain millions of followers based on the zeal of real people. I wish Billy Graham would co-sign my art; I would be made for life! In short, your friends can be your biggest evangelists.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Hit me up in the comments below.

The Value of Relationships: Why I Really Like A Strange Arrangement

I was recently thinking about my long tail keywords that would be associated with my personal brand.  Thoughts on what I have been splattering all over the interwebs had me realizing that I obviously have a certain preference for artists I know personally.  You know what though, there is nothing wrong with that. At first, I figured it was my own ego finding a way to keep itself entertained, but that is far from the case. There are new artists I do not know at all that I check for on a consistent basis, but I find that there is a greater economy of music that comes from people I actually know and it is just as good as any music that comes from anywhere else.

I am reminded of a quote by Sole, where he said:

So eMCees I ain’t feeling you if I don’t know your real name.

Bottle of Humans

Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you I quote this lyric often. After being an avid rap listener for 20+ years, I believe I have just about heard it all. There is little that really moves me anymore in the lyrical space. Occasionally, a Danny Brown comes along and reminds me of the good old days, but that is more nostalgia than refreshing brain stimulation. What moves me now is to hear “inside information” in a song provided by an artist that has shared a little something with me, regardless if it was voluntary or not.

My first experience with this was with the group Starving Artists Crew, who I can admit now that I really did not like at first if not for my man DJ Benny Ben letting me hear a taped recording of “Ill Na Na” in his car. After hearing said song, I found these guys had built a website promoting their latest 12″ and they had a message board on it. I used to post on this forum a ton and my interaction with the crew led to me finally meeting them in Detroit years ago. At the time of me meeting them, these guys had Major Dude status to me. They were selling crazy records overseas and even quite a bit in the States, so when I met them in real life I did not know what to expect. Well, they embraced me like someone they knew for years and it has been that way ever since. I am really close with a lot of guys in the extended crew.  Their debut album Up Pops the SAC is one of my favorite hip hop records, mainly because I know every little nuance of the record from firsthand accounts from members of the group. I cannot imagine what it would be like to listen to it without knowing the group how I know them.

I give this wordy anecdote to set up my brief thoughts on Mayer Hawthorne’s viral beast of a debut album – A Strange Arrangement (out now on iTunes, due to ship from Stones Throw very shortly). Basically, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you have seen me mention this artist several times. “Staunch supporter” would not exactly be a misnomer at the outset, so it might as well be said that I do know Mr. Hawthorne as “Haircut” or “Drew” as those closer to him know him as. I knew of him before “the YouTube video” as the DJ/producer for Athletic Mic League and the producer/rapper/singer for Now On. Better yet, I knew him as a buddy who I happened to share a common passion – record collecting. I have gone digging and traded records with Drew in the past. I envied his old-school-but-functional jukebox that played 45s. For the longest time, he was just Haircut the beatdigger; the beatdigger who knew his breaks. It is this background knowledge that I have that allows me to appreciate his music a lot more. That is not totally why I enjoy his music though.

When I listen to a song like “The Ills,” I hear the distinct evocation of Curtis Mayfield. From the drum solo (an interpolation from Mayfield’s seminal classic “Move on Up”) to the falsetto vocal, it wreaks of a style jack. If I did not know Drew though, I do not know if I would appreciate it as much. You see, I am not the biggest soul/R&B guy. I prefer my soulful crooning to have some uniqueness to it, but I also prefer that it stays rooted in the great stuff that was made in the 60s and 70s. I have a short amount of bandwidth for most contemporary stuff because it usually falls short of what I need to hear. In this case, Mayer Hawthorne keeps his sound rooted in the classic styling of a forgotten era, but he borrows quite a bit. Then again, there is no one else that has really done a project like this, which makes it unique.

With all this said, there definitely should be some critical questions asked about how I feel really about this record though. Is A Strange Arrangement the best homage to 60s doo wop and soul? Honestly, no. Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi helped Amy Winehouse do that, with Raphael Saadiq coming into close second. A Strange Arrangement is more a niche record for open-minded record collector geeks like me than it is a genius piece of music. Someone might say it is for the cooler-than-you hipster set. As much as I do not want to go there, I cannot really disagree. That does not make it a bad record by any stretch of the imagination though. While it would be better if Drew spent a little more time developing his sound for A Strange Arrangement to have more swing and denser rhythm, but I know my dude never set out to be king doo wop singer/songwriter. More than anything, he is a wonderful victim of viral attraction. Did he live up to the hype that he has had bestowed upon his by the likes of fellow BES crooners Justin Timberlake and John Mayer? I would say the verdict is out and the people will soon decide. Mayer has been clear from the beginning of how he came to make the music and he has always gave respects to his influences, which ring ever so brightly over the course of his songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland and Curtis Mayfield should be proud of his strong adaptations of styles from their vast catalogues.

I have yet to read any “real reviews” of A Strange Arrangement, but I wanted to separate my personal proclivities from my usual more objective mind. I highly recommend this record to anyone that loves “feel good music,” but what I really want to get across is that a personal connection with an artist can go a long way. ARTISTS – TAKE NOTE: IT BEHOOVES YOU TO TRY TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS FIRST BEFORE HOCKING YOUR WARES. You might find that people will be more receptive to your music if they like you.

The Danny Brown Movie (trailer)

In my draft queue for this site, I have a really crappy write-up I did on Danny Brown, who happens to be one of my favorite Detroit eMCees at the moment. He came out of nowhere, hit the scene firing and killed anyone thinking of filling the void of the Detroit hip hop space first. Hot Soup put Detroit hip hop back on the map in 2008, what can I say. I wanted to write on the significance of Danny’s comeuppance, but I could not get the right words together. Epic passages were on my mind, but a part of me thinks it was too early for that.

That is okay though. Danny has had the innanetz going nuts. He did not need my seal of approval to make that happen. I mean, no one really does, but as a writer and a tastemaker it helps to show where my interests lie, so I am going to take my time and do a modest write-up.

Apparently Danny has been a busy guy. He has a documentary about his life coming soon, a couple mixtapes and The Hybrid, which is supposed to be an official album. In fact, he self-released one of his “mixtapes” on his blog a couple weeks ago. The project is called Browntown, which was tracks from the album he was making for Roc-a-fella Records (remember them?). The songs are much more polished than what many will be used to from Hot Soup, but they are very solid. You can download the songs here. I personally like “R.E.S.E.V.O.R.D.O.G.S.” a lot and the bonus freestyle.

Danny is a personable geek, just read his blog. It is obvious he gets how to interact with folks as he is comfortable being himself and shows no concern about what folks may think. He can rest assure that his fans are going to support him because they will actually know him as a real person, not as a fantasy or diety. You can find him on Twitter (@XDannyXBrownX), facebook and MySpace.

Check out the trailer for The Danny Brown Movie, filmed, produced and edited by Nic Notion (creator of many AVGs). Bang Browntown and stay tuned into Brown’s channel as I predict he has got some !$#t for our @$$!

Music Industry Prediction: Rise of the Personable Geeks

I know I have been on a bit of a hiatus, but don’t let the tumbleweeds fool ya.  There has been a lot going on in the world of music and culture.  I know if you are not getting your fix here, then you’re getting it elsewhere.  C’mon, it never stops, right?  We might get weary of the onslaught of material, especially as it gets repetitive, but it never ceases to be produced.  That is one of the reasons why I took a break.  The big question of “why am I doing this?” had to be addressed and it was not taking shrugged shoulders for an answer.  I am back though and ready for duty!  I hope you will be rejoin me.

As the Peer Pressure Cooker, it seems to be my personal calling to sift through the items on the conveyor belt, survey them and give an appropriate marking to categorize its use.  Taxing as it is, gratification has come from a lot of unexpected places, which keeps me at it.  I have been most interested in the seemingly-distraught music industry as it tries to find its way again to financial prominence.  While the big guns (Universal, Warner Music, etc) have not found anything that they are cool with shooting yet, there are some smaller pistols that are liking these new targets just fine.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk of the “new business model” for music professionals, which requires a throwback approach – and I do mean throwback… like pre-1950s – where artists actually have to connect with their fans in personal ways.  Instead of expecting a label to manage your interaction with fans you barely know, the job is now more the artist’s responsibility.  I was inspired to finally break my web silence on the matter after reading a blog about Imogen Heap’s usage of SM tools (nice piece written by Colette Weintraub of Deep Dive Marketing) to keep her fans engaged with a two-year recording process for her upcoming album.  Ms. Weintraub goes through a comprehensive listing of everything Heap’s done to build an organic following, which includes a Twitter following that is bound to hit 7 figures at any moment.  I want to make an emphasis on the word “organic” as that is the key component to the steady build in Heap notoriety.  However orchestrated her marketing process may be, it is not done in a mechanic or robotic way.  It seems that Ms. Heap personally has been at the helm the entire way.  More artists need to take such control of their existences.

The thing about Imogen Heap though is that she benefits from being the lead singer of an already-established band, so it is hard to motivate lesser-knowns with her success when they know she already had a bit of help.  Not to mention that her record will be released on a major label, I know we cannot get indies too excited about things just yet.  Although, I have one case study to share that may aid in quelling their anxiety levels.

Mayer Hawthorne (photo by Doug Coombe)

Mayer Hawthorne (Stones Throw Records)

If you have never heard of this guy, that is not a big deal.  You were probably hanging out in your silo and news had not quite got to you yet.  Here is the deal – one of the things you hear a lot on the internet is the idea of “going viral.”  If you are an upcoming artist, then you should long to be some sort of virus on the internet because that means you’re infecting, er, affecting people.  While Hawthorne’s web buzz is modest, it is not to be overlooked.  As his record label as of a couple weeks back had not spent a dime on promoting Hawthorne’s first two singles, sources tell me.  It only took a YouTube video of a turntable playing the a-side of his red, heart-shaped vinyl 45 to sell 1000 copies in less than a few weeks.  Mind you, before this, no one really knew who this guy was.  In a way, most still do not know.  All they know is that they like the music.

I could go on about how I know the man you and Justin Timberlake know as Mayer Hawthorne as DJ Haircut of Athletic Mic League and Now On or Drew, my old record collecting buddy, but I would be digressing.  The fact of the matter is, someone I know is experiencing the power of the internet firsthand.  It is whimsical.  It is erratic.  It is unknowing, but what it is not is boring or predictable.  Mayer Hawthorne looks to be the next flagship artist for a boutique label imprint out of Los Angeles, California.  His buzz is so strong that, if played right, he may just be on easy street – Imogen Heap-style.  Google or Bing him and see for yourself.  The YouTube numbers do not lie; his sold-out vinyl singles do not lie.

Now you can find Mayer Hawthorne on Twitter.  He is not as personable as Ms. Heap is, so the question then would be, will that be to his detriment?  As a guy that made a couple doo wop songs for fun under a porn star alias, it is understandable that he is not as organized as Heap.  If he were more engaged with his newfound fans, would he gain more of a groundswell in interest for his upcoming debut album?  Let me know what you think in the comments.

While you’re at it, check out Hawthorne’s latest video for his cover of The New Holidays’ “Maybe So, Maybe No.” A Strange Arrangement is going to be released on 9/9/09 on Stones Throw Records.