It was March of 2016 when Blackbear suddenly announced via Twitter he was leaving the Happy Camper Tour he was co-opening alongside Super Duper Kyle for Hoodie Allen on. (Sad to have just miss seeing him in Philadelphia)
In a succession of deleted tweets, Blackbear aired out his grievances.
A month later, Blackbear was seen supporting Tinashe on her Joyride World Tour for seven dates. What happened next for Blackbear, born Matthew Musto, changed the Florida native forever.
It wasn’t until May of this year that he began to thoroughly explain his absence. But, fans knew something was up as a new and skinnier version of Blackbear began to appear in his social media posts.
Blackbear told Billboard he thought he had acid reflux, but in actuality he has pancreatitis. “One in three people would have died from the severity of my attack,” Blackbear said to Billboard. “I had a large surgery where they cut me wide open.”
While in the hospital, Blackbear conceptualized the majority of songs appearing on his latest release Digital Druglord, debuting at no. 14 on the Billboard 200 as an independent artist, solidifying that sometimes your life makes for the best content.
“2016 was catastrophic, I deserved it,” Blackbear sings on “wish u the best“, a track from his latest release. “Just thankful that it’s over.” The album earned 29,000 equivalent album units in the week ending April 27, according to Nielsen Music. To put it in perspective, that’s like going gold for an independent artist!
His sole single for the 10 track album “do re mi” peaked at no. 87 on the Billboard Hot 100, positioning it as his first billboard chart. The single also peaked at no. 12 on the R&B Songs chart. A year sober, he proclaimed on his Twitter last month, “Blackbear’s making the best music of his career.” which is not to say his music wasn’t good before.
“It’s a good time in the Beartrap world,” Blackbear told Billboard. “I’m waiting right now for the president of a label to see if he wants to buy my label for millions.” But either way, I think he’ll be fine. Trust me, I’ll explain later.
In all actuality, Blackbear doesn’t need a label, and he’s been proving it for years, dating back to 2012. Blackbear met his manager Tabari Francis back in 2008, and subsequently moved to Atlanta Georgia for two years, learning how to write songs from the ultimate teacher himself Ne-Yo.
In 2012, Blackbear met Mike Posner, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter, poet, rapper, and music producer in a studio session. Together, they co-wrote “Boyfriend” for Justin Bieber. The song went on to peak at no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling just over 3 million copies, which is pretty good for one session.
“I went crazy,” Blackbear said to Billboard. “I was poor my whole life. When I was a millionaire at age 21, what would you do? As soon as I got rich, it was mimosas every morning. I was taking my friends to Six Flags every weekend; we were flying to Hawaii; we did whatever we wanted.” and for the record, he still is.
Blackbear and Posner would go on to form a hip-hop duo dubbed Mansionz, releasing an album in March of this year. If you live under a rock, stop reading and vibe out to “i’m thinking about horses”. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
The album was released through Bear Trap Recordings, Blackbear’s label, and Monster Mountain, both subsidiaries of Island Records. In its debut week, the self-titled album landed at no. 67 on the Billboard 200.
“I’m really living my fullest potential life,” Blackbear said to Billboard.
A sequel for the duo seems likely but isn’t confirmed.
“I wouldn’t say we’ll definitely make more music together,” Posner said to laweekly. “I could die. Our label could drop us. I could kill Blackbear.”
The release of Mansionz and Digital Druglord may be the best consecutive two album release by Blackbear to date. According to Blackbear, it only gets better and his fans have definitely confirmed this statement!
In a since-deleted tweet, he said he had another completed album better than his latest release. Digital Druglord is going to be hard to top. Blackbear’s catalog consists of four studio albums, a mixtape, six EPs, and a slew of writing, production, and feature credits.
A 2015 single, “idfc” off his release in the same year Deadroses peaked at no. 19 on the R&B Songs chart while his 2016 EP Cashmere Noose at No. 108 on the Billboard 200, and No. 5 on the U.S. R&B album charts.
“If it didn’t have the F word in the chorus, I’m pretty sure it would’ve played all over the radio,” Musto said to Billboard. “I have an independent plaque, and I’m so proud of it. That’s my baby.”
Whether any of Blackbear’s songs make it to the radio or not, he’s rich now as he states in one of his tracks, “chateau“, from Digital Druglord.
Beside the fact he’s an independent artist, cutting out any potential middlemen, Blackbear was one of the first independent artists’ to monetize SoundCloud, an online audio distribution platform.
On SoundCloud, which includes a Premier tier for subscribers, Blackbear can monetize his content via select advertising. Essentially set up like a newspaper, advertisers are paying Blackbear for space on his SoundCloud like they would a newspaper with a high volume of readers.
Let’s run the numbers: Blackbear has 49 tracks on SoundCloud, but approximately 360,000 followers to advertise to with a gang of tracks that have obtained several million plays. Additionally, he averages just over 8 million monthly listens on Spotify and a YouTube channel with just over 2.3 million views.
Factor all of this in with touring and merchandising, the traditional streams of income for independent artists, and you’ll see why with a net worth of $500,000 Blackbear doesn’t need a major label deal.
“I’m gonna be completely honest: my annual income is more than what a label could offer me at the moment.”
And to be honest, what can a label actually offer artists. According to Blackbear’s resilient strategy, the answer is nothing.
To catch a live show of Blackbear this summer, visit here.