You know the deal by now…To fully experience this in all its Footnotes pop-up glory check it out here! Here’s Part III of Chris Shaban’s latest series: Famous – The Building of a Brand!
What’s Shakin’ F3’s? Thank you for coming back to check out Part III of this Famous piece, it really has been a pleasure to write. And not just cause it’s easy[i], the analytics are dope too[ii]. I want to take a quick moment in this intro to shout out one of the coolest and long-standing dudes in the game, Mastermind. When I was growing up here in the GTA my only connection to what was cool in rap music[iii] was DJ Mastermind and ‘The Power Move’ show. Along with each volume of his mixtape series, I was able to get a grip on not just what was good across the border, but, more importantly, here at home too. Now, we’re talking like almost 20 years ago, long before anyone really gave Hip-Hop a voice in this country[iv]. He has done some truly incredible things for the culture and I know FOR A FACT that he does not get the credit he deserves[v]. Having been the Music Director at Vibe 98.5 in Calgary[vi] for almost a decade[vii], it’s sad that no one has even come close to replacing him here in Toronto[viii]. If you call yourself a Hip-Hop fan, please do yourself a favour and learn about this legend. I know he’ll probably be mad that I said that, but it’s too late now, it’s true and it’s deserved. You can count looking him up online as The Biz for this edition. Oh ya, and follow him on Twitter @MastermindLive
Okay, on to the next one[ix]…
I left us off at the climax of my journey through The Kid’s late 2008 resume on his MySpace[x] by reaching the video for ‘The Ghostwriter’. So, here’s the quick background on this story. Word started circulating in late 2007 that a young writer from Canada named Famous had been penning lyrics for some of Def Jam Records heavyweights[xi]. Actually, rumour was that he was actually working with the heaviest weight of them all[xii], Jay-Z. Queen of all Media and top-notch SD, Wendy Williams had broke the story. From the reports, Jay was under an ultra crunch to get his ‘American Gangster’ album completed to correspond with the release of the film[xiii], so he hired Famous to write his raps. Could a video really give us all that information? I mean, would this talented and gifted Canadian rapper really get on video and say he wrote for Hov? Better yet, did he actually write those raps? So with those questions now swirling in my mind, I watched the video, ‘The Ghostwriter’. People, I was truly blown away. And remember, this was an unbiased opinion. I had no reason to want to be down with this guy, I was trying to learn if he understood branding and could write a track.
Back to the gossip…
Now, granted, he doesn’t mention that he wrote for Jay-Z[xiv], and he mos-def doesn’t sound like him, but holy crap. I was sold. This guy knew how to market himself and he could teach the US Smokeless Tobacco company a thing or to about spiting[xv]. Even though I think I knew the answer, the question went to the top of my list. PS – Good luck trying to find that video online now[xvi].
When we met again the next week at Johnny B’s, I came prepared; $100 to buy as many CD’s and T-Shirts as that would get me, a credit card for the bar, and the perfect tree[xvii] to make sure I got my answer. He yelled “Shabby” on the mic when I walked in, so he already knew how to butter me up. I flagged him down to the floor and we headed out the kitchen door.
“So, you wrote for Jay-Z, huh?”
“What makes you say that?”
“It’s not polite to answer a question with a question.” I said, “Especially a ridiculous question like that.”
“Do you think I did?” He replied.
My answer? “Do you have a lighter?”
Next up was the official sit down with Rez and Ashton…or Digi and Famous… or A&R, or just plain old ‘dudes in charge’. Famous sat quietly for most of it as Rez asked questions of me that it seems like he’s asked a hundred times before[xx]. I felt the room warm up about halfway through our visit, and Fame started yapping more, so I knew we were all getting on the same page. That meeting was the official launch of a partnership that I believe has the ability to change the way the game is played… I’ll explain laaaaaaater. But for now, let me get back to this paper.
We decided that the November 2008 edition of the Regional COCA Conference at Nipissing University[xxi] was going to be the start. Pete and I had already secured a booth, we just needed some stuff to fill it. Okay, because this is a branding related article let me explain what COCA is[xxii]. COCA, or the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities, is a collective based out of London Ontario that works as a liaison between post-secondary schools and businesses trying to sell them things[xxiii]. Now, this was important to me because I have a reputation up there[xxiv], so what better place to run the final drill? Although it is a 5-day conference, the big day is always Saturday, because that is when they host the Biz Hall[xxv]. I told Rez and Famous to be there for 7:30am so that we could set up with enough time to ensure we were all good.
Famous said, “No problem, I just have to host this party and then we’re on our way”.
“Till what time?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, probably 3:30am. Depends how much I drink[xxvi].”
Whoops. Okay, well, I reminded him that North Bay, where the lovely Nipissing University is located, is a brisk three and a half hour drive on the best, clear day, let alone before the ass crack of dawn… Just an FYI.
Well, didn’t these two wild and crazy guys knock on my hotel room door at 7:27am[xxvii]?
The deal was done.
Over the first couple of months in 2009, the momentum had really begun to increase. First we got word from the Juno committee that ‘I Rap Now’, a 5 song EP[xxviii], was nominated for Rap Album of the Year[xxix]. After that, ‘Ain’t No Use’, the strongest radio record on the EP, was nominated for a MuchMusic Video Award. Finally, a few shows with the Clipse, a quiet sponsorship deal with Ecko Watches and a ‘Best New Artist’ award from Buffalo NY’s, WBLK[xxx] and the snow hadn’t even melted yet. The whole team was feeling great… We were all riding high. What could stop us from going straight to the top RIGHT NOW?
Next Friday, Goddess Girl….
[i] Which it has been… Sorry, I mean, he’s my boy… It’d be like posting on your friends FaceBook page, but times a million…
[ii] Sorry to get all suit and tie on you, but our corporate partners don’t really care if you like Famous, they care that you come here to read about him… Okay, that’s not true, they care about Famous…. He’s such a lovable guy.
[iii] Aside from Master T and what I could scrape together by reading the Hot Rap Tracks section of Billboard magazine. Ya, Billboard was a magazine before there was the internet. It was actually just a chart before that. I know, crazy isn’t it?
[iv] You think we got it tough now…
[v] This is me talking here… You’d never here him complain about it.
[vi] Just for the record, they do not play much Canadian Hip-Hop on the station. Much like all good communication vehicles, they have advertisers that want people to listen to their station and the quality of music 99% of the time might get you played on Flow, but it won’t fly in parts of the country where Hip-Hop music is “That stuff that Beyonce’s husband does, right?” I’m not saying it’s like that everywhere, or that everyone feels that way, or that there aren’t a ton of people in Toronto who would say the same thing – but hey, the truth is the truth. I’m fat… doesn’t matter how big the shirt I put on is, you can still tell, right? Also, they don’t have as many options for radio in other parts of the country. For example, here in Toronto, we have at least 4 stations that claim to be ‘Toronto’s No. 1 Hit Music Station’. That in and of itself is ridiculous and makes them all long silly, but just goes to show how much variety we truly have.
[vii] Someone let me know if I’m wrong cause that’s just a guess. I remember visiting him in Calgary with my boy and wedding DJ Max B in late 2003, so I can’t be that far off.
[viii] Although in my humble opinion, OTA Live does come close, especially being on commercial radio like Mastermind was when he was at Energy 108. Also the original home of Flow’s own PD Wayne Williams. Things that make your go hmmmmm….
[ix] Who caught the double meaning there?
[x] PS – What happened to MySpace? I know I’m the 10,000,000th person to bring this up. Maybe because I don’t want to believe that FaceBook did that much damage to the brand. Cause really, marketing laws teach us being first is much more important than being better (although Google wasn’t the first search engine either. Could these tried and tested marketing laws NOT apply in the online world? Hmmmmmm). I know MySpace has pretty much turned into a music site, and that’s dope, but NewsCorp has really gotta be sweatin’ a little on the dough they dropped.
[xi] ‘Half the Def Jam roster’ according to one report.
[xii] No, Fat Joe and Eightball are not signed to Def Jam, I was just goofing with the words from the previous sentence. And speaking of Heavyweight, what in the blue heck fire happened to Heavyweight boxing? I know prize fighting for all intents and purposes is over (and nothing to do with UFC, that is totally apples and oranges folks), but WTF? At the gym this morning I was watching The Score only to find out that the younger Klitschko is defending his title against, who cares. How does he still have the title? Doesn’t his brother have like the other 9 straps? Man, makes your clamor for the days when the mob paid Sonny Liston to get ‘knocked out’ by the G.O.A.T. doesn’t it?
[xiii] At the same time Wendy was presumably under an ultra crunch to come up with a story that people might actually read
[xiv] I think he lets you assume that. Much like Jay has said recently that he continues to fuel these Mason rumours by making videos like ‘On to the Next One’ and having his Rocawear clothing line with the all seeing eye. I mean, I guess that’s humourous.
[xv] I’m just saying he can rhyme… Sorry for the confusing double entendres. It’s not that you’re missing anything, it’s that they’re just not that clear.
[xvi] Seems Paramount Pictures removed it for copyright reasons. Come on guys, Paramount Pictures? Really?
[xvii] Please note that I said ‘Tree’ and not ‘Trees’… For the record, a ‘Tree’ represents its name accurately by being green in the ‘Woods… If you roll with Famous you know that Century Sams are a no-no, and if you roll with me, well, that’s all I roll with (pun intended)
[xviii] If you’re a writer that killed off a word like ‘pause’ in one of your earlier pieces, but want to use it again right now, what do you do?
[xix] I say that like it mattered. They could have just told me to jump off a bridge. I just like to make sure that know as much as I can before I enter into business with someone. Even with that type of prep, you can still make mistakes, so I want to be sure that I limit the exposure.
[xx] I forgot that everyone in Hip-Hop is the CEO of their own label, so this probably was an exercise that they have gone through many times. FYI – I think you need more than a business card to be a Chief Executive Officer. Also, and you may have to fact check this one, I think the company has to actually be registered as well. I mean, I’m just saying.
[xxi] Buddah, as previously mentioned via text, the Grey Goose has been upgraded to a magnum for London this summer, under the pretence that it is ONLY mixed with energy drinks. I don’t know why that’s a stipulation, but it seems to work for Pete.
[xxii] This is such a freebee yo… I mean, you guys should be way on this already. I’m not saying you don’t know about it, but I’ve been going since 2001 and I NEVER see any of you rappers there. Shouts to Classified and Art of Fresh who rocked the stage with Shaun Boothe this last conference in November. PS – The Hip-Hop in 3D tour officially wrapped yesterday (Wed Jan 27th) and Mr. Boothe, Daniel Daley, nineteen85 and Mark McKay really came together with an excellent show at George Brown yesterday to close out the run. 4 talented gentlemen I must say. ‘Turn out the Lights’ fellas (R.I.P. Teddy P)
[xxiii] For example, you know those mini 4-day trips that you took to Quebec in first year where you came back with a whole bunch of crazy pictures of your boys passed out in the snow? Thank COCA… Or, when you walk by the pub and there is some dude on stage doing some sex related hypnotist show? You guessed it, COCA again. If there is something to sell to student councils, that company is either at COCA, or they don’t exist.
[xxiv] Off track, my final year at Seneca we won ‘Campus Events of the Year’ (shared with U of Calgary) at COCA. Shouts to Darryl Masih… I mean, Mr. Dress-Up (R.I.P.), Sloan, Tony Touch, the Iron Sheik and King Kong Bundy, Platinum Blonde, Kardinal Offishall, Russell Peters, just to name a few… How can you beat that?
[xxv] Just imagine a trade show for a group of hung over school programmers just before they eat lunch. I know, I feel the same way.
[xxvi] Digi was driving up, don’t worry. I’m not about to get Cam Woolley on my back. I have a tough enough time watching his life-saving tips as it is. Although, they are all great ideas and everyone should do them.
[xxvii] Believe it or not, they actually beat Pete to the room…. And he was supposed to be sleeping there. See what I mean about the energy drinks, Buddah?
[xxviii] PS – also known as ‘the new album’. The world were about it live in doesn’t want 21 track albums any more. They want bite size, and when the first couple of singles don’t fill you, it’s on to the EP. Now, don’t get me wrong, am I a true music fan and do believe that the LP will make a come back… just not anytime soon. And lets keep it real, even the best albums have a ‘High all the Time’, ‘Drunk And Hot Girls’ or ‘A Star is Born’ to keep that finger near the skip button, right?
[xxix] PS – Juno committee: Don’t call and ask for a video clip BEFORE releasing the nominees, hmmm kay? But on the real, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!
[xxx] Ah yes, 93.7 WBLK… When I first discovered my radio antenna could pick up that signal across the border, my whole life changed. I was 15 years old and I still remember the first two songs that I heard when I tuned in. ‘Touch Me, Tease Me’ by Case with Foxy and Mary J and ‘It’s a Party’, Busta Rhymes and Zhane. “DON’T STAND BY THE WINDOW… I’ll lose the signal.” PS – for all my conspiracy theorists out there, you’ll notice that the frequency of WBLK is incredibly close to that of Canada’s First Urban Music Station. I don’t ever remember getting BLK as clear again. I mean, I’m just saying.