Howie McDuffie, a music industry insider, is the next familiar passerby who greets Marvo and Creature. McDuffie owns a record label, Howie McDuffie Music Group, and has done artist development for the likes of Mos Def, WU-Tang and Big Pun. He admires the gumption Marvo and Creature show as independent artists.
“These guys are the truth. These guys are moving more units than probably a commercial artist like Chamillionaire,” McDuffie says. “Chamillionaire is platinum but if him, Jay-Z and Jada Kiss went on the corner and did this shit, I think fans would look at them a little different.”
McDuffie puts what artistpreneurs do in prospective by explaining that what he does for other artists for a living is something Creature, H the Great and Marvo do for themselves. He is in the process of setting up a tour with commercial artists and organizing ways for his artists to promote their merchandise that record labels agree with.
“Universal and all those guys think that what these guys do is a waste of time. I look at it like, you touching the consumer. They get to see that you go out of your way. These guys make a lot of money out here doing what they do.”
Creature and Marvo are mum about how much they actually make, but they offer assurance that while they won’t be Hustling CDs on the streets forever, the time currently spent is well worth it.
H The Great also stays tight-lipped on revenue specifics, but with no mouths to feed but his own, he says he manages to pay all of his expenses, including his New York City rent.
“There are a lot of people who admire what we do,” Marvo says. “They secretly say, ‘Wow these guys got guts. They’e going out on a limb and thinking outside the box.’ And those are the people who really appreciate us because they like living vicariously though us. They’re artists or they wanted to do something with their lives, but they never really took the chance. They took the safe way instead. But if you don’t take a chance on your self who gonna take a chance on you? When you believe in yourself and you take a chance on yourself, you will repay yourself, and that’s just the bottom line.”
He spies a prospective buyer.
“Councilor, check out my record,” he says, handing his CD to a well dressed, middle-aged white man.
The man continues walking.
“Come on, you can write it off on your taxes,” Marvo teases.
So far, Creature and Marvo’s progress goes beyond who’s buying their music and extends to the people they have met who can take them to the next professional level. McDuffie is interested in working with the lyricists on unspecified terms, as a result of their respective hustles, and says the results will be lucrative.
H the Great, Marvo and Creature are talented emcees with courage, strength and the audacity to dream. They’re young artistpreneurs trying to make an honest living, get exposure and promote their music in a way that record labels may not appreciate or understand while building their reputations, making money and power moves in the process.
This is the personification of Wu-Tang’s popular philosophy: Connect. Politick. Ditto.