The Bay Area has always been a tight circle that supports their own, even when no one else does, creating local legends that might not be known in the mainstream or even on the opposite coast. Names like DB Tha General, J-Stalin, San Quinn, and even the late, great Tha Jacka have left their mark on the culture there. Not everyone can be E-40 or Too Short, but plenty of artists can still eat.
Andre Nickatina, for example, has released 12 solo albums since 1993. He’s managed to remain relevant in the underground for over 20 years. Whenever the man steps out on tour, he brings out big crowds, especially on the west coast. Similar to E-40, Andre has moved in the direction of doing things differently. Where Forty Water decided to up the number of albums he releases at one time, Andre took to Kickstarter for a successful campaign that raised over $100,000. So much for struggle rap.
“Fans and supporters have always asked for a sneak peek into my creative process,” he writes. “I’ve always just made albums and delivered them. This time I’m taking a new approach. I’m opening up my next project to make it a collaboration with you, the fans.”
Despite being centered around his upcoming album, Nickatina’s Kickstarter really succeeded in the extras. Out of 120 backers, only a small handful chose a low $25 tier to get an autographed CD. The real money was made at the higher levels, including $40,000 for four exclusive, private performances in house (or mutually agreed upon location). The fact that his fans are so dedicated that they would spend $10,000 to ensure the release of an album says a lot about his career.
Other tiers featured recording a song with Andre ($6,000), getting the one-of-a-kind album reels for I Hate You With A Passion, and having dinner with the artist ($1,000). It's hard to believe that Nickitina's fans are millionaires and it goes to show just how much his core fanbase values a once-in-a-lifetime experiences with him.
We’ve seen a few artists turn to Kickstarter lately. Lil Dicky won big in 2013, when he was able to reach $113,000 plus for his recently released Professional Rapper album. De La Soul took it to new heights with over half-a-million for their campaign, easily the most successful hip-hop related effort to date.
What Andre Nickatina has in common with Lil Dicky and De La Soul is a strong fan base that cares enough to want to contribute to the continuation of their careers. Watching these indie artists raise $100k is nothing short of incredible, because that is a lot of money for someone who isn’t plastered all over hip-hop. Andre isn’t a household name, let's be honest, he's rarely even posted on blogs, but that hasn't stopped him from amassing a die-hard fanbase.
It may be a grind, it may take years, but Nickatina is proof that you really don't need the major labels. In fact, you really don't need anyone but yourself if the music is good enough and you're able to truly connect with people.
While the title for Nickatina's album hasn’t been revealed yet, the veteran emcee did reveal that he'll be reuiniting with T.C., a producer/engineer that was instrumental in his first two albums (he was known as Dre Dog at the time), and potentially working with names like Too Short, Curren$y, Atmosphere, The Grouch and Eligh. The album is slated to come out around April 2016.
Chalk up another victory for the indie.
[By Sermon, A.K.A. Serm Dog. This is his Twitter.]