You got yourself some fresh Js, tee, and fitted on. You rap, and sing in front of your mirror to your favorite songs. You practice your favorite b-boy/girl stance in the club. You go home and scribble down some lyrics, and punch-lines.  Now you’ve saved up enough paper to book some studio time. You jump in the booth, gunning, and suddenly, your whole crew gasses you up like you’re the next Hov. Flip cam switched on, you hit the streets for some music video magic. Stadium lights come, oh, wake up, you’re late for work!

Like any other sport, art, or profession, realizing your dreams as a hip hop artist is no walk in the park, and breaking out in a cut-throat industry such as the music industry takes time, sacrifices, hard work, and perseverance. Most artists never make it, ever, and the sad reality is, almost anyone that can rhyme “game” with “lame” can put out a song, a video, and receive some type of publicity, good or bad. Just ask Rebecca Black. Most artists remain in semi-obscurity contributing virals, with a modest number of views at best. Whereas, some other artists catch a glimpse of the spotlight, maybe for a little while, and only a select few, bask permanently in the light of super stardom.

Some of the reasons and issues I’ve highlighted are holding artists back in the Middle East, I believe, and evident when you compare the development of the music scene here to other, more developed markets in Asia, U.S and Europe:

10 Things Holding Artists Back in the Middle East

Record labels and Publishing houses – Not many labels in the Middle East are synonymous with signing young, hungry, and unproven talents.  Not many, if any. It seems that most labels are out of touch with the musical tastes, and mentalities of the current youth population.

Censorship – Living in the Middle East, you come to realize that certain topics are still, and will always be “over the top”.  Artists make songs that stay well clear from topics regarding crime, sex, moral, cultural, and political issues, and opting for more radio-friendly, ice-cream and teddy bear topics.

Quality music – Great video, over-sexed, extravagant visuals and great promotion can only get your foot in the door, maybe even a bunch of “likes” and “followers” online, but at the end of day, the music should carry some credible substance. If the music is good, everything else will fall into place.

Producers – The number of qualified and proven producers available in the Middle East can be counted on one hand, maybe. If you don’t have the cash to splurge, or lucky enough to secure them on some free time, then you probably don’t have a chance of being mentored or guided for any musical success.

Live shows – Artists can only hone their art once they perform it constantly, and live in front of people, to truly gauge their ability to entertain or “move” a crowd. Whether it’s a free or paid event, artists need to get up on stage and perform.  Studio magic can only do so much before fans demand to see the raw, uncut talent on display.

Hard work ethos– Artists are misled into thinking that success is given, or owed to them once they put out a song or two. You really need to put in the hours, both inside and outside the studio, produce enough material, and hopefully make that special “break-out” record. There’s plethora of opportunity out here, but artists lack the hustle to make something out of the resources under their noses. If all you have is a desktop computer, with some crappy little speakers, and a microphone, you can still make magic.

Booking agents, promoters, and ethical business behavior – Between making music and perfecting their art, artists have little time to spare, and need qualified people to push for their rights. Only through accreditation, or licenses can artists truly believe, and trust in the business practices of the existing music industry model.

Quality Control – Currently, no accountability or screening processes exists for the music being produced in the Middle East. Anyone can pop up with a track online and suddenly become a viable artist in the region. An objective, neutral body is needed to determine, or critique if the music being made is actually any good.

Radio and DJs – Understandably, most DJs are focused on exposing themselves rather than the regional artists, but the reality is artists need the DJs to push their records in the clubs, events, and anywhere else. Plenty of artists in the Middle East are putting out excellent, quality songs, but how often are we hearing them on local radio? If you’re lucky, once on the weekly Hip Hop show.

Keeping it real – Clichéd, and over-used in hip hop circles, it goes without saying. However, still too many artists create personas, and represent things about themselves, or their movement that are flat out untrue.  Maintain your integrity as an artist, and the rest will follow.