Nathan S. 's avatar

Wale Has No Idea Who Produced This Beat, Here’s Why You Should Care

Posted by Nathan S. on 05/13/13 | Filed under Top Stories, Opinion, Wale
Before I started working in/around the music industry, here's how I thought my favorite albums were created: A rapper calls a producer, they get into the studio together. The rapper really likes one of the beats, the lawyers step in, hash the contract out, the rapper records the song and then boom, it's released into the world for our listening enjoyment.

Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong. To be sure, music does get made in the systematic, logical I always assumed it did, but especially in the age of the internet, that's far more the exception than the rule. In truth, songs are more often the result of a rapper randomly opening a Hulkshare link off Twitter.

Case in point, Wale's upcoming "Gifted" album:

Allow me to translate. Wale has an email address for producers to send beats to. He randomly opened an email from a producer so amateur they didn't even leave any contact information, RECORDED THE SONG ANYWAY AND IS PLANNING ON PUTTING IT ON HIS ALBUM, and now has to backtrack and try to figure out who the hell the producer is.

I'd expect something like this from a random mixtape, but we're talking a major for-purchase album from a major rapper. Considering how high the stakes are, I would have assumed Wale would have at least figured out who the fuck the beat was from before going through the trouble and expense of writing and recording...nope.

I've seen some version of this happen 100 times now, so let me be clear, this is in no way a shot at Wale (although it still blows my mind). I'm just using Wale as an example because I happened to see his tweets.

In fact, this is a far more common situation than I think the average fan possibly knows, or cares about, although they should. This is exactly why album delays are so common, because a month shy of the "release date" artists are still trying to figure out who made their beats, let alone negotiating deals with those producers, clearing samples, etc.

If they can't track down the producer and have to replace it with a new song, boom, there's your album delay. Or they do find the producer, but the legal negotiations drag for whatever reason, boom, there's your album delay. Or they find the producer and the negotiations go fine, but then the producer reveals he used a sample that needs to be cleared and boom, there' get the point. Now multiply that by 16 tracks.

Not to get too grandiose, but ultimately this comes down to the perhaps conflict gap between art and commerce. Music as an artistic creation and music as a for-sale product, especially in hip-hop, just don't get made in the same way.

Great songs can come in flashes of inspiration. If a rapper were to hear a beat and suddenly feel incredibly inspired, are they going to really wait two months to start recording it until all the legal/financial details get hashed out? By that time, the energy that might have made the song great is long dead. So instead, the road to an album is littered with the corpses of songs that were the result of musical one-night stands, but couldn't hold up the next morning when it stopped being all about the music and started being all about the contract.

There's really no easy solution. It's already absurdly easy for producers to be taken advantage of: Imagine if you were some struggling producer and Wale called saying, "If you want this beat on my album, we need to get the deal done now." Are you really going to negotiate for your full worth, or are you just going to sign whatever gets handed to you? At the same time, it's really dope that Wale's giving someone new a chance and not just letting the lawyers dictate how his music gets made.

Really, it's just the nature of the beast. If you want to work in a business with a dependable (or even remotely sane) workflow, don't work in music. I don't know how to balance the immediacy of art with the long-term strategy of putting together an album, but I do know that I've never been more interested in seeing if a beat from a producer I've never heard of makes it onto an album.

We'll just have to wait until "The Gifted" drops on June 25. Unless, you know, it gets delayed. But what are the chance of that?

UPDATE: See, happens all the time:

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