The first edition of FSD and Rhymefest’s The Great Debaters series was a major success, so now we’re back for Round 2 – this time featuring The Honorable Phonte from the North Carolina-duo, Little Brother. These two are both highly entertaining and intelligent characters, so read on as ‘Fest and ‘Tay discuss the indie/major game as well as the art of “tricking”.
AB: I would just like to welcome everyone to our second installment of The Great Debaters presented by Fake Shore Drive and Rhymefest. Let’s start with our first topic. In the ever changing music industry, which is better for an artist to do: go independent or secure a major label deal?
Phonte: In my opinion it’s best for an artist to be independent and when I say independent I mean like totally independent and doing as much of it on your own as you can. To me any artist that has proven that they can build their own fan base and that they do have people that will listen to them, anyone like that who is signing to a major label is a fucking fool, it just ain’t worth it. You know if it was the 70s where the major labels were the only game in town, you pretty much had to go to them to get any shot at a career. Now I mean you have labels that are pretty much using the same outlets that the average Joe can use, they want you to use MySpace and YouTube and things that you can already do yourself. Afterwards if you pop off on that then they may put you to the radio. I just think to sign exclusively to any label is an act of cowardice; it shows you don’t have a belief in your fan base or in your music. I don’t want to sound judgmental though because there are a lot of niggas who need that major deal and that money to pay bills. Everyone’s situation is different and I ain’t knocking anybody who does what they need to do. In my personal experience and being on both sides of the game I think it’s lunacy to sign to a major label.
Rhymefest: Well, I think it’s a cop out to say, “Man I don’t want to be on a major label I just want to be independent.” I think it’s a lack of security because you don’t feel like you can sell records so the next best thing to say is “I’m just going to do it by myself.” It’s just a safety mechanism instead of just doing what you got to do to sell records. When you get a record deal you sign a contract to sell records for that label. The people who complain about these record labels are the ones who can’t fulfill this. If you look at the facts, most independent artists that did relatively well ended up signing with a major because a major label is a bank. If you do well that “bank” is going to give you more money, they are going to put you out there further then you were as an independent. It’s kind of like if you do well you’re going to be going to the bank anyway. With Gnarls Barkley, they started independent and then guess what, they signed to the “bank” because the “bank” got that gwap to get them out there bigger and further. Now the record labels job is not to get you famous, the record labels job is not really to promote you. It’s your job to do these kinds of things. So with or without a record deal you are independent anyways. To blame things and say I don’t need a record label is a cop out in your confidence to sell your music. Who wouldn’t want to go to the bank?
Phonte: There is some truth in what you are saying but to counter that I ask you this: do you know when El Che is coming out?
Rhymefest: Uh…no, because I haven’t finished my record yet. I can’t sit up here and blame J Records for El Che because at the end of the day J Records is saying, “When you finish we’ll put it out!” So now I’m looking at February or March but that’s on me as an artist. As an artist I can’t sit up here and blame the label.
Phonte: I don’t believe that but you can have the record finished four or five times over and at the end of the day you go to them and tell them it’s finished. The decision on whether or not it is going to get out is someone else’s hands. That in itself to me is enough reason to not sign to a major label.
Rhymefest: Yeah, but if you are putting a record out it isn’t the record label’s fault that they didn’t put it out, it’s your teams fault. Go out there and get your brand popping. If you get your joint popping big enough they are going to put it out. I’ll give you an example: you think they were going to put Kanye West’s College Dropout? Hell no! I was with him during the time, they weren’t doing anything. He put “Through the Wire” out he put “Slow Jamz” out, and then they picked up on it.
Phonte: But in the case of Kanye he was also on route as a producer so he could do that. The average artists coming into the game trying to make it and sign to a major are not bringing their own tape to the table. And if they can’t afford to bring their own tape to the table with a major that is even dumber to try to get signed.
Rhymefest: Well the average nigga in the game needs to stop taking their advance money and spending it on chains and cars and instead spend it on their brand promotion.
AB: Let’s move on to our second topic. Is it tricking if you got it?
Phonte: Is it tricking if you got it! I feel that any man that spends his money and works hard, I think he should be able to spend that money the way that he wants. As far as the tricking aspect of it, I would define tricking as putting out more than what you reasonably can. In other words, if the cost of what you’re doing is a higher ratio than what you actually have than that’s tricking. If you send your girl flowers for lunch and it costs $40 and you know you only make $10 an hour and on the other side of the coin you can have Jay-Z sends Beyonce on a cruise around the world and it cost him $2 million, $40 means more to you than $2 million means to Jay-Z. So although Jay-Z spent more money you’re still the trick because you spent $40 dollars and now you don’t know how you’re going to get home from work because you don’t have enough money. That would constitute trickery to me but if you can comfortably spend money and take your women out and afford it than I don’t think that’s tricking.
Rhymefest: I feel like this, if you can’t get your girl $40 worth of flowers then you’re a looser ass n*gga. You really don’t need a girl if you can’t do that; you might as well get a $20 blow job from a prostitute.
Phonte: That’s street talk right there. I’ve got to have money in order to have a girl? Mr. Fest if I do say so myself that’s trick worthy.
Rhymefest: Wait, now look I got $40 dollars for s
ome flowers but I’ll tell you this too there is an entertainer out here [Los Angeles] that is tricking $30,000 a month for an R&B chick. That’s a little too much even if you got it. Even if you got it sometimes you will be like, I don’t want to use any of myself and I want to buy her loyalty. I want to buy this girl. Come on man, that’s something else. I don’t think that’s right. I think tricking in any form is a waste of money when you got shorties out here starving. I feel like if you are an athlete or an entertainer and you can go to the strip clubs and make $50,000 rain I really have no problem if someone rob you. There are shorties out here starving and you are going to throw up $50,000 in the strip club?!?!
Phonte: If you got it, I can’t call it tricking.
Rhymefest: Wait, what’s your definition again for tricking.
Phonte: My definition is going out and spending all of your money and receiving little to nothing in return…
Rhymefest: Yeah but if you look at the market value of pussy it isn’t worth $30,000 [laughs].
Phonte: Pussy essentially doesn’t have a value and it’s not always about that. The nigga that is spending the money may just want the girl to be around and with him.
Rhymefest: Well I love women and I value my queens. I value the ones that value themselves. The market value of the company of a woman isn’t $30,000.
Phonte: Who is to say that it wasn’t worth it to him, what if he was going through problems at home.
Rhymefest: A real fine woman the most I would pay is $5,000 that would be a fair market value [laughs]. My thing is though if you start going above $5,000 you need to bring a friend. $5,000 to me is like getting complete secrecy and not fucking any other man and all of that.
AB: But you guys are famous shouldn’t you be getting it for free?
Rhymefest: No, a really fine girl has been famous her whole life, guys have been drooling over her since she was twelve. I’ve been around real famous dudes that have trouble getting a woman because of that.
Phonte: And even more too, woman think you are a celebrity so they think you be getting it all the time and they don’t want to be another notch on the belt. I personally can’t see me spending even $5,000.
Rhymefest: I’m saying that I would do that, I’m not recommending you should do that [laughs].
AB: Well it was nice to end on a light note. Please be on the lookout next week for another installment of The Great Debaters.
(Transcript by Kevin Fairbanks)