Social media has created a new phenomenon for rappers: clout chasing. You’ve definitely seen it on the gram. Posting fit pics in the latest designers on private jets, in Bentleys and Rolls Royces, smoking blunts 24/7 on their stories, and just flexing non-stop to portray an image of success.
The constant scrutiny and the unquenchable thirst for new music puts a lot of pressure on artists to constantly release projects to stay in the limelight. With album sales disappearing, tour money is the new bag. The only way to keep those ticket sales high is to keep the people talking.
Everybody has to use social media to promote their brand and market themselves. It’s a necessary evil. Teenagers control what is popular in the music industry. TikTok dances and memes are essential to getting a #1 hit unless your Drake or Ariana Grande. Being internet savvy is just as important as having talent.
But what happens when rappers forget about the music and only focus on the retweets? When they care more about attention than perfecting their craft?
Clout chasing. It’s doing things for attention rather than artistry. Trying to make a quick buck vs. creating a legacy. Stirring controversy instead of evolving as an artist. It’s an effective gimmick that produces short-term success but costs you your reputation and sometimes your career. Eventually, the declining quality of the music is louder than the social media spectacle.
But the masses are asses, and fan bases are always pining for the past. Looking to them for music advice is like reading YouTube comments for life advice. Most people are idiots and not worth considering. Trying to please everybody means losing your identity and forgetting everything that made you likable in the first place.
Here are 4 artists who sacrificed everything for a drop of clout.
Remember Lil Pump (Lil Pump OOOOH)? He was riding a big wave back in 2016 with the insane popularity of “Gucci Gang” and “OOH” among other hits. People loved the Florida Soundcloud sensation because he was brainless fun and his music was perfect for partying.
Without knowing his financial situation, I think it’s safe to say that Pump’s been struggling as of late. He hasn’t had a hit in 2 years, hasn’t released an album in just as long, and his wave seems to be crashing because he doesn’t really have any substance to him. Nobody talks about Lil Pump, nobody cares about Lil Pump. Flexing on the gram is pretty much all he has left to offer.
Pump has been slowly rolling out flop after flop singles whose only defining characteristic is they feature much more talented rappers than him. He even drew the ire of 21 Savage for stealing the “YESSIRRSKII” catchphrase. Videos for these songs that used to get over 100M views now barely get 200K.
Deep down, Mr. Pump knows this too. But instead of rebranding himself or, I don’t know, releasing some good music, he chose to do the ultimate clout grab at the most irresponsible time. He endorsed Donald Trump. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned over these past 4 years, supporting Donald Trump means you’re supporting your own downfall.
Pump’s career demise has been a long time coming. His support of Trump was the last, desperate grab to trend on Twitter one more time. But like most clout chasers, there wasn’t a bigger plan. No album rollout. No merch to sell. He did it all for the clout and put the final bullet in the head of his career.
Jesus. You sacrifice your reputation and career for DJT and he can’t even get your name right? That has to hurt.
Danny Hernandez built one helluva music career without ever making a good song. Despite his many, many, many faults he is a genius marketer and knew exactly how to manipulate social media to maximize attention. It also helped that his content was hilarious most of the time.
But his shtick and his music were about as deep as a kiddie pool. Hearing him aggressively scream violent threats over expensive trap beats quickly lost its charm. He lacked versatility as an artist and there are only so many ways you can troll people. It was only a matter of time until everybody got bored of him antagonizing rappers and making everything about him.
His arrest, trial, and snitching captivated hip hop fans throughout 2018-2019. He snitched so much that his life sentence was reduced to 2 years. Once he served his time, he exploded back onto the scene seemingly not having learned anything from his mistakes. For a moment, it looked like he would prove us all wrong. He had 2 million viewers on his IG live (the world record) for his first video after he was released and went #1 with his Nicki Minaj collab “Trollz” without the backing and marketing budget of a major label.
Tekashi walked around NYC with an army of bodyguards and laughed at everybody who said he would be killed if he ever showed his face in public again. He attempted to justify and “own” his snitching in a confusing, convoluted way. All of his antics were building up to the announcement of his album Tattle Tales. The NY rapper pulled out all of the stops for the release including disrespecting Chicago rappers Lil Durk and Lil Reese and even going to O Block in Chicago to disrespect Durk’s dead cousin Nuski.
But then a funny thing happened. After the initial spike in attention, his views and likes started to go down. Way down. His album “Tattletales” sold less than 60K in its first week. Podcasts like Joe Budden and Gillie Da Kid wouldn’t book him for his “First interview out of jail” despite Tekashi saying it would be “the biggest interview ever”. He’s always been a con man, a scammer, and a manipulator, but this time around people in the industry saw right through him.
When you’re still talking about guns and murder after you famously snitched on your entire gang people can see through the façade. He surrounded himself with dangerous people who gave him the street cred and firepower to say what he wanted without consequence. Take that away and he’s 1/1,000,000 obnoxious internet trolls.
Daniel Hernandez burned every bridge, made fun of everybody who would have helped him out, and was the center of one of the greatest news stories and trials in music history. He reached heights most artists only dream of. But the tank has finally run dry and the rainbow clown saga has come to an end.
Chance the Rapper
Back in 2016 – 2017, Chance was poised to be the next big thing in Hip Hop. It’s as close as I’ve seen a rapper come to “universally beloved”.
The youthful exuberance and humor of 10 day, the drugged out introspective, style bending Acid Rap, and the triumphant, soulful, curious creativity of Coloring Book left us all excited for what he was cooking up next. Every mixtape showed us a different side of Chance and they were all captivating. He is one of the best writers in the game with an unlimited budget and a line of talented producers wanting to work with him, what could go wrong?
Instead of sticking to what made him successful in the first place (hard work and quality songwriting), Chance mistakenly believed that people would love everything he put out, regardless of the quality. He decided to record his debut album (all the rest were mixtapes, believe it or not) in a month because the fans kept pressuring him for a new release. He was trying to do what Kanye did in 2017-2018 with his 7 song albums produced on the fly and capture a joyous moment in time after he married his longtime girlfriend.
But Chance is not Kanye West. He let his success get to his head and thought he was on the same level as ‘Ye. There is no other explanation for the disaster that is “The Big Day“. The album sounds like Chance’s career dying. It’s the soundtrack to disappointment. He thought penning a messy, half-finished, way-too-long love letter to his wife would be interesting to anybody but him.
How do I know? His manager is currently suing him for $3M because Chance blamed the album flop on him. Here is an excerpt of his claims from Vulture.
“It was likely there was not enough time for the creative process involved in releasing an album,” the suit claims, citing Chance’s March wedding. Corcoran implies Chance announced the album “before the recording or writing process even began,” and goes on to knock the “unproductive and undisciplined studio sessions” that followed. “Procrastination and lackadaisical effort, perpetuated by various hangers-on uninterested in the hard work of writing and recording, resulted in a freestyle-driven product of sub-par quality,” the suit goes on to claim, calling the album “a complete deviation from the meticulous writing process that brought Bennett fame for his wordplay and wit.”
“Bennett ultimately blamed Corcoran for the judgment rendered by his fan base rather than accept that his own lack of dedication had doomed the project,” the filing claims. Lawsuits like this are a dime a dozen but I fully believe all of Corcoran’s’ claims here. They’re too spot-on given the album quality and the awkward live performances of these songs. If you thought “eternal” was a shitty song it’s way worse in person.
Skip to 2:59 to cringe like you’ve never cringed before
This example is different from others because Chance isn’t a clout chaser in the traditional sense. He can make great music and rarely ever stirs controversy. He felt pressure to remain relevant and rushed an album out the door, unaware of what it would do to his reputation. Maybe his brother and Dad negatively influenced his career, maybe he tried to do too much at once, maybe he’s out of good ideas.
Whatever the case, he was feeling himself way too much. You can walk around your inner circle pretending that your shit doesn’t stink but when the public gets a whiff of it they’ll be quick to remind you that it does.
The Big Day was a critical and commercial flop. Chance had to cancel his stadium tour (that had 8 legs like daddy long ) due to low ticket sales. He was mocked relentlessly on social media for releasing an album that doesn’t have any good songs and only talks about how great his wife is.
Instead of accepting it, he’s fought back against critics and every teenager on Twitter who’ve said anything negative about the album. It’s really painful to watch. The most beloved superstar has turned himself into a bitter laughingstock in less than 2 years. I’ve never seen somebody fumble the bag this badly. Erasing all of that goodwill and trust in under a year is astonishing.
Fans would happily take him back if he released a new quality album. But in order for that to happen, he needs to be honest with himself. Something he has proven to be incapable of.
Chance will be fine. He has the Rhythm and Flow TV Show, Justin Bieber keeps putting him on those awful religious songs, he’s not going to go broke. But the Chance the RAPPER, the man that inspired us, the artist that put his blood, sweat, and tears into his music, is gone.
It’s a shame but at least we got one good track out of The Big Day.