Sleepless nights, relationships lost, friendships ended, money spent with little to no return. Welcome to the life of an up-and-coming rapper. Is it like this for everybody? I don’t think so, but it was most definitely like that for me in the beginning of my still-infant career. Fresh out of prison in May 2013, being a new father, and by September – a college student at Westchester Community College for Business Management, I was ready to get to work. I went to college, not for an education, I had already gotten that in prison, but to network and stay in my parole officer’s good graces. As an artist, I knew I needed stage time but didn’t have connections, and being in New York, if you aren’t connected you get screwed on the price of… everything. All three life roles I took on had one common subconscious goal as you’ll find later: finding the people that would appreciate my art. Subconscious because I didn’t know myself that that’s what I had been seeking.
I joined a radio station, 88.1fm WARY at WCC, and became an on-air radio host as well as the campus MC for close to 3 years. I used the position to make my way into events and connect with people in the industry I dreamed of one day being in. One hidden perk of working at a radio station is that you are technically the press staff as well. I had the pleasure of interviewing A-Mafia from the legendary The Diplomats Hip Hop group and BBOD (Bad Beauties On Deck) before their Love & Hip Hop fame. I didn’t know where my job would take me but it felt one step closer to fulfilling my purpose.
As an artist, MC, and radio host, right around 2014 I started getting the itch. I needed that stage time and experience. How was I going to pull that off? Well, I put the show together myself. I, like many artists who had been paying for showcases that in no way helped my brand or grow my fans, got sick and tired of being stuck in that loop. So, being a business student, I put in the groundwork myself: compiled a list of possible venues, pulled contact information for management, made the calls, scouted the artists, made it happen, and of course, performed as an artist myself too. Despite my credibility and genuine effort, another revelation struck me: if your main genre is Hip Hop, you will be met with that much more resistance from pretty much everyone.
I found success for the first time with a legendary New York spot, The Delancey, where industry greats such as ASAP Ferg and Fabolous have been known to pop out. I got the deal of a lifetime and put together my first showcase in the fall of 2015 and worked with the artists I knew and believed in. The night was a success and I thought to myself, “This is the start of something great.” I had a few more showcases afterwards, bringing on stage artists like Jamall Ray, J Clyde, Benny Deveaux, Snach Dolluz, but then it all went down in flames one day. The last show ended with a fight unfortunately. I made the mistake of not having enough security. The real pitfall came when my parole officer switched and I was no longer allowed to be out past curfew for these shows.
I felt defeated but Hip Hop heads don’t quit. 2015 college rolls on and I learn more about the world of business, finance, and marketing. “Ding ding ding!” a bell went off in my mind, I need to figure out how to market. I honestly felt like a fool. Almost two years home and I was focused on showcases and stage time but I hadn’t realized the golden truth: your product means nothing if no one knows it exists. I was doing so much of everything, the radio, the campus, the shows, the networking, the performing, yet failed to concentrate my efforts on the clear end-goal of marketing myself properly. How can I get eyes and ears on me? Was my new, obsessive question. As for the radio job, it had to go as my responsibilities had grown in my personal life.
Social media turned out to be the portal to success. Facebook groups is where I first started marketing myself with catchy one-liners and links to my Soundcloud page. That grew in time and I got experienced with Facebook ads and targeted marketing campaigns. Fastforward to 2018 and I’m established somewhat as an independent artist and running a small fitness company Alpha Fitness LLC. Both endeavours brought me in contact with DJ Kay Slay, Tha Advocate out of NJ, the Monstar team, and Nick Price, who’s also my business mate and producer.
We’re in 2021 now and I’ve consistently invested in promoting myself on social media all these years. My top accomplishment is, as a matter of fact, my recent success on TikTok, having gained over 52K followers in 4 months. The ripple effect is on multiple levels here. First level being that groundwork and industry experience I had gotten in my past translated into me knowing how to find and lead my audience. Second level, my YouTube subscriber numbers went up, my Instagram is steadily growing, and best of all, my Spotify had a big spike around a 12% increase mounting up to over 10 thousand monthly listeners. Mind you, the streams translate into an income boost as well. All due to finding my niche audience on TikTok.
If I could go back in time to when I got fresh out of prison, I would save myself a lot of time, money, and headache by sharing the following: “If you have any type of budget, it should all go into promoting yourself where the people are. Forget the labels and the deals. You got yourself and your drive.”
Written by Hassan R. Barrow
Edited by Mariana Berdianu
Blue Rhymez Entertainment ©2021
KYD Works is a Bronx-born Westchester-raised businessman, Hip Hop artist, entrepreneur from The Lost Dynasty/Kulture Music Group collective with tens of thousands of loyal fans.