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Phonte on Current Hip-Hop Climate: "There's so Much Noise, Everyone is F**king Making Shit"

The veteran rapper reveals he's turned down paid opportunities because he didn't feel he added value.
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Veteran emcee Phonte, formerly of hip-hop trio Little Brother and currently 1/2 of The Foreign Exchange, was a guest on Combat Jack's The Combat Jack Show podcast this week. 

In between discussing the success of De La Soul's new crowd-funded album And The Anonymous Nobody, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Rap Albums Chart, and his rap singer influence over A-list stars like Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, the Greensboro, North Carolina native touched on why he's turned down feature and collaborative opportunities in recent years.

There has been records that I've turned down, money I've turned away because I didn't think there was anything that I could add to it. There have been projects that have come to me, and they're like, 'We want you on this, we want you on this.' And then I listen to it and I'm like, dude, I think you guys got it. I mean, I could gladly take your money, but if you want me to be honest with it...

Obviously, it's easier for a veteran artist like Phonte—who has steadily earned an income off music for the past 13 years and is fresh off the release of his Tigallerro project with Eric Roberson—to decline paid feature and collaborative opportunities than it would be for an up-and-coming artist with less than half his catalog and publishing, but the less is more concept he alluded to in his comments is something that all artists, new and old, would be wise to adhere to.

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On the opposite side of this conversation is Zaytoven, who last week explained that the reason "timeless music" isn't being created is because artists and producers are being pressured by fans who demand a steady stream of new material. While the veteran producer is right in that songs don't mean as much as they once did, part of the reason that's our reality is because of artists who adopted a quantity over quality methodology.

If fans expect new singles weekly and a new mixtape or album every few months, anything short of that mark will be considered a disappointment. Of course, if you release a new album every four years like Frank Ocean, you don't need to worry about fan expectations—they most likely no longer exist.

"There's so much noise, everyone is fucking making shit," Phonte added. "I never wanted to be that guy that added to the noise. If everyone is mixtape, mixtape, mixtape, album, single, feature, mixtape, I would always just be the guy who was like, 'Ehh, whatever.'"

In fairness, the "ehh, whatever" approach is not for everyone. For some artists, turning down paid guest spots or high profile collaborations could mean a burnt bridge with a respected colleague and less money in the bank. But for veteran artists, those who have already earned a substantial amount of coin and built up a rock-solid reputation, don't be the hip-hop version of Nicolas Cage—learn to say "No" once in awhile.

***

By DJ Z, who loves to argue with you on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Creative Silence™

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