What Mannie Fresh’s career teaches about ‘Homeboy Business’

cashmoneyFact: Mannie Fresh is one of the best hip-hop producers of all time. He may be too humble to claim that, so I’ll say it.

That distinct New Orleans signature sound that got the world’s attention would not have been the same without him. As a producer, the sonic architect gave us epic and memorable tracks like “The Block Is Hot”, “Go DJ”, “Number One Stunna”, “Back That Thang Up”, “Set It Off”, “Get Your Roll On” and many more. As a hitmaker, not only did he reinvent southern hip-hop, but he helped create the rise of (what appeared to be) an unstoppable dynasty.

The block was hot in the mid 90’s thanks to his Cash Money crew – Juvenile, Baby, Turk, B.G and this young teen who would become a G.O.A.T. It’s hard to believe Lil’ Wayne was just 16 years old when he graced the hook on “Bling Bling.” The song would foreshadow what was ahead – a lifestyle the group craved. The type of success that can take you from Holly Grove to Hollywood.

Before I go any further, let me just say New Orleans as a music scene was popping for several other reasons. Master P was making a name for himself after his success with ‘bout it, bout it’ as he crafted his own label with a down south gritty sound.

But now let’s go back to that “fly as a son of a gun, son of a stunna…”

With the success of Wayne and Cash Money, we got to see the undeniable creativity of Fresh. Because of him, New Orleans had its own identity as a Southern hip-hop scene. A city that in the 90’s competed for notoriety against the future mecca of hip-hop: Atlanta. The Southern region was demanding respect. And Mannie Fresh helped the region gain that. Same way Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family brought the spotlight to the A.

Mannie Fresh often times said the mid 90’s was a defining moment for the music business industry. Artists got to see how much money they could make as entrepreneurs and businessmen. They only got in it to get out of the projects. They learned that putting ‘the pain’ of their life experiences in the music could help connect them with people all over the country.

But one thing Mannie Fresh regrets is doing “homeboy business.” This is when artists and producers (who work alongside lifelong friends) don’t properly document business deals, songwriter and producer credits, royalties, publishing rights, etc. As soon as the friendship goes south, millions of dollars are on the line.

In his latest album, Rick Ross touched on this topic in the song “Idols Become Rivals.” In the track, Rozay said Birdman’s allegedly questionable business practices ripped apart the Cash Money dynasty. As a hip-hop fan watching it all unfold from the sidelines, Ross says he prays Mannie Fresh will bounce back from the legal issues with Cash Money once he left the label.

The entire industry realizes Mannie Fresh is one of the greatest. But he had nothing to compare his come-up to. He had to learn from his own mistakes on how to make the right kind of business moves. When you treat the beginning of your rap career like a hobby, there are opportunities you can miss out on that can be critical down the road. Like not having the rights to your instrumentals, lyrics or brand.

Learn from Mannie Fresh. Yes, trust your circle but make the right moves for  the longevity. So when you get hit with that “It’s not personal, it’s business”, you know the business is taken care of. Twenty years after making “Back That Thang Up”, the song continues to bring in revenue and get radio play. Something they might not have thought of as young moguls in the making.

I’ve listened to several interviews recently where Fresh tells aspiring artists to avoid “homeboy business.” Do it the right way. Loyalty is royalty. But at some point in your career, you’ll have to be able to separate loyalty from royalty.

As a hip-hop fan, I look forward to the day when a Cash Money reunion tour will be a reality.  Puff’s Bad Boy has been able to do that. And Cash Money was the Bad Boy of the South so here’s to hoping that will happen someday.

What rap legends have in common with Nina Simone

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Maybe this is why Nina Simone is one of the most sampled musicians in hip-hop music. Her art resonates with the underdog story. In addition to her remarkable talent, she remained unapologetically true to her authenticity. But being (and remaining) true came with a price.

The price Nina faced is waiting until time ran out to get wholeheartedly recognized for her cultural influence, daring take on social issues and incredible vision as an artist. What do I mean by this? Let me just make one quick example. The queen just got inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll hall of fame last year when she was qualified to be inducted in 1986.

How does that happen? I call that long overlooked. Just like what so many hip-hop legends experience during their lifetime. Not feeling widespread love ‘til it’s too late (unless you’re one of the lucky ones).

The reason why I’m making the comparison between Nina and rap legends can be best explained by Kanye West’s lyrics from his song ‘Big Brother.’

‘If you admire somebody, you should go ahead and tell them. People never get the flowers while they can still smell them.”

I wonder if the late New York rapper Craig Mack got a chance to smell the flowers. I spent the whole day reading beautiful tributes about Mack who helped lay the foundation for Puff’s dynastic label Bad Boy Records. He died at the age of 46.  

Although Craig Mack voluntarily walked away from the rap game, I wonder if being reminded of just how much love millions of hip-hop fans still have for him would convince him to bless the mic once again. Yes, he didn’t reach the success Biggie Smalls experienced as a labelmate, but he was a pioneer like BIG even if he didn’t make it as big as he could have.

Craig Mack joins so many others who probably didn’t get the praise they deserved for their creative contributions to hip-hop and so many other rappers who left us too soon.

Hip-hop artists often talk about the struggles of coming up as an underdog and not feeling the love throughout their career. Sometimes the love is felt when they’re no longer there to see the standing ovations. Sometimes the awards and mainstream recognition comes after they’re gone. Just like Nina Simone.

It’s heartwarming to see all the artists coming forward to say they were influenced by Craig Mack, how he gave them a solid foundation for success and how much he meant to them. If only he heard at least 5% of that just a few days earlier.

Here’s to the samples not created yet that may keep that legacy going for future generations to appreciate. Just like our queen.

Story by: Neima Abdulahi, instagram: @NeimerDreamer

 

Recently murdered rappers share striking similarities: They ‘got it out the mud’ and had next

image2Hip-hop doesn’t pull triggers. Jealousy does. Anger does. The storyline of murdered rappers in the hip-hop game has striking similarities.

Young rappers who ‘got it out the mud.’ Emerging stars who had next, but next never came. Artists who never had nothing handed. Took nothing for granted. But somehow managed to get a glimpse of the good life – successful mixtapes, radio buzz, hometown name recognition, support from well-respected artists, strip club DJs, and grassroot campaigns in the streets.

When you start getting that kinda love, you start feeling like Clayton County’s Jigga man. Montgomery’s BIG. Or even Bankhead’s Puff.

We witnessed their come-ups. Bankroll Fresh. Doe B. Slim Dunkin. Dolla. Lil Snupe. Yung Mazi.

Yung-Mazi-Shot-AgainAugust 6, 2017. Atlanta’s very own Yung Mazi was shot multiple times outside of a pizza joint. The talented Kevin Gates affiliate survived prior shootings that could have easily taken his life. His death was mourned by the entire hip-hop community, serving as a reminder of just how dangerous the rap game can be.  Jibril Abdur-Rahman was murdered at 31 years old. The case is still unsolved.

bankrollMarch 4, 2016. Bankroll Fresh was killed outside of a recording studio in Atlanta. Fresh was big timing for an independent artist. Worked with 2Chainz, Gucci Mane, Jeezy, Zaytoven and so many others. His song “Hot Boy” had the streets on lock. It was an instant new anthem. Couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it. Street Money Worldwide was his life. He wore it like a badge of honor. Fresh died at the age of 28. Trentavious White’s murder is still unsolved.

lil snupeJune 20, 2013. Meek Mill’s protege Lil Snupe had it all figured out at a young age. The 18-year-old Dream Chasers rapper who was on the rise died from multiple gunshot wounds in Louisiana. The teen had the rap game’s attention. Boosie Badazz worked with him. DJ Khaled. Trae Tha Truth. The GOAT Curren$y. Artists hustle for decades to even hop on a track with one of these big name artists. But Snupe did it. At just 18 years old, he live out his dream. Now we may never know how far he could have taken it. Rest in peace Addarren Ross.

DOE-BDecember 28, 2013. Up-and-coming rapper Doe B was shot dead at a nightclub in Montgomery. He was signed to T.I’s label Grand Hustle and managed by DJ Frank White. I remember the buzz he was getting… so unreal. “Let Me Find Out” was just starting to blow up. His mixtape Baby Jesus was popping. And then it all ended so fast. So soon. The South’s Biggie gone before he could prove to the world he could be just as famous as Brooklyn’s Christopher Wallace. Glenn Thomas was dead at 22 years old.

slim-dunkinDecember 16, 2011. Slim Dunkin gunned down before he reached his potential. If you followed the Atlanta rap scene back then, you’d know Dunk has been making noise on his collabs with Waka Flocka Flame. The Clayton County representer was a rising star on Bricksquad Monopoly. He was also close friends with Gucci Mane. While at a recording studio, a fight broke out and then someone pulled out a gun. Killing Mario Hamilton. He was only 24 years old.

dolla

May 18, 2009. Atlanta rapper Dolla had just signed with Akon’s Konvict Musik and was just about to finish up his debut album. With industry ties to Akon, T-Pain, Diddy and Missy Elliot, the young rapper had stardom potential. Dolla was in Los Angeles to finish his album when he was shot dead. Gunned down at a shopping mall. Roderick Anthony Burton II was just 21 years old.

All these rappers left too soon. Their family members probably wonder every single day what could have been. They all came from humble beginnings. So humble, it’s hard to distinguish which struggle is connected to which town. Somehow Clayton County shares the same pain of Montgomery and Baton Rouge if you listen to all of their lyrics.

We don’t have to know exactly who murdered them to know it most likely stemmed from jealousy and hatred. Every industry veteran will tell you that. As a reporter, I’ve interviewed Bankroll Fresh’s family multiple times and talked with Yung Mazi’s friends for our breaking news coverage on 11Alive News (the NBC affiliate in Atlanta). They all express the same pain. The industry tends to have an idea of who got next years in advance. But, someone may not want to see you shine if they can’t.

They all attempted to make it out of the trap… like the previous generation of murdered rappers: Tupac (unsolved). Jam Master J (unsolved). Notorious BIG (unsolved). Soulja Slim (unsolved). Mac Dre (unsolved). Big L. and so many more.

As many cases of murdered rappers remain unsolved and more aspiring artists like Bambino Gold lose their life before they reach their dreams, it’s easy to blame the entire genre. That’s the blame game we’ve been hearing since hip-hop started to become a reflection of the environment the artists hail from. That’s why the legendary Chuck D said hip-hop is the CNN for the streets.

But now, more hip-hop artists are reaching out to the youth to send a message that violence is NOT the answer. To not always mimic what they hear and see. To handle their conflicts in non-violent ways. Maybe this will help save the future generation of rappers coming up. You know, aspiring artists hoping to make a name for themselves. Hoping to make it out the mud and make a mill. Long live Bankroll, Snupe, Mazi, Dolla, Doe B and Dunk.

Author: Neima Abdulahi, news reporter for 11Alive News (NBC Atlanta). Follow me on Instagram: NeimerDreamer

Demystifying the mutation of music genres [Mississippi delta blues + folk + rock ‘n roll]

johnhurtBlues singer Mississippi John Hurt never got the credit he deserved. I mean, what African-American musician born in the late 1800’s did? He came into this world in 1893 – barely free, broke, and somehow discovered his own unique style that easily turned him into a musical treasure. 

Hurt worked as a sharecropper, singing the riveting tunes of the Mississippi delta blues with his fingerpickin’ guitar. He was a self-taught musician. Channeling his God-given talent during an ugly time in history. Humming the tunes of spirituals that kept an entire race optimistic and hopeful. Hopeful that their lively and intricately woven lyrics about better days would someday come true.

The Mississippi Delta, widely recognized as the birthplace of the blues, is located between the Mississippi River and the Yazoo River. The distinctive region extends all the way up to another music landmark – Memphis, Tennessee.

Hurt came from the era where the state you were born in became part of your stage name. This was a trend in the early 1900’s. Examples of other delta blues artists are: Mississippi Joe Callicott, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mississippi Slim. All these artists would go on to influence commercially successful blues singers like BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley. You know, the ones who managed to market their brands in the North aka the land of opportunities.

Here’s how the Delta influenced several generations and movements to follow. Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger was a white man capable of captivating black audiences with charisma and relevancy during a segregated society. Remnants of slavery lingered in Jim Crow’s south. It lingered in the politics, cultural norms and music.

What Pete Seeger was able to do was parallel his music career with social activism – creating protest music that excited people from all backgrounds (and angered others). The Harvard college dropout took a liking to John Hurt’s authentic folksy & bluesy music. Hurt would perform poetic songs about the lonesome valley on Pete’s television show “Rainbow Quest.”

Pete gave Mississippi John Hurt a platform to speak his truths. If it wasn’t for the almost-forgottens like Mississippi John Hurt, Pete Seeger would not have been as successful with his folk music revival movement. You can argue with me on this, but I stand behind it. Generations of influential musicians spiraled out of the Mississippi delta sound.

Artists like Mississippi John Hurt influenced Pete Seeger – who you can’t mention without also acknowledging Woody Guthrie’s career. Seeger went on to influence the lyrical genius Bob Dylan who influenced John Lennon (once he pursued a solo career). Lennon would go on to influence many modern day contemporary rock ‘n roll singers. Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones were both influenced by the delta blues. So were all the British Invasion bands who mimicked the soulful and fiery harmonic delivery of blues singers – a hallmark style distinguishable and hard to execute without the life experiences to bring the lyrics to life.

Blues music originated as a temporary escape to make the best out of harsh situations. You can imagine what I mean by harsh. The testimonies inked in legendary blues songs paved the way for artists who demanded social change – Bob Dylan, John Lennon, etc. African-American folk culture, birthed by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, deserves its credit. Not just in small-town museums in the Mississippi delta, but everywhere. It’s timeless music. The kind of music probably playing somewhere in heaven right now. Rest in peace to all the delta blues legends.