It can be universally agreed upon that music is the heartbeat to our daily lives.
Whether it’s the classics our parents used to listen to or the songs from brand new artist with new styles and sounds, music is everywhere. Be honest – think about the people in your life and how many of them are aspiring/starving artists? Somebody knows somebody who’s related to somebody who’s working with somebody who’s an aspiring rapper or singer. Some of them make it, some of them don’t. But when they do achieve the fandom, respect, and notoriety, what happens next?
A lot of performers get spotted by scouts through live performances or have some of their work handed to somebody higher up, which could possibly lead to big opportunities. But, as with every endeavor in life, there is bound to be some pitfalls and potholes along the way. But with the music and entertainment industry the way it is, is it better to stay an independent artist or get swept up with the big name record companies who seemingly offer the “golden deal”? SE got a chance to talk with NC’s own, “The Away Team”, a hip-hop duo consisting of rapper Sean Boog and producer Khrysis (also a part of the musical collective, the Justus League) about the ups and downs about being an independent artist.
Sonic Eclectic: What made you want to be a rapper/producer?
Sean Boog: The love for the music. Its been the most consistent thing in my life.
Khrysis: I’ve always been a music nerd/snob since I could remember. When I was in middle school I started jimmy rigging my boombox with my stereo and a Radio Shack Yamaha keyboard and a pause tape loop. I was always intrigued and drawn to music and sounds. Making up songs in my head, getting in trouble in class for beating on my desk and stuff like that. I would sit in my room listening to music so much that my stepmother told me “Chris why don’t u make you’re OWN music?” I guess you can say that’s what made me start.
SE: When did you know that you wanted to pursue music fully?
SB: I didn’t take rap seriously until ’01 when I met (Ceasar) Comanche and 9th. Even then, it wasn’t something I thought of making a career out of until I see what Little Brother was able to do. We came up together but they were the final inspiration I needed to realize I could do it professionally.
K: When I was in college and realized I was wasting my parent’s money because I wouldn’t go to class. I literally sat in my dorm and made beats all day. This was in 2000…I got introduced to a demo version of Fruity Loops 2 by my homey, Bless The Child (who I met again three years later as Novej of the A.L.L.I.E.S.)
SE: How did you link up with 9th Wonder?
SB: Met 9th through Comanche via The Away Team’s former DJ and a close homey of mine named DJ Paradime. Me and Comanche were like minded in our musical taste. We started kicking it and he introduced my to 9th. Started making music at Missie Ann studio and the rest is history.
K: I was doing an internship at North Carolina Central University’s radio station when I was 16 or 17. I had my own radio show and all. A little after school type of deal. I met (fellow NC rapper) Chaundon and I started making beats on this program called SAW on the station’s computer. One day Chaundon wanted to introduce me to his boy Pat. I went to Pat’s dorm where he was making beats in a demo version of cool edit 1.2. I lost touch with him after that and went to school at Winston-Salem State University. I ran into him on campus randomly and reintroduced myself and showed him what I was doing with Fruity Loops. I think he was using something called Hammerhead at the time. He later found a full version of FL3.
SE: Have you gotten offers from other labels? If so, what made you stay where you are?
SB: The most important offer was our recent offer that we obviously accepted and that’s signing to Duck Down Records for the release of our third album “Scars and Stripes”.
K: We Started at HOJ and moved on to Jamla/Duck Down. We are where we are because I really feel comfortable dealing with people I have a mutual respect and belief in. My team really keeps me on my toes and we support each other. It’s really the best way to go for anybody who’s trying to achieve anything.
SE: Looking at other artist who’ve signed to big industry machines, what are the majority of pitfalls you see for young, ambitious artists?
K: To me it seems like most artists that get signed to majors think they won already. Not the case. In short, I’ll just say the machine won’t work for you if you don’t work for yourself.
SB: Know your business, and surround yourself with good people and a team you can trust.
SE: How do you avoid becoming a ‘one-hit-wonder’?
SB: Make music you believe in and don’t try to follow a formula or do what the next man is doing.
K: Simple; don’t make music for the radio. Don’t make a song that “sounds like” Outkast. Because Outkast has done it already. The magic of Outkast is they came out sounding like nobody else. Besides, why sound like a fake Outkast when people are just gonna gravitate to the real Outkast?
SE: Looking back, what are some of the pro’s at being an independent artist?
SB: Creative control! Making your own decisions.
K: Creative control, no yes men, and no extra people in my pocket.
SE: What are some of the cons, if any?
SB: It’s not easy. It is a 24-hour a day, year round job. Your destiny is in your own hands. If you’re not built for it, you will not make it. The music is the easy part.
K: You gotta do everything yourself. If you consider that a con…
SE: Musically, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
SB: Doing the same thing I’m doing now, just bigger and better.
K: Better, stronger, and faster. Oh, and more paid…
SE: Any advice you can give aspiring artist who are trying to be cautious about their decisions?
SB: Be yourself. And as I said before, know your business. Surround yourself with good people and a team you can trust.
K: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Create, create, create; have a strong team of like minded individuals, and sometimes you gotta lose a battle to win the war. And if you lose a battle: get up, keep your mouth shut, and keep working. And if you’re really dope like that, the people will see it, recognize and respect you for it.
No matter the set back and pitfalls, the most supportive people in an artist’s life are going to be the ones with the most enthusiasm – even if sometimes the artist themselves lose it. Seeing that the music industry in general is now over-saturated and overpopulated, it seems the breakout stars are the ones with the sound unlike any other we’ve heard before. So, where does that leave new artist with a different sound? They say “you never know until you try” so once your best friend/cousin/guy you sat next to in History class makes it, be sure to ask them how it feels to reach a new height others are still attempting to climb. Statistically speaking, “getting on” takes patience and perseverance that a lot of people don’t have. It’s what sets them apart from the rest, from making the music that keeps us going.
After all, we can’t live without our heartbeat.