Dreams of The Roc…

Tomorrow, the entirety of the Global Entertainment & Music Business crew get the privilege of attending a talk with Sony Music Entertainment’s president, Jose Maria Barbat. What an honor really; especially for the folks here at Berklee who are aspiring to either work for, or, build their own record label and entertainment company in the future. We can expect the best from this man, and we should and take every opportunity we can to learn from him. Especially since some neophytes like ourselves are attempting to build the first functioning record label within Berklee’s newest campus in Valencia, Spain.

This is, in every definition of the word, challenging. 

We have some great individuals in our class, and all of us have something great to offer. But even with the right ingredients, you can’t bake a great cake if you don’t follow the recipe. Do you follow? We all have that one family member, who, for the love of all that is good and true, cannot cook good food. And well, you don’t mean to be rude, but you would rather not eat their food.

I certainly do not want to be that. 

Rocafella Records, at its apex, was one of the greatest hip hop labels of its time. Man, would I have loved to be apart of their team when Kanye West dropped his groundbreaking debut, “The College Dropout” 10 years ago this month.

and now, time for an interlude: 

wow. What more can I say? Roc was the (pronounced with an “e” emphasis) label. One can only dream to build a label so great… or even have that opportunity… but wait! I do have that opportunity!

YES. 

But it takes work, hours and hours sacrificing your free time and social life, and putting in the extra mile EVERYTIME to even have a shot at greatness. As far as my dreams for building a label so grand, is it possible to achieve that here? At Berklee? Yup. Will we apply ourselves to that caliber? Probably not. and thats OKAY. We shouldn’t expect this label to become great just yet, but we should take lessons from the creation of other, already established labels, and apply it to our own.

We need a recipe for success, and although this (the record label) is completely experimental, it wouldn’t hurt to apply some a priori structure to the process. Regardless of what difficulties lie ahead, I’m optimistic and hopeful that, while not quite Rocafella status, we will form a working foundation for future students to build upon.

Now go listen to some Kanye.

☮♥

-Marcus

Year in Review: Top 10 Albums

As part of the “Year in Review” series, I’ve compiled my top 10 albums of 2013.

Whilst many artists don’t like these lists, it is usually because they aren’t in them.

I urge you to have a listen to the ‘key tracks’ if you haven’t heard them before, and if you’re feeling super crazy, comment with your top 10 below!

Here we go…

10. Palma Violets – 180
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This raw, punk debut from English band Palma Violets captures a sound that matches their energetic, booze filled live shows. They definitely deserve the attention NME and Rolling Stone paid them this year.
Key Track: Best of Friends

9. Childish Gambino – Because the Internet
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I’ve only had about a week to sit on this one and I really dig it. If you want the full experience of Childish ‘Troy from Community’ Gambino’s playful and extremely clever music, read the screenplay that accompanies it. It’s epic.
Key Track: 3005

8. Foals – Holy Fire
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With their third album, Foals produced a tight and hard hitting sound, they smoked less Weed during the recording of this album and it shows.
Key Track: Inhaler

7. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
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These lads from Sydney managed to break overseas as well as tearing the Australian scene apart with their psychedelic/dance sound. They’ve got a big future ahead of them; after all, Noel Gallagher proclaimed that ‘the future of the galaxy depends on this album.’
Key Track: Come Save Me

6. Arctic Monkeys – AM
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Arctic Monkeys are a band that has matured aesthetically and musically in their now 11 year history. AM still has the grit from their early days with an almost funkier vibe, accompanied by some smooth falsetto from drummer Matt Helders.
Key Track: Do I Wanna Know?

5. Disclosure – Settle
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In my opinion, this UK dance duo should have won the Mercury Prize over James Blake. This debut album will get any party started.
Key Track: When a fire Starts to Burn

4. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
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Technically classified a mixtape, not an album. Chance is an unsigned artist from Chicago. For more information, have a read of this phenomenally written piece.
Key Track: Favourite Song

3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II
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This New Zealand band brought out this sun soaked album in the prime of the Australian Summer, the psychedelic pop infused guitar lines and vocal melodies made this an awesome album that not enough people know about.
Key Track: So Good at Being In Trouble

2. Kanye West – Yeezus
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It is quite hard to deny that Kanye is a genius. This album polarised fans and is a hectic 10 track epic. Have a look at this recent graphic published in the New York Times.
Key Track: Bound 2

1. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
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If you haven’t heard Get Lucky the lead single of the RAM, I congratulate you. Even if Get Lucky were not on this album, it would still be a phenomenal throwback to the 70’s from the French duo that was marketed ridiculously well and in my opinion, lived up to the hype.
Key Track: Doin’ It Right

Honourable mentions:
Wavves – Afraid of Heights
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Don’t agree with my choices? Don’t bicker and mumble to yourself. COMMENT BELOW.

Meet – Rekstizzy

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::MUST CHECK OUT NOW! CLICK BELOW::
J-Key Rekstizzy Hoya – Oh Yeah
A fresh talent in the Asian American music industry, Rekstizzy, a New York based rapper is one of the artists who is collaborating with an amazing producer CHOPS (see my last post!).  He also recently released his second album “Whatever You Say”. Rek is all about having fun, and wanting to connect with the listeners. He knows what he wants to say, and has a very strong presence on stage & also social media like twitter and instagram!
Rek mixes well-crafted verses with a “class clown” sense of humor and is carving out his own flavorful niche in the industry.
I had the honor of interviewing him! Please meet Rekstizzy!
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Tell us about yourself! 
Aw man, God bless America. I was born and raised in Queens, NY. I started rapping since a youth but only started pursuing it as a career in the last few years. I laugh at all my own jokes and drink soda.

How did you start rapping/artist career?
I stopped making music just for me and started thinking about how I can make a connection with the listener. I improved drastically after that and am only getting better at it.

How would you describe your sound/music?
Focused but random. I know what my mission is but I’m drawing from a lot of influences so you’ll hear me reference something only hip hop heads would know about and then I’ll mention something from Napoleon Dynamite in the next. I think a lot of people in my generation are like that and it’s a good time.

What inspires you?
Everyday people. People are funny. Mad stupid, mad smart, cruel, and compassionate. Nobody knows what they’re doing or what it’s all about, myself included, and that inspires me as an artist.

Tell us about your album Whatever you Say and your tracks!
Whatever You Say is an album about living in America. As a minority, I think it’s important to let people know where you stand, so I’m saying things like “I was born in the US, this (is) my motherland, diss my motherland, I’ll go to war for the US”. At the same time, I’m poking fun at a lot of the same things I’m celebrating. I tried to capture the attitude of right now.

Your favorite song from your album
Man, I love “Come At Me Bro”. It’s aggressive but it’s funny and I got one of my favorite rappers to guest on it. Whenever I perform that shit somebody ends up dying. Not literally, but sometimes.

I know you just did a release party in NY. How was it?
We actually didn’t plan on doing the party this time around but there were a lot of fans and friends asking us about it because we always throw parties where everyone gets turned the f**k up for no reason. So we put it together and me and rapper homies Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, and Sonny Bonoho performed a couple songs and people got turned the f**k up for no reason. There was also this one random old white lady who was at the venue just to eat and if you look at the event photos, she looks SO MAD.

Are you proud to be an Asian American artist? What is it like?
Meh. I remember I tried to book a gig a few years back but the last Asian rapper they got was so terrible he cockblocked that opportunity for me. That s**t ain’t make me proud, not one bit. It’s something we gotta deal with because we haven’t had our real breakout artist yet like an Eminem or a Big Pun so we gotta work twice as hard for a limited number of opportunities. I’m proud of my heritage but that’s a different question.

Any Asian artists in the states you admire?
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I’m in a crew with Dumbfoundead and Awkwafina called Saturday School. We don’t have any plans to do any projects or nothing like that yet but they inspire me with how they put their rhymes together and their sensibility is closest to mine. Also, Cool Calm Pete is pretty amazing. I’ve been waiting on his new album for years now and I hear it’s almost done.

Who is your favorite artist?
I think right now, it’s gotta be Pendleton Ward for creating Adventure Time. Everything from the stories to the character designs is amazing to me. I mean, LSP got lumps yo! If you mean in hip hop, it’s probably Kanye. I’ve been a fan since he had like one freestyle on Napster and I love how he continues to challenge himself and his listeners. Yeezus was dope.

Any passion other than music
I have other passions but I don’t think it’s really worth talking about until I have something to show for it. For a long time in my life I’ve been one of those people who just talk about things they want to do. I think after you finally complete something for real, you start to talk less and do more.

Who plans and manages your projects and how does it work?
It’s a collaborative effort between my manager Jaeki, myself, and my engineer Marcus aka Avec Plaisir. We get a lot of things done because we know how to communicate, we don’t take things personally, and we trust each other’s taste. It’s my project and my voice, but if they tell me I should try it another way, I’ll try it. Anyone who works in a creative field will tell you how valuable that is.

Your future plan? Goal?
Man, it would be nice to own a yacht and like a Wendy’s franchise or two. Musically though, I’m trying to get this album into more ear holes but I’m always thinking about what’s next.

What do you think about the Strength in Numbers project?

Man, Chops made a lot of folks sound better than they ever have with his production and direction. It’s a real testament to his skill and experience. For my contribution to the project, I actually got to record with him at his studio in Philly and learned so much from that one session. Anyone supporting the project is saying, ‘yeah son, reach one, teach one’. Salute to the big homie. My favorite joints are the Rocky Rivera “Mary Lou” and the Ann One joint with Chops rapping, “Come Go With Me”. Fiyah.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE AND SUPPORT THE STRENGTH IN NUMBER PROJECT! 

Check out Rekstizzy’s MVs!

Come at me bro

God Bless America

And don’t forget to follow, like, share Rekstizzy!!

Twitter: Twitter.com/rekstizzy
FacebookFacebook.com/rekstizzy
InstagramInstagram.com/rekstizzy
SoundcloudSoundcloud.com/rekstizzy

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #4 Kanye West

The purpose of this blog is to inform the class of America’s “Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012” and the various business ventures in different industries that contributed to their individual successes.

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #4 Kanye West

Name: Kanye Omari West

Stage Name(s): Kanye West

Age: 35

Forbes Hip Hop’s Top Earners List: #4 of 9

How Much??? $35 Million

As promised, we finally have an artist not affiliated with Cash Money Records (no offense).

Born in Atlanta but raised in Chicago, Kanye is an art college drop-out who teamed up with Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella Records and eventually sold over 30 million digital songs in his career.  He is one of the most decorated artists (award-wise) of all time, and wherever he goes, people listen. But when he’s not stealing the microphone (get it?), he’s constantly looking for new business ventures to start.

Here are some of his past/present/future business ventures:

1. He created G.O.O.D. (Getting Out Our Dreams) Music record label in 2004. Couple artists under the label are: John Legend, Big Sean, Kid Cudi, Mos Def, Pusha T and Q-Tip.

2. Kanye plans to set up 10 Fat Burgers restaurant chains in the Chicago area under his holding company, KW Foods LLC, in 2008. So far, only two have been opened. (Here in the link: http://allhiphop.com/2010/11/22/kanye-west-goes-into-fast-food-with-10-fatburger-restaurants/)

3. In 2011, West partnered up with Parlux Fragrances to create his own cologne which will be in stores this year. (Here is the link: http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.12878/title.kanye-west-to-release-a-cologne-fragrance-in-2011)

4. Started a design company called DONDA (named after his deceased mother) that “will galvanize amazing thinkers and put them in a creative space to bounce there dreams and ideas… I am assembling a team of architects, graphic designers, directors musicians, producers, AnRs, writers, publicist, social media experts… app guys, managers, car designers, clothing designers, DJs, video game designers, publishers, tech guys, lawyers, bankers, nutritionist.” (Kanye on his Twitter account, Jan. 5, 2012). To learn more, here is the link of an article that explains his company more in detail: http://www.mtv.co.uk/news/kanye-west/341610-kanye-west-donda-twitter-mtv-vmas-yeezy)

5. The Fashion Industry: In 2009, Kanye introduced his first shoe line designed for Louis Vuitton at Paris Fashion Week. In 2011, he premiered his first women’s clothing line called DW at Paris Fashion Week with his Spring/Summer 2012 Collection. Then, about seven months later, he presented his Fall Collection 2012 at the same event. But after months of studying/interning in Japan and Italy (worked at Fendi, had a contract with Louis Vuittion, and turned down Versace offer), and even after creating a small design studio is Paris, Kanye was still heavily criticized and gained little respect for his works. He decided not to attend the most recent Fashion Paris Week. For now, his fashion endeavors are on hold. (Here is the link to Kanye’s late night twitter ramblings about the whole experience: http://fashionista.com/2012/01/kanye-west-interned-at-fendi-turned-down-a-gig-at-versace-is-working-on-his-fashion-line-in-london-and-other-things-we-learned-from-his-epic-late-night-twitter-ramble/ Here is the link to some of the criticisms he received for his work: http://www.businessinsider.com/kanye-west-fashion-collection-reviews-2012-9?op=1)

(What do you guys think?)

Although some ventures were considered expenses rather than investments, Kanye was still able to rack up $35 million (mostly thanks to his music) this year – making him the 4th most successful and influential hip hop entrepreneur of 2012.

(In a couple days, I will post up #3! So please stay tuned! Let’s count down to #1 together!)

By: Aaron Kim (Duke)

Other sources: http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2012/0905_hip-hop-cash-kings.html

*Sources are provided within the post.

Tour Contract Riders: What they were, What they are now

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If anyone here has followed a famous pop star, you’ve heard the myths: that they have the most ridiculous demands in order to perform that define them as total divas or complete weirdos. The truth is, demands like that didn’t exactly start out that way. But let’s talk about the bread and butter before we get to how it’s done today.

The contract rider is a list of artist demands from the promoter that they list in a pre-determined contract as something to be prepared before they arrive at their gig.  These contract riders can have very specific demands as far as the way the venue is set up, either as far as food goes or in the technical rider which involves the electronics, such as lighting and sound system.  Usually, with your regular artist, the contract rider will just include the technical stuff and some food for the band, give or take some alcohol.  However, usually with superstars, the contract rider can be something pretty intense, including more than just some meals for the crew and some lighting effects.

The first contract rider that was brought up to light was famous rock and roll band Van Halen.  Van Halen’s infamous contract had demands which included a bowl of M&M’s with all the brown ones removed.  However, this was merely a concept developed by the frontman David Lee Roth, stating that the demands were not meant to be taken as an act of bratty rock ‘n’ roll celebrities, but a confirmation that if their M&M’s demand was fulfilled, then the band could be at ease that the rest of the rider conditions were fulfilled (Because really, who dislikes brown M&M’s that much?)

That was back in 1982, 30 years ago.  Nowadays, especially since the tail end of the 90’s, riders have become something of a joke to the common eye with how intense the demands are.  If you followed the “downfall” of Britney Spears, you’ll know that her contract rider specified the infamous McDonalds buffet with no bread on the burgers along with a lunchtime supper.  Online site The Week rated the #1 most ridiculous contract rider was Kanye West’s, which included imported or recut Versace towels along with a driver that wore 100% cotton (Makes sense).  Another one on the site included a tour rider of Katy Perry asking for a driver that didn’t speak a word to her nor look through the rearview mirror (Only a little dangerous for the sake of privacy).

Now, just because you’re touring around does not mean you can make demands like this in your contract rider.  The reason these artists have some intense demands is because they ultimately generate some serious profit at these shows.  To a band that comes in and makes a good and humble amount of money from a concert, all that’s really to be said as far as hospitality goes is that there should be some meals for you and all your friends; but fear not, eventually you’ll pick up steam and one day be able to pull a Jennifer Lopez and ask for a giant trailer furnished with flowers and other… unnecessary things.

What, you think that’s odd?  What would YOU put on yours if you were a super star?

…the strangest thing is, your need would probably be met if you were that famous.