Who is an upcoming artist? [Opinion]
This is an opinion-based case to stop the use of ‘upcoming’ as an instrument of derogation for artists and a case for artists to understand that you cannot be more than what you are.
Descriptives are one way human beings can tell right from left. Descriptives prevent human beings from mumbling different things into one thing.
Descriptives determine the boundaries of peculiar traits as a way to describe and define things. Human beings need descriptives for documentation, discernment, posterity and power. There is power in knowing who/what you are as against what something else is.
The human brain has a need to understand and tell things. This is why certain people have deep-seated personality and identity issues. It is also why certain people change their gender.
In entertainment and pop culture, descriptives help us understand the depths of genres, sound, artistry, definition and so forth. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Even though a descriptive helps us understand concepts better, defining certain phenomena has been cause for rancor amongst commentators and creatives.
One of those sources of rancor is the concept of an ‘upcoming’ artist.’ For ages and in music, arguments have rumbled on and on about who is or isn’t an upcoming artist. On the one part, the audience judges based on mainstream popularity, footprint and achievement.
On the other part, the artists who are described as ‘upcoming’ loathe what it represents. To them, it represents derogation and mistreatment againstwhat an artist is. Much like the word ‘fat’ has been replaced with ‘plus-sized,’ artists have tried to replace ‘upcoming’ with ’emerging.’
Like ‘fat,’ and on its own, ‘upcoming’ naturally is just a word that has no deogration attached to it. But with use by some commentators and members of the audience, derogation and stigma became fundamental to it. Even though the word has its own meaning that applies to particular people, artists now refute it due to the derogation and stigma it has grown to represent.
However and again like ‘fat,’ ‘upcoming is just a word to the average person. We might refer the euphemism for ‘fat’ and ‘upcoming’ as semantics, but when we think from the artist’s point of view, we understand how an artist feels.
The role of ego in accepting the ‘upcoming’ tag
Creatives work hard to develop their ideas. When they’ve put in time and effort to get where they are, it feels reductionist to subject them to the status of a ‘nobody’ or a ‘novice.’ Creativity is a friend of ego – a creative’s egos is easily punctured – forget hard guy. As a result, even though ‘upcoming’ isn’t necessarily a description for a novice, the world has erroneously come to see it that way.
So, instead of artists continuing the trend of a word that has been knowingly or unknowingly used for derogatory purposes, artists have sought a fresh start. Thus, ‘upcoming’ has a history of both derogation against artists and their achievements as well as bad reception by artists.
But as much as one feels for the artist, one must also understand that sometimes, words are used harmlessly. Artists have also played a role in fostering ‘upcoming’ as a derogatory word. Equally, descriptives cannot always accurately determine situations and people.
You cannot be more than what you are
Despite all the systemic issues that have led to ‘upcoming’ as a ‘derogatory’ word, sometimes the word is also an accurate way to describe people.
Thus, the other side of the conversation is when artists overrate themselves by wrongly refuting the descriptive, ‘upcoming.’ Sometimes, even when ‘upcoming’ is used by commentators to belittle artists and ‘put them in their place’ they could also be an accurate representation of that artist’s standing at that point.
On one part, one understands the plight of artists and their subconscious need to protect their mental health and ego from derogators. But on the other part, one also understands that artists need to first understand what ‘upcoming’ actually means and whether the word perfectly describes them.
For this purpose and when this clarity sets in, an artist can then decide to either be worried by the descriptive ‘upcoming’ or simply to roll with it till he is ‘upcoming’ no more.
This is because people find a way to make even the best things feel like bad things. We live in a world where people make rich people feel bad for being rich. They make people feel bad for referring themselves as ‘intelligent.’
The reason is because we are all insecure. For that reason, we all sometimes take power from subconsciously putting other people down and making ourselves look bigger. To that end, what an artist can do is understand if he’s truly ‘upcoming’ and not allow anybody to use it against him/her.
Regardless of the stigma and until we find a synonym for ‘upcoming,’ some people will always be best described as upcoming. The reason is simple; you cannot be more than what you are.
Who is an upcoming artist?
In English, ‘upcoming’ means, ‘About to happen or forthcoming.’ For that reason, the word can be broadly applicable. People who fall under that tag might then be anyone who has not made it into mainstream consciousness.
But in truth, not all artists who have not made it into mainstream consciousness are upcoming. And sometimes, being in the mainstream consciousness doesn’t mean you’re A-List and unforgettable. Only legends like Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, MI Abaga and so forth are unforgettable.
But sometimes, you might be unforgettable and not be A-List even though you are mainstream. In that sense, you might be B-List like a Mayorkun – which isn’t bad. Only a few people are totally A-List in Nigeria. For that reason and to avoid for further rancour, we need to accept in life and music, there are cadres. In this article, this writer will propose certain solutions.
Back to the discussion at hand, an upcoming artist is basically artist who hasn’t been a memorable, consistent fixture of mainstream consciousness for more than 2-4 years with the requisite discography (optional), a recognizable brand and the commercial clout.
When we say ‘mainstream,’ we mean Facebook fame and not Twitter fame. We mean having a lot of viral songs that make crowds jump. We mean people jumping for joy and with screams at the mention of your name at shows.
We mean performing your songs and having a horde of people that transcend your core fan base singing along with you. The time factor of 2-4 years is important because anybody can crack the mainstream with a song and go back to obscurity. .
You can simply not be a consistent, memorable fixture of mainstream consciousness with one or two songs. If you have just one or two songs, people will likely struggle to remember your name in 4 years. We must also understand that some artists can be upcoming for the rest of their lives. Those two to four years are not a litmus test after which you stop being upcoming.
Those 2-4 years are only applicable to when you can start calling yourself mainstream after being a memorable and consistent fixture of mainstream consciousness.
But then, since all artists without consistent, memorable and mainstream success are not upcoming, we need to find that appropriately describe artists based on their achievement and stance.
What comes after: Upcoming VS. Emerging VS. Sub-mainstream
In English, ’emerging’ means ‘becoming apparent or prominent.’ ‘Sub-mainstream’ has no English definition, but ‘sub’ is a prefix which means ‘lower in rank.’ Thus, if ‘mainstream (consciousness)’ is the goal, then sub-mainstream is the level directly below all the glory of – the – mainstream (consciousness).
In essence and for the sake of conversation, if ‘upcoming’ means ‘about to happen or forthcoming’ and ’emerging’ means ‘becoming apparent or prominent,’ we could assume that upcoming is a level below emerging.
Thus, with prominence as the major fixture of mainstream and with sub-mainstream being a cadre below mainstream, we must assume that sub-mainstream is above emerging and then upcoming. Even if it happens fast, all upcoming artists become emerging artists before they become mainstream artists – it is a necessary process and success in music comes in phases.
Sub-mainstream phase is when an emerging artist is enjoying mainstream success as an emerging artist and en route becoming a bonafide mainstream success. An example of this is Mayorkun in 2017. But then, when you become a mainstream act, you are a mainstream act. However, artists don’t become mainstream because they’re popular – it’s a process.
The first two years of the proposed four years is when you can become mainstream – you can them become anything you want over the next two years.
A core example of sub-mainstream are Joeboy, Fireboy and Show Dem Camp while some emerging acts are Blaqbonez, Lil Frosh and Zinoleesky.
Also, sometimes, an artist could be emerging and sub-mainstream at the same time. Examples are Joeboy, Fireboy, Blaqbonez, Zinoleesky, Lil Frosh and so forth. The entire of that sub-mainstream description is because these acts tick several boxes to metrics of mainstream fame but lack the foothold of a consistent fixture of mainstream consciousness.
For the sake of conversation, let’s then say that the cadre right above upcoming is emerging. Then, the one above emerging is sub-mainstream (which could sometimes house obscure acts who have amassed some fame due to years of being underground).
In some cases, certain acts have not been a consistent, memorable fixture of mainstream consciousness for 2-4 years. Ordinarily, that makes them upcoming. But practically, such description will be harsh on acts like Show Dem Camp who have grown year on year in popularity and notoriety. For what they have done and what they represent, sub-mainstream would be describe them.
However, for acts with the longevity of Show Dem Camp but without their growth. sub-mainstream will not avail them. Such acts will be best described as niche or underground especially when they’ve stopped chasing ‘mainstream’ notoriety.
With that said, we must distinguish between upcoming and new
The major problem with ‘upcoming’ as an instrument of derogation for detractors and against the hardwork of artists is that detractors use it to connote that artists are new. Even though all artists who haven’t been a consistent fixture of mainstream consciousness for 2-4 years are essentially upcoming, it will be harsh to categorize a Blaqbonez with a King Perry.
The purpose of this is the vanity of recognition – we must show artists that we know they are putting in the work by fairly judging their stance. We cannot afford to be the reason an artist is frustrated and depressed.
For this reason, we must create a cadre below ‘upcoming’ for ‘new’ acts. In English, new means, ‘produced, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time; not existing before.’
For the sake of conversation, ‘not existing before’ would relate to knowledge of the artist’s existence to the target audience and not necessarily when the artist started making music. That audience is one that transcends the original audience of that artists and away from the mainstream. The reason is simple; an artist is defined by the audience.
But we must note, a lot of artists are ‘new’ to an audience at one point or another. So for this conversation, we are talking about Nigeria and ‘new’ will apply to any artist who is finding their way to memorable, consistent success in the Nigerian mainstream.
With this, ‘new’ could also relate to when an artist started making music. Equally, we must understand that sometimes, an artist can be new and upcoming at the same time.
An artist can also be pass through stages of new, upcoming, emerging and mainstream so fast that we might not even notice. An example is Davido or Wizkid. That said, at one point or the other and for however little a time, these artists fit descriptions of new, upcoming and emerging – maybe not sub-mainstream.
Thus, after all the grammar we have spoken, here are the cadres of artists;
Inside Mainstream there are three cadres;
- A-List: The cream of the crop and legends. Examples are Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, Kwam 1 and so forth.
- B-List: Also the cream of the crop, but not quite at the level of superstardom A-Listers can boast of. These people are either an incidence of time or those they compete with in the A-List. Examples are Mayorkun or Simi. If anyone were to put Kizz Daniel in this bracket, they might be right.
- C-List: These guys are either the guys in the sub-mainstream or guys who are gearing for top-level careers. They could also be former A-Listers or B-Listers who have since taken a backseat.
Outside of the above cadres, we then have people who have the longevity and discography but lack the traits of mainstream consciousness. They are:
- Niche: People who make music for a dedicated fan base and a specific type of people who understand them.
- Underground: People who do not care about making music for anybody but their own joy. An example is Beautiful Nubia.
But then, in the end we should remember these descriptions are simply a product of academic argument. The only thing that matters is the music.