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How rap producers are finding new ways of revenue in the streaming era

The position of hip-hop producers has been a hot-button issue for the better part of the last year. As the music industry continues to change, labels seem to be searching for loopholes in order to avoid paying these hitmakers the bread they deserve.

Last week, E. Dan, a member of Pittsburgh production collective ID Labs, which produces much of Wiz Khalifa’s music, called out Atlantic Records for doing the most just to save a buck.

And it’s the producers’ pockets that are suffering as a result of the record labels’ thriftiness.

E. Dan told Beat Stars in an interview about how Atlantic called Wiz’s recent project Khalifa a mixtape in order to justify not properly compensating producers:

“The Khalifa album, I don’t know what they called it, a ‘street album?’ They came up with some really clever name that essentially meant, ‘Everyone involved, you’re going to get paid half what you normally do.’ I’ve seen it happen often over the last few years. Anything to save a buck for these labels”

This issue isn’t reserved to E. Dan or Atlantic. Last fall, Metro Boomin called out Atlantic, and specifically the head of the Artist Partner Group Mike Caren, for their mistreatment of producers and beatmakers from all over the industry have been trying to bring attention to the issue.

One producer at the forefront of the cause is Sonny Digital, who called for a producer union last summer when calling out the hip-hop industry’s neglect of the artists behind the beat. Sonny said:

“Y’all need to start respecting the producers a little more, big or small, in between,. It don’t matter. They all making all the sounds to this shit.”

Last week, in response to E. Dan’s comments about Atlantic, Sonny tweeted that this issue is much more pervasive within the entire industry,

“If you gonna call out Atlantic then you might as well call out all the labels because they all doing the same thing. Shit cash money was dropping actual albums and wasnt even paying the producers. You can’t just single out one party when all other parties doing the same.”

Sonny Digital has changed up his entire creative model in order to bypass the bullshit that many hip-hop producers are facing. He’s gotten in the booth, rapping on his own songs and will be dropping an EP in late January entitled Woke You Up.

But a brief glimpse at the backlash Sonny Digital has seen provides a pretty clear view at the forces working against producers trying to pave new lanes and revenue streams.

Sonny Digital is taking one strategy in order to get paid, while producers from around hip-hop are finding new ways to make revenue in the streaming era.

REVOLT spoke to a grip of producers, including Sonny Digital, DJ Mustard, and London on da Track, to discuss making money in the new landscape of the music industry, London on da Track emphasized the importance of building a brand:

“Right now music is based on streaming, not just regular sales. Mixtapes stream too. Just like ‘Roll In Peace’ by Kodak Black ft. XXXtentacion, it made money off of streaming, not sales. Either way, I’m getting paid off my brand. As long as my brand is large, I’m always going to accumulate money. I get paid on the front and backend and depending on who it is, some artists stream heavy off of mixtapes so I get more on the backend. Some artists don’t stream at all so I charge more on the front end.”

London On Da Track has enough of a name and reputation in the rap game that he can charge a lucrative rate based off his brand alone, but obviously not every producer has this amount of pull.

Even the producers behind some of the biggest hits in music, let alone hip-hop, are being squeezed by labels. TM88, the mastermind behind Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Lif3”, one of the most biggest tracks of 2017, claimed he didn’t see a dollar for the beat, further putting Atlantic on blast for their treatment of producers.

TM88 tweeted “Atlantic still ain’t paid niggas shit!” He went on to say, “Never got paid for xo ballin off old checks.” TM has seemingly deleted the tweets and then dropped a new Lil Uzi Vert collaboration “Mood” on his own SoundCloud.

It’s notable here that TM88 dropped the song on his SoundCloud. Many producers have begun taking ownership of their own music as a way to ensure revenue.

Mike Will Made-It has his own label, Eardrummer Records, and has put out several beat projects under his own name. Metro Boomin has made several collaborative projects with rappers where he’s either an exclusive producer or named as a featured artist on the project.

Once again, this is only possible for producers like Mike Will and Metro, probably the two biggest beatmakers in hip-hop right now.

For up and coming producers, making their due bread has never been more complicated, they have to work just as hard on establishing a brand as they do on their art.

This creates a bizarre dynamic for rappers and lyricists who are caught in a tug of war between their label and their producer.

DJ Mustard told REVOLT that labels often use artists to try and avoid paying producers. The West Coast hitmaker spoke on the importance of having legal representation:

“[The labels] don’t want to pay. They paint a picture to the artist saying, ‘I thought that was your friend, why is he trying to charge you $50,000?’ Then the label doesn’t want to pay and encourages the artist to talk to the producer. Nobody wants to pay for anything. That’s just how the world works. You just have to have a lawyer that gets you your money. Have your business right. Other than that, everything is up for negotiation.”

We’ve seen more and more producers stepping out from behind the boards and entering the booth as rappers themselves, establishing their own label, and putting out projects under their own name in order to get their deserved pay.

As the music business continues to charge into unprecedented and slightly murky new waters, producers are searching for ways to make money off their art. These producers are truly the backbone of hip-hop and their lack of compensation highlights a massive flaw within the industry.

While producers are going to keep finding ways to make sure they get a check, let’s make 2018 the year of producers getting paid.

metro boomin

How Metro Boomin became the most trusted hitmaker in hip-hop

If you’ve listened to hip-hop in the last three years, you’ve heard Metro Boomin’s beats ringing from your speakers.

He’s produced for Gucci Mane, Future, Migos, Kanye West, Drake, The Weeknd, Yo Gotti, and more.

You’ve heard the beats, you’ve heard the hits, and you’ve heard his tag, “If young Metro don’t trust you I’m gon’ shoot you.”

This (slightly threatening) producer tag has become more than just another beatmaker marking their territory; it’s entered the pop culture lexicon, become a meme, and a stamp of guaranteed quality.

The St. Louis native explained the origin of the now famous producer tag (provided by Future) to DJ Drama:

“I’ve been using that as a tag in beats since about August [2015]. ‘Jumpman,’ before the song was recorded, that beat already said that. We had did this one with Uncle Murda one time, and one of the lines that Future said in there was, ‘If young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot you.’ When he said that, it had a different tone, but I remember when we were in the studio he had another tone, which is the one that’s the tag that was just like muted. I just made sure to go back on the session and just get it and just go HAM with it.”

Future and Metro really shaping the culture.

These last couple years have proved that if Metro supplied the beat, basically anyone could rap over it and it’d still be a hit.

Now he’s launching his own record label, Boominati Records, before his 25th birthday.

At 23 years old, the sky is the limit for Metro Boomin. We’ll be watching his moves closely over the next couple years.


How Metro Boomin went from St. Louis high schooler to king of the trap

Earlier this week, Metro Boomin posted an Instagram announcing a new project.

The caption read, “tomorrow night #haterswillsayitsphotoshop” and Twitter immediately went into meltdown mode suspecting Metro was about to drop a full-length project or beat tape.

When it turned out that Metro was teasing a new single, “No Complaints,” with verses from Drake and Offset, some people were a little disappointed.

But Metro was quick to point that, well, he never said that there was any album!

The fact that rap Twitter went into quasi-meltdown mode because of a social media post shows just how massive of a figure Metro Boomin has become in the hip-hop world.

It’s been a ridiculously quick rise to the top for Young Metro, who went from having his mom drive him from his hometown of St. Louis to Atlanta while Metro was still in high school so he could collaborate with artists on the Atlanta scene, to becoming the most exciting young producer in hip-hop.

But how did a teenager from St. Louis go on to shape the sound and aesthetic of contemporary Atlanta trap music?

Metro Boomin, born Leland Tyler Wayne, wasn’t held back by things like basic geographic barriers. He saw where the culture was thriving most, where he could work within a tight-knit community of artists and flourish.

The St. Louis kid started making beats when he was in middle school when his mom copped him a laptop and he downloaded the primitive but seminal production program Fruity Loops.

After spending some time in the school band, Metro focused solely on hip-hop. Initially he was just making beats to rap over, but soon realized his talents were exclusively in the production realm.

During his junior year in high school, Metro and his mom began driving back and forth between St. Louis and Atlanta so the 11th grader could get his beats straight to the source.

Metro made his first splash in the game in 2010 and 2011, making the beat for Big Sean’s “Home Town” off Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big and multiple tracks on OJ da Juiceman’s mixtape Culinary Art School 2.

By going back and forth between Atlanta and St. Louis, Metro was able to work with artists face-to-face and collaborate with a litany of popular ATL artists.

Metro even moved to Atlanta for college, enrolling at Morehouse for a degree in business management, but he dropped out after a semester when the music shit was really taking off.

2013 was a breakout year for Leland Wayne, appearing on five different Gucci Mane mixtapes alone.

While that’s an obvious testament to East Atlanta Santa’s infamous work ethic (five mixtapes!), it also basically ensured Metro Boomin’s place as a figure in the Atlanta trap scene.

Once you get that Gucci Mane cosign, not to mention produce on five different mixtapes, you’ve gotten the official ATL seal of approval.

Metro’s career took off from there, producing his first major single, Future’s “Karate Chop.”

The original “Karate Chop” appeared on Future’s Freebandz label compilation mixtape F.B.G.: The Movie, while the remix added Lil Wayne and popped up on Future’s full-length album Honest.

Besides “Karate Chop,” Metro produced “I Won,” featuring Kanye West, “Honest,” and “How Can I Not” off Honest.

“Karate Chop” and Honest were the start of a career-altering partnership between young Metro and Future.

In 2014, Metro blew up. He produced for Migos, Waka Flocka, YG, Fredo Santana, Travis Scott, Rick Ross, Future, Nicki Minaj, iLoveMakkonen, Young Thug, and, of course, Gucci Mane, often producing multiple tracks off these artists’ projects.

Working with artists who were on the come up, like Migos and Travis Scott, meant Metro’s own career progression mirrored theirs. These dudes basically came up together, influencing each other’s sound and style.

That sound has become Metro’s signature. Often pairing menacing and dark synths with deep, banging bass, and snares and hi-hats that slap you right in the face.

When Genius asked Metro back in February what some of his influences were, he had an interesting response. Metro told Genius,

“Green Day, just because, when I started making beats back then, they had that shit out, American Idiot. Just the sonics of that shit—that whole dark, moody vibe. I naturally, when I make beats, aim for a darker tone just because I’ve always preferred those types of feelings. More than any artist, I feel like horror-movie music influenced my music more than all that shit.”

The horror movie part makes sense. I mean listen to the “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” beat, that’s some Friday 13th shit.

Partnering up with up-and-coming artists allowed Metro to make exclusive collaboration projects. In doing this, the producer can shape the creative direction and have his name attached to an entire project.

After years of hip-hop producers lingering anonymously in the shadows, youngins like Metro Boomin are changing the way they make money and make a name for themselves.

Metro’s exclusive collaboration with 21 Savage last summer was a haunting introduction to last year’s XXL Freshman member.

The summer before in 2015, Metro exclusively produced Future’s instant classic DS2 as well as the Future and Drake collaboration album What a Time to Be Alive.

While Metro had a little help from Drake’s right hand man Noah “40” Shebib on WATTBA, this stretch of work as an exclusive producer, even an equal artist, on some of the biggest releases of the last two years, made Metro Boomin a legitimate figurehead in hip-hop.

On What a Time, Future also gave Metro Boomin’ his now-infamous producer tag “If Young Metro don’t trust you I’ma shoot you,” a phrase that rings out across the hip-hop world, and beyond, today.

Most recently, Metro has produced all of Gucci Mane’s album DropTopWop, three songs off Big Sean’s I Decided, including the smash “Bounce Back,” Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” which reached number 1 on the Billboard charts, and Metro’s own release on Friday “No Complaints.”

Next up is apparently “Perfect Timing,” an alleged collab album with Toronto artist NAV.

Metro Boomin has created an interesting new lane for hip-hop producers to come up. Instead of just finding random placements on big artists’ albums (which Metro still does), the St. Louis native provides the entire template for an artist.

That Metro collab, along with his now-famous producer tag, has become one of the most highly-coveted cosigns in hip-hop and a top-quality guarantee.

From driving 9 hours with his mom every weekend to Atlanta, to producing an entire collaboration album with Drake and Future, Metro Boomin has conquered the production world.