In a new interview with XXL for their 20th Anniversary cover, Birdman was asked about the future of the industry that has made him a very rich man, to which he replied: "I would like to see other artists become they brands and get other artists on they label. That's the only way to keep this [hip-hop] shit revolving. You have to help other guys, put them on, and then got to put other niggas on. That's how you gon keep this shit going."
I agree with Stunna that artists should focus their attention on developing their brand, which in 2017 is more important than the music itself, but hip-hop isn't guaranteed a bright future just because its star artists start labels and sign other artists.
For example, Dr. Dre is often heralded for signing acts like Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and, more recently, Anderson .Paak, but what about former Aftermath artists like Bishop Lamont and G.A.G.E, or current act Jon Connor (remember him?), who are but mere footnotes in the history of one of hip-hop's most powerful players.
It's a crapshoot. As history has shown us, signing a record deal with a fellow artist, especially one who doesn't have a glistening track record of success, can more often than not be a huge, career-altering mistake.
What's the answer? Instead of signing artists, literally, the industry's biggest stars can guarantee that hip-hop remains the most popular genre from coast-to-coast by co-signing the younger acts that they believe in. Share their work on social media, mention them in interviews, bring them on tour. And best of all, everyone involved avoids paperwork and lawyers and percentages.
It's great that J. Cole has signed so many hungry, humble, talented artists to his Dreamville label (Bas, Omen, Lute, J.I.D, EarthGang), putting them all in a better position today than they were before they signed on the dotted line, but the success of each act is directly tied to and heavily dependant on Cole's continued popularity and success.
On the flipside, Top Dawg hasn't sign XXXTentacion to TDE, but Kendrick tweeting out a link to the controversial Floridian rapper's new album has helped to keep his name in headlines. Seven weeks after his debut, 17, was released, XXX is one of the 10 most streamed hip-hop artists in the world.
Belief and a bankroll are both vital to making it in music in 2017 and beyond, but only if those two things come with full and absolute creative control and the flexibility to chart an individual path in the future.