Tracey Lee Interview w/IAmCocoa
In Hip Hop when you haven’t heard from a artist in a while… people tend to assume the artist must be doing bad for themselves… That is not always the case, especially with Rapper Tracey Lee. Not only is Tracey still recording & releasing a new mixtape that’s perfectly titled “Free Consultation” with production from 9TH Wonder, Deric “D.DOT” Angelettie & Young Guru to name a few, He is a Board Certified Lawyer with a DEGREE in Entertainment Law and doing better for himself than some of your favorite rappers.
Tracey first became known while signed to Universal Records when his single “The Theme (It’s Party Time)” became a commercial success in 1997. He’s also one of the few fortunate artist to ever record with Brooklyn’s Finest Notorious BIG (Biggie Smalls) on his single “Keep Your Hands High“. What most people didn’t know about Tracey is that he took time out from his busy music career to pursue a Law Degree. This is very impressive to me, a rapper with a Law degree is unheard of. I had to catch up with Tracey to ask him about working with Biggie, persuing law degree, his current mixtape and to get some entertainment legal advice for those artist seeking knowledge.
You are one of the few fortunate artists who had a chance to collaborate with Biggie… What was that experience like?
UNBELIEVABLE!!! During our session, BIG taught me more about the game then I had known, at that particular time. He was the first artist that I witnessed write without a pen and paper, which inspired me to eventually write lyrics in my head (without pen, paper, Blackberry, Android, iPad, etc…lol). He was just a cool dude. His skill set on the mic is unmatched to this day. He forced me to step my game up on that record. To watch his whole process of creating the verses for Keep Ya Hands High was crazy! I am truly blessed to have had an opportunity to work with one of the greatest in the history of music! Not many can say, nor will they even have the opportunity to say that. Again I am blessed.
What made you want to get into entertainment law?
Long story (laughs). The short version is my career in the music business made me want to study entertainment law. I want to be the eyes and ears for artists that are coming into the game and don’t have a clue about the music business and recording contracts, deal points, 360 deals, publishing, etc.. This is something that I didn’t have when I signed my deal, so who better to guide someone on these aspects of the business than me – someone who not only has experience as an entertainment lawyer, but who also is an established recording artist, as well.
How long have you been practicing law?
Almost 5 years.
Before you studied law and became a lawyer, did you ever sign a contract or anything that you wish you hadn’t?
(laughs) of course! In hindsight, I would have never signed the contract with Universal under the terms and conditions presented to me. However, at that time, my main objective was to have my music heard worldwide, so I don’t blame anyone for the decisions that I made for myself. Besides, I probably would not have gone to law school if I had not signed my deal with Bystorm/Universal.
How do you balance having a music career and being a lawyer?
I am very selective about the clients I take on, and I am very selective about the music I create and put out into the market. When I take on a client, 100% of my effort goes toward that client, because ethically I must serve and perform in the client’s best interest. Therefore, everything for Tracey Lee, musically, gets pushed to the side for that period of time. As an independent artist (signed under Tray Lee, Inc) I’m not under any time constraints to put out a record. This takes away the urgency factor, which helps me to keep that balance.
Nowadays, new artists are being pressured to sign 360 deals that give the record company a percentage of their income outside of just record sales. Is that a good move for the artist?
HELL NO! Realistically, it’s really up to the individual and their particular goals and aspirations. If an artist’s goal is to get the music heard, be seen by a multitude of people on a national and international level, and to receive greater financial backing, then they may have to give a little to get a little. So, if that means giving up show money, publishing rights and merchandising, then that’s what they’ll have to sacrifice. However, they should understand that there is no guarantee that they will become a national and international success by signing this kind of agreement. Also, to keep it all the way 100, the internet has evened the playing field, where you don’t need the “major label” budget to effectively market, promote and distribute the material – it’s a gamble. As an attorney, I would definitely give the pros and cons to signing a 360 deal to my client, so that they can make the best decision for themselves. Personally, I’m at a stage in my career… in my life where I will not consider such deals. I’m not against negotiating, however, but the deal has to be something that is fair for both parties.