Every day I get an avalanche, a tsunami, a forest fire of email. My inbox looks like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake on a regular basis. I've long since learned to simply ignore most of it as a survival mechanism, but every so often a subject line crosses my eyeballs that makes me look closer instead of hitting that trash can icon.
I often end up on email blasts intended for artists because apparently people are too lazy to make separate lists for media and artists, which has the unintended benefit of letting me see just how much shadiness is directed at emerging artists on a regular basis. For example, check out this little scam that recently hit my inbox:
First, although this email makes it sound like the artist would be buying a feature in the magazine - "We can make you an Artist to Watch...in the printed magazine" - I highly doubted that XXL would sell its editorial coverage like that. The print media business may not be what it once was, but there's just no way XXL, or any significant publication, is going to risk its editorial credibility for whatever raprappromo.com is offering up. It's far more likely that this person had purchased some ad space in the magazine which they were attempting to resell to artists under the disguise of actual editorial coverage.
I reached out to realRAPpromo repeatedly for clarification or a response but, surprise, they ignored me. The next obvious step was to contact XXL's editorial team and, surprise, they were adamant that this person had absolutely no influence or affiliation with the magazine:
"The person who sent you that email has no affiliation with XXL and absolutely nothing to do with the editorial curation of the XXL Freshman class, this or any year." - Georgette Cline, XXL Deputy Editor
Now go back and re-read that email. Notice how they never claim to be actually working directly with XXL, instead hiding behind a smoke screen of language. "We can make you," the "promo code is XXL," all small ways to make them seem affiliated and legit. And the shadiness doesn't just start and stop in email blasts. On their site they have an entire section devoted to XXL Placement. For a mere $875 you too can make your hip-hop dreams come true.
I can't say for sure if paying realRAPpromo will get you a spot in the magazine at all, they could just be very well taking artist's money and running, but we now know for sure that they can't deliver editorial coverage, if they are indeed selling ad space there's a legitimate way to do that. Advertising in XXL, or any publication, could be a good investment for an artist for the same reasons any company purchases ad space - you're getting your product in front of potential consumers. I can't say that it's a wise financial choice for those with limited funds, I shudder to think of someone buying advertising instead of paying their rent, but if you have the cash, are looking for a boost and have done your research, by all means, go ahead. It's your money and your career.
This isn't a straight up legitimate ad buy though, this is an attempt to confuse artists into thinking they're purchasing editorial coverage. Beware anyone who promises to make your dreams come true, especially when that dream comes with a down payment and promo code attached.
UPDATE: RealRAPPromo has been active on social media responding to this article with an Instagram pic which proves exactly what I wrote. They're purchasing ad space, then recouping by selling it to artists as a "spot in XXL" instead of "an ad in XXL," which I think they're being intentionally confusing and misleading about.
So be clear artists, paying RealRAPPromo does not fufill your dream of being "featured in XXL" unless it was always your dream to appear in an ad within XXL.
UPDATE 2: A rare double update. Earlier today RealRAPPromo sent out an email blast (at the bottom of this page). I would hope I made every point I needed to clearly and directly in the initial post, but just so we're absolutely clear, I didn't write this for "some reason." I wrote this because I consider it my job to write stories that reveal the truth behind how the music industry operates. I've written about mainstream radio payola, artificial inflation of social media numbers and video views, major labels signing artists in secret, producers who get ripped off by artists, Kanye unfairly taking people's money for TLOP, I could go on but I think I've made my point.
I work to reveal what I believe to be deception in the music industry, and I think it's clear that RealRAPPromo is intentionally misleading and confusing artists into thinking that they were purchasing coverage by XXL, not an ad within XXL. That's the issue here. There's not a lie in this post. That's RealRAPPromo's verbatim email, in full, the text quotes are taken directly from their site. Here it is again:
"Have you ever dreamed of being in XXL Magazine? If so, this is your chance to make that dream come true. We can make you an Artist To Watch,Producer To Watch, or make your single a Single To Watch in XXL Magazine on our pages in the printed magazine. This is your chance to get major exposure and be seen by real Hip Hop fans in the biggest and most respected Hip Hop magazine of all time."
Nowhere on that page, or in their email, is it even remotely clear that an artist is purchasing space in an ad. The name of the section itself is "XXL Placement," not "XXL Advertising," a word choice I have to believe is intentional.
I've written literally thousands of posts and while plenty of artists may not like me for what I've written about them, or for not having written about them at all, you won't be able to find anyone who can say I've ever taken even a penny for a post. My integrity is completely intact, and there's no personal vendetta here. I know so many artists, exactly the kind of artists being targeted by this email, who are working two jobs just to barely pay the rent and chase their music dreams. Those artists deserve transparency and honesty, that's all I could hope to achieve with this post, or any other. Hopefully it helps.
"So, for some reason, DjBooth.net decided to write a post about our XXL placement saying that we are scamming artists. Of course that is not true. If you have followed us for a while, you should know that we have placed artists on OUR page in every issue of XXL Magazine for the last year and a half. We do exactly what we say we will do by placing artists as "Artists To Watch" on our page. We have every issue to prove this so I don't understand why anyone would say that we're scamming artists. If you doubt us, all you have to do is go to the store and look in the magazine for yourself (you don't even have to buy it). In the latest issue, you will see our page in the middle of the Kendrick Lamar interview.
I always thought DJBooth was a serious website but I guess I was wrong. This is another case of don't believe everything you read online."
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.