We’ve all perhaps read about the shift in hip hop distribution and the labels role for artists. Labels have played some terrible cards throughout the years: keeping Lupe Fiasco from releasing music during his best years because they wanted his songs to sound differently compared to how he wanted it. Same story with Big K.R.I.T. And if you would make it on your own, the labels would pay major money to radio stations to not play your songs. Well, as we all know, the streaming industry has changed the distribution: it’s not completely reliant on radio stations anymore and because of that, labels have a reduced influence (albeit a lot, still).
Playlists are the new radio stations. Take Rap Caviar as an example, the biggest Spotify playlist for hip hop. It has 10.7 million subscribers right now and is hence a major controller of what is popular and what should become popular. It was started and maintained by one person up til recently: Tuma Basa. He could make an artist an overnight success. Take Lil Uzi Vert, who wasn’t mainstream til he was featured on Rap Caviar, and leapt to over 1 million listeners directly afterwards. Why Lil Uzi Vert though? Well, someone turned the rocks and uncovered that Tuma Basa had received trips, exclusive hotels, private flights and fancy restaurant visits paid for.
So one person is directly affecting what 10 731 144 people are listening to. In an age where we’re worried about receiving news from only one source, and hence only receiving one side of the story, should we be worried about receiving music from only one source? Should we depend on one playlist to promote new artists?
Of course it’s easy for me to write about this, running a playlist on my own, but here’s an attempt. You know how there’s a Small Business Saturday where it’s promoted to purchase from your local stores instead of the large malls and corporate chains? Well, I’m introducing Small Playlist Wednesday where I encourage you all to find a new, small playlist and give it a try.
Speaking of small labels and playlists. This newsletter is all about one label, Dreamville. It’s not one of the big five, but a smaller one. It’s J. Cole’s. So here’s a couple of artists from that label who are all paving their own lane in this huge genre.
JID had a rough childhood. Growing up in East Atlanta with friends leaving life early. Rough neighbourhoods and a tough life situation made him reach for more. He’s now tituled as a “new Kendrick Lamar”, with intense bars and thoughtful lyrics.
He got signed by J. Cole’s label, Dreamville, and has been assisted by Cole since then. I have to say, it would be difficult to find a better mentor. JID has been around a couple of years and gathered great contacts, such as Mac Miller (R.I.P) who has helped him with instrumentals and more with his latest album, DiCaprio 2.
His latest album was released this Monday and I’ve had it on repeat since then. There’s a lot of great tracks on here, with some sweet skits.
Sidenote, but JID has always liked DiCaprio and henced named the album after him. DiCaprio heard about this and showed up to the release party.
Atlanta has been known for the trap sound in recent years, most promoted by Migos. JID has purposely been avoiding falling in the same sub genre by twisting the Atlanta sound a notch and created his own vibe. Give it a listen with an older song called Never, featured on his successful sophomore album The Never Story.
Also from Atlanta, Earthgang has picked up their own sound by mixing trap, funk and soul, including a wide spectrum of instruments to their tracks and smooth singing combined with fast paced rapping.
Here’s an older track by the duo called Liquor Sto’ from their album Strays with Rabies.
The two guys formed the duo Earthgang during their high school years. They’ve released a large amount of music. They started off in 2007, and have constantly been releasing new music, gaining a lot of interest from audience and media. Noisey wrote “one of the most well thought-out releases of the year” when reviewing their album.
Do you like Outkast? Then Earthgang might be something for you. Here’s a track they’ve made that has the southern vibes heavily influenced: Cocktail.
I’ve actually featured Bas previously. He was the main cover for the newsletter back in May. I then wrote “We’ve got a few rappers that are growing steadily, and some who break through overnight. In this newsletter, we’ve got some of both. Can you imagine going from unknown to famous overnight? Weird feeling. Bas (in picture above) has been at it for yeeeears while some blow up instantly.”
And it can be said many times. Bas has an amazing talent for composing rap tracks. Bas reminds me a lot of J. Cole, so there’s no surprise he signed Bas to his label. A skit by Zack Fox from JID’s album got me thinking about Bas. In the skit, Fox goes into character of someone who throws shit at J. Cole by describing him as a “guy who needs to borrow a charger” (meaning looking like J. Cole dresses as if he’s broke). J. Cole has always been known to be “down to earth” by using his money for building homes for women who have abusive husbands, helping people in need from his hometown Fayetville and much more, while still looking “casual” and not throwing money on expensive cars and clothes. Bas has the same character traits: he’s a down to earth rapper who is all about creating great music with meaningful content.
Hov told me D’evils /
Got the best of him then, they get the best of me now /
Without a Reasonable Doubt
With this line, Bas hands Jay Z a shoutout. “D’Evils” is a track on his classic album, Reasonable Doubt. The idea of the track is that the longing for money and fame might corrupt you and take a turn to the worst, which Bas worries about for himself.
Cozz is known for being a “reality rapper”. He raps things such as:
I ain’t got money to blow but I’m getting there dawg,
Can’t get momma a home but getting there ya’ll
Won’t reach the end of the road sitting there dawg,
How you gon’ learn to grow if you ain’t listening yo
(Heard on Zendaya ft. J. Cole) It’s not the same topics as name dropping R&B girls you’ve dated, or naming brands of cars you own, or clothes. No glamour, more of the reality struggle rap that has been popular in the late 90’s and 00’s.
He got his name out there when he uploaded his project Cozz & Effect in 2014 and has been signed to Dreamville since, and with the release of his anticipated album Effected in 2018, he got features from great artists such as Kendrick Lamar who featured on his track Hustla’s Story.