Fast money and hungry labels hurt hip-hop more than any “mumble rapper.” As A&Rs and label executives continue privileging virality, sensationalism, and social media antics over musical quality, we will continue to see the rise of flash-in-the-pan rappers.
Yet, it is not all gloom and doom at the major-label level. Speaking with Gary Suarez in a new interview for Forbes Entertainment, CMG owner Jonny Shipes stated plainly that clout comes last when he signs new artists.
“I don't want to walk into Cinematic and see a bunch of clout chasing weirdos that are setting their hair on fire to get views,” Shipes told Suarez. “I don't care if it takes me ten more years to get where I'm going; it has to start with quality.”
Quality, according to Shipes, comes down to the poignancy of the raps for a hip-hop artist. “If you close your eyes and listen, there's gonna be a picture painted.” he said. “If it's a hip-hop artist, is it taking me right to their block, into their house, right into the kitchen?”
Of course, Shipes finds himself in good company with this approach. We have Pulse Music Group’s VP of A&R, Ashley Calhoun focusing on the potential starpower and creative energy of an artist, telling TIDAL: “Artists give off different vibes, but there’s a certain drive you can feel when you meet someone that’s passionate, and that’s what I look for.”
Def Jam EVP Steven Victor also looks beyond numbers and staged chaos, telling HITS Daily Double: “I’m doing it the old-fashioned way: If I find somebody and think that they’re a superstar and I think they’re talented, I sign them and hope for the best. I don’t really look for the numbers, because the numbers could be deceiving—shit moves so fast these days.”
Over the past 11 years, Shipes is responsible for signing Joey Bada$$, Big K.R.I.T, G Herbo, and Mick Jenkins, among others.
Praise be to the A&Rs who still care, we appreciate you and your aversion to “clout chasing weirdos.”
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