You hustle hard when it comes to your music and it can be frustrating when you feel like you’re not going anywhere. With the rise of the DIY musician and the over-saturated climate, what does it take for a hip hop artist to rise above the noise and make an impression? As part of the Decipher Hip Hop Professional Development Series, we'll be talking about how to be heard with industry pros Dalton Higgins, Drezus, and Jheanelle Henry. The discussion will address the importance of defining your market, engaging an audience that cares, and creating innovative and effective ways to get your tracks heard.
Dalton Higgins is a PR strategist and publicist, the author of six books, and a live music presenter whose work has taken him throughout the U.S., Denmark, France, Curacao, Australia, Germany, Colombia, England, Spain, and Cuba among other destinations. Higgins has worked on publicity campaigns for a wide range of Canadian, American, and International recording artists including Kanye West collaborator and Grammy Award nominee A-Trak, Mercury Prize winner Benjamin Clementine (UK), Victoires de la Musique (French Grammy Awards) rap winner OrelSan, BET Award winner Stonebwoy (Ghana), and numerous JUNO Award rap category winners including Jazz Cartier, Kardinal Offishall, K’naan, and Classified. Higgins' biography of the rapper Drake, Far From Over:The Music & Life of Drake, is in Cleveland’s Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame & Museum collection, while his Hip Hop World book is carried in Harvard University’s hip hop archive.
With small town heart and a big city swing, Drezus is the voice of a people. Organic drums, over melodic synths and heavy basslines is where he finds himself right at home. Heavily influenced by artists’ with a message, like early Ice Cube, Public Enemy, and even U2, his voice bellows from the streets. Unapologetic accounts of sex, drugs, parties and violence reemerge as feelings of guilt and eventually hope. Drezus has been to hell and back and would love to share some stories with you.
Jheanelle Henry is an artist/brand manager and music curator from Toronto. She develops partnerships, programs for festivals, and establishes career growth for various clients ranging from corporate to artists. Her clients have been featured in Rolling Stone, XXL, Source Magazine, Genius, Boi1da blog, Pop Crush, Out Magazine, CP24, et cetera. In 2017, she became the first hip hop/R&B festival programmer for Indie Week, also curating panels and mentor cafes for various music conferences. In 2018, she curated the first dedicated mentor cafe hour for hip hop and R&B for Canadian Music Week.
Q. If you were a city, town, or village, which one would you be and why?
Dalton: City. I love the grit and the limitless numbers of arbitary meetings and conversations that can and usually do get struck up while walking, sitting in a cafe, taking the train, or going to major sporting or music events.
Drezus: Hmmm. I’d say Minneapolis. Haha. Because it’s big and husky, winterized, diverse, kinda laid back, kinda hectic, and very Indigenous, Aniishinabe to be exact.
Jheanelle: Atlanta... the music scene is one of the top talent sources today, the culture, and the people
Q. If you could spend a day with anyone in music, who would it be, and what would you do?
Dalton: Lee Scratch Perry. He is a genuine eccentric, innovator, a quotables producing machine, and he produced most of Bob Marley's best music, and influenced punk, dance music, and he did it while recording with very limited technology, four track mixing consoles, yet it sounds more amazing than those who record with 48 to 96 track consoles today.
Drezus: One of my main and recent inspirations business and community wise is Nipsey Hussle. I went to his store last year in L.A. to grab a shirt and had hopes I’d run into him. Nope. If I could kick it for a day I’d talk business from top to bottom because that’s where I’m lacking.
Jheanelle: Rihanna and her team, I would want to see a day in the life of being part of her team. It seems like she is able to have fun but also works extremely hard and her team really support and make things happen. It's inspiring to see the brand she has built in so many areas of business and entertainment. Plus it's Rihanna!
Q. Biggest pet peeve?
Dalton: Canada is cold, and we get colds, sniffles often, flu, so when people don't cover their mouth when then cough or sneeze, knowing that these viral infections spread that way, is quite annoying and disgusting.
Drezus: Energy vampires.
Jheanelle: Lack of integrity.
Q. If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be? (Example: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, we all die.)
Dalton: Power to the people.
Drezus: Learn how to make gourmet meals from the crumbs people throw at you.
Jheanelle: Fear regret over failure.
Q. Who is your favourite person or group to follow on social media and why?
Dalton: Maybe Ferrari Sheppard, because he keeps it real, and is never afraid to expose the blatant daily racism and hypocrisy that impedes the progress of those of our ilk (i.e. black people in the Americas).
Drezus: @tomaskarmelo he’s an Indigenous photographer/filmmaker from Arizona that I recently filmed a music video with. He has a crazy eye for dope visuals and they make me feel proud to be when I see them.
Jheanelle: That's a tough one for me, I like accounts for various reasons. Amanda Seales, she's entertaining and makes you think while being authentically herself. King of Queens aka Ibrahim Hamad (Dreamville), because he's someone I admire and respect, I mostly follow music executives for inspiration or artists and entertainers that put out great energy on social media. I Luv Lola because she made it as a Canadian woman and is succeeding in the industry that everyone is watching. My answer always changes but my reasons are themed in either drawing inspiration, studying the greats, and positive energy people put into the social media universe.