A sit down with a Midwestern rapper bolstered by his entrepreneurial spirit.
St. Louis bred-emcee Cato is an old soul workhouse in an age of microwave media and instant digital gratification. Rhyming since the age of 17, he not only tours across the country but takes matters into his own hands by routing said tours himself as a booking agent (Cato also handles bookings for noteworthy artists such as OnCue and Chris Webby). As a musician, he’s a genre blending eclectic, seamlessly integrating an array of Pop and EDM styles while maintaining the sensibilities of someone that appreciates technical hip-hop. Having performed at SXSW and toured with the likes of Mike Stud & Futuristic, Chris Webby, Huey Mack, Cam Meekins, Kyle Lucas, OnCue, and more, Cato has garnered deep, meaningful connectivity with fans on a national level. His latest album, “Cat Olive Chronicles” is the work of a seasoned artist who has been grinding for years, honing his craft with time and perspective along the way.
We sat down to talk to Cato about all things life, hip-hop, and entrepreneur. Check it out:
I recognize and immensely respect your business sense. At which point did you decide to pursue booking and why?
Well as an independent artist, I would say I have always been booking in a sense, cause I have always had to sell myself. ALWAYS. I did a ton of shows in college but that was easy, didn’t really have to book myself. But when I lived in Seattle, I wanted to kick it back into gear for shows so I started to learn how to deal with venues, booking small venues and showcases for me and other locals. When I moved to Minnesota, I was contacted by a local promoter there who wanted me to be on a show…one turned into two and so on. He could tell from early on that I wasn’t just some local kid that wanted to do shows, he knew I had a business sense and we would routinely have conversations on how to make the shows better, what to expect from locals and what not. After a while he started to turn shows over to me to run so he could have a few nights off. After about a year of doing shows in his circuit and those acts, a lot of the artists would tell me I didn’t fit in, with the music that I did, the stage show I had and that I needed to be doing bigger shows, not just local stuff. So me and that promoter decided to take it up a notch and book some larger acts to give us better shows. We teamed up, financed and did 2 shows before I moved to bigger things. After I felt like I handle on it, I reached out to Huey Mack’s people. I had known of Chad Fellers (his manager at the time) through his own promo company (which ironically Chad is the Tour Manager for SoMo now and currently the Lighting Director on the Endless Summer Tour with G and Logic), “Wasted Potential”, and I worked out a deal to book a few of the shows and get on a few more and then everything really just snowballed from there.
Your sound is hella eclectic. It’s clearly a conscious, deliberate decision. What made you go that route?
Well honestly when I started I was hella confused. I thought I needed to imitate every aspect of rap. The language, the clothes and the music instead of being myself. Baggy clothes, hats, boots, etc: the stereotype of what a “Rapper” was supposed to be then. It never really worked for me, but I felt like if I could make my appearance “look” like a rapper more people would take the music more seriously. Doing it this way kept me from finding my actual sound though. Over the course of time, I found myself, not getting bigger shows I was trying to get on because of it. People don’t seem to understand that just cause you make music and call yourself a rapper doesn’t mean you deserve to perform. Venues and promoters have a feel they want to their shows and a responsibility to their ticket buyers to put on the best show possible. I felt like changing the style of instrumentation for more of a hype performance was going to be my best route possible to make all of that work together and it did. I wanted people to walk out of shows saying “shit why wasn’t that guy the headliner, it show was so amped up.” You can do that through all sorts of music, but for me the first step was getting the right beats to start that process and then the rest followed suit.
Tell me more about the ups and downs of being a booking agent (biggest payoff, what to do vs. not to do when reaching out to you about a show, etc…).
The main ups and downs are rejections, dealing with incompetent agents, and patience. The only real “to do” per say is be professional at all times. That is about all you can control. You would think that it would be simple like “hey I have this money, I have this track record, let’s do this”, but it’s not. There are a ton of things that go into artists choosing to do a show. Hard Tickets VS Soft Tickets, do they have an album, mixtape, or single coming out, when were they in the market last, is the agent over selling you? There is a ton of detail and information that goes into making the best decision possible. At the end of the day, I trust my gut, because I trust me and I don’t trust anyone else.
What do you think rappers need to do more of? Do less of?
Oh boy, here’s the question that is going to get me in trouble. More of? Stop making shitty music, or just stop trying at all. Seems hypocritical to say of course because everyone starts somewhere, but it’s just too much and too many. Sure I sucked when I started, but when I started, I was the only person I knew that was on iTunes, Datpiff, and was selling records…now with Digital Distro, everyone is everywhere and horrible music is everywhere. Fans are confused to say the least…they think this artist just was on stage, so they must be good or must be semi-famous, and it’s the exact opposite. The time you are seeing them is probably the biggest moment of their life and you just validated them with your tweet saying “OMG that was the best concert of my life; X is now my favorite artist.” That is the worst possible thing you could have just said to that artist. They, in their mind, were just validated. They will keep making shitty music ’cause no one helps, corrects, or checks them. Especially when the average fan doesn’t even know how that act got on that show. Was the act booked? LOL no, they reached out and probably paid or agreed to sell a grip of tickets to secure the slot.
You can find Cato red-eying all over the country but most often in the midwest, namely in Minneapolis, performing and/or booking the dopest of shows under his CLM Presents moniker. His events have included artists from Cam’ron to Cam Meekins, and everyone in between. The hustle and the feedback are both all too real so if you’re interested in performing, don’t hesitate to reach out…but don’t half step when you do.