Following the weekend Eid Celebration, I hosted a Twitter Space where the benefits and drawbacks of co-signing were discussed with different hip-hop stakeholders; media, artistes, management, producers, music execs, hip-hop heads and enthusiasts. The knowledge shared and exchanged during the session seems unquantifiable; hence, this summary is to try and capture all the benefits and drawbacks shared by the different stakeholders in the Twitter Space.
It is only sensible to begin this write-up with the definition of Cosigning in the Hip-hop world.
What is a Co-sign?
A co-sign in hip-hop can be seen as a seal of approval of a less commercially successful artiste by a more commercially successful artiste. A co-sign means to have endorsed, supported or agreed with someone or something. It is a public seal of approval or public recognition of the effort the less commercially successful artiste put into their craft.
Hip-hop has always thrived on co-signing, and this tradition has been ongoing way before Hip-hop became a mainstream genre in the USA. A co-sign can range from the more successful artiste giving a shout-out to emerging artistes in an interview, on a song (The Ringer by Eminem), a social media post from the co-signer’s official handles, down to a feature on either artistes’ pieces.
Importance of Co-sign
Throughout the space, the benefits of a co-sign were more dominant than the perceived drawbacks.
A co-sign from the right artiste at the right moment is enough to propel an artiste to the mainstream industry. At the very least, a co-sign breaks the current glass ceiling an artiste is stuck under, thus introducing them to a new wave of audience by the co-signer.
Lil Wayne co-signing Drake at the peak of Tha Carter III (having gone Gold) in 2009 changed Drake’s career, featuring on four of his songs off the So Far Gone mixtape. Drake also changed The Weeknd’s career, and fortunes with a co-sign (a tweet and feature); he co-signed Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky in 2012 with performances on his Club Paradise Tour.
Traditionally, co-signing is an ongoing activity in the hip-hop culture. It is termed the best form of PR for an emerging act. Regardless of talent, many music listeners are lazy to discover new acts and only do so through a co-sign/feature from an artiste they love or the emerging act going viral.
Co-signing and the Nigeria Hip-hop
Co-signing in the Nigerian hip-hop space has become a scarce commodity. It was never like this back in the day. Co-sign was the bread and butter of the music industry in the 2000s. Wizkid got co-signed by M.I (Talk About It LP), M.I co-signed by DJ Jimmy Jatt (The Definition), Blaise co-signed by Trybesmen (DaTribe), so on so forth.
These days, if we are keeping it a buck, word on the street is that Baddo is the ultimate co-signer of the late 2000s and 2010s set. His co-signings are usually not business related, i.e. him not making a naira or two from the co-signing. A feeling of widespread consensus on the space. Some believe M.I has done his fair share for giving us Blaqbonez, while others say he could do more than just it being about business.
Whichever way we wish to look at it, the #234Drill community isn’t getting as much love as it should for a group of kids that came to fight for a spot in the industry. They’ve earned every right to be co-signed by every A-list act in the industry; from public shout-outs to feature verses and performance slots on tour, they would have broken the proverbial glass ceiling previously stuck under. They now have the UK community within their grasp.
Sentiments aside, the veterans owe it to the younger ones in their late teens to early 20s to an enabling environment that promotes organic growth quickly. Fans respect your private everyday life, too; love a particular movie genre, favourite books, or trending hip-hop music that you love and post about it online or in an interview. They become private info for your core fans.
Benefits of Co-Signing
It introduces an artist to a new huge, organically existing audience by giving them something to talk about. The way new talents are introduced to a sports audience every year and why the tradition has lasted is that it provides the community with things to talk about all year long. They cash in from all that attention they build around the franchise and the athletes. That’s how every industry was built.
The more attention (and quality of attention) you can hold on to, the higher your valuation as an individual brand. Mixing up that audience frequently through collaborations and co-signing is very healthy. An angle made vivid by the additions of user Seyi Max, an artist in Miami, Florida. He talked about a co-signing that led to a new song because they were in the same studio simultaneously. Isn’t it all it’s about? Make music, make money.
The Drawbacks of a Co-Sign
According to a camp of which PDSTRN, current VS Class Champion, was vocal about the space, believe that a Co-sign should be the last an artiste expects. You have to hone your craft instead. Many emcees can rap; how do you stand out from the crowd? What local flavour are you adding to your sound?
Strive to become a professional at your craft. Study and grow your brand’s business and art side simultaneously until the big break comes. A school of thought I very much second. Master your craft so well that when the floodgates of the co-signing open for you, you can turn it to money like Asake, Bella Schmurda, Zlatan, Naira Marley, Bnxn, etc. Do not be mediocre and expect the world at your feet.
All the contributors were correct with their points. Whether we like it or not, co-signing has always been and will remain a part of hip-hop on its social and business ends. Artistes like PDSTRN never experienced the social aspect of co-signing like those in the 2000s and early 2010s; hence the adapted coping principle “don’t expect it. If it comes, it comes.”
This lost and suppressed practice needs to be revived to get the different communities talking about other things on different days. The remaining active OGs from the 1990s and 2000s should create an all-inclusive environment and co-sign acts and songs they are feeling currently. Those who feel the urge to drop a verse or two should go ahead.
An industry can be built around a collective community over a divided one. A factionless but interdependent community.