Hey! This update covers Drake’s new cannabis company, the impact of 21 Savage’s immigration issues, and Chris Brown’s yard sale.
Drake’s Cannabis Game
“The biggest of Canada’s new brand of marijuana producers will join forces with Toronto-born rap star Drake to launch a fully-licenced joint venture in the city to produce and distribute cannabis, the two sides said on Thursday.
Under the deal, the multi-Grammy award winner will take a 60% stake in a subsidiary of stock-market listed Canopy Growth (WEED.TO), which produces cannabis in nearby Scarborough, Ontario.”
Here’s more from Drake via Canopy Growth’s press release:
“The opportunity to partner with a world-class company like Canopy Growth on a global scale is really exciting,” shared More Life Growth Company founder, Drake. “The idea of being able to build something special in an industry that is ever growing has been inspiring. More Life and More Blessing.”
Since Drake dropped Scorpion in 2018, he’s widened his range of activities:
- Monetized back catalog (So Far Gone re-release, Care Package)
- Executive produced shows on HBO (Euphoria) and Netflix (Top Boy)
- Landed naming rights to an NBA practice facility (OVO Athletic Centre)
- Co-ownership of esports organization (100 Thieves)
- Launched a joint venture cannabis company (More Life Growth Company)
To date, most celebrity partnerships in the cannabis industry have been endorsement deals or creative director roles. You know, the roles that make you say, “sounds dope but what the hell do they actually do?” Drake’s new JV is an opportunity to puts his stake in the game with a piece of ownership and partners with a company that’s been struggling. It’s a move that seems much more aligned with Jay Z’s “underdog brand” strategy than Drake’s, but still it fits.
For the better part of a decade, Drake benefitted from partners who rose with him: Apple Music, Nike, Republic Records, Sprite, and the NBA. These organizations met him at the right moments. Their mass distribution and reach fueled Drake’s rise to global superstardom.
As Drake’s power grew, it shifted the relationship dynamics. Some of these companies need the “God’s Plan” rapper just as much as they need him.
Here’s what I wrote about last year in Nothing Was the Same After, “Nothing Was the Same”:
“Drake has established a de facto Walmart-Procter & Gamble type of relationship with the streaming platforms. As a supplier who wants to maintain power, Drake wants the executives at Spotify and Apple Music to account for the rapper’s impact in each annual report.”
When Procter-Gamble just topped its Q3 earnings expectations, investors were automatically bullish on Walmart’s earnings. That’s the same effect Drake has. With that much influence, an equity stake allows him to bet on his merits and the company’s ability to make it happen.
Equity deals aren’t guaranteed. Sometimes they fail to live up to their full potential, like Stephen Curry’s equity deal with Under Armour. Four years ago, that stock (and that Golden State team) was skyrocketing like Google in 2007. But it’s been a rough ride ever since. If you’re Drake, who’s living comfortably and isn’t relying on the cannabis money, might as well take a calculated risk and bet on yourself. The 60 / 40 ownership split with More Life Growth Company gives Drake control he desires and the partnership benefits he needs.
Disclaimer – I once owned Under Armour stock (during that 2015 heyday run) but have since sold. In 2016 I wrote a freelance article where I referenced my ownership, so I want to be transparent. I no longer own stock in any individual company. Not only am I done with that game, but it reinforces Trapital’s impartiality to not have vested financial interest. Any stock I own is solely through my index and retirement funds.
The impact of 21 Savage’s immigration issues
“21 Savage is a prisoner of America’s immigration system — he’s facing deportation, he can’t leave the country, his ability to make a living is severely impaired and he doesn’t even have a court date.
As TMZ reported … Savage was arrested in Atlanta back in February and placed in ICE custody. Turns out he entered the U.S. legally from the UK back in 2005, but his visa expired and he’s been here illegally for years.
The rapper wasn’t even able to get a work permit for 8 months, which meant he couldn’t work domestically. He finally got one last month, so at least now he can work in the U.S. … but traveling out of the country is out of the question until he gets things cleared up with immigration.
Here’s the underlying problem … we’re told immigration courts in the ATL are ridiculously overcrowded with hundreds of backlogged cases. Some people won’t have their day in court until 2022. Savage hasn’t even gotten a court date, so it could take years to resolve his case.”
There are a few things to unpack here:
- The immigration courts take entirely too long. It’s unacceptable that anyone—whether it’s a 27-year old rapper or a blue-collar worker— should have to wait three years for a hearing that impacts their livelihood. But as someone who has formed partnerships with U.S. government agencies in past jobs, it’s hardly a surprise.
- Savage will be 30 years old in 2022. His career will be in a different stage. It will be five years since Issa Album and four years since I Am > I Was. Most artists (outside of the superstars) have a four-year run. It’s highly likely that his moment will have came and went by his court date.
- With all that said, the Atlanta rapper has yet to leave the country at all during his run in hip-hop. Based on my research, he’s yet to perform internationally, at all.
It’s damn near impossible for an undocumented public figure to travel outside of the U.S. for a tour. While ICE hasn’t necessarily restricted 21 from opportunities he had already pursued, it placed a deeper structural limitation on what could have been. In other words, 21 Savage’s career will likely become a sad case study on what an “American” hip-hop artist’s career looks like if they can’t perform for their fans across the world.
For instance, 21 topped the Billboard Hot 100 with a guest verse on Post Malone’s 2017 hit “rockstar.” The two artists went on a joint U.S. tour together in 2018. Post has spent the better part of 2019 performing that song and other hits all across the world at concerts and festivals in Latin America, Europe, and Australia. But 21 couldn’t join him.
These opportunities not only increase Post’s revenue, but also his bargaining power when negotiating with other music festivals, Live Nation, or AEG on performance guarantees. In a different world, 21 could have joined Post on stage for a few of those performances and collected his checks. But unfortunately, he lost out on both the revenue and the bargaining power that comes from worldwide exposure. 21’s leverage now comes from Rolling Loud’s poorly organized music festivals and the broader U.S. market which is much more selective and far less generous with its money.
As I mentioned in the globalization of hip-hop article, international opportunities make sense for the American artists whose business model was aligned with global opportunities. 21 Savage was on Ellen, teaming up with the biggest stars in the world, and likely has millions of fans across the world who would love to see him put in meet that potential. It’s a shame.
Chris Brown’s Yard Sale
Before I assess this move, let’s get a few jokes out of the way:
- One woman said she found weed in a hoodie she bought!
- Mid-week yard sale? Why not wait for the weekend like a normal human being? What about the folks who work 9-5 Monday thru Friday?
- Brown’s notorious known as a bad neighbor. Fellow residents complained about the “Look at Me Now” rapper 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2017. This yard sale, with folks camped overnight and hundreds of cars parked outside, didn’t help.
Now, let’s break this down. It was a fairly well-organized process. The organizers let in 20 customers at a time who had 10 minutes to shop. Brown set his driveway up with canopy tents like a flea market. The items for sale included stuff from old music videos and new garments too. A portion of proceeds went to nonprofits. Additionally, the local law enforcement in Tarzana tried to shut it down for violating a code, but they were unsuccessful. The show went on.
It’s a win for Brown on several fronts. Most stars are in a similar position to Chris Brown. They likely have a bunch of old merchandise in their homes that’s collecting dust. They don’t have enough time to resell items on StockX. A large number of their fans would be willing to do so or keep for themselves.
It also (helps) position Brown in a more positive light. Brown’s battled a negative public image fever since his 2009 domestic violence incident with Rihanna. His tumultuous relationship with Karrueche and other issues further polarized his brand. It might have limited Chris Brown’s potential, but he still has a fanbase that rocks with him. This yard sale will help established goodwill with the local group.
Brown says he wants to make it an annual event. His neighbors may not be happy about that, but if that’s the most of their concerns in 2020, then it will be an all-around decent year for anyone who has had to live next door to this guy.