September 30, 2008

Is Rap Music Killing Hip-Hop Culture?

On a fairly consistent basis I am asked by people a simple yet slippery question, "what is the difference between Hip-hop and rap"?

I normally give this short answer; Hip-hop encompasses an entire culture where as rap is the act of rapping or making words rhyme in the Hip-hop form. I also go on to clarify that rap music and Hip-hop music are not necessarily the same thing. For example, a McDonald's TV commercial comes on and there are two kids with baseball caps tilted to the side rapping about french fries and chicken McNuggets, is this Hip-hop music? I would definitely say No. Is it rap? Well, yes....they're rapping. This is my short answer to the difference between Hip-hop and rap.

Going a bit deeper into the question "what is the difference between Hip-hop and rap", I find it important to define what I mean by Hip-hop. In recent years different organizations have added to and adjusted the traditional four pillars of Hip-hop, and you may find different definitions online as to what constitutes Hip-hop culture. But traditionally (and what I follow) Hip-hop is made up of four main pillars; DJing, Grafitti Art, Breakdancing and Hip-hop Music aka Rapping. When speaking about Hip-hop and its culture this is the foundation I adhere to and when speaking about Hip-hop music I am referring to the music that was born out of this culture.

Over the last decade a gray area between true Hip-hop based art and corporate America has come into play and it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish the creative growth of the culture from the appetite of corporate America and it's search for easy money off of hit song's and breakaway artist's. Corportate interest in Hip-hop has definitely aided the popularity of the culture, pushing it into living rooms across the nation and around the world, but it is also responsible for making everything on the radio sound the same and for a limited amount of major label artist to have full (exclusive) access to all mainstream media resources.

Has the infiltration of big business into Hip-hop culture wrestled control of the culture itself away from the Hip-hop community and into the hands of company CEO's? Do the decision's that these CEO's make in reference to the music that they release and push to the public non-stop through all mainstream media channels, actually control Hip-hop? Is rap music killing Hip-hop culture? Voice your opinion!

Cristopolis Dieguez

September 29, 2008

The 80/20 Rule in Hip-Hop

What is the 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule is a management formula that is also known as Pareto's Principle. This principle is used everyday by managers and management teams around the world in every capacity imaginable. The idea can be applied to nearly anything and it's definition in short is that theoritically in any given situation, there is a dominant 20% that leads and molds the other 80%, or as the founder of this formula Dr. Joseph Juran put it there is "the vital few and the trivial many". In this bloq I would like to invite you to reflect on how this formula may apply to Hip-hop music and culture;

Let's start by saying that it would seem evident that 20% of the companies within the recording industry receive 80% percent of the profits (because they own the distribution channels),

and that 80% percent of the music that actually reaches the public is made by only 20% percent of the artists trying to get out there ,

of that music I can confidently say that only 20% is actually good while 80% is..............wack,

I will even go as far as saying that just during this summer it is arguable that 80% of the music that has come out will not be remembered a few years from now while 20% percent of it will,

of the songs that do stand the test of time only 20% percent of the money will ever go to the artist's who created them while 80% will go to...........others,

80% of those "others".....involved in selling Hip-hop music do not care about or understand it's culture while a faithful 20% are the core group vital for Hip-hop's survival,

The question that I now sit here asking myself and that I hope you are asking yourself is whether I'm going to be one of the vital few or of the trivial many?

Cristopolis Dieguez

September 25, 2008

How to Find & Buy Great Beats

The beat.

It is the aspect of a song that is hit or miss. You know within moments of listening to a song whether or not it is dope or whether it is wack just by the first four bars before the lyrics! My intention in this blog is to go over a few things to look out for when looking for beats and to also give anyone looking for great production a few links to producers and websites that specialize in trafficking hot tracks!

It is difficult to talk about Hip-hop and beats without going over the topic of sample clearance. In 1991 the first ruling on sampling occured when Biz Markie was sued for sampling Gilbert O'Sullivan's hit song "Alone Again, Naturally". His album was barred from any further sale and this set the precedent by which business was to be conducted in regards to digital sampling. If you are looking to sample (legally) keep in mind that in order to clear a sample you will need to go through at least two copyright holders; the owners of the sound recording (the record label) and the owner of the composition (the publishing company). What they ask for in compensation for using the sample can vary from a simple flat fee to a more complicated royalty based agreement or a combination of both.

Due to the high cost and complicated nature of dealing with samples, many of todays most note worthy Hip-hop producers such as Timbaland, The Neptunes, and Scott Storch now produce principally by using synthesizers, drum machines, and libraries of royalty free loops.

Thanks to the popularity of Hip-hop and other genres of digital music there are now litteraly hundreds of royalty free loop products that can be purchased at relatively low prices. Two of the better and more extensive loop libraries are the Sony Acid library and the Apple Loop library each offering thousands of royalty free samples.

If you're not interested in dabbling with production but would rather connect with producers who earn there bread and butter from making head nodders then I have a site for you! PMP Worldwide Entertaintenment offers an online service that allows you to connect with A-List producers such as Clinton Sparks, Buckwild, and Domingo. Through this service you can also connect with lesser known producers who still pack a big punch. Another great resource for finding producers who take their craft seriously is the Connex List. This is a quarterly published Hip-hop version of the yellow pages, which includes a few pages of producers who have submitted their information (email, phone numbers, websites) so that you can hit them up for beats!

When negotiating terms for purchasing tracks there are two primary agreement types to keep in mind which are exclusive and non-exclusive ownership of the production. Exclusive ownership generally means that the producer agrees to no longer sell that particular track to anyone else again and may go as far as releasing the copyright to the buyer. A non-exclusive agreement generally means that the producer gives you permission to use the track but retains the right to continue to use the track for commercial purposes. When you begin to deal with major labels or major indies you may begin to also negotiate points on your album as partial compensation for a musical composition. Contractual agreement can quickly become complicated and it is always wise to get the opinion of a lawyer. I feel that it's important to note that these few sentences are nothing more than a brief overview of the primary 2 types of production agreements. For more extensive information on this topic I recommend that you reference the music industry book; All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman.

Once you have found your track and negotiated the terms of agreement you get to one of the potentially slippery slopes of doing business, which is do you pay first or wait till you receive your track? This really depends and should be dealt with on a case by case basis. I personally like to receive the tracks first, so that in the case that I want adjustments in the arrangement of the track or the quality of the sound files I still have the leverage of the producers compensation. But if the producer has a track that you really want, or a name that you really want to be associated with then you may just be willing to shell out payment before receiving the files. This is just one of those gray areas that depends on how you want to do business. A compromise that you may find effective is to pay half up front and the second half of the payment once you have received all of the files of the track.

How do I get my beat?! When receiving your beat try to get it as seperated tracks in .wav file format. Now I'm not referring to the beat that you burn on CD to write your song too, that can be an MP3 or any other format. Instead I'm referring to the actual seperated files that the engineer will be manipulating when you are mixing it down. This is important because engineering and mixing songs is an art in and of itself, and the more you give the engineer to work with the better end product you'll get back. Tracks can be sent to you by the good old postal service on a CD or you can also use websites such as and These websites are quite convenient because the producer will simply upload each file and you will receive a url that you can use to access the file, instantly and all from the comfort of your computer!

I hope that this information helps you find that banger that your looking for, and feel free to contact with any questions!

Wishing you continued success!

Cristopolis Dieguez