Sunday, October 24, 2010

Should I Rep My City?

Being a DJ, it seems that most conversations people approach me with when they see me out (even in strip clubs smh) are music related. A recent conversation stuck in my head and had me thinking about it even more today. Is it good or bad for an artist to release a single that is primarily built to rep their city?

Almost always I would say definitely not a good idea if the artist has any hopes of radio play, club spins, etc in any other city. It’s hard to imagine anyone from New Jersey, for example, just really getting excited about a song like “Welcome to Dallas”. That was hot here in Dallas, but I’ve never had anyone from outside of Texas request that song when I’m spinning. BUT…

Jay Z and Alicia Keys had the entire US singing every word to their hit “Empire State of Mind”. I could turn on the radio here in Dallas and hear that song spinning 20 times in one day. My friends in Cali used to complain about why the radio stations there were giving it so much play instead of supporting Cali artists more. It may be that Jay Z and Alicia Keys are so iconic that the two of them combined on one song would have been huge regardless of what they were singing about, or maybe the melody was just so dope that it really didn’t matter what the words were. Whatever the reason, “Empire State of Mind” is the clear objection to the rule, but still it is very rare for that to happen.

I think NWA had that impact when they did “Straight Outta Compton”. Tupac and Dr Dre broke the trend too with the hit “California Love”. And for a funny twist, I think LL Cool J broke through with his song “Goin’ Back to Cali” (even though he’s from Queens NY).

So maybe the exception to the rule is the star power of the artist’s themselves and THAT is what gives them the pass to rep their city so strong in any other city in the US. Nobody can deny that this list of artists (Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Tupac, Dr Dre, NWA, LL Cool J) belong on a short list of artists that dominated music and had a MAJOR influence on the sound of Hip-Hop, not to mention clothes, lingo/slang, attitude, etc.

So the original question: Is it good or bad for an artist to release a single that is primarily built to rep their city? If you want regional play – absolutely. If you have plans of breaking out of your city and region and having success on a national scale – I would say no. But I can think of 4 songs that break that rule. Name some others that you think qualify as national hits while the topic/main focus of the song is about a specific city.

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