Last night I went to see Joey Bada$$—age rumored at 17—performing at a West Village club. Bada$$ just dropped a new mixtape, 1999, which has attracted mainstream media attention for its eminent listenability, craveable beats, and complex versification. 1999 is all the more impressive for Bada$$’s age, or lack thereof. Frankly, Bada$$ has a touch of the prodigy about him; he is magical, magnetic on stage, but still immature, undeveloped: attending a Joey Bada$$ concert is like drinking talent from a firehose. One cannot help but respect his raw energy. Here’s a thought experiment: what if Joey Bada$$ was a startup? He’d be something social, in the music space obviously, and real young, preparing for a Series A round. If Bada$$ was tech, not rap, why would he be outcompeting his rivals?
1. Trusted Crew: Joey Bada$$ is part of Pro Era, a collective of rappers, MC’s, producers, and entertainers. At his show, almost the entirety of Pro Era joined him on stage. On 1999, Bada$$ mixes in the voices of his friends, who take verses and sing hooks. If Bada$$ was a founder, he’d be surrounded by talented people he trusts, each of whom brings a diverse set of skills to the team. Bada$$ has been so successful thus far because he embraces collaboration. 1999 is the sum of its parts, not an individual effort.
2. Scarcity and Awareness: Two rules: 1) you can have awareness without scarcity but not the converse and 2) awareness plus scarcity equals buzz. Lots of people can know about your product, but without an element of the elusive, the mysterious, and the charismatic, awareness doesn’t translate into desire: to use the product or to seek it out. Joey Bada$$ has not put on many live shows, but his public exposure is peaking. Awareness of his music has been amplified by sporadic coverage from the Times, Complex, some blogs, etc.
3. Production Value: There is a virtuosic quality to Bada$$’s rapping. A combination of high production value and musical talent makes his music exciting. It’s a fun, slick listen, well-designed, beautiful, “quotable”—all the characteristics that make a tech product successful. Bada$$ has not neglected aesthetics. Too many tech startups launch without a viable, stylish interface. Mainstream appeal, whether for a rapper or a mobile app, depends on attractiveness and ease-of-use.
4. Freemium: The mixtape-then-live system is essentially freemium: download the music for free, then, pay extra to get the live experience. Freemium is one way to simultaneously cultivate scarcity and awareness.