Ackquille Pollard, also known as “Hot Boy” Bobby Shmurda, sat in jail for two months on gang conspiracy and gun charges with no backing from his label, Epic Records. The 20-year-old rapper from Brooklyn looked to Epic for help with a $2 million bail set against him.
Shmurda told the New York Times, “when I got locked up, I thought they were going to come for me. But they never came.”
Just 6 months ago, the label signed the artist after he auditioned his signature street lyrics for them. Cellphone video of the half-Jamaican, half-Dominican rapper performing in front of record label execs and a room full of smiling, approving white faces was shared widely throughout social media. He unfortunately had to learn the hard lesson that he was only another dollar sign to people he thought actually supported him.
Hip-hop and rap are most widely known for their street content. Many labels sign rap artists who are from the inner city. Some are even were affiliated with gang violence and drug trafficking. Labels bring on these artists with hopes that they abandon the life of a criminal, while remaining true to where they come from.
When rappers pride themselves in their hometowns and previous lives, it attracts listeners, which of course brings in dollars for the label. Labels love the stereotypical gangster turned music artist, just as long as the life that came with it is forsaken. “We want you to come make music about you and life in the hood. Be yourself, make us money. But as soon as this lifestyle become your actual life, we can’t support you,” is what they are basically saying.
They can’t support a lifestyle once it stops making them money. It’s a sad story we hear all too frequently. Inner city youths get recognized and promised a superstar life to “rep” where they come from.
Labels want the street appearance of their artists because they know it is what attracts fans. They’re okay with tracks like “Hot Boy” hitting the charts with more than 800,000 downloads. They’re okay with Shmurda taking his lines like “Put a bullet in ya head tonight, we leave you dead tonight” and performing it on “The Tonight Show.” But now that young Ackquille is looking for their help after facing the consequences behind a lifestyle choice that was once supported by his label, the room full of approving faces is lately looking to be very empty for Hot Boy.