Thursday, August 6, 2009

And Best Friends Become Strangers, Pachangas

In the wake of the revelation that the late Big Pun's wife and kids are living in a shelter, and Fat Joe's subsequent response that he secured Liza Rios hundreds of thousands of dollars thru the release of Endangered Species and even wrote her a follow-up check out of pocket, it really makes the mind wonder.

While I do feel for Pun's children, who haven't done anything wrong in all of this and are the only ones who have to suffer for their mother's foolishness, something has to be said for a mother who let at least $160,000 run through her hands, and that's by her estimate and the real number is surely at least twice that. We all know at least one person like this in real life, and trust me, by the time they are crying poverty to the world, they have likely been through the amount of money they are claiming "all went to bills" 2 or 3 times over. And from the looks of her on that video on WSHH, she clearly hasn't skipped any meals, so its hard to believe she's in any discernible financial dungeon. For her to feel like Fat Joe has some level of responsibility is valid to some extent, but clearly not the extent that she seems to believe.

Big Pun has been lionized in rap, and rightfully so, the man was one of arguably the top 10-15 MCs ever to pick up a microphone. But, in death, we seem to blow certain things in proportion in our minds. Capital Punishment sold in the neighborhood of 1.5 million copies, but this was when album budgets were absolutely ridiculous and I'm sure that Wyclef, Joe, Noreaga, Busta, and the like did not come cheap. Likewise for the all-star cast on the beats. Yeeah Baby barely went gold and due to Pun's death, did not receive all that much promotion beyond the first couple of singles. And the aforementioned Endangered Species barely made a dent at all and surely cost a fortune to make.

So, it seems inherently stupid for Mrs. Rios to believe that she should be set for life off her deceased husband having sold 2 million and something records in his lifetime. I'm sure the two of them had a quite bit of fun with the money while it lasted, and she should resign herself to reality and go get a 9 to 5. But, I'm sure some of you will say, what about all the other widows who live off their husband's musical catalog? This is where Liza Rios' selfish attitude really burned her. Instead of rushing to put out a DVD where he's pistol whipping her, she should have been ensuring that no one ever found out this ugly side of Pun. That is, since you're intending to eat and eat and eat off him for life.

Many deceased artists continue to produce cash for their next of kin in the afterlife, but this isn't with album sales money, that dries up for the most part, especially since rap albums in the '90s cost a mint to make and with the ginormous advances artists were receiving, many barely recouped on them. And with hardly anyone even buying new albums these days, its doubtful that Pun's catalog moves even 2-3K a year. Artists usually continue to make money with licensing deals, for movies, TV shows, commercials, etc. This is where it was in poor taste to release that DVD. While I'm sure Big and 'Pac had their dark sides, their mothers/wives/mistresses/side pieces have for the most part sung their praises, which has allowed to gravy train to keep rolling. By painting Pun as a vicious wife-beater on that DVD and again on E!'s special on hip-hop wives, mainstream media will never use his music for anything of consequence because of the negative connotation he has to a lot of people. The 700-pound Spanish dude who smashed his wife's face with a gun butt is a lot less appealing than say, the charismatic thug with the Napoleon complex or the less fat Brooklyn rhyme slinger with radio hits for days. Big L is probably more positively remembered by mainstream audiences at this stage than Pun is.

Let us not forget that Pun had maybe 2 or 3 legitimate crossover hits by the time he passed. And only one that any casual fan of rap will remember. Long story short, get a job, Liza Rios. Your time to cash in would have been not taking two quick checks to paint him as an abusive animal. Although I'm far from one of Fat Joe's most enthusiastic supporters, the man has a point here. After someone lets hundreds of thousands run through their hands with nothing to show for it, why would you continue to give this person money? I feel for the children here, but if their mother is this financially irresponsible, short of moving them into your own home, there is not much that can be done to help them here, as their primary caretaker is too self-absorbed to realize what she has done to them by refusing to move on from the idea that Pun's music should have been enough to ensure her a lifetime of laziness.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sometimes The Rap Game Reminds Me Of The Crack Game

Today has seen a bit of a mini-controversy, as one of the few West Coast newcomers to achieve a somewhat national buzz, Nipsey Hussle, released his third mixtape. Instead of just coming up off a ZShare link, however, most links on the de rigeur just had an imeem playlist and a link where to legally purchase. Interesting strategy, although it seems to have backfired in some way, as links to download the mixtape were in circulation within hours. But, this whole brouhaha does raise some very intriguing questions.

How long before record companies finally stop having their artists flooding the marketplace with free material? Yes, the mixtape fusillade strategy worked for Lil' Wayne & 50 Cent, but that's because they built a massive fanbase and had even their mixtape songs circulate onto the radio. When, in Nipsey's case, the third mixtape has songs that he is intending on including on his debut album, it is understandable why an artist can feel the need to be financially compensated. Since the mixtape/illegal downloading era started, one of the most common complaints about major-label releases is the fact that the 3-4 hottest street singles/biggest top 40 songs have already been out for months beforehand. Or, that their mixtapes are simply a better listen than their album (Asher Roth, any 50 post-GRODT, Nas). Could it be that Nipsey, realizing this, simply tried to hedge his bets by making a few dollars before he was cursed with one of those inevitable fates? Or was it his management team? Another intriguing subplot in all of this.

Will this change promotional strategies leading up to album releases? Undoubtedly so. The TIs have to be taking notice to the fact that almost every big recent chart-topper, outside of The Carter III, did not have a big-name tape trotted out beforehand. Eminem, T.I., Kanye, Jay-Z, et al. have eschewed that method, and the few that still adhere to this level of promotion, such as Nas, 50 Cent, Ludacris or Jadakiss, seem relegated to the B-list.

Will new artists continue to flood the market with pre-release material? Probably not. Between Wale, Kid Cudi, Drake, and the like, none of them seem too set of allowing fans to have a full discography on them before their first official set hits stores. Cudi has only released one tape, and Drake has only released one that circulated all that far. I believe this bodes well for them as the fans that they do have will truly be anticipating their debuts. I just don't think any of them have as many as the TIs think they do. If the suburban white kid with a top 10 pop smash can't get people excited, what chance do any of these guys, outside of possibly Drake, have?

Who could possibly the next artist to try to get people to pay for a mixtape? My money is on Gucci Mane, and it won't be Gucci himself. With his buzz being as high as it could ever be, the time is now for them to capitalize, only Gucci himself doesn't seem too interested, having not even named the album yet, let alone done any discernible work on it. When he has his next inevitable skid bid, I see his label putting expensive beats on his mixtape joints, selling it as an album, and laughing all the way to the bank.

Between all of this and the recent report that Mariah Carey's next album will include a 34-page mini magazine filled with ads and product placement, it seems that record companies and artists have both begun to realize that the album sales well has run pretty dry. I have a feeling that by year's end, things will look drastically different. But, as always, true talent will begin to rise, as there will be less and less money to be had for the creatively deficient.