YouTube Finds Rapper on the Rise

San Francisco rapper Conceit just won YouTube's "On The Rise" rap video contest, and now he'll have a chance to record with 50 Cent's label, G-Unit records. Farai Chideya talks with Conceit and YouTube programming spokesperson Jeben Berg.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

So you want to be a rap star, you could shop a demo, crash a record executive party, or click on a video camera, make your own video and send it to YouTube. San Francisco Bay Area rapper, Conceit, won the do-it-yourself route(ph) when he made a video for his song, "Scissors & Glue," and it just won YouTube's "Osn The Rise" rap competition.

(Soundbite of song, "Scissors & Glue")

CONCEIT (Rapper): (Rapping) What's up? What's up? (Unintelligible) for one more deejay. Let's go. Let's play. You're listening to the wasted talents. (Unintelligible) Hey, you know what? The more you try to change the world, the more it changes you. Since preschool, scissors and glue, of course, then I knew what that…

CHIDEYA: So hip-hop stars 50 Cent and Common handpicked Conceit out of thousands of entries. Now, the young rapper gets a fat bag of goodies, including a trip to New York to record a single with 50's label G-Unit.

For more, we've got Conceit, as well as Jeben Berg, a programming spokesperson for YouTube. Welcome, guys.

CONCEIT: How are you doing?

Mr. JEBEN BERG (Programming Spokesperson, YouTube): Hi. Thank you for having us back again.

CHIDEYA: I'm doing great. Conceit, probably not as great as you, how does it feel?

CONCEIT: I feel just real good right now. Definitely, real good.

CHIDEYA: So some critics, even the rapper Nos cried that hip-hop is dead even when they're still rhyming. What do you think is going on with hip-hop and creativity? Do you still feel like it's got that juice that it's been, you know, that it's had in the past?

CONCEIT: I mean, I believe that it all depends on how you look at it. Of course, maybe the old school fundamentals and maybe, you know, basic blueprints of how hip-hop were in the past, which I appreciate to the fullest. And there's a time that I look back on - with some of the greatest music made in hip-hop, it has definitely changed.

I wouldn't necessarily say it's dead just because, you know, it's not as it was. It's a music that's meant to evolve. Quality, I mean, that's up to judgment. I mean, you know, fans change over time. Demographics change. Ages change. So I mean, I think, it's a mixture of some parts of hip-hop have ceased but there's others that matured out of it as well, So I don't know, I think it all depends on how you look at it, but hip-hop is here to stay.

CHIDEYA: Jeben, when we spoke earlier about this competition you basically said what you have to win was originality in your music and in the production of your video. How does Conceit's work live up to what you were saying?

Mr. BERG: It nailed it point on. As a matter of fact, the video itself - it exemplified the creativity that we're looking for. The lyrics were outstanding. I think that they exemplified precisely what we wanted to see come out of it.

CONCEIT: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: And what's in it for you guys? I mean, obviously, it's fun to work with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, but YouTube has so many other things going on. Why this? Why now?

Mr. BERG: We just want to make sure that we bring out top-tier talent that otherwise wouldn't have a voice. And that's the most important thing that we can do is to give exposure. If you look at our prize packages that we put together, it's the ability to connect with the decision-makers in the industry. The monetary values that come after it, they're not as important. They're a great incentive, but what we've seen here is all the top 20 were basically the best of the best. They were endorsed by Interscope and G-Unit, and we couldn't have expected more.

CHIDEYA: Now, Conceit, you've been rapping for - or making music for more than a decade. Give me a sense of how you would describe what it is that you do and what it is you bring to the game.

CONCEIT: I mean, basically it's just bringing, I don't know, basically, the fundamentals I was raised on. Of course, like all music, I was raised with the background of, you know, my grandparents grown up, as I mentioned before, like - in songs about, you know, I listened to all types of music from hip-hop as well as Latin, jazz, and rock music, and psychedelic '60s music - everything. It's incorporation with growing up. I grew up, basically, on hip-hop music and, basically, it's giving my own twist to it.

And, you know, I believe - I grew up battle rap. And for those who don't know, you know, it's basically like MCs going head to head in basically braggadocios type of thing. But, I mean, as you get older, it's like over the years, I matured more into actually just talking about social commentary as well as, you know, trying to change what has already been done with the music. So I mean, I don't know, I'm basically bringing myself as well as everything that I've learned through this music that I feel has raised me.

CHIDEYA: And what's your song "Scissors & Glue" about?

CONCEIT: I mean, "Scissors & Glue" is basically about my life as well as what I think relates to a lot of people's life in transition, in positive and negative ways. I mean, I think that when I made the song, there was a lot of things that had been going on in my life in a certain period of time that, you know, there's good things in your life that sometimes, you know, are fine as well as other bad things in your life that you got to kind of cut out of your life and then rebuild from it.

So that's, like, the whole concept of "Scissors & Glue" is kind of this world is a crazy place; and sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands; and, you know, sometimes things that you've been used to since you were young or that you've been used to for a while you have to cut out of your life and rebuild from there.

CHIDEYA: What are you building next, Jeben, with YouTube? What are some of your next adventures, just quickly?

Mr. BERG: Sure. As I mentioned before, we're working - going through a number of the different genres. We've got film. That's going to be a big area that we're going to try to tackle very soon. We're certainly not giving up on music. We're going to get more specific as we go along. And I think that what you're going to see are programs that will nurture and evolve a number of different people who, otherwise, wouldn't get that chance.

CHIDEYA: All right. Sounds like a lot of fun. Jeben and Conceit, thanks for coming on.

Mr. BERG: Thank you very much.

CONCEIT: Thank you very much for having us.

CHIDEYA: We've been talking to Jeben Berg, a programming spokesperson for YouTube, and San Francisco Bay Area rapper Conceit. He just won YouTube's "On The Rise" hip-hop video contest.

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