Swae Lee pretending to crowdsurf during his Instagram Live performances. Bandcamp generating $4.3 million in independent music sales in one day by waiving its revenue shares. The insanely catchy Vietnamese coronavirus PSA song. The last couple weeks have yielded a handful of encouraging displays of humanity like these, which help distract us from the extraordinarily bleak Covid-19 outbreak. One CDC projection stated that the virus has the potential to kill as many as 1.7 million Americans. In the capsized music industry, the first casualties have been shuttered concert venues, the people they employ, and artists.
So, how are artists holding up? Over the course of the last week (admittedly, a lot has changed in that span), Highsnobiety spoke to a number of rappers, singers, and producers about how they’re maintaining social distance and occupying themselves in this surreal time, as well as what they think the outbreak means for their career, and how they might be able to batten down the hatches and weather this period of uncertainty.
Yung Baby Tate
Honestly, I’ve been pretty much on the same old, same old. I create out of the house a lot. Prior to this entire coronavirus craziness, I was doing some sessions in the studio. So now, I’m basically back to my regular routine, making music in my bed. I just roll over and grab my laptop. Sometimes I sit criss-cross applesauce, but then I have to change my leg positioning because it hurts.
I’ve just been staying in the house. Yesterday, we had a very small, less-than-10-person kickback. Just trying to keep people not going crazy. I just moved into my apartment in December, so I’m about to create a studio room.
Open Mike Eagle
The main thrust of it is trying to come up with ways to replace income that I’ve lost with things being cancelled. That’s all I’m thinking about; what I can do to mitigate some of those losses. In terms of my behavior itself, it’s been a lot of creating, a lot of thinking, a lot of playing video games, listening to music, trying to figure out how to cook things for myself.
Even if [the coronavirus pandemic] is a passing thing, just as an independent musician… this only goes a few months. A lot of our careers aren’t built to withstand that sort of pause. It might be disruptive to the point that some people are having to not do this anymore. Because you gotta figure out how to make money other ways. It’s not guaranteed that people will be able to pick right back up where they left off. I had an entire tour get postponed, and I don’t even really know what postponed means. Everybody in the world is trying to postpone and reschedule their tour at the same time, and there’s only so many venues. There’s a lot of questions lingering on what this is going to look like in a few months.
Fuck the coronavirus. And fuck Trump.
It’s an unfortunate reality that we’re dealing with. A few rich dummies that have been in control and are that negligent taking care of the American people and the world. I think this is a wake-up call for a few different things. I guess we won’t be eating bats in the near future. Lesson learned when it comes to eating bats.
Right about now, I’m in the house, just trying to stay in as much as I possibly can. I’ve been playing a lot of Call of Duty: Warzone on Xbox. I’ve been going to the studio though, I’ve been recording. I don’t be around a lot of people anyway. I don’t let nobody touch me or nothing.
It’s gonna mess up tours for me. It’s gonna mess up appearances, everything, because everything is shut down right now. All the venues are shut down, I don’t know how long that’s gonna be. That’s fucking up a lot of money, man.
Last week, I gave up and was enjoying the quarantine. Playing Doom, watching some old horror movies. I went to the sauna. This week, I’m back in work mode, doing research, writing scripts. I have felt a bit uneasy and a bit anxious about when this all will finally settle. I’m more comfortable when I sleep, so I do that a lot. What’s good about it is that I’ve been training to be antisocial all my life, so not seeing any people is not really a problem for me.
My first USA tour got postponed like five days before it was supposed to start, My SXSW festival slot got cancelled. I should be in LA playing tonight. It got me quite devastated, but it’s way better if we deal with this now, take maximum precautions, and maybe have a chance for a normal summer.
I’ve been working on my second album. I can’t do things like go to the studio and work with my usual people, so I’m just doing a lot of the cultivation and inspiration part of the process. I’m trying to get better at instruments. I have a piano in my house, and I’ve been practicing every day. I’ve been dancing, writing, just trying to get into this really nice creative flow. It’s been nice living simply, because I’m not really buying much except for groceries, and I’ve been cooking all at home. It’s kind of beautiful, getting in touch with this very simple life of eating in and eating healthy and taking care of my body and taking care of my creative spirit.
I’ve just been trying to keep everything in-house. Literally. Me and my manager sat down and brainstormed different pieces of content we could do while we can’t really go anywhere. So we came up with this RONARAPS thing where I’m just telling the homies, pick a beat, I can rap over anything, and most of my friends can, too. So I tell them to pick a beat, and we each do a 16 over it. I’m gonna do it every week until I run out of friends, or the coronavirus is not a thing anymore. Which might be longer than I thought.
Every Friday, I’m dropping new music. A lot of these records that I’m about to drop are about my story from back home. I talk about my grandma abusing drugs, I talk about gentrification and what it’s like getting kicked out of Oakland.
It is currently bleak, but I’m always optimistic. I’m just trying to keep my head up and stay busy. People still want to see us rap, they still want to hear us rap, and I still want to rap.
I’ve been cooped up at home, but I’ve been able to keep myself occupied by working on new music. Definitely getting cabin fever and bored at home, but I’m trying to keep it light by FaceTiming with homies with a drink in hand. Several of my events have been put on hold because of the virus, but I’m optimistic. I know it’s hard now, but things will get better.
[I’ve been] catching up on rest, editing photos and videos, cooking, playing The Sims 4 — my Sim just graduated from college — and binge-watching Nip/Tuck. I lost my sanity for like three days from not talking to anyone but reeled it in because life just keeps going. I’m also going to start documenting myself this week.
I’m still releasing the music and content like I planned to. My only real concern is not being able to connect with people in person for a while. I like doing live shows and attending them, so as an artist and a fan, it really sucks.
I still go out to the studio, ain’t too much changed for the most part. I be around my circle of people, not too much outside of that, and if one of these niggas cough around me then it’s up. I think we’ll be alright though. I’m not stressed, I’m smoking weed.
Stats say that half a million people died from corona. Got damn, this shit is serious. I wanna make music that can help people get through whatever struggle they gotta face, something that’ll be significant at least for that time in moment. You know like back when niggas was goin’ to Vietnam and then Marvin Gaye dropped What’s Going On? Some shit like that.
Last weekend (March 14/15), I knocked out a show in Minnesota. It was the last show that I had. I’ve just really been stocking up these last couple of days. I got my daughter with me, she cuter than a thang. I got my lady. We’ve just been kicking it.
I know there’s gonna be more shows, I got high hopes for everything. I’ve got good, positive feelings about the whole situation. I’m going hard. I already know, I feel like everything’s just getting started with me. I’m steady going viral. My momentum is still here.
I have been trying to stick to my regular routine as much as possible. Working on new music and going on lots of hikes. Eating lots of junk food and watching movies. Reading for what feels like the first time ever!
I’ve been staying very informed on what’s going, being very healthy and distancing myself. I’ve been listening to a lot of Charlie Parker and J Dilla.
The coronavirus has affected my career just for the simple fact that a lot of touring has been affected, and the live entertainer has been affected. I don’t think it will change my priorities. For me it’s always been God and family first, as long as we are all healthy and alive, everything else is secondary.
I’m pretty much a homebody anyway. I’ve been getting a lot of time in the studio. [My studio] in Chicago is still operating, mostly because it’s just one-on-one situations. These motherfuckers have been spraying down everything every hour.
I’ve been logging hours in the studio, working on the album, and then other than that, a lot of Call of Duty, honestly. It just freed me up to be with my fiancée. I’m on the road like six months out the year, so this gives us a lot of quality time. That’s cool for me, not just because we are in a relationship, but because we are about to get married in August.
I’m definitely missing out on bread, for sure, as an artist. But in the interim, we don’t know how long it’s going to last, we got some nice little savings, so we’re just trying to take advantage of the fact that we have time to be in front of each other’s faces, we have time to play games and watch movies, because we usually don’t. There are people that’s much worse off than us.