Tonight (11/15/09) Rakim is playing at the Black Cat and is having his album release release this week. What are the uses of social media that you are using to promote Rakim’s new works?
Well, we’re everywhere, but Rakim is a little bit of a different beast than other people. So, we are on Twitter. We actually have like three Twitter sites that we running right now. He uses different Facebook pages. He has his new personal page. We also encourage fans to to put up their own pages, obviously. His my MySpace is a big thing we’re getting ready right now. His website is a promotional web site right now, but you will have a real interactive web site will be launching the same time as the album. We are making sure our presence is out everywhere.
Unlike a lot of other artists who are a little bit more personable, Rakim sort of been like, well I call him the “Howard Hughes of hip hop.” He is definitely a family man. When you meet him he is one of the most engaging people in the world. He’s definitely got a lot of humility about him. You wouldn’t think he’s the icon that he is when you actually meet him in person. But there is still a little bit of a distance, he’s still a private guy. And so you know, twittering about that he ate oatmeal for breakfast this morning and things like that wasn’t really the route we wanted to go. Keep a little bit of the — I don’t want to call it “the mystery” — but keep a little of his personal life out of the public eye and make sure that people know him for his music primarily.
So [for] social media the way we actually integrate is multi-tiered. What we do is that we put out some broad broadcast messages and then we really find our niche. Basically do narrowcasting to those different niches. Also with Twitter, you know it is obviously a phenomenon that is relatively new. You find that [Twitter] is becoming a source of news and is also becoming a way to spread stories. Some of them true, some of them not true. You find that you address a lot of things that way. But the great thing about it is that we just did an in-store appearance — we decided to do that two days ago. We were able to use Twitter effectively to go out there and let everyone know. So when you are trending on Twitter, you kinda watch to see what was going on [with] Rakim you can all of a sudden see.
Its really sometimes interesting to see when plant a seed one place how quickly that germinates and how quickly moves to everywhere else. It’s pretty funny and its amazing to watch. Unless of course its a single that leaked that it’s not supposed to be out there or something else – then its really frustrating to watch. Because by the time you have taken it down from two places twenty others have popped up. So its the immediate communication that is out there is definitely a lot of changing things.
With the recording industry really having a hard time on the business side making sure that their artists are profitable and doing the right deals, publishing and those kinds of things. With this new album, what was new? What was different on the business side?
On the business side, the first thing obviously Rakim’s was with Dr. Dre’s at Aftermath that didn’t work out for mostly creative reasons. It was primarily, Dre has a certain way of doing things. He is been really, really successful with the gangster side of things and Rakim has always been more of a conscious lyricist, at least for the last 15 years he had developed into very conscious lyricist. Dre had wanted him to go back and be a little bit more gangster and talk about things that Rakim wasn’t necessarily comfortable talking about. Once again he is a pretty private person when it comes to some of his past dealings. The couple things that came out of it that were really really great were that number one was the exposure to west coast music and some of the producers that are out there, producers we are still using on this album. Using them and broadens the horizons outside of New York, but also watching the way that Dre actually ran Aftermath. The way he was developing artists within it, obviously you know it is was company that was set up before him initially but very quickly started to develop artists and moved forward.
So Ra came back and was like, “You know what I’m sick of dealing with labels. I am sick of not having control over my own destiny. So I want to have control over my own destiny.” So that actually is the beginning of when we actually met. That is what he was talking about doing. So we went out and we found private equity investors. We put our own money on the table and actually developed an album. We went out and it got it all produced ourselves. It took a little while, but that’s Rakim. He takes a little while to to finish his songs and it think it reflects in the content of them, though. We were able to go to a Universal and marketing partners and say, “Hey, we have a completed album, but now we are going to sign it to you on own terms.” And those terms are much more favorable when you come in with a completed album. So that is one way we changed things up. The other way is that we because of the market conditions that are out there, especially when you are basically a start-up company and a company that is reliant on one big project. It doesn’t always make sense to go in and hire a huge staff and do all that. So what we did was created, what I refer to as a virtual staff. We have the absolute best in the business working for us, but instead of having in-house publicity and an in house PR team we have Susan Blond who comes ahead and does all of our publicity for us and so we got the best PR Department in the industry.
Same thing with a lot of our A&R, we do it by committee. We’ll bring people like Dee Dot, Clark Kent, Kid Capri, and other artists who are either really in tuned to what is going on on the streets and things like that. They can really come up and say these are the tracks but also people who are very familiar with Rakim and know exactly what he likes and make sure they’re not pushing him to far aside. We got a guy named Nick Wiz who is actually a producer on the album but was really influential on bringing some of the other producers together. Nick and Ra worked together for years and years. It was pretty cool.
What are you listening to right now? What’s on your iPod?
Leonard Cohen. (laughs) No, I mean I try to listen to just about everything, you know? I don’t sort of structure myself only in hip hop, I have pretty broad musical tastes. I listen to sort of things that are really poppin’ and also kind of tend to fall back into the old school a little bit. I really like people who have been in the game for quite awhile, who are still evolving and and putting out really relevant music. Just recently, obviously, Jay-Z is doing his thing. Couple of the tracks on that album are really, really, really hot. Snoop’s got a new one out with the Dream, that I think is just amazing – the new Gangsta Luv is a great track. I am from New York so you gotta rep with Jada. You gotta rep with Fab. Jada’s album is amazing. Raekwon is a good friend of mine. I think his new album is great. Now we have the Seventh Seal, that was 10 years in the making. We got Linx II and that was, what , seven years in the making? Now if we can just get Dre to put a little bit out. Okay, we aren’t going to be waiting for anything, anymore. Dre will be droppin’ Detox real, real soon.