Learn more about one of the Internet’s most influential outlets.
Social media has become one of the most powerful tools for aspiring musicians, managers, bloggers and more. Creating a strong social media presence is often seen as the first rule to making yourself or your platform stand out, and one platform that has stood out for years is Steady Leanin.
Steady Leanin operates somewhere in the realm of music curation and blogging, rap history and event coordination. Created in 2011, Steady Leanin has a growing list of legendary moments from booking ASAP Rocky in a 500-person venue in Boston, to having 21 Savage on a stage at SXSW to booking DJ’s like Metro Boomin, Mannie Fresh, and OG Ron C.
To get a better insight into what it took to take Steady Leanin from an internet idea into a full-fledged rap outlet, we spoke with co-founder Jeremy Karelis about the beginnings of Steady Leanin, and some of it’s key moments of growth.
Who are you?
I’m Jeremy Karelis or @menschmane. I’m from the North Shore of Massachusetts, live in LA, but will represent Boston till I’m 6 feet deep.
What/Who is Steady Leanin?
Steady Leanin is just Nate Welch (now in NYC) and myself. It started as a Tumblr in 2011 with a bit more in mind. We used the platform as a foundation to post the music we enjoyed that no one in our area was really hip to yet – Main Attrakionz, Odd Future and Rvidxr Klvn. At the time, the only artists getting booked in Boston were 90’s legacy acts, and we desperately wanted to change that.
As we continued to post music and really take full advantage of what the internet had to offer, we started to book shows in the city (A$AP Rocky, Lil B, Kevin Gates), eventually leading to a monthly night we’ve now been running for 5+ years. I don’t know how to define Steady Leanin. We’ve done blogging, event planning, top-secret A&Ring, public relations, clothing drops, etc. We’re just a thing that’s been doing things for some time.
What was the strategy to finding the music you liked? What was your primary source?
The Internet; YouTube rabbit holes and SoundCloud. A great thing about Twitter is that you can find people with the same taste in music no matter where you live. That’s how we were able to curate showcases and see actual fans of the acts show up. If you use social media properly, you can find anything and reach anyone.
How does a kid from Massachusetts get engrained with rap music, primarily the south/Houston area of music?
Good question. Growing up, I listened to everything from soul to punk to rap to blues, most genres really. For some reason, southern rap particularly struck a chord with me. You could hear pain from artists like Z-Ro, unadulterated swag from Pimp C, bounce-influenced beats from producers like Mannie Fresh. It’s all there. The south really doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
When we first started our monthly, PVRPLE, no one thought people would come out for it. Good Life Bar was the only venue that gave us a shot. Forever grateful for that. Since then, we’ve been able to book our favorite DJs from the old school (Mannie Fresh, DJ Michael 5000 Watts, DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia) to the new (Metro Boomin, DJ Esco, Hoodrich Keem, Lex Luger). It’s funny because around the time we started the site, you could see the south’s influences creeping into the east coast mainstream with artists like Rocky. Now the south is obviously a force.
What are some of your key accomplishments as a platform?
I feel like we’ve done some things we could lightly flex about but personally, being able to put Boston rappers on shows/showcases without making them going through the pay-to-play formula and ideally lacing their pockets a little is what I’m most proud of. The first SXSW showcase we ever did, there weren’t any Boston artists that could even fit the bill/aesthetic. Fast forward a few years, Boston artists dominated our bill. When it came to local shows, putting Cousin Stizz and OG Swaggerdick on a Gleesh show early on, putting Michael Christmas on an eXquire show and seeing them ultimately collaborate, all of that feels like an accomplishment.
What was the first show you booked and brought to the city, and how did people respond?
The first big show I helped book was Wiz Khalifa at the Middle East Downstairs when he was on his Deal Or No Deal Tour in 2010. The first show as Steady Leanin was A$AP Rocky and the Mob in 2011. I guess people responded by selling that shit out. Boston was hungry for new blood despite its boom bap history.
What fueled the start of Steady Leanin, and what was your first step to getting it from an idea to an actual “thing”?
Yams. Next question. Yams pretty much taught me to trust my ears, to never to give up just because this label or that A&R wasn’t responsive to my taste in music. He saw what we were doing on Tumblr and just kept an eye out, checked in from time to time. It wasn’t so much like “you need to do this on tumblr” as much as it was the best platform at the time for sharing music that was aesthetically pleasing to “tumblr culture.” Sounds ridiculous, I know.
You’ve hosted stages at SXSW during what most might consider the height of SXSW’s sort of power. What did SXSW teach you about the music industry, about event coordination and about yourself?
SXSW didn’t teach us so much about the industry as it did the importance of networking and how powerful the internet really is. It allowed us to showcase artists we thought were talented, but couldn’t necessarily draw in Boston at the time. We had artists like 21 Savage, Z Money, Kari Faux, A$ton Matthews, G-Side, Sicko Mobb, Amber London, etc. early on. We got to meet everyone we had been talking to online for years, in real life. That’s a blessing.
In terms of event coordination, we definitely learned that things won’t always run smoothly and you have to ride it out to the best of your ability. Artists running late on a tight schedule, stage managers not showing up, all of it happens and you just gotta go with the flow sometimes.
About myself, I learned that there’s nothing I’d rather do than be in music. As slimy as this industry gets, I love this shit.
Do you think SXSW is “dead?”
Nah – it’s changed, for sure, but it can still benefit artists and “industry” people. I still learn about new artists at SXSW and you connect with everyone you’ve been talking to on the internet for x amount of years. The biggest downfall other than corporations trying to run everything, is that a ton of these showcases book all the same acts. Everyone wants to be an influencer, but no one wants to take a chance on new talent and possibly break them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a showcase series or a platform?
Do it. Don’t make excuses. Do the research, curate with your gut, and make sure you really want it. Like you need to REALLY want it.
And hit my DMs if you need to. They’re always open.