He’s not a household name, but DJ Burn One was one of the primary producers of ASAP Rocky’s LiveLoveA$AP, a modern classic that helped shape hip-hop’s new school. Similarly, Atlanta DJ and producer TM88 crafted “XO Tour Lif3,” a triple-platinum smash that was inescapable last year. Their music helped hip-hop become the biggest genre in the world. So what did Burn One and TM88 get for their contributions? Short-changed.
Unfortunately, they’re both victims of a reported new practice among major labels — categorizing albums as mixtapes or “street albums” in order to avoid paying producers the full rate they would have to for studio albums, or paying them at all. The practice was first exposed by ID Labs producer E. Dan last week and since then, more producers have come forward with similar experiences, including Marvel Alexander and Snugsworth, who produced the monstrous smash “Shabba” for ASAP Ferg, among others. The sad reality is that if history has shown anything, it’s that record labels are probably always going to be thinking of their own bottom line, even at the expense of artists. So what’s the only way producers can offset shady label execs and artists with convenient amnesia? Unionizing.
Super-producer Sonny Digital first proposed the idea last year. He’s become an outspoken advocate for producer rights in an industry that collectively takes beatsmiths for granted. In an infamous recent interview clip, French Montana forgot who produced his “Unforgettable” smash (it was Indiana production crew 1 Mind); producer Bangladesh sued Cash Money to get payment for Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”; Jim Jonsin also sued Cash Money for unpaid wages for “Lollipop.” Those are the two songs that helped Lil Wayne go platinum in a week and become a music superstar, yet the producers behind them couldn’t even get their due from a label that calls literally calls themselves Cash Money.
Producer team J.U.S.T.I.C.E league noted that “all labels do it to Black music.” And it’s not just label executives trying to get over — rappers are too. Without that 808 knock, most so-called “Soundcloud rappers” would be in school or working at clothing boutiques instead of touring the country performing. Unfortunately, though, the Twitter account @ToCatchASCRapper exposes producers getting stiffed every day by their fellow artists — some of whom are getting the short end from their own labels. They’ve also caught producers getting over on rappers, which is no better. It’s a vicious, dog-eat-dog cycle born of a predacious music industry.