Success isn’t necessarily a science.
Most individuals come upon it after much trial, tribulation, and experimentation. They push themselves to keep taking risks, even if they don’t seem to be getting anywhere.
There is no better teacher than mistakes – your own, or even the ones others make. But you’ll never create learning opportunities for yourself unless you keep taking increasingly bigger risks. This is one of the reasons so many try and fail.
If you want to see your career skyrocket, keep learning and keep pushing ahead no matter what happens. Here are four things you can learn from big rappers.
1. You Can Get Major Label Distribution Without A Record Contract
If you haven’t heard of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ massive success as independents, then you probably haven’t been paying attention to headlines in the music industry in the last four to five years.
True, they did record their album without major label backing. But recognizing the value of radio airplay, they turned to Alternative Distribution Alliance, the independent music and film distribution arm of Warner Music Group.
This isn’t cheating – it’s smart! This partnership enabled them to get The Heist on the radio like big-time artists without ties to a record contract. That baggage would have just weighted them down. They retained control of their music, which meant more money in their pockets too.
Independent artists won’t necessarily be able to emulate this success step by step, as major labels aren’t usually amenable to making agreements of this nature. But you can still leverage services like Bryan Farrish Promotion to create effective radio campaigns that will get you the airplay and exposure you need to take your music to the next level.
Lesson #1: don’t underestimate the value of radio.
Lesson #2: work with the right entities to get your music played and promoted on the radio.
2. Rappers Should Identify With Their Audience
Chance the Rapper is not a major label artist, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the publicity and attention he’s been getting.
A series of increasingly successful mixtapes and constant touring eventually led to his “mainstream” status.
But how exactly did he go from high school slouch to one of Chicago’s Outstanding Youth of the Year?
Read any article about Chance, and this transformation appears to be a bit of a mystery. But that’s because at the core of his success is an old-fashioned, solid work ethic. He recorded, toured, shot videos, got a manager, and began to see his music not as a hobby but as a career. He put in the legwork.
We also can’t discount his sense of humor, his enigmatic demeanor, and good branding. He seems to understand his audience in a way that many rappers and musicians simply don’t, and that magnetized him to listeners.
Lesson #1: be willing to work hard. Keep releasing music, even if no one seems to be paying attention.
Lesson #2: know who your audience is, and create music with them in mind. Also be true to yourself.
3. Your Life Experiences Can Be Turned Into Artistic Rap Gold
The “King of West Coast Rap”, Kendrick Lamar, grew up around drugs and violence. But at eight-years-old, he had an encounter with Dr. Dre and Tupac that left a lasting impression on him.
At 13, he began writing his own raps, and at 16, he recorded and released a mixtape for the first time. Already showing considerable promise, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith brought him into the studio. Allegedly, he rapped until Tiffith granted him a deal.
Meanwhile, chaos thrived all around him, with friends and family members going to jail and passing away. A song off of another mixtape, “Average Joe”, caught the attention of Dre, for the gritty reality it portrayed.
good kid m.A.A.d. city is the concept album that eventually propelled Lamar to the top.
Many rappers, like Eminem, praise Lamar’s ability to create cohesive albums in which one song effectively ties into the next.
What can we attribute Lamar’s success to?
Lesson #1: don’t take “no” for an answer. Lamar’s impressive skills as a rapper alone would not have landed him a deal if he hadn’t been willing to work for it.
Lesson #2: pull from your life experiences and don’t fear making artistic choices others might view as overly indulgent or cerebral.
4. Work Hard, Persevere & Keep Your Focus
Pitbull isn’t exactly the standard candidate for success, but that should increase your belief in yourself, not squash it.
Some publications list him as one of the all-time worst rappers. He isn’t known for his talent. Plus, he doesn’t necessarily have model good-looks.
Surprising, then, that his career – which has spanned over a decade – has outlasted many competitors.
His first album, M.I.A.M.I. didn’t yield any hits. Despite his poor flow and lyrical content, his notoriety led to the formation of Bad Boy Latino with Sean Combs.
In spite of this partnership, his second and third albums didn’t fare that well. His fourth album, Rebelution is what finally led to mainstream success. Subsequently, he appeared on Jennifer Lopez’ “On the Floor”, which was a worldwide #1 hit.
Lesson #1: talent, looks, and even “flow” isn’t everything as a rapper. You can have a long-lasting career if you persevere and keep your focus.
Lesson #2: don’t let the naysayers steal your dream. Pitbull has been – and will likely continue to be – criticized; for his lack of talent, for riding on the coattails of other popular artists, and so on. That didn’t stop him from pursuing the dream.
Did you have any new brainwaves or insights? Are you ready to take the next step in your career?
Many assume that success is an offspring of perfection – of having all of your ducks in a row. This is an ideal and not a reality. Most successful people actually have a lot of fires to put out!
So don’t aim for perfection. Set your sights on a worthy goal, and start working towards it. You don’t have to aspire to the big-time. But whatever level you want to build towards, recognize that it will take more time and effort than you ever imagined.