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The rap game doesn't come with many guarantees, but there is one thing every up-and-coming independent artist is absolutely sure to experience whether they like it or not: Hate. Whether it's deserved or simply a byproduct of another's jealousy, Hate may be the only constant in an MC's career, and since many realize that there's no way to stop it they just learn to ignore it.
But what's to be said about those who embrace the hate? Do they know something the rest of us don't?
"If you aint gettin' hated on, you must be doin' something wrong," proclaims Stacy "Superstar" Blackwell, the 25-year-old founder and flagship artist of budding indie imprint Super Entertainment Recordings. "So I love the hate. I really appreciate it."
Not only does he appreciate the naysaying, Superstar uses it as fuel to motivate himself and his 2-year-old label's roster of diverse talent – which includes Chase Money, an MC who also sings and produces; Yung Rev, another in-house producer who also spits that gospel rap; an MC named Fat Boi Fresh; and a songstress named Zandrina who also dabbles in rhyme – keeping them focused on creating the good music they're becoming known for.
"When we bring all our talents together, it creates a sound that can't be duplicated," he says, "but we're just starting to get the recognition we deserve. In this music game, aint nothin' overnight."
Nothing comes without hard work, either, and Superstar's been pushin' in the music biz since signing his first deal with a local imprint in his native Atlanta when he was 17.
Already respected for his wit, lyrical ability and distinctive style, Superstar's superstardom seemed like a sure thing. Unfortunately, his work for the label never grew legs and he saw his young career stall.
Rather than whine and complain after his first album barely made it outside the Perimeter, Superstar opted to take his career into his own hands and entered into his first indie label venture, Dynasty Music, with a childhood friend and other business partners. While Dynasty's success peaked with only one song breaking through to radio, the venture planted the seed for what would become Super Entertainment.
After Dynasty's flame fizzled, Superstar parlayed his experience as an independent artist and co-CEO into a solo venture and brought the doomed label's mouthpiece with along with him.
"Me and Superstar met through [the Dynasty Music venture]," remembers Will "Half Pint" Merriman, Dynasty Music co-founder, Super Ent.'s current VP of Marketing and all-around promotions guru. Far too driven to give up after one failed project, Half Pint joined forces with Superstar to continue the push to get the music they believed in to the masses no matter how hard it seemed. "It's never easy, but you gotta be in it for the long haul," he says.
And that perseverance may be the hardest part of the independent grind. According to Superstar, the hate he encounters often hides behind a mask of steady prejudice, and keeping it moving in light of it all aint always easy. "The game is so saturated with artists right now that when you go up to a DJ they already got you stereotyped without even knowing what you stand for or the substance of [your music]," he fumes. "They don't know nothin' about you and still wanna pre-judge. As an artist that's the hardest thing – especially when you know you got talent and a lot of these artists out here makin' it have none.
"It pisses you off, but to get through it you just gotta love the music," he continues. "I do this 'cause I love it and cause I know what the end result is gon' be. I understand that the fame and money are coming, but I do this 'cause I love it."
The public seems to be lovin' it, too, as Half Pint runs himself ragged booking performances, appearances, interviews and photo shoots to satisfy people's growing appetite for Superstar music. They seem to want it more and more, even if they can't pinpoint where he's from.
"When I rap, people don't even think I'm from Atlanta," Superstar chuckles. "They tell me I don't rap like most Atlanta cats. I don't know if I should take that as a compliment or not. (laughs) I guess it's a compliment, 'cause a lot of people say cats from Atlanta can't rap or aren't really lyrical. People probably listen to my music, hear the lyrics and the story behind it and visualize what I say.
"I'm tryin' to help bring the lyrics back," he admits. "I don't be jumpin' all around like a ball in a room, I stick to the subject matter and everything stays on course."
If things go as planned, the course for Superstar and Super Entertainment leads straight to the top.
"In 5 years we'll be an empire, doing things like Making the Band or 'Making the Rapper'; doin' more shows, things like that. We'll be a household name."
Then the hate will really begin. But when you're a Superstar, it's the only way.