There aren't many people who have devoted more time to discussing what life is like - truly like - for artists fighting to establish a career in the age of the internet than me, mostly because I spend every day fighting to establish a career on the internet myself. For artists, it may seem like there's an abyss between us, but we're not so different, you and I.
Like you, I spend every day sweating and stressing about how I'm going to turn all of this ethereal, digital code into actual money; Anthem Blue Cross has yet to accept Twitter followers as payment for my daughter's health care. Like you, I try to balance those financial realities with the pure joys of doing what I love. One minute I have a small panic attack about being a 30-year-old man who's only job skill is writing about rap music, the next minute I feel absurdly grateful that I've ever even made a single dollar writing. It's a vicious cycle.
Which is why this "I'm Quitting Rap" article, by Corduroy The Fox, a 21-year-old (I guess "former") rapper, was so infuriating.
"As of today, I’m quitting rap. Yes, I am quitting rap. The reason is that I don’t get enough blog coverage, and that’s the truth. A year ago...I thought they would post my shit whenever I wanted. I came to the realization that dreams are for dreamers, not people like myself."
You're right, Corduroy. This isn't for you. You should quit rap. Quit. Quitty quit quit quit and never start again. Fucking quit.
Let me backtrack a bit. I am very aware of how astoundingly hard the music industry can be in 2014, and how discouraging even something as seemingly simple as getting posted on a blog can be. We get approximately four thousand submissions a month, that's just the cold, mathematical reality of how over-saturated the field you're trying to break into is, and I have some real sympathy for those fighting to stand out in a crowd that large.
Which, again, is why you should definitely quit. Every day I talk to other young artists going through the same thing, and they don't quit. They deserve to not have to fight for a spot against you any more. And every day I talk to more veteran artists, who have put their family's lives on the line for years now, as their peers dropped out one by one, so they could make music for a living. You should quit so they don't have to worry about you coming for their spot. They've earned your quit.
For the record, I've been doing this for long enough to see a staggering amount of artists come and go. And while I'm clearly giving this particular gentlemen a hard time (because he deserves it), I don't think less of anyone who's pulled the plug on a music career. In fact, the definition of success in hip-hop, more than any other genre, exists on an absurd spectrum. You're either a struggle rapper or driving a Maybach, with no in-between.
We need to start talking more about "middle class" rap. How many people in America work at jobs they hate, jobs that literally cripple their hands and backs, for years, just to make $40K a year? And if you can make the same $40K, or more, through music, how absurdly lucky is that? Even if you never get signed, or go on a world tour, or even get a single blog post, what's wrong with a life spent working that nine-to-five job for security and then coming home and making music because you love music and it makes you happy? Absolutely nothing. While it won't always be easy, or even often easy, anyone who takes care of their family and has a creative outlet is living a beautiful life and has my utmost respect.
And I think that's what really cancels out any sympathy for Cordoroy I might otherwise have. Not once in his writing does he mention loving music. NOT ONCE. He mentions admiring Kanye's success, he mentions his ambition, his thirst for recognition, but not once love:
"I have no more motivation to create/release anymore music because I feel that I am not getting back what I put out there. I feel that my songs aren’t getting the attention that I have hoped for, and this has basically discouraged me and turned me off to making music."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Of course we all want to be recognized for the work we do, but if you wouldn't keep making music even if no one ever heard it, than yes, you should stop making music. And in the end, that's the problem. Not the blogs, not the mysterious "connections" he bemoans not having, not the money. The problem is that he's not making music he purely, inherently loves. And while that may seem like an artist cliché, it's also true. If you don't love the music you're making, how could you expect anyone else to?
If you don't love this enough to keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing, even after so many doors have been slammed in your face you can't even count them anymore, then stop. Save yourself, and me, the trouble. Because the money and fame and blog posts will come and go, but that love can't be taken away by anyone, not even asshole rap bloggers. And if you love hip-hop enough to keep going, even when I say you should stop, then you might just have what it takes to make it.
You though? You're not going to make it in rap. Go be amazing and successful in literally any other job on the planet, it sounds like you're smart enough and ambitious enough to someday run a Fortune 500 company. But this music shit? You don't love it enough. Quit. Just quit. Leave it to the rest of who care enough to keep going, no matter how hard it gets.
Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.