Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Power Of The Chitlin Circuit

The other day somebody asked on Twitter "What makes Gucci Mane so hot & why do people like him?". I know the answer to this question but I kicked back & waited to see if anyone else would chime in. Of course no one answered so the person who initiated the question simply stated "No one answered therefore he must be overrated & wack". Now I personally can agree with him being overrated & wack but I do know & understand how he has risen into the current state of position. Its a demographic that mainstream hip-hop has long over looked & never understood until its too late.

"The Chitlin Circuit"
For those who don't know back in the Motown Era a lot of its acts would tour through the segregated south to black owned & operated bars & clubs to perform because they weren't allowed to perform in the white clubs. These tours & the cities they traveled to were affectionately called the "chitlin circuit". Even though times changed & more mainstream clubs became more accepting of these acts the circuit has remained.
As it relates to Hip-Hop, this circuit has been beneficial to many of today's acts. Boosie, Webbie, Plies, Jeezy, Gucci are just some of the names that are major throughout the circuit. While Jay-Z or 50 Cent would laugh hysterically in the face of a promoter offering them 5 grand to come to Tallulah, LA to do a show at a hole in the wall club, these cats jumped at the chance. Why? The answer is quite simple...
Let me give you an example. My current job required me to travel to Northern Louisiana & East Texas twice a week (mainly the I-20 corridor of Louisiana from Monroe to Shreveport with occasional stops in Longview & Tyler TX). My partner & I would go to places & have to TELL THEM about the latest Jay-Z or Kanye or whoever we consider a major hip-hop act albums release. But they could care less. All the knew was Lil Boosie or Gucci was coming to town & everybody was going to be there. It baffled me at first but I quickly understood that these cats rapped in their language. Poor English & vocabulary structure & slang, simplified beats & hooks. Nothing wrong with that because I personally own several of Boosie's albums but they related to what they rapped about. And with these rappers choosing to come to their small town, not driving by, not stopping by, but in these folks eyes this rapper who was on 106 & Park the other day way up in NYC is actually COMING HERE is enough for them to lend their undying support.
A majority of these rural areas don't have the Internet let alone cable so they are not privy to the exposure of new hip hop from other cities & regions outside of their own. They usually have one hip hop radio station which in most cases is still locally owned & operated by a local company & not Clear Channel or Emmis. This allows program directors to put local & small time acts into rotation. But the most important factor in this whole equation is that THEY STILL BUY MUSIC!!! Like I stated earlier a majority of these places can't afford the extra income to pay a monthly Internet bill. Therefore they are not privy to illegally download music. They happily go to their local mom & pop store or Wal-Mart & drop $10 to purchase an artists music & just performing in their little hole in the wall club which will probably only fit 200 people is enough for them to make that purchase.
Major labels have know this for years, since the days of Rap-A-Lot, to Master P, to Gucci Mane. This explains why the South has had nearly a decade of dominance in hip-hop. Majors are rapidly running out of ways to make money so the second they see an artist with a strong enough buzz appealing to a group that still lays down $$$$ for music, they are going to do whatever it takes to make sure the rest of us do the same. Never underestimate the buying power of those rural areas.
That is until they start getting the Internet....

1 comment:

  1. That's what's up. Thanks for posting this, fam. It's good to see reminders of how to build the fan base and get loyal support. I have to figure out how to make the chitlin circuit, or something like it, work for me. I'm not a "hood" rapper, though. I feel like I'm the type of artist that will attract a mostly white crowd. Not that I mind at all as long as my music is felt. I just need to get out there, do it, and see what works and what doesn't.