What Are Industry Plants and are they Ruining the Rap Culture?
Following the infamous feud between Drake and Meek Mill where the authenticity of the superstar Drake’s music and it’s origin was called into question, there have been multiple rap artists who have claimed to be independent but are now being accused of industry manipulation in their storied come up. For the casual hip hop fan, “the come up” is a very important part of the identity of the artist if not the most important. People usually become fans of an artist when they can relate to or identify with what the artist is saying, and in Hip Hop, people like to route for the underdog. The independent artist. The artist who came from nothing to something. The artist who the people chose to be successful because of their music and who they are themselves. This has been a very noticeable trend in Hip Hop music since for a long time.
However, within these last couple of years many artists have seemed to have popped out of the woodwork and been tossed into the spotlight with sometimes as little as one song and gained an entire career in the process. These artists who are usually accused such as Chance the Rapper, Post Malone, Lil Yachty, Trinidad James, Lil pump and of course Drake have all been stamped with the label “Industry Plant” which tends to have a negative connotation when it’s brought up in conversation within the rap community. The common definition of an industry plant is an artist who has a Major/Indie Label backing their movement but presents themselves as a “home grown start up” label to create a pseudo organic following.
But is this really a bad thing though…
Although we did get some artists the industry championed who just came and went or were just straight up one hit wonders, i.e. iLoveMakonnen, Trinidad James, Raury, etc, we have also gained some pretty good artists who are now having their careers questioned and music criticized for having industry influence in the growing of their fan bases and their storied come up. Chance the Rapper can be used an example for this situation because Chance actually makes great music but anyone who pays attention to the rap culture could notice that his presence in the mainstream media and his fan base as well have increased very significantly. This was surely not the case when he released his first or second mix tape. His name was definitely in the air but now it has become a household name and this all happened after the release of his third mix tape/album Coloring Book, which was also his first project with a major label backing. The project sold a great number of copies and was front page on almost every hip hop blog, social media and music platform with the help of Kanye West who is a very influential figure in the indutry and also the founder of record label giant G.O.O.D (Getting Out Our Dreams) Music. The buzz around the project was a huge success because of the labels influence and the amount of superstars associated with the project but at the end of the day, the sales skyrocketed because of the simple fact that Chance the Rapper did deliver an amazing body of work.
That’s why it was outstanding…compared to most other mainstream music which sounds okay but when played enough times you can’t get out of your head. This is where the label’s influence becomes detrimental to the hip-hop culture and it’s audience. When the mediocre artist with label backing gets more support from fans just because they are heard more by listeners who tune in to hip hop media platforms that are paid by Major record labels to keep playing certain artists that they have investments in and the amazing artist who deserves the light to be shined on them can not get a good look because although they have great content that fans would appreciate, they might not want to or even have the resources to deal with a Major record label. There are many examples of these label influences not only in the media but also in the hip hop radio industry, which is on it’s way to collapse due to the recent official addition of streaming services. Traditionally speaking, the radio stations get to decide which artists get played and if you listen to the hip hop stations, there are at least about 5 songs that get a lot of airplay on all the radio stations. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself the last time you heard ‘Rake it Up’ by Nicki Minaj and Yo Gotti play on the radio, coincidentally when Nicki Minaj’s career is in desperate need of a hit presence right now…
I’m just saying there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in the rap industry and you can not really be sure which artists are being championed organically because of industry influence because they rarely would admit something like that in fear of hurting their perceived brand. But one thing that is for certain, is that good music speaks for itself. And if this trend continues in the rap industry, the mediocre artists they invest in will end up having short careers because the fans are just gonna keep jumping on to whatever is hot, unless you have an exceptional artist like Kendrick Lamar or J Cole who will both last for long and dominant time because the competition is just not on the same musical level as them although their labels put up the illusion in the media that they are. The solution to this problem is one that seems so simple that…just let the people choose.