THE DAY I SIGNED . . .
When Nikki asked me to write the intro to this book I was a little reluctant. These stories hit home for me because I know what it’s like to be in the unforgiving world of the music and entertainment business. At first I attempted to write a short story to add to the book, but with the intense preparations for the release of my debut novel, Numbers,
time slipped away from me. But Nikki and I felt it was my duty to provide some insight into my thoughts as a young aspiring rap artist. In essence, take you backstage.
I vividly remember the day–more than twenty years ago–I signed my first recording contract. It was summer in the mid- 1980s. I was barely out of my teens when I went to the lawyer’s office to put my John Hancock on the recording agreement with an independent record label that was as they put it “taking a chance with rap music.” No, I do not remember the lawyer’s name; in fact, he wasn’t my lawyer. He represented the man (we’ll just call him “Sir”) who procured the record deal opportunity for me. I didn’t know much of anything about the music business at that time except for what Sir had taught me, and that was virtually nothing for the most part. I probably could have learned more about the business if I’d done my research and/or if Sir knew more about the music business, but I didn’t and he didn’t. Or maybe he did and provided me with as much information as he wanted me to have. There are some people in this business who want artists to have only limited knowledge in order to take advantage of them. Even worse, they may not be very knowledgeable themselves and perpetuate ignorance.
The day I signed my recording contract, I was young and naïve and without a doubt eager to make a record. I didn’t understand the price of fame, I didn’t know much about double- talk, and I surely didn’t understand the pitfalls of the music game. All I did know for sure was that I wanted to put out a record, I wanted to hear myself on the radio, and I had my own distinct flow. My naïveté led me to believe that when people said, “Trust me,” they really meant, Don’t worry; I’ve got your back.
I found out later that “Trust me” in this business of music means, I’m going to try to exploit you for all you’re worth and give you as little as possible in return.
It also meant, As long as you don’t know, I can take advantage of you
. The mind- set was “You’re the artist. You’ve got us around to take care of the business aspect of your career. You just take care of the creative side.”
“Hey”–I can still hear their voices in my ear–“we wouldn’t lead you wrong, Dana, we’re in this together . . . trust me.
” “Is this a good contract?” I inquired. There were no negotiations; the lawyer and Sir had me believe it was this contract or nothing (which might have been true). They explained that this was the standard contract (remember youngins: There is no such thing as a standard contract). The lawyer went over the contract with me briefly. It took all of ten minutes. Of course, after the very short 600 seconds, I still didn’t understand the magnitude of the paperwork I was about to sign. But it wasn’t too hard to convince me to sign since I was unaware of the value of my name, likeness, and music.
I could never have imagined that after that day my career would be such a crazy roller- coaster ride. I could never have thought
that not long after my song “Nightmares” was the “World Premier” on one of the hottest hip- hop shows in NYC, the “Mr. Magic Show,” with Chuck Chillout and Red Alert, it would become an instant hit and classic. I could never have imagined two years later when my first LP, “Dana Dane with Fame,” was released it would be one of the fastest debuting hip- hop albums of its time–going gold and selling 500,000 units in a little over three months, all without a video.
When I think back to the day I signed my first recording contract almost two decades ago, I would never have thought that I would still be trying to get royalties due to me from that agreement. I could not have fathomed that in the year 2000 other rap artists would be performing covers and remakes of my songs without compensating me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel used and betrayed by that record label and my other handlers, but at the same time I’m not wasting my energy holding grudges. I was afforded an opportunity of which most people only dream. I appreciate the good and the bad people who have crossed my path in the past; they’ve helped mold me into the great man I am today. Everything has not always been good, but the experience has been great! Hey, I wouldn’t have been able to share this scenario if it wasn’t for the day I signed my first recording contract.
There’s not much integrity in this business of music. But you can find that out for yourself, you don’t have to trust me.
I hope I’ve shared enough to enlighten someone, but let’s now look to the present . . . the future . . . the next installment of Nikki Turner’s Street Chronicles: Backstage.
It’s time to turn up the volume, time to make it move, time to make it shake. Although the stories depicted in this book are fictional, they do have merit. And it is my sincere belief that you will be thoroughly entertained, but it is also my hope that you will be enlightened as well.
Nikki is a powerful storyteller and has the great ability to locate exceptional writing talent.
So the dressing rooms are stocked with all the rider requirements, the lights are cued, the sound check is complete, and you’ve got your VIP pass. It’s finally time to take you Backstage
! –Dana Dane, hip- hop icon and author of the novel, Numbers
Excerpted from Backstage by Nikki Turner presents. Copyright © 2009 by Nikki Turner presents. Excerpted by permission of One World/Ballantine, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.