For the last year, Loud.com has been a battleground. Artists there have been given the opportunity to use beats by Cool & Dre, David Banner, Reefa and others to make songs and compete against each other for a $100,000 cash prize and a recording contract with SRC Records. After plenty of competition and much deliberation, this Saturday marks the contest's semi-finals round.
Most Official, The Franchise King MC, Tha Crow and Kill-A-Kat are the four finalists, representing a variety of regions, with very diverse styles. Although the six-figure prize winner is to be determined, all four acts are guaranteed rewards, and they each have two of the most sought after executive minds in Hip Hop working for their benefit.
Steve Rifkind is not only the man many credit for pioneering "street team" promotion, he helped spawn the careers of Wu-Tang Clan, dead prez and Big Pun, as well as help re-establish acts like David Banner, Pete Rock and M.O.P. Now the founder of SRC Records, Rifkind has juggled his heavy role in the careers of Banner, Akon and others to invest his time and energies into this competition held on his website.
"My day-to-day for Loud.com is building the brand, and making sure these artists - the final four are getting their own brand," Steve Rifkind told HipHopDX this week. "I'm trying to work with the programmers at the radio stations. We have [a contestant] in Chicago, another in Minneapolis, we have somebody in Boston, and somebody in L.A. That's really what I'm doing, functionally, day-to-day," said the founder of both Loud Records and SRC Records. At the time of speaking, the famed Hip Hop industry executive was commuting between New York and Los Angeles for the competition.
Also speaking to HipHopDX, was James Cruz, President of SRC. With a reputation as one of Hip Hop's top marketing men, Cruz joined SRC in the past year after lengthy tenures with Mercury Records, Bad Boy Records, and most recently at Violator Entertainment.
"Watching these guys, and understanding that they have a genuine, sincere commitment to their artistry, and to their movements, it's going to be our jobs to brand them at some shape and point," said Cruz, who still manages the careers of Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot. "What we have on Loud.com is basically a viral American Idol contest. What we're doing is taking it away from television and really putting it right on the web so that it can be shared by many different people." Since the addition of video webisodes to the competition, Cruz believes that the marketing strategy for both the brand and these artists outdoes traditional methods. "If you look at MTV, the #1 video last week played 11 times," said the SRC President, comparing it to Internet-accessible content, such as Loud.com.
Although contestants have been pursuing a $100,000 cash prize for the top winner, the remaining four contestants will all benefit from Loud.com's branding and an SRC Records single deal. Rifkind also puts the competition akin to Fox's top-running show. "If you take American Idol, there's always one winner, but the second and third-place contestants also put out records." Indeed, Justin Guarini, Clay Aiken and even Koch Records signing William Hung represent the success of runners-up in the most famous musical competition of late. "We'll be able to break some records outside of the winner," hopes Rifkind.
With the weekly challenges, traffic and site interest has increased immensely. "The street is voting, and the streets don't lie," says Rifkind of growing popularity in the user voting of Loud.com. The finalists have endured scrutiny for online criticism as well as a series of industry judges.
"These guys grind. I'm really impressed; they make it look easy. This next episode that comes out on Saturday, let's see what they can really do. 'Cause I gave them a task that really is a task. If they pull it off, it's game over." As with all weekly challenges, this week's episode premiers at 8pm EST on Loud.com.
The winner will be announced June 9th. Stay tuned to HipHopDX for more updates.