During this week’s episode of BET’s Being Mary Jane, one pivotal scene featured Mr. Robotic’s “I’m Here” getting some playtime as part of the soundtrack. And this isn’t the first time the musician also known as Marcus Harris has gotten a placement of this caliber.
For the past several years, Mr. Robotic hasn’t gotten any mainstream notoriety or a Billboard hit, but anyone that watches a healthy amount of television or listens to consumer-friendly rap along the lines of Pitbull or The Black Eyed Peas has heard him before. There aren’t a lot of artists in Hip Hop who can get placements on everything from Keeping Up With The Kardashians and CW’s Arrow to Coca-Cola commercials, but Mr. Robotic has proven himself able.
Sure, Hip Hop traditionalists may have an issue with anything regarding pop-leaning rap but no one can knock the hustle and monetary gain involved. Even if an MC has a problem with that specific genre of Hip Hop, there’s still much they can learn about making a living off the culture outside of the standard practices.
During a conversation in North Hollywood, Mr. Robotic broke down for DX his keys to success and his 2017 plans, which include a new album and a push for more radio play.
How Changing His Name From Bullet Led To More Music Success
HipHopDX: You’ve gotten over 100 music placements, from Keeping Up With The Kardashians to Jane The Virgin and ESPN’s Sportscenter. More recently, your music was featured on Being Mary Jane. That’s an interesting route to go in regards to your artistry.
Mr. Robotic: It’s been 120 to be exact. Yeah, I’ve recently done a lot of stuff with CW from Jane The Virgin to Arrow. I had music featured on Stomp The Yard and Stomp The Yard 2. In 2016 alone, I’ve probably been featured 50 times or so. It’s been a crazy year. The strategy behind it was I got tired of paying for a publicist. So, I’m like what can I do to save money, but still have the same effect. If I hit someone up about an interview, I had a whole list of stuff to talk about as well. That was the game plan. Plus, I realized that you can get paid from it too. My name shows up on the credits and people will discover me from that. From a label perspective, I’m making money. That’s been the game plan for the last five years. Now, I can go to the labels telling them I made this much and to give me a deal for triple that.
DX: If you could divulge, how much does someone in your position make per year from music?
Mr. Robotic: Right now, I’m at $130,000 before I pay producers. You can add more with performances and whatnot.
DX: Hip Hop has this strong hatred of EDM and pop. However, you’ve overtly embraced both aspects.
Mr. Robotic: Funny thing is that I use to be on blogs like HipHopDX before I crossed over and changed my name to Mr. Robotic from Bullet. I was still making that same kind of music, but it didn’t align until I changed my name.
DX: And you’re from Chicago too.
Mr. Robotic: From a brand and business perspective, Bullet wasn’t going to work even if I did Disney songs. Becoming Mr. Robotic and still maintaining the music just worked. This is what I like about Drake. What people don’t realize is that perception is reality. Drake can do the same thing that Meek Mill or someone does and get away with it because he’s clean cut and comes off as a nice guy. That’s where the money is. That’s why he’s dangerous. I remember when he put out the “4PM In Calabasas” joint and he was talking about having a pistol in his safe. People were joking saying he didn’t have a pistol, but he could be telling the truth, but people don’t believe it. I learned that early. My name is Mr. Robotic and I’m a nice clean guy and that’s it.
Mr. Robotic Explains How His Music Placements Gained Fans
DX: I remember hearing about you before the current new wave of Chicago artists and even the Drill movement. Looking back, where were you placed in the scene before making your transition to now?
Mr. Robotic: I felt like I knew everybody in the Chicago industry, but I wasn’t representing anything. I got on by myself with no help. I saw everyone over there were going to WGCI and Power 92, I’m going to B96 because it was open. There are only like three other artists who do what I do. Flo Rida, Pitbull and Black Eyed Peas.
DX: Around that time Black Eyed Peas’ The E.N.D. had sold millions and Hip Hop treated them like a joke.
Mr. Robotic: Who’s making the money? Are we in this game to care about who’s hating on us or are we in it to make money? It’s not one of those things to where people sell out. You listen to my music, I’m rapping the same stuff I was rapping about, but just on different beats. People know me as Bullet the former battle rapper and see why I went this route. It’s not forced either.
DX: Placements are one thing, but having a fan base and people buying your music is another. How does that translate over into sales?
Mr. Robotic: Before Spotify became popular, my whole business model was getting to watch my name on the credits. On blogs or whatever, only a certain amount of people were going to see me if I even made the homepage. Most popular television shows get millions of views and when my name pops up in the credits, those people see it. At the time you could only buy on iTunes and stream on YouTube. What I did was make myself available everywhere I could. That would translate into sales. That was the whole business model and it works till this day.
DX: Where’d that strategy come from?
Mr. Robotic: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I wish I knew how I thought of all of this. I think with licensing, I saw how much money you could make. Honestly, $130,000 is nothing. It’s people out here making millions, especially if you’re a composer. There are a lot of folks out here that think you can just be an artist when most of them really aren’t making money when you really think about it. How can I find the three biggest revenue streams in the music business? It’s touring, licensing and brand building. Mr. Robotic is trademarked so when need be, I can take it to a real global level.
Mr. Robotic Talks Nothing Lasts Forever Album & Actual Cost To Create Music
DX: You have a project coming out soon as well.
Mr. Robotic: Yes, I have Nothing Lasts Forever. Going to put a single out soon, work that on radio and hopefully have the album out by the summer. It’s been a dramatic two years and I realized even when fucked up shit happens, it doesn’t last. I’m just like Nothing Lasts Forever. So, it’s motivational stuff, plus all the personal relationship stuff I was going through. I had a crazy ex-girlfriend who used to chase me around, scars on my face from it and having my car keyed. Someone even stole $15,000 from me so it was very bad.
Just knowing that I can overcome that, it solidified me to becoming a real business owner because one day, I have a few producers under me now, but I want to have artists signed to me. I can easily guide someone so that they don’t have to go through what I did. I want the Roc-A-Fella deal where I come in with this amount of money and let them know what I want so we can build from there. It’s only so far you can go as an indie. As long as you have a dope song, you’re good. Britney Spears is in Vegas and she hasn’t had a hit in like 10 years. That doesn’t happen in Hip Hop. Flo Rida and Pitbull have hot singles.
DX: Pitbull or Flo Rida don’t get as much respect within mainstream Hip Hop.
Mr. Robotic: You mention that, but go on iTunes or Spotify and they’re under Hip Hop. Why don’t nobody claim them? That’s a win.
DX: Do you think that’s the MC Hammer complex? He got dissed by everyone at one time.
Mr. Robotic: I got a shitload of bars chilling on my iPhone. Just because I go more of a pop lane doesn’t mean I can’t rap.
DX: How do you feel about mumble rap and the controversy behind that?
Mr. Robotic: I don’t like it. You have to think about it. There was this song from Rebecca Black called “Friday.” That song was terrible. Did it become a hit because everyone saw how bad it was? To me, mumble rap is the equivalent to Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” The mumble rap shit can be successful, but in pop where actual song lyrics matter, that devalues rap so much in my opinion. Now, you’re going to get more mumble rappers. People think because a few artists are successful, they can do it too. Future has been here for a minute. Migos has been around for two or three years now. Desiigner had the biggest hit of 2016 so is it just a phase? I don’t know how long it’ll last.
DX: You have a keen eye for what works in regards to the business of your career. Is there a difficulty in translating that to the actual art?
Mr. Robotic: Honestly, I have to do it to live. Usually, I pay for my own studio time which is normally $75 an hour. I record for two hours and knock out four songs. When I go record, I have everything memorized and record in like 30 minutes because I have to. I get it mixed and knock out. Before the album comes out, I’ve already made my money back. I did it through licensing. Half the songs have been on TV already. That’s the key. A $1,000 check is small, but it would take 1,000 people to make that if I just sold it. It only cost $75 to make a song because I go to the studio to record a song and send it to my engineer in Chicago and he only charges $75 an hour.