Do your people know you

In my late teens and early 20’s, (insert cringe) I had a “rap career.” How stereotypical (insert face palm emoji).

Instead of using my CEGEP (Quebec college) student loan money on books and nourishing my mind and body, I spent it on blank CDs and studio time. Instead of focusing on Western Civilization and Anthropology, I was focused on creating music and trying to get a record deal.

No bullshit.

Over those years, myself and the rest of my group, did everything we could to get our (my) music in the hands and ears of everyone.

One of the steps we took was locating a list of all artist and repertoire (A&R) managers in North America that worked with hip hop artists. Once I verified the list’s creditability, I acquired the services of an entertainment lawyer to assist with sending my demo to each A&R directly (fun fact: labels do NOT like unsolicited mail from artists, for legal reasons).

While this was a viable route for getting signed if they liked our music, it did not lead to a record deal.

The next steps taken were a little more direct. One summer, in my friend’s pink station wagon, he and I along with another friend took a trip down the 401 from Montreal directly to the Canadian head offices of Sony Music and BMG in Mississauga. I delivered the demo right to their door.

1994 Ford Escort Wagon aka “Betz”

That route, also, did not lead to a record deal. We tried everything to get me signed. Everything.

We tried so hard that I started to feel guilty with how much effort and money my friends were investing into my dreams. We had a promise that, as long as an artist was coming to town, we were going to do everything in our power to get my demo in their hands. For every major hip hop artist that came to Montreal for a show, we were at the venue waiting for them at the back, front, and side door. When they got there, we were there. When they left, we were there. We knew which hotel they were staying at. We knew which gate their airplane was scheduled to arrive at at the airport. And yes, we were at both of them, ready to give them my demo CD. We were thorough, and dedicated.

Targeting Jay-Z

One night, I found out that Jay-Z was heading to Much Music – in Toronto – for a special taping the next day. I didn’t want to tell my friends about it because I knew they would say let’s go. Montreal and Toronto aren’t terribly far apart but, the ask felt like too much. Later that night, I told my then girlfriend about Jay-Z being at Much Music the next day. Behind my back, she told my friends about it. 2 hours later, I was at the Montreal greyhound station with my friend; taking the midnight bus to Toronto.

When we got to the old Toronto Coach Terminal at 6am, we had little money and nowhere to stay. We slept in the terminal until noon. After the 6 hours of idle time, we only had about 5hrs left until show time. We trekked over to Much Music on Queen St. West and queued in line so we could try to be a part of the indoor audience for the interview. While in line, one of the staff members helping with the show came out to the lineup for audience question suggestions. I wrote down a few good ones for my friend to submit, and a few good ones for myself to submit.

Lo and behold, the only 2 questions chosen were the ones I wrote. My friend was going to be question #2 and I was going to be question #1 for Jay-Z. Live. Across the country.

We did it. We were about to accomplish the goal we set out to achieve when we got on that Greyhound bus the night before.

This was my shot.

Midway through the interview, everyone’s favourite temp, Rick Campanelli, lets Jay-Z know that, ”…We have a crowd question from Yannick (said with the worst Italian-Ontarian pronunciation of my name that I have ever heard in my life).”

Jay-Z Live @ Much Music (circa 2005)

I asked Jay-Z, live on Much Music, “…Why haven’t you signed somebody from [Canada]? And since you haven’t, here’s your chance.” I put my demo in Jay-Z’s hand, live on national TV in front of my entire country. If this wasn’t trying as hard as I could to get a record deal, I didn’t know what else I or my friends could do to accomplish the goal.

Sadly, the moment came and went.

Needless to say, just like every other attempt, Jay-Z didn’t call back and I didn’t get a record deal.

Despite my best efforts, I never got signed.

In some permutation or another, the end line with each attempt – even this one – always ended with, “…but, do your people know you? Are you poppin’ on your own block?” And the answer was never sufficient. I had skipped a critical step in building demand for my product. I skipped my own block and went straight for the continent.

It must be stated though, through all these various attempts to get a record deal, I had noticeably acquired the skillset to get a product into the hands of decision makers. All that time, money, and effort spent on getting a record deal while I was in college, wasn’t a waste. It was still educational.

More on that later.

The legal cannabis business is like the rap business

In the early 2000’s, Stayve Jerome Thomas (also known as “Slim Thug”) was a well known and distributed artist in the South. Without the help of record labels, he sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his music releases in the underground market: music distributed without major label assistance. Every dollar made, was all his. He was very profitable. Due to his success and growing notoriety in his home state of Texas and other southern states, Slim Thug soon garnered the attention of Pharrell Williams and the Neptunes. Pharrell Williams and the Neptune signed Slim Thug to their Star Track label and partnered with him to release his first major label album titled “Already Platinum” to a larger audience – just to get a cut of the profits. The title was an homage to how he had already been a successful artist on his own.

Slim Thug – Already Platinum

To note, Slim Thug wasn’t the only artist from the South taking this approach to initially managing their music distribution.

“What’s Your Fantasy” by Ludacris was a hit across Georgia and much of the South for 2 years before it became a national and international hit. UGK (short for “Underground Kingz”) had released various albums and toured across the South to sold out venues throughout the 90’s before most listeners got a first taste of them on Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” track off his “Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter” album released in 1999.

Like Ludacris, UGK, and many other Southern rappers, Slim Thug knew the value of a dollar was far greater than the attention of the mainstream cameras. And that, if you do it right, the cameras and labels will need you and not the other way around.

These artists knew how to own their own block. They also knew their own worth.

Watch out for the vultures

Touching back on A&Rs, a lot of A&Rs (and artists) wouldn’t even take demo CDs due to fears of copyright lawsuits over stolen material. In hindsight, that was a sign of an artist or A&R that valued the integrity of their artistic output. They didn’t even want to risk the possibility of having the authenticity of their penmanship or work in question.

Alternatively though, you have what is commonly referred to as “The Culture Vulture.” They are always on the hunt for works of creation to lift – always on the hunt to appropriate and monetize.

They can be quite devilish.

The Beatles

In the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, it was common to see Black artists have their art stolen and repackaged by White artists for profit:

  • The Beatles – A Taste Of Honey \ Lenny Welch – A Taste Of Honey
  • The Beatles – Baby It’s You \ The Shirelles – Baby It’s You
  • The Beatles – Bad Boy \ Larry Williams – Bad Boy
  • The Beatles – Boys \ The Shirelles – Boys
  • The Beatles – Devil In Her Heart \ The Donays – Devil In His Heart
  • The Beatles – Dizzy Miss Lizzy \ Larry Williams – Dizzy Miss Lizzy
  • The Beatles – Hey Hey Hey \ Little Richard – Hey Hey Hey
  • The Beatles – I Feel Fine & Day Trippers \ Bobby Parker – Watch Your Step
  • The Beatles – K.C. Loving \ Little Willie Littlefield – K.C. Loving
  • The Beatles – Lady Madonna \ Humphrey Lyttelton – Bad Bunny Blues
  • The Beatles – Revolution 1 \ Pee Wee Crayton – Do Unto Others
  • The Beatles – Rock and Roll Music \ Chuck Berry – Rock and Roll Music
  • The Beatles – Roll Over Beethoven \ Chuck Berry – Roll Over Beethoven
  • The Beatles – Slow Down \ Larry Williams – Slow Down
  • The Beatles – That’s What I Want \ Barrett Strong – That’s What I Want
  • The Beatles – Twist & Shout \ The Isley Brothers – Twist & Shout
  • The Beatles – You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me \ The Miracles – You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me
  • Fleetwood Mac – Shake Your Money Maker \ Elmore James – Shake Your Money Maker
  • George Thorogood – Who Do You Love \ Bo Diddley – Who Do You Love
  • The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA \ Chuck Berry – Sweet Little Sixteen
  • The Kingsmen – Louie Louie \ Richard Berry and The Pharaohs – Louie Louie
  • The Mamma’s and The Poppa’s – Dedicated To The One I Love \ The Shirelles – Dedicated To The One I Love
  • The Clash – Police & Thieves \ Junior Murvin – Police & Thieves
  • The Clash – Armagideon Times \ Willie Williams – Armagideon Times
  • Led Zeppelin – Traveling Riverside Blues \ Robert Johnson – Traveling Riverside Blues
  • Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love \ Muddy Waters – You Need Love
  • Led Zeppelin – Bring It On Home \ Sonny Boy Williamson II – Bring It On Home
  • The Rolling Stones – You Gotta Move \ Mississippi Fred McDowell – You Gotta Move
  • The Rolling Stones – Shake Your Hips \ Slim Harpo – Shake Your Hips
  • The Rolling Stones – Mercy Mercy \ Don Covay – Mercy Mercy
  • Eric Clapton – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out \ Bessie Smith – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
  • Eric Clapton – Father Up The Road \ Bobby Bland – Father Up The Road
  • Eric Clapton – Alberta \ Snooks Eaglin – Alberta
  • Eric Clapton – Before You Accuse Me (Take A Look At Yourself) \ Bo Diddley – Before You Accuse Me (Take A Look At Yourself)
  • Eric Clapton – Walkin’ Blues \ Robert Johnson – Walkin’ Blues
  • Elvis Presley – Blue Suede Shoes \ Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes
  • Elvis Presley – Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby \ Jimmy Reed – Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby
  • Elvis Presley – That’s Alright \ Arthur Crudup – That’s Alright
  • Elvis Presley– Hound Dog \ Big Momma Thornton – Hound Dog

“Everyone’s” favourite band, The Beatles, we’re merciless and notorious for the culture vulture five-finger discount and faking the funk. But regarding Elvis Presley in particular, whenever I think of him, all I can think is, “ is this your King?”

Eric Killmonger

The vulture play is as old as dirt – and noticeable from a mile away. That’s why, in many ways, finding the right record label to partner with, is like finding the right cannabis licensed producer to partner with. Making the right choice is the difference between having your works of art remain in your service, or, watching your creativity be stolen and repackaged to your detriment but to the label’s/licensed producer’s gain.

So, when another licensed producer of edible cannabis (Olli Brands) – whose CEO met with you months before to talk about a possible partnership with your brand – releases a “S’mores Cookie” in Ontario, and your flagship treat is The Original Oatmeal S’more Cup…

You already know what’s up.

The Vulture Pit

Give the vultures credit though. They know a good meal when they see one.

TREATSANDTREATS is tasty like a mf.

The Takeover

Put me anywhere on God’s green earth, and I’ll triple my worth.” – Shawn (Jay-Z) Carter

Education comes in many formats. In college, I unexpectedly learned how to move a product through music. From being a producer as well as a consumer of music, I learned how the business side worked and also how art can be stolen and needs to be protected and fought for.

Those lessons learned have become transferable skills. Today’s CEO will succeed because of yesterday’s failures as a rapper.

Natural expansion – just like the old days

For our first step into the licensed cannabis market, we’re focusing on our home province of British Columbia. Starting with our home city (Vancouver) and the surrounding areas.

In Vancouver, craft-quality cannabis products are recognized and appreciated.

TREATSANDTREATS will focus on (re)owning our own block of Vancouver and the surrounding cities, and let the rest of the country catch the second-hand buzz, again.

And to kick things off, it’s only right that we start where things started the last go round when we were in the legacy market. WEEDS.

Flagship WEEDS Shop in 2015 at Burrard and Davie

Along with the newly licensed WEEDS Shop on Kingsway, we will concentrate our offering to 20 shops in the city of Vancouver. In conjunction, we will focus on 2 stores in Coquitlam, 2 in North Vancouver, 1 in New Westminster, and 1 in West Vancouver. The select locations will be revealed closer to our launch date.

September 14th, 2023

Speaking of our launch date, our Notice of New Cannabis Product (NNCP) has been submitted to Health Canada and sales of The Original Oatmeal S’more Cup officially begin on September 14th, 2023 to all licensed distributors.

We will have more news on the where, when, and how as we approach September 14th.

In closing, when shopping for the right baked good edible on the legal market this fall, TREATSANDTREATS will be the only option fit for Vancity.

The Original Oatmeal S’more Cup by TREATSANDTREATS

There’s only one original. Everything else is just a copy.

See you soon.

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