March 28 2012 02:07 PM

Booking and promoting live shows, rap group rejects the pay-to-play model

From left: Tavares Perkins, ken Pride, Chris Tyler and Terence Perkins
Photo by Mimi Chakravorty

Forty minutes before the doors open at Porter’s Pub on a recent Saturday night, Ken Pride is stressed. His rap group, Black Resume, has just finished sound-checking, and now he’s dealing with a variety of crises. His manager, sick with stomach flu, switches between coordinating staff and vomiting in the restroom. Only one member of the security team has shown up.

Their regular host is missing. But for Pride, these are but small hurdles towards greater success. Lately, Black Resume has turned Porter’s Pub, a venue on the UCSD campus, into one of the best spots for live hip-hop. In the process, the rap group / promotion enterprise has created a platform for top local talent.

“We’re not looking for anybody to co-sign us,” Pride says. “We’re trying to make a name for ourselves. We’ll be the people that are co-signing other people.”

A year after they formed, Black Resume released their 2010 debut album, Bar-Barian Music, garnering two San Diego Music Award nominations. Their sophomore album, Friends in High Places, will drop in April. They put on shows at Porter’s Pub through their own concert-production company, Black Resume Productions.

“If I see niggas working, I put them on a show to open, give them that exposure,” Pride says. “I can help out the scene and put ourselves out there, as well.”

Helping out the scene means not engaging in pay-to-play, a much-maligned model under which promoters book national headliners and force openers to purchase a certain number of tickets for re-sale just to get on the bill. If the artists can sell all their tickets, they’ll make their money back— plus a performance fee on top. But most do not recoup their losses, so they effectively pay for an opening slot.

“It has become the standard for the entire industry,” says Mr. Ridley of local duo Anti-Citizens, though there is some debate as to the model’s ubiquity.

The guys in Black Resume—Pride, 25; Chris Tyler, 23; and brothers Tavares, 25, and Terence Perkins, 23—have long had a knack for business. Longtime friends from Mount Carmel and Rancho Bernardo high schools, they remember selling everything from sweaters to sodas to weed pipes out of the trunk of Pride’s Buick Regal. Their name reflects their independent, hustling mentality.

“Black resume is your side hustle,” Pride says. “It’s about the things that you do to better yourself off that’s not revolved around a 9-to-5.”

Musically, they walk a fine line between being club-ready and street-approved with fun songs about weed, women and wack rappers. Bar-Barian Music is full of clever punch-lines, catchy hooks, warped bass and bouncy synths. Early peeks at Friends in High Places reveal a similar formula, but their rapping has improved.

They’ve had much experience in the pay-to-play game, but the final straw came when they performed at 4th & B in summer 2010. The pay-to-play show featured headlining rapper Lloyd Banks of G-Unit fame and a showcase in which several local acts performed one song before industry judges, but the turnout was paltry, at one point consisting mostly of other performers.

“I started doing numbers in my head. I was, like, If these [promoters] can do it, we can do it… better,” Pride recalls. “I never really knew it would get to this level.”

Black Resume Productions held its first show just a few months later at 4th & B with Houston weed-rap goofball Devin the Dude. Though that show was a financial success, they soon realized that they gained more fans playing at all-ages venues like Epicentre in Mira Mesa. Eventually, they discovered Porter’s Pub, a 675-capacity venue that’s all-ages but sells alcohol, offering the best of both worlds.

Black Resume started catering to a younger, in-the-know crowd. Promoting heavily online, on college campuses and in marijuana dispensaries, they’ve booked buzz-worthy acts like rising L.A. rapper Kendrick Lamar and more established ones like Oakland duo Zion I. They round out their bills with talented local rappers like Cali Cam and TrackWide. According to the group, they sell out shows nine times out of 10.

Black Resume “are not concert promoters,” says Mike Kosak, the group’s manager. “They are artists with a fantastic music sense, and that’s why our shows work out.”

Back at Porter’s Pub, the mood seems to have calmed when the doors finally open. The show is 30 minutes behind schedule, but the production team has prepared for delays. Pre-sales account for about 400 tickets, and the show’s expected to be near capacity. Pride walks about, coordinating details with the night’s openers.

The title Friends in High Places is a play on words that emphasizes their affinity for weed. But it also hints at the unity they’ve cultivated.

“It’s enough out here for everybody to eat,” Pride says.

“It takes other people to bring other people up. We need to come together and create a scene.”

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