All Rappers Need to Know About Making a Hit Record

The secret tip sheet (emphasis on tip) to generating a hit was published in the GQ feature “Make it Reign: How an Atlanta Strip Club Runs the Music Industry.”

Of course the tips only work after making the actual music.

How to get on the radio:

Once your song gets played, once people start to know who you are, you need to start throwing money at dancers whenever that song comes on. As Esco says, “I’m not going to let you up on that stage if you don’t have no money.” And you don’t need just the $3,000, $4,000, $10,000 to throw at Magic City on Monday. You need to do that again tomorrow night at Blue Flame, and Thursday at Strokers, and Saturday night at Onyx. So you’re going to need what I will call a sponsor. (As a producer said to me, “Everyone in Magic City either is a sponsor or has one.”) A professional football player, the rapper T.I., a drug dealer. I saw a rapper named SoSay throw $30,000 in forty-five minutes at Magic like he was a busted ATM; his “sponsor” was some guy who hit the Powerball a few years ago. And the dancers — they’re a lot more likely to request your song if they know you’re going to throw $10,000 at them. That’s how you get noticed in the room. And that’s how the dancers start requesting your song.

And here’s the golden key to unlocking money, power and respect. For a little while anyway:

“The girls pick what record pops in the streets. They pick what rapper pops in the streets,” Esco had said to me earlier. “The girls at Magic City are the streets.”

Make sure you have another song on deck, because you’ll want to stay hot.

Only in hip-hop could a club like Magic City have the kind of place in the ecosystem that it does. No other segment of the music industry is dominated so fully at its lowest rungs by homegrown artists. No other segment of the music industry is quite so collaborative, cross-pollinating, fucking social, with everyone guesting on everyone else’s songs and working with seventeen different producers. And all of that is physically manifested within the cinder-block walls of Magic City. No segment of the music industry produces quite the tidal wave of content that hip-hop does, or creates micro-celebrities with as much frequency, or turns those micro-celebrities into real successes. And no other genre of music disposes of those micro-celebrities just as quickly.

After getting stamped at Magic City, grab your popcorn and beverages and watch the feature film starring you. It could be a long or short run time. Nobody can predict the actual length of their 15 minutes of fame or if they will be able to “fuck up some commas” in the future. At least at this movie, you don’t have to turn your phone off.

“You’re Cool Amerika, and people in the club are watching you drop money, and the DJs are saying your name, and the girls are your friends now. You’re Stunt and you’re 20 years old and you’re making a movie. You’re almost that thing you’ve been pretending to be for years and years, borrowing those cars to make your homemade videos, recording your songs in your basement in Stone Mountain, Georgia. You’re just one of the hundreds of groups that get lucky enough to get on this stage, one of the thousands of rappers and producers and dropouts from McClarin Success Academy staying up all night recording songs in their garages, one of a swelling underground that makes the nocturnal zombie metropolis of Atlanta a kind of living moment-to-moment record of the evolution, or devolution, of hip-hop. Tonight Magic City is lifting you up, out of the little neighborhood you came from, offering you up to the world. And you’re waiting to see how your movie ends.”

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