I was doing a show recently and the first opening act was about to get on. I had just spoke to him briefly. He was a rapper just beginning his career and , seemingly , trying to figure out his approach to making it in music. He was a very nice kid and , I gotta, admit, I admired his drive. Anyway, when he got on stage , there were about 20 people in the audience. Unfortunately, the venue was built for about 500-600 people. Shit was like a ghost town. Not the kids fault, as this was my show and he was the first opening act but, as any performer who’s been through this can tell you, that shit can be deflating. He starts his set and immediately I realize the promoters have mis-booked this artist. Prior to getting on stage, he had described his musical stylings as underground but polished like mainstream rap. He wasn’t far off. He had a game plan. He had dancers. He had all sorts of stage tricks that, if he were famous, would play great. The problem is, he was doing would be party jams and anthem type tracks for an audience of no one. Which raises the question , if a party track is heard by no one and not at a party , is it really a party track? It’s the old “tree falls in the woods” thing but with a twist. The thing is, in this day and age making a party track (especially for rappers) is as calculated as it gets. I’m not buying anyone’s shit saying they make party tracks for the love of the art. No, at best, they make it cause they want people to dance and have fun. At worst, they make it as a means to get money and blow up. So, when an artist comes out, and tries to force this kinda song to happen, it’s usually an express way to failure. Party tracks only work if that’s ALL you do. OR if you’re established and have enough talent/pull with your fan base (I’m speaking of rappers here).
The amount of times I’ve seen an unknown opener try and set off the show with some elaborate call and response crowd participation hook ,only to be met with deafening silence ,is staggering. The amount of times I’ve seen that actually be successful, I could count on my vaginas.
I’m in no way saying people shouldn’t make upbeat songs that play in clubs. Obviously there’s a place for everything. I just feel certain rappers and new artists in general, need to know their audience before they commit to something like this. A prime example of the failed party track is when a group with a loyal following built from past music (very likely music made from a somewhat grimy perspective) decides they wanna blow up and make a joint for the clubs. This will never work. No underground lyrical type rapper is ever gonna become a millionaire by all of a sudden making the hot club joint on his independently released album. All that does is piss off the fans you already have. The only exception, I suppose , would be the Black Eyed peas transformation from Souls of Mischief knockoffs (The Atban Klan) into the clown car of corniness they are now, but they we unoriginal from the jump so it’s not like they were really making a huge sacrifice by selling out. Some might argue Jay-z but the dude paved his way into being in a position where he could do whatever he wanted. He earned the right to make an occasional club joint and , overall has made some pretty classic party tracks. Also, keep in mind, I’m speaking completely of the song MADE for the club, not the random awesome song that happened to get popular and become a club anthem. That kinda thing is completely different. It’s the difference between “Let’s get it started” and “big Pimpin”.
Whenever this topic comes up, the first thing that pops into my head is The Clipse. I love The Clipse. This is a group that had one of the biggest hit makers (the Neptunes) behind them for two whole albums and , while they made two great albums loved by about 300,000 people, they never had that huge commercial success. Why would they? They are actual great rappers who ONLY rap about selling coke. Even Jeezy and Rick Ross take a day off from that and they’re watered down enough to be palatable to your average retarded midwestern Whig smoking blunts with his dumb friends behind a gas station 24 hour grocery. The Clipse are a group who needed to simply do them. Rap about coke over dope beats. That’s it. The fans would eat it up and they would be able to maintain in this fucked up music industry. Sure, they could do upbeat songs and some people will dance to them.
But , in terms of an entire album, just stay the course. Instead of doing this, they opted to make an album full of would be club anthems that none of their fans wanted to hear. There are few things worse for a revered artist than gathering a solid and loyal fan base and then just deciding to change up everything with the slight hope that one song is gonna finally propel you into that next level. Especially if it comes at the expense of a whole album. That said, because I have faith in them as rappers, I will always check for The Clipse but they gotta understand that there comes a time when you just gotta stick with your strengths. They’re way too good to piss it away trying to make music for 16 year old girls to dance to. After all, there is no audience more fickle and mind numbingly horrible than your average 16 year old girl. It’s no wonder that demographic pretty much guides pop music as we know it. Ughh….Kill me.
Anyway , back to the show opener with the high hopes, he finished his set and walked off to the cheers of his girlfriend and one or two other people he knew. He didn’t even seemed phased by it. I suppose he wrote it off to a tough crowd. I’d say it was the non-existent crowd but same difference. While he had been on stage, I was talking to a friend and mentioned “Man, there’s nothing worse than the unrequited party jam”. Later that night, I got on stage and felt the cold hands of ironic justice jam it’s fists in my ass and clap when I rocked a somewhat party flavored set for about 45 people (Houston, represent!). Shit was brutal. Playing music made for dancing, only to see a crowd staring at you is pretty rough. Some girl did flash me her boobs though so it wasn’t a total loss.