Feloni Speaks on Young M.A, Streamers, the Music Industry and on Being Indie

Photo by Sabastiaan Stam

I recall many people, including media, some feminists, the music industry and some people in my city (mostly men intimidated by lesbians) not supporting my music when I first dropped my “controversial” debut album, “A Woman’s Revenge” in 2007. They stated the lyrics were “risque,” “harsh,” too “male,” and more.  However, I have to give credit to DJ DDT & Detroit Streetz for being confident enough 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. Conversely, they allowed rap songs that degraded women to spin on air all day. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of people who did support me. Believe it or not, I had a lot of fans in China based on the stats from the first music app I had. Most of them discovered me on Myspace in 2007. I definitely appreciated their support and the emails I received from them in awe about my music. Today, if you listen to what’s being spat by rappers like, Young M.A, my lyrics were butter.  Meaning, more than a decade later, she came even harder with it, like I don’t think you 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 reflective of a situation with “Young M.A  and Bow Wow in which someone he was dating allegedly left him to date Young M.A.”  That song is based on what actually happened between myself and a woman I dated.  Not only did she leave her boyfriend for me, she also helped finance my debut album. 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 (rest in peace), 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 seven years, annually, on “National Out Day.”  I negotiated that deal without a label, a manager, a distribution deal, and without anyone from the Music Industry endorsing me.  It’s 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, comical and political all at the same damn time.  

Young M.A proves how hypocritical Industry, fad-fans, and haters are (not that I needed proof of this fact) in terms of how they never see the artist’s true vision.  My 2005 debut single, “Brand New” set off alarms in Hip Hop they have yet to silence, not to mention that 97.9 WJLB only allowed the first 16 bars of “Brand New” on the “Russell Simons & 2005 Detroit Hip Hop Summit Mix Tape. ”  They told me the lyrics were “too controversial.”  Back then, perhaps they were.  However, those 16 bars sparked an entire movement of “out” artists you now see today. I saw, first hand, the influence on my lyrics at the pride shows I performed during that time. I recall when I performed at Atlanta’s Black Pride. One performance was at an opening event with the mayor and the next day was at Piedmont Park in front of thousands of people. I was shocked when the crowd song the chorus to my debut single “Brand New.” I recall saying to myself, damn! They know the lyrics.  

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 so of my songs from several digital stores after multiple requests.  Later, I began searching the internet and discovered many people were selling my music illegally on websites.  Not to mention that I lost a lot of money to the “black box” due to not having it properly registered with all of the royalty collection agencies out there. I even saw someone selling a hard copy of my debut album (“A Woman’s Revenge”) on Amazon for $45, as it has been out of stock a long time.  At least I was receiving royalty checks until Sony took over Tunecore.  I was like, you can’t tell me that I have not sold one song!  Streamers don’t pay much unless you hit certain numbers in the millions.  For example, prior to leaving Tunecore, the first 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 (after they took their cut).  So when people have millions  of streams (if they’re real streams), it’s still not Rockefeller money.  Streamers have put a huge dent in the 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 the money you make.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know for several years that Sony had taken over Tunecore, for I was busy living my life. I wasn’t checking social media every day like the average artist does.  I believe Sony sold Tunecore to another company. Labels are now buying up small distributors in an attempt to control indie artists, I think. Do your own research on it and you’ll find that my perspective is in alignment to what’s going on.  

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, as 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 followers I ever had on Twitter were approximately 20K, until I closed my Twitter account 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 search engine owners know everyone’s business.  I have nothing to hide but I’ve never liked the feeling of being under a microscope (which is another reason why the industry turns me off).  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 is talented.  I supported her when she first dropped too.  Fad-fans thought I was jealous.  I can never envy a woman pursuing her passion, as I would be negating myself in doing so.  It’s not my fault some people are stuck on a certain negative conscious level, operating from the lower Chakra.  I’ve never try to be what others want me to be.  I make music when I want because I don’t rely on it 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 ties her to industry.  But it’s cool because I know she won’t allow them to control her and will strive to maintain 100% ownership of her masters. 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, their 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 the Industry.  I know I look androgynous but I have never wanted to be a “male,” as 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 appeal to young white males who purchase 70% of Hip Hop.  That hasn’t changed.  Did she swerve into “Porn Hub” for this reason?  Who knows.  Sex does sell.  However, will men even 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. Besides, it matters only how you view yourself, for you cannot succeed at anything walking around caring what other people think of you.  Like Kanye said, you can have all the fame and money in the world, but to some people, you’ll still be just a “N” in a coupe to them.  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 “n-gga” (using rap’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 soon as she’s just getting her feet wet and has stated that she has a lot of projects coming up.  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 the world of porn, which can lead young girls into avenues of sexual exploitation, especially with all of the sex trafficking issues plaguing the world now, 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 are 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 where 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 because I’m not getting shine or because I don’t spit like Young M.A  Well, that’s expected.  I see these people as those who want me to feel some kind of way 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 truly not my personality, which just shows that 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.  It’s not my fault if you don’t know or understand it; you are on your own path.  Not mine.    Here’s the fact people need to understand:  the rap game doesn’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 style.  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 alone is what takes you on the 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.  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, the Music Industry has the misconception that everyone must listen to only one female rapper at a time.&nbsp “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 rocking to Trent Reznor’s “Closer” song. I had to stop listening to it because it was beginning to change my persona.  

I dropped my debut album almost 13 years ago and it still gets discovered by people every day.  I’m very grateful that people are still able to find value in my music.  To date, people still tell me that I inspired them to be real with themselves and others or that I helped them come-out. While others say the simply like the music, but wish I’d release more.  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 years ago, of what was to come in the homophobic world of Hip Hop. She can front like she never heard of me, like others have done when they were 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 first dropped in 2007. She lives in NY where there are a lot of other well known female rappers she came up on–not to mention I did not promote my music much back then.  Even today, when I release music, I don’t say too much.  If you follow me, you’ll know.  If not, I don’t know you and you don’t know me.  I do it like this because it keeps the pressure off.  

I like my privacy.  I never want to walk down the street feeling paranoid about someone wanting to snap pictures or stalk me.  However, although I’m not in mainstream media, some people still recognize me from the “Coming Out Stories” documentary series, or recognize me by my music from somewhere on the web. A while back, to say the least, someone who was stalking me was approached and warned. They never saw it coming. Don’t think people don’t log plates when you keep poppin’ up around them, like an Uber driver. People are nosey. They’ll Google you, then say something like, “I’ve seen you somewhere before.” In Atlanta, people will stare you down while at the stop light.  It’s funny, but can be annoying.    You can’t hide anything in the Atlanta.    Once when I was Ubering, I kept asking, are you the rapper Feloni? I said, “No. I’m not FELONI, but I get that a lot.” I can be funny like that if I’m out doing something private. It doesn’t happen often, but it does still happen.  I’ll ask myself, “How did she recognize me from a decade ago?  I’m not even active like that.”  I’m also one of those artists who like to work alone on music.  If you invite me to your studio, you might 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.  Interestingly, 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, especially when 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.  Naturally, there is less visibility of an indie artists and a slower growth rate but at the same time, they don’t die off as fast as an Industry artist does from a lack of hype. Indies also 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.  Perhaps. Nicki basically fell off the media map.  Birdman recently filed bankruptcy.  Imagine that, the “King” of Hip Hop “Bling” filing bankruptcy, but 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.  Sometimes it’s best to lay low for awhile.  That’s how they do it in NY.  Look at 69’s situation.  The “Bloods” run Hip Hop in NY.  It seems to me that if you are a rapper from NY, you’ll need their permission to be “next” in line to represent 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 Bloods in order to keep it poppin’.  Regarding Nicki Minaj, I think now is a good time for Nicki 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.  A lot of industry Hip Hop artists get caught up in the “Well, I can’t afford to keep the mansion.  So I guess my music career is over.  I think I’ll join ‘Love and Hip Hop now!” You know what I mean.  Indie artists are reborn every time someone discovers them and tells a friend.  We 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 claim 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 simply did not feel pressured to jump on the bandwagon just because media stated that’s what everyone was 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 being overexposed and dropped by a major label.  This is why it’s important  to control your masters.  

Circa 2016 or 2017 (I 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, not because I’m seeking a record deal.  He then told me about Young M.A and said I should check her out and support her music.  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 sarcasim.  

My “vision” is another reason I never pursued a record deal and turned down two offers. Not to mention that at the time, I was already making the advance they offered me 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 in Detroit (The Movement) 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 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 in 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”;  She is currently signed to Sony’s RCA label and is often performing on those BET gospel shows. 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 really have no interest 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.  Now, if BeyoncĂ© or Taylor Swift offered me a deal, I would take it. Let’s be very clear, if you are signed to any label owned by a major label or is a subsidiary or a major label, you are not an indie artist. Listen, you can’t  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] back in 2006 without being tied to any agent in Hollywood.  My episode aired seven 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 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 to 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 money to cop a Rose Royce Coupe.  Really?.  

Industry blow artists up with hype and when the 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 invest 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 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, I’m sure, 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 artist’s material success, and this is where they get caught up in the illusions.  I don’t want fans like that.  Keep your money.  It’s no good here.  And quite frankly, 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.”    In fact, I’ve accomplished a lot, as my music continues to be discovered daily be people from around the globe. Not everyone can say they have people who like their artwork in different parts of the world? Will anyone remember your name when your physical body permanently fades, like a leaf falling from a tree in autumn? However, I’m grateful for the supporters who purchased my music or took the time out to listen to it. I am also grateful that Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon (rest in peace) selected me to include in their project.  I’m talking specifically to you now.  A special thank you to my supporters.  And, yes. I know you want to hear new music.  It’s coming. I’m simply doing the legal work necessary on the back end first to avoid making the same mistakes I made with my first album.  

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 listen to 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 can manipulate the number of streams and other data on artist’s profiles.  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 at all 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 is beyond me.  However, I can tell you that 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 industry otherwise you would not see them all over billboard and TV.  You need a Hollywood agent/connect/label etc. who has ties to Hollywood for that type of exposure.  Otherwise, Lil’ Johnny from the block would not be able to be seen on the Wendy Williams Show or late night talk shows.  Here’s the deal, I think some labels don’t want fans to know that indies share some of the same followers that Industry artists have.  People follow artists who are popular, not necessarily talented and un-packaged.   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.  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)  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 really like or want.  Music lovers jus want to hear songs they like, whether the artist has a billion or 100 followers.  Spotify wasn’t available when I first 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 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 anyone.  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 …

Published by The World According to Feloni: Alternative Digital Music News

Poet, Antiquarian, Songwriter, Music Producer, Organic Painter, Indie Recording Artist and Record Label Owner.

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