In 2016, while on a road trip with a friend, SNRKLR, a 24-year-old rapper-turned-producer born Alex Guerrero, heard Denzel Curry's cult classic single "Ultimate" for the first time.
"I wasn't listening to any underground rappers at the time but that lead me to listen to more of the underground scene," Guerrero told me via email.
Enamored with the song's production, SNRKLR, who has been making music for almost nine years, reached out to "Ultimate" producer Ronny J via email after he saw him advertise beats for sale on Twitter, inquiring how much it would cost him to purchase a handful of beats.
Born in South Jersey but currently making a name for himself in South Florida, Ronny J has seen his profile light up over the past two years, thanks in large part to his work with Denzel Curry, Lil Pump, Ski Mask the Slump God and the controversial XXXTentacion. Last month, we named Ronny one of 10 producers leading hip-hop into the next generation.
While Ronny J was quick to respond to SNRKLR's initial purchase inquiry via email, that would be the last time, according to SNRKLR, that he was treated to a professional and prompt means of correspondence.
Here's a complete timeline of the events, according to SNRKLR:
- November 18, 2016: SNRKLR sees Ronny J advertising "exclusive" beats on Twitter and asks him how much one will cost. Ronny J responds with "$600." SNRKLR, for the time being, decides to pass on buying a beat.
- March 4, 2017: SNRKLR once again sees Ronny J advertising beats for sale on his Twitter, and this time there are "deals" to be had. SNRKLR once again emails Ronny, who this time offers him a package of "four custom beats" for $550. In order to receive the four beats, SNRKLR is instructed to send Ronny the money through PayPal using the "friends and family" option.
- March 6, 2017: SNRKLR sends Ronny J $550 via PayPal.
- March 30, 2017: After ghosting him for 24 days, Ronny J finally responds to SNRKLR's third email pressing him for the beats he paid for, with the following email: "Send screen shot of payment...sorry for the late response." Despite the fact that Ronny, who had been sitting on the money for more than three weeks, could easily verify the transfer in his PayPal transaction history, SNRKLR follows his directions and sends a screen shot of the payment (see below).
- April 16, 2017: Two weeks later—and now a total of six weeks since his payment was made—SNRKLR sends Ronny yet another follow-up email, politely asking him to either send him the beats or refund his money. "Not trying to be rude or anything," he writes. Ronny responds immediately, promising SNRKLR that four beats would arrive by that evening. They never arrived.
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Three months later, according to SNRKLR, Ronny J has ignored each and every one of SNRKLR's follow-up emails, including multiple requests for a refund. SNRKLR contacted PayPal and explained the situation, but they told him that "family and friends" transfers are only protected for the first 45 days. After that, you're just plain shit out of luck.
We have reached out to Ronny J via email and Twitter, asking the producer for comment on SNRKLR's allegations—all of which can be verified through a paper trail that includes emails and a PayPal recepit—but as of press time, he has yet to respond.
"I work in the tech industry but not full time, so it is a pretty big loss," said SNRKLR, who made the purchase using a credit card that he's still paying off.
While up-and-coming producers tend to get the short end of the stick in the recording business—from getting manipulated into signing away their work to not getting paid for their beats—it's hard to feel sorry for more established and veteran producers who prey on naïve, amateur rappers by constantly advertising "beat deals" on Twitter, only to accept payments but never provide the goods.
So, how can rappers who are green behind the ears avoid the same fate as SNRKLR? For starters, if you know how to produce yourself, produce yourself. It's likely you'll never ask yourself to transfer $550 to yourself. And should that happen, your PayPal balance will remain unchanged.
In all seriousness, though, before sending a producer your hard-earned money, ask around to make sure other artists have had a pleasant experience working with that individual. Also, buying beats isn't like Secret Santa—an artist should never blindly send money and then ask for snippets of the beats. What if you don't like the beat snippets? Ask for the snippets up front, select the beats you want to purchase based on your experience previewing said snippets, and then, after you're happy with your beat selections, transfer the purchase price.
As for the files themselves, MP3s won't cut it. Ask for stereo WAV files, and if you're really serious about getting those songs mixed and mastered for a professional release, ask for the stem files.
Ultimately, even if you follow all of this advice to a tee, you might still get fucked over by an unsavory character. If you read this far, though, at least you can say you saw it coming.