Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Brief Career in the Rap Industry

You know how rappers feature guest artists on their tracks?
And you know how those artists are usually women, tasked with the role of turning a meandering jumble of verse into a song by belting out a meaningful hook that brings it all together?

Once upon a time, I was one such artist.

I should probably stop there and let you imagine all sorts of horrible or awesome things, depending on how you view the genre, but the story is just so bizarre that if my sister weren’t there to witness the actual recording process, I probably would have convinced myself that I imagined the whole thing.

I’ve been a rap fan for awhile…well…I should clarify. I’ve been a fan of white rap for awhile. Which makes me sound racist, except it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with sound. White rap is just different from black rap…which is different from what I would currently categorize as dance rap.

But anyway…

The story picks up in Peoria, Illinois. I’m sixteen or seventeen, and in the midst of a major crush on a local rap artist, when I’m introduced to a local rap duo. Now I can’t for the life of me remember their names. Something like Doughboy and Rocket (yeah, real winners). But they were local CHRISTIAN rappers.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the best part of the story.

So anyway, I head them perform at my dad’s outreach event a few times and in turn they heard me sing to my accompaniment tracks. (Classy!). And the next thing I knew they approached me, told me how great I sounded, that they were looking to re-record one of their songs (because the original vocalist on the record was Doughboy’s wife and they had since divorced and I guess there’s something uncool about a rapper still performing with his ex-wife’s vocal track…because we all know rappers must must must be bitterly divorced…), and that they thought I would be perfect for it.

Now, I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of communicating their excitement here, but they were PUMPED UP. I mean it was as if they won the lottery. Or as if the biggest problem the world had ever thrown at them had been solved! And now everything was going to be great and they were gonna be rich and famous, rapping about Jesus. (Which hey, Toby Mac did it, so it’s possible…)

Now before you laugh at me and wonder what the heck I was thinking, remember:
This was a time in my life when I was convinced that I had a shot at making it in the music industry.
This was also a time in my life when I had a major crush on a local rap artist and I thought in some crazy way that doing this would make him notice me.

So, I said yes.

A bit later my sister and I drove to their recording studio which was in some guy’s basement, and almost as soon as we got there, they shoved me into the booth with a pair of the biggest headphones I’d ever seen, and they started playing the track.

Mind you, I WAS SIXTEEN. I had no idea what I was doing. So for some dumb reason instead of making the song my own I tried to recreate what Doughboy’s ex-wife had done.

Note for note.
And I’m REALLY good at recreating vocal stuff.

I imagine Doughboy had some kind of panic attack as the ghost of his ex fluttered through his thoughts. He asked me to re-do it. Then he asked me to switch it up a bit. And after only about three tries, all of which I was very proud of myself for NAILING the original sound, they brought me out of the booth, told me what a great job I did, and then …

Some random guy… maybe it was Rocket. I can’t remember. I guess he’d been singing along while I’d been recording. Someone suggested he try laying down a track or two. And then someone else said that they could layer us.

And I can only imagine that Doughboy saw this opportunity to forever erase his wife’s stamp on the song, because he took the idea and ran with it.

Random guy was thrown in the booth and started singing.

AND. HE. WAS. HORRIBLE. Flat. Weak. No breath support whatsoever.

And the end result? A chorus in which the two of us are singing the exact same melody. One of us sounding like the ex-wife. The other sounding like a dying mouse.

I’ve often wondered if maybe I was biased. If maybe it really wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered, and if I was simply reacting out of jealousy and anger and hurt. So, I asked my sister about it a few weeks ago.

And she was like “Yeah, that guy sounded horrible. It totally ruined the song.”

Every time I think back on that experience, I cringe. And not just because I never got my promised CDs and t-shirts. Or because I blew it.

But because the end product was SO BAD. And they probably re-re-recorded it soon after.

AND because I realize now that featured artists are usually introduced somewhere in the song. You know, where they’re like…

“aw yeah!”
*cue hook*


Now, even if the recording survived, no one will ever know it was me.

Though maybe that’s not such a bad thing…