My favourite Zim Hip Hop artists have day jobs. They cannot afford to live on what they make from the gift that is their art. Something is very wrong with this image. To worsen it, I am not talking about the average artists, some of these are award winning artists, industry leaders.
The reason I am such a huge fan is because they have something of value, a product that deserves to be heard from all corners of the world, a product that carries worth and should be paid for. The current market is not conducive as is, for artists to make the most off their projects and so on. This atmosphere calls for a different brand of artist, one that is not content to exist within these confinements. If there are no bridges to where you need to be, you either learn to swim, built a boat or build bridges yourself. Waiting for others to do it may work, but comes with no guarantee of neither time frame nor the fact that it may not even come to pass. Is it worth the wait? Learning to swim would mean, not making changes that have great implications on the industry as a whole, but those that will get you; as an individual to where you would like to be.
The problem with this approach is that, you will need to keep swimming the next time you want to achieve something else. Building a boat or bridge creates something that is future proof. Some will call this approach, working smart!! As much as competition is deeply embedded in the fabric of Hip Hop regardless of country, one thing that all artists should have in common, is a desire to see the genre grow. How can you as an artist place a brick to this collective house that we all want to see built.
I want to see my favourite artists have the liberty to concentrate on creating the best music that they possibly can. Our team will do whatever possible within our means to make sure that we help facilitate for this to occur. How can we all help?
1. Realising Hip Hop is more than just the rapper
The disease of any genre in its infancy is that of everyone trying to forge a place for themselves within this premature spotlight. The only way that this spotlight remains a light indefinitely, and grows is for people to begin to deviate from trying to all be rappers. Not everyone is a rapper! That’s ok! In fact, it’s better that way. Unlike singing where there are clearly defined ways that will determine whether or not one is or isn’t a singer, rap is by definition “Rhythm and Poetry”, which allows a voice to more people than singing would. That being said, it goes beyond this. It’s not enough to simply have the means to record some music. There are many variables that will need to be met if you are to be successful as an artist. We must always remember that Zim Hip Hop is a very young genre, as such the core artists will have to shoulder the ambassadorial roles.
Five or six years ago, I was on an international Hip Hop website where most of the music is American. There was only one Zim artist/ group on display. Their music was underpar, which didn’t bother me until I read one of the comments. It simply said, “Perhaps this is what Hip Hop from Zimbabwe is like.” Such a small sample size had given an audience a very dim view of a whole genre. In all fairness one of the artists from that group went on to improve and become widely recognised within Zim Hip Hop. My point here is, there are other ways that you can contribute to the genre’s growth.
2. Build a Blog
One of the things that Zim Hip Hop continues to need that similar genres at international levels have is an increased number of blogs. Zim Hip Hop desperately needs a louder voice. With the continued projected growth of internet access and subsequent use, blogs will play a vital part in making sure that music and opinion continues to make an impression on people. We will get one of our team members to produce an exhaustive article on how to produce a blog and maintain it. Considering that the genre is still in its infancy, and that your blog will largely be a personal platform, it is widely acceptable to start and make mistakes, while improving along the way. Take the plunge.
3. Write Music
One of my greatest honour as an artist has been being part of a few artists’ writing teams. I have written full songs for artists that I respect, and at time simply helped improve verse or hooks that they had already written. For the most part, this has been largely unpaid work. I love what these guys are doing and am honoured to contribute to it. Heck, it has given me the opportunity to listen and offer critique on tracks while they are still being worked on. As the genre grows, I have no doubt that this will increasingly become a lucrative endeavour.
4. Be a true fan
The main determining factor for the growth of Zim Hip Hop will be whether or not artists can make a living through it. I will never go as far as to say that it is impossible, as it has been done and will continue to be done. It is up to you and me as fans and artists to begin to invest in music. Have the decency to spend some money on what others have spent their time and money on as well. Buy the music, dammit!! Piracy will never die, but it shouldn’t be the core source of music for any self-respecting fan.