There are few labels in hip-hop doing it quite like Funk Volume. Co-founded by Damien ‘Dame’ Ritter and flagship artist Hopsin, the Los Angeles-based label, now home to a full roster of artists including Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton, SwizZz, and DJ Hoppa, has made a commitment to protecting the integrity of the music, and in doing so, offers a creative platform, a place where artists can freely express themselves without outside control or pressure.[wpex click for full bio]
One of hip hop’s stealth success stories of recent, Funk Volume was built out of necessity. In 2008, Stanford University MBA grad Damien “Dame” Ritter watched his younger brother SwizZz and pal Hopsin fight to gain recognition in the over-saturated music industry. Even with Hop—an actor with major credits, signed to legendary Ruthless Records—the San Fernando Valley natives were stonewalled in grabbing new fans. “They needed marketing help getting their music more exposure,” recalls Dame. “Funk Volume is Hopsin’s idea—the name and the initial logo. I just made it an actual record label.” Ritter invested along with bringing his experience from working abroad at companies such as Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs. Their flagship artist left his Ruthless deal, and Funk Volume began focusing on kicking down industry doors from their bedrooms and basements.
“We’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done in a while—bring it back to the artist,” says Dame, who believes in giving full creative control to the tight-knit and colorful roster that now boasts Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton and DJ Hoppa, in addition to mainstays Hopsin and SwizZz. “What I feel we’ve lost over the last 10 years was the diversity in music,” he asserts. “Everybody’s story should be shared, whether you’re the cool-guy—like Dizzy, or were picked-on—like Hopsin. The common thread is that it’s dope.” Hop adds, “I just want a dynasty of real emcees, not just not from my neighborhood. I just want dope emcees from anywhere,” which has so far included Las Vegas and Decatur. With no office and a strong emphasis on in-house production, touring and videos, the collective attacked social media to focus on accumulating metrics. It was there that Dame says that blogs, booking agents and others paid attention. “Because of the numbers, they know it’s real.” Artists ranging from Tech N9ne to Joey Bada$$ to 2 Chainz have collaborated with the roster, now claiming two XXL Freshmen acts. Such accolades rival more than a few major-backed boutique labels. “The way we do things here is we interact with the fans,” offers Hopsin. “We keep it hot and sizzlin’ and make them want to be all up on our pages.” These supporters brought their attention to iTunes and YouTube, with sales in the five-figures and views approaching 10 million. More than just a virtual experience, on any given day, the label’s acts are spread over the globe on tour. “It’s cool to have an online presence, but to be on this label, you have to have a dope live show,” adds Dame, who frequently travels with his acts to ensure that the labels extensive merchandise is stocked and operations run smoothly.
Following the success of 2012’s releases including Jarren’s Free Basin’ With Kevin Bacon and Dizzy’s Smoke Out Conversations, which debuted on the Top 50 Rap chart, more is in store. The digital label is soon to announce a physical distribution deal, as they also explore potential apps and other platforms to promote their artists. 2013 promises full-length albums from Dizzy Wright, SwizZz, and Jarren Benton following Hopsin’s long-awaited Knock Madness studio effort—the label’s biggest to date. Additionally, Ritter is at work on his first book, tailored to help independent artists better understand what it takes to build a career in music.
With over 415,000 Facebook fans, 62 million YouTube views, and breakthrough releases ahead, the young outfit is about to turn it up.[/wpex]
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