Hip-Hop is a beautiful thing. Least it can be... No matter what though, there's nothing more awkward than the first time you tell someone that you rap. In my experience, its two normal reaction, and I haven't decided which one is worse. Its either "Oh... you rap? About what?" OR... "ME TOO! We should get in the studio together."
Its wild how out of all the elements of it, picking up that mic has such varied connotations. The same people who ask you if you have bars are generally the first ones to admit that they don't really listen to the lyrics. The same people who say they're tired of the misogyny and violence are criticizing the Kendricks and Coles for being too conscious and smart in their music.
Then there's me... A true fan, open-minded critic, and founded in multiple genres outside of strictly hip-hop. I don't fit into a box, and that's why I call this home. I've tried to put the pen down, and I've tried to step away from the mic. Quitting it wasn't for me.
There's a difference though, in being "that guy who raps," versus someone who does this for a living. I like being that first guy, but I couldn't find a good reason NOT to be the latter.
I heard somewhere that "people see you the way that you want them to." In building up this label with my friends, and trying to make my music more professional, I've learned alot about that difference. Perception is everything. I think I have it down to two things: Money, and Respect. If you're not spending any money on this, and you're not making ANY sort of income, then its just a hobby for you. Then there's the people getting money of shows, endorsements, merch, and opportunities. You do ONE of those things, then you have a career, no matter how successful.
Respect is a little funny though. I say this coming from NY; an area that is easily the most critical of new artists in the entire world. Respect comes from cosigns. I used to think it was strictly off of the strength of your bars and stage presence. That's definitely a part of it, but that never really takes you too far. The respect comes from little things that literally anybody could do. I have a few go to freestyles when people ask me to rap. Haven't changed them much in these past few years to be honest with you... Before, the reactions were "wow.... that was cool!" and then life goes on. Within the past few months though, I spit that same freestyle and hand someone a business card and all of a sudden their eyes light up. I mention a website, or that I'm selling a t-shirt and people's reactions are COMPLETELY different. The music didn't change that much. The art stayed at the same (high) level. But that level of respect for the hustle was night and day.
Bottom Line... this rap thing isn't for EVERYONE. But if its for you... be honest. You want it to be a hobby? Or something to feed your family with? Honestly, the difference is only in the effort you put in...