One good song, well-written or just plain catchy, can make a career.
South Side's Big Get It (aka Christopher Woolridge) of the hip-hop collaborative Get Money Green Brothers, knew he had a hit with "Disco Ballin'" when the audience at the club was singing back to him. In concert he starts the song a cappella to teach the words to fans.
"If somebody don't know it, they want to know it because they see everyone singing and they want to be a part of that," he says. "The best part is when the music goes off and everybody still be singing it."
His new hit "Disco Ballin'" is being played on Power 92 and 106.5 The Beat. He's gotten radio play before, but this one really seems to be catching on.
The trick is to keep the momentum without overplaying the song into a one-hit wonderland. So Big Get It and GMGB have just finished recording a video for the song, set at the Omni Hotel, After Six Supper Club and other places around Richmond. He plans to release it on GMGB's MySpace page.
Big Get It says he didn't know it would be a hit when he recorded it, but thinks it's caught people's attention because it's put together well. "People hear it on the radio and want to have a party," he says. "The record is getting people happy."
Local music veteran David Lowery, guitarist/vocalist for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, has been living with the legacy of his band's hits for a little longer. Camper Van Beethoven was a pioneering '80s alt-rock band big on college radio, but Lowery says he first knew he had a hit about six months after Cracker's "Low" came out in 1994. He was in a bar in New York and someone got up and sang a karaoke version.
"I thought, Wow, that was fast," he says. "When you hit karaoke, that's a pretty big thing."
But for Lowery and his band mates, the concept of that one-hit song is a little hazy, because where you live will affect which of his songs you'll know. While "Low" was Cracker's biggest U.S. radio and MTV hit, fans in Argentina, India, Mexico and of course Europe know "Eurotrash Girl" better. That's the one that's been covered the most, he says, and is more often culturally referenced.
His bands actually have seven certified Top-10 modern-rock hits. Even so, Lowery says, they have to play "Low" and "Eurotrash Girl" every time they play. Contrary to what you might think, he's not tired of them.
While the hard-core fans might be sick of hearing the hits, Lowery says he always tries to think of the people in the audience who might only know those songs. He says that because of poor marketing, a lot of people don't associate Cracker's hits with the band, so often people know their songs but don't know that the band plays them.
Today he has a Zen attitude about those songs. "Being able to see songs through the audience's eyes helps because you get back to the original spark or idea of when you wrote the song," he says. "That's what's important: to play the song well to have your Method acting really good."
"We play ["Low"] the fourth or fifth song and are like 'OK, there's our hit song,' and now we're going to play our other songs. Now we're going to play why we're a band from 1994 to 2007."
Big Get ItRapper with Get Money Green Brothers
Alias: Christopher Woolridge.
Style: Baller music.
What's it all about: "Having fun, we bringing partying back. Everyone want to talk about shooting up stuff, so we decided on 'Disco Ballin'.' We partying hard."
Signature lyric: "Post up and get it like I'm livin'."
And "Ballin'" was born: "I was locked up. I came home, had my mind set on something and I'm doing it."
The Oxford hip-hop version: "I was in the studio with my cousin. We wear jewelry. His chain hit the light and I was like, 'That thing looks like a disco ball.' Came up with it right there and recorded it. It's a new term. They're going to put it in the dictionary when we drop the song."
David LoweryGuitarist/vocalist, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
Know your fans: "Slackers, punk-rockers and yuppies come to our shows. College kids bring you things like John Mayer, not like our day when college kids brought you things that were cutting-edge."
Best use of skinheads: "'Take the skinheads bowling, take them bowling' a song that purposely is about nothing, that each stanza doesn't relate to the one before it."
Proof that the Queen still loves Virginia: Last summer a London Times critic wrote that Cracker's "Greenlands," a slightly psychedelic song off its last album, was "a song that a band waits their entire life to write."
"You're in a hotel in Egypt, Japan, Africa and there's that paper. It made me feel like, OK, after all these years, I am kind of successful in this cool way, in this global way, or something like that."
The Geico Caveman on Line 1: Lowery always thought he'd write music for advertising when he got older: "But I'm still playing live music and touring as much as I had in the past."
Looking ahead: "[Cracker] will probably have its highest-grossing summer this year. It's like more people know us now than when we had four songs on the radio."
Part-time frontman: "Both bands satisfy certain things for me. In Cracker I'm singing more intimate songs. Camper is more fitting for my personality because I'm more introverted. I don't have to give a shit about the audience the way lead singers do."