Hip-Hop 2011: How to Be a Hip-Hop Superstar in the Internet Age
Published Nov 28, 2011Find something fun to shout
Ever found yourself wanting to shout "Wolf Gang!" (or its even more irreverent bizarro cousin "Golf Wang!") in the verbal equivalent of all caps, for no apparent reason? You have if you're Odd Future honcho Tyler the Creator's Twitter account, or one of his 643,737 followers. Ditto "Taylor… Gang!" I mean, how else could a white girl that could get out-rhymed by Skee-Lo suddenly have a rap career? "Gucci, Gucci, Louis, Louis, Fendi, Fendi, Prada!" Swag.
Title a song after someone more famous than you
Rappers have long referenced famous folks to drive home a punch line, but MCs of the #hashtag age have optimized their search engine results by flat-out titling their songs after pop-culture icons. Mac Miller's "Donald Trump" stirred such a buzz that the Donald himself felt compelled to respond via YouTube, endorsing the Pittsburgh sensation as "the new Eminem." But no one has perfected the strategy better or more frequently than Lil B (pictured), writer of such based jams as "Justin Bieber," "Charlie Sheen," Dr. Phil," "Mel Gibson," "Ellen Degeneres," I'm Miley Cyrus" and "I'm Paris Hilton." Presumably, the Pack alum is working on a song called "Joe Paterno" right now.
50 Cent used this strategy in 2002, back when mixtapes were physical items you could buy with physical cash, and Lil Wayne set the record for hours spent in a recording booth between volumes two and three of his Carter series. Today's hot topics, keen young grasshoppers, have learned by example. Seldom do acts with the greatest buzz let a month pass without dropping a new mixtape, freestyling over their peers' instrumentals, or creating some sort of weekly exclusive preview (see: Kanye West's GOOD Fridays and its many imitations). Quantity over quality can win.
Much like bragging and shiny things, sweet Miss Mary Jane is a hip-hop trope that has endured. Yesterday it was the Luniz, Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg extolling the virtues; today, Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa and Smoke Dza have rolled up the torch and carried it ablaze into the '10s. So much for lazy stereotypes, though. Some of the biggest perpetrators of Rule 4 are also the biggest adherers of Rule 3. Go figure.
Tour, tour, tour
Who cares if you have an actual album out? With the high-speed downloads and Twitter buzz, rookie artists can launch international tours without a single formal album to their name. Big K.R.I.T., Childish Gambino and Machine Gun Kelly are just three artists that had fans rhyming along to their every word before they dropped a CD. That everyone who attends a rap show these days is Facebooking, YouTubing, tweeting and blogging about your every adlib only adds to your web weight. Forget throwing your hands in the air ― hold 'em steady so your smartphone doesn't jiggle.