Damian’s label contact, Travis, had given the okay to upload the new track, entitled “Portland Street Vapor 夢見る睡眠”, to the official SoundCloud page for Dame D.O.L.L.A. He appreciated that he was still allowed to promote his music on his own page, as opposed to the page of the label, but he was still worried that he would alienate his listeners by departing so radically from his established style.
Travis, for his part, hadn’t seemed worried at all about the reaction of Dame D.O.L.L.A.’s existing fanbase. “Those guys aren’t going to be buying cassettes anyway,” he had told Damian over the phone. “They don’t realize it, but they’re stuck in the old paradigms and they’re miserable. You’re doing them a favor by exposing them to vaporhop. Honestly, when we have these conversations, it’s like you don’t even want to embrace nostalgic futurism.”
Damian had assured Travis that he was all about “nostalgic futurism” even though he didn’t know exactly what that was. He just didn’t want to get dropped from the label that would help legitimize his artistic pursuits. So he ignored his reservations and navigated through the SoundCloud interface to present his new track to the masses. The upload finished, and Damian nervously waited for feedback to roll in.
The feedback was…not positive. A lot of people thought his new track was a practical joke. Some people thought it was okay. Several people used the term “sell-out”, even though the so-called genre of “vaporhop” had far less mainstream appeal than the straightforward hip-hop that his fans were used to.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed up the familiar number. “You seeing this, man?” he asked Travis.
“Give it time, Dame,” Travis replied. “New audiences aren’t built overnight. I’ll do some promotion on my end and you’ll see the popular opinion shift back to your side.” Damian wanted to discuss the issue more, but Travis had hung up.
Damian was on a second YouTube expedition to explore yet another genre of music that was unfamiliar to him. After “Portland Street Vapor 夢見る睡眠” had failed to gain traction even with the aid of Travis’ so-called “promotion” of the track, he had encouraged Damian to start looking into a style of music called “cloud rap”. Damian found himself enjoying it more than he had vaporwave, but struggled to view it as any more than a “meme” genre.
Damian could get behind the hazy atmospheres and minimalist beats of cloud rap, but was dismayed by the absurdist quality of the lyrics. His own lyrics revolved around subjects important to him. It was the only way to end up with a meaningful product. He could borrow musical influence from cloud rap, but he wasn’t going to insult his fans with nonsense abstract word-collages posing as meaningful prose.
“It’s your call, Dame,” Travis said in their next phone call. “But releasing a Cloudvaporhop track with coherent lyrics risks reaching an audience of zero.”
In the end, Damian penned lyrics for three tracks that were more metaphorical than usual, but still understandable by anybody literate. They would be released on an EP that would see a physical release of 150 purple cassette tapes sold for eight dollars each. Damian thought that was too small of a run for what would surely be a coveted collector’s item, but kept his doubts to himself. He wasn’t the one running a successful record label, after all. And he would still get to upload the tracks himself to SoundCloud.
The cloudvaporhop EP, “D.O.L.L.A. Dreams パイナップル” was another failure for Damian, and this time, he was angry that his new direction wasn’t being received well by anybody. He spoke to Travis and demanded an in-person meeting, their first, which Travis readily agreed to.
The next day, Damian sat in a fair-trade coffee house that was close to his apartment. While he waited for Travis to show, he read his SoundCloud messages and felt a fresh wave of frustration. He was so engrossed in his phone that he didn’t realize that somebody was sitting across from him until they cleared their throat.
Damian looked up and was surprised to see a teammate sitting there. “Hey Meyers. I’m just, uh, waiting for a friend.”
For some reason, Meyers Leonard had a big smile on his face. “Yeah, I know.”
When Damian only looked confused in response, Meyers continued, “Man, your rap career’s really in the toilet now, huh? Shouldn’t have been listening to that label guy who only wanted to give you bad advice.”
“Wait…you’re Travis?” Damian asked slowly.
“Yeah. And I was jealous of your rap career so I sabotaged it.” Meyers revealed this while continuing to smile as if proud of some great accomplishment.
“Hang on, I gotta make a call,” Damian said. He dialed a different number, that of Portland GM Neil Olshey, and waited until it was answered. “Hey Neil,” he started as Meyer’s smile faded from his face. “I got a trade idea that you’re gonna love…”