I feel like doing something different today, so for the day, I’ve decided to dedicate my Twitter stream to a theme: Reasons I’m Thinking Of Becoming A Rapper.
I first met Bu Thiam a few months back in Atlanta. After speaking to him for a bit and seeing the types of moves he was making, I immediately thought of featuring him when I first lauched the site.
As co-CEO of Konvict Muzik, Bu is definitely a mogul in the making.
During my discussion with Bu, we spoke about his entry into the game, career aspirations and the rumours of Akon‘s country album.
Oh yeah, if you’re thinking he looks familiar, that’s because he’s also Akon’s brother. But don’t think he got his position just because of that. Bu makes his own moves and is steadily rising as one of the music game’s biggest executives.
It’s not easy maintaining a blog when you’re really out there bustin your behind to live up to the title of it.
I think I’ve already written about 5 or so half-posts on my blackberry while out there doing my bids; it’s just a matter of finding the time to post. I should be getting a little bit of downtime this coming weekend, so I’ll sit down at my PC and prepare some stuff for you.
In the meantime, I have something to keep you entertained. If you remember, a few weeks ago, I interviewed Conrad Dimanche from Bad Boy. While we didn’t go into it, he mentioned PMPWorldwide.com during the last portion of our interview.
PMPWorldwide.com is a marketplace for artist and producers to network and get access to other artists and producers looking to collaborate. It also serves as a great resource for producers looking to place music on the records of major label artists.
To further help aspiring producers, PMPWorldwide.com has teamed up with DJ Furious Styles (host of SHINE For The Unsigned on XM Satellite Radio) to release, “The Official PMP Mixtape”, a showcase for upcoming producers with commentary from acclaimed musicians Hi-Tek, Vinny Idol, Red Spyda and 88 Keys.
This mixtape is a great marketing tool, in that it showcases the music of upcoming producers to a larger audience, while also spotlighting PMP and DJ Furious Styles, as advocates of unsigned talent.
Earlier this week I featured Part 1 of my interview with Bad Boy A&R, Conrad Dimanche.
Below is the second half of the interview, where we discussed artist development, the importance of songwriting and… jerk chicken.
What do you look for when somebody pitches you a demo or somebody is trying to pitch you an artist?
Well some of the normal things that I always ask if the artist isn’t there and somebody’s talking to me about the artist; how old are they, what type of music, what’s the weight, how’s the personality, how long have you been working with them, what do they do for a living…things like that. I kinda check their character.
On top of asking about the music or before I hear the music, I kind of check different things about the person’s character, because no one wants to have a headache artist.
Are you able to hear past bad production or a bad engineer when listening to an artist and hear their individual talent?
I can definitely hear talent past bad mixes and bad production – just hear somebody who’s great with melodies or just a distinctive tone, even if the music is all fucked up. Just the wordplay that they use, be it a rapper or singer. I’ll be able to pick that out – past the nastiness.
Realistically speaking, how often will Bad Boy sign an act?
Well, there’s no science to that really. It’s just really as they come along. If we found 15 incredible artists that we love in one year, we would sign all 15 of them. I mean, if the budget permits really, because it comes down to having the money at the time for that quarter. You might have to wait until the next quarter and have an artist sit tight, if they’re gonna still be available. But there’s really no limit to that. It’s just about how our passion is for that artist
What steps do you take when developing an artist?
Artist development – there’s a lot of time spent in the studio I would say. This is before media training and making sure the look is right and getting a stylist in, but it’s a lot of time spent in the studio, just pinpointing the direction. You might test out and try different things, different songs, before we nail it. Because you could really build an album from one song.
Once you get that one song and figure okay this is it, we build off of that. And all the songs are going to be different, but there’s going to be a sonic continuity throughout the album that you could really find from one song.
How important is live performance when signing or developing an artist?
Live performance? Shit, I mean that’s very important. That sells a lot of records when an artist can put a show on. It can make or break an artist really. You could have a great album and great singles, but if you can’t do your thing on stage man, they’re gonna throw rocks at you. [laughs]
How important is it for an artist to be a songwriter? Is that a deciding factor for you to sign an artist?
Not really, but it’s definitely a bonus. It’s not a deciding factor – it can be, but it’s not a dealbreaker. If you have an incredible artist with an incredible voice but he or she can’t write. More so for a rapper. A rapper, I feel, needs to be able to write their own stuff. Especially because their budgets are usually smaller than an R&B act or a Pop act. So it’s like, where you might have the money allotted to be able to pay writers to come in – it’s not really a luxury most of the time with rappers – unless it’s somebody like Puff, where we’ll use budget.
What do you think about that though? In every genre of music, we acknowledge the fact that singers have songwriters. Yet in hip-hop, it’s taboo to have somebody write your lyrics. Do you think it’s unfair to rappers?
With rappers, I think a part that plays in that is as a rapper, you always want to have your street credibility, so if you have somebody writing about things you were supposed to have experienced, it kinda takes away your credibility. Somebody else gave you those words, you didn’t really experience all that shit.
What do you do to get over a creative slump?
I don’t have creative slumps.
I promise you, I don’t.
So let’s run through a few quick questions. I’ll ask you something and you just say the first thing that comes to mind.
Now or of all time?
Of all time
That’s hard. I have so many of them. I can’t pick just one.
Probably Jerk chicken.
Oh, and lasagna.
That’s gotta be my Blackberry.
Rap or R&B
[laughs] Good music
Lil Wayne or Jay Z
Chris Brown or Omarion
Creativity or Marketability
Old School or New School
I’m not a journalist by any means, but I had a chance to sit down and speak with Conrad Dimanche recently and figured why not interview him for the site.
For those of you who are not familiar with Conrad; he’s the Senior Director of A&R for Bad Boy Records. He’s responsible for all the music that comes out from Diddy’s music machine
During our conversation, we spoke about getting into the field of A&R, developing artists and the challenges he faces on a regular basis.
When did you first become interested in hip-hop; as a fan and also professionally?
Oh man as a fan, that would probably have be [pause]… 89…88. I was just a kid. MC Spoonie G, Flash and the Furious Five. As a business, that was 95. I started making the transition like 94-95. That’s when I picked up my DJ. I started off as a manager [for] DJ D-Lyfe.
There aren’t any programs or schools that teach you to be an A&R; how can someone get their start in the A&R field?
Well absolutely, I would say as an intern. That’s the only way I have ever known anyone to get their start because you it’s not like something you can go to school for. You can’t go get a Doctor’s degree in A&R.
It’s only the experience and learning how to make music. A&R is more than making music, more than signing good acts; it’s a lot of business that goes in between. A lot of business.. you can read about the business, but it’s nothing like the experience also. It’s also a lot of managing relationships. The most powerful A&R is the guy who can pick up the phone and get the hottest producer on the phone, the hottest artist on the phone and get them to the studio like that.
Is there something in particular you look for in an intern? A certain kind of background maybe?
Well you know I don’t try out interns too much in the A&R department. I find that a lot of people are not built the way I was built and the way Harve [Harve Pierre, VP of Bad Boy Records] and Puff are built. The grind you have to do, what you have to be willing to sacrifice to do it. A lot of interns that I’ve tried, they’re there for a few months and then they’re gone, telling me they’ve got to get a job and they don’t even have a family. So me, coming from the perspective of a person that… I had a family and gave up everything to work for nothing to follow my dream. It’s like, you’re telling me you need a job because you can’t buy lunch for yourself and I couldn’t buy dinner for my family – I can’t even understand that.
Describe a typical day in your life.
A typical day, I get up about 9 in the morning, I jump right on my Blackberry; emails make the world go round today. Man, a bunch of phone calls – I deal with all the artist managers, the artists themselves, the producers. So I spend my day having meetings with producers, writers… in the early part of my day; once I get into the office.
3–4 o’clock there’s recording sessions. The artists come in; at Bad Boy we have our own home base studio, Daddy’s House. I live at Daddy’s House; I’m rarely in the office. So I have all my meetings [with] writers and producers, in the early part of the day. When the artists come in we start recording. In between that time, I’m on the phone. Damn near all day – walking in and out of the sessions, checking on the sessions. I work very closely – hands on – with the artists and the producers. I’m not a producer that makes beats, but I work very closely telling the producer, what the sound is supposed to be, what’s the sound for every artist. It’s almost like a director for a movie, picking out the scenes and making sure the casting is correct. But it’s really just building the movie, which is the album – from the first ad lib that’s laid to mastering and sequencing the album.
There’s a lot that goes in between; there’s a lot of negotiating with the producers, keeping the artists in pocket… even [laughs], even consulting the artists. Sometimes I’m like their psychologist. You got a roster of 20 artists and everyone has different personalities, all their managers have different personalities, they all have different issues with the company – so it’s like I have to put out the fire, keep the creative juices flowing, keep all the negative talk to a minimum and keep everyone with a positive attitude no matter what’s going on or who’s cheque might’ve been late or whatever happens – and deliver the albums on time and within the budget.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
Probably the hours. The hours and just keeping up with somebody like Puff – the pressure of constantly having to deliver great records. Any A&R’s job, it’s like you’re only as hot as your last hit record or your last great album. Fortunately, I think it was 2006 into 2007; I had three number one albums – in the one year. So I maintain and bust my ass, but I think the hardest part is just keeping up – stamina. Just keeping it going.
How do you find new talent?
Music is the gas for any record company to move forward. Without music, there’s no marketing, there’s nothing to promote. If that’s the gas, then I gotta pump premium gas into our machine constantly. And with that is constantly having fresh new songwriters, fresh new producers, from all over the world. So I gotta get out there, and when I can’t get out there, I keep a network of people all over the world who keep their ear to the streets for me and let me know when there’s something I need to listen to. And then, I’m just the first line of defense that takes it to Puff; just the first pair of ears and if I think it’s good enough then I take it to him.
What are some of the craziest stunts people have pulled to get their demo to you?
Oh man, people have snuck into the studio, bought a one-way ticket from wherever they were coming from and don’t even know how to get back. I’ve seen people sleep inside of their car, parked in front of the studio for days at a time, until they could get somebody to listen. I remember one guy had a big long t-shirt on – it was white and it came down to here [stands up and reaches to his knees] and it just said “I Make Beats” on it.
I stopped. I listened to his beats on his walkman, cause I thought was cool. It was a real innovative idea – you make beats, well let me hear something. I just walked up to him like “let me hear something”. So that was cool.
Next Selection‘s Cassie is back with a new song from the Step Up 2 Soundtrack, called Is It You? I know the track isn’t new new, but I’ve been hearing this track non-stop on radio and never knew who sang it until now. I think the Pop/Hot AC vibe suits her well.