As one of the three co-founders of Roc-A-Fella Records, Kareem “Biggs” Burke is damn near a low-key legend of the rap game. While JAY Z and Dame Dash both had their fair share of the spotlight, Biggs chose to stay in the background and handle the business end of things.

Biggs recently did a Q&A session on reddit and dropped a ton of knowledge, especially useful for independent artists looking to break into the game, build a brand and get exposure for their music. Check out the highlights below:

Most valuable lessons he’s learnt from being a part of the music business for 20 years?

To build relationships and treat people with respect. A lot of times when guys come into the business and you get a little power, you get overwhelmed by what’s going on and you use it in not so good ways. I learned to treat people as equals and really cherish the relationships that I’m building.

Favourite new artists?

I’m not sure if they wouldn’t expect me to like, but I definitely love Chance the Rapper, Kendrick. I like ASAP Ferg and Rocky. I still listen to Jim Jones and some of the old artists and Cam’ron. A guy named Sci Fi out of Atlanta is making a lot of noise right now and I really like his music. There’s also another guy, Jiggy Szn.

Advice for new artists trying to craft a unique identity and build a brand



Stay true to yourself. Don’t listen to trends. Don’t listen to songs and try to adapt to what’s going on. Give the people, the consumers, a piece of you and really be truthful to who you are. Just don’t follow any trends.

How independent artists can be successful in today’s music landscape

There’s a lot of platforms where you and put your music out and make the money yourself. What I tell everybody is one thing that we did a long time ago, which I think is still needs to be done today: other than making yourself known in a presence on the internet, is that you have to go from state to state and city to city and perform. You have to own your city. If you’re not owning the town that you’re in and the word isn’t spreading, it’s gonna be hard for people to gravitate towards you and for you to get that notoriety and be that force you want to be in the music business. 

Importance of recording contracts for artists

Do you need a contract? No. But at some point, it depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to grow at a fast pace, it’s kinda hard to do it yourself, so you may need some help. But there’s companies like Rock Nation that’s taking on a management role and not so much as a label. And they can help you use that as a platform to jump off and expand your career.

Importance of touring and live shows for independent artists

The importance of going town to town and really touching the people and being there and learning how to perform because even when you become an artist, the only way you are going to make money is from performing, right? You don’t really make money from artist deals and actually making the album and advances and things like that. So, you really have to hone in on that craft, but the difference is now, a lot of people are being influenced by what’s happening on the Internet, so you can have a popular song and get signed without even really spending any time in your city or your town and really putting any work in.

Building a groundwork for an artist’s fanbase

People may not know, but Jay was in the business maybe 12 years before he even put out Reasonable Doubt, so there was a lot of groundwork. He’s been with Jazz, he’s been on Big Daddy Kane Records, he’s been with Original Flavor, and even prior to being signed with us putting that deal together, he spent a lot of time in the local circuit of Maria Davis, which was a big part of Jay launching and Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens gravitating towards him, but also that Chitlin circuit and going from college to college and opening up for Ill and Al Skratch.

Platforms for artist exposure

People may not know, but Jay was in the business maybe 12 years before he even put out Reasonable Doubt, so there was a lot of groundwork. He’s been with Jazz, he’s been on Big Daddy Kane Records, he’s been with Original Flavor, and even prior to being signed with us putting that deal together, he spent a lot of time in the local circuit of Maria Davis, which was a big part of Jay launching and Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens gravitating towards him, but also that Chitlin circuit and going from college to college and opening up for Ill and Al Skratch.

Entrepreneur lessons he’s learnt

Really knowing the business that I’m getting into. A lot of times, in the beginning, we didn’t know about a business plan, know about planning, and being more strategic about what we’re doing. I think, right now, it’s about authenticity, innovation, and being strategic. That comes together like form and function for us, so that’s what I’m most concentrating on right now.
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Written by Hao Nguyen
Stop The Breaks is an independent music marketing company focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists. Our goal is to help motivate, inspire and educate independent artists grinding around the world. We provide branding, content marketing, social media, SEO and music promotion services.