Posts Tagged ‘HipHopWired’






Los Angeles, CA/Atlanta, GA, December, 2012S&H Public Relations, who has been hard at work since this past summer representing some of the best up-and-coming Hip Hop artists, has partnered with one of the nation’s premier urban entertainment website, Hip Hop Wired, to kick off the 2012 National MC Search. Judged by Rapper Big Pooh from Little Brother fame, underground heavyweight Torae, and film producer Kareem Fort from “Demos”, this online talent search, beginning January 9, 2012, will give aspiring rap artists across the nation an opportunity to compete for a chance to win exciting prizes including international publicity.

Hosted on and, the 2012 National MC Search is sponsored by some of the most respected names in the world of Hip Hop and entertainment:

Conspiracy Worldwide Radio – Hip Hop’s most discussed weekly online radio show, broadcasting to millions across 180 countries.

MP3Waxx – The #1 MP3, Video and Radio Service for Major and Independent Artists. – The Underground Hip Hop Authority bridging the gap between the underground and mainstream.

On January 9, contestants will visit either and click on the 2012 National MC Search page or and click on “Events” in order to enter the competition.  The entry fee is $6 and artists will have until February 3, 2012 to submit their best song. All music will be evaluated by the judges and the staff of S&H Public Relations.  On February 13, the top 3 finalists will be announced and readers of Hip Hop Wired will vote on their favorite song.  The winner will be crowned on February 20.  Prizes include:

• A part in the upcoming Hip Hop film, “Demos”
• A song on the film’s soundtrack
• A featured interview on Conspiracy Worldwide Radio
• Free publicity
• And more

For rules and submission information about the 2012 National MC Search, visit or and click on “Events”. You can also contact Sebastien Elkouby, co-founder of S&H Public Relations, at or 310-654-1681.


  About S&H Public Relations
S&H Public Relations is a Los Angeles – based company dedicated to promoting Hip Hop artists and culture. We pride ourselves on working with artists who aim to push Hip Hop music forward. We believe that many talented Hip Hop artists, usually referred to as “underground”, are often overlooked due to lack of resources. S&H’s goal is to provide affordable services to quality artists who are looking to receive greater exposure.

  About Hip-Hop Wired
Hip-Hop Wired is the dominant cultural site on the web providing up to the minute music industry and entertainment news relating to Hip-Hop and R&B along with insightful political content to fuel the thinking masses. Streaming the latest tracks from the hottest MCs signed and unsigned, Hip-Hop Wired also hosts a video portal for the latest virals released by your favorite artists. We don’t follow the trend…We dictate it!
Media Contact: Michael “Ice-Blue” Harris (MOGULDOM MEDIA GROUP/President – Operations Manager of Hip-Hop Wired) 678-691-1531 or

Producing and recording music is one thing.  Promoting it successfully is another.  And if you think using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud, and ReverbNation is all you need to get your music out there, you’re in for a surprise!  How you promote yourself will make you or break you.  So, how will people know you even exist when millions of other artists are using the same sites to promote their music?  And as a broke artist (Admit it! Most up and coming artists are!) how much will it cost you?  This is where effective self-promotion comes in.  Here are the 3 best ways to promote your music for free or on a limited budget.

1.   Create a Media List

Compiling a media list can be time consuming so you should start while you’re still in the process of recording your music. Research all of the websites, blogs, podcasts, program directors, and publications that cater to your particular style of music.  Don’t waste time with those that don’t.  Some sites feature unsigned and independent artists and will have specific requirements as to how they want people to submit their material.  Follow these guidelines carefully or your music may be ignored.  If you’re researching magazines and newspapers that don’t have an online presence, you’ll have to get physical copies of these publications to gather your information.  Look for the “Staff” page and identify the appropriate person or department to send your music and press kit to.  If you’re unsure, contact the publication and ask who to send new music to.  You may or may not get a response (you know how these industry types act sometimes! Just kidding, my industry friends!)  but don’t let that discourage you from moving forward.

Make sure that your list is well-organized and includes names, emails, and phone numbers.  A media list can include hundreds of contacts and should be updated often since new sites, blogs, mix shows, and podcasts are popping up weekly.  Don’t think that only the most popular sites and publications matter.  Lesser known media is just as important when trying to create a buzz. is a great tool to use when creating your list.  It is a blog directory that ranks the top sites of any kind, be it Hip Hop or otherwise, and will help you find many great outlets.

Once your list is rich with contacts, use it wisely.  Don’t spam people or send out poorly written emails.  That’s the #1 way to get blocked!  If used correctly, you’ll realize how valuable your list is once you start getting responses.  Reply quickly, be polite, honor their requests, and you’re on your way to establishing strong relationships with the people who can give you the publicity you need.

But, if creating your own media list sounds overwhelming, you have other options.

2.      Email Blasting Services

An email blast is an email including any content such as a newsletter, press kit, music, pictures, or videos, quickly sent out to a large number of people.  Many companies offer such services to clients looking to target specific audiences.  Hip Hop artists often use email blasts to let fans, blogs, program directors, podcasts, and journalists know about their latest project.  Companies will let you choose who you’re interested in reaching and whether you want the blast to be sent out locally, nationally, or internationally.  You will not have access to their media list but will be given a general idea of who the blast is reaching.  Usually, email blasts are fairly affordable and can be used every time a new project needs to be promoted. is an email blasting service which specializes in urban entertainment.  Their media list reaches up to 300,000 people depending on the audience you wish to target, which can include DJ’s, journalists, consumers, and more.  They can even send out animated blasts which can get you much more attention than boring old messages!  Their services are extremely affordable and it beats standing on the corner, trying to convince people to buy your CD!

Another great service is  They send your music to 843,000 consisting of 65,000 DJs worldwide–radio DJs, music directors, program directors, club, satellite, mixtape, internet DJs as well as music magazines, top 100 music websites, top 200 music blogs, record pools, public relation firms, a-list booking agents, and record label executives.

But if that’s not your cup of tea either, there’s another option.

3.      Press Releases Services

A press release is a written document directed at the media, announcing something newsworthy, such as the release of a new album or project.  Click here for an example.  The release is then distributed to members of the media using a media list or a newswire.  A newswire is a service that transmits news to the media and the public.  Basically, it is an extensive electronic media list consisting of the top journalists and news outlets in the world.

But let me be real with you.  Writing a press release isn’t easy for the inexperienced.  You need to be a great writer and follow a specific format. If you have a hard time spelling and writing cohesive sentences, this probably isn’t for you.  Professionals are usually hired to write press releases since they know exactly what the media is looking for.  I suggest you research this issue in depth before committing yourself to this task.   Still, if you’re confident in your writing abilities, it isn’t impossible.  After all, that’s how I got my start!  There are many websites that can help you write a press release and provide samples and templates for you to use.  Study them well!  Once you’ve written your release, compare it to others to make sure it follows the same format and have it proofread by at least 2 good writers.  Unless your homies fit this description, don’t depend on them to help you with this!  Once you feel comfortable with your work, you’ll need to send your press release to the media list you’ve created or you can get distribution through a newswire.

There are a few distribution services that can help you with this process. is one of the leading newswire for the African American media and can distribute your release for a very affordable rate to over 40,000 journalists and bloggers. Another service, although a little more costly, is  It’s one of the top distribution services in the world and, depending on the package you choose, will get your press release to all major outlets like the New York Times and USA Today.

Please understand that no distribution service guarantees that the media will write a story about you once they receive your release.  All they do is send it out.  It’s up to journalists to decide if your story, music, video, or whatever you’re promoting is interesting enough to write about.  Having your release state that you’re the best up and coming artist in the world will NOT get a journalist’s attention!  They receive hundreds of releases a week and have seen it all.  If your budget doesn’t allow you to spend 2 to 3 bills, there are many free distribution services out there but don’t expect miracles.  They’re free for a reason!

Of course, if you have a budget to work with, you can hire a public relations agency to do all of the things listed here so you can stay focused on your music.  Public Relations agencies create press kits, write and distribute press releases, maintain relationships with the media, create campaigns for your projects, plus a dozen other things that usually come up when promoting your music.  Some PR agencies work with artists who have limited funds while others only deal with high profile clients.  As an up and coming artist, your best bet is to find an affordable agency that understands your music and vision and is willing to work around your budget.

Whichever method you choose to use, this advice will take your promotional hustle to another level.  And isn’t that so much better than begging folks on Twitter and Facebook to buy your music?! Remember though, if your music is wack and your package poorly put together, no amount of paid promotion will make you a star. Bottom line, it all comes down to your art and the time you put into creating a professional presentation.

Until next time…PEACE!


Sebastien Elkouby is the co-founder of S&H Public Relations, a boutique PR agency which specializes in promoting quality Hip Hop artists and related projects.  Our website is currently under construction so for more information about our services, reach us by email at  Connect with S&H Public Relations on Facebook at and Twitter at @SNHPR.

Q-Tip said it best back in 1991, “Industry Rule # 4080, record company people are shady!” Starting in the early days of the music business with Blues and Rock & Roll, payola was once the most popular underhand practice. Record companies and managers would bribe radio DJ’s to give their artists radio play.  Although illegal, this practice has never stopped and continues to be used today, albeit in more subtle forms.  Rule # 4080 still applies and the methods industry execs use have evolved over time.  With the rise in new technology and the dominance of the internet threatening the music industry’s outdated business model, new “questionable” tactics have been developed to help labels stay afloat.  Here are just 5 secrets the music industry doesn’t want you to know!

1. Views, Likes, and Followers

Have you ever checked out a YouTube video only because it had a lot of views and you were curious to see why?  Are you more likely to follow an artist on Twitter who has 324,687 followers rather than one who has 54?  Are you the type of person to be first to “Like” an artist on Facebook or would you check to see that this artist already has a lot of “Likes” before you join in?  While you may think that looking at numbers is a ridiculous way to evaluate an artist’s worth (and it is!), millions around the world feel otherwise.  Sad as it may be, high numbers often propel artists to celebrity status.  Young and impressionable minds, which the industry targets since they’re the largest consumer base, often assume that if a video has millions of views, it must be good.  And even if they don’t really like the video, they support it anyway because everyone else seems to.  But here’s the dirty secret: YouTube views, Facebook “Likes”, and Twitter followers can be bought for a moderate fee. There are now dozens of companies who specialize in increasing numbers.  Some companies use special technology to achieve their goals while others claim to be able to get thousands of “real” followers.  If that weren’t crazy enough, “positive” YouTube comments supposedly written by real people can also be purchased!  This kind of practice is deceptive as hell and makes it difficult for aspiring artists who have to compete against those who have the means to buy such services.  I guess quality doesn’t matter when you can just buy your way to popularity.

2. Buying the # 1 Spot

Once YouTube Views, Facebook “Likes”, and Twitter followers have been bought, it’s time for the label to really go all out and buy thousands of CD’s and downloads to help the artist get to # 1 within the first couple of weeks of release.  Since sales have been declining due to free and illegal downloads, it’s become more and more challenging for artists to hit the top of the charts.  This is why some labels are buying their own products (often with the artist’s money), in hope that achieving # 1 will generate publicity and result in more sales and touring opportunities.  The idea is that the average fan is more likely to support an artist who appears to have a large following. It’s all about image and perception, and for today’s mainstream music fan, this counts more than talent.

3. Professional Reviewers

Ever read customer reviews on Amazon or iTunes?  Some are brief, misspelled, and poorly thought out while others are thorough and clearly expressed, almost as if a “professional” had written it.  Shockingly, that’s exactly what’s happening!  Writers are paid to act like customers and write positive reviews.  Sometimes, these writers are simply part of the artist’s team, other times, they’re professional writers who get hired for their review services.  Companies have gotten in trouble for this kind of practice but this hasn’t stopped it from happening.  Again, this makes it difficult for new artists who don’t have the means to compete against this kind of deception.

4. Wardrobe Malfunctions, Nude Pics, and Sex Videos

Every week, there seems to be another naked celebrity in the news: Nicki Minaj and Kelly Rowland’s wardrobe malfunctions a couple of days apart from each other, Rhianna’s explicit pics popping up regularly, and sex videos of B and C list entertainers leaked on every gossip site.  Sure, one could claim that these “indecent exposures” are just accidents or that intimate pictures and videos are leaked by spiteful exes and hackers.  If so, why does it keep happening every week?  If celebrities are truly as appalled and embarrassed as they claim to be when their naked bodies are leaked for the world to see, why do they keep such pictures and videos of themselves on their phones and computers if it’s that risky?  Why do artists continue to perform in outfits that barely cover them up and then act shocked when their breasts pop out?  Truth is, most of these incidents are planned by the artists and their team for publicity.  As soon as the pictures or videos are leaked, hundreds of blogs and sites repost them right away.  Millions of Facebook and Twitter users repost them as well.  In a matter of 24 to 48 hours, that artist is Googled millions of times which causes their name to “Trend” online or on Twitter and increases their search ranking.  For the artist, this is an amazing free promotional tool that would otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing.  All it takes is a little nudity and the public becomes their street team, their sales increase, the gossip sites have new content that drives traffic to them, and everyone’s happy…except for real artists with real talent who can’t get the same “free” promotion because they’re more interested in making music than showing their bodies…which leads me to the next point…

5. Fake Beef, Phony Stories, and Controversy

Replace wardrobe issues, nude pics, and sex videos with fake beef, phony stories, and controversy and the result is the same: free publicity.  Did Soulja Boy buy himself a $55 million jet for his 21st birthday?  Is Rick Ross really threatening Kreayshawn?  Did Wayne really take shots at Jay Z? Does Kanye actually have 6 toes?  Ok, I made that one up but you get the idea!  When an artist, or an assistant pretending to be them, tweets something weird, crazy, unusual, or controversial, they know that it’ll spread in a matter of hours and eventually make the top blogs and gossip sites who welcome this kind of foolishness.  And again, everyone seems to get something out of it.  There was a time when this type of nonsense would have hurt an artist’s career.  Now, it sustains it…and that’s pitiful.

There are many more industry secrets.  Some of the ones discussed here are well documented.  I also know that some of you are sharp enough to see through the hype and didn’t need anyone to fill you in on what’s going on behind closed doors.  As well, I know that quite a few artists become successful without using these tactics.  Still, you can bet that the more resources an artist has access to, the greater the chances are that at least one of these methods has been utilized.  Do your own research and you’ll probably discover many more shocking methods.  The question remains, as competitive as this business is, would you use these methods if you had the resources to do so?

Until next time…PEACE!


Sebastien Elkouby is the co-founder of S&H Public Relations, a boutique PR agency which specializes in promoting quality Hip Hop artists and related projects.  For more information about our services, log on to and check the blog at You can also reach us by email at  Connect with S&H Public Relations on Facebook at and Twitter at @SNHPR.


So you’ve been in the lab (a.k.a. your room!) recording yourself rapping or making beats for a couple of years but nobody has heard your music except your crew and your mom…and that’s only when she’s asking you to turn the noise down!  How do you truly know you have what it takes to make it in this game?  Have you really studied your craft and developed your art or are you fooling yourself into thinking you have something special when all you’re really doing is sounding like everyone else?  You may be asking yourself, “If so many wack artists still end up successful, why should I waste my time trying to be different? I have a better chance if I just do what everyone else is doing.”  I can’t deny the fact that a whole lot of talentless artists are getting their 15+ minutes of fame. But if your goal is to be among them, this article isn’t for you. This is for all those young aspiring artists who are genuinely invested in their art and are looking to make a lasting impact, even if it takes a while to get there. If you want your music to be remembered for years to come, these 5 Tips to Become a Better Hip Hop Artist will guide you in the right direction.

  1. Study the Greats:

Hip Hop culture has been around since 1973. This means that a lot of incredible rappers and producers have come before you. Find out who these legends are and research their catalogs. Don’t worry about the number of albums they’ve sold. The business was different back then and sells weren’t the only way to evaluate an artist’s greatness.  Focus on their talent and skills. Even if you don’t like their music, try to understand how they’ve established themselves as greats.  If you were to learn how to play the guitar, you’d have to learn about the great guitarists like T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, and Jimi Hendrix who came before and helped to shape today’s rock music.  The same philosophy applies to Hip Hop.  You must understand the evolution of the art form in order to add on to it.

Go back and listen to Melle Mel on “The Message” and “Beat Street Breakdown”.  Melle Mel was considered one of the best of his time.  He had a powerful voice that displayed confidence.  His vocab was extensive and many of his subject matter were heartfelt.  You could feel it in his voice.  Those same qualities were found in Tupac.  No wonder both artists are looked upon as icons. If you’re too young to have heard Rakim (hard to believe any self proclaimed MC wouldn’t have), you need to check out the songs “Follow the Leader” and “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em” among many others.  Without Rakim, rappers would have never evolved the way they did and there would probably be no Nas…and maybe no you!

If you’re a producer, go back before Hip Hop and listen to how legendary composers like Barry White, Isaac Hayes, and James Brown arranged their music.  They are the foundation of Hip Hop production.  Bring it back to Hip Hop and check out Marley Marl, Pete Rock, The Bomb Squad, DJ Quik, early Dre, DJ Premier, etc… Without them, there wouldn’t even be the software/hardware you make beats with!  Remember, there’s no future without a past!

  1. Battle and Perform:

There was a time when you couldn’t call yourself an MC unless you had earned your stripes through battling.  The scene is different nowadays but the importance of sharpening your skills is just as crucial for those who care about the art form and their reputation.  Thus, if you can, engage in battle!  This may include your typical cipher or an organized battle at a club in front of a live audience.  Either way, you need to feel what it’s like to be judged by your peers.  If you can take it, this kind of pressure will make you a better MC. You don’t want to be that guy you’ve probably seen in many ciphers, weak nasally voice, stumbling over his lines, and repeating the same few words over and over again!  Hasn’t anyone told him that he isn’t ready to play with the big boys yet?  However, battling isn’t for everyone but you’ll still need to earn your stripes in front of an audience to earn the title of MC. To this aim, you’ll need to perform at various venues and events to develop your talent as an entertainer.

In the early stages of your career, you should jump on any opportunities to do shows.  This may range from a school-based event to a showcase at a local club.  It may not sound glamorous and you won’t always do well but it’ll make you a better performer.  You’ll be able to practice projecting your voice, speaking clearly so that every word is heard, controlling your breath so that you don’t skip over words or pass out, and learn how to get your audience involved in the act.  The greats have all gone through it and you shouldn’t expect anything different.  Ultimately, the goal is to develop confidence, charisma, stage presence, and an understanding of how to move the crowd.  Otherwise, you’ll just be like all the other corny, no-name rappers you’ve seen perform before and swore you’d never be like.  For inspiration, check out live performances on YouTube from KRS ONE, Joell Ortiz, Doug E. Fresh, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, Royce the 5’9, and MC Lyte, to name a few.

  1. Lose the Yes Men and Women:

Everyone has them.  Some are just scared to hurt your feelings, some couldn’t recognize talent to save their lives, and others just don’t give a damn!  All of them are bad for your health!  And your girlfriend/boyfriend doesn’t count.  You could sound like Soulja Boy on Novacane and they’d still love you! When it comes to your art, your best friends are those who keep you grounded with their honesty and understand that only the truth can help you grow.  In the past, I’ve had to tell friends that their skills were lacking.  It wasn’t what they wanted to hear but it made them go back to the drawing board and come back stronger.

Develop thicker skin and encourage your friends to give you honest constructive criticism.  Reassure them that you’re not going to fall to pieces if they have harsh feedback to give you!  Accept their criticism with an open mind and use it to make you a stronger artist.  Good athletes become great athletes by taking serious criticism from their coaches and peers.  There’s no way around it. Of course, make sure to surround yourself with people who have your best interest at heart and know something about music.  This will probably save you from making an ass of yourself and spare the world from having to put up with the next garbage artist!

4.   Challenge Yourself:

Some artists are one trick ponies!  They’re good at one style but can’t do anything else.  Some producers do nothing but use basic drums, a lot of bass, and a bunch of hi-hats and stop there!  It’s almost the same formula for every song. Some rappers get complacent.  They get locked into a routine and never step out of their lane.  If they’re known to go “hard in the paint” with their vocals, they stick to that recipe on every song until that style gets played out. When someone else starts a new style, they try switching up to adapt to the latest sound but it’s usually too late by then. It sounds forced and fans have moved on to the next flavor of the month.  Here are some basic ideas on how to become a well rounded artist.

  1. Freestyle: If all you do is spit written material, give yourself an opportunity to develop another part of your brain by freestyling. If you fear embarrassing yourself in front of others, record it and learn from your mistakes.  If you’re a producer, give yourself 10-15 minutes to create a full song. Use the first drum kit and samples you find and race against the clock to create something cohesive. Keep at it and even if you never become a master, you’ll still have developed basic improvisational skills.
  1. Write: Some MC’s are amazing freestylers but can’t write a song with a consistent theme.  If you’re pursuing rap as a career, freestyling can only take you so far (with few exceptions).  While freestyling allows you to express a broad stream of consciousness, real songwriting gives you a chance to cover specific subjects just like an author writing a novel on a particular topic.  Think of a very specific subject to write about.  Form a mental outline of the story including the intro, plot, climax, and conclusion.  Write with the intent of meeting a specific goal and imagine how you’d like your fans to describe your song.  You should aim to leave a lasting impression.  Producers should think about the type of mood they’d like the listener to feel and create a track with a few changes and arrangements.  Go beyond a basic 2 bar loop or 4 bar bass line and give your song depth and dimension.

  1. Experiment with Content: Try new words.  If your songs usually contain explicit lyrics, try writing clean.  Don’t be afraid to pick up a dictionary or thesaurus to spark ideas.  If you’ve never written a story rap, bring your story to life by developing a plot with characters (see Slick Rick’s “Children Story” or Immortal Technique’s “Dance with the Devil” for examples) You can also try writing a song from the perspective of another person or thing.  Organized Konfusion did it well a few years ago on the song “Stray Bullet” when Pharoahe Monch rhymed as if he were a stray bullet piercing through innocent bystanders.  Gruesome but effective!  If you’re a producer, simply experiment with different drums, keys, melodies, and samples.  Make a beat at a different tempo than usual or create a beat in the style of someone you sound nothing like!  Even if you don’t like the final product, you’ll still be able to take some of the lessons you’ve learned from your experiment and apply them to your sound.  The goal is to grow as an artist.

5.    Look for Ideas and Inspiration in Everything Around You:

If you look at the Top 40 rap songs in the nation on any given week, the themes generally revolve around the same few subjects: sex, partying, sex, bragging, sex, material possessions, sex, and…sex!  While these subjects have entertained the average listener for years, it’s safe to say that having a broader range of topics to rap about would benefit everyone!  After all, isn’t life more than just about sex and having fun?  Ok, maybe not for you, but the average person can relate to a lot more than the 3 to 4 subjects we hear repeatedly on every station across the nation. And so many of the beats sound the same!  A few years ago, everyone had that Dirty South Bounce.  Now, everybody wants a Euro-pop-techno-dance track.  If the next style ends up being country-rock-funk, people will jump on that bandwagon too!  Where’s the originality y’all?!

Are there unlikely places you can draw inspiration from?  Are there books, movies, or non-Hip Hop songs that inspire you to create?  Are there people in your life who have interesting stories to put into a song?  Are there any current events that you could incorporate into your lyrics?  Do you have insight into something worth sharing in your music? Can you take your own life lessons and add an entertaining twist to it?  Are there certain movies that make you want to produce a new soundtrack for? Truth is, the sky’s the limit.  Question is, are you willing to stand out and be all you can be as an artist or would you rather play it safe and follow what everyone else is doing?

These 5 tips aren’t the only suggestions to help you become better artists but they’ll definitely help you develop your talent.  Remember, no one can predict your future or guarantee success. Still, the choice to take pride in your art and to find new ways to grow is in your hands and will ultimately bring you closer to your goal.

Until next time…PEACE!


Sebastien Elkouby is the co-founder of S&H Public Relations, a boutique PR agency which specializes in promoting quality Hip Hop artists and related projects.  For more information about our services, log on to and check the blog at You can also reach us by email at  Connect with S&H Public Relations on Facebook at and Twitter at @SNHPR.


So you’ve decided to join the thousands of rappers who release music independently? Your friends and family told you that you sounded good and that you should put out your own music? Hopefully, they know what they’re talking about. But chances are they don’t! It’s not that they’re lying to you. They just don’t really know what it takes to compete in this business. And having an MPC, Fruity Loops, Reason, Logic, Pro Tools, or any other hardware/software doesn’t necessarily make you a pro. Just because you can spit a hot 16 doesn’t automatically make you the next big thing. Sorry to break it to you but rappers come a dime a dozen!

So before you quit your day job or promise your mom a big house in the hills, check yourself to see if you’re a victim of the 8 Big Mistakes Indie Rappers Make.

1. Unrealistic Expectations
“We’re about to blow up, son! We’re taking this to the next level!” If I only had a dollar for every time I’ve heard some aspiring rapper say that! I don’t mean to rain on your parade but you probably won’t “make it” the way you imagine it to be. It’s like sports. Millions want to play pro ball but how many actually do? I encourage you to follow your dreams but you may need to define what “making it” means to you. Just like the athlete who never went pro but managed to make a good living off his abilities, you may not become a star but might find a way to maintain a following that allows you to make music, pay your bills, and live comfortably.

Regardless of your definition of success, without hard work, you won’t make it, plain and simple. Don’t think for a minute that the successful artists you look up to are doing nothing but chillin’ 24/7, countin’ their paper, and hookin’ up with groupies. A lot of hard work goes into making this look easy to you. Are you willing to invest hours and hours of blood, sweat, and tears into this business? If not, stop right now, get yourself a 9 to 5, and make music as a hobby. You’re either built for this…or not!

2. Lack of Creativity
Just because you rap and make beats doesn’t mean you’re actually good at it, no matter how many yes men and women you have around you! Be honest with yourself. Does anything about your music make you stand out or are you just copying what everyone else is doing? Will you be the next Lil’ this or Young that like so many others who seem unable to come up with an original name? Did you start rapping or producing to become the next Drake or DJ Premier or are you truly developing a sound of your own? So many questions!

I recently came across a rapper on the internet who invited people to watch his new YouTube video by posting the following on his Facebook page: “I know that there are hundreds of thousands of rappers in the world but my style is truly different than anyone else and I know you’ll really love my video!” I gave the cat a chance and checked out the video. First, he was rapping over Kreayshawn’s “Gucci, Gucci” instrumental, he flowed like Gucci Mane, and he talked about his crisp white Tee, cars, money, and women. I shut him down about a minute into it. Is he likely to make it in this game? You tell me. In a world full of biters and copy cats, those who have something truly unique to offer are the ones who stand out. Love her or not, there’s only one Nicki Minaj. Like him or not, there’s just one Kanye. However, being unique isn’t the only thing needed to be successful. Genuine talent and creativity are key. That’s what will ultimately separate one-hit wonders from timeless acts. Which one will you be?

3. No Knowledge of the Music Industry
The industry is changing almost everyday. Still, there are certain elements that remain the same. You need to understand this game and what drives it. It’s easy to be an outsider looking in, watching your favorite rappers on TV flossing and thinking that you’ll put your video on YouTube, get a million views, sign a deal, and become rich. Do you know what actually happens behind closed doors for that “magic” to take place? Do you know anything about marketing and promotion? Do you know the roles managers, booking agents, publicists, accountants, and lawyers play in an artist’s life? Do you know what ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are? Have you ever participated in a business meeting or negotiated deals with industry execs? Many of the artists you see actin’ a fool on award shows or spittin’ verses about hood life on the latest joint are actually sharp business men/women who conduct themselves very differently when the cameras are off. That’s how they stay successful. Many of them say that the music business is 20% music, 80% business. If you became successful, could you handle that?

4. No Showmanship
Have you ever rocked a show? Do you know how to entertain an audience so that they’ll want to see you again? The term MC means Master of Ceremony. In Hip Hop, it means being able to rock a show. If you don’t know how, you better learn before you find yourself on stage looking like an idiot. There was a time when rappers had to pay their dues before even thinking about pursuing rapping professionally. Paying your dues means that you have developed your talent through trial and error. Maybe you’ve battled, won some, lost some, but improved your skills in the process. Maybe you’ve performed in front of an audience at school or a local venue and managed to entertain a crowd. You didn’t just get on stage with 10 of your boys and mumble on the mic while nervously pacing back and forth for an hour, thinking that you had put on a real show. You actually took the time to develop your stage presence by learning how to rap clearly over a mic and creating a unique experience to keep audiences entertained.

When I go to shows, I want to see a performance I’m going to remember for a long time. Up and coming rappers may not have the resources that big acts have access to but that shouldn’t stop them from putting on a memorable show. Imagination and organization go a long way in creating a strong stage presence. I know a crew of up-and-comers whose live show is so entertaining that they make all others acts before and after them look like amateurs. They have nothing on stage except themselves but their chemistry is so tight that they leave audiences in awe. Their secret? They rehearse for days before a show. Do you? There’s a reason MC’s like KRS-ONE, Big Daddy Kane, and Doug E. Fresh can still rock shows across the world without needing to have any new music out. They’ve developed shows that are so entertaining that people want to see them perform, whether or not their music has mainstream popularity. If you’re ever lucky enough to make a name for yourself, your showmanship can propel you to great success and help you maintain longevity.

5. Mediocre Mix
Producing and recording is one thing, mixing and mastering is another. Just because you know how to make beats doesn’t mean you have an ear for mixing. If you’ve ever read the liner notes of records, tapes, and CD’s (no go for you digital kids!), you’ll see that the people who mix and master are different then the producers, composers, songwriters, and artists who create the music. It takes a fine tuned set of ears to get a song to sound just right. And what sounds good to you as an artist may not be up to industry standards. Each particular sound in a song needs to be treated with the utmost attention. Everything from a simple hi-hat to your slightest background vocals needs to be worked on individually. A good song + a bad mix = a bad song. You might be recording in your room but it shouldn’t sound like it. If you don’t know how to mix, let someone who does handle the job.

6. Sloppy First Impressions
Do your artist pictures look like you took them with a disposable camera? Was your video shot with your phone in some dark alley? Do you look clean or do you look like you just rolled out of bed? Are you well spoken and passionate when promoting your music or do you sound ignorant and inarticulate? Does your website, Facebook, or blog contain spelling errors and a confusing layout? First impressions can make you or hurt you. If the first thing someone sees about you or your product looks low budget, you won’t be taken seriously and probably won’t attract much of a following. Think about how you react when you first see a new artist’s video, picture, website, or album cover. Do you immediately judge them on their image and presentation? I know I do and so do most people. I can’t tell you how many unknown rappers have tried to sell me their CD’s with the name and title of the album written with a Sharpie on the actual CD. I’ve had rappers try to convince me of how great they were but couldn’t form a cohesive sentence to explain why. I’ve been approached by rappers who dress sloppily, have dirty nails, breath kicking like weed and alcohol, trying to tell me that they’re about to change the game. I don’t take these artists seriously and never even listen to their music. Would you? If you can’t make an effort to create an appealing image for yourself, you’re probably not making an effort to make your music sound any better. You may not have a million dollar budget but making a good impression doesn’t cost a thing when you take genuine pride in your art.

7. Poor Online Presence
Everybody and their mama has a Facebook page! Yet, I still come across artists who have no online presence whatsoever. With FB, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs available to everyone for free, there’s absolutely no excuse to be offline in 2011. Actually, there was no excuse ten years ago! Without an online presence, you can officially count yourself out of having any chance of success in this game. But I’ll stop here because if you’re not online, you’re not reading this anyway!

8. No Marketing Plan
So you got your music sounding right, your image is on point, and your online presence looks solid. But how will people know you exist? You rock local shows but only manage to sell 3 or 4 CD’s afterward. You post up in front of your local venue where Joell Ortiz just finished performing, CD’s in hand, hoping to catch folks as they walk out, but they just spent their last dollars on drinks and parking and aren’t interested in what you have to sell. You weave through cars in the Target parking lot, flashing down shoppers while they unload their carts, but they don’t have time to buy a CD from some one they’ve never heard of. I give you credit for being on your grind because that’s part of paying your dues. However, at this point, you need a real marketing plan. Slangin’ CD’s on the block ain’t been hot since the first iPod came out! The truth is you won’t go far if you don’t refine your hustle and use 2011 marketing strategies. Sure, a CD might come in handy if you bump into your favorite rapper and hand him your music but if you haven’t already made a buzz for yourself on your own, your CD will most likely end up in the trash. A little research into how to coordinate a basic marketing campaign will get you to the next level and closer to your goal.

These 8 points aren’t intended to discourage anyone but the Hip Hop game is flooded with aspiring artists competing for an opportunity to be heard just like you. At any given time, only around 30 rappers are in the mainstream public eye with an even smaller handful of underground artists getting a little shine. And there you are among millions of other rappers trying to make it into that small and exclusive group of well known artists. The chances of “making it” are slim but avoiding these 8 big mistakes will help you improve your odds and give you something to work for.

In the next few installments of this series, we’ll move beyond what not to do and explore ways to promote your music on a larger scale. You can also find this series at  Until next time…PEACE!

Sebastien Elkouby is the co-founder of S&H Public Relations, a boutique PR agency which specializes in promoting quality Hip Hop artists and related projects. For more information about our services, log on to You can also reach us by email at Connect with S&H Public Relations on Facebook at and Twitter at @SNHPR.