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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Has Buzz Gone Bad?
Friday, June 19, 2009

Buzz has been a keyword in the music world, especially in Hip-Hop, for quite a while now. It’s supposed to indicate that there’s a lot of talk swirling around an artist and that he, or she, is on the verge of stardom. As we near the end of the decade, however, it seems that having buzz has almost become a negative thing as the majority of the artists that are buzzed about never even come close to living up to their hype. Today I’m going to take a look at why we might be better served by ignoring all the buzz.

Charles Hamilton (pictured), Papoose, Asher Roth, 88-Keys, Izza Kizza and Kidz in the Hall (along with many others) are all artists that have been highly buzzed about over the past few years and they’ve all fallen flat. We were told these people would be Hip-Hop Jesuses, leading a new generation of artists, but aside from a guest appearance on a remix here, or a minor hit there, they’ve been major disappointments. The key part of that sentence is the phrase “we were told.” Blogs and magazines listed these emcees on their “next” lists and people bought into them despite having not really heard very much of their work. Their buzz wasn’t a result of their music, but rather a good PR campaign and the knowledge that Hip-Hop fans feel some sort of bragging right when they can say “I knew about so and so first.”

The last guys to work the concept of buzz well were 50 Cent and Soulja Boy (talk about polar opposites of the musical spectrum). 50 changed the entire mixtape game with his independent releases, selling so many that at one point one of his mix-CDs landed on the Billboard album charts. Soulja Boy, on the other hand, worked YouTube to perfection to get people excited about him. The main reason both 50 Cent and Soulja Boy’s buzz ended up working to make them stars was because they created it themselves through unique means. Now everyone is trying to do the exact same things they did, flooding the streets with mix-CDs and bombarding YouTube with videos, not realizing it really only works once and everyone else needs to be looking for their own unique promotional avenues.

The irony in all this is that the majority of the biggest names in Hip-Hop today had zero buzz before they became famous. Kanye West, T.I., Rick Ross, Jim Jones, all these artists became famous because they released a hot single, or a hot album, that people connected with and wanted to hear more of. Was anyone talking about Kanye West as an emcee before “Through The Wire?” Had anyone even heard of Rick Ross before “Everyday I’m Hustlin?” You can debate the quality of their music all you want, but that’s not the point here. The point is these artists did things “the old fashioned way” by simply releasing songs that people liked. Of course, if more labels and fans realized “the old fashioned way” is truly the ONLY way to launch an artist into superstardom this entire issue regarding buzz would be off the table. Need more evidence? Look at Jay-Z, Nas and Biggie. Jay floundered for a while and then built up his name through his music. Nas blew up off of an album (Illmatic). Biggie had a few guest appearances, but nobody was really checkin for him until Ready To Die hit the streets. And for my southern friends, had anyone heard of Juvenile before "Ha?" Music builds careers, not hype.

Drake is the latest artist to have buzz without a major hit song. I hope he does well. I honestly do because when I interviewed him a few weeks ago he was a very nice, smart, individual. If he does manage to break through and make a name for himself, though, his hype won’t be the reason it happens, it will be because of his music.

Publications, websites, blogs and random know-it-alls love to go out of their way to tell everyone about the artists they’re convinced are going to be the next big thing, but the reality of it all is we should be treating those lists in a very Public Enemy-esque way and not believing the hype. Personally, I try not to partake in those kinds of lists whenever it’s possible for me to avoid them. I prefer to simply talk about the artists I dig without slapping an unreasonable expectation creating “next” tag on any of them. That being said, people can still use those “next” lists as a starting point. The key is to find out more about the artists, listen to their music, and get excited about what you hear coming out of your speakers rather than what you hear coming out of other people’s mouths. There’s also no reason to feel like you’re not in the know whenever an artist blows up that you’ve never heard of because, as history has proven, most of the time that’s exactly the way it happens.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:45 AM  
  • At 12:51 PM, Blogger Tah Phrum Duh Bush said…

    Word up!!!

  • At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do not forget Omar Cruz. His buzz sounded when his home label BYI Entertainment signed a 50/50 deal with Geffen and Interscope. An album was announced along with the joint venture, but there hasn't been any new developments as of 2007. In fact, there is speculation that the deal may have fell through.

    What do you think about the term "buzz single"?

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