#InMyZone: Music, Masks & Marketing!

Almost a year on from our “5 UK Best Marketing Campaign Releases” post and the scene has grown rapidly. The UK urban music scene has become more prominent than ever in delivering chart topping music whilst milestones are being hit left, right & centre. With the heightened success of the scene, it means that operations are becoming more advanced and capabilities are expanding as far as we can push it. What pushed me to write this piece this time around was the recent release of Headie One’s project; Music x Road. Headie One exceeded my expectations with his latest project as it felt like he had approached it in a strategic but authentic way. Music x Road for me describes the current mind state of the Broadwater Farm rapper. It explains how he is sitting on the fence between a celebrity lifestyle & doing road, though it’s kind of obvious which way he would sway more towards. Ultimately, it represents the transition from a life of sin to a life of wins. What good is a story if you can't paint a picture from both perspectives? Headie One did just that in his single “Both” released just upon the release of his project and using a sample from Ultra Nate - Free, Headie One bought his creative ability; visually & lyrically to present the pros & cons of Music and Road. The nostalgic sample in itself was enough to get people talking & so turned out to be the perfect chess move in releasing the tape. 

Source: Headie One - Both, Youtube

Headie’s release campaign went further than just the usual listening party, billboards in his hometown & fly posters around the country. His album artwork already looked like the reveal of a new superhero. With a portrait shot of himself with a reflective mask, a “Music x Road” tattoo across his chest and a sort of metallic effect which had me curious of what was to come of Music x Road.

He took it a step further by bringing the bespoke mask to life which was carved into a sculpture of his face along with mini statues of himself pinpointed around various locations. To top it all off he collaborated with Spotify to launch their first branded Instagram AR effect to promote the tape. The filter allowed Instagram users to to put the album covers reflective mask over their own face along with the “Music x Road” tattoo across the chest but instead of an X, a Spotify logo was used. That's some next level s**t! For me a key theme throughout this mixtape revolved around identity and in Headie’s case multiple identities, which I believe was reflected through it’s campaigns. 

Source: Promo Video from @headieone Instagram Page

Someone who has been hiding their identity since they came on the scene is Gipsy Hill’s; K Trap. A few years ago he mysteriously came on the scene giving us nothing but a hidden identity and one of the best drill flows & content in the scene. Now 3 mixtapes in despite sporting a balaclava he has provided insight into his life on the streets & beyond. His latest project “No Magic” represents not just the development of him as an artist but the drill scene as a whole genre. His first release from the tape was “Mask Off” where he took the time to explain the pros & cons of wearing a mask, focusing on the fact that he initially wore it due to not wanting the fame but now the imitators have "made it childish".

With a mixtape, that was expected to be released within the next couple of weeks we may have got the hint that K Trap was attempting to make some sort of revelation. Scheduled to drop his latest project “No Magic” exactly 2 weeks later, the artwork was released which suggested some sort of reveal with a fraction of his mask graphically peeled to expose his real identity; again suggesting a revelation. Now, when we think of the term “Big Mood” we refer to the snapchat filter or the infamous bitmojis, however K Traps second release from his tape happened to go by the same name. Now, what a feeling it would be to sit in an office chair like a cartel boss with stacks on the table, bags of coke & some fine a** models strolling around. That’s the exact mood K-Trap was in when he decided to do a Spiderman on us and unveil his mask to the whole world. The mask unveil, however is not new to the drill scene with the likes of rappers RV & Q2T taking the same course of action. Despite this K Trap has probably had the most anticipated reveal and what a time to do it; on the same day as his project release.

Source: K-Trap - Big Mood, Youtube (GRM Daily)

The reveal was more or less a publicity stunt and in return the comment section on the Big Mood video flooded with observations on the big reveal with all the relevant blogs speculating on the moment. Speaking of masks & stunts, earlier this year another successful masked artist M Huncho took to the streets of London. With a customised drum band all wearing balaclavas drumming beats throughout streets such as Carnaby Street and Oxford Street to name a few. All in the name of Utopia, a 14 track project where Huncho paints us a picture of what a perfect life looks like for him coming from the gutter. It’s very rare to see a UK artist take this kind of stance with their release campaigns however I would be lying if I said I wasn’t chuffed about it. It seems as though the UK rap scene is producing rappers such as Headie One & M Huncho who have more than just a popping sound. They have the firepower willing to challenge the common conventions of the UK urban sound and how it is communicated with the world. A mysterious performance would surely be enough to get the public's attention but perhaps he could have been more effective in his approach. I would have loved to see the drummers, drumming to a couple of his songs or furthermore I would have loved to see him join them for a special performance. Or, why not do it like the protesters and shut down the whole street with a march band led by the “ballied” up drummers and M Huncho himself performing on a horse carriage or something. Surely that would go down in history!

Source: M Huncho - Utopia Drum Takeover, Youtube (M Huncho TV)

It’s becoming more & more evident that things are changing and only for the better. Our music is now being recognised by the world and brands & labels are investing in the urban sound more than ever. It’s about time! I’ve seen some of the best marketing tactics for release campaigns come out of urban music over this past year. Other than the involvement of masks, the highly anticipated Bags & Boxes 4 mixtape by Blade Brown caused a storm after 6 years since the last sequel. To launch the Bags & Boxes final tape, it was only right that a collaboration with Trapstar Clothing would be the ultimate match.

With a successful pop up launch event & stock selling out at a WHOLE Selfridges, there was no doubt it was going to do numbers. The numbers don’t lie! I’m sure Blade Brown felt like that when his tape hit the charts. Reaching the Official UK Charts has become an achievable target for UK artists with artists like Aitch having numerous entries. Recently, Aitch hit a milestone not many UK rappers have reached before after hitting the 1 million mark on his IG followers before even releasing his debut EP, AitchH20. When he did, he did it in style with Youtube ads featuring Aitch getting water splashed in his face as well as the distribution of Aitch H20 customised water bottles around chicken shops in London.

I would have loved for him to also distribute free water bottles in various gyms around London or a possibly a collaboration with Boots or even WH Smith with the Back to School market but that's not my call. Hopefully before the end of the year we’ll be seeing way more campaigns that challenge the common conventions of urban music releases & I’m sure the 2020 vision will have artists and their teams breaking the internet like never before.

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