How Hip Hop’s Biggest Artists Use Their Own Marketing Tactics to Generate Publicity

By: Jack Gosner

            Chance the Rapper has been wearing hats since he was a kid.  He looks at them as a method of rebellion. As he said in his interview with GQ, “I used to always rock a cap when I was in high school and get them taken away…it was an excessive amount”.  He feels like they help him keep a simple and child-like mindset in his life. Since he has become one of the most popular rappers of the decade, he has used his love, and dare I say obsession, of hats to sell his albums and build himself a sizeable net worth.  His most famous hat is a plain-colored, classic ball cap style, with a white or black number 3 on it.  Selling them at $50 a piece, they’d sell out upon release on October 9th, 2016. Chance has gone on record saying that his merchandise is his main stream of revenue.  The difference between Chance and other mainstream hip-hop artists is that he allows his fans to stream his music for free and is not signed to a label.  This means he can release his music whenever and however he wants.  In 2016, when he released his wildly popular album, Coloring Book, he only allowed those with Apple Music to stream it for the first two weeks.  This created a lot of buzz because one, the annoyance that resulted from fans accustomed to streaming his projects for free and two, because it generated interest not only the project, but in the streaming service. The partnership was beneficial for both parties and his album became the first album EVER to reach the Billboard 200 charts on streaming alone.

            Another master of marketing in the hip-hop world is Kanye West.  He became popular as a producer for some of the biggest names in rap, and then rose to fame as a rapper himself.  He is a god according to himself and a marketing genius according to me.  First off, his luxury shoe line, named after his nickname, Yeezy, had made him tens of millions of dollars.  He talks about his lucrative partnership with Adidas in some of his songs, which then brings attention to his shoe line, which then drives sales. He also hosts a Christian “worship” service of sorts, Sunday Service, on Sunday mornings across the country.  He hosts a large choir at these mostly outdoor services and plays hymns and his own songs throughout, with a famous pastor or celebrity giving a message sometime during the service. He uses these services as a way of expressing his feelings towards God, but also as a way of promoting himself.  The choir all wear clothing pieces from his fashion line, along new or unreleased Yeezys.  Kanye also has a merch store set up nearby with merchandise specific to the service.  Hoodies go for over $200, and a pair of socks can be $50.While he is trying to use this time of “worship” to express his religious beliefs, it is clear that by playing his own songs and selling his own merch that this is also a performance of sorts for him.  I believe there is nothing wrong with this and that he plays the marketing game better than any other artist, which is what has helped drive him to the top of the hip hop scene.

            It is no secret how big hip hop is in our country, and it’s only getting bigger.  Whether artists are paving the way for new paths to success, like Chance the Rapper, or are capitalizing on people’s need to feel included, like Kanye West, every hip hop artist has their own way of marketing themselves and their products. I think it will be interesting to see how these tactics evolve in the future as new artists takeover and rise to fame.

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