Authenticity: Do Artists Put In Their Work And Pay Their Dues?

By Daniel Paiz

Welcome to the eighth installment of Cypher Sessions. In this entry, we will be discussing a topic that has always been one to come and go every so often, and one that many have different takes on, from Old School thought to ideals of the New School, from those deep within the culture to those from afar, occasionally observing. Paying dues is always disputed and discussed, and that’s what we’ll be doing right now.

The lens that I want to start looking at this through comes by way of a very popular video, consisting of many artists who have varying amounts of experience in the Hip Hop game. If you weren’t already aware of this song, allow me to put you onto it below:

In the video, it ranges from artists who have respect from the industry and from the Hip Hop community, like Bun B and Jadakiss, to people who have found recent industry success but are still establishing themselves, like B.o.B, Kendrick Lamar, and others. There are various forms of paying ones dues, where some artists put out mixtapes on mixtapes on mixtapes, and others are put on by other artists who are established and have a foundation in which they can afford to support another artist publicly. However, with the digital age we are in, these aren’t the main ways anymore.

Many artists continue to do the mixtape game, but because of the technology they have, are able to put out their music much quicker, and to a much larger audience than those before them ever had access to. For this avid Hip Hop fan, this creates a certain dilemma, one that becomes even larger when one is beginning one’s own journey along the same path that these artists are now on.

On the one hand, it is spectacular that we can connect with fans instantaneously, have discussions, form relationships, collaborate, etc. On the other, it can be quite troubling to some that people who may have a slight interest in Hip Hop (or music in general) but aren’t fully invested in the culture/art form/community/etc. have such (relatively to the past) easy access to the tools necessary to make the music, as well the audiences to spread that music.

An artist that has done what many Old School heads consider the “right way” of coming up would be Kendrick Lamar. If you look at his come-up story however, it’s a bit of a hybrid, because while he did release several mixtapes and received kudos from many established rappers, he also gained most of his support and notoriety anonymously (if that makes sense). What I mean by that line is that his music was spread over the internet; and, while cameos and appearances with larger names certainly helped, the fact that section.80 made such a huge splash on itunes without the artist having the following he has now is due to the new way of promoting oneself via the web.

Lamar is a great example of combining the old way of promotion with the new way; there is little question with regards to him paying his dues, and having authenticity. However, this isn’t the case for a lot of artists, because many artists on the come-up aren’t usually as focused (or even have) support from where they come from, but rather what they are creating. Authenticity is something that seems harder to gain these days according to many people in the Hip Hop game, and it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a way to remedy that for now besides cases like Kendrick Lamars.

This is probably the most objective piece I’ve ever written, and it’s unfortunate to be lacking closure on this topic, but that’s where I’m at right now, and thus, where the blog ends for today. This is the perfect opportunity for all of you to weigh in, have discussions on the comments section, and give feedback on what direction things are really going, in your opinion. Let Cypher Sessions know, and we’ll be waiting for your ideas.

Thanks for reading Cypher Sessions today, and until next time…Peace!


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