There’s no one in local music more ubiquitous than Little Rock rapper 607. Since 2000, he’s released 26 albums (at a clip of one of every three months), and averaged at least one show a week. Even when he’s not performing, he’s out mixing and mingling every night like it’s his job — from swanky downtown lounges to hood clubs and everywhere in between, always with his trademark black graphite briefcase in tow.
But, last month, frustrated with what he described as a “static” local market, the 27 year-old decided to try to cultivate a new audience. Having already toured in surrounding states and on the East Coast and in California, he decided that to make any serious headway in the U.S., he’d need to employ viral marketing, a proposition he couldn’t afford.
So he tweaked a popular corporate model — he outsourced himself. Early in April, he flew to Moscow to try to penetrate Russia’s underdeveloped hip-hop scene.
He’d learned about the country’s fledgling love for hip-hop from a Russian ex-girlfriend and from a cousin, who’d spent time in the country as a Russian studies major, and who reported that black people were rare, photo-inspiring commodities and that rap served as background music in fancy restaurants.
In preparation for his trip, he printed 1,000 copies of a recent album and FedExed them ahead. He hoped to sell them for $10 a pop, finance his trip and make a hefty little profit. But, as he learned two days before he left, Russia doesn’t allow commercial art to pass through its customs.
Despite the setback, the three-week trip was far from a loss, the rapper told us over lunch last week. As soon as he got off the plane, he hooked up with a woman who worked in PR, with whom his cousin had put him in contact. The PR woman took him to a fashion show, where she pointed out dozens of celebrities (“Of course they were Russian,” 607 said, “so I didn’t know who they were”), and she introduced him to a popular underground rapper named MC Dynamite and his partner, DJ Jeff.
“When he had a show,” 607 said, “I had a show.”
607 said he played to crowds of no less than 300 people and that his performances were well received. Russians wanted to engage him, he said, but first they wanted to tell him what’s wrong with the U.S.
“It was crazy,” 607 said. “I represented black people, white people; I represented Bush — I was just like an American flag piñata.”
More than anything, the MC took to heart the common complaint that Americans don’t try to learn other languages. He stayed in a local hostel, where he says everyone spoke at least two languages, but most knew three or four.
He’s studying Russian, but he’s convinced that the U.S. public schools need a systemic overhaul. He says he plans to try to meet with Little Rock School Board members to encourage an earlier and more stringent introduction of secondary language in public school.
That’ll have to wait for a couple of weeks, though, because, after a quick stop-over here to get new clothes and raise a little bit of cash, 607 is off to Turkey on an all-expenses paid tour with MC Dynamite and DJ Jeff.