With the support of a strong local scene, many underground Bay Area artists have always charged fans for their albums, even as the allure of free music on the internet undermined sales. Now, as the internet's free-for-all music gravy train is becoming more contained, artists everywhere are trying to balance buzz-building freebies and profits, offering up free mixtapes but trying to support their careers with help from occasional album sales. This model presents challenges to some—it's hard to become a bankable name and charge for your album without a critical mass of social media and blog coverage. DB Tha General is one example: his recent I Shine, We All Shine tape is being sold through Amazon and iTunes, but hasn't gotten much attention from hip-hop blogs as a result. This is unfortunate, because on a cursory listen, I Shine... appears to be one of the rapper's stronger efforts, from the "Theme from Shaft"-interpolating "Think Big" to O'Jay's-referencing "Backstabberz." "Ghetto Star," which his camp offered up as a free download, is an uptempo remake of Bad Azz's track of the same name.
March 28, 2012