In 2016, trap music with melodic "vibes" tends to garner the most buzz on major music blogs, thereby receiving more attention from industry influencers. For hip-hop artists who don’t create music within this lane of the genre, it can be a challenge to break through with the quality of your music and its message. The allure of short-term prestige is tempting, but it's important to remember that the longevity of your career relies on a long-term mentality and staying true to your art, not imitating the fashionable sounds of the moment.
Having a strong sense of self-awareness, self-esteem, and dedication to improving your craft are the first steps to accomplishing the goals you’ve set out for yourself. You're most likely in the wrong profession if you have a lack of confidence in the quality of your music, but as humans, we all doubt ourselves from time to time. When it seems like you’ve hit a roadblock or your career has gone stagnant, the key to overcoming those tough stretches is resilience and staying consistent with your work ethic.
Don’t release an excessive amount of music in hopes of one song gaining steam; this will only devalue the caliber of your catalog. Put your effort into creating a complete body of work with substance and replay value that will pass the test of time. On the flip side, being too quiet and picky with your output can be equally as harmful with the indie hip-hop scene being crowded as it is, and you don’t want to be forgotten! Different approaches work for different artists, but maintaining a steady balance between the two outlooks is usually the best move in terms of ensuring steady progression in your career.
Unfortunately, there will always be times when you feel that you aren’t getting the attention you deserve. This is especially true for those who fly under the radar with strong lyrics and smooth production, but no radio-friendly records or club-ready hits. The best way to steer clear of the noise is to soak up all the knowledge you can and never act like you've "made it." Keep writing/producing until you figure out what you’re best at and what needs to be improved. Fall in love with the process and find a management team that shares your vision, because all the under-attended performances, all the emails, and all the hours spent recording comprise the grind that fuels the fire.
Ultimately, it's up to you to know yourself and your worth as an artist. It can be frustrating to see others rise to prominence at a fast pace while you're staying the course. But success doesn't happen for anybody overnight, and the accumulation of many small wins will lead to bigger accomplishments if you remain persistent.
Focus on building your fanbase. Focus on making your live shows must-see events. Focus on cultivating organic relationships with your peers and other professionals you respect within the industry. Focus on inspiring the youth and making a positive impact on people’s lives. As long as you remain true to yourself and work tirelessly to master your craft, reaching your goals and becoming a more recognized name is just a matter of time. And since time is our most valuable resource, don’t spend it trying to be something you're not.
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.