Jay Z's not the only rapper following new rules. Mekka Don, an up-and-coming MC from Columbus, Ohio, instituted a new rule of his own when he used the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo to help bankroll his debut album, The Dream Goes On.
"As an independent artist, it's difficult to compete in the market without funding," the mtvU Freshman alum told MTV News. "We had no investors and no major label backing, so we decided to crowdfund. We wanted to compete. It's something I had been looking into for awhile and eventually said, 'F--k it, what do we have to lose?'"
The rapper born Chukwuemeka Onyejekwe raised an impressive $21,000 in 30 days from 300 supporters, well over his initial goal of $12,500. Fans that helped fund TDGO were offered a number of perks, including autographed pictures, CDs and merchandise like pieces from the Don's own clothing line, Pilot Boys.
"We've been able to do a lot of our own promo, a lot of our own P.R., our own marketing, so it's a blessing," Don said during an interview on Shade 45's "Sway in the Morning." "It's really a testament to the fans."
The Dream Goes On is out now on iTunes and Amazon. With standout songs like the percussion-driven "Adrian Peterson" and the inspirational "Your Day Will Come," the 10-track project centers on the NYU School of Law grad's desire to leave his high-paying job as an attorney to chase his hip-hop dreams.
"I've built a fanbase off of my mixtapes, EPs and videos, but this is my first album," said Don, who was previously a corporate litigation attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York City. "It tells my story: what it took to get here and what I've gone through in the process. I think it represents the story of anyone who is chasing a dream."
Dream-chasers like Mekka Don are unusual in that he's found innovative ways to advance his career and make money. The former Ohio State University wide receiver explored revenue streams outside of those typically employed by indie artists making their way through the rap ranks, including licensing his music to ESPN and, of course, his alma matter.
"Music licensing is something we looked into fairly early in my career as an alternative way to get exposure but also generate revenue," Don explained. "We were able to connect with ESPN and license music to them for college football in 2008 and we built on that and leveraged that into multiple other licensing situations.
"Then Ohio State University got word of this and asked me to create music for them as well. So now we have an official licensing agreement with OSU and my songs "Juice," "Let's Go (O-H-I-O)" and "Go Nuts" are official university anthems that play at the football games and basketball games," he continued. "We believe this deal is the first of its kind with a major university and a rapper. Licensing is a great way to create revenue and exposure; it's a big part of our business model."
Mekka Don's decision to forgo the courtroom for the studio is finally paying off, even though many still wonder why he made the leap.
"Passion over pension," he said. "Passion over pension."