New Orleans rapper 3D Na’Tee’s newest promo scheme is so good, it just might work. The rap game is crowded. Every day another contender for listeners’ time and attention throws their hat in the ring and drops a new project or song or verse and expects listeners to pivot away from whatever is currently popping to devote those precious seconds, minutes, hours of their day to check it out. It’s become increasingly more difficult to build a fan base with just the music and without over-the-top gimmicks or publicity stunts designed to attract eyeballs long enough to plug the latest album or EP, let alone convince fans to engage with the product.
Incidentally, we left Na’Tee off of our list of Female Rappers BET Should Have Nominated For Best Female Rapper for just that reason — we had no idea she’d dropped an album, The Regime, in 2016. It got lost in the shuffle without major label support, and very few rap sites actually post about her in the first place. Her commitment to remaining independent still makes sense though, in light of recent comments from Maybach Music label boss Rick Ross, and the intense expectations and competition foisted on women who rap by the major label apparatus and fans.
But Na’Tee may have cracked the code with her Morning Exercise T. Mix series on Youtube. Dropping each Monday morning, Na’Tee takes to the booth at the sort of ungodly hours reserved for newspaper delivery and donut shops to record her take on an instrumental suggested by fans in the comments of her most recent video. She asks the fans to provide her with challenging beats to test her frankly stellar pen game and flow, then shouts them out at the end of the video.
This encourages fan participation, as of course the fans would want to be acknowledged, but it also allows Na’Tee to demonstrate her exceptional mic skills while being more interesting than simply dropping a “freestyle” over a hot, possibly played-out rap instrumental. So far fans have tasked her with tackling contemporary rap hits like “Mask Off” by Future and “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar, but also SZA’s sexy “The Weekend,” and Bruno Mars’ funky “That’s What I Like.”
Honestly, it’s refreshing to see a rapper, whether new or established, working to push themselves on the mic and with their pen, proving that grumpy old heads are wrong when they say that today’s MCs aren’t developing those skills. 3D Na’Tee has been in the game for some time, but has always bubbled just below the radar. Maybe this promotional tactic will be just what she needed to prove that she can spit with the best, and get more fans checking her Youtube for announcements and news, which might be the most important thing she can do with this weekly challenge. It would be great to see more rappers adopting this interactive approach, and letting fans know their voices can be heard — and to see fans reciprocate with more vocal support.