The most exciting thing in music right this minute is none other than Kanye West.
Love him or hate him (as his methods are quite polarizing) Kanye triumphantly returned to Twitter a few weeks ago and ever since has been lighting the industry on fire with consistent commentary, ideas, and news about upcoming releases.
Kanye has even trolled our president getting both his praise and retweets. It seems he is borrowing a page from the playbook of his “dragon brother” to control the media cycle and effectively utilize social media to directly communicate his messages without any middle men. His tweets are the news; they aren’t promoting the news. And all of this right in time for his new album and the release schedule – Pusha T (May 25th), Kanye West Album (June 1), Kanye and Kid Cudi Joint Project (June 8) and Nas’ & Teyana Taylor’s albums, executive produced by Kanye on June 15.
His first two songs are quite provocative and politically charged. I applaud him for bringing the conversations happening in America to light using hip hop as the medium. It is a very tense, politically charged climate right now and on his first single Kanye and TI debate the current state of affairs. This is a bold move for a pop star to do, but as Jay-Z says, to reveal is to heal and this is a fresh spin on that strategy.
Although this approach is definitely rocking the boat, with publishers like Fast Company reporting that his brand endorsements like Adidas are in jeopardy, in my opinion, it’s also the type of risks the game needs right now.
The influence of Kanye and other musicians is bigger than they get credit for. I always think about the fact that Kanye West by himself, with no opener, no costumes, no guests, no band and just a dj, one mic plus a small moving stage, can sell out basketball arenas night after night all over the globe. He, by himself, is bigger than the entire NBA league and yet, the amount of sponsorships that go toward the NBA and other sports leagues is uncanny compared to the music industry. Although the music world is getting deeper and deeper into the brand space, I feel like this is a big arbitrage opportunity for companies with vision. Musicians and their music have a much bigger reach with equally committed fans. (Side note, the big win for sports and brands is the scalability of purchasing media across the leagues and teams especially on cable TV. It’s a smart business model. I wish someone could create that same funnel for musicians and brands). But long and short… Adidas would be crazier than Kanye to drop him right now. He’s brought their brand to a whole new level; making it hotter than ever thanks primarily to Kanye being Kanye and a savvy culture marketing strategy.
Anyway, the saga is continuing with Kanye and it’s so interesting to watch.
He’s posting real-world text convos with his friends such as John Legend and Ebro, then turning them into promo opportunities driving the price up for interviews with him and everyone around him. In a world built on grabbing attention share, Kanye is king.
I know he can’t do it by himself. In recent weeks he cleared his bench (managers, lawyers etc. fired) and is aggressively building a new team with a goal to recruit 160 people by the end of the year. I’m a big believer in his creativity and talent and I know we can help. Kanye, you know who you can call to help you make your big ideas come to life, that’s runs in our blood at Nue.
He announced this weekend that the album cover will be a picture of the doctor who performed a fatal surgery his mother Donda West as a means to promote forgiveness, and love, breaking down barriers both inside himself and in the culture.
It’s about to be Yeezy season boys and girls. I hope he keeps both hands on the wheel, one foot on the gas and both eyes on the prize as the stakes are only going up.
Also published on Medium.