The power of ownership cannot be understated. New York-born and California-based rapper Joey Trap understands this well. As the first artist signed to TuneCore and Believe’s PIVTL Projects, Joey is exercising his right to ownership as an artist, while getting the label support that so many indie acts are sorely missing.
Per TuneCore, PIVTL will “allow the artists to maintain the ownership of their masters yet come with a high level of service as well as financing.” Meaning, you get the best of both indie and major-label worlds: the power and creative control, and the financial backing to make your dreams come true.
Dreams, for Joey Trap, began at a young age. Now 21, the rapper began his foray into hip-hop early.
“In middle school, I started listening to Lil Wayne songs and reciting them word-for-word, trying to sound exactly like [him],” Joey tells me over the phone. His energy and spirit are infectious and undeniable. “That’s what got me into rapping: doing impersonations and different voices, and changing my voice a lot.”
More than a barrage of voices and immaculate flows, Joey Trap is also a businessman, in part, thanks to TuneCore.
“Without TuneCore, I would’ve never created...” Joey begins to muse. “I own a business called Young Rich Squad LLC, and I would’ve never even thought of that without working with TuneCore and putting my music out through them. I’ve tried others, but TuneCore is the easiest platform to do it yourself.”
TuneCore empowers independence and helps artists establish themselves and lifelong careers. Joey Trap is but one of hundreds of TuneCore success stories, but that does not make his story any less exciting. Our full conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did you first fall in love with music?
Joey Trap: My father always listened to music, and he’s a singer. By the time I was 12, 13, I was listening to all kinds of music, from classical to metal—obviously, Lil Wayne. In middle school, I started listening to Lil Wayne songs and reciting them word-for-word, trying to sound exactly like [him]. That’s what got me into rapping: doing impersonations and different voices, and changing my voice a lot.
How did you find your voice as an artist?
I have so many voices. It’s me having fun. I can’t say I have one voice because I don’t. I just play with it, have fun, and put all my energy on the track.
What’s your favorite part of being an artist?
Recording! I make music every single day of my life. I’m always recording, or writing, listening to beats, just trying to perfect my music. Music is my everything. I love recording and making music; that’s the best feeling.
How do you keep from getting burnt out?
I try to get as much influence from other places as possible by listening to different music. An important thing for hip-hop artists is to listen to other genres that aren’t your genre. Right now, I was bumping Chopin before you called me. I’ll listen to anything that will make me feel inspired.
What about Chopin gets you excited?
Oh, my God! Chopin’s so crazy! It’s just emotional. I specifically like it when the artist, whatever it may be, shows their emotion through the music. You can hear somebody’s soul, rather than when it’s forced.
How has TuneCore been instrumental to your career?
I’ve put so many people onto TuneCore; you have no clue. Friends I know that wanna make music, I’m like, “TuneCore! Put out a whole album.” It’s so easy for anybody to make music nowadays and get it on every platform. I did it in June of 2017 when I dropped my first album [Misadventures of Trap Jack]. The only way I would’ve been able to show [my music] off was through TuneCore.
What about TuneCore makes it such a great resource for artists?
It’s so accessible and easy to use! The platform itself, if you know how to use a computer, you can put out an album or a single. It makes you want to keep making music, the fact that it’s so easy to put it in front of people. And you get money when you put it out.
What did it feel like when you got that first TuneCore check?
I went from making street money, selling drugs, to a $20,000 check from TuneCore. It’s exciting to see money coming from something you did in an hour. It’s so easy to make the music and get paid for it—it’s the coolest job ever.
You can turn your dream into a business.
Literally! Without TuneCore, I would’ve never created… I own a business called Young Rich Squad LLC, and I would’ve never even thought of that without working with TuneCore and putting my music out through them. I’ve tried others, but this is it. TuneCore is the easiest platform to do it yourself.
Talk to me about signing to PIVTL Projects. What made you feel like that was the right move for your career?
I’ve declined major labels back to back. People offering me outrageous numbers. It just didn’t feel right, because some of them were like, “Sign to us for this much money, and we’ll still own your masters!” What!? When Chris Maltese came to me and said, “You’ll be able to own your masters, and we’re still gonna help push [your music],” that’s all I needed in my career. I came a long way by myself, but to have somebody market my [music] and to have a team working with me while I’m still owning my masters 100 percent, it’s awesome. I couldn’t think of a better deal.
What’s the best advice you have for an artist looking to maintain ownership of their career?
If it’s for you, you’ll know it, and just do it. Record the song, put it out, and let people stream it. You’ll never know how big a song will be if you don’t put it out. Whether you think it’s a hit or not. You gotta take the risk.