We have a social entrepreneur of a different kind, she is a rapper! You will have an opportunity to learn how the social and business sides come together for impact with Nique Love Rhodes! We featured her once before on one of the other episodes, Bags to Butterflies, I think. You will have to check it out. And, since she is an artist herself, we will get to hear TWO songs today, one of which is an exclusive debut before her album even releases!
Welcome to another episode of the Bonfires of Social Enterprise! This is Romy and we have something new for you today! We have a social entrepreneur of a different kind, she is a rapper! You will have an opportunity to learn how the social and business sides come together for impact with Nique Love Rhodes! We featured her once before on one of the other episodes, Bags to Butterflies, I think. You will have to check it out. And, since she is an artist herself, we will get to hear TWO songs today, one of which is an exclusive debut before her album even releases! Too much…
Before we get started, let’s see what Luke has for our fun fuel …
Hi, This is Luke Trombley, and I am bringing you the fun fuel for this episode.
Nique has incorporated rap into her career, so we are going to take a closer look into rap and the history of this genre.
Rap has recently taken the world by storm. But where did it come from? In 1973, a man named DJ Kool Herc was sitting his apartment in the Bronx with his sister. The young DJ took two turntables and played the same breakbeat section of the James Brown record “clap your hands.” This method of recording is also used today by many producers. In 1979 rap took off and gave birth to many popular songs, including rappers delight by the sugar hill gang.
Thank you Luke! Always informative and fun, hence, why we call it the Fun Fuel, ha ha.
Okay, let’s get to it. Here is my interview with the amazing Nique Love Rhodes.
Romy: So, all right, so welcome to the podcast.
Nique: Thank you. I'm very excited.
Nique: It's a big week for me; I get married literally in seven days from now.
Romy: What? I didn't know that.
Nique: Yes. Yes.
Romy: So you'll be married when this comes out.
Nique: Yes, I'm excited.
Romy: Oh my gosh. It's so great Nique. Well, you're our first artist, you're our first, let's say a musician artist-
Romy: ... that is a social entrepreneur so, I've been really excited and waiting to interview you, and I wanted to talk about all the things that you do and why you're, why we consider each other social entrepreneurs. And because I don't think sometimes musicians who are doing inspirational things think of themselves that way.
Nique: That's true. That's true.
Romy: Yeah. So let's talk about what you do first. What's the kind of music for those who have never heard part of your messaging or your, listen to your tracks? Let's give the listeners an overview of the type of music that you produce.
Nique: For sure, so I am, I would consider myself a socially conscious hip hop artist. So all of my music is rooted in a couple of different things. So it's rooted in putting positive vibes out into the world and being a sense of encouragement, of inspiration, of hope to every listener, to anyone who listens to my music. But it's also rooted in a sense of being socially responsible and putting messages that are timely, that's gonna get people to think about things critically, or to, you know, think about something completely different, or to, you know, get inspired to actually become active participants in their community and the world when it comes to social issues.
So I talk about racism, I talk about, you know, religious divides, I talk about just so many different social issues period. And really just try to bring those things to the forefront to really just bring people together and inspire people, and encourage people to, you know, be great in the world and do great things.
Romy: How did you, how long have you been doing this, like is this something that you started when you were real young or did you have an inspirational moment that you started to do this kinda.
Nique: Yeah, I started, I actually did start young. So I started doing music professionally at 14. I took it; I was like, I took it serious, I started initially doing poetry in the church. It's kind of a funny story, so I was at a youth, like a youth revival or something like that, and I did a poem, and somebody was like, "Hey, it sounds like you're rapping", and I was like, "That's cool, I love rap music."
My mom always, like, made me, like she was like, "You can't listen to rap, it's so misogynistic, and it's bad language." So I would have to sneak and listen to hip hop, and then [crosstalk 00:03:55] I got exposed to Christian hip hop, so she was cool with me listening to Christian hip hop. So I was like, yeah, it does kinda sound like I'm rapping, and so I had a friend who was just getting to like, the Napster thing. Remember when Napster was popular-
Romy: Oh my Gosh, yeah.
Nique: And so, he would download, like beats from Napster, totally illegal and he would send me these beats, and I would turn my poems into raps over the beats.
Romy: Oh Wow.
Nique: I'd be performing it in my church, and I was like, "Okay, this is cool." And then he, his name is Michael Smith, it's the guy who kind of started giving me those beats, and he was going to U of D college at the time, he was a freshman at U of D, and they had this open mic night, and so he signed me up on the open mic night, and here's this 14 year old high school freshman. And my mom and my dad drove me to U of D, and I did my first rap on the open mic, and people liked it, and I was like, "Oh my God," I was like, "This is amazing. I want to do this forever."
Romy: Oh my gosh, I love it. I love it, humble beginnings.
Romy: That's so good. So what was some of the co- ... Do you remember back then what some of the comments were that energized you?
Nique: It's. Actually, it's so funny, so the number one comment that I remember getting and it's so funny because I still get it to this day is, "You rap really good for a girl."
Nique: And so, like whenever, even to this day like if I show up to a show and it's getting better now, 'cause more people are starting to like, kinda know me, and what I remember, like going to shows and people would automatically assume that I was like a R&B singer or something like that, or like some type of like pop singer and I would always have to prove myself. And so in my message, you know, super socially conscious and you kind of like, in your face and people would be blown away.
So that was some of the early comments, and you know, I've always gotten comments of just, you know, "Hey, you know that song was really, really inspired me." I've had a chance to early on, when I was a teenager, I had a chance to perform at the juvenile justice, juvenile detention facility downtown, which was super, super powerful, and that was kind of like my first introduction at like how a simple song can impact somebody, you know give them hope and give them inspiration.
And then even outside of music, I've worked with youth, with teenagers for a number of years as a youth mentor and group facilitator. We would have conversations about hip-hop all of the time because, you know, them being teenagers and me being their group leader, they never believed that I was a rapper. And so I would have to like, rap for them and stuff like that and prove myself, and we would have conversations about hip-hop and they would tell me, you know like, "Hey I love this artist because, you know, they speak to my life and you know, I wanna be just like them." And so I've seen, and even me as a kid, like how hip hop impacted my thoughts and my world view and how I carried myself and the way I dressed, and the way I talked, all that. I've always just felt like the artist has a responsibility you know to the listener, to the audience and to, you know, put out positive messages and positive vibes always. And that's something I try to stay true to no matter what.
Romy: Yeah. That's such a good word. I think it's, I think there's this sort of myth or misconception when an artist, or a business person or just an average person is walking around, and they're attempting to be joyful and positive, there's some sort of myth that they're not experiencing the same thing everybody else is. That doesn't mean we're in a bubble, it means that we're just choosing to react to things differently, 'cause it's too easy. It's too easy to take the bait of doing it the other way, but it gives you more peace if you're putting good things out with your mouth, right?
Nique: Yes, absolutely.
Romy: Yeah, gosh-
Romy: There's so many social things here, so let's keep going though. So that was when you were 14.
Romy: Then it just kept going because you've gotten quite a following now around Detroit and broader, so will you continue that journey up to now for us?
Nique: Absolutely. So since that first performance at U of D when I was 14, I've been able, so what the last 14 years I've been doing it? I've been able to perform in like New York, and Toronto. I just did three shows out in South by Southwest this past March in Austin, Texas. Really awesome. And I have a band that performs with me, and that just became a thing within the past two years. So I've really, a lot of times performed with my band and we've been doing a number of shows all throughout Detroit, all of the local music venues. We did some shows out in Ann Arbor, so yeah, we've been making our rounds in the region.
Nique: Yeah. We've been making our rounds in the region, and I put out my first studio album back in 2012 of original music. I didn't know what I was doing, as most entrepreneurs, who just have this product and you just put it out there, and then you learn as you go.
Romy: That's right.
Nique: I slowly started learning about like "Oh, it's more than just having a good song. It's the whole business behind it. Copyright. Some legal stuff and marketing and all of this stuff," and so I'm now on the process of actually re-releasing that studio album.
Romy: Oh, nice.
Nique: That'll be accompanied by the Life album with my band, and that'll be out within the next few months. It's actually getting mixed and mastered now.
Nique: Yeah. Now that I have the business sense and just really working to take what I've been doing and expanding it to a bigger level and being smarter about it and more strategic about it, I think that's ... It's a social enterprise.
Nique: The marketing and selling of a product, but that has a social impact or a social good tied to it, so I'm excited about it for sure.
Romy: Yeah, it is. You are a social entrepreneur. That's one of the reasons I was excited to have you on here because you do have to run the business just as good as everybody, any other business owner, but you're right, your product has a social good.
In some way, some of it, you can measure, and some of it is a little bit difficult to measure because inspiration and hope is hard to measure. You can't necessarily track what happens inside someone's heart and brain as they walk away from your ... Or who's really listening behind the scenes, but it's critical. It's an art form that's so needed, and that's one of the reasons, and you're creating an employment for yourself. It's actually your band.
Romy: I just want to encourage other artists that want to do something positive that jobs can be created and not to minimize yourself as a social entrepreneur because your product is art in some way. You know?
Nique: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Romy: I see a lot of artists minimizing themselves, and I just want to speak life into that right now.
Nique: Yes. Absolutely.
Romy: Yeah. Where will they be able to buy your work, buy your album or your tracks?
Nique: Yeah. It'll be available on my website, which is nlr.hiphop. It's very simple to remember. It'll also be on Apple Music or iTunes. It'll be on Spotify, Google Play. All of the major online distribution networks, all of the streaming platforms, it'll be available there, and then it'll also be available at any live shows.
Romy: Yeah, yeah. Are those shows, Nique, listed on your website too?
Nique: Yup. Absolutely.
Romy: Okay. Just from your perspective, as an artist and being part of a band, what are some of the things that you're working to either put in place or overcome from the business side right now? Sometimes, we find, when we talk about what's going on with each of us, the other businesses are encouraged like, "That's happening to me too," you know? Is there anything that you're working on right now or you found a way to make it better?
Nique: Oh, man. A number of ways. For most musicians, your primary form of income is either through getting paid for live shows or through merchandise sales, including album purchases. Artists don't really make a lot of money from streaming, but it's a good platform for exposure, and so what I've been working on is, one, increasing that viability where people want to pay you for your products.
Nique: That's something, a lot of entrepreneurs, especially here in the city, because the consumer market is so low, because a lot of people in Detroit are broke and everybody is trying to pay the bills, and so the market here can be difficult because people have to decide, "Hey, do I want to pay admission for your show? If I'd pay it to come see you perform, I may not have money to purchase a CD" or vice versa.
I've been looking at just a lot of other forms of income that could supplement music, but still leveraging the brand. I'll give you an example and actually, you'll like this because it ties into Life Remodeled stuff.
Nique: We are opening a rehearsal space inside the building that will also be used to leverage hip-hop as a way of teaching young people about leadership skills and social justice initiatives and how to be young leaders through hip-hop, and so that opens up a whole another opportunity of grants, which can fund so much.
Just getting creative and thinking of other ways to leverage the brand and the product outside of those traditional ways, and then just the day-to-day task management of just managing a band. In my band, there's six guys. I call them ... They're like teenagers. Constantly, I happen to rein them in and coordinating schedules for shows and rehearsals, and so definitely, task, task management is always a top priority.
As we get ready to release this, actually, [inaudible 00:16:46] double album, with the studio album and then the live album with it, tracking merchandise, I've been really looking at different platforms that can help with that and that is kind of a all-inclusive platform where you can manage your catalog, your inventory, your tour routing, and all of those logistical pieces to help stay organized and streamline everything.
I'm right now working with a young woman who's handling branding, which is something that's very important, especially as the technology world gives ... Everyone can be a musician. Everyone can record the CD on their laptop and put it out.
Nique: How do you cut through that into your branding and making sure your website is awesome and all of these different intricate things? I've been building the team that's been really helping me to do that, which is really cool, so I'm very excited about the business aspect. It's fun.
Romy: It really is, if you embrace it, and there is a place for creativity. I love that you just mentioned that because I'm always trying to get people to think business is not in a box. There are some elements we all have to do to be legal. In the U.S., of course, we have to file tax returns and things like that, but there's a lot of room to get creative about how.
One of the things that's been on my mind a lot lately, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, is the marketplace. We as business owners will say, "Okay, our product is this." "It's our song" or "It is our accounting service" or "Our teacher," whatever that might be, but the marketplace is changing left and right.
When I say the marketplace, I think of "Where are things transacted? Where are they bought and sold? Where are my products going to be bought and sold?" Now, it could be in-person, in your social circle. It could be in a physical place like a retail shop. It could be digital, everything from SoundCloud, Amazon, and then you got that mixed in with something else you hid on that. It's specific to Detroit. I don't know if it's in other cities, I assume, but it's this sort of trade culture, so some things have been bought and sold without cash or trading, if you do this, let's team up and do this together.
Romy: It's a little bit of a quagmire, and you need to be creative and super organized to, I don't know, keep the marketplace going and paying attention. It's changing by the minute, and I feel, "How are you navigating the marketplace of where things are bought and sold?"
Nique: Yes. I think, probably, like everyone else, it's just networking with people.
Nique: Everyone else is just networking with people in my field and seeing what's been working for them, what are some of their pitfalls. The music community is very diverse, but it's very tight knit, the longer you're in it, and the more shows you play and the more people you meet, you form this community within itself. And so we've been getting together quite a collective of artist, that we recently ... actually me and Wayne [inaudible 00:20:39], who's a drummer in a band, he and I and some other people, we started convening artists together to just talk about these issues of the marketplace and what's lacking here in the city for us to thrive. And what is already in place that's been working for us to thrive and just really brainstorming and learning as you go and just listening to each other.
And just constant research. I spend a great deal of time if I'm not working towards a project, I spend a lot of my free time just scouring the internet seeing what other independent artists are doing and how did they get to that point. I've been really studying this guy Chance, the Rapper, who is a really, really great artist that's independent and really doing this thing and seeing his platforms and how he's been moving. Just finding people who are being successful and then just researching that. And then just connecting with people here on the ground that's in the same boat with me. And just really learning from each other. What I think is the best way, because the marketplace...