By Peter Coopersmith // Insta: @petercoops2016
Within the past few years, many mainstream rappers have tragically died; both due to initial gang violence and drug overdoses. Mac Miller passed in 2018 after consuming cocaine and counterfeit oxycodone containing the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Lil Peep died at 21 in 2017 from an accidental fentanyl and Xanax overdose. Juice WRLD died late last year after a drug-induced seizure aboard a private jet. On New Year’s Day, Minnesota rapper Lexii Alijai was yet another victim of an accidental fentanyl overdose.
One problem is that these young rappers, many of them barely 20 years old, have built careers with unprecedented speed. While earlier generations of musicians might spend years in the business before being spotted, DIY rap stars (such as SoundCloud rappers) have dominated the record industry and have amounted to a massive amount of wealth and success; then struggling to adapt to sudden fame and pressures from society. “Peep went from having no manager to being managed by a very large company that deals with high-profile artists, and with that came more money and more pressure,” says his friend and collaborator Adam McIlwee. In an industry that is mercilessly dedicated to discovering the “hot new thing,” guidance and care can be nonexistent. Record labels often don’t care about these rappers. “They know that when they’re done, the next SoundCloud or Instagram rapper is behind them,” says Calvin Smiley, an expert in hip-hop and social justice at Hunter College in New York.
McIlwee stresses that labels and management should give artists time to recover and recuperate. “If your artist is in trouble, you have to step in and say it’s time to take a step back or re-evaluate the release schedule, the touring,” he says. “So the artist can get healthy and have a long career. But that doesn’t happen much, because long careers are boring.”
The burden of safety and overall well-being should not fall just to these individuals, however, as labels and management cash in on this wave. They must take greater responsibility for artist prosperity. “You have to prioritize their health and happiness before music or fame,” says Zappala. “It’s tough being a successful artist, not knowing whether the people around you have genuine intentions.” He has clearly stated his goals for Lil Tecca. “I’m going to develop Tec into an artist who has a 10, 15-year career. When he’s 30, he’s still going to be relevant.”
Although this seems to be an issue within the hip-hop community today, there is hope in the future for new policies within management to more adequately and genuinely take care of their clients.
Peter Coopersmith is a senior at the College of Charleston from the awesome city of Washington, D.C. majoring in Arts Management. Although Charleston has enormously impacted him both professionally and socially, after graduation he plans to move up north to Boston or New York City to pursue a career in marketing and public relations. He loves the beach, happy hours, music festivals/concerts and a solid, Southern meal.