Tag Archives: Usher

Celebrity schlebrity. Vita Chambers has a guardian angel.

vita_chambers_fix_you

I’ve never been used to the concept of celebrities.

Folks treat them with such…reverence…as if the fact that they can sing or dance or dribble a ball makes them somehow, better?

I find cats fawning over pure strangers…odd and distasteful.

I just don’t get why girls swoon over Usher, or Michael Jackson or Justin Bieber.

Falling out, really?

Perhaps it’s because I’m Nigerian.

Or maybe it was being born into a diplomatic family.

It could be pure vanity.

I can’t sweat you if I think, I too, am fabulous.

But most likely, it was my cousin, Stevano.

You see, growing up, I had this younger cousin who was a rapper from DC.

During the summers and every Howard homecoming, I would make my sojourn to DC to chill with him.

Hanging with my cousin usually involved tooling around the city in a 911, Beemer or Benz.

It meant VIP access to any and every party spot or event of note.

More importantly, it meant unbridled access to a butt load of celebrities.

I was routinely in the company of Nas, Mary J Blige, Biz Markie, A Tribe Called Quest, Jay Z, Herbie Azor, Wu Tang Clan, Davina, Eve, Brand Nubians, Cisco, Drake, Sean Kingston, Marlon Waynes, Michael ‘Blue’ Williams (of Violator), Talib Kweli – and that’s just off the top of my head.

Don’t mind the generational jumps – I’m talking past and present.

We’re not even going to get into the models.

Although most people outside of DC have never heard of my lil cousin, he is a don in the music industry.

Limos would routinely pull up outside of the house on Rittenhouse (the house he bought at 18).

And we would be whisked off to some private party being hosted by Marc Barnes or some other DC night life luminary.

His phone stayed ringing, and I would hear him giving heavyweights – heavyweights – advice.

I used to get so annoyed with him.

Usually because these calls came at the most inopportune moments – like when I wanted his introduction to some hot dancer, back-up singer or groupie thinking we were famous.

I had no problem with sloppy seconds back then.

But what drew my annoyance – beyond missed booty conquest – was the fact that he just gave away valuable information – for free!

The stuff he knew about the entertainment industry – getting labels to come off that dough, securing video budgets, working with established producers, touring – were things I felt he should be getting paid for.

And things that most cats his age (and older) just didn’t know.

For years, I urged him to flip the paradigm, set up shop and get paid for his services.

When Aftermath wanted him to write for Eve of Destruction (aka Eve), this new artist they were grooming from Philly, I prodded him to get a fee for his services.

When Fela’s daughter invited him to talk about bringing her late father’s music to the stage, I urged him to confirm that the deal was on the up-and-up.

When <name of artist/label/producer> came seeking his help, I implored him to get paperwork to secure his stake in the transaction.

Invariably, his heart controlled his head, and he rarely took my advice.

Time after time again, I watched as countless artists benefited from his immense creativity and lackadaisical business attitude.

As he moved from DC to LA, to the UK, to Miami and then to Vancouver, Canada, I would infrequently hear about these instances.

And as my life turned increasingly from the entertainment industry to technology, and being separated by time zones and distance, I heard about them less and less.

Recently, however, he reached out to me to talk about the latest artist to have found a way into his heart – Vita Chambers.

If you haven’t heard about her, it’s okay.

She’s only 19.

She was discovered by SRP (the same label that found Rihanna) and signed by Sylvia Rhone in 2009.

Vita soon found herself on tour with Justin Bieber, performing at Lilith Fair in 2010, the Bamboozle Road Show, PopCon, touring with Forever The Sickest Kids, and performing with Estelle at the 2010 Soul Train Awards.

But she’s spent the last two years on hold as Universal Motown’s reorganization worked itself out.

Fast forward to 2012, and SRP finds themselves without the momentum that accompanied her initial signing.

Enter cuzzo, stage left.

Working with Vita’s parents, her de facto management, he took ‘Fix You’, remixed it, and the girl you’ve never heard of is taking off with a chart climbing single.

Now since I’ve been here before, I know how this plays out.

Stevano goes balls to the walls for Vita and her team.

Vita gets back on the trajectory she was before the Universal debacle and achieves untold success.

And cats bid my cuz auf Wiedersehen.

This time, though, I’m helping cuzzo get the biz right.

I plan to be the guardian angel to Stevano that Vita is the poor child in the Fix You video.

They’re going to be in LA for the Grammy’s.

And then a quick stop in NY to sit with the folks at Universal Republic.

I plan on meeting this young artist in Stevano’s good graces.

And hopefully convince them to formalize their relationship so that they mutually benefit.

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Rule No. 1 for the unsigned artist: Get on your grind (aka check yourself before you wreck yourself)

Everyday I'm Hustling DigitallyRecently, I’ve been approached by a number of artists and producers looking to get signed to a record deal.

I always entertain anyone who seeks out my advice, because it shows initiative.

But I’m always concerned when the objective, notwithstanding my advice, remains fixed on securing a deal.

It’s not that it’s an unobtainable goal.

But it’s unrealistic.

As one record executive told me, getting signed to a record deal is more difficult than shooting a hole in one – by hitting a golf ball through a hole in a brick wall first.

For some reason, these cats act like the labels are just handing record deals out.

“All you’ve got to do is be discovered.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told about artists that are discovered.

That’s all it takes.

Record a song.

Post a YouTube video.

Get discovered.

And go from obscurity to fame, overnight.

“Madonna was discovered.”

“Lady Gaga was discovered.”

“Katy Perry was discovered.”

Yada yada yada.

My response is uniformly: “No. They weren’t.”

To be fair, there is that rare exception of a truly discovered talent, plucked from obscurity.

Like Rihanna.

But that’s a different story for another time.

The reality is that virtually every artist you’ve ever heard of, especially the superstars, busted their asses to get where they got.

Invariably, they were passed over, several times, by several A&Rs, at several different labels, before they finally got on.

Do you know how many people dissed Kanye before he was finally signed to the Roc?

It was a running joke in the industry how often Kanye asked folks to listen to his demo.

Katy Perry was dropped by Columbia before being signed to Capitol Records.

Lady Gaga was performing at open mikes since she was 14 (and she attended The Tisch School) before she was signed by Akon.

Justin Beiber is probably one of the few artists truly ‘discovered’ in recent memory, when Scooter Braun happened upon his video before taking him to Usher.

But their deals didn’t just happen.

It was the result of relationships, work and in some instances, dumb luck.

Many of the people who have approached me don’t have even the most fundamental basis for talking record deal.

There’s no website.

No Facebook page.

No Twitter account.

No YouTube channel.

Not digital presence whatsoever.

If they have any of the above, then there are few (if any) likes, followers or views.

If they’ve got a MySpace page, SoundCloud or ReverbNation account, there are virtually no fans and abysmally low play counts of their songs.

The content on their pages are old and haven’t been updated.

At the end of the day, I’m left scratching my head, trying to understand why these cats seem so…entitled?

If you haven’t done the work, how can you expect to win?

It’s like saying you’re going to win a gold medal at the Olympics, but you’ve never trained a day in your life.

Sure, it’s possible that you could get off your couch, hit the starting blocks and blow Usain Bolt away.

But it’s not probable.

Sure, it’s possible that you could record a song tomorrow, post it online, and some A&R somewhere will be at your doorstep offering you a deal.

But it’s not probable.

And with the ten hundreds of thousands of aspiring artists out there on their grizzy, going HAAM, what makes you think that you’re going to grab the brass ring first?

The game has changed.

If you’re trying to be a successful artist, know that your success is being gauged by empirical measures:

Facebook likes.

Twitter followers.

YouTube views.

SoundCloud plays.

A Google results page.

This is how A&Rs today are gauging an artist’s viability.

Can you draw a crowd – online?

Sure, you can sing.

But so can literally tens hundreds of thousands of others.

What makes you stand out from the crowd?

It’s your hustle and your (digital) ground game.

So artists, if you’re reading this blog, and you want to know what it takes to get a record deal, it’s one of two ways:

1. Know somebody;

2. Get on your grind (and build a digital presence).

Any questions?

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