If you’ve ever told your wife or girlfriend that you read Playboy for the articles, then here’s a new line to try out: “Honey, I’m just going to the strip club to listen to some music.”
But it’s true — if you want to hear the newest hip-hop cuts well before they hit the radio, the jiggle joint is now a preferred place for record labels to gauge how patrons — and dancers — respond to their artists.
“Strip clubs are very mainstream now,” explains Gus Drakopoulos, the 38-year-old owner of Sin City in The Bronx. “We have men and women coming in who are 25 to 35, which is the same age group that record companies want to engage.”
For Sin City in particular, it has the advantage of being located in the borough where hip-hop was born, and there’s still lots of local talent vying to be heard even before record labels have snapped them up.
“Sometimes I’ll play a record just to keep the peace,” says Henri Charlemagne, one of the club’s DJs, who is used to aspiring rappers asking to try out their songs.
“But I tell people that if it doesn’t work on the floor, it’s not my fault!”
If it moves the crowd, then word filters to the club’s industry contacts and the buzz starts to build. It’s a process that has already worked in a few notable cases.
“We were absolutely influential in breaking French Montana,” says DJ Psycho (real name Edgar Ramos), another resident spinner at the club. “We played his song ‘Shot Caller’ every day for months before it was out anywhere.”
In 2012, the song became the first French Montana track to hit the Billboard singles chart, and his 2013 major-label debut “Excuse My French” peaked at No. 4 on the album chart.
More recently, “Hot N—a” by 20-year-old Brooklyn-based rapper Bobby Shmurda proved to be a hit in the club. “The whole place goes wild when the DJ plays it, and they do the same dance [called the Shmoney Dance] in the song’s YouTube video,” says Drakopoulos.
That street-level exposure, as well as his online popularity, has helped Shmurda land a deal with Epic Records.
Meanwhile, the Shmoney Dance is now becoming a regular sighting everywhere, including in NFL end zones after players score touchdowns.
Sin City’s reputation as a hub for the hip-hop world has even landed them lyrical shout-outs from artists including Fabolous and 50 Cent.
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