There are a lot of illusions in hip-hop.
For instance, the illusion of overnight success. Thanks to an artist like Desiigner, who managed to get into an 11 record label bidding war on the strength of one potentially viral single, independent artists across the world believe a record contract is but one catchy record or connection away. Desiigner, however, is the exception and not the rule.
On Wednesday, Massachusetts emcee Joyner Lucas announced his signing with Atlantic Records on Facebook Live after putting pen to paper while at the label's offices. While his profile has risen considerably in the past two months, mostly due to his incredibly moving visuals for "I'm Sorry," a record that shines a bright light on mental health and suicide, Lucas' journey from independent rapper to major label signee was a long and determined grind.
"Do you know how long I've been doing this shit?" exclaimed Lucas, beginning to tear up with emotion. "You don't understand, nigga, how long this shit took me to get here."
Actually, Joyner, we do.
Over the past three years, Lucas' work has been featured on DJBooth a total of 23 times, beginning with his single "What Do They Know?" in mid-2013. In total, Lucas released 12 music videos (two cracking the one million view marker), 46 songs and one dynamite full-length debut.
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With each subsequent song and video release, Lucas slowly but surely built up a dedicated fanbase—his Facebook interaction is bonkers!—before eventually garnering the attention of veteran producer and former G-Unit Records president and Epic Records executive Sha Money XL.
The story of Joyner Lucas is the story of so many up-and-coming, hard-working independent emcees. It's true that skill and determination alone won't guarantee anyone anything, but those two attributes eventually put Lucas in the position to make valuable connections and eventually earn a "fair" record deal.
Atlantic Records signed me based off the fact they love what I'm doing musically and absolutely DO NOT WANT to change it. This is a partnership deal. I keep creative control & for your information, these contracts have been in the works for months constructed to be fair and work for both me and Atlantic. Nothing changes with my music. - Facebook
Much like Mac Miller, who used his music and his loyal following to ink a sizable contract with Warner Bros. that included full creative control and no A&R oversight, Lucas was patient, he waited for the right deal to come along, and made sure that when he signed his name on the dotted line that it meant extending his freedom as an artist.
Desiigner might have a No. 1 song to his name and Kanye West in his corner, but if I were a betting man, and I was asked which artist is more likely to enjoy a long and prosperous career, I'd push all my chips to the center of the table for Joyner Lucas.
By DJ Z, who loves to argue with you on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram