Master P is a legend, a 26-year veteran of the hip-hop game who has sold millions of albums and earned countless RIAA certifications, but in 2017, he has possibly resorted to employing the same unkosher tactics as fill-in-the-blank struggle rapper to create buzz for his label's music.
On January 6, Master P's No Limit Forever Records, a newfangled version of the old No Limit Records that is headed up by his son Romeo, released a compilation album entitled We All We Got, which features 11 of the label's 30 rostered artists. (Sidenote: Did anyone else realize No Limit was still releasing music or that they've continued to sign artists for the past six years? Yeah, didn't think so.)
In addition to being made available for digital purchase on iTunes, We All We Got is currently available for stream on SoundCloud. A quick glance at the SoundCloud page shows stream counts ranging from 51k plays all the way up to 140k plays. Considering the album was uploaded only four days ago, and contains no truly marketable acts—at least by 2017 standards—if you didn't know any better you'd assume the project is performing exceedingly well, right?
Not so fast.
For as long as streaming services have been around, artists have employed hired-for bots to artificially boost their stream counts. The thought process behind this scam is simple: If I boost my play count, it will draw attention to my music, and since more attention will mean real plays, I'll be able to build up a fanbase who believes I'm already popping.
Some artists manage to slyly disguise their juicing efforts by only inflating select songs on an album, but those who don't end up standing out like Gunplay at a wine bar.
We All We Got features a grand total of 21 tracks and not-so-incredibly, not one song has been played a unique number of times. Suffice to say, Master P should look into whoever was hired to run his SoundCloud account.
Tracks 1 through 7 all have a near-identical number of streams:
Tracks 8 through 13 all have a near-identical number of streams:
Tracks 14 through 17 all have an identical number of streams:
And finally, you guessed it, tracks 18 through 21 all have an identical number of streams:
While the fan in you might want to believe that Master P actually had nothing to do with juicing these numbers and he has no history of exhibiting such shady behavior, I highly suggest reviewing the entirety of the No Limit ForeverSoundCloud account.
First, the account only has 398 followers—a metric that is much harder to fake than play counts since, unlike streaming a song on the platform, a follow requires a new account to be setup—which suggests zero fan loyalty. Second, to date, the account has uploaded five projects, and each and every one of these projects has a tracklist that boasts a near-identical number of streams. Either everybody who played every project listened to every track the same number of times or... yeah, you get the idea.
Oh, and not one track had a single comment at the time this story was published. You mean to tell me "Party Like No 2Mor" was played 140,000 times, yet no one cared enough to leave a note?
Also, for those who are curious, not one song from the project has reached 1,000 plays on Spotify.
It seriously brings me no joy to put a music mogul who gave the world "Make 'Em Say Uhh!" on blast, but my hope is that an independent artist or two will read this article and realize that the act of boosting play counts is a huge mistake that costs money, and more importantly, the respect of others.
As an artist, it's important to build a fanbase, but it must be done organically, over time with hard work and great music. Artificial numbers might help an artist entice a few curious stragglers to click play, but this strategy makes it virtually impossible to understand, analyze and build an audience.
Update: In an e-mail to DJBooth, a representative from SoundCloud issued the following statement:
We work hard to combat all forms of fake activity on the platform; we hope these efforts reduce occurrences where an account is trying to manipulate their own, or another person's, popularity on the platform. Even though we are continually working to improve the systems we use to detect and remove fake activity, it could be that some fake activity is still slipping through the net. We hope in the future that as we develop improved systems, this will be less apparent on the platform. Thanks for your patience and help with maintaining our platform's integrity.
Update 2: Since we first published this story on Tuesday (January 10), the No Limit Forever SoundCloud account has been removed and the label's official website, nolimitboys.com, has stripped every SoundCloud link and embed from their site, including from the "Music" drop-down menu, which now only links to their Spotify account. (And in case you were wondering, all 21 of the project's tracks still have a sub-1,000 play count on Spotify.)
Update 3: Master P has now removed all links to outside stream sources from his website, including the removal of the entire "Music" drop-down menu which previously linked out to both SoundCloud and Spotify. Also, while several readers angry Master P stans have written us emails or left Facebook comments suggesting the (now-deleted) SoundCloud account in question doesn't actually belong to Master P and is merely a "fan-made" account, we'd like to direct you to a Facebook post from November 9, in which Master P links to the account to promote the stream for his single "Flex'n On'em" single. So, uh, yeah.
By DJ Z, who loves to argue with you on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Tumblr