Hey! Hope you enjoyed your weekend. How is it December already?
This memo is your weekly breakdown of the business of hip-hop. This week features my podcast interview with rapper Flawless Real Talk, Chance the Rapper’s lawsuit against Pat the Manager, Drake’s Nike launch, and more.
🎙️ Flawless Real Talk’s Indie Rap Career
Rapper, producer, and entrepreneur Flawless Real Talk came on the Trapital Podcast to talk about how he manages his rap career. Last year he was the runner up on Netflix’s hip-hop reality show Rhythm & Flow, which boosted his exposure. Flawless talks about his decision to stay independent, the tradeoffs he’s made by not being signed, and his strategic partnerships to still get the opportunities he wants.
If you’re interested why artists choose to be indie vs signed, creator strategies, and building direct connections with fans, this is the episode for you.
Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or watch on YouTube.
Chance the Rapper vs Pat the Manager
Chance and his former manager Pat Corcoran (via Instagram)
The Chicago rapper’s longtime former manager Pat Corcoran, “Pat the Manager,” sued Chance for over $3 million in unpaid commissions.
The lawsuit itself is unfortunate. Chance the Rapper’s legal team has refuted Pat’s claims. But the more interesting parts are what was learned and confirmed from Pat’s account.
First, Pat is asking for commissions dating back to Chance’s mixtape 10 Day. That project came out eight years ago! When business partners become friends, it’s easy to let payments slide. It’s harder to have that frank, ultimatum-type conversation to get paid. But when shit hits the fan, the receipts get pulled quickly.
Second, Pat’s claims align with what myself and others predicted— The Big Day was doomed from the start. There were warning signs that it was rushed and poorly promoted. The subsequent tour was inevitably canceled. It tracks with two essays I wrote last year before and after The Big Day was released.
Pat and Chance seemed thick as thieves. But their split is not a surprise either. Chance had to ignore the haters to get to where he is, sometimes to a fault. When critics have said things he doesn’t like, he claps back time and time again.
He defied the odds as an indie artist who became the face of a movement. So when his subpar work gets criticized, which happens to every popular artist, he sees it as hate. Pat the Manager’s constructive feedback subjected him to the same fate as a music journalist who critiqued Lil’ Chano from the 79th.
Pat may no longer work for Chance the Rapper, but he still has a bright future in this industry given what he’s achieved this past decade. Chance will be fine too. He may never replicate that 2016 Coloring Book run or pack arenas on his own, but he has a dedicated fanbase that’s still with him.
Read the full legal filing by Pat Corcoran here.
Drake’s opportunity with Nike sub-label NOCTA
Drake (via Nike)
Nike and Drake have launched a sub-label NOCTA in advance of Drake’s album release for Certified Lover Boy.
Here’s a quote from Drake in Nike’s press release:
“I always felt like there was an opportunity for Nike to embrace an entertainer the same way they had athletes. I thought about how crazy it would have been and what it would have meant for an artist to have a flagship Nike deal.”
This is Drake’s dream! Earlier this year he gave Nike a 5-minute long commercial with the “Laugh Now, Cry Later” music video. The Toronto rapper got his sneaker deal and ain’t break a sweat. The release of Drake’s NOCTA sub-brand has been linked with January’s release of Drake’s next album, Certified Lover Boy.
SNKRS deal? I’m not sure what OVO or Republic have planned, but this is a great opportunity to leverage Nike’s distribution through the SNKRS app.
Drake could do a pre-sale of his album through the SNKRS app. Nike could buy a set amount of albums and bundle them with the newly released merchandise. The pre-release can be done as a limited drop.
This can be similar to Jay Z’s 4:44 release with Sprint. In 2017, Jay did a $20 million deal with Sprint. The cellular company bought 1 million copies of his album at $5 each, and gave it to its customers 72 hours before it was available to the general public. Jay turns his albums into B2B and B2C products.
I drew this diagram to highlight Jay’s approach:
This is a perfect time for Drake to do the same with Nike.
I originally suggested this SNKRS collab opportunity for Travis Scott, but he’s already mastered his e-commerce drops. It’s Drake time to step it up.
Read more about NOCTA in Nike’s press release.
Trapital Player of the Week: Dionne Warwick
For the past month or so, Dionne Warwick has upped her Twitter game in advance of her 80th birthday celebration. She’s fundraising and selling merch to help fight world hunger.
On Twitter, she’s been coming for people like Chance the Rapper, The Weeknd, and more. It’s hilarious and appreciated. These tweets have boosted her following and fundraising efforts. Good for her! We need lighthearted banter like this in 2020.
Coming soon from Trapital
Next week: podcast with Columbia Record’s co-head of Urban Music, Phylicia Fant. We talk about how her record label has navigated 2020, her career up to this date, the music industry’s response to George Floyd, and more.