From French Trap music to Down South Bounce, hip-hop has become a globally beloved genre of music that has evolved into one of the biggest industries of music. Last week, EARMILK had the privilege of attending a panel hosted by the California Copyright Conference featuring some of the most iconic playmakers in the game and the working professionals behind some of the most iconic and influential songs of modern music. Here a few pieces of insight from featured guests whom anyone looking to get into hip-hop should immediately familiarise themselves with.
Che Pope, Record Producer
Hailing from Boston, Che Pope is also a Grammy award-winning hip-hop producer. As the former president of G.O.O.D. Music, Pope has worked with artists like John Legend, Common, Kanye West - with producer credits on Kanye's "Bound2". Nonetheless, his musical success debatably started back in the '90s when he was first introduced to Lauryn Hill and played a significant role in producing The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. He’s also worked on A$AP Rocky’s album At. Long. Last. ASAP and The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness with Mike Dean.
The main piece of advice: Market Yourself
“You can’t exist in the background. Don’t be low-key. Get your credits. You can’t just let your beats talk. My number one mistake was not branding myself. If you want to have longevity in this business, you have to reinvent yourself and [not] hesitate to brand yourself.” - Che Pope
TuneDaRuLa, Record Producer, Singer-Songwriter, Engineer
This Grammy-nominated music producer, songwriter, and recording engineer is truly a silent assassin. TuneDaRuLa’s love for music started in church and since then has reached unimaginable heights in such a short period. At 18 years old, he received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album for El Debarge. Today he is one of the most versatile producers in the game working with the best of the best including The Weeknd, Quavo, French Montana, Young Thug, Davido, Swae Lee, Teyana Taylor, Jeremih, Poo Bear, Kehlani, Tori Kelly, Jordin Sparks, TI, and so many more.
The main piece of advice: Don’t Be Afraid to Work With Others
“It’s a lot easier to collaborate with others. That way you can elevate your work.” -TuneDaRuLa
Thomas Louis Jones III aka Rapper Big Pooh, Rapper
Thomas Louis Jones III, also known as Rapper Big Pooh, is an American rapper that got his first big break with Beni B of ABB Records and then with Atlantic Records. Amongst releasing his own albums such as RPM and Words Pain Pictures, he advises rappers on the rise. Notably, Big Pooh manages the Dreamville artist Lute who has recently become Grammy-nominated for his contribution to the collaborative album Revenge of the Dreamers III.
The main piece of advice: Be Yourself and Show That
“Artists aren't mysterious anymore. People have to buy into you. When you [make] music, you're supposed to evoke an emotion They want to feel like they are supporting you. [When you do that] you can sell them anything and everything.” - Rapper Big Pooh
Tuff Morgan, Vice President of A&R at peermusic
With the amount of advice Tuff Morgan laid down on the table, I felt honored to be in his presence. Some people have been in the music industry for years and have never come across someone like Tuff to put them on game. As the VP of A&R at peer music, Morgan has published records with the most recognizable names in the music industry including Beyoncé, Drake, J. Lo, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Sam Smith, Justin Timberlake, Ella Mae, and the list goes on. Amongst the great amount of counseling he gave the audience that night there was one piece of advice that stuck with me.
The main piece of advice: Don’t Set Goals
“Winners and successful people [don’t have goals]. They have systems.” - Tuff Morgan [Throughout the conversation, Morgan stressed the potential downfall of setting a goal. When you set a goal you only work towards one thing, and when you achieve it, it’s over. However, when you put a system in place, you’re bound for continued success.]
Kevin Gilliam aka DJ Battle Cat, Record Producer, Rapper, Singer-Songwriter
Kevin Alexander Gilliam, also known as DJ Battle Cat, is a South Central LA music legend. Working with LA greats like Dr. Dre and Warren G spearheaded his career, later leading him to produce an RIAA-certified gold album for Def Jam Records. Under his belt, he has collaborated with other notable figures in the game such as Snoop Dogg and Tyress and DJ’d for Usher’s live “BET Experience” concert. As a hip hop OG, DJ Battle Cat still has his finger on the new wave of hip hop music as he has recently released new projects with today's generation of musical superstars including YG, Ty Dolla $sign, and Anderson .Paak.
The main piece of advice: Branding is Everything
“Don’t get too caught up in being complacent. It is important we teach the young generation [that] branding helps people secure their families.” - Kevin Gilliam [It’s no secret that some artists make more money on merch than they do performing shows. Artists like YG and Blueface have become such recognizable figures in the rap scene that they have been able to profit off of their image and brand alone. DJ Battle Cat made it a point to stress the importance of branding, and, regardless of what type of artists you are, you should never forget to capitalize on your brand.]
James Leach, VP, Creative Services/West Coast Operations at SESAC
James Leach, the moderator of the panel, is truly the most humble and well-versed playmaker in the music industry. Early in his career, he secured a position at Michael Jackson’s prestigious ATV Music Group prior to signing Akon when as the Director of Creative Affairs/ Urban Music at Famous Music. As a seasoned and respected professional in the music industry for decades, Leach often chooses to let others express their passions to him and see how he can assist. Nevertheless, he dropped a few gems throughout the discussion that were worth picking up.
The main piece of advice: Keep Going
“It may not happen today. [It] may not happen tomorrow but keep that passion.” - James Leach
Connect with Che Pope: Instagram