The conversation around artists and record labels has been coming to a head recently. It seems that with Lil Nas X’s videos, countless Grammy critiques and record label tomfoolery, the music industry is seeing a totemic rise in its artist’s integrity.
What we’re talking about here are the lengths to which a record label handles an artist and to which length an artist should or could execute their own vision.
The incredibly talented singer/actress, Tinashe is releasing her newest studio album 333 soon and Rolling Stone had an early scoop in late 2020 about the process and her thoughts on the album nearing its completion.
While the interview was overall rudimentary, Tinashe dropped some important information on her experience with the music industry.
“We don’t talk enough about how genres are connected with how we look at race and the way that artists are placed in genres like how certain artists are pop versus R&B. I think a lot of genres were created to celebrate Black culture,” said Tinashe.
The fight now is almost like some David & Goliath type stuff, with huge record labels monopolizing streaming but still wanting to package artists into easily accessible formats and artists wanting to express themselves freely. Where once a record label was the only ticket to being heard on a large platform, the world today allowed bedroom pop to become a genre, mostly on its own.
It’s definitely the biggest problem in the industry right now, with new artists coming in and blowing up nearly every day there’s no telling who or what will be the champion to change the way things are distributed. But as they say, it all comes from the top.
So who’s at the top right now that talks about this? Drake? No way in Nike hell. Kanye? No way in Gap/Mercedes hell. Lil Wayne? He’s got a podcast, so let him be. Well, there’s Tyler, the Creator who just won a grammy and mentioned that the Urban Pop category was “the politically correct way of saying the ‘N word’.” He might work!
Tyler, the Creator has been a headlining favorite since his catapult to fame in 09. The guy just knows what’s up and really cares about music in such an educated and passionate way that you can’t not love what he loves because he loves what we all love.
But more than that, he’s never been part of a major label, well he has but his label just partnered with other labels it’s complicated but it works for him. Tyler has consistently had the same team put out his stuff since he started. The biggest part is that Tyler is not like many rappers nowadays that catch a bag and go buy a house in the nice part of Atlanta and come back every couple of years with a few bangers, he’s not selling you water.
What’s more impressive is his most recent interview with Hot 97. And it’s not just me who sees that what Tyler’s saying is important for the music industry. Even Virgil Abloh shared a snippet from the interview captioning, “I woke up wanting to teach a dual lecture at Howard & Harvard university at the exact same time, and if I do it, this would be the first required text to study.”
Now I’m not sure about Abloh’s lecture credits, I’m sure he can sell anything since he made himself from selling a white T, but it doesn’t really matter because what he’s mentioning is important for artists today.
One of the biggest names in music today is criticizing his own demographic as well as his accolades because he doesn’t think they’re being observed properly.
In his interview, Tyler talks about why he loves people that get super into one thing, he says “geeks are so important. That’s the thing about the U.S. that’s sorta trash right now. It feels like it’s a snake eating its own tail” (40:30).
What he’s talking about is the culture of the online world and its relationship with hip hop. The translation of hip-hop culture on the corner to on the web has had its fair share of issues. In the streets, it might be normal to not ever listen to Lil Nas X, but online it’s a whole other world. Tyler talks about how this duality of identity is so mixed up it’s made people more antagonistic and only able to project hate.
Tyler says, “it’s all a reference point, the guy goin ‘I don’t know that shit, I’m outside’ he’s not wrong, that’s all he hears when he’s outside” (50:00).
That’s exactly the issue. When you’re outside it makes sense to like what you like because it’s only what you’ve seen. Tyler bridges that gap between the online and outside. He grew up in the age of technology just like us and recognizes that there’s a large disconnect that persists in the culture today.
That disconnect is only promoted by the record industries because that’s what is profitable. But, like Tyler warns, “people don’t know what that does to some 12-year-old dark skin kid.” It does a lot.
What Virgil saw in this interview is what we should be talking about when considering new artists and their genres. This convoluted marketplace of the internet has created such a divisive gatekeeping mentality when it comes to music that it just ends up making the audience look bad.
It would seem that today when there are a million different genres on the internet, we would simply be able to find and love the niche we like. But instead, it turns into a game of what’s the best and who is doing it all the best. It turns quality into quantity because our gauge for greatness is unfortunately based on numbers today.
Tyler is on some shit that has to really be taught, to unapologetically do yourself and be interested in whatever you’re interested in no matter what. With all the access in the world, it’s a shame that people seek comfort and find that little corner just for themselves to defend. Yeah, we’re a tribal species but come on man, it’s funky out here.
All this to say, listen to whatever you want, love it however you want. More importantly, listen to your mom and don’t say anything unless it’s a good thing.
Go Tyler, Lil Nas, Doja, Tinashe, anyone doing their thing and getting annoying questions about it. I see you, I see the shoddy journalism at work. If ever you wanna talk about artistry please hit us up at No Ghostwriter, we’d love to hear about what you geek out over.
Why is this important to talk about? Because the more we divide the easier it is to be antagonistic. Hip hop is centered around the idea of communicating, but it seems like lately, all we’re doing is building walls.