Where is the money in underground hip-hop?

You wake up in your twin size bed at your mother’s house. The alarm clock
on the cellular phone is blasting your favorite Biggie Smalls song. You check
out the birth certificate that needs to be brought to the DMV. You look at
the first ALL THAT open mic flier from the Nuyorican Poets Caf?© you rocked
5 years ago. Then the snooze button is mauled by your microphone hand and
its back off to dream of that college emcee battle you should’ve won. 30 minutes
later after you take second place in your clouds while counting cows and spitting
flows for no prize money, you wake up again. You are late for everything in
real life. And to top it all off with your surreal life, you still have not
released any product, and are simply the “slept-on” veteran of the open mic
scene. Time is running out.

Does this
sound like someone you know? Have you looked in the mirror and figured out
that although you are embarrassed to say it, it might be you?

If it
is you, please don’t be saddened. This is the typical story of many emcees
in the game today on the underground scene. But it is not anyone’s fault.
It is not the fact that emcees are not that nice. Fact is, the 12″ vinyl
era, which seemed to die out in 1999 to early 2000’s is only the fault of
a progressive country (cd deejays!). Without prior 12″ records that get the
fans download game up on ever so-popular sites like www.ughh.com,
what record label is honestly trying to put you out? And unless you are out
in the Midwest with RHYMESAYERS or connected to El-P’s DEFINITIVE JUX (two
labels who have both monopolized the underground community), how in Hashem’s
name can you get the music out? Besides that, how can you start making money
on an underground level?

 
“We started our own movement called EOW, End of the Weak,” stated Nonezeo,
who formed a tag team with Big Zoo (5 time MTV DirectFX battle champ) at his
days in Teaneck (NJ) high school. “First I started off rhyming, and me and
Zoo used to meet at lunch comparing what was on different radio shows. Then
the beats came. I always loved all kinds of music.”

The “movement”
they speak of, which is held at the Pyramid (Avenue A between 6th
and 7th street) every Sunday for over the last five years has grown
into the most affluent and prestigious open mic in the entire U.S for underground.
To say that is not an understatement, for no other “movement” has been capable
of inventing its own “rap Olympics,” called the Emcee Challenge, which has
made its way for a US tour, a European tour, and set up satellite outposts
through out Europe similar to home base in NYC.

With more than a few people involved, how can this movement generate money?

“I think the only time in all these years where we didn’t make money on an
event was a Superbowl and 9/11,” replied Nonezeo. “Every year we will have
to deal with Superbowl Sunday.”

Not too bad I must say, for 52 weeks out of the year, times five years plus!
On top of this, the Dojo recording studio, is easily broadcasted for its good
quality during the weekly events, and at 30-40 hours a week, on top of the
option of buying quality beats, and releasing various compilations including
an award winning album, it’s a one stop shop for the upcoming emcee to make
moves with a foundation that has been permanently etched in stone so far this
21st century.

For most emcees who have been out already for a few years, like Y@K
BALLZ, who garnered underground fame for his legendary Fondle’em (Bobbito’s
label) and Definitive Jux 12″ releases along with his Eastern Conference
LP My Claim, money can be made on this underground level. “12’s
used to be enough to have some change in your pocket. Now
its shows and royalty checks if you get them. For “the missing cassettes,”
I pressed it up on self-funds because I could.
Same reason why labels press shit up. Because they can. Artists deserve every penny for anything
they create.”

For those already out there with a loyal fan base and an extensive anthology,
unreleased material from the emcee is a treat to any diehard fan, and a wise
decision for the weight of his/her pockets.

On another note, the mixtape scene is an outlet for any emcee, no matter
how wack he/she is, with at least one penny worth of hustle inside them, to
get the name out and grab the opportunity to feature other accomplished acts.
Not only is it a business card and press material for the artist, but it is
cheap (around 700 bucks for 1000 copies), grabs instant cash after performances,
and it gets money to other featured acts, many times while they are preparing
their next big release.

 After conversating with DJ Fusion, (88.7 wrsu  “the fusebox”)
about the money situation for artists on the underground, she simply expressed
that “if your live show ain’t all that, the word of mouth won’t spread.” I
guess she is right. You will be that kid in the mirror, talking about the
second place battle that one time, and the first open mic you came off so
nice at 5 years ago. Is there any chance to be saved?

Well…

If you are still living at your mother’s house and are allowed to use her
computer, the revolution of MYSPACE.COM, and the endless connections able
to be made to hip hop heads around the globe, might get you somewhere in the
game considering you make the right connections, or you grab the eyes of lonely
fans with comments from lots of hot chicks about your music. MP3s are a good
way to get your self into the ipods of many college students and show promoters.
But if shows are the easiest way to make money, it wouldn’t hurt to leave
a clip of your live show, given that it is the best way for a person to know
why the hell they would take a chance on giving you a gig.     

In closing for my inaugural week, I am proud to announce that the money is
out there fellow emcees and home made record label execs! Get your running
sneakers on, post up outside your college student center, spit freestyles,
guzzle gefilta fish juice and sell a CD!! This is my best advice for now.
Oh yeah, tell them that you wont take “no” for an answer and KOSHA DILLZ said
it was ok to get da duh from you.

Special thanks goes to:

 Nonezeo of EOW (www.endoftheweak.com)
Go get official at the dojo.

Y@K BALLZ of the Weathermen, purchase his “missing
cassettes” at www.yakballz.com, the illest “unreleased”
hip-hop cd you can fetch this year!

 DJ FUSION of the FUSEBOX (88.7 wrsu-rutgers radio) Wednesday nights
with that crazy dude JON JUDAH 12am –2am www.wrsu.org live streaming. www.myspace.com/fuseboxradio for
all sites playing the show around the globe!

Be sure to add KOSHA DILLZ at www.myspace.com/koshadillzinyomouf

www.illunderground.com support the chart
breaking 12″ and download hairy chest 2 Hollywood  (prod. By DJ ABSURD)
for a limited time only! Check for shows!

For articles, interviews, etc…hit him at kronobiggy@aol.com

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