We need to start treating producers in hip-hop fairly
It’s become all too common to hear of producers getting screwed over or unappreciated for their work. This has to end.
Producers are a major artery in the blood flow of the music industry and that isn’t seen anywhere more than in hip-hop. Producers are often the key to hip-hop artists’ success, setting the stage for rappers to jump up and knock them down. Despite the key role they play in hip-hop music they are so often undervalued and it’s terrible.
So today is another day, and another story a producer being dicked over by an artist and/or their label. The producer in question is brandUn DeShay, a talent who has proved himself with artists like Mac Miller, Danny Brown, and Chance the Rapper over the years.
He worked with Joey Bada$$ on a couple tracks years ago before Bada$$ was the internationally recognised artist he is now. When DeShay produced for him the music went to free mixtape sites and all was good, but off the back of his success Bada$$ released the mixtape with DeShay’s work on streaming services.
Bada$$ and his team never got in contact with DeShay and now the tracks are earning money from streams and sales whilst DeShay sees none of it. He has been trying to contact the rapper for months with no reply and has now had to take it public for a response before taking it to the courts.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new story at all. It happens all the time, a producer creates a beat for an artist and never sees a return on the success of it. It boils down to producers not getting the respect that they deserve or not being treated as equally as other people involved in the music.
Notorious producer Kenny Beats tweeted a, now-deleted, video last year saying: “If y’all knew the amount of fucking money I give up just to make sure a song comes out, ’cause people are so fucking stingy, you would not believe it.”
They can be held in ransom in a stick-up, blackmail type scenario where the artist won’t release the song unless the producer agrees to unfair compensation. So the producer becomes the bad person for wanting their rightful piece of the pie.
Then there’s issue with a lot of up-and-coming producers. They can be expected to work for free in return for the exposure they get by featuring on a track. Not only is that completely wrong, but producers have long been forgotten about – being listed in the liner notes somewhere if at all. So what recognition are they getting?
Producers are such a valuable part of hip-hop that the fact they are so often undervalued is abhorrent. They create the bread and butter of the track, without the beats hip-hop is wild beat poetry. It’s easy to argue that in many cases producers are as important if not more so than rappers in tracks.
DJ and artist manager, Adam Golden said on the issue: “If you’re an indie producer working with a major label and not everyone’s in the same room to sign a split sheet, you don’t have a lot of leverage. Labels will get the sound they want, regardless of whether the original producer is willing to cooperate with them.”
But it’s the rappers who sign multi-million dollar record label deals. It’s the rappers who make often make the majority of the money from streams and sales – at least on the creative side, of course there are still major issues with how much artists make after the labels take their cut. We don’t want to undermine the still very present frustration of artist and label disputes.
I think part of this issue is that hip-hop has become such a large genre that people on the come up go from small independents working together to major so quickly. When you’re working with your friends you don’t think about signing contracts and working out royalty percentages. Only when your friend signs to Universal does that become an issue.
Producers need to make sure they are protecting themselves correctly in the first place but artists and labels also need to reach out their hands and give producers the respect and recompense they deserve.
Of course a lot of times producers are fairly treated, they get credited and/or well compensated for their work. But it has become an all-too-common trend to hear another story of a producer’s plight. We need to work together to end it and make sure everyone in music is fairly treated.
What can we do to help producers and beat-makers?
- Create a friendly and creative rapport between all parties to ensure everyone is informed and happy with the terms before releasing anything. It’s a working relationship, you need to make sure you’re on the same page so that no-one gets hurt. Contracts may feel like needless bureaucracy but they exist for a reason: to protect you.
- Credit the people behind your beats properly. Acknowledge them where you can, they’ve played a big part in making your music where you can. Why not give them a shout out on your social media for contributing and tell your fans to check them out. They’ll probably do the same in return and it will make other producers more likely to want to work with you.
- Use sites like Traktrain where you can find beats and instrumentals that people have made and are willing to sell for you to use. It makes it simple to find a beat you like and ensure everyone gets paid and is legally happy with what happens.