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Pancakes, Allergies & the Balance Between Mainstream & Underground Music


I can't eat corn. When I do bad things happen. Quickly. My stomach begins to feel unsettled, a sharp shooting pair rears its ugly head in my abdomen and then, predictably, it's off to the bathroom for longer than a Joe Budden breakup record.

Every month we receive, on average, 3,000 song submissions.

What could those two things possibly have in common? Allow me to explain.

When I first learned that corn was my kryptonite I found it surprisingly difficult to find everyday staple items like cookies and condiments without corn starch or corn syrup. This highly frustrating reality has forced me to scour grocery stores for corn-free purchases, searching ingredient lists top to bottom. At first I was super bummed that eating would become such a chore, but I eventually realized the new diet would actually be highly beneficial to my long term health.

Some foods were easy to give up on, like tortilla chips, but the thought of giving up on pancakes was devastating. Starting at a very early age my father would make pancakes for the entire family every Saturday morning. Blueberry, banana-chocolate chip, raisin, strawberry, you name the type and my father would whip up a hot stack of six cakes, complete with a swipe of margarine (sorry, butter) and piping hot maple syrup. When I learned that I needed to actively avoid corn products at all costs, I immediately read over the ingredient list of my favorite pancake mix. Sadly, sitting between salt and eggs, I saw "Corn Starch, Corn Syrup Solids." 

Unfazed by one measly ingredient list, I conducted extensive research on other pancake mix companies, but time and again I was left disappointed. My staunch refusal to live a life without a weekly helping of pancakes ultimately lead me to Kodiak Cakes, a mix with nary an ingedient that began with the letter "c" and ended with "orn." What I was looking for but couldn’t find in popular, well-branded companies like Aunt Jemima, I found in a relative newcomer like Kodiak Cakes.

Bear with me. I promise this will all make sense.



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Now, back to those 3,000 song submissions. That is a three followed by three zeros. This insane sum does not include submitted albums, mixtapes, EPs, or other projects, interview requests, feedback requests, advertising requests or fellow publisher requests. I was a broadcast journalism major for a reason, but simple division says that we receive roughly 100 new songs PER DAY. Since it is our mission to provide our readers with quality over quantity, we limit the number of songs and videos we feature daily. As a result, this means we receive 3,000 (or more) songs per month and we feature less than 300, sometimes less. Stay with me, you're doing great.

It's no secret that websites and blogs thrive off of advertising revenue, which is generated by total traffic and more specifically pageviews. Simply put: we want you to click around on our site. (Seriously, when you're done reading this article, go click around for ten minutes.) In an effort to gain new readers and keep our existing readers happy, though, we have always made it a point to highlight more than just mainstream, household names. On average, seven out of every ten new features is about an unsigned or independent emcee, singer or producer. And here, my patient friends, is where pancakes, corn and all things DJBooth meet at a crossroads. 

Like it or not, no matter how indie-loyal a publication or media outlet claims to be, the overwhelming majority of the music-listening public consumes Top 40 artists like Chris Brown and Iggy Azalea. Think of these folks as the Aunt Jemimas and Hungry Jacks of the mainstream music world; they are often filled with unnecessary ingredients, they can make people sick, and their success is part and parcel to a large sum of promotional dollars that is spent to educate the mainstream on their existence. But if you're willing to look a little harder, to seek out the Kodiak Cakes of the music world (if you will), you’ll uncover artists like Mick Jenkins, Russ or Locksmith, artists capable of satisfying your cravings without leaving your body (and soul) depleted.

Far too often I read comments from our readers, both on the site and across various social networks, complaining that we feature too much of FILL IN THE BLANK. (Oh, hello, Lil Wayne.) But think about it this way: Let's say you're a fan of Lil Wayne - he's got a few million - and you come to DJBooth to listen to his new single. You finish listening and then, right next to Wayne's feature, are links to brand new releases from Anderson .Paak and Kehlani, two artists you previously had never before seen or heard. You are a click away from hearing their work. You decide to hit the play button, because why the fuck not?

The end result? You're enthralled with their work. Their record is done streaming and you click play for a second time. While you're on your second spin you hop over to the artist's DJBooth artist profile, catching up on all the material you've missed from your new favorite artist. You text a friend, you Tweet out a link, you feel like you've made a new friend. Strangely, you have Lil Wayne to thank for all of it. And even if you're a strictly underground head, in a way you have Lil Wayne and other stars to thank for bringing in the big numbers that allow many sites to continue to be a platform for underground music. 

An old idiom goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink." Mainstream media, beat-you-over-the-head advertising and powerful marketing campaigns know that not everyone is going to be sucked into their words. They also don't care about your own personal corn allergy. As a result, though, you now have a better understanding of what you can eat, what you should probably avoid, and what is available to you as an alternative.

Now, go whip up a batch of delicious playlists and call me in the morning.

[By DJ Z, aka @DJBooth. Art by Fred Lozano]



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