Milwaukee-born and New York-based Signif took some time to chat with TuneCore as a part of our A3C Artists To Watch Spotlight about her journey, influences, and process. She’ll be recording as a part of our partnership with SAE Institute during A3C’s #TuneCoreStudio Artist & Producer Sessions. Her latest release, Friction, (released through TuneCore) is available on iTunes.
Check out Signif’s A3C Artist Profile here for other info & set times.
TuneCore: What hip-hop legends inspired you?
Signif: A Tribe Called Quest, Mc Lyte, Bahamadia, MC Breed, Tupac, Queen Latifah and a slew of other hip-hop greats inspired me to write.
How do you describe your style? Are you influenced by trends?
I would describe my style as honest but hard-hitting. I stick closely to the roots of hip-hop with more of a boom bap, jazz, and spoken word sound. I’m not heavily influenced by trends at all; as an artist I set my own trends.
What specific challenges do you encounter getting your music heard? How has it changed during your career?
I face the same challenges that most indie DIY artists face while trying to find that path to where you’re able to reach your core audience and build upwards from there. Not having the big machine behind you is always a challenge, and you definitely have to find room to wiggle around the “No’s” and closed doors. The good side to that is you get a chance to fail, try again, and learn the business while trying to figure out the best route.
How does an artist transition from focusing strictly on promo to an artist getting paying gigs? What cities and venues are great for hip hop?
For me, the promo is how I was able to get the paying gigs; some artists build a relationship with promoters or other bands for gig opportunities. There are several ways to go about getting paying gigs, but building with your core fans always helps. Every city has a hip-hop scene, but New York has some of the best venues for hip-hop in my opinion.
What do you have happening at A3C? Do you think festivals are important for hip-hop?
I’m performing at Apache Cafe on October 11th from 9pm -1am with a roster of good emcees. I’m also participating in the ‘A3C Audio Experience’ while at A3C.
I think hip-hop should be incorporated in more musical festivals and events for sure.
Do you have a system of releasing singles in advance of albums? Or do you like to focus on bigger releases? Do you put everything up for sale or do you make it available for free via downloads?
With every album I release the approach differs depending on the direction of the project as a whole. My latest release, Friction, had a few singles leading up to the release and is for sale, but some of my other albums are donation-based. It also depends on where you purchase the music from as well, if you want it digital or physical copy.
How important are mixtapes for you?
I have yet to release a mixtape. I’d rather use original music, (even if sampled), than use already released tracks. I will always dig the original concept of doing a mixtape with the live DJ aspect.
What are your writing inspirations? How do you choose producers and studios?
My inspiration comes from just living life; the struggles I face or have dealt with inspire my writings.
The producers I work with actually choose me, and if I can vibe to what they create: it’s on. I’ve been with the same studio and engineer for many years, The Brewery recording studio in Brooklyn, working with Andrew Krivonos.
Do you avoid explicit lyrics or write/perform whatever you write?
I don’t avoid them I just don’t write explicit lyrics. Some of my tracks hit so hard that people ask me for clean versions not knowing the track is already clean. I’m not against using explicit lyrics and artists should definitely express themselves how they see fit. I just never had to express myself in an explicit manner for people to get it, and I write and perform what moves me.
How do you participate in the business side of the music – distribution, hiring a PR agency, etc… or do you have a label or manager do that for you?
I’m hands on with everything, from shipping merch to setting up meetings. It’s the DIY way for now. We have a few outside sources we go to when needed, but it’s just us for now – no labels or mangers are involved.
What do you see for yourself in the next few years?
In the next few years I’m looking to expand my brand Intelligent Dummies and tour more in other countries.
If you couldn’t rap, would you still try to be involved in music as a career?
If I didn’t emcee I would probably be involved in one way or another. I help out a lot with the pictures/visuals and the business side of my music as well.
What is the most important piece of advice you can offer to an aspiring hip-hop artist/independent musician?
The most important advice I can offer to an aspiring artist is to figure out your niche before you dive in, and make sure to keep your focus on building your own brand and reaching your core audience. But there is no one way to get the job done, do what feels right to you.