With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the world like a ton of bricks, people have turned their attention further into the technological and online world. Everyone at this point is guaranteed to have used Amazon, Door Dash or Zoom at least 20 times within the past year. This increase in online attention also includes social media.
Long Island Rap Radar CEO and Founder Richard Robertson said it’s actually been helpful since starting his business nine months after the pandemic started. With the increase in attention and views, he has been able to further his mission of helping artists and low-income and underprivileged youth who want to explore different career options within the music industry.
Robertson’s assistance has been free since the start. The CEO used to work in the automotive industry but quit. He worked for months prior and was able to secure a commercial property. He decided to go down the nonprofit route to emphasize that he’s not in it for the money, but the artist.
What made you want to go in the nonprofit direction?
Most of everything I’m doing from the start was free. For people to get involved with me, it’s 100 percent free. Going nonprofit was pretty much just to emphasize the fact that we’re not out here to try and take advantage of anybody.
Why did you decided to start this organization?
At first, there was no like, original path. We kind of just got people together cause it’s so hard for struggling artists out here to actually get ahead. I would say every platform is charging at least $400 or $500 just to put a video on. They collect all the profits. Then you need someone to film it, you have to do production. It’s a lot of money gettin’ spent and nothing’s really getting put back into the artist’s pocket. We’re basically recreating that whole idea by allowing the artist to contact us directly. For free, they can give us an idea of what they wanna do, where they’re headed and any legal situations. So we’re trying to help people learn. We’ve created multiple networks. We have a Canadian network, a New York network and a very heavy Boston connection. We’re tryna disperse out locally, but also globally. Everything is on the table with us. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are or what you’re doing, we’re just here to help.
Are you originally from Long Island?
I’m from here, born and raised in Suffolk County primarily. It’s definitely a great place for music. I feel like New York City takes a lot of the shine away and we definitely deserve it out here.
Who else is also involved in the organization?
It kind of started roughly with this kid Daquan from Brooklyn who’s only 18 years-old. He had some legal troubles as a child. He was taken advantage of a little bit by the system. Luckily, he came out structured and he’s in one piece. He reached out to us because he was trying to change his path in life. We made it our mission to take him under our wing and show everybody that we’re gonna take this kid and change his life and help him and if we can do it for him we can do it for anybody. And a friend of mine Esco, he’s been with us since the beginning. We have a social media podcast, “Lifting Love” podcast, they’ve been very vocal. They don’t charge either, he takes every artist that we come into contact with and gives them a platform to speak on so they can be heard. We picked up two college kids to do videography and graphic design. Then we have another friend whose going to start doing interviews.
What would you say in your background has made you be so artist-focused and determined to help them with their come-up?
I have a lot of friends that do this. I’ve had friends doing this for 10 years. I’ve been making music a little bit here and there for like two or three years just for fun. Unless you have a large sum of money and for some reason you can get your foot in the door somewhere to spend that money, you’re never gonna make it. There’s a couple kids who fall through the cracks with amazing talent, but just to get the attention is impossible without money. We wanna recreate that because we think attention should go to talent, not to the money.
What would you say has been the most rewarding part of this experience and what you’ve been doing?
I’m really overwhelmed by the effect of what we’re doing and how other people are grasping to it. I didn’t think we would get this much attention this quickly. There’s at least 100 to 120 rappers in our private chat groups that we contact on a daily basis to keep them updated with everything we’re doing and we expect them to contact us back because we don’t want this to be like a corporate thing. We want this to feel like a family for the community. So without the community being apart of it, I can’t feel the grasp.
What would you say is the hardest part about an endeavor like this?
The hardest thing is to get people to realize that I am not charging them money. Nobody believes that I’m doing this for free. They don’t see it. The people that grasp it, understand it, but people that don’t want it to happen are trying to find any reason in the world to stop us. So I’m not worried about it.
How do you overcome a hurdle like this and what are some other hurdles you’ve had to overcome in doing this. How would you advise others on overcoming hurdles like this in the industry?
The hurdle has just been catching up. I think we caught up pretty well to current music. We’ve finally been able to establish a decent presence on the island amongst musical talent, which is key. We’ll rely on that talent to spread our name to their fans over time. One artist, Rush TYG, put a 10 to 15 second video clip with our logos in it. So there’s a lot of people grasping onto what we got going on. It’s really just to help anybody that’s in the situation that’s a struggling artist would understand exactly where I’m coming from when I talk about it. We’re looking to get people on stage and performing, which is another thing that’s very expensive. So there’s a lot of opportunity here for people, and we’re just trying to create something to give people an alternative from bad things.
What would you consider “bad things?”
You know, falling into trouble. With this pandemic, people are losing jobs, crime rates excelled and no one’s really giving people an opportunity. By doing this, we’re hoping maybe we can help the problem.
So you have this studio here behind you, where are you based?
We’re in Selden. We’re looking to stay somewhere close. That doesn’t mean we can’t help anybody on the whole island along with the city. The trains run. My artist is from Brooklyn and he comes out here to work with me. You know, we’re constantly working on things. So availability is difficult, but I’ll make myself available for anybody at two in the morning, whatever it is. I don’t have any other obligations, so it’s just me and this company.
What other advice would you give to not only struggling artists, but anyone who wants to be in this industry, maybe doing something like you’re doing now?
You can’t think twice about anything. We literally spent 30 seconds coming up with a name. We spent 30 seconds on a logo because these are the things people will spend endless time on, but it’s irrelevant to what you’re doing. The whole idea is if you have a plan, and you’re seeking out to do something, just focus on that. Anything that comes along the way, I handle it. If I can’t handle it, I will call somebody else to help me. You can’t really plan something to the tee. You have to have a strong team and you have to be motivated. Without those two things, you will never succeed. If you’re someone who likes to spend a lot of time doing stuff alone, I used to be like that, once you break that you can bring other people around you. You’re ideas can explode and that’s exactly what I did. It exploded once I had the right help.
So having a team is important. I do agree in the sense that there are times we’re scattered on the island and we don’t know what this person over here is doing. So the unifying mission is definitely awesome.
Especially right now with everything going on, I mean it’s a crazy world today. The more people that could just build towards a positive goal instead of a negative one the better. It could really make a difference.
In terms of the pandemic, I know that you started in December of 2020, so you started during a pandemic. Was that hard? Did you start partially because of the pandemic?
The pandemic I think made it easier because everybody’s attention was on the internet. So once they had something to pay attention to, that was it. New York’s got a couple main stream hip-hop rap and R&B stations, but there’s nothing that’s really in tune to the local scene. So around here for us, we created a very strong platform. It’s like “Alright, whose making music on Long Island today?” That’s something you’re not gonna find anywhere else and it’s current music. These are songs that are getting dropped on a daily basis.
In terms of the rap scene on Long Island, I know a lot of talent has come out of Long Island going back to Biz Markie, EPMD and Rakim. What would you say in regards to how it is now because you said there’s a lot of emphasis on the boroughs. How are you going to continue to emphasize Long Island music?
The funny thing about that is that most people don’t even know that most of those guys are even from Long Island, only if they’re fans or from Long Island. They just categorize everybody into New York. I think as time goes on and we create this Long Island scene and then people will realize there’s a lot of talent here. We keep up pretty well with what goes on in the city. But I consider Brooklyn, Queens everybody’s Long Island to me. It’s just one big family. I think that being from Long Island and New York, I mean they play Pop Smoke in Australia, so I’d say we have some pretty big influence. So if we can make a difference here, I think we can foot stamp that on the entire world.
So what should we be on the lookout for from Long Island Rap Radar?
We’re gonna pop up all over the place. I’m not sure how we’re gonna do it, but we’ll figure it out. Definitely pay attention to Day Briscoe because he’s gonna be my example of what we’re gonna do for people. Anyone that’s looking to get involved, hit us up.
Is there anything else you want to share or make known?
Anybody out there that’s ever doing events, promotions or something like that and is looking for some artists, contact us. We can get those guys there at no cost as long as there’s some help setting things up or whatever the case is but we’ll put these guys anywhere they need to be. The artists are in this for fans and their hearts, so the money’s out of the window and when money comes into play we take care of the money for certain things. Not everything just certain things, but a lot of what we do for free is what costs the most.
Next steps for Long Island Rap Radar include promoting their recently released Spotify playlist, where 100 percent of the money from streams go to the artist. Robertson also invites anyone who may want to get involved musically, with videos, through graphic design, production or just want see a music video set, to call them.
The organization is also working towards a studio and interview room, and a store set up where they will sell merchandise their artists merchandise. It will also be like a relaxing hangout space as well where small meet-the-artist events can be hosted. To add onto their plate, they also have a record label allowing them to pull talent and invest big money into that talent.