Friday, November 16, 2012

Chilla Jones Guest Blog: Is Anyone Worth 100k?

Greetings battle rap world,

               Chilla Jones on the check in here. So recently, I went on a bit of a twitter rant about my feelings on “industry” artists wanting to jump in the URL. I didn’t really go in depth (there’s only so many patience I have with limiting each tweet to 140 characters), but it seemed to add to the mild firestorm amongst the battle rap community in the Twitter world. I was offered the invitation by the homie M. Phoenix to speak a little more on my perspective on things. What your about to read is MY point of view, and does not reflect the point of view of URL, this website, or anyone else except ME. Also, what your about to read is totally opinion, it is not right…but it is not wrong either. Just my feelings. You might find contradictions, or what you consider to be moot points...and well, so be it. Whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say… it’s not that serious…I’m not an esteemed writer or journalist, I didn’t spend months gathering facts in order to support my opinion… I have NO agenda here with this. Not trying to persuade your thought process in anyway, shape or form on this matter, I am just a battler speaking on what I feel…So with that being said…let’s continue.

                Within 90 days of the success of URL’s Summer Madness 2, which had high profile spectators such as P. Diddy (who even put up 10k of his own money to the winner of Aye Verb vs T-Rex), Busta Rhymes, Q Tip, Lloyd Banks, Cassidy, and featured the highly anticipated return of battle rap legends Murda Mook, Iron Solomon, Serius Jones, E. Ness, and of course, Loaded Lux, there’s been a buzz of a few names of people who were considering coming back to the URL for a battle. Specifically, and the name that incited the aforementioned twitter rant, Meek Mill said that for 100k he would step onto a URL stage and go to war with any emcee URL had to offer. This began to get the rumor going about possible matchups, an expected timeframe of when we may see this, and other things amongst the battle rap world. It would be exciting as hell to see...this is true. But for 100k? Hmm...lets discuss.

              Now, lets look at this from a business standpoint: Meek Mill said for 100k he would battle a URL emcee…that’s not a problem because Meek Mill has a HUGE hiphop following, and is one of the brightest, most popular stars in hiphop music today. Period. This is a fact that which can not be argued or taken away from him. And despite his battling ability, the name “Meek Mill” on a URL card will undoubtedly bring more spectators and more “mainstream” attention to the culture. I say all this to say, though it would cost URL 100k alone for 1 artist, he would probably bring that money back to them…and probably more. So from a business standpoint, while the initial investment is heavy, the potential payout is almost certainly worth it for any company willing to compensate him. But how would it affect the morale of the battlers who dedicate time and effort into the craft? How many other artists would we see try to make the transition and would it ultimately be GOOD or BAD for the culture? And would this move be worth everything that comes along with it?             

              Now, lets look at this from another standpoint: Meek Mill said for 100k he would battle a URL emcee…that’s not a problem because Meek Mill has a HUGE hiphop following, and is one of the brightest, most popular stars in hiphop music today. Period. However…this is battle rap. BATTLE RAP. The reason I said that twice is because, though the music industry and battle world are closely aligned, they are NOT 1 in the same. A battle rap emcee can not walk into a label and say “I love the albums I’ve heard from the artists from this label…I mean, I love it so much, I will create an album for your label….for ($x)” and get a check cut. It doesn’t work that way, right? Notice I put ($x), it doesn’t matter what number you put in there, chances are the label will call security to escort you the fuck off the premises. So…how does it work that way in this case? Is it because Meek Mill alone is more popular than the entire battle rap culture? Maybe he is…is it because there is no question he is worth the money he is asking for, and a label would not know what a battle rap artist’s album would be worth? Maybe that’s it… I’m sure there are logical reasons behind why these 2 scenarios aren’t a great comparison. That’s fine with me, I’ve got other more important points to make.

               Another point: Meek Mill put in work to get to where he is in the hiphop music industry/culture. He works hard, makes good music, is marketable, etc. I salute him for that 1000% and I think a lot of us who do music as well would love to be in his shoes but the truth is, he worked hard for all of it. Now, I am a product of something called the URL Proving Grounds, which is a start out point for emcees who either aren’t familiar to the URL fan base, or haven’t battled URL level competition, and for a lucky few will eventually lead into officially being apart of the URL. For me, and a lot of other battles over the past 18 months, it was where we began to put in work in order to prove to URL that we are both talented as battlers, and also worthy of their promotion and marketing dollars. It is the platform to REACH the platform, if you will. Most URL PG emcees hope to be invited to battle more established names on the “main stage” once they have proven to URL they can hold their own. In the best case scenario, A battler will eventually become “top tier”, or amongst the most popular names in battle rap, and be paid top dollar for battles (I’ll touch more on that term “top dollar” in a second). In the minds of most, this is the “star” level of battle rap…when you are elite according to general consensus, when your name sells tickets, and when you are paid “good money” to battle. We all have different motivations for battling…some of us have a passion for it, some of us just want to promote ourselves or our music, some of us are good and see it as an easy check… but regardless of the motivation, most of us are striving to get to “top tier”. There are a lot of people who work hard in THIS culture for the opportunity to reach that platform and to have a pay day like that…and IN MY OPINION, it’s almost insulting that someone who as a battler has never left a mark on battling themselves, nor done much to help advance the culture prior to Summer Madness 2, could cash in on everyone elses work to build up the leagues and the culture as much as all of us have. Shit…compared to a lot of people I haven’t done ANYTHING yet in my career…so I can imagine what other, more established and accomplished battlers MAY feel about this situation. Maybe some of us are just territorial…I’m sure that’s part of it. But shit... if an NBA player was about to get more than 10 times what a platinum artist got to headline Summerjam as a rapper…

              Now, lets discuss “top dollar”. Mind you the figures I’m throwing out here aren’t based on anything factual, as I would never release that information, but will give you an idea of the scale in which 100k really resides. Now, Meek Mill said for 100k he will battle a URL emcee…Do me a favor and name 5 emcees you consider “top tier”. Then name who you think is the GREATEST battle emcee, likely someone who was on the Summer Madness 2 stage just this past August. So you have a minimum of 5 names there, possibly 6, right? Now, if we add up what they ALL got for their very last battle, chances are that number is NOT above 50k. Yes, I mean combined. Again, this is all hearsay, but there are very few scenarios in which I can envision that number being above 50k…and even if it was, it’s not within 30k of 100k. This is almost a certainty. These are people who have represented battle rap on a VERY large scale, have put their reputations on the line time and time again, have basically given a lot of their time and effort to this culture. And we are potentially going to allow someone who likely hasn’t battled in 5+ years to come back and make at LEAST 5x what the “professional battle rappers” make? Also, it should be said that now that the popularity of the artform has grown, there are more sponsors willing to help accommodate some of the battlers monetary requests so it’s very likely that even if anyone received 100k, it wouldn’t all come directly from the league involved. But personally, I’d like to see someone like Tsu Surf, Hitman Holla, Conceited, Charlie Clips, Aye Verb, T Rex, Calicoe, DNA or any other battler widely considered top tier to get a payday like that. Shit…knock a 0 off of that and that probably ain’t bad for most them dudes neither (but I am not speaking for them). People like them are a huge reason URL is as successful as it is, right?

              So, in conclusion, this isn’t a Meek Mill/industry diss blog, I think he makes dope music, and I would love to see him, and others like Joe Budden, Cassidy, Fabolous, and JR Writer give it a go on URL. But…let’s be reasonable; Yes - certain artists will bring their fanbase to the culture…for a battle at least. But lets not overlook the flip side: Any artist who comes back and doesn’t completely suck, will probably become more popular as a result of this too, and will boost the value of THEIR brand, as well as URL’s. If you ask me, (and you didn't...) 100k, in my humble opinion, is just far too much to ask for, especially before proving you can even compete at the level of the best in the world. But, prior to Summer Madness 2, a lot of us thought 25k was a little much for Murda Mook to ask for…and some of us see him, or depending on how you felt about his Summer Madness 2 performance, saw him, as one of the greatest battlers EVER. Some of us thought he'd NEVER get it, and even if he did, that he wasn't deserving. But all this...new found attention, Maybe it’s a sign of the culture growing, eventually reaching it’s peak of appeal to the masses, possibly breaching the world of cable television and turning “top tier” battlers into bonafide household names…Or, Maybe it’s a sign that the battle rap culture is going to walk down the same path some of us criticize the hiphop industry for venturing down, where the money made is more important than the integrity of the artform...Well, I guess we will find out soon enough. But if, and when it happens, salute to Meek & anyone else on the payday…and I hope they are ready for the wreck they will catch standing in front of a top tier URL emcee. Thank you for reading!