Trak Diamond Records: The World According to FELONi

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Detroit, MI, United States
Feloni is one of America's Top Indie/Underground Hip Hop Recording Artists from Detroit, Michigan.

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

FELONI Speaks on Young M.A, Streamers, the Music Industry and being Indie ...

I recall many people, including some feminists, a few people in my city (mostly men intimidated by stud-lesbians) and even media not supporting my music when I first dropped my debut album, "A Woman's Revenge" in 2007, stating the lyrics were "risque," "harsh," "too male," and more.  However, I do have to give credit to DJ DDT & Detroit Streetz for being confident enough about their manhood to play "Fien'n 4U feat. Tasha Page-Lockhart" on WJLB, although not the entire crew over there was feeling what I was talking about in my music. Today, if you listen to what's being spat by rappers like, Young M.A, those lyrics were butter.  Meaning, more than a decade later, she came even harder with it, like I don't think they heard  us!  My album was a protest against male dominance and rampant misogyny in Hip Hop.  I had fun with taunts, especially on my 2005 debut single, "Brand New" which is currently reflective of the situation with "Young M.A  and Bow Wow."  That song is based on what actually happened between a myself and a woman I dated.  Not only did my X leave her boyfriend for me, but she also helped finance my debut album, and I loved and appreciated her for that support considering no one thought I could get it release.  Sales and Hollywood was the last thing on my mind.  I was simply making a statement and having fun with it.  Ultimately, after being discovered by MTV network affiliates, Emmy and Oscar award-winning film producers, Karen Goodmand & Kirk Simon, I was able to garner my own episode on the documentary series, "Coming Out Stories" (created by Lauryn Lazin who also produced "Tupac: Resurrection," "The Last Days of Left Eye," and "The U.S. vs. John Lennon") on an MTV network called "LogoTV," which aired 7 years, annually, on "National Out Day."  I negotiated that deal without a label, without a manager and without anyone from the Industry endorsing me--not to mention that I did not even have a major distribution deal.  Not my fault if some people couldn't see the forest for the trees regarding the point I was trying to make.  I was being personal, political and comical all at the same damn time.  Young M.A proves how hypocritical Industry, fad-fans, haters etc. are (not that I really needed proof to know that fact), and how they never see the artist's true vision.  My 2005 debut single, "Brand New" set off alarms they have yet to silence, not to mention that 97.9 WJLB only allowed the 1st 16 bars on the "Russell Simons & 2005 Detroit Hip Hop Summit Mix Tape: Detroit's Finest, Vol. 1."  They told me the lyrics were "too controversial."  Back then, perhaps they were.  However, those 16 bars still helped spark an entire movement of "out" artists, as I saw the influence from all the pride shows I performed at during that time.  However, I knew more "out" artist were to come because there were some already in Detroit who didn't receive any media exposure.  I'm so not into industry that when I discovered Sony had purchased Tunecore, which used to be French owned, I pulled my music and left.  I almost had to file a lawsuit because they refused to take down my music from all stores after multiple requests.  I began searching the internet and found that many people were selling my music illegally on websites.  I even saw someone selling a hard copy of my debut album on Amazon for $45 because it has been out of stock a long time.  At least I was receiving royalty checks until Sony took over.  I was like, you can't tell me I haven't sold one song?  And streamers don't pay unless your in the billions, and that's still in the 5 figures.  For example, prior to leaving Tunecore, the 1st verison I released of my anti-drunk driving song "Blame it on Nothin'" in 2010 was up to 600K streams under YouTube's Monetization program with Tunecore (not my personal YouTube page).  I received approximately $25.  So when people have billions  of streams (if they're even real streams), it's still not Rockefeller money.  Streamers have put a huge dent in artists and labels pockets.   All that bling you see in music videos must be recouped unless you are indie and own your masters.  If not, everyone is getting a cut of those 5 figures.  Unfortunately, I didn't know for several years that Sony had taken over Tunecore.  They have since sold Tunecore to another company.  

Industry still watch me to get ideals on how to approach the lesbian rap game.  Like being on the whole "indie" tip.  I don't have billions of followers --pause:  that's funny ... because I never pursued being in the game.  No cop-out.  I really want people to understand that you can't "falloff" something you never decided to stand on.  Trust me.  If I had, I would have began a music career much sooner, for I was older when I dropped my debut album.  I make music because I'm creative.  I love listening to all genres of music.   The most people I have ever had on Twitter was approximately 20K until I kept my Twitter closed for more than a decade and never tweeted, except a few times on some positive thoughts.   I don't trust anything on the computer because they know everyone's business.  I have nothing to hide but still don't like being under a microscope either.  I like my privacy which is non-existent with social media and today's technology.  Most fad-fans left my Twitter account when Nicki Minaj came out.  I guess because she had "Minaj" in her name (in my Katt William's voice) who also came after "A Woman's Revenge."  Hint.  It's kind of funny.  However, Nicki does have talent too.  I also supported her when she first dropped.  Fad-fans thought I was jealous.  I can never envy a woman pursuing her passion, as I would be negating myself in doing that.  Not my fault some people are stuck on a certain negative conscious level, operating from the lower Chakra.  I never try to be what others want me to be.  I make music when I want because I don't rely on music for sustenance.  Young M.A doing the whole "indie" thing is really where it's at.  However, according to my sources, she does have a major distribution deal which still ties her to industry.  But it's cool because I know she won't allow them to control her and she will strive to maintain 100% ownership of her masters because anyone who does not own their masters, definitely can't call themselves indie.  Bump what you heard.  And yes.  I do own my masters.  

Every new lesbian rapper tends to echo elements of the same story.  Of course, the stories are not exactly the same, but they do need a story.  These days, from what I've seen, an "out" female rapper damn near has to look, act and rap just like a dude (and spit mostly about the same subject matters) in order to get attention in Industry Hip Hop.  I know I look androgynous but I have never wanted to be a "male" because I have always felt and known the power of being a woman.  That's why you have so many males running around calling themselves a "Queen"  ... they know what it is.  Here's the deal, in order to do the numbers Eminem and Jay Z does, Young M.A must also appeal to young white males who purchase 70% of Hip Hop (and males in general).  That hasn't changed.  Did she swerve into "Porn Hub" for this reason?  Who knows.  Sex does sell.  However, will men care to watch the envy of their life without his species being represented in it?  This means that labels have to get promos (song features, pictures, stories, interviews, endorsements etc.) of Young M.A with well known rappers and in popular magazines like Rolling Stones, XXL etc. to position her as an "accepted" lesbian rapper.  Yes.  I know Young M.A does not like to be described as "lesbian"  or as a "female rapper" but it is what it is, and it matters only how you view yourself.  Like Kanye said, you can have all the fame and money in the world, but to some people, you're still just a "N" in a coupe.  If you live your life trying to get everyone to see you a certain way, your vision of yourself will be lost forever.  Choose your battles in life wisely.  Don't allow people to mold you out of stress.  The truth is, Young M.A doesn't really need mainstream endorsements because, lyrically, she can stand on her own (not mattering if people question whether she writes 100% of her lyrics or not). And I do hope 100% of everything she spits is her. I believe her.  If not, she's still platinum with the delivery.  

No apologies, but Young M.A is the hottest "nigga" (in the rap game's language) in the rap game right now. The internet says she's currently worth $2 million, but I project those numbers will come up very soon because she's just getting her feet wet and stated she has a lot of upcoming projects.  If Nicki Minaj was charging $100K for features, then Young M.A should be charging $200K.  The only move she has made, thus far, that I don't agree with and feel was unnecessary was endorsing "PornHub."  I say that because there are a lot of young girls who look up to her, and Young M.A should not use her fame as a gateway to that world which can lead young girls into other avenues of sexual exploitation, especially with all of the sex trafficking issues plaguing the world, which has always been there, but ignored.  Doesn't matter if it's for "Adults" only because young girls are very impressionable and are going to follow you where ever you go when you're their hero.  As a person having a strong influence on youth, many times you have to place "gettin' money" second and try to maintain an element of integrity i.e. if your vision is to "Make it last forever" (in my Keith Sweat voice), as Young M.A desires. Now, if "PornHub" is a real passion for her, she should just start her own company.  I mean, that's better than leading young girls to PornHub because all type of things pop up on websites like that.  As the mother in the original "Sparkle" movie said: "Now ... I've spoken my peace."

Unlike some lesbian rappers who get media, I've never been one to not wish them the best.  I've seen some haters (straight and gay), say I must feel overlooked b
ecause I'm not getting shine or because I don't spit like Young M.A  Well, that's expected.  Why would I hate on anyone carrying the torch, continuing to change the game?  Not only do I love myself too much for that type of jealousy, but I'm just too conscious for that type of mentality.  I can't even say "I've been there, done that" because it's not my personality, which just shows people don't know the God in me.  I AM a God, for those of you who know what it truly means.  We all are.  Not my fault if you don't know or understand that yet; you're own your own path.  Not mine.   Here's the fact people need to understand:  the rap game don't speak on me because I never entered their game.  Those were not my plans.  I didn't find industry, industry found me.  Young M.A's rap style is completely different from mine.  It's a pointless discussion to have because we are different.  Just because we both like women doesn't mean we have the same mind.  God made one.  It's like saying T.I. should sound just like Tupac or BadBarbie should rap just like Lauryn Hill.   Like anyone, from any walk of life, I'm going to listen to songs that resonate with me --the genre doesn't matter because the lyrics take you on a journey.  In fact, I have a very diverse playlist on Spotify right now called "Unusual Empowerment."  The best way to listen to it is on shuffle.  I love good music because it takes you on a journey.  My mother said when I was 3-months-old, whenever I'd hear music, I'd try to pop my fingers.  I actually have a baby picture of me trying to pop my fingers.  It's cool.  Unfortunately, in Hip Hop, when it comes to female rappers, industry has the misconception that everyone must listen to only one female rapper at a time.  "Fad-fans" obey.  People who select their own music don't obey.  Honestly, what you listen to represents where you are consciously in life.  Hands down.  Tie your shoe.  It's a fact, and frankly, I don't even listen to much Hip Hop today to avoid a lot of negative energy, drama and other bad vibes that causes your cortison levels to rise and unwanted manifestations.  I'm being "live" serious, right now.  I recall a point in the early 90s, I think, when I was always rocking to Trent Reznor's "Closer" song, I had to stop because it was beginning to change my persona! 

I dropped my debut album almost 13 years ago and it still gets discovered by people.  I'm grateful people still find value in my music.  To date, people still tell me that I helped them come out or that they love a particular song.  I am very confident about who I am and the path I've taken.  So I'm always excited to see a rapper like Young M.A shine because her shine is my shine too, as she's living proof of my vision, 13 ears ago, of what was coming in the homophobic world of Hip Hop. She can front like she never heard of me, like others have done when they're bathing in the Sun, but we know better (you can't be serious about this rap game and have never researched it).  Then again, maybe she has not heard of me because she was only like, 12 or 13-years-old when my album dropped in 2007, and she lives in NY where there were a lot of other well known female rappers she came up on--not to mention I did not promote back then.  Even today when I release music, I don't say too much.  If you follow me, you know.  If not, I don't know you and you don't know me.  I do it like this because I like my privacy.  I never not want to be able to walk down the street.  However, even with the shine I get, people still recognize me to date when I'm with my clients.   It happens.  People are nosey and they'll Google me after saying something like, "I've seen you somewhere before...." especially in ATL.  There, people will stare you down when they pull up beside you at a stop light.  It's funny, but sometimes annoying.   You can't hide anything in the Atlanta.   I actually told one person that it wasn't me.  "I'm not FELONI," I said.  I'm funny like that when I'm doing something private and get walked up on like that.  It doesn't happen often, but it does still happen.  And I'll ask myself, "How did she recognize me from a decade ago?  I'm not even active like that."  I'm one of those artists who likes to work alone on music.  If you invite me to your studio, you'll think I'm acting off.  It's not that.  It's just that I'm not comfortable in other people's creative space because that "space" is so personal to me.  However, Young M.A does make reference to "Wide Body" in her song "Big" unless it's just a coincidence.  Nevertheless, I love seeing famous male rappers on her tip now because they know their Industry hype-time has come and gone, and she's a new gateway. 

Indies are discovered daily, just like label artists.  Indies don't spend thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars on promoting like labels do (even if they got it).  As a result, of course there is less visibility and a slower growth rate but at the same time, they don't die off as fast from a lack of hype and they tend to own their masters.  De La Soul is still trying to get their masters back.  Really?  Look what recently happened to Nicki Minaj when they began promoting Cardi B--not to mention the backstabbing shots BET took at her.   Karma for how she treated Lil' Kim when she lost her hype?  Maybe.  Nicki basically fell off the media map.  Birdman recently filed bankruptcy.  Imagine that, the "King" of Hip Hop "Bling" filing bankruptcy.  However, I know he's too intelligent to be "broke."  Bankruptcy is merely a way to get rid of extra debt you acquired from making bad financial decisions.  It does not mean one is "broke."  It's a major tool corporations have used for years when needing to bail and rebuild.  Trust that the owners don't always walk away penniless.  I've been there done that too.   Nicki said she was retiring to focus on family.  OK.  But her announcement came approximately two weeks before media exposed Birdman had filed for Bankruptcy.  I'm sure she'll be back.  It was the best move to lay low for awhile.  That's how they do in NY.  Look at 69's situation.  The "Bloods" run NY.  It seems to me that if you are a rapper from NY, you'll need their permission to be "next" in line for the rap scene reppin' their zone.  However, Jim Jones stated 69 was made to believe he was a member of the Bloods, but in actuality, he was only a "money front" for them.  69 had to share his profits with the Blood to keep it poppin'.  Regarding Nicki Minaj, I think now is the time for her to explore her acting skills, and she looks good on camera.  

Real indie artists don't walk away from making music, whether they are making money or not because most of them simply love creating music.  Many label, rap artists get caught up in the "Well, I can't afford to keep this mansion.  So I guess my music career is done.  I think I'll join 'Love and Hip Hop!'" You know what I mean.  Indie artists are reborn every time someone discovers them and tells a friend.  They rely on word-of-mouth promotions.  It's more empowering to discover artists you like on your own than to be force-fed artists via media hype and because Spotify or YouTube claims they have a "Billion" views.  Little Nas X's country song is cool but I wasn't blogging about it like it was the greatest novelty ever.  More power to him.  I truly wish him the best, but I don't feel pressured to jump on the bandwagon because media says that's what everyone is doing. Quite frankly, anything is possible based on your passion for it, and when it comes to music, you don't need to sign your masters away for labels to expose your music.  If an artist is only about the money, then, in time, more than likely, he/she will fade out quicker when the money and hype wanes, as the labels surely won't keep you on their tab.  Hello?  Oh, so now you wanna' be "indie?"  Good luck with that after just being overexposed and dropped.  This is why it's important  to be indie and control your masters.   

Circa 2016 -17 (can't recall), while in Atlanta, I had a chance meeting with a Sony A&R Rep.  He heard my music and gave me his card. I told him I make Hip Hop because I love music, but wasn't interested in seeking record deals.  He then told me about Young M.A and said I should check her out and support her.  I had never heard of her.  So I listened to her freestyle on YouTube and remember thinking, "Now that's a sneaker deal right thurr'!"  That's right. You heard it here first. I predict Young M.A will get a sneaker deal.  That was the first time I was impressed by a female rapper's lyrical style in a long, long time.  She has a unique delivery that places me in the mind set of something like, if Garfield the Cat could rap....  Garfield is known for his smug sarcasm.

"My vision" is another reason I never pursued a record deal and turned down two offers (plus, at the time, I was already making the advance they offered on my own).  Now days, I'm sure Young M.A is doing it for more than a mere $50K advance.  I'm from Motown.  I believe in owning my masters and bossing myself when it comes to what I create which is a personal decision that has absolutely nothing to do with money.  I recall Proof (RIP), Eminem's best friend, sitting at the table in our office on 8 Mile telling me, "You know they're going to hate on you hard.  Stay independent, and just be you."  Proof had just added his artists "The Purple Gang" to our organization of indie label CEOs in Detroit called "The Movement" which consisted of all indie label owners and their artists.  Basically, we pooled our resources for artist development and to have shows with established, label artists we brought in.  Proof was also good friends with T&A DJ Hen House who was responsible for bringing me into the organization after hearing my debut single, "Brand New."  I was the only female CEO/Rapper in the organization.  The now famous gospel singer (winner of BET's "Sunday Best,") Tasha Page-Lockhart, who is featured on my song "Fien'n 4U," was also a member of "The Movement";  I will post a blog about that controversy later.  

The last time I was approached by a label was 4 years ago. It was an indie label out of NY. They wanted to bring me to NY and "develop" me. I never responded.  I simply wasn't interested.  Real indie artists simply can't be bought, I think.  I really have no interests in the politics or the drama of Hip Hop today.  I think I would have been more interested in perusing a deal in the very early stages of Hip Hop when there was more meaning behind the movement, like when "Rapper's Delight" first dropped.  Let's be very clear, if you are signed to any label (whether it's an indie or a major label and most major distributors are owned by labels, ask Birdman), you are not an indie artist. You can't  even get on popular TV shows without being connect to someone in Hollywood.  I was my own agent when I sealed a deal with MTV networks via Simon & Goodman Picture Company [RIP, Kirk Simon] in NY back in 2006 without being tied to any agent in Hollywood.  My episode aired 7 years.  If you were signed to a label and got dropped, then created your own label, you still cannot claim the title of being an Indie artist.  I guess I'm just grass-root indie, huh?   I swear I must have been wealthy in another life time too because I wasn't born chasing money, and quite frankly, I've never had a serious lack of money that pushed me to sell drugs just to buy designer clothing or pay off debt (there are laws Americans can use for that).  Now days, I dress like I'm going camping somewhere.  No apologies, but like the Ancient Egyptians, my goals are 4th dimensional, and that's not even a conversation for the average without them thinking I've lost a part of my mind.  Some people think you're off if you're not hustling to buy a Rose Royce Coupe.  Really?

Industry blow artists up with hype and when your sales start slipping, they're on to the next. Oh, they'll give you a legacy show recapping how great you were and all you've achieved.  I get it.  It's a business.  You have to be able to feed the people who invested in you.  After all, a huge part of your shine is their shine too.  It makes sense.  However, nothing is on the house but the roof, right?  So the next time you look at Bow Wow, show that brother some love because it's a long way down from the top back to gravel, which is why it's important to remain humble and enjoy the ride while it lasts.  Everything Bow Wow did with the whole "bling" controversy was to impress Hip Hop fad-fans, not necessarily because he needed or wanted those expensive things.  Artists try to give fad-fans what they want because they like to live vicariously through Hip Hop artist's material success and this is where they get caught up in illusions.  I chose to believe in myself.  I don't want fans like that.  Keep your money.  It's no good here.  And quite frankly, Scarlet, I don't give a damn how you perceive or measure me.  My life is about how "I" perceive and measure me, for "I AM."   However, I am very grateful for the supporters who purchased my music or took the time out to listen to it, and I am grateful that Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon decided work with me.  I'm talking specifically to you now.  Special thank you to my supporters.  And, yes. I know you want to hear new music by me.  It's coming.

I have a lot of unreleased songs that won't be placed on streamers.  Some of my supporters say they hate that Spotify forces people to buy a subscription by torturing them with songs they don't want to hear before they're allowed to hear songs by the artists they logged in to listen to.  According to a lot of lawsuits out there, allegedly, Spotify manipulates artist's data.  Even Eminem's attorney brings up this point in their current multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Spotify.  They alleged that Spotify manipulates the number of streams and other data on artist's profiles.  Here's my example: it seems like Spotify tries to keep my music followers in a specific category of people.  Update:  this has since been corrected, as there was a way around it; the section was removed.  If it happens again, I will speak on it.  I really don't get along well with social media sites that try to take over my content as their own.  In fact, I would not be on the Internet if I didn't still have people discovering my music or loyal supporters.  The numbers only matter to those who want others to feel like they don't matter.  Mind Games 101.  I'm too real for that nonsense.  Real winners simply don't have time to hate on others.  
I'm not even in the rap game like that.  So why others even care how much I sell or who is listening, does not even matter.  However, I can tell you the number is higher than what I originally thought.  All the people in mainstream claiming that they are "indie" is a lie.  They are still connected to the industry otherwise you would not see them all over billboard and TV.  You need an gent who has ties to Hollywood for that type of exposure.  Otherwise, Lil' Johnny from the block would be on Wendy Williams and MTV too.  Here's the deal, I think: Labels and majors don't want fans to know that indies share some of the same followers that label artists have.  People follow artists who are popular, not necessarily talented and un-packaged (writers, distributions deals and connections to smaller companies owned by major labels, etc.).   Right now, it's cool to say "I'm Indie" because people want others to think they do everything on their own, like me for example.  What is this, high school?   This is just a play on the listener's intelligence.  If you are competent, you know this is misleading.   Also, as an indie artist, I can voice my real opinion.  For example, label artists usually have to refrain from taking a position on politics or controversial subject matter (unless pre-approved by their label first as a promotional announcement)  in public because the labels don't want them messing up their fan base and their money by pissing people off, which includes both fad-fans and corporate sponsors. 

Like all Social Networks, they focus on numbers because they are aware of the scientific fact that people follow people, and they use that knowledge to their advantage to manipulate you into listening to music and buying stuff you probably don't even need or want.  Currently, my full album is on Amazon Music and Apple Music because, so far, they seem to understand that users want to hear songs they like, whether that artist has a billion or 100 followers.  Music streamers are supposed to be about providing the music people want to hear in exchange for a small fee.  In fact, Spotify wasn't available when I released my music 13 years ago.  If they could simply relax from trying to control it all, Spotify would be a much better streamer and have less lawsuits, and they really need to monitor their employees more to ensure integrity.  My music is still being listened to and discovered after 13 years all over the world (based on the stats I receive from streamers and distributors) because it's still relevant.  I write songs.  I don't just rap over a beat.  That has never been my style. And all that "battle rapping," I enjoy watching it but I never had an interest in proving anything to any mofo.  If you don't like my music, keep it steppin', Big Foot.  No love lost or gained.  We good. 

Be sure to check out Young M.A's "Herstory in the Making."  It's the best album I've heard in a long time. I also noticed that she's rockin' a Detroit Red Wings hockey jersey in her "No Love" video.  Was that directed towards me or is she trying to get Eminem's love so she can get his fans to endorse her?  LOL  Just kidding.  Who knows, but I hope it's to show Detroit love because that's all I have for her plight and all the other "out" artists out there reppin' the Fam without "petty" backstabbing.  Besides, she doesn't even know that I exist, right?  

Where Indie Music Lives On...