I've been thinking (it's 2am and I'm just writing directly what's coming out of my head. This could actually be a dream, or I could be having some kind of episode. Bear with me).
The instant gratification we're getting from social media is killing the growth of our most promising new artists. I hate to form an argument around social media, as it seems like it's the only answer to every post-millennial question but, in this instance, I'm certain it's valid. Feel free to disagree with me (as long as you do so in a lengthy written response, published weeks from now and don't interact with me on social media).
To me, the most important stage of any artist's career is that first experimental 5,000 hours. We now live in a time where you can go from writing your first 16 and downloading a cracked version of FL Studio in your bedroom, to the charts, in the space of a few months. By the time the hype has boiled over and the world awaits your follow-up single - or your newly-found label have rush-released an album to supply the demand of the single that's just popped off - the artist's lack of experience begins to show. The original moment can't be replicated and the artist is lost. Even worse, they don't know how to get back to that original spot that connected with people, but the pressure to deliver is increasing.
We're living in exciting times. Every week now we're seeing a flood of talent come through the various channels in the scene. But, as soon as that glimpse of talent begins to show, the various industry gas merchants are quick to line up and proclaim our next saviour. "Artist X is next up!" has now become a weekly fixture on my timeline. Before you know it, the development stage is out of the window. In their minds, these artists have now made it. Once that watershed moment comes from a freestyle or viral video of some sort, that's it, the doors are open. But, as much as the talent we're seeing holds so much promise, we're doing them a disservice by hyping them up before they've even found themselves properly. Before they know it they're too busy trying to recreate the person the world thought they were, rather than carrying on the journey of exploration they were on prior to this moment.
Here's an analogy: remember being at school and stealing bars from your favourite MC's? If you say no, you're lying. That's how everyone starts (and most of us finish tbf). Before you or any of your fledgling wannabe MC friends had any bars to your name, you'd remix a Skibba verse and chuck in something from your favourite So Solid MC - no harm done. To me, that's what half of these MC's are doing right now. The nostalgic beats and early 00's references are just covering up for the fact that they haven't got anything of their own to say yet. Which is completely fine, until we're claiming the next Boy In Da Corner is on its way.
I can't be the only person that's recognised that 80% of the new MC's that are hyped to be next up are mostly capitalising off a strong sense of nostalgia. I mean, we all crave it. There's no denying there's a market for it - it's comforting, right? We all miss the early days, so it's nice to hear those old beats revived. But when every track of a new artist's mixtape features more Dizzee references and re-hashed 00's beats than it does original content, it makes me seriously question the sanity of so many of the scene's self-proclaimed tastemakers. Again, I'm not discrediting the potential of some of these artists, but let's allow them to evolve.
The cycle is becoming predictable: little to no coverage of artist > big freestyle moment > the second coming of Jesus is announced > more freestyles on other channels > mainstream remix opportunities > erm, have another freestyle for good luck. But, WHERE IS THE MUSIC? Where are the albums? Where are the anthems? Because, for all of these prospects, I'm not hearing them.
It takes a strong character to gain an audience straight out of the gate and ignore any criticisms. It stunts growth. How are you going to think clearly and carry on your development with one thousand new opinions in your head? Ultimately, what we get is: an artist with great promise, but that may not quite have reached their potential yet, slowly becomes more confident due to their increasing popularity. I mean, where's the need to grow if you're already up there with the best of them? Everyone's praising your new Fire In The Booth and your mentions are going through the roof. The journey of trial and error is over now. And that's alright, that may keep you going. But there's going to come a moment where people want more, and when that time comes, what more have you got to offer? Where's your evolution?
This is the thing; audiences are fickle. Artists, you need to remember this: you're the dictator. This is your ship. It's your job to execute your vision and lock in to some form of truth - it doesn't matter if the audience doesn't latch on straight away. In fact, cherish this moment. The more you go ignored, the more likely you are to be championed by the supporters that eventually discover your music and can't believe it's not getting the attention it deserves.
There are a lot of artists out here not getting the respect they deserve. I'm aware. I see you all. It's frustrating, I know. But relish in it. Learn from it. Because there are 90% more eyes on your music than you know. The gas artists and trolls are always quick to do their jobs, but the majority of genuine music supporters are voyeurs. We enjoy the music, rarely comment and go about our days. That lack of engagement can be frustratingly difficult to analyse, but if you're making music that resonates honestly with just a few people around you, just know that you're on the right path. There is no rush. Follow your intuition. Trust it. Good music always prevails.