Gangsta Rap in Decline?

Carlsbad resident Carlos "Numbiz" Rodriguez performs as a solo artist and with Latin rapper Blaze in a group called LPLD. More lucrative are the hip-hop lyrics and beats Rodriguez composes and sells to producers for between $1000 and $15,000. The only negative aspect to this gig is that he has to relinquish publishing rights; Rodriguez is not listed as a songwriter and earns no royalties.

"If you are a Latin artist, people are afraid to invest in you," says Rodriguez. "Fat Joe [from Puerto Rico] and [Cuban] Pit Bull are the only two artists who have videos on BET [Black Entertainment Television]. Chingo Bling from Texas is the only Latin artist of Mexican descent who is breaking right now." He notes that San Diego's Lil' Rob has earned some national attention.

"If I was African [American] or even Anglo," says Numbiz, "people would look at me as if I was worth a lot more. People think that because I'm not aggressive, I'm not worth the same amount as someone doing the exact same job....

"A couple of labels are interested [in signing me as a solo artist], but I almost feel disrespected because there are other people who get double the amount."

Numbiz says even though major labels still sign "gangsta" rappers, that type of hip-hop doesn't always yield a return on the labels' investment.

"I talked to one record [exec] and he dropped $1.2 million on this one artist. There is no way they will be able to recoup that. If they gave me a small budget of $50,000 or $100,000, I could double it.... The reality is that people don't want to hear that anymore; people like Fergie are selling more hip-hop records than hip-hop artists."

Numbiz, a business major, starts his last year at Cal State San Marcos this fall. He plays in L.A. next weekend at Club Tokyo (July 12) and the Standard (July 13); on August 17, he'll be at Club Mystere in Tijuana.

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