I've been fortunate enough to DJ for a LOT of rappers and rap shows. Between open mics across the East Coast and sharing the stage with some really good rap buddies, I've been at the helm spinning for hundreds of sets. With that comes a lot of fun, and a lot of reality checks. I felt it was important to share some game with the next class of DJs looking to perform with rappers for the first time. If you're a rapper yourself, pass this on to your DJ if they aren't doing this stuff already.
Learn the Verses
If you've been around enough artists, especially rappers, you've probably heard this one before:
"I just record at the crib right now."
Ugh. I hate that statement. It usually comes with an embarrassed tone because people still have this fascination with signing a deal and recording in a multi-million dollar studio. The reality is, If you're smart enough to make intelligent purchases instead of going in debt for gear you don't need, extremely proud of yourself. You've made the conscious decision to work harder and invest in your craft, stick your chest out and talk your shit the next time you mention your home setup. If you struggle with that, consider a few reasons why tracking at home is such a better option for so many people
Inspiration is Random
You never know when the best musical idea of your life is going to pop in your head. We are entering an age of experimentation in hip-hop that wouldn't be financially feasible a few decades ago due to studio costs. Plugins are powerful and dirt cheap compared to hardware nowadays. In addition, very few artists have the luxury of a label or company paying for unlimited studio time that you can waste waiting for inspiration to hit. But an artist with the ability to record themselves can enjoy the same approach without breaking bank. My best work comes when I'm not chasing anything and time isn't an issue. I doubt I'm the only one in this boat.
Learning the Process
I recall introducing Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire to my home recording setup years ago. The excitement of no longer needing a studio ultimately lead him to acquiring his own setup. As he got comfier with Pro Tools, our conversations about writing and recording began to change. Suddenly he was referencing leveling, compression, EQ, delays and all of the wonderfully nerdy things you don't expect MCs to know. He began to write his verses with the knowledge of what could be done later in the DAW via effects/ processing. As such, it opened up a whole new chamber of his writing. It also made me all the more excited to mix for him, because we could speak more candidly about what a song needed. To this day there are things that eX can do in Pro Tools better than most engineers, and it pays off whenever he's working in a new studio. Too many mistakes and he can literally tell you to get out of the way so he can fix the issue from the engineer's chair himself. That kind of mastery will make you a better artist.