Oliver El-Khatib. Written back in early ’16.

Drake and his marketing team is the reason why Degrassi alumni, Aubrey Graham, has reached a level of super-stardom never seen before in the music industry. No, that does not mean he is the most talented or the greatest of all-time. On any level. It’s the result of a marketing team, in the era of social media and smart phones, being one of the most talented team of marketers in any industry. On the billboards and plaques, Drake is seen winning and looks like a genius doing so. It is Oliver El-Khatib, OVO co-founder, who is responsible for the mastermind of that genius. El-Khatib is the guy behind ‘the guy’. He served as the blogger for the start up OVO, which at first was used to publish commentary that was his own. His blog was the internet version of an open diary, posts that unconsciously laid the roots to create his brand. The heart on your sleeve maxim. Hip-Hop was a natural fixation to him, a fixation that he taught himself. El-Khatib did not graduate high school. It is ironic how it’s the guy behind ‘the guy’ who truly started from the bottom.

Not many fans analyze music the way that El-Khatib does, from the album’s production to the artist’s craft. Mixing this fixation with a passion for style was a recipe for success at Lounge, a store that as a manager El-Khatib transformed from a little shop, into an urban hub. It was a spot to listen to the hottest new music, see bands, and network with other people. The Lounge is where Drake, an actor, met his best director yet. The evolution of El-Khatib doing the same with OVO, yet on a much grander scale, is every bit as grassroots. Yet, a stroke of genius all the same. What started as a simple shout-out by Drake in his songs, has turned into a brand. An accomplishment achieved without over-the-top marketing scheme. One achieved without a multi million dollar ad campaign. In an era were anything can be marketed via numerous outlets, it is still word of mouth that as they say goes a long way.

El-Khatib had a creative passion for music, graphic design, art, fashion, and lifestyle that was holistic. Without even knowing it, this creative passion forged an interconnectedness that went out to become a brand. A passion that launched a global brand that includes a record label, concert series, and ubiquitous clothing line. The owl? Brilliant. Octobers Very Own (OVO)? Incredible. Genius is written all over everything this man and what his team does. Take a look at Drake’s discography. What you’ll see is a title of songs and album titles all perfectly named to be used as a hash tag. Or how about using a diamond as the cover art to his & Future’s “What A Time To Be Alive”, which WATTBA is also another brilliant hash tag by the way, because there is a diamond emoji. Everything Drake & Future touched in 2015 was gold. The diamond emoji is the perfect equivalent to that. It also due to my subconscious, makes me instantly remember their joint album. The internet was right when it put Drake & Future’s faces on LeBron James throwing Dwayne Wade an alley oop, both duos were never supposed to mesh well or happen. Yet, both teamed up at the peak of their respective talents. Just like with those Miami Heat teams, what a time to be alive it truly was. El-Khatib’s and his teams next stroke of genius was illustrating how to win a rap beef in the modern day.

I t was strategic and smart for Drake to put out “Charged up”. No one knows the music industry better than those who are in it. That’s why it’s also simple to see that Drake recorded “Back to Back” before putting out “Charged Up” because it takes time to make a quality track. When “Back to Back’ dropped, not only was Drake in a room one level above Meek Mills hotel room repeatedly playing it all night, but it was another display of genius by El-Khatib and his team. The cover art was the iconic photo of former Blue Jays right field Joe Carter, jumping for joy, as he hit a series-clinching home run against the Philadelphia Phillies. This home run clinched Toronto consecutive World Series titles, hence the verbal assault that led to a Grammy nomination known as “Back to Back.” His ability to connect dots and curate a moldboard is on a level that the smartest marketing team ever in the NBA, Michael Jordan’, wanted to be a part of it. Let that sink it. This is an individual who started from a blog, the blog consisting of things he co-signed or found of interest. The love was there if he and his crew deemed it was worthy of it. Started from a blog to being the ear behind a show on Apple Music’s global steaming network, Beats 1. It is not all just him though. His business partners are all geniuses in their respective spaces. In life, not just the industry, it’s about what you’ve done lately. What one could call a “what have you done for me lately” society. Everything is very constant.

To be able to influence an entire generation is a sight to behold, by being comfortable with who you are, is inspiring. It’s similar to watching the way LeBron James’s career has progressed. Both individuals came onto the scene, co-signed by hype with LeBron’s #1 overdraft pick status and Drake with Lil Wayne’s co-sign and signing Drizzy to be his label partner. It seems like people sometimes forget that Lil Wayne used to be on every song on the radio, or at least it seemed that way. Clearly, artistically the man is a genius. Both have achieved or exceed that hype. By a lot. El-Khatib rarely gives interviews and prefers for Drake and OVO’s artists to be the ones on center state, yet he is the real wizard…

 

It’s just G.

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Take Care.

Kanye West is the man responsible for influencing and shaping this open-book era of hip-hop. Despite initial negative reviews, 808’s and Heartbreak, has been revered as one of the most original and influential albums of this generation. It is that influence that is increasingly apparent throughout Drake’s masterpiece Take CareTake Care is a piece of art that is responsible for the genre or aesthetic that Drake developed and has influenced the hip-hop culture to what it is today. Drake ironically throws in Kanye’s notorious grunts while proclaiming “Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time.” on Take Care. It is an ode to his competition, a realization that he is the best at what he does.  Nowhere else in hip-hop history will one find an artist who worked harder to imbue his tracks with a profound sense of emotional maturity and complexity. It is on this album that Drake’s aesthetic coherence takes a major leap forward. He is consistently able to mesh rapping and sing strongly, while also having production that feels all of a piece, and lyrics that are emotional introspection of a complex and sincere portrait of a young adult trying to hold onto semblance of genuine relationships. The core concept of the album can be found on the albums first two lines on the opening track “Over My Dead Body” with Drake stating “I think I killed everybody in the game last year, man. F*ck it, I was on though/And I thought I found the girl of my dreams at a strip club, Mm. F*ck it, I was wrong though.” It is a concept of youth. One minute one can be on top of the world, then the next they are navigating through valleys of crushing doubt. “Marvin’s Room” is the high point of the album, the moment when Drake’s confidence and insecurities come into focus. As young adults we piss away our finest years, doing so by buying stuff we do not need, pining for lost loves we never really had, drunk dialing our exes, or pursuing sexual conquests just for fun. The beauty of Take Care is its illustration that regardless of fame, wealth, or power none of us have all the answers. We are all fumbling to figure out ourselves. “Look What You’ve Done” is a hard-hitting song, with Drake dedicating the verses to individuals who helped him become who he is now. The track is revealing and intimate, an inside peek behind a twenty-five-year-old who has the world at his feet but deals with everyday issues. Something that is lost in this era of fame, that these individuals are humans too.

 

It’s just G.

The College Dropout.

Y’all don’t know my struggle, Y’all can’t match my hustle. Y’all can’t catch my hustle, you can’t fathom my love dude. Lock yourself in a room doing five beats a day for three summers.” One can argue that Kanye’s success has clearly gone to his head, with his personality being a direct result of that. No one can argue his impact and legacy on the genre of hip-hop. Yet, in 2003 the then 26-year-old was ignored by various record labels being viewed as nothing more than an exceptional in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella. What can’t be argued is the blood, sweat, and tears that went into his masterpiece of a debut album The College Dropout. It illustrates the progression of a young adults mindset over the years, from his views on the education system to working remedial jobs, to religion, to family, and to hardships. All issues that resonate with young adults, regardless of race. A college dropout himself, Kanye framed his masterpiece as a commentary on the educational system through his choice of cover art and skits used throughout the album. It also illustrates a criticism of what is expected to be gained from school and of the tennis connection which that often has to what is taught and learned. It is this idea that the album concept is centered around, an extended look at people and the choices they make in life and the reasons behind them. On “All Falls Down” the song criticizes consumerism as an expression of self-hatred rooted in history, implicating himself as well in the process. The song depicts the image of people only being in college to impress their parents, to materialism as an oppression of the upper class. “Spaceship” is effectively able to link the legacy of slavery to modern-day corporate enslavement. The level of “realness”, the way in which he is able to make the songs ring true whether it is through his bragging or self-criticism is what makes The College Dropout the defining album of the millennial generation. It changed the rap game forever. It is his Mona Lisa and like all great artists he knew it. Like Kanye said “We’re all self conscious I’m just the first to admit it.”

It’

SUICIDE. Needs to be talked about!

Those that commit suicide do so quietly and promptly. It’s like a game of clue — with a gun or knife in any room but self-induced. They do not feel pain, they feel nothing, just hollow. The greatest fear that prevents people from committing suicide is the potential inability to make a second attempt if the first should fail. Self blame is one of the causes of suicide. 

When one blames oneself for something bad that happened, one tends to think that one does not deserve to live. This is regardless of whether the blame is justified or not. Survivors remorse. Suicide brings with it further layers of confusion and difficulty to peel through: Your loved one’s final chapter may have come to an abrupt close by their own choosing, but your heart remains an open book. I’VE DANCED WITH THE SAME DARK QUESTION: WHAT IF ENDING IT ALL IS THE ONLY WAY OUT OF THE WAY I FEEL RIGHT NOW?

Suicide is a subject many are afraid to talk about or even acknowledge. But how do we not talk about one of the leading causes of death? My fathers suicide taught me to speak more softly, to forgive more often, to resist the knee-jerk reaction to be offended, and, ultimately, to strive to touch those in my life in a way that will continue long after I too am gone. It forever altered the way I view friendships. I became less tolerant of superficial entanglements and more hungry for the sustenance of genuine relationships.

 

It’s just G.

It’s just G. Vol. 4

This is my testimony: when I went through my battle with the devil, I was also dealing with a drug addiction and a mental breakdown. I had just lost the girl of my dreams. I had previously just found out my mother was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer after my father previously just killed himself six months before. Two weeks after my father killed himself I was kicked out of living with my girlfriend at the time due to the fact she was cheating on me with her ex. This was the same girl who I idiotically dropped out of college for and all my friends for. I was 23 years old and completely broken and lost. I had my soul ripped out from me and that’s why I was the easiest target in the world for the Devil and his demons. Before studying the lyrics of the rappers I grew up idolizing I had already had my Adderall addiction. When the girl of my dreams decided she had enough of my bullshit and threw me out of her life for good that’s when it became more then an addiction but a crave. I started studying lyrics of the rappers I grew up idolizing. These rappers were Jay-Z, Drake, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and Beyonce. I would take numerous Adderalls and stay up analyzing their lyrics and watching their videos looking for clues to the path to fame. All for a chance to get this girl back. I developed voices in my head after about eight months of doing this. That’s when I think the Devil came into me and it’s when the voices kept telling me to take more Adderall. The more I took the quicker I could realize my dream. These voices eventually decided they wanted to team up with me and started showing me the props they used in music videos and wore that would bring the masses towards serving the devil. It broke my heart finding out Drakes OVO Owl was one of the props. The videos were all by artists I mentioned earlier. The voices would tell me to press pause when it was a prop they would use. So I know understand and know what they do. When all of this was occurring the devil and the voices kept asking me if I wanted to sell my soul to join their secret cult and be a member at their table. I said yes. I said I would sell my soul for the chance of fame. That’s when I had the serpent tongue develop in my mouth. That is when I was being told by these voices to kill not only myself but also my mother and my sister. I was also told to kill my brothers. That everyone who joined the Illuminati had to lose a family member to join. At this time I had already pushed all my friends away and was contemplating killing myself. I had tried once with taking a bunch of pills but it didn’t work. I did not want to kill my family members but the voices told me I had no choice because I had agreed to sell my soul and they had already did their part of the agreement showing me everything. I am alive today and have God inside of me because one of the reasons why I didn’t kill myself is because I know how much guilt people who didn’t realize how low I was would feel. Or who never accepted my apologizes for mistakes would feel. Because I deal with that every single day. I am here on Earth because my father came back to me when I was at my lowest point and went and got God. My father told me how sorry he was for killing himself and the pain it made me feel inside. And if he could go back and change things he would. And that he went and got God to intervene with me selling my soul because I was the one person alive who truly needed God to save me at this moment and time. Because I did not know for a single second that my father was possibly going to kill himself and that if I did I would have tried and stopped him and been there everyday. I had to go through with the pain my father was in and understand why he did what he did and it has made me feel awful. I have felt like the biggest piece of shit because if I was able to leave someone at their lowest point in their life what does that say about myself. I didn’t speak to my dad for a year before he killed himself. God doesn’t come back down to Earth and speak to someone unless it’s for a specific purpose and I had a normal conversation with him for three days. He became my best friend. God is the reason why I was allowed to tell my father I missed him and was sorry and missed him. That’s when I cried and let out all of the pain that was inside me and that’s when God said he j do I was lying about just wanting a second chance to be able to make the wrong choices right in my life. I was put through seven days of hell on earth. I was put through seven days of brainwash by the devil and he tried tricking me into saying or something something that would have destroyed my soul forever and possibly my family. God told me that if I did not have a pure soul there is no way in a million years that my father would have been able to come speak to me at my lowest point right before I killed myself or my family members and for him to figure out that the voices in my head were demons and not those of the artists I idolized growing up. I am alive today because God knew my heart. He knew that I love people genuinely. And wholeheartedly. Love is the defining feature of God. God saved me from the devil to spread this message to the masses. We need to start spreading love to one another and not let technology destroy us. We need to start having some real conversations with one another before he comes back for judgement day because he is. God told me my biggest gift of all is being able to relate to everybody in this world because I don’t see race or color. All I see is their soul. That’s how America needs to start being. We need to stop glorifying drugs, sex, violence, etc. We need to be content with less. Be thankful for less. Some of y’all have to much to lose that’s why your not willing to lose nothing. Stop chasing your identity and the pleasures of this world because it’s going to ruin you. It almost did me. God knows your heart. And for most of you that’s a problem. 

 

Its just G.

Style of Apple.

Marketing is more than a way of doing; it is a way of thinking. It starts with the understanding of the distinctive characteristics of services, their invisibility, and intangibility, as well as the unique nature of service prospects and users. It is the understanding of the users fear, their limited time, their sometimes illogical ways of decision making, and their most important drives and needs/wants. Positioning is now not what you do to a product. Positioning is what the company is able to do to the mind of the prospect of the product. If marketers are able to uncover what is going on in the brains of those who choose one brand over another, what information passes through a consumers brain’s filter and what information does not, is the key to building brands of the future. In today’s society individuals have so many choices that one is going to pick and choose the messages in which they want to hear. While technology has changed over the decades, people have not. History shows that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, going mad in its pursuit, that millions of individuals become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it. This happens until their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. Today it is the complete shift of communications infrastructure to the Internet, that “keeping in touch” delusion of being our greatest challenge, that has shifted marketing’s focus from the selling of products towards that of creating relationships. By asserting that individuals do not buy things but buy solutions to problems, marketing imagination is able to make the inspired leap from the obvious to the meaningful which is essence in creating relationships. It is more meaningful to think of the choice of buying a product as an act of risk reduction rather than as the expression of a brand preference. The discovery of the simple essence of things is the root of the marketing imagination. In order to move a new idea or product into the mind, one must first move an old one out. Once an old idea is overturned, selling a new idea is ludicrously simple. People like to see the high and mighty exposed. They enjoy seeing bubbles burst.

Apple is a master of the teaser marketing campaign, dragging on the suspense for as long as possible. Before the release of every iPhone, for weeks if not months, the media conversation builds to a deafening level. Apple brilliantly strokes this buzz by providing virtually no information on their end. It is an illustrating of marketer’s doing what they know best, letting others do the promoting of one’s product for them. Products do not sell. People do. Product features do not create fans. It is vital to focus on what people do and show how they feel using a product. Show what matters. The Apple logo is fixed to be right-side up for others. It is upside down to the user of the Macbook because it is the user who is selling the brand to others for Apple. Apple also is able to create the illusion of scarcity to increase demand. Scarcity (real or perceived) makes a product more desirable and in demand. It not only increases the value of a product, it also propels the procrastinators and those who want to be a part of the trendy crowd to step up and purchase the product. Apple has found its own ways to hype the sense of faux scarcity, for instance in 2012 when the Apple website reported that heavy demand had necessitated delayed delivery. It is a beautiful illustrating of intentionally restricting production of a product to create scarcity, therefore in essence fueling demand for one’s product. It is also key to focus on a friendly customer experience.

Apple’s product is the removal of complexity in favor of ease of use with innovative features such as touchscreen “gestures”. Smart branders use the outside-in approach. Begin with the customer of a product first (outside), then figure out how that product can be improved or the service to meet the customers need (inside). It is important to ask “What would make a product easier to use for customers?” and “How can a business make the customer experience special and different at every touch point?” It is vital to think of the customer experience holistically. Do not stop with the product design, also look at the way in which it is sold and displayed in the store or on the companies website and as well as the customer service experience with the call center. Illustrate the customers’ benefits from the product crisp and clearly in all aspects of marketing. A beautiful design is an important product differentiator. It is vital to find a visual hook, a visual something, a design, a logo, a shape, or a color that puts a companies brand/product in the minds of the customers. Aim to have a visual identity that is instantly recognizable like Apple’s. Apple created a brand culture that has attracted a passionate community of followers who identify with the brand’s innovativeness, simplicity, and coolness. It is important for a business to write down its brands values that define it’s branding culture. For instance, Apple’s “Think Different” ad campaign “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes…”, defined their brand values and culture. To get a product notice, it is time to start breaking the rules like Apple did.

It is also vital to figure out a way to incorporate something into a product that does what Apple’s white headphones do; give consumers an easy way to sell the companies product while making them feel like they are part of an exclusive club. Focus on what people do with the product, not what it is the product does. Today, the iPod does not make one’s music sound better, provide better battery life, or save money. What it does is make Apple fans. The iPod was able to empower early adopters. Apple has always been a game-changer with its focus on the message with its marketing campaigns. The Mac was “The computer for the rest of us.” iPod was “1,000 Songs in Your Pocket.” iMac was “3 Steps to the Internet.” These messages are memorable and transcend product features. Apple’s marketing is able to create purchases even before it’s customers see it. This is an example of what happens when people do the companies marketing for them. Marketing is not about what the company is saying, it is about what others say for them. It is essential to equip them with the right words. It is also necessary to focus on the feel of a product. It begins with the packaging. For instance, look at the iPhone box; finely crafted, with extra touches like velvet-lining reminiscent of a fine watch box. The iPhone rests in a tiny lucite bed, trading the object d’art. By having packaging that stands out you’’ have earn fans. Fans are shorthand for fanatics. The Mac was not just easier to use than the PC, it also had style. Therefore, STYLE is Apple’s brand. Creative individuals gravitate to it because it frees their brains from having to “use” a computer. Designers, authors, artists, and customers are fans of good design and respond to extra thoughtful touches.

 

Its just G.