DatPiff’s Kyle “KP” Reilly on breaking into the rap game
Follow me so I can DM you. Without fail, Kyle “KP” Reilly, one of the founders of DatPiff.com, hip-hop’s leading online authority in mixtapes, receives three of those messages on Twitter daily. Minimum. And it’s his biggest pet peeve. “It never works,” he says, laughing. “I’ve never once followed an artist and said I definitely want to hear what this person is about. I know that it’s going to be all about what I can do for them.” So if you want to get his attention that may not be your best bet. However, with nearly a 10-year tenure in this hip-hop music landscape under his belt, KP is someone aspiring rappers may want in their Rolodex. He, and the DatPiff brand, has been instrumental in getting the careers of some of rap’s most promising talents —Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller and Meek Mill — off the ground. In the second part of this interview, Reilly dishes on exactly how artists on the come up can cut through the clutter and get the attention of industry elite.
IF SOMEBODY WANTED TO CONNECT WITH YOU AT A CONFERENCE, FOR EXAMPLE, HOW WOULD THEY GET YOUR ATTENTION? It’s really about presentation, a lot of people come up to me and they could have a great look, but then they’ll hand me a demo that’s handwritten on a CDR. What makes me want to go home and put this in? As opposed to I’ve had some kids that actually have a press kit that they hand me. Not only does it have a professional copy of whatever it is they are trying to market, they also gave me a keychain, different business cards with their social media connects. That stands out, that makes me say I’m going to listen to this guy, just because he put so much time and effort into his presentation and cared so much about the short time he’s able to make an impression on someone. I owe him 15, 20, 30, 60 seconds of my time to see if I like it.
You really gotta be realistic with yourself. The worst thing I see is people that, not only do they over believe in themselves, and over believe that their music is better than what’s on the radio, or better than what’s trending on DatPiff, but they don’t have a realistic mindset, of where they are and what they are.
ARTISTS ARE A DIME A DOZEN. WHAT WOULD SOME OF YOUR ADVICE BE TO NEW RAPPERS WHO WANT TO GAIN A FOLLOWING WITH THE MIXTAPES THEY RELEASE? You really gotta be realistic with yourself. The worst thing I see is people that, not only do they over believe in themselves, and over believe that their music is better than what’s on the radio, or better than what’s trending on DatPiff, but they don’t have a realistic mindset, of where they are and what they are… I think too many artists are doing things independently, which is great, but then doing things independently you have a team assembled of your peers and most of your peers aren’t going to keep it real with you, they aren’t going to do what’s best for you. If they’re artists themselves, if they’re producers themselves, or if they’re just your friends, not trying to hurt your feelings, they’re not going to be honest with you. My advice is to be really honest with yourself. Go to strangers and get their opinion. It’s really all about getting a realistic idea of how good you are or aren’t before you invest all this time into trying to promote yourself.
GUYS LIKE WIZ KHALIFA, THEY CREDIT DATPIFF WITH GETTING THEM OFF THE GROUND, WHAT DO YOU THINK MADE HIS MUSIC AND APPROACH STAND OUT AMONGST THE CLUTTER? Well, that’s a good question. Wiz had a unique sound as it was to begin with and Wiz had good music that was just kind of remotely secured to a small area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He had a big following there obviously. It wasn’t a matter of is the music there, is the image there, is the team there, he had all that, I think it was a matter of him having all of these ingredients at that time, but missing one, and the one thing he was missing at that time was a platform that could give him worldwide exposure… We were able to do that, provide a final boost to reach these people that may become potential fans and learn to love [his] music. It was a matter of getting [him] in front of that proper audience. And when I say proper audience, Wiz Khalifa could have gotten exposure from let’s just say MySpace, which was popular back then, but who’s to say the MySpace audience would have gravitated towards Wiz, whereas the DatPiff fanbase was an underground, urban, hip-hop, weed smoking crowd that fit in quickly with what he was doing.
It’s really all about learning and being realistic with your expectations and what you want to happen. Figure out how that could happen instead of just wanting it to happen.
WHAT SHOULD AN ASPIRING ARTIST THINK ABOUT WHEN PUTTING TOGETHER A BUSINESS PLAN FOR A MIXTAPE RELEASE? Being realistic. Not saying I’m going to send this to my one friend’s cousin’s sister who knows this guy at MTV. Send it to him six times and they’ll probably post it. I think understanding how things work is most important; because when you’re starting you think that that’s how things work. Oh, if somebody at MTV sees my video they could put it online if they think it’s really good. They don’t understand that there’s a submission process. Not only does the video have to be submitted in the right format, the lyrics have to be typed up, it has to be approved, and you have to pay to get that video submitted through most systems. They just don’t understand the process of things. They just think that things can happen or fall into their lap if all the cards are aligned. That’s my biggest thing. Make sure you know the business and the reality of the business. Not what you think of the business, or what your friend told you. Really learn, either from a book or by picking someone’s brain that’s been in the industry, as to how things really work. If your goal is I want to put this mixtape out and then I want to send it to a label to hear it, talk to somebody who works for a label, and say, okay out of all the artists who want their music heard by a label, how does it actually get to their hands for them to listen to it… It’s really all about learning and being realistic with your expectations and what you want to happen. Figure out how that could happen instead of just wanting it to happen.
HOW IMPORTANT WOULD YOU SAY IT IS FOR A YOUNG AND ASPIRING ARTIST TO ATTEND THINGS LIKE THE NXNE CONFERENCE YOU SPOKE AT RECENTLY? Anytime you can show your face and have the opportunity to make an impression on people who can make a difference in your career, that’s awesome… There’s this artist named Donny Goines who is this up and coming kid in New York and I used to see him at all these different conferences and when he reached out to me about a project I basically said, ‘yeah for sure.’ He really had no fans, his music wasn’t going to get a whole lot of attention, but I really respected his work ethic and that he would go to all these events and sit quietly and soak it all in. I definitely think it’s important to get out there and show face otherwise people like me, the only way you’ll get their attention or get in touch with them, is attempting to spam them.
Interview By. Priya Ramanujam
Part 1: Kyle “KP” Reilly on his DatPiff come up story
A couple weeks before he hit up Toronto’s North By Northeast interactive conference to discuss the evolution of mixtapes in front of a room full of eager, mostly young artists and music heads alike, Kyle “KP” Reilly, is between appointments, on the road and talking shop on the phone. Not one for titles, Reilly is the Vice-President and Head of Music for the uber successful free mixtape website, DatPiff.com, but really as he’d tell it, his hands on approach means he eats, sleeps and breathes mixtapes for a living. At the time of the interview, his music player has in heavy rotation everything from Lil Herb and Slaughterhouse’s latest tapes to what he deems a hidden DatPiff gem, a project from King Lil G. Almost 10 years in the game, KP says the empire he began building in 2005 off of a simple desire to be able to easily share mixtapes amongst friends is only just getting started.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GETTING DATPIFF OFF THE GROUND IN PHILADELPHIA? Well it’s funny because even though we operate out of here and aside from obviously a lot of artists that work out of here, we don’t really market ourselves as a Philadelphia-based company because the music market in Philadelphia has been so bad the last couple of years. I’ve been so much more active in New York and Los Angeles and other different parts of the country where music is taking place… Obviously one of our biggest markets for users is Philadelphia because I’m located here. Meek Mill is one of our biggest artists [and he’s from here]. Overall I don’t think it’s helped or hurt us being out of Philadelphia, I wish the Philadelphia music market was better and we were breaking a lot more artists from Philadelphia than we are.
TELL ME A LITTLE MORE ABOUT GETTING THE BRAND OFF THE GROUND IN ITS INCEPTION. Well the goal of DatPiff was never really to be what we are today. That sounds funny to say, but the intention from the beginning was never to be the number one place for mixtapes, we didn’t even know what mixtapes were going to become in 2005, 2006. We were just more so looking for a platform for ourselves to be able to share music with friends… Organically we just started to see traffic grow, 10 people, 50 people, 100 people, 500 people, a thousand people until we got to the point where we were like this is serious business, we’re having people come to us, finding us. At this point we had never promoted ourselves, we had never marketed ourselves or advertised. We never did any of that. The growth was 100 per cent organic.
It’s definitely a 24 hour job, I mean I’ll be up all hours of the night sometimes working on releases and that hasn’t changed since 2007, 2008. It’s not like I’ve hired people to do the tedious work.
THAT WAS DATPIFF IN THE BEGINNING. WHAT IS IT LIKE INSIDE THE DATPIFF HEADQUARTERS NOW? It’s almost the same; we’ve managed to keep a small team because we believe in staying true to what we do and who we are. I say that to say that doing things like expanding past mixtapes has never been what we’ve wanted to do. You’ll notice that what we’ve been able to do; we’ve been really focused on mixtapes… There’s really only three people working on DatPiff daily which blows a lot of people away because of the traffic and the amount of inquiries we have on a daily basis. It’s definitely a 24 hour job, I mean I’ll be up all hours of the night sometimes working on releases and that hasn’t changed since 2007, 2008. It’s not like I’ve hired people to do the tedious work.
DATPIFF BEING A FORERUNNER IN WHAT IT DOES, HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOU WHEN COPY CAT SITES POP UP? I mean the first couple of years it affected me in a way that it motivated me. It motivated me not to be content with what we had and always continue to make things better and do things bigger and better. There was a period of time where we were just ruling stuff and doing what we do and it kind of makes you feel like you don’t need to improve, you don’t need to do certain things. You’re okay with being content… At first it did really bother me that people were piggy backing off of what we do and making money and getting respect the same way, but that’s true with anything that’s successful so it’s also flattering, anything that’s copied that’s successful, that goes with any company, any product so when we started seeing all these copy cats popping up daily, that’s when we kind of knew that we were doing something right that all these other people wanted to copy off of and do as well. Definitely, it’s kept me on edge, it’s kept me into this, it’s kept me redefining and inventing new features for how we do these mixtape roll outs and how we do these presentations.
Going on 10 years strong without losing any brand recognition, any credibility, any respect, that’s something that I’m very proud of because there’s so many different ways we could have messed up.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LESSONS YOU’D SAY YOU’VE LEARNED ALONG YOUR DATPIFF JOURNEY? I’ve learned that artists are some of the most unorganized, last minute people on the planet. I can honestly say my perception of the music industry has greatly changed and I’m sure that anybody who has been in it for a while will tell you the same thing. The more you grow, the smaller the industry gets. In addition to that, all the glitz and glamour of things you see and the glamour you thought of being in entertainment, and being successful in entertainment they start to show their true colours when you’re in it. You start to see that not every artist that you see on MTV has money, not every artist that you’ve heard of before drives a Bentley or a BMW or even a nice car or a nice house… The positive things I’ve learned is the sky is the limit in a business like this. People are all entrepreneurs for the most part and we’re able to grow as much as we allow ourselves to grow. We can accomplish the things we want to accomplish, it’s a matter of how hard you’re willing to work and basically you’re willingness to sacrifice, that’s what it comes down to.
AS YOU NEAR THE 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF DATPIFF WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF THAT THE BRAND HAS ACHIEVED? I’m proud that 10 years later we have yet to peak, that’s something I’m most proud of. I can honestly say we’re bigger now than we were last year, than we were the year before, that’s what makes me most proud, knowing that is a great feeling because everyone fears the fall. Sometimes that’s inevitable, but going on 10 years strong without losing any brand recognition, any credibility, any respect, that’s something that I’m very proud of because there’s so many different ways we could have messed up, there’s so many different things that could have gone wrong, there’s so many people that could have taken over our market and put us out of business, but we are still being talked about as the dominant force, as the standard, as the online authority in mixtapes.
Interview By. Priya Ramanujam