3 Marketing Lessons I Learned From My Love Of Rap Music


Share on LinkedIn

            I love listening to rap music while I work. Like investor Ben Horowitz, I’ve feel that rappers are some of the realest celebrities we have. At least when starting out, much of what rappers sing about comes from the heart. And in most cases, what comes from the heart is the same struggle we constantly go through as entrepreneurs and marketers. Feelings of pressure an uncertainty are always in the back of our minds. Apart from being good music, rap is also inspiration for the underdog.

Looking into my many years of rap music indulgence, I’ve learned quite a few marketing lessons from my favorite artists. These takeaways have helped me become a better marketer, and a bigger fan of the musicians.

Here are 3 marketing lessons I learned from my favorite rappers. I hope these tips help you become a better marketer.

1.     Marketing A Higher Purpose

If you’re at all into the rap genre, chances are you know you the song “Black Beatles.” A hit single that hit the top of the billboard charts, saying it was a huge success would be an understatement. Apart from wanting to hear a great song when I workout, the hit single also encouraged me to look into artist, Rae Sremmurd. 

After researching Sremmund’s creative style, there were a few marketing lessons that I discovered. 

Unfortunately, the number of musical artists who “sell out” to the public is rising. As technology has broken down the barriers of entry for the music industry, competition has gotten fiercer. For many aspiring artists looking to stand out, this has meant altering their lyrics to be popular among the general public is a necessary evil.

For many marketing departments, this is a constant struggle we also must confront. When we define our brand and our message, thinking about the demographics we may be excluding is an important thought. The more customers we can appeal to, the greater our market size. With that said, when you appeal to too many groups, your brand loses influence. Trying to be friends with everyone means you become a best friend to no one.

But, appealing to too small a market could lead to an unsustainable business. So how do you decide which customer segment to go after?

Rae Sremmund handled this by focusing on a smaller market segment, and dismissing his haters from the get go.

This led to Sremmund to build an even more loyal following, and also made his music come across as more “real.” He’s kept this mindset from the time he had his first single to now, and it’s a big reason why he’s had the influence he has today.

When branding our companies, we need to have less of a focus on size of the market and more of a focal point on company values. When the mission of the company is based on mission and not popularity, your following will be stronger. As you defend your values overtime, as Sremmund has, your brand will diversify and expand to new markets on its own.

2.     Use Competition To Create Buzz

In recent rap history, it’s tough to find a better example of using a competitor to promote yourself than the Drake and Meek Mill feud.

In summary, Meek Mill accused Drake of not writing his own lyrics. In response, Drake created 3 of his best hits about Mill: Charged UpBack To Back, and Summer 16.

The result arguably destroyed Meek Mill’s rap career, and put Drake on a higher level.

When faced with competition, it’s essential to turn lemons into lemonade. A way to do this is to use confrontation to gain more customers. Humans are wired to love fighting. Examples like gladiators, boxing, and MMA prove that people enjoy a good showdown. Find a way to use this as a growth hack and you can build a compelling audience.

The other perk of highlighting competitors is increased motivation of your marketing team. Signaling out an enemy is a way to build excitement among your department. There’s nothing like a battle where there’s a winner and a loser. And as your enemy attacks your company, the energy from your side will just keep increasing.

Drake played this perfectly, which is why he’s one of the greatest musicians of our generation.

3.     Know When Things Have Gone Too Far

Warning: when taken too far, point number two can destroy your company. A sad example of this in the rap world was the Tupac and Biggie Smalls feud. Two of the most famous rappers even today, both Tupac and Biggie died as a result of the hate they had for each other. They were both in their prime, and would have produced countless more hits if they were still with us today.

In business, we’re constantly faced with the decision of when we have gone too far. Did we invest too many dollars in this campaign? Have we poked at the competition too much? Are our marketing messages too unethical for us?

While we should always be looking for new marketing channels, it’s important to make sure we never cross the line. Competition in business is part of the game, but taking it too far can ruin your company in the process.

If Biggie and Tupac would have kept this thought in mind, they may still be with us today. Their feud created a huge amount of buzz for both artists, but ultimately led to tragedy in the end.

AJ Agrawal
I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here