For Promotional Use Only: J. Cole
Surprise. This isn’t a review of the new J. Cole album that is set for today. By the time you read this, there will probably be loads of reviews done on 4 Your Eyez Only; someone else may even do one on this very site. As fun as breaking down the album would have been, I want to focus on another aspect of Cole that I feel is overlooked. No I’m not talking about his rapping. Contrary to what Twitter will say, he’s a solid rapper who is worthy of his current position in hip-hop. It may be time to recognize him as perhaps the best promoter in his class of emcees currently.
The idea of a rapper promoting his brand is nothing new. Jay Z is almost a billionaire due to this idea of self-promotion and the resume speaks for itself. As far as his peers go, Drake is, by all intents and purposes, the biggest name in the industry. Outside of his music, he has deals with the likes Apple, Nike, and Sprite. He has a stake with the Toronto Raptors and his OVO label is housing hit makers right now. It would appear to be laughable to compare Cole and Drake in the sense of business but hear me out for a moment. When we think of Drake, we tend to think of the entire encompassing brand: from his team of people working in the “tents” creating his product (yes stans, he’s getting help with his raps. Deal with it) to the suits behind his marketing. He most definitely got the bucks backing him to give him access to platforms that most would not be able to gain otherwise.
Where Drake falls short on is exactly where J. Cole excels at and it falls on the some basic principles I’ve learned in the 10 years I used to work in sales.
- Build a relationship with your client.
This is the biggest reason why Cole has a die-hard fan base. Every sale I ever had, it began with asking questions to the prospective client to unlock a need of the customer. Over time, I began to gain the customer’s trust, and gain credibility. Since The Come Up mixtape, Cole understood this concept, and has been gaining fans with each new release. The fans are his clients and he’s built a connection that no other current rapper can say they have and that is due to easy to digest lyrics with relatable content. He has huge appeal to the hip hop crowd and although he has “pop” credentials, he has kept the same crowd for almost a decade and that is to be applauded. Cole came out when I was still in college. It’s not hard to see the demographic of 18-25 years of age is the best crowd to target and fans related to Cole in that. He appealed to their school sensibilities through song and lyrics. The same fan that was an undergrad is probably still a Cole fan today.
2. Deliver on promises that you make.
I was taught by one of the VPs of my former company the phrase, “under promise and over deliver.” What this means is that to never promise a client something that you can’t deliver on. Set expectations early on so you can never disappoint the customer when it comes time to make due. Cole’s braggadocios bravado in his music is no different from say Kendrick Lamar or Lil Wayne. The difference to me is that he has never given himself the self-proclaimed title of being the best rapper; because those kind of things count when you begin to grandstand like that. Fans expect you to backup your claims or else you got to deal with the consequences and lose fans. Cole keeps everything about the music first and foremost. He strikes the perfect balance of knowing when to be confident and knowing when to be humble and it shows in his raps. And as hard as it appears to be in hip-hop in 2016, yes it pays to write most of your own raps. It keeps fans around.
3. Follow up with your clients.
This is as important as the sale itself. It demonstrates your appreciation to those for taking their time out to give you business. The promotion for Forest Hill Drive saw Cole go to some of his most die-hard fans’ home to give thanks in person and even performed songs for them in some cases. Name a platinum selling rapper to have done a tactic like this? You probably can’t. 4 Your Eyez Only found Cole releasing a 40 minute documentary that showcases him in the studio working on music and also with two new tracks: False Prophets and Everybody Dies. It is worthy to note that these songs appear to be not included in the new album. Cole always gives his fans a new experience with new releases and that is what keeps his career sustainable. It is easier to maintain your current clients than gain new ones.
The roll out for 4 Your Eyez Only is shaping up to be another win for everyone at Dreamville. The album will probably be exclusive to Tidal, which will only drive business to the streaming service; at least during the initial release. The videos for the two new songs are a throwback of 90s hip-hop in the ilk of Pharcyde, Common, etc. Cole knows what the fans want and he has consistently delivered not only for his label but also for the enthusiasts. The funny thing about everything I just explained for you here? I’m not a crazy fan of the guy. I respect the craft though. Imagine the fan he’s touched since Lights Please.