• 06Jun

    #BHF13 – LESSONS FOR HIP-HOP’S FUTURE STARS: On the excellence of Redman


    On July 13th, 23-year rap veteran Redman takes the stage as the headlining performer at the 2013 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. The legendary emcee’s career has remained lengthy and fruitful because of a few key points that ultimately can serve as excellent teaching points for up and coming rhymers of the current era.

    1) Having fun opens the door.

    In the early days of Redman’s career, Reggie Noble was “pissed” on “Time 4 Sum Akshun.” However, if you note the era of his career in which he had his most mainstream and chart-topping success, it coincided with his embrace of smiling, giggling and embracing marijuana culture. Mainstream America loves happy people. Yes, there are times in like when things must turn serious, but for the most part, the American mainstream really appreciates music that extols the virtues of sheer, unrepentant glee. In blending a flawless,  yet grimy flow with a ray of sunshine, he became a legend. From “How High” to “I’ll Bee Dat” and “Whateva Man,” Redman’s ability to play the fool (while not disrespecting his own legacy) is an important lesson to remember. As much as a rapper may want to stay hard and keep it real, when it comes time to smile, do so.

    2) “Diversify yo bonds, n*gga!”

    The guiding principle of fictitious, “Chappelle’s Show”-originated Wu-Tang Financial is apropos here. It’s never enough to just rap (and rap well) to keep food on the table. In fact, just rapping may be the most ignorant notion ever for a top mainstream emcee. As fame and renown grows, label budgets for albums grow, which, yes, means that label advances grow as well. But, you have to push the album enough so that it sells enough to where the label can recoup their advance without you (the artist) losing any money. Touring helps too, but, yeah. Budgets for lights, sound, staging, staff and crew cut into profits as well, leaving an artist potentially very successful – yet relatively poor. Redman’s acting chops and soundtrack credits have diversified his career considerably. Furthermore, they likely led to him being able to join the Screen Actor’s Guild (which covers insurance for the years that you have credited roles), as well as having a steady stream of royalty checks. Anytime as a performer when you can get paid with a minimal number of hands in your pocket as well is a victory. Few artists realize that and actively seek/court those paychecks. One of the key points that makes Redman great is his ability to excel in capitalizing on these scenarios.

    3) Captivate the camera

    As an emcee, it wasn’t as much what Redman said as much as how he said it that really took his star to the next level. Redman benefited greatly from being one of rap’s greatest emcees in arguably its most photogenic era. Arguably the most powerful mainstream rap run occurred between 1990-2005, big-budget albums and videos becoming the norm for the genre. Key to the success of rap was having more uniquely visually captivating performers saying more aurally intriguing things than any other genre of music. Blessed to be in the same class of performer as a 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Diddy, Redman was a bona fide superstar due to his unique ability to raise eyebrows and open ears simultaneously. In the current era of ironic lazing about, it’s rare to find performers who captivate on both levels. Endeavoring to be as much fun to hear as you are to watch is a surefire route to success and artistic sustainability.

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