The multi-Platinum selling recording artist recently sat down with Elliott Wilson and Brian Miller for a live taping of the Rap Radar podcast and during their conversation, Russ was asked by Miller if the music industry still rewards talent.
"Let me tell you what the industry rewards," Russ said, adding a dramatic pause, "The industry rewards connections and fuck shit. That's what it rewards. I mean, if it rewards talent, feel me, I would be the biggest artist in the entire fucking world."
Setting aside Russ' larger-than-life, sky-high confidence and his braggadocious personality, he's 100% right.
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By and large, the industry—read: the major label system—doesn't care about talent; they care about, as one major label A&R put it, "cultural relevance," and social media impressions.
Basically, labels want to sign acts that will allow them to cash the biggest check as quickly as possible. That is how 12-year-old Matt Ox signing a record deal happens. That is how viral locust Bhad Bhabie signing a record deal happens.
Now, in fairness to the corporate snakes in suit jackets who work inside the big buildings in New York and Los Angeles, this is the music business. Labels sign (and invest in) artists in hopes that they're able to make a significant return on investment and dime-a-dozen viral acts give the labels their best chance at making a quick buck.
The problem with this approach, however, is that there isn't enough balance. Labels should be handing out recording contracts to viral acts and legacy artists—talent that doesn't necessarily craft radio-ready material or make music geared toward topping the charts, like Vince Staples or Logic before "1-800."
Just like movie studios use revenue generated by their big summer blockbusters to bankroll smaller, more artful pictures and documentaries, major labels should be reinvesting the income from their here today, gone tomorrow acts into truly talented youngsters who have the potential for long-term greatness but also require patience and development.
Who knows? If that actually happened, Russ might have some real competition for the title of "most talented artist in the world."