Before you judge me and assume I'm blatantly saying "I refuse to work with independent rappers!", continue on, and you will see exactly where I'm coming from...
The first beat I ever sold was back around 2001/2002. I think I got paid $50 for it. At the time, it was such a proud moment in my career. Just starting out, I was just getting my feet wet. Making tons of beats. Learning. Seeking artists to work with (or sell *ehm* beats to) and sort of make my rounds to see if this is really something that could potentially become lucrative one day.
Of course along the way, I've managed to build and maintain relationships. Everything functioned on a case-by-case basis. There were artists that I wasn't really inspired by, whom were willing to pay $ for beats. There were others that I genuinely liked, whom were NOT willing to pay any $ for beats. And of course there was sort of a mixture of both.
As my career slowly started to build, I was catching the attention of more and more rappers. Rappers of all kinds. It felt good to receive that validation. It felt good to know that there are rappers out there, willing to shell out some $ to buy my beats (even though it really wasn't THAT much, in the grand scheme of things).
For about 5 years, I was on a roll. I was selling beats every week. I was on my hustle. A couple hundred here, a couple hundred there. Every so often, they'd buy my beats in bulk for a few thousand. It was working. I was actually making money. Real money to get me by. There were a small handful of these rappers whom I genuinely was a fan of. I liked their music. I was excited to sell beats to them. But unfortunately, most of the rappers who purchased beats from me were merely treated as a business transaction. I wasn't inspired by these people. They were obviously inspired by MY music, but I couldn't say the same about theirs. Either way, something didn't feel right. Something was missing. A sort of emptiness inside. The true satisfaction of creating music was lacking.
Eventually, I realized that what I was doing was the equivalent of being a beat-whore (let me LOL that to lighten the tone a little bit). Any taker willing to shell out $ was good in my eyes. They could have been terrible, but I didn't care. I was selling beats, and it felt great!
Because I've gotten to the point in my career where I didn't have to do it anymore. More importantly, I realized what I was doing. I realized that it wasn't helping me grow. It wasn't challenging enough. It felt too easy. It felt too comfortable.
That day changed my life.
Prior to that, I was producing the same "type" of music. Whatever you want to call it. Boombap. Big drums. Headknod. (and please, don't get me wrong, I hold that dear to my heart and still shines in my music).
I started experimenting and challenging myself. I started listening. Ultimately, I stepped up and challenged myself, musically. I did things that were uncomfortable. I stepped out of the box.
In stepping out of the box, my taste level for music evolved. The way I created music evolved. The type of artists I was attracted to evolved. The music I was making was exciting as hell. It was liberating.
So today I ask myself this question.
"Would you ever sell a beat to an independent rapper/artist that doesn't inspire you?"
The answer is no. (And THIS doesn't count. It's a fun competition where I get to dig deep and find out who's hungry + talented enough to potentially become inspiring. In fact, It's making my job easier.)
I'm at the point (thankfully and humbly) where I get to choose who I want to work with. Years and years and endless beats later, I've paid my dues to this point. I'm still growing, still learning, still wanting to achieve more greatness. But one thing holds true: no amount of money will coerce me into working with you. All you have to do is be incredible enough to inspire me to want to grow with you, as an independent artist or established.
Be inspiring, and you will inspire.
This is why I stopped selling beats to independent rappers.