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Artistic Control By Tony Wright

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  • Artistic Control By Tony Wright

    It Is What It Is

    The plan for Adam, an up and coming rapper, was to go into the recording studio and over a series of weeks, re-record parts of the ten song demo he had already made. His new record company requested that the production of the songs be improved so that they sounded more clean cut and polished rather than possessing the raw and somewhat amateur sound they currently did. Adam preferred the original sounds, considering them to be motivation for budding musicians who didn’t have the resources to make a professional and clean sounding track. He thought the sound added a sense of honesty and truth to the product.
    “The reality is that if we don’t change these songs to sound this way, you’re not going to sell records, and you wouldn’t want that would you?” said a representative of the record label at the studio.
    “I just think its phoney. The ten tracks should stay as they are. I mean, those were what impressed you enough to give me a contract in the first place” replied Adam.
    “Ok if you insist, they’ll remain the same. But, you’ll have less studio time because we wont need to be here, you’ll have to work twice as hard doing promotional appearances and in all honesty, the record still just wont sell well” said the representative, standing up and using persuasive hand gestures.
    The room turned quiet. A tense atmosphere spread. Everyone was in suspense as to what the young rapper would say.
    “Well okay, lets change them. I mean, we’ve got to sell the records. That’s what we’re here to do isn’t it?” said Adam, suddenly totally in agreement with the convincing representative.
    Everyone exhaled a relieved breath and got back to work. The representative didn’t seem too pleased of the result. At the back of his mind he knew it was never a discussion anyway, but an order.
    With all ten of the tracks now sounding the way the record company had requested, Adam and his manger asked about a possible release date.
    “I can’t wait to get my work heard and in the shops. My family and friends are waiting in high anticipation to get their hands on a copy. When will it be out?” asked Adam.
    “Well Adam, the thing is that the music industry have very strict standards. If a product hasn’t got certain criteria, we may as well throw it away. Critics wont even review it and if they do it’s going to be stained in negativity” said the record label executives around a long table.
    “What are you saying? We changed it already. What’s lacking now?” Adam said confused and tiresome.
    “It’s the lyrics. It’s too risky for you to be saying what you’re saying. Look at the charts. All of the rap songs talk about parties, drinking and having fun. There’s no mention of conspiracy theories, anti-capitalism and such” said a man dressed in an expensive black suit.
    Adam sat in silence. He held one hand in another and lowered his head to stare at his thighs rather than the people around him who he was becoming increasingly sceptical and untrustworthy towards. The pause was agony for him. He didn’t know what to say, what to do and where to look. The suited men around him sat boldly in their leather chairs, tapping pens on the table, shuffling papers or just looking at the boy with piercing eyes. Adam dampened his lips with his tongue, slowly tilted his neck back up and quietly agreed to the revisions. Immediately several people around the table passed him sheets of revisions to be made to the lyrics. He was quietly furious that they had planned it already and was disgusted by what was presented. All of the subject matter had been changed. The only lyrics which were still recognizable were for a romantic song and even that had been censored of explicit words and altered to appeal more to young teenage school girls.
    With the sound polished and the lyrics watered down, the album was ready to go on sale. Each day for two months straight, Adam had to go on television shows, do photo shoots and interviews and make video’s for the singles that would be released. With the help of the mighty record label a fan base grew and Adam was even beginning to receive fan mail.

    Dear Adam,

    I really like your songs and what you talk about. When I’m older I want to be like you. It must be so fun, going to parties and having lots of female fans. You must be able to afford anything you want.

    Then it hit home, Adam realised to the extent that he had been changed by the orders of the corporation.
    “You don’t. You really don’t want to be like me” he whispered at the paper.
    On an early Saturday morning Adam had to appear on a children’s television show. He had to participate in little comedy sketches and also do some quizzes and a phone in. It was the phone in which was the most career changing of them all.
    “Our first caller today is John from North Finchley. What’s your question John?” asked the very false, drama school graduate of a presenter.
    “What is it like doing what you love doing and making money from it?” asked the little voice down the phone.
    “Hi John. Well, to be honest this isn’t truly what I want to be doing. I’m happy to be able to be here rather than in a supermarket stacking shelf’s, but this is far from my original dream” replied Adam, suddenly realising that his answer wasn’t the ‘correct’ thing to have said. Another caller asked a question
    “I bought your album the day it came out and really like it. When will you be making another?”. Adam thought for a few seconds.
    “It could be a while. The process undergone through the making of the first album was insulting to my artistry”. The studio audience watched on in silence and the shiny and bubbly presenter quickly moved on to the next part of the show.
    “What the hell was that? What were you thinking? Are you out of your mind?” shouted record label fat cats in the dressing room.
    “I can’t lie anymore. I’m not going to stop myself from being honest!” shouted back Adam.
    “We pay you. Do as we say” ordered one man.
    “And if I don’t?” asked Adam.
    “We’ll drop you. There’ll be no more videos, no more CD’s, no more promotion opportunities. We can end your career”.
    “Excellent” said Adam, enthusiastically with a smile.
    “What?” muttered confused record company dictators.
    “Drop me. End my contract. I don’t want to be here. I’m not going to be a masquerade anymore” said Adam.
    Two weeks after the television appearance there had been little contact by the record label. Adam had been left in the dark and wasn’t being told of the aftermath of the situation. There had been some media coverage and speculation in several magazines and newspapers about what had happened. The celebrity that he was made to endorse by the record label was rapidly becoming a laughing stock in the mainstream. On the streets, Adam would bump into people and the general consensus was that he had done the right thing. People that knew him, and knew the situation congratulated him and respected him for making a stand against the oppressive record label.
    In a national hip-hop magazine, an article spoke positively of what had happened saying that “This is something that needs to be seen more often. Record labels can no longer take hip-hop and make it into whatever they want. It is what it is and they can’t change that”.
    For the first time in a long time, Adam had the chance to sit by himself without the presence of anyone telling him where he has to be and what he’s got to do and say. He looked back at the events of the year. He had released an album, something he had always wanted to do but he paid the price for jumping into the deep end and it was time to retreat into the shallow end and cautiously start again. His record company rang and confirmed that everything was off. They discontinued his album and took it off their catalogue.
    Slowly and cautiously Adam eased his way back into every day life. He got a job working in a local bookstore and returned to expressing his political opinions, this time through demonstrations and marches rather than rap music which would get totally transformed before the general public heard it. He still loved hip-hop music and continued to live the culture, he just needed time out of the way of camera lenses to get his head straight and to keep his priorities in check. After two years of a deep spiritual cleansing in which he discovered who he really was, he felt the time was right to speak up and out about what he felt in his heart.
    During the summer of a year in which the American and United Kingdom governments attacked several poor and undeveloped countries in the middle east for very vague reasons, Adam started to write music again. He became friends with some producers and he made a short album of new material. He distributed it independently and created a buzz about his name. He started getting reviews in hip-hop magazines and was interviewed on credible television shows. He was making the music he wanted to make, saying what he wanted to say, and at the same time was able to earn enough money through that to support himself. Now he was living the dream, without once jeopardizing the genre and culture he held so much love for, hip-hop.

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