Playing some of my old music for new friends, the question inevitably arises as to why I quit the business in the first place. There was a good reason. Picture having a love affair with a beautiful woman who is constantly leading you on…making bull shit promises…and essentially breaking your heart. Eventually, you see the light and just have to quit her. Just too much pain and not enough pleasure. That in just a few words sums up my experience with the music biz. Yes, the heartbreaks and humiliations were myriad. But there was one which became the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The deal breaker if you will.
Generally, the huge sandpaper hand jobs came from above. Ya know…record company execs who’d say they wanted your record but after dozens of phone calls, changed their minds. Or publishers who not only demanded 100% of your publishing rights but sought to add names to your song. The deal breaker as it turns out, came from below – a snot-nosed rapper of no reputation.
Once the Moog synthesizer and Linn drum machine were marketed on a mass scale, work dried up not just for marginal players like me – but established studio cats as well. PLANET ROCK and RAPPER’S DELIGHT were huge hits of the day which had no horns, no strings, and no background vocals for an arranger to write. And while the latter had a live 4 piece band, each musician was paid a whopping $50 to play the track to GOOD TIMES and then sent on his way. Making a living became much more difficult.
If I wanted to stay in the music business, I had but one choice: record rap records. And so I did. The first rap time around was actually fun. The genre hadn’t found mechanization yet and so, the sessions remained more or less intact. Players played…girls sang…horns blared…and the only difference was that the singer chanted rather than sang. But it wasn’t long before the new wave came along and hit rap records had only drum machines, samples and chants. Recording in this style left me listless and bored. Yet, I persevered.
Rappers are rumored to have a bull shit sense of entitlement which can drive a grownup to distraction. But I got lucky – at least initially. Through several rounds of dealing with rappers all of whom were black, I managed to relate to my artists. They could have a prima donna moment or two. But mostly, we got along well.
Then came Shauna, a college-aged jewish white girl with a fucked up attitude. I can’t remember how I met her – or whether I thought she was any good. I just know that for $67, I recorded a demo on one of her raps that every record company I played it for wanted for release.
But there was trouble in paradise. While I sorted out the offers to go with the best one, Shauna was on my phone listing all the track’s and my shortcomings. It was all bull shit. She had a jealous boyfriend (I wasn’t her lover by the way) who was whispering in her ear that the track sucked and I was a wack old man.
Once I’d settled on Sleeping Bag/Fresh Records – which I knew would make the
“song” a hit, Shauna recorded some of her crap with the boyfriend and went straight to the boss to try and cut me out! Nice! Small problem, though! The tracks sucked. Shauna and I had caught magic in a bottle which she could not duplicate with her idiot boo. Plus, Will (the boss) wasn’t having it. He didn’t like the idea that the girl was a back-stabbing bitch.
So…we drew up a contract which tied Shauna to me for only one record (very unheard of) whereupon she could move on. I’d had it with the girl anyway and just wanted a hit – which I knew I was gonna have with this record and company. Not a huge million seller, mind you. But a New York regional thing which Sleeping Bag could more than handle promotionally.
Well anyway…to shorten the story…the contracts were drawn up…we had a big meeting with the company’s lawyers…and then Shauna refused to sign. When I told her she had a very small chance of ever having an opportunity like this one again, she blew up with the old “why you wanna dis me like dat?” (Idiot.)
And of course, nobody ever heard from this girl again musically. And I in utter dismay, just threw in the towel on the music business. I’d spent a lot of time and energy negotiating this deal. And all for naught because of a moronic artist. End of story. But not quite!
It’s cab time, fellaz. This tale has a taxi element as well. Fast forward 5 or 10 years and I’m in my cab-driving, lap-dancing and fishing phase. The music business is a distant memory and I’ve become a writer with mainstream credits though only occasional freelance money coming in from the endeavor. So I’m driving, too.
One late Saturday night I idle my cab on the west side of 35th Street and 10th Avenue knowing that there’s a club on 35th between 10th and 11th…and that partiers are going to gravitate toward 10th Avenue to catch a cab going uptown. Sure enough, it’s only a minute or two before I see a group of hispanic non-gangbanger type guys walking toward the cab. I’m in. They look fine. So the guys pile in with a 4th person, a girl in tow who is (drum roll) guess who!
She gets one look at her cab driver…completely freaks out…and screams at all her friends to get out. “We’re not taking this cab!” Thus, I didn’t just lose a record deal because of this diva…but a cab fare as well!
Before I go, I’ll tell y’all one thing. If you think you can drive a cab in a vacuum in New York and have nobody you know see you? You are sorely mistaken. It didn’t take me but two shifts when I first started to run into 6 people I knew in a previous life. Old girlfriends, high school buddies, music biz associates? They’re all out there – in legions it seems. At least from my experience.
And here’s the reason (and excuse) for why I tell this story today for the first time on a blog I’ve had for over 8 years. Thanks to my newly transferred music materials and imminent step back into the music fray, you can now hear Shauna’s rap. The mono transfer isn’t perfect. But you’ll get the idea quickly. Judge for yourself if you think this girl had it. The truth is that she was a hot, rhythmic rapper – and the record however annoying to non-rap appreciators – would have become popular. She just blew her chance.