Spotify's RapCaviar playlist has become the go-to destination for many hip-hop heads eager to discover new music, and the streaming giant's RapCaviar Live performance series — expanded this year thanks to a Live Nation partnership — capitalizes on its following by bringing top-tier artists to cities across the nation.
Ahead of tonight's RapCaviar Live show at the Fillmore Miami Beach, Spotify hosted an October 23 panel event at the venue that gave audience members — many of whom were up-and-coming artists themselves — an intimate look into all corners of the music industry and the many things that go unnoticed behind the scenes.
The panel was moderated by Shavone Charles, former head of global music and youth culture communications for Instagram and an up-and-coming artist herself. Accomplished songwriter Angela Hunte, DJ and music curator Domo, and RapCaviar performer Melii rounded out the panel, and each offered her experiences in the industry as testimony.
Asked about how she got her start, Hunte reminisced about her youth in Brooklyn and the initial decision to take the road less traveled. "Music was a calling that I had no association with and no idea of how to get involved, because no one in my family was involved in any way," she said. Rather than pursue a career in medicine, she found herself seduced by the likes of Bed-Stuy legends Biggie and Lil' Kim and found inspiration in their raw drive.
For Melii, solidarity among women artists has been a priority "from jump." She noted the tendency of fans and media to pit women artists (and especially women of color) against one another for entertainment rather than finding entertainment in their music. "We just know we're all different and all unique and that each of our music and careers will connect with different people," Melii said. "I feel like, as women, setting that example for other people, it tells them: 'Oh, they're just vibing out — nothing else.'"
She continued that train of thought when reflecting on what makes Melii Melii. When her career began to generate income, she said, she thought she had to spend it on "ice" and other flashy displays of wealth because that's what hip-hop artists do. The theft of some of her diamond jewelry was a wake-up call: She needed to be herself above all. "I'm not jewelry," she said. "Flashing shit around might help my career, but that's not me. I don't want to put out the wrong image to people who follow me and my journey, so I'm going to set an example for other females in the industry."
One of the night's most inspirational gems came from Domo, who struggled with long bouts of impostor syndrome before she realized she had to inhabit her own identity as an artist. That moment came after sharing an Essence Fest bill with artists she admired. "I asked myself: How am I sharing the stage with these giants? And I had to realize that I can be giant," she said, to snaps and claps.
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A spirited discussion about music-consumption trends and young people's tendency toward streaming as opposed to radio or pure sales was followed by a quick Q&A, which made for the perfect segue: Nearly all of the questioners were young artists seeking guidance.
"Social media and other channels of getting your name and music out there is so important," Melii told one aspiring singer-songwriter, while Hunte emphasized the enduring value of pride and self-worth by advising a Broward-based rapper to "approach it as a craft that you're going to be doing for decades."
The current decade began with a drought of women in hip-hop, leaving many observers wondering when the next crop of femcees would arrive. This year's all-female RapCaviar Live lineup makes it clear the moment is upon us.