“SOME PEOPLE ARE SO POOR, ALL THEY HAVE IS MONEY”
… AND SOME PEOPLE ARE SO IRRELEVANT ALL THEY HAVE IS POPULARITY.
You know how they say, ‘if you love someone, let them go. And if they don’t return to you they were never really yours’? Does this apply to musicians and their fans? I personally believe it applies more in the artist fan relationship than for couples.
There seems to be a general need for artists to stay relevant. One has to always be in the spotlight through releasing albums, mix tapes, videos and singles and so on. Artists do not want their fans’ attention diverted to another artist who was ‘making moves while the artist was sleeping.’ And yes this does happen but I do not think it is because they lost relevance, but they lost popularity. And in most cases popularity is mistaken for relevance.
Let’s talk about popularity for a moment. Popularity is often used to describe things like fads and trends. Something, or someone, that creates a buzz when their name is mentioned. And in my loooooong life, I have seen lots of popular artists, fashion trends, games and so on. A lot of times, popular did not equate to relevance. Some examples of those who were popular but not relevant:
Some of the greatest one hit wonders of all time-
- Lou Bega (Mumbo Number 5 guy)
- Skee-Lo (I wish)
- Baha Men (who let the dogs out)
- Chingy (did you know dude had 5 albums?)
What about some who made more than one hit?
- Soulja Boy
- DMX (controversial a bit)
- …boy bands… (almost any)
- Psy (released Gangnam style on his 6th album I think…)
So all of these people were really popular and there are lots, lots more of them, but if we are honest, we would be hard pressed to find someone checking for these musicians today. On top of that, I really doubt that any of them changed the music game in any way.
Now what about relevance?
One definition of relevance I came across, was simply put as ‘something or someone important to the matter at hand.’ So as artists, what is the matter at hand? Is it entertainment, social issues, trends? Well it can be any of them and more but it depends heavily on what society and the artist deem as important.
By no means am I saying the only way for rappers to be relevant is by making ‘conscious hip-hop’. With that said here are some examples of current issues societies are facing:
#ThisFlag: a movement that matters to a lot of people. If someone plays a huge roll in addressing the matter in an impactful way, then they are relevant.
#BlackLivesMatter: Lots of people hold the issues surrounding this hashtag close to heart, and again, if someone approaches this matter in a way that no one else does, then relevance will be the almost inevitable bi-product.
(and the same goes for addressing what makes us as the Namibian society proud, sad or excited.)
Essentially, it is more than making hot music. I guess what it does is more important. One makes you or the music popular and the latter makes it relevant. It is possible to have you cake and eat it in this regard.
I know Pac and Kendrick will be remembered for long time because they have played the role of the effective and hard to ignore voices of the people.
Rakim, Eminiem, Nas, Roots, Canibus will be remembered because they have done things with lyrics and imagination that few have managed to do.
LL Cool J, Usher, (we can’t hate on the next one cause he flipped the script and now we see grown men bumping his new music) Justin Bieber, Common and the likes are/ were able to project emotions in a lot of their music.
Mos Def, Biggy, Monch, MF Doom, Slick Rick are a few that will go down in history for their vivid images in their lyrics, as well as being conceptual…
The list can go on.
So are there artists that have let go of their spot and came back to find that they have not been replaced? That is a definite yes! While some believe we have to be heard or lour attention once every two weeks to keep our hip-hop and RnB fans, here are some that took a break for a while and were welcomed back and continue to be successful in their careers:
NB: Some of them had been gone close to 10 years but were never replaced:
- Pharaoah Monch
- Remy ma
There is so much to say but we must conclude. I have also kept in mind that the nature of music fans these days is also part of the reason artists have to bombard the market, but we have the power to choose our primary target of fans. Do you want the fickle or the loyal types? That is another article.
We can all become relevant in order to ensure a seat at the table of the hard to forget. There is plenty of room.
Also remember that not all legacy holders always kept releasing legacy material. One example is the Fugees. They broke up a year after they finally got recognised for the score, and they are still remembered fondly today.
Canibus just retired from rap, didn’t have a popping career but he was hot enough to give LL a much needed boost where market experience made him win the war though he totally lost the lyrical diss battle. But heads will always remember 2nd Round Knock out and his really long yet intricate freestyles.
So what is the starting point, other than being a dope rapper (cause lots can be dope) what is it that is going to make people say your name long after your songs are not playing? What are you bringing to the table that no one else has?
And finally to the fans… listen to the heart of the artist and not just the hype. Support those that move you in ways that others don’t.
– Harry M @