Where are you based?
San Francisco, CA, United States
Where do you work? What do you do?
I’m the founder of Trapital, the hip-hop business newsletter. I break down the strategic moves that shape the culture. Last week I made the jump to work on Trapital full-time! There’s a ton more to focus on, and other stories that need to be assessed and told.
What are you listening to?
According to Spotify, I listened to Travis Scott more than anyone last year. Been liking J.I.D., his Dicaprio 2 album was dope. I’ve been getting back into R&B lately. Love H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar’s albums. And I still got Frank Ocean Blonde in regular rotation. Apparently Frank’s Endless is finally coming to all streaming platforms too. I’m sure that will be in the mix as well.
How do you find new music?
I find out about a lot of stuff from my friends through group text messages and GroupMe chats. They are always posting new songs that come out. My Twitter feed is pretty music-centric too. I find out a lot based on what folks are saying. But sometimes Twitter trends too mainstream. I’ll have to go check other sources. Spotify’s Most Necessary playlist is good for finding up-and-comers. SoundCloud has been a go-to source for years. And I still check RapCaviar to see how popular lesser-known artist’s songs are getting.
I still go to YouTube to check for music videos too. YouTube is still the best platform to get a read on engagement. I check the comments often to see how the world is reacting to certain songs. There’s a lot of noise to cut through in YouTube comments, but I still find value in reading them.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Service and why?
I listen to everything digitally now. I couldn’t even tell you where my CD collection is right now. Maybe my parent’s house… I used to sell bootleg CDs back in the day. I still think I have a stack of 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Tryin’ CDs somewhere.
Would love to get some classics on vinyl though. Whenever I stop by a friend’s house and see a vinyl record player, I kind of want to get one myself.
Where do you do most of your music listening?
I listen to a lot when I’m running errands. Doing laundry, washing dishes, cleaning up our apartment. I also listen when walking around the neighborhood, walking to and from the train station, etc. I also listen during work if I’m doing more procedural tasks.
How do find and listen to pre-release music?
I get more and more plugs for pre-release music through email. Because of Trapital, I now get invites and links to stuff from PR folks and publicists a few days before official drops. But most of the time, I’m fine waiting till it’s available on one of the streaming platforms I subscribe to.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
A lot of mixtapes and remixes of great songs aren’t available on certain streaming platforms. This is usually because the samples weren’t cleared. The catalogs on main streaming services are mostly limited to commercial releases. For example, No Ceilings is one of Lil’ Wayne’s most popular mixtapes, but it’s not on Spotify or Tidal. YouTube is a better place to find rare and random songs, but it can be limited there too. I never had these challenges in the Napster/LimeWire/KaZaa days. I could always find the specific remix I wanted to a song back then (even if DJ Clue was shouting all over the track).
A lot of those songs are now on my old hard drives, iPods, and old computers (it’s one of the reasons I still haven’t thrown them out!). Back in the day my friends and I would swap iPods and do dumps on each other’s computers.
Overall, I think digital music is in a much better spot today though. It’s easier to access music than it was before. And it’s easier for artists to reach their audience. It’s helped democratize hip-hop. There’s less friction than there’s ever been. You no longer need a connect to get your music in front of fans or to hear the latest music.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
I really don’t. I have my go-to playlists depending on what I’m in the mood for. When I’m writing a story about a particular artist, I like to listen to their music while I write–even if it’s an artist I normally don’t vibe with.
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
I go straight to the group chats and threads to let my friends know. They do the same for me.
For big releases, Twitter turns into an album listening party. Everyone usually starts playing the new album when it drops at 9:00pm PT on Thursdays. One of the many benefits of living in California is that I can listen to new albums before I go to bed. It’s dope to react with other folks in real time to the same songs you’re listening too. It’s a decent replacement to being there in person. When Astroworld dropped last summer, it felt like hip-hop fans on Twitter all came together for an hour.
Of course, any album worth listening to should be judged after multiple listens to give a real assessment. But the initial reaction is still fun to engage in.
Anything you want to “promote”?
Yes! I think music lovers would love reading Trapital! A number of music execs, business leaders, and VCs enjoy reading because it provides a fresh perspective on the music industry. You can join them by signing up for Trapital here to get the stories in your inbox.
Go check out YBN Cordae! I like his song “Locationships.” Came out a couple weeks ago. I will still give a shoutout to Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap. I don’t think it needs my promotion since it got nominated for a Grammy, but I still think it got slept on.