Editor’s note: The
views expressed inside this editorial aren’t necessarily the views of
AllHipHop.com or its employees.Before getting back to where we left off, I must say for the record, of the three tracks that Beanie Sigel has released (‘I Go Off,’ ‘How I Could Kill Jigga Man,’ and ‘Think Big’) since his announced affiliation with 50 Cent I like what I’m feeling and hearing in terms of energy, track selection, and flow. Sigel is on some ‘Protect Ya Neck’ and ‘Pac-like stuff.
The only problem is the subject matter: Jay-Z.
Now, I understand the game plan – to draw the new Frank Sinatra into a Philly street fight. But Jay – with the # 1 song in America – is executing the conservative playbook of Live Nation and business manager John Meneilly which calls for no risk-taking or negative press capable of scaring Corporate America, or jeopardizing the bidding war underway to license ‘Empire State of Mind,’ for commercials and public relations campaigns.
No, as my man E From Queens (a 50 supporter and Jay respecter) tells me – looking to execute the ‘rope-a-dope’ fighting style that Muhammad Ali used against George Foreman, Jay-Z will wait for Sigel and 50 to tire out.
We saw this silent-but-deadly approach to how Jay responded to Cam’ron’s attacks on him a few years ago.
To focus on a big target like Jay-Z is tempting and I understand why 50 and Beans would go there but its time for Beanie Sigel to focus on the hottest rapper out right now…Beanie Sigel.
In response to the first part of this two-part series (my debut at AllhipHop.com) I received the following in a thoughtful email:
“Cedric…In light of the lack of success of 50’s latest projects (Mobb Deep, MOP, ‘Curtis,’ ‘Terminate on Site’, ‘Before I Self Destruct’), I’m not sure 50’s going to have the same creative freedom or more importantly – resources at his disposal to put any kind of real push behind Sigel. Particularly with the extremely poor predictions for his current album, and with it being his last contracted album for Interscope. The last thing Beanie needs to get caught up in is a label switch.”
Great points on the surface but I actually think there may be no more dangerous artist in the world than a 50 Cent who has his back against the wall, with critics predicting his demise, and with resources scarce.
In the introduction to my book, The Entrepreneurial Secret, using the example of the circumstances that 50 was in when he made the riskiest record in rap history, ‘How To Rob,’ I explain that some people are at their best when most people think they are at their worst. For them, necessity is the mother of invention and having to make something happen when there is no plan B forces them to be more creative than ever.
Therefore, I actually think a hungry 50 Cent who more and more people are starting to count out, is exactly the kind of person Beanie Sigel needs right now.
To me, 50 Cent is a great rapper but he’s an even better arranger. Perhaps the best Hip-Hop has had since Marley Marl (by the way he produced LL Cool J’s masterpiece ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ when folks were counting him and LL out) and Puffy. An arranger is not a producer (a subject for another day). If you want to understand what the difference is, just listen to Game’s first album and look at what 50 was able to do through him and a great producer (Dr. Dre). I believe he should take a similar approach here. 50 Cent doesn’t need to be all over Beanie Sigel’s tracks as much as he needs to be all over the project quarterbacking the concepts and hooks, bringing in only a handful of musicians and producers that bring the best out of Sigel.
He can give to Sigel what Quincy Jones gave to Michael Jackson, not just through a direct collaboration but through surrounding and coordinating others (like how Quincy Jones brought in the Brothers Johnson, jazz musicians, and Rod Temperton of Heatwave in to work with Michael on ‘Off The Wall’) around the Philadelphia artist.
The question that reportedly haunted Beanie Sigel’s Roc-A-Fella days was ‘Can Beanie Sigel Ever Become A Platinum Artist?’ Reportedly, Jay-Z once told Nas that Beanie Sigel would never sell more than 600,000 records. To me, if true, that question and answer shows some of what was wrong with the Beanie-Sigel-Roc-A-Fella relationship. While record sales must always be in view, you don’t develop someone with the talent and capacities of Beanie Sigel according to current industry standards of success.
The way you market someone like Sigel is from the inside out. You place him in a creative and conceptual environment where he can make theme songs and albums (a lost art in Hip-Hop). You find a pattern or formula of sounds and subject matter and you let Sigel feel, think and write into it. Then, you assemble an inner circle and strategic team of advisers. You mix an inner circle who know music with political strategists, business consultants, spiritual advisers, power brokers, publicists and marketers who can take Beans places he has never gone before and form them into a Mastermind to discuss what they are hearing, interpret it, and figure out how to position Sigel in the marketplace.
In Volume 2 of The Entrepreneurial Secret I describe the 9 personality types in business that can often form this mastermind. They are the Hustler, Gangster, Salesperson, Ideologue, Coordinator, Professional, Businessperson, Engineer and Entrepreneur.
50 could easily build this team of advisers around Beanie Sigel’s album.
You don’t think of Beans like an artist, you think of him like a leader on a political and military campaign -what are the territories, niches, and market segments he and his content can appeal to? – You ask. How can we bring things in his personality and life story out through carefully crafted media, public relations and media campaign that touches not just rap and music media but social, political, racial, religious, and street dimensions.
You don’t just sell albums, you build a catalog that makes him a legend and has new fans begging for his older material.
To this end, free of charge, I offer 50 Cent some advice. He and I can build privately for more details (smile).
Sigel already has the streets (it was good for 50 to re-establish this with the three tracks they’ve released in the past two weeks). But the streets are his current demand. His emerging demand are those people who have never heard of him (which the association of 50 is going to help take care of) and those who have heard him but never understood or appreciated his true introspective impact.
Manufacturing a ‘beef’ with Jay-Z isn’t going to expand his appeal beyond the streets and tap into new markets that would love Sigel if they got to know him.
The three emerging markets for Sigel are the political progressive movement, mainstream Black professionals and entrepreneurs, and key power centers and markets outside of America (many of whom have an immigrant population here).
Here are three concept songs he can make to attract each.
‘What Your Life Like III.’ The streets are political and any artist with street credibility can cross over into the political category by combining introspection, reality, knowledge (facts and stats) and provocative edgy social commentary. Jadakiss tapped into this with ‘Why?’ in 2004, but again, lacked the team infrastructure and strategic game plan to link Jada with the organizations, opinion leaders and events that would have allowed him to translate the song’s popularity into commercial success among the more politically-inclined. ‘What Your Life Like,’ off the ‘The Truth’ album released in 2000 is the definitive track on the realities of incarceration. Anyone who hears it knows that prison life is nothing to glorify, nothing nice. Had Roc-A-Fella had the capacity and strategic insight, they would have reached out to all organizations who work on the issues of prisoner’s rights (to deal with the horrible conditions Beanie describes in the song) and felon disenfranchisement (when those convicted lose their right to vote). 50 and Beans should conceptually discuss a third version of this song (the second appeared on ‘The Reason’ album) that would deal with the issue of prisoner re-entry – what ex offenders go through when they come home, in terms of finding work, dealing with their families, and the struggle not to go back to a life of crime. Once the track is made, 50 and the Mastermind circle should privately call in a few leaders on the issue and discuss ways to position Sigel as the leader on the issues of felon disenfranchisement, and the re-entry of previously incarcerated individuals. Philadelphia already has the reputation for trying innovative things on the issue, so why haven’t we heard Sigel’s voice on the matter? Sigel should also do a prison tour, speaking and performing at certain correctional facilities throughout America. Not only with this endear Beanie Sigel to the progressive political movement but it will cross him over into key power centers of the Black community and inner city political leadership that have the ability to generate positive publicity for him and open opportunities for him outside of the music business.
‘The 50th Law.’ On the opening track to his second album, ‘Nothing Like It,’ Beanie Sigel mentions ‘…Now the Qur’an and 48 Laws polish my flaws…’ the latter reference is to Robert Greene’s book, The 48 Laws of Power. 50 Cent has just collaborated with Robert Greene on a new book The 50th Law. Here is the book’s description,” In The 50th Law, hip hop and pop culture icon 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson) joins forces with Robert Greene, bestselling author of The 48 Laws of Power, to write a ‘bible’ for success in life and work based on a single principle: fear nothing. With intimate stories from 50 Cent’s life on the streets and in the boardroom as he rose to fame after the release of his album Get Rich or Die Tryin’, as well as examples of others who have overcome adversity through understanding and practicing the 50th Law, this deeply inspirational book is perfect for entrepreneurs as well as anyone interested in the extraordinary life of Curtis Jackson.”
The book is relevant to what all Americans but especially Black professionals are going through now – layoffs and terminations. With Black unemployment at 16% they are now being forced to consider entrepreneurship. In addition young college students are increasingly nervous about finding jobs and getting degrees in fields that are unstable or dying. With Black teenage unemployment at 42% they are ripe for the message of this book. 50 and Sigel should do a track called, ‘The 50th Law’ and the marketing of it to media and events aimed at these groups. Performances, speaking and book tours at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) could be arranged and a few special events can be planned where the price of admission is a receipt showing a purchase of The 50th Law, Sigel’s new album, or even an unemployment benefits check. They could have a lot of fun with it and if they make the song an anthem, it will cross over to White professionals and struggling entrepreneurs.
An example of a song with this kind of potential was Cam’ron’s ‘I Hate My Job,’ which should have become the theme song for those working in jobs that make them miserable. All that would have been needed to pull this off is a hot video, massive viral marketing, and a publicist with connections outside of the music industry. Again, Cam’ron (and no artist) doesn’t have the team infrastructure necessary to pull this off. 50 can provide that for Beanie Sigel.
‘My Spots Are Global.’ Sigel should do a track saluting different cities and their ‘street’ histories and traditions – Toronto, Canada; Kingston, Jamaica; London, England; Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Tokyo, Japan; and Beijing, China. All 50 and Sigel would need is a researcher and historian who could contact individuals on the ground in these countries (easy because of the fan base) and a few scholars and experts who would be happy to provide details on life on the ground and the culture of the people. Or, they could talk to immigrants living here from all of those hot spots, and get a feel for the culture. Sigel’s grasp of the streets, strategic philosophy and principles could be weaved together with these details. Sigel could speak about local life, connect it to similarities in Philly, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles. He could make fun of rappers here, who wouldn’t know how to find these places on a map and the 50 could arrange the musical production team to mix in instruments popular or in the tradition to these countries. As advisers, perhaps, 50 could call in Quest Love of the Roots (also from Philly) to work with him on the arrangements. This one track alone could open Beanie Sigel to concerts worldwide, remixes with popular local artists, and international sales abroad in places no other rapper has enjoyed.
Any Hip-Hop artist who is just depending on, or trying to eat off of record sales in America is hustling backward. The real money is overseas and its time for an artist with street credibility here to expand their marketing and go get it.
Beanie Sigel would be perfect for this, and with 50’s insight and network it could be done.
50 Cent has the potential to do what Roc-A-Fella couldn’t in marketing Beanie Sigel.
He has to resist the temptation to not just promote him as a street credible artist or a ‘shooter’ but as a community boss, entrepreneur, political shot-caller and even an emerging world leader.
People are ready for more, and the time and marketplace demands it.
The reason why I believe Jay-Z did not think Beanie Sigel could go beyond 600,000 in sales is because Roc-A-Fella at that time was operating off of the 1990s typical Northeast approach to marketing a street artist. It was a basic low risk positioning tactic that’s part of a larger marketing strategy, with no growth potential.
It went something like this: a purely political-oriented or conscious artist could typically max out at 250,000 units sold. A purely street artist at best, back then, went gold. An artist that appeals to women and could make anthems, and music geared to heavy radio rotation, and clubs could go platinum. Following this thinking, from last decade, an artist who could reach the political crowd, the streets and women, while appealing to a White audience could sell millions more.
Under this model, Tupac is the ultimate or perfect artist.
I know this thinking well because I observed it and at times utilized some of it when I served as GM of Wu-Tang management in the middle part of the late 90s.
But times have changed. Aside from the obvious explosion of Hip-Hop throughout the South, two wars and a deep recession have blurred lines between what is street and what is political. The rise of the Internet, You Tube, Twitter, Facebook, and iTunes for example, have made the music more mobile and allowed people to become their own news editors and program directors. The lines between consciousness and rigid musical categories and genres are blurring everywhere except in radio formats (that is coming soon).
An artist now has to speak more than one language to become relevant and have a long career.
They also have to start realizing that there is a world full of neighborhoods like their own who can relate to them. In other words, Nairobi, Kenya is feeling Beanie Sigel because South Philadelphia has a little bit of Nairobi in it.
The skill set and insights that artists need today go well beyond the typical team infrastructure of a manager, lawyer, agent, and publicist. In fact, these professionals are the ones – maybe more than the artists – who need greater insights into a changing world. They have to do more to incorporate economics, politics, culture, technology and population changes into the strategy and services they provide their talented clients, and to keep them relevant.
The time has come for Hip-Hop to take a page from the world of sports, and bring in outside perspectives to support the creative and promotional process, and recognize that an artist can benefit from a Mastermind of individuals who can interpret what they are doing for new audiences and market segments.
A music industry friend sent me these thoughts:
“Think about pro football: During the 70’s and 80’s the game was based on athletic ability, but as the 90’s approached, teams developed the concept of players being more specialized in skill sets and eye-hand coordination. This lead to lineman being taught martial arts techniques with their hands and learning more about their center or gravity; linebackers practicing with track coaches to help with their outside blitz; running backs, receivers and corners working with choreographers to get better foot work and hip movement.
Every player now has a private nutritionist who plans diets based on their weight and strength requirements (even NBA players like Chris Paul now have personal chefs).
It went from Lynn Swann being the only guy in the league learning ballet to an entire cottage industry springing up to teach players techniques and conditioning methods. This concept changed the game! It revolutionized what a player is expected to know and do when he enters the league.
Now, Chad Ocho Cinco brags about how training as a boxer helps him get off of the line of scrimmage better to run his routes as a wide receiver.
What the players do isn’t football related, but it contributes to making the player better and increasing the profits of the team.”
The idea of bringing in others to assist in writing, producing and marketing songs may make some in Hip-Hop uncomfortable because the culture rightfully prides itself on individual originality. But true wisdom manifests through a crowd. There is a way to support the individual song-writing process without getting into ‘ghost-writing.’
Still we should all keep in mind that the greatest songs have been written by individuals other than the performer. Michael Jackson is the best example of all.
What this culture and industry needs are arrangers (not just rappers or producers) who understand this.
There is no one better in Hip-Hop than 50 Cent to take us into the new era – the era of the Hip-Hoppreneur ™. Beanie Sigel could be the prototype.
‘Dumbing down’ Beanie Sigel; following the old Northeast model for promoting street artists; or emphasizing only his most obvious personality traits would not only be a mistake, it would be a tragedy and bad business move – leaving money on the table, which 50 hates.
By helping Sigel make an album that could even lend itself to a movie soundtrack where Beans can be at his introspective best, and by bringing in a second layer of advisers and specialists to give strategic advice to the project, Beanie Sigel could not only take himself places he has never been before, but Hip-Hop and all of Philly as well.
Only 50 Cent can fulfill Jay-Z’s vision of Beanie Sigel as that special artist that will go down in history like a Scarface or Tupac.
But it maybe his ultimate challenge.
With the industry counting him out, 2009 looks a lot like 1999 for 50 Cent.
He couldn’t be in a better place to make history with Beanie Sigel.
Last Week: “50 Cent’s Ultimate Challenge: How To Market Beanie Sigel (Part 1)”https://staging.allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2009/11/18/22031325.aspxAlso, enjoy The Abridged Version of This Hip-Hoppreneur ™ Commentary by clicking here.
Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist and monetary economist. He is a former General Manager of Wu Tang Management and the author of The Entrepreneurial Secret: Starting A Business Without A Bank Loan, Collateral or Revenue (http://www.theEsecret.com/). His weekly talk show can be heard each Wednesday from 12 to 5 PM (est) at Cedricmuhammad.com. Cedric can be contacted by email at cedric(at)cmcap.com
– Follow Cedric Muhammad on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/cedricmuhammad