Drake famously rapped, “haters give me promo” which at least in mind suggested that haters are actually a good thing for hip hop and particularly new rappers.
You see when a new rapper comes onto the scene, I believe their success is determined not by how much people love them or like them but by how much people hate them. To clarify, I don’t mean 100% of people have to hate you to be successful, but I do believe between 30% and 50% should adamantly hate you as in they would set your body on fire and throw you off a cliff if they had the chance. Why?
Let’s look at three hypothetical rap videos on youtube from artists we’ve never heard before. The first video is by someone we would all agree is a good rapper. The second one is by an average rapper but slightly more entertaining than the first. And the third is the worse rapper of the bunch but also the most entertaining. Who do you think will have the most positive reaction? Who do you think will have the most negative reaction?
This is where how our minds work comes into play and why rappers like Lil B, Chief Keef and Riff Raff have so many views and more importantly a growing fan base. The good rapper by definition is actually a boring rapper because by being “good” they are actually living up to a standard that came before them. For example, J Cole is a good rapper because he tries to live up to the standard created by Jay-Z, Nas and Kanye or whoever. The thing is those artists already do what J Cole does but better (heck they created the standard) and so there’s really no point in listening to him. Now before, J Cole fans fire bomb the comment section, I want to reiterate I’m speaking about the process of when you hear a new artist for the first time and not when you’ve got to know them.
Anyway back to the question, here’s how I believe the ratings on our videos would play out. The first rapper would have majority all positive comments and likes but the least amount of views and the least amount of comments. The second rapper would have a split between likes and dislikes and positive and negative comments. This would naturally mean there would be more comments than the first video. Finally, the third video would have more dislikes than likes and more negative comments than positive. It would also generate more views and more comments. Now here’s the funny thing, overtime say 2 or 3 days or whenever, this video will end up with more likes, more positive comments and more views than the other rapper’s video. Why?
Studies show that when we have a bad experience with a product we are likely to tell as much as 80 people. [sidebar: This study didn't factor in one's reach online which could be in the thousands or more]. On the flip side, when we have a good experience with a product we’ll usually only tell 17 people within our lifetime. So basically what happens is we’ll watch the good rapper’s video and say “that was great” and maybe share it with a few close friends. And if we’re a rapper ourselves, we wont share it with anyone because “hey we’re trying to get on”. But we’ll watch the bad rapper’s video and share it with the whole world saying, “look at how wack this? Can you believe labels sign this? Doesn’t this guy sound just like? Doesn’t this guy look just like? This guy can’t rap, he’s ruining hip hop”.
Now here’s where the human mind works in a weird way. If someone says to you, “Yo that site YoRapper.com is the worst site”, what would be the first thought that comes to your head? If you’ve never come to the site before, you’ll probably just not bother to google and find out more. But if another person and then another person tells you YoRapper is the worst website ever and how it’s destroying journalism you are going to want to see for yourself. When you finally check out the site, you’ll probably come to the conclusion “hey it’s not so bad” and point out some redeeming quality. This is exactly the process that happens with our “wack but entertaining rapper”.
The people you tell, “yo this rapper is garbage” will if enough people are speaking about them go see for themselves and either come to the same conclusion as you “It’s wack” and tell others how bad it is or say “It’s not so bad, it’s actually kinda awesome” and share it with people saying, “Can you believe people hate on this? It’s awesome!”. Interestingly, if we were to flip it, and have people tell you how great something is, our mind would find a reason to see why it’s not so great. This is because our minds are skeptical of extremes.
What’s even more interesting is, it has always been like this. Let’s take Jay-Z for example. Today Jay-Z is overwhelming considered the greatest rapper alive. However, it wasn’t always like this, people hated Jay-Z when he first came out. They said to Jay-Z all the things they said to our hypothetical wack rapper. Yes I know it maybe hard to believe this in 2012, but in 1996, Jay-Z was considered a wack rapper. In fact, all the greats were hated before they established their fanbase. Sure they had their core fans but I bet between 30% and 50% of hip hop listeners hated them. Heck even Obama can only get 50% of the country to vote for him and he has a hundred million dollar budget to help market him.
So what can new rappers do? If your music is not getting any attention it’s because it is not good enough to get attention. Notice how I didn’t say it’s not good enough according to hip hop standards. Now here’s the scary thing you should do: forget the standards. Forget about trying to make an album that sounds like whatever is the hot sound of the moment. Stop trying to recreate albums you loved as a kid. Basically just stop trying to be Jay-Z or whichever rapper you look up to and figure out how to be yourself. Break the standards. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you have a very vocal group of haters that will do anything to stop you, particularly if they scream and shout about how “you’re ruining hip hop”.