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A wave of technological innovation in recent years has made it easier than ever for ‘artists’ to be born. Digital audio streaming platforms like Soundcloud and Audiomack are simplifying the music consumption process as artists are able to easily create a profile and upload their music to the platform of their choice for fans to enjoy. Artists are even able track the amount of song plays, new followers on their music profile and the total number favorites.. all for free! Music companies like UnitedMasters gives power back to independent artists by allowing them to connect to fans, distribute music and join force with big brands for huge endorsement opportunities. While it seems the entertainment industry is becoming more straightforward, this growing sense of effortlessness is changing the standard of success in more ways than one.

We first saw the power of technology in the entertainment industry in 2006 with the launch of Twitter. The social networking site impacted fans and artists alike as artists were able to communicate with fans directly and vice versa through “tweeting.” This was the first time we've truly seen stars genuinely connect with fans without fan pages, or bogus email accounts and mailing addresses. It removed the need for meet and greets thus allowing celebrities to work smarter and not harder. Since then, increasing simplicity of artistry has gone far beyond just talking to fans and superstars. In more recent years, we’ve suffered from an overwhelming number of ‘popcorn rappers’, which are the artists who blow up almost instantaneously through a viral record, cult-like fan base and/or prodominant social media presence.

Lil Pump is one of the most popular ‘popcorn rappers’ to date. Having started by just independently releasing singles on Soundcloud, Lil Pump went on to co-headline a tour with fellow Soundcloud rapper Smokepurpp. With his SoundCloud releases accumulating over 10 million plays combined, Pump then released his single “Gucci Gang” which became his first Billboard Hot 100 song, peaking at number 3. ‘Success stories’ like this are becoming more popular with artists cutting out middle men like record labels, managers and public relations experts as they discover new ways to bring their content directly to listeners.

There are many great artists that have come up in the digital era and gone on to do great things. Bronx-bred superstar, A Boogie with the Hoodie got his start on SoundCloud and went on to open for Drake and Future’s Summer Sixteen tour, co created ‘HighBridge the Label’ with his business partners and even landed himself on the Forbes list. Other SoundCloud artists that have turned into big time stars include Post Malone, 21 Savage, XXXTentacion and even the Migos. With over 20 million creators heard in over 190 countries, it is no secret that everyone wants in on the success. Platforms like Soundcloud and many others give artists great power and with that comes great responsibility. Although the SoundCloud rapper stereotype is fading, we are still seeing the effects of what going viral can do. Rappers like Fivio Foreign (Big Drip), and even Pop Smoke (Welcome to the Party), both reached major success after having songs that went viral. Although there were other songs in their discography, the success of two single songs landed them record deals and opened up a world of opportunity. There's nothing wrong with this come up story however, aside from uploading your latest record, being a great artist is about hard work, dedication and thinking outside the box to achieve your goals and inspire your listeners. The bigger concern is that easy going methods like this will stripe Hip Hop of an essential ingredient: the grind. Will rappers become lazier with the way they supply music to fans? Or will this now make room for raw talent?

There are a few red flags with the new overnight celebrity business model. With the outpour of rappers, not only has true work ethic practically died but the over saturation of the market has made it almost impossible to keep up with new music. Quality music including things like full length albums are becoming more and more rare as labels are becoming more and more focused on streaming numbers, YouTube views and Billboard charting. The art of hip hop is slowing dying as the capitalist ways of the industry begin to show its true form. It seems that labels are just looking to flip singles and no longer cater to the ears of music lovers. In 20 years, will we have a new ‘Jay-Z’, a ’50 Cent’ or a ’T.I’? These Hip Hop veterans were not only able to captivate fans with their undeniable talent but they also provided us with strong examples of artists’ duality as both rappers and businessmen. The core values and morals of the culture are shifting, with little to no preservation of the fundamental elements that makes the Hip Hop genre flourish. With most young artists focused solely on going viral, getting a million views or buying a chain, we are unable to say what’s next to come for Hip Hop.



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