Business Savvy? The Artist and The Alter Ego

December 12, 2011  |  

Trey Songz released two mixtapes last month – “Anticipation 2” featuring R&B slow jams and “#LemmeHolDatBeat2”, his latest foray into hip-hop helmed by his rap alter ego Trigga. This isn’t the singer’s first time trying his hand as a lyricist. Silky ballads may be Songz’s claim to fame, but he seems set on having audiences see him as a genre-bending artist. But, is it necessary?

In recent years we have seen the rise of the multifaceted urban artist. It is not enough to just sing or rap well; you need to both. And maybe also dance or produce so you can qualify as a triple threat. Everyone is looking to add a few slashes to their title, with artists like Drake (rapper/singer/actor) and Nicki Minaj (rapper/singer/fashionista) leading the way.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Missy Elliott has sang and rapped since her debut album dropped in 1997. Before he rode to the top of the charts with expletive riddled doo-wop, Cee Lo was crooning and spitting bars with the Dungeon Family. And of course, the template for the rapper/singer, Lauryn Hill, has sung melodies alongside equally impressive raps since the Fugees.

It is no wonder artists like Songz, Chris Brown, and even Justin Bieber are trying their hand at it now. However, history shows that fans typically respond better when the artist debuts as a double or triple threat. It is hard for audiences to support an artist when they switch midstream. Case in point, does anyone remember Black Ty, crooner Tyrese’s rap alter ego? Anyone? Moving on.

Whether or not Songz is a good rapper is up for debate. But, he is a savvy businessman. Songz has been testing his skills on remixes and mixtapes, giving himself the opportunity to showcase his new musical style while keeping his alter ego below the radar of mainstream audiences. His next album is said to be released next year. Songz has not stated how much rap, if any, will appear on the album. But, it is a safe bet that it will be directly proportional to the amount of praise or criticism Trigga receives from his recently released mixtape.

As with any business, care needs to be taken when an artist decides to expand. There may be pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” and change offerings based on what competitors are doing. However, it is important to take care not to dilute the passion and product that initially brought you success. Plus, no fan wants to suffer through the growing pains of an artist (or business) learning a new craft. So far, Songz has kept these business principles in mind. It will interesting to see how prominent a role Trigga will play in Trey’s evolution as an artist and a brand.


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