It’s the final day of a week the rapper spent in the studio at Tyme Records, putting together tracks for his “While You Were Sleeping” mix-tape — three songs of which were released on Friday. The rest should drop sometime next month.
Wash is one of a roster of young artists signed to the local record label, including fellow rappers LIZ and the Kid Ryan, the pop-rock band The Crossing and an 18-year old pop singer named Omar Alhindi.
“Our focus is on developing and marketing artists,” says Omid Noori, the label’s 22-year old A&R executive. “I believe in the old Motown days. If the music is good enough, people will talk about it.”
Musically, Wash is all over the map. His rap comes with hints of punk, funk and R&B. “#LMTS” is an upbeat rap track with verses that Wash crams with rapid-fire syllables. On “Shot Me Down,” a track from his upcoming full-length album, he sings over sparse production and acoustic guitars. The song has an indie-rock vibe and draws easy comparisons to Aloe Blacc.
The rapper has been writing and performing for seven years. He spent time playing music in Los Angeles and Las Vegas before moving back to Fresno and signing with Tyme.
“It was time to take another step, to get some ammunition in the weapon,” he says.
I WASN’T CAPABLE OF DOING EVERYTHING AS AN ARTIST.
B. Wash, on joining the roster at Tyme Records
Recording technology and social media allow musicians to be fairly self-sufficient, says Dayana Jiselle, entertainment correspondent and on-air personality at B95. But that’s not the same as have a knowledgeable team behind you, she says.
“Being a one-man team can eventually become overwhelming.”
Before Tyme, Wash was in change of everything from booking shows and creating merchandise. The label takes some of the stress out of being a working musician, he says. Now, instead of focusing on 70 different things, it more like seven.
That allows more time for the music.
Now, he can do things like spend a week working on a mix-tape that he decided to record on a whim because had bunch of ideas floating around in his head.
“We’re still hustling,” he says. He recently returned from a tour of 34 radio markets between California to South Carolina.
The difference is, now he has support and can pay the bills.
He believes he would have gotten to this point, eventually. Tyme Records got him there faster, he says.
Which is, at its core, what record labels do, Jiselle says.
“They know and understand the industry.”
Learning the industry has been a process, says the label’s president Mazen Alhindi, who started Tyme Records two years ago to help the local talent he saw bubbling up in Fresno. He’d run several businesses and understood marketing, but music industry was something new.
“It doesn’t happen just because of the music,” Alhindi says.
He spent two years meeting with label and radio executives, working his connections and soaking up knowledge. He also sunk $200,000 into the label’s recording studio.
The efforts are paying off. The label is seeing some success with its artists — though mostly outside of its hometown.
The LIZ single “Love My Chick” (featuring Raven Justice) debuted at No. 46 on the American urban charts, according to Mediabase, which monitors 1,700 radio stations in the top 150 metro markets. Wash’s single “Killa” is in rotation in 30 markets. Omar has developed a strong fan base in Oklahoma.
All the Tyme artists had spots at this year’s SXSW festival.
“It’s impressive that they’ve been able to take their priority artists across the U.S. and to the airwaves in a big way,” says Kevin Wright, an A&R researcher with Warner Bros. Records, who’s familiar with both B. Wash and LIZ.
Records labels (big and small) have had to rethink their strategies,Wright says. But they are still the hub through which the music industry is routed.
“Labels offer validation, creative force and most importantly, money,” he says.
And there is space in the industry for these kinds of smaller, independent labels, Wright says. Take Atlanta’s Quality Control Music, for example. The indie label established itself by building up a roster of local rap talents, including the trio Migos. That group has now collaborated with no less than Justin Bieber and has had three songs on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Major labels could never build something organic like that because they are inherently commercial,” Wrights says. “You either build something in your hometown until everyone is on the same page and other towns take notice — or you have to just be a superstar talent like a Sam Smith.”
B. Wash — The eclectic.
- Raps like Busta Rhymes, sings like Aloe Blacc. Follow: www.facebook.com/BdotWash or @Bdotwash on Instagram and Twitter
LIZ — The catalyst.
- Known for his Central California style and his 2012 single “Bounce.” Follow:www.facebook.com/wewantliz or @wewantliz Instagram and Twitter
Omar Alhindi — The pop savant.
- The 18-year old Bullard High graduate writes and produces his own music. Follow:www.facebook.com/omaralhindimusic, @omaralhindimusic on Instagram and @omar_alhindi on Twitter
The Crossing — The rockers.
- The band’s True North” EP is out now. Follow: www.facebook.com/TheCrossingBand or @thecrossingband on Twitter and Instagram
The Kid Ryan — The multi-instrumentalist.