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. 

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