Many of you may not know this, but I’ve lived a few different lives during this digital age. I’ve written for several websites doing music posts and reviews (shoutout Mostly Junkfood and Genius). I’ve had multiple podcasts that got tons of subscribers and listeners (shoutout GM and Thomas CRWN). I’ve also dabbled my toes into the music industry in a few different roles (shoutout Zach G). But I wanted to use the newsletter to share a few stories of working with artists and labels and hopefully you all can learn from my experiences. And since I watched “Tenet” recently, everyone will be referred to as “The Antagonist” or T.A.
Before I deleted my Twitter account, I had amassed quite a following in the Midwest underground music scene. There are tons of talented artists in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, etc. that either haven’t received recognition because of their location or don’t want to receive major recognition and have to change their style. One such artist that I linked up with was The Antagonist, and we would exchange tweets and DM’s about his music and I would provide feedback or ideas about directions to take his music. T.A. was based out of Indiana and in 2014 I went up to Indianapolis to see friends and attend the Indianapolis 500. My friend throws a party the day before at his house so I invited T.A. to come hang out with us.
The Antagonist shows up to our party with a few friends of his, and we invite them to play drinking games with us in the backyard. T.A. pulls me to the side and confides in me that he doesn’t really drink or use drugs and I assure him that we’re all hanging out and nothing bad is gonna happen. We end up playing a few games of flip cup and I get T.A. to take a Jell-O shot with me before he and his friends head out. It was a great party from the larger great weekend and everything was all good.
A few months later, The Antagonist tells me that he’s been working on a new project and needs help with sequencing the songs from all of the various tracks that he currently has. Album sequencing is truly a lost art in the age of streaming music, but that’s a conversation for another day. I ask T.A. what the album will be named, as sometimes that influences sequencing, and he replies “Art X Drugs”. It threw me off because only a few months before that he told me that he doesn’t drink or do drugs, but I brushed this off and helped him with sequencing the album.
The Antagonist’s music sounded good, but it was so much different than his previous work. It was a departure from rap and into that The Weeknd-esque genre of where R&B was inevitably headed. It sounded like he had adopted a new identity or persona to fit with this new direction of music, and I’m all for growth, but none of it seemed sincere. It felt like I was part of “The Truman Show” and this was all one long dream. I started to grow apart from T.A. but this wasn’t the last time that we would cross paths.
About a year later, a friend of mine that is involved in the music industry calls me and tells me he has a bit of a dilemma on his hands. Through mutual friends, my friend had begun managing The Antagonist and was shopping his music around to the various labels. While he was trying to shop T.A.’s latest single around, he learns that the song was originally another artist’s song and that T.A. has stolen the song and is passing it off as his own. The song is gaining interest and traction from the labels, but the way the song was created — rather, stolen — doesn’t sit well with my friend and now he doesn’t want to manage T.A. any more. My friend decides to part ways with T.A. and they sever their business ties. After this happens, T.A. signs a record deal and releases the stolen single with help from former NBA player Larry Sanders.
The Antagonist has since had quite a decent career in the music industry. In addition to releasing his own music over the past few years, he has also written songs for Eric Bellinger and Chris Brown among others. I don’t wish any negativity on anyone and I’m glad he was able to turn his music passion into a career. T.A. was willing to do whatever it took to succeed and I had too much pride, integrity and intentions to stay true to myself by any means necessary. Both paths are valid paths to take, but this was the beginning of me falling out of love with music.
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
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