Remember when aspiring music stars dreamt of having their single played on the radio? How quaint. An event held this week pairing music industry veterans and a clutch of up and comers illustrated just how much things have changed.
So So Def CEO and “The Rap Game” executive producer Jermaine Dupri, rapper and broadcast personality Da Brat and Scream Nation CEO Michael Mauldin were joined by talented young artists who have appeared on the Lifetime reality show “The Rap Game.” They’ll all hit the road this summer for the SoSoSUMMER 17 Tour, kicking off May 25 in Louisville. They’re back in Atlanta June 22 for a show at Wolf Creek Amphitheater. (Tickets and information: livenation.com)
A launch celebration held Wednesday night at Topgolf Atlanta Midtown featured some of the reality show’s alums including Season 1 winner Miss Mulatto, Season 2 winner Mani and cast members Lil Key, J.I. the Prince of NY, Nia Kay, Supa Peach, Nova, Deetranada and King Roscoe. Even if rap or reality shows aren’t your thing, the gathering was fascinating from a business standpoint. It seemed as much a master class on the power of social media as it was a party boosting a fun concert tour.
Case in point: every one of the young Rap Gamers live-streamed the event on their phones, eagerly noted their skyrocketing Instagram followers as a result of their time on the show and mentioned that they had repeatedly pinged Dupri via his social media accounts to get his attention in the first place.
“It set a big platform for me,” Supa Peach said of the show during an interview. “Before that I was doing my thing. Afterward, my social media is jumping off the roof, going crazy.”
Dupri, with Queen Latifah serves as the show’s executive producer, and he lends his veteran star power - but he shared lessons from he’s learning from the upstarts. Their phones serve as their televisions. Songs their friends like on various apps inform their tastes, not a DJ spinning tunes on the air.
“I learn from these kids all the time,” he said. “They don’t really care about the old traditional way.”
Dupri has been working with young artists since was basically a kid himself. He wasn’t even 20 when he spotted two youngsters performing with their pants on backwards at Greenbriar Mall. Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith, the duo known as Kris Kross, dominated the charts for weeks with their 1992 hit “Jump.”
But artists don’t have to wait to be discovered anymore. Using the power of social media, they make sure they are. J.I. joked that he tagged Dupri so often he was sure he was getting annoyed. To the contrary, Dupri was impressed enough to invite him to join the show. The arrangement seems mutually beneficial.
“It’s definitely a business learning experience. They teach me how to move in this market, to stay relevant,” Dupri said. “The way that they get their information and the way that they gather music and the way that they listen is completely different. If you don’t grow with it, you’ll be left behind.”