Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Am An Asshole (Yes, I Know!!!!)

Asshole

a.
a stupid, mean, or contemptible person.
b.
the worst part of a place or thing.

I can't help it.  I'm an ass.  As a producer I have to be.  The reasons are simple enough for ME to understand, but not so for those who have worked with me.  In a song I produced, one of my ex-artist said this line:

"Rhyme schemes never stay parallel/
Shep stays coaching us hard like Bill Parcells/
But I'm like fuck it - oh well..."

That's' not lie.  All of the artist that I've ever had the pleasure (& pain) of working with under my wing I stayed on their ass about lyrical content.  It's important & even more important as ever these days.  A million people in the world want to be rap stars.  Technology these days makes creating home musical recording equipment even easier to obtain.  There is a flood of music out there.  There is almost no way to decipher it all.  YOU HAVE TO STAND OUT!

If you let artist get their way all of the time, 9 times out of 10 they won't be thinking about that aspect.  You got the ones that wanna sound like Jay Z, or Wayne, or for the females Nicki Minaj, or the most annoying of them all, Gucci & Waka.  That's not attractive to my ears running a record label.  I don't want to be known for putting out clones of other acts.

I am an asshole on many levels.  Like with R&B singers (or "so-called").  Im sorry, if you can't hit those notes right you are not a singer.  You just make noises with your vocal chords.  I'll make a "singer" redo 50 takes if that's what it took to make sure the content being sang was done right (of course I won't actually do 50 takes)!  Luckily for me I haven't had to do that in a long time.  I'll talk shit about you to your face if you come in mine talking about you can sing & I ask you to sing some simple shit & you fuck it up.  I DON'T BELIEVE IN AUTO-TUNE to doctor vocals so dramatically that you have to sound like T-Pain in order for it to make harmonic sense.  I will not work myself to death to make sure your voice sounds right on Pro Tools when all you have to do is sing it correctly...right from the jump.  I use Auto-Tune  & other products like it very conservatively & with lots of caution.

I hate beats that just go on & on & on with no soul.  I don't do "one finger" beats often.  I am a musician!  That involves me hitting more that three notes on my piano or keyboard.  That involves me using more than 808's & claps on all of my beats.  That involves me using various tempos & swings in my drum patterns.  If I hear producer's beats that sounds the opposite of that I won't even pay it any attention.

I like rap content with weight.  That means that the rap has to be real as well as entertaining.  It has to be solid as well as compilable.  I can get down with a non-lyrical MC if he/she attempts to talk about something...ANYTHING real & anything that is not a fad or a gimmick.  Everybody wants to aim for the big time when they attempt to rap, but here's something to think about.  Record labels release on average about 49,000 albums a year... that's annually.  Out of that 49,000 only 30 goes platinum... that's 30 across ALL genre's of music.  There are reasons for this, but reasons aside...doesn't that make you rethink what YOUR place is in the world of music down here at the bottom?

So being an asshole has it's advantages besides being somewhat feared.  My key to my success is my toughness, so don't expect me to be less of an ass soon!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Mastermind

Mastermind:
A person with an outstanding intellect.                     
Someone who plans and directs an ingenious and complex scheme or enterprise.

This was a nickname given to me by my peers during the period in which I was building my record label up.  Shep the "Mastermind".  Some people even called me "chef".  "Chef" was a mistaken nickname given to me because when I introduced myself to new people as "Shep" they heard "Chef".  That nickname stuck as well, but "Mastermind" was the favorite.


My nickname "Mastermind" was an earned title.  Years of trial & error, contracts & contact, war, beef & repeated atonement had me in a special position.  I took full advantage of that & at one point in time had the most talented unknown artists from the NWI region under my belt.  A hodgepodge of gangsters, thieves, drug dealers, felons, institutionalized minds, heavy hearts, soul seekers, soul reapers, killers & hustlers all riding under one flag. 

It even got so that I had expanded & had people in California & North Carolina under the flag... a nationwide label... with no record deal, no money & NO CONTRACTS.  It was a beautiful thing for me to sit back & watch all of the gears move in sync with each other.  I didn't even have to do shit but make beats & do a little bit of mixing.

Starting a label from scratch is a hard task that many are not capable of doing.  You have to have skills in the industry at hand.  All the street savvy & money in the world won't save you if you don't know how to politic.  I know how to politic but I prefer not to.  Real Game has enabled me to be totally independent without being beholding to others.  Oh, to the nickname.

Mastermind: a homage to how I thought about Real Game, how I was building it up & how I orchestrated very carefully the development of my artist.  I never told my artist if I was testing them or not.  My philosophy was that if they were of genuine character, I wouldn't need to test them.  But because of the nature of the game, I couldn't trust anybody fully.

I tested them in a number of ways.  I used to leave my equipment with some of them all of the time & would be gone for days.  I would leave it up to them to record, as I taught those who were interested in the creation of their own songs how to rough record.  I would come behind them later & clean up vocals or if something needed to be redone, we would redo specific parts or the entire song if need be.  Of course, the recording was the cover story.  I wanted to see if I could trust them around equipment without the boss being around to protect it.  Maybe some of them figured I was testing them, maybe not.  But they all pretty much passed that test with flying colors.

It even got so good I would leave the equipment with them for weeks & I would take breaks from producing.

Me leaving the equipment with them wasn't just a test.  I wanted the artist to feel the mic in their own way without me prodding my way into their creative process like a dictator.  This way I saw individual traits of all of them that I used to their advantage when we went out to other studios, performed at shows & even with interacting with other artist from other organizations.  You can't politic if you don't  know what you are talking about.

In fact, for some artist, it worked too damn good.  Some thought that they could over-rule me & even got so big headed that they left Real Game for other labels that were impressed with the skills that I taught them.  This lead to major problems, because the teaching wasn't completed.  As a result they destroyed everything they touched (for lack of a better term).

Other test included one that damn near destroyed me & Real Game for good.  If it wasn't for the fact that I had a little bit of sanity left in me, I would be in jail or dead today.  I dropped a few people off the label because of some internal conflicts.  I dropped them because I had to see who really was the weakest link.  I had to know for sure, without a doubt.  I discovered the weak link, but the damage had already been done.  The damage was salvageable & complete.

The test was simple:  Introduce my artist to a bigger label with more resources & watch to see who's loyal.  Bam, weak link was discovered, beef popped off & all hell broke loose.  That simple test showed me so much about the artist I had on my label & it taught me how fragile loyalty is in the game.  Other people's ways & aspirations got in the way or Real Game (or in their view Real Game got into their way).  Neither budged so it was either them or us.  Whoever is left standing at the end will have the high ground.  I am proud to announce that three years later I am high & dry, though I'm more than a few artist light.

But still I test the ones who are left.  This game is like the ultimate game of chess.  You have to out think the ones who try to out think you.  You always have to know what your next step is gonna be even while taking your current step.  Sometimes you have to map out entire strategies & be on bogus shit, but the object is not to get checked & DEFINITELY not get checkmated.  This is our lives here.  We put it all on the line everyday just to survive, extra shit like this rap game further increases the survival skills.

I was lucky as hell.  I had been though beef prior to this incident & the knowledge that I gain from that helped me win this battle, though it took three years, a burned down building & lots of back & forth.

I still mastermind Real Game.  Everything I do is deliberate, even when others think that they are getting the 1up on me. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hip Hop Politics: Arrogant Affluence in Underground Rap - Part One


Arrogant: having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities.
Affluence: the state of having a great deal of money; wealth: a sign of our growing affluence.

How can I tie this into underground Hip Hop?

Simple.

I do not respect most affluent MC's.  It's a philosophical thing.  Hip Hop was built upon struggle.  I'm not saying that affluent MC's haven't struggled, but in today's underground Hip Hop it makes a difference to me in terms of which MC's are successful & those who I support/don't support.  I can identify with struggle.  I respect struggle.  I love struggle.  I am the struggle.  We are the struggle.

It strikes me as stupid for people to support arrogant & affluent MC's in underground Hip Hop.  Talking about all of the material things they have that they did not struggle to get.  Money made by their parents or families, raised into money to stunt in front of the rest of us.  I don't support arrogant affluent underground MC's.

It's not hate.  Why does every time you disagree or don't support something ignorant people call it hate?  It's not hate.  I just have a standard of music that I hold dearly to my heart.  I don't want to hear about daddies or momma's boys yelling & screaming about their "swag" dripping or their rims shining or all of the weed they can afford to smoke because of their mom's allowance.  It's pitiful that support from their so-called "fans" is so overwhelming that they can end up being put on.  It's ridiculous.  

It also amazes me how those in these struggling communities actually buy their music.  I guess it because of the "feel good" aspect or whatever… But it really puts the rest of us MC's & producers at a major disadvantage.  Those of us who have actually EARNED our positions & money, or actually struggled out in the streets to appreciate affluence…we don't get help.  We get ignored for sharing our stories through music.  It's a dirty game, that much is true.  But there has to be somebody out there to break through the bullish & show em there is still some real individuals out here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Aspiration

Aspiration:

1. strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition: intellectual aspirations.
2. a goal or objective desired.

I am 25 years old, will be 26 on May 7th, 2012.  For twelve years I have been producing music.  

For twelve years I have been on the grind, all over this country.  From California to North Carolina I have made my mark in many people's lives, yet it counts for nothing other than sentimental value.  I guess I should take pride in that, but pride is a tempting evil.  I take pride only in my aspiration to be better than I was yesterday by taking steps today to have a better tomorrow.  I have always been like that on some level or another.

In that aspiration, I have gained more enemies than I have friends.  I used to be ashamed of that...not anymore.  I use that as an inspiration to keep doing what I am doing.  Gaining enemies toughens you up, makes you stronger as the fight continues...sort of like lifting weights.  Even today, my enemies gather to find ways to beat me to the punch.  The thing is that I am the only one who knows what the punch is. 

Running a record label is hard work.  It takes unfathomed dedication, sacrifice, money & most importantly time.  This is where most people fail.  They are unwilling to sacrifice.  They are scared to make the toughest of decisions to get ahead.  I am not afraid.  This is the exact trait that the few friends that I do have respect the most.  They can always depend on Mr. Korry D. Shepard to pull though even when they can not. 

I have had many situations where my life, record label & reputation were almost destroyed by the indirect actions of others.  This speaks volumes to me, their lack of direction equals indirect actions taken that may hurt me in the short term, but sets me up to excel in the long term.

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