Kendrick Lamar and the Future of pgLang

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on whatsapp
Kendrick Lamar (via Shutterstock)

by Dan Runcie

Every week, Trapital's free memo will give you insights on the latest moves in music, media, and culture. Join 32K+ readers who stay ahead of all the trends:

This week’s Trapital memo is brought to you by Highlight.

Build the community of your dreams

Highlight is the easiest and most effective way to onboard an established artist’s fan base to web3. We make it easy for artists to build, mint, and launch token-gated communities with no crypto expertise required.

Highlight is a community-building platform, not a marketing platform. It can:

– Allow your most engaged fans to participate in your community’s growth by buying membership NFTs that they own.

– Let members enjoy access to a private community, gated content, and exclusive benefits.

– Help creators earn a revenue split every time memberships or benefits are bought and sold.

We’re backed by the world’s leading crypto technologists, music management companies, and other prominent industry players. Investors include Haun Ventures, Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures (”35V”), and more.

Are you an artist, manager, or music industry exec and interested in finding out how to sign up for a free account? Check it out.

Kendrick Lamar and the Future of pgLang

Kendrick Lamar always seemed more interested in the art than the business. He earned a Pulitzer Prize before he ever topped a Forbes list. You’ll learn more about him from the Library of Congress than from a Bloomberg Terminal. He respects hip-hop’s moguls but has never been about that life himself.

But when he launched pgLang in 2020, it felt like a potential turning point. After 17 years under Top Dawg Entertainment, he was ready to branch out on his own with business partner—and former TDE partner— Dave Free. pgLang is now his hub for creators. His record label. Every move since then, including the release of his final TDE album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, is the sign of an artist who wants ownership and the benefits that come with it. But how far is he willing to go?

The corporations are all in on Kendrick

Kendrick’s Big Steppers Tour was announced in collaboration with Cash App. The digital payments company is offering a presale to customers who have the Cash Card debit card, which makes perfect sense.

For years, exclusive pre-sales concert tickets went to American Express or Visa cardholders. Those perks made sense when the concert pre-sale is for tickets to a Broadway show or a Philharmonic symphony. The demographics match. But for a hip-hop concert? It always felt like a stretch.

Why should rappers reward the people who stack frequent flyer miles when they could instead reward Cash App users who are much more likely to be hip-hop fans! Block, Cash App’s parent company, has benefited greatly from hip-hop culture, from Tidal to Cash App Studios, and wants in.

This tour will also be sponsored by Amazon Music, which has live-streamed a growing number of hip-hop concerts. In the past year, the company has done two shows with Tyler, The Creator, Kanye West and Drake’s benefit concert, Latto, Summer Walker, The Weeknd, the Dreamville Festival, and more. Plus, Amazon now has exclusive shows on Amp, its livestream audio app, with Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks, Wayno, and more.

Amazon Music likely saw the success Apple Music had by broadcasting both Verzuz and Ye’s listening parties, and wanted in. Both companies operate somewhat similarly in music. They don’t need their music content to be profitable. As long as it helps attract more customers to Prime, AWS, or AirPod sales, then their model works. They would love to partner with any superstar, especially someone of Kendrick’s caliber.

The opportunity to bankroll pgLang

Kendrick clearly wants to put pgLang on the map. He’s going on tour with his cousin Baby Keem and Tanna Leone, the only other two other artists signed to pgLang. But how far does he want to take this company? Is this venture a vehicle so he can own, earn, and create on his terms? Or is he building an empire?

If he goes the empire route, then Big Tech can bankroll his future endeavors. Amazon and Cash App would love to be the Live Nation to his Roc Nation.

But Kendrick’s not the Jay Z type. Jay is a capitalist who owns all the praise and criticism that comes with it. If Jay Z became the majority owner of an NFL or NBA team in the next 10 years, we wouldn’t be surprised! Most of us expect it to happen.

Meanwhile, Kendrick spends his money like a man of the people. He’s been called cheap for buying a $500,000 house and Toyota Camry for his sister. He’s invested in a few startups, like Triller and EngineEars, but he’s done far more in real estate than startups. Kendrick operates more like the “$1.58 millionaires” who make up most of the U.S. wealthy class. If we found out that he owns a car wash and a parking lot in Compton, no one would be surprised.

The beauty of ownership is that it can look several different ways. If Kendrick wants to build pgLang into a successful lifestyle business for his cousin and labelmates, he can. He can distribute his thoughts and music through his Windows 95-style oklama.com website and still create a buzz. He still has his publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group. He’ll find the best of both worlds.

If he ever changes his mind and wants to level up, the big tech companies are waiting to help him make that happen. They know that it’s harder than ever for newer artists to reach the same popularity as artist like Kendrick who rose to fame before streaming took off. They are ready, but it’s up to Kendrick on what he’s willing to do next.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

Want more? Trapital's free Monday memo will keep you posted on the latest trends in the business of music, media, and culture:

Like this memo? Share it!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
"The stuff that Trapital puts out is fantastic. Really interesting insights into the industry, artists trends, and market trends."
Mike Weissman
Former CEO, SoundCloud
“You tell the true stories. Not just the end product, but how you get to the end product. Your point of view on it is dope.”
Steve Stoute
CEO, UnitedMasters and Translation