A Peak Inside an Emcee’s Notebook

Greetings once again, Lime Nation!

It’s an exciting week for me as this Saturday I’ll finally be recording new music for your eager ears.  With music from the group pushed to later in the Fall, I’m seizing the opportunity to record my first solo project, an EP centered around my comic book alter-ego, Professa Strange.  I’ve been working on it quietly for several months and I mentioned it the last time I posted ‘A Peak Inside…‘, presenting a verse from the song “Open Your Mind”.  Since then the project has grown and taken shape as Strange’s origin story, with OYM moving from the beginning to the end as his transformation culminates.  My comic book collection has grown considerably as I pour throw the work of Steve Ditko as inspiration for my own.  If all goes well this could become the first of a series of Hip Hop Strange Sagas ft. Professa Strange and the ideas for where to go next are bubbling over for me (spoiler alert: Mordo hijacks the recording process in Volume 2, totally meta).

The BridgeFor this project I’ve chosen The Bridge Sound & Stage in Cambridge, a recording studio that’s been on my radar for some time with a strong connection to the local Hip Hop scene.  It should prove to be a live and productive afternoon with new connections and new potential.

With all that in mind, today we take a Peak Inside my notebook as I share with you a few pieces of Professa Strange, Vol. 1 and perhaps some insight into my particular creative process.  Who knows what you all with think of the Strange-ness once it’s complete, perhaps its esoteric and bizarre nature won’t connect, but I think I’m really going to enjoy it so let’s rock.

In the opening track, aptly titled “Introduction”, we find our hero broken and alone, lost for inspiration, struggling for direction.  He sits on a dock, attempting to bring life to the notebook in his hands, as the sounds of the ocean and the carousing conversation of two nearby fishermen form the background.  In the second verse he voices his wasted potential, bringing together references to the X-Men, Henry Kissinger, Niels Bohr, and Albert Hoffman.

I need some inspiration
Yeah, Something to incite
A source of guiding light somewhere in this endless night
A minute or a moment
My notebook or my mic
An ancient omen to give me sight beyond sight
I’m a row boat in this ocean
And I’m trying to fly a kite
That’ll carry me to Pluto
On a fact-finding flight
Sisyphus with these sentences
They shoot the messenger
I’m a visage of the 60’s
Hippies and Henry Kissinger
Psychedelic the sermons
The magician and the minister
Made of Equal parts Professor X and Mr. Sinister
I’d split apart the atom
Like Bohr, Planck, or Pym
If it held the secret answers
To the condition that I’m in
I mean, everything ends where another thing begins
But my mission’s at a place
Where I’m just pissing in the wind
Suspended animation like a man in carbonite
But I’m intended for adventure like Hoffman on his bike

As our hero undertakes his search for inspiration, “The Journey” aims to remind him of the possibilities and potential that always surround us.  It is a personal lesson of mine, one I feel I am continuously forgetting and then reminding myself at various stages of my life.  The chorus pushes for that remembrance and touches on my own fascination with the Galaxy (and the Hitchhiker’s Guide thereto).

Hook:
Remember how it felt to be open
To be free
To be free
To be free
To be or not to be
Remember all the places that you still have never seen
And Remember it’s a great, big Galaxy

You can’t get where you’re going without being where you been
Where you been
Where you been
Where you been, mein kind
Take your stance behind the wheel
And set your sails for sin
Point your face to the sun
And surrender to the wind

For purposes of retaining some mystique, I’ll only reveal pieces from these two songs today.  Stay tuned for all the latest Lime news and releases including photos of the session on Saturday, more insight into the creative process as the project progresses, and of course the release of Professa Strange, Vol. 1 – you’ll find it all at #JPLMagazine.

Open your mind, and Lime On.

Rap Flashback – Bigger And Deffer

Today’s Flashback looks back at LL Cool J’s second album, Bigger And Deffer (BAD for short).  While LL established himself as a force to be reckoned with with his 1985 debut, Radio, Bigger And Deffer catapulted him to another level of success and respect among his peers.  The album peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hip Hop/R&B charts (number 3 overall) and  featured several fantastic tracks, including ‘Kanday’, ‘Go Cut Creator Go’ (a very under-appreciated LL track), and the smash hit ‘I’m Bad’ (my personal favorite on the record).

That said, Bigger And Deffer is perhaps best known for the groundbreaking Hip Hop love ballad, ‘I Need Love’.  This track, arguably the first of its kind, introduced a softer, female fan friendly style to Rap music and proved to the masses that LL Cool J (an acronym for Ladies Love Cool James) had a lot of range.  Sporting his trademark Kangols and gold chains, LL Cool J pushed Hip Hop to new heights with Bigger And Deffer and for that we salute him!

“No rapper can rap quite like I can!  I take a muscle-bound man and put his face in the sand!”

The Oddball Show with Reece Cotton

The Oddball Show podcastThis Tuesday the Oddballs welcome stand-up comedian Reece Cotton, whom you can catch at Comedy on Purpose this Thursday in Hudson, NH.  We’ll talk about the comedian scene here in the Bay State, how comedy can heal in the wake of tragedy, and maybe even Reece’s life as an Uber driver.  It’s all right here on the #OddballShow, tonight at 8pm.

 

Pertinent Links

ReeceCotton.com

#StraightOuttaMoney open mic on Facebook

Twitter – @ComedybyCotton

Instagram – @ComedybyCotton

The Oddball Show with ERATO

The Oddball Show podcastFor this Tuesday’s #OddballShow, the boys are joined by the creative minds behind ERATO, a new experience in Boston nightlife.  DJ Mystina, DJ Dende, and DJ Mizont will be talking about the changes in the Boston house music scene, their mission to bring inspiration, and their 1-year anniversary event going down next Saturday night (7/9).  Feel like dancing?  Come join the conversation with the folks that will keep you moving, this week only on the #OddballShow.

 

Pertinent Links

ERATO’s Facebook page

Their music on Soundcloud

Their most recent release, ‘For Our Love of Music Vol. 8

Tidal – Fictional Advertising Campaign Plan

As my graduate studies wind down, I thought it’d be fun to share a course paper I compiled on Tidal’s streaming service, for an advertising class. I received a very good grade on the paper, but that said, by no means am I under any grand delusions that Tidal’s leadership would use, or even consider any of this. Trust me, there’s plenty to critique. Truth be told, as has been the case with much of my work, given the general lack of time that I have in balancing work and life with a double course load, there’s certainly an element of “I just have to get this shit done” to this paper, particularly the budget section. That research was hard to come by and again, I simply don’t have the time to make it perfect. But, the professor seemed to like it, commenting that aside from the budget section, which she thought could be more thorough, overall it was a solid effort. As such, I figured why not share it with our readers?

Note, for web formatting and ease of readability purposes, I’ve taken some liberties with this post as far as not stringently adhering to the APA standards against which the paper was built.

Note also, I put this together before Kanye released his “Famous” video (which I love by the way), so lamentably, that didn’t factor into the research. That said however, for the fictional radio spot (see Appendix A) which I put together roughly 5-6 weeks ago, I used Beyoncé’s “Freedom” off her Lemonade release as the backing track and thematic driver for the commercial. I was happy (though honestly, not at all surprised) that she rocked the house at the BET Awards performing that track, alongside Kendrick Lamar of course. What can I say? If it works for my grad piece, why wouldn’t it work for the BET Awards and the millions watching across the globe? 😉

Enjoy, hate, or constructively critique! Whatever suits your fancy.

Advertising Campaign Plan – Tidal

Ivan De Jesus

Tidal Banner

Tidal – Company Overview

Tidal is a music streaming service primarily owned by a coalition of well-known artists that include Shawn “JAY Z” Carter, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Jack White, Jason Aldean, J. Cole, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and Usher (Tidal, 2016). The company prides itself in offering exclusive content from a variety of musicians that directly connects artists with fans across the world in a variety of ways (Tidal, 2016). Tidal’s services include, “high-fidelity, CD sound quality music, high resolution video, an opportunity to discover new artists via TIDAL Discovery, and unique experiences via Tidal X” (Tidal, 2016). Tidal’s streaming catalog includes over 40 million songs as well as nearly 90,000 high quality videos. Its services are available in 46 countries worldwide.

S.W.O.T Analysis

When Hip Hop mogul Shawn “Jay Z” Carter became majority owner of Tidal back in March of 2015, the streaming service (formerly owned by the Swedish company, Aspiro), immediately gained high global notoriety. That said, Shawn Carter and his coalition of artists stakeholders faced an uphill battle at the time of the acquisition. When first purchased, the service had a relatively modest subscriber base of roughly 500,000, of which only roughly 20,000 were direct subscribers, with the rest having access to Tidal by way of partnership services (Hovlan, 2016, para.8). As such, the company’s main initiative since then has been to stimulate growth. What follows is an analysis of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Strengths

  • Strong brand / name recognition
    • Well-known artist ownership coalition
    • Aided by “exclusive” releases, most recently Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
  • Growing customer base
    • Up to 3 million per latest reports (Rys, 2016, para.1).
  • High-definition quality sound and video
  • Streaming and purchasing options

Weaknesses

  • Advertising
    • Needs stronger social media presence
    • Needs stronger television ad presence
    • Needs more dynamic on-line ad presence
  • Media backlash
    • Strong anti-Tidal sentiment in corporate media
    • Unfair portrayals of Tidal as already a failure or destined to fail

Opportunities

  • Budding industry
    • Music streaming / digital media outlets continues to rise
    • Physical music/media formats continue to decline
  • Creative / high-profile advertising options
    • High-profile artists connected to Tidal
    • Can use social media and live performances to expand Tidal’s visibility
  • Traditional advertising
    • Company can greatly expand television, radio, on-line, and social media presence

Threats

  • Competition
    • Apple Music (11 million subscribers)
    • Spotify (30 million subscribers)
      • (Rys, 2016, para.2)
    • Anti-Tidal sentiment (see weaknesses)
    • Free streaming music outlets
      • YouTube
      • Pandora
      • Yahoo Music

Marketing Challenges

Perhaps the biggest challenge Tidal faces lies in the vast array of free music streaming options available to the casual listener. While it’s certainly true that the quality of sound and the overall availability of music is greater on paid platforms such as Tidal, Apple Music, and Spotify’s paid service, the fact remains that casual listeners generally do not mind listening to their favorite music free of charge, even if the quality lacks a bit. YouTube, Pandora, and Yahoo Music, while all also have paid service options as well, are go-to platforms for the casual music fan, many of whom have no desire to pay for music at all. This has been a problem in the music industry since the early 2000 days of now-defunct media pirating platforms such as Napster and Limewire. When compiled with the relative strength of chief competitors Apple Music and Spotify, Tidal certainly faces an uphill batter for market share.

Additionally, for whatever reasons, there is an apparent mainstream / corporate media backlash that has branded Tidal a failure, seemingly before the company has even had a chance to truly get off the ground, much less flourish. A simple Google search of “Tidal Failure” reveals an array of articles and blog posts (as pictured below) that speak to this sentiment. Given the company has a reported six times as many subscribers today than it did as recently as 13 months ago, this sentiment is confusing, if not outright alarming. Potential new Tidal subscribers want to feel good about the investment they are making, and this anti-Tidal sentiment certainly hurts the company. As such, given that for many, perception is reality, Tidal is in a position where it has to fight the perception of a failed company.

Past Advertising Efforts

Market challenges aside, Tidal’s greatest weakness thus far has been its generally lackluster advertising efforts. While its on-line ads, bearing the hashtag #TidalForAll, are well-done and show some promise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-57i6EeKLM), there simply isn’t enough advertising out there for Tidal to significantly increase its presence in the industry. Its #TidalForAll campaign puts a premium on the company’s big-name artists affiliates, but does not do enough (if anything) to appeal to the casual fan. Both television and radio ads for Tidal are relatively scarce. Additionally, Tidal’s social media and overall on-line presence is weak, particularly considering that this should be very high on the company’s list of go-to marketing strategies. Ultimately, Tidal is an on-line streaming service, so whereas a few #TidalForAll videos on YouTube are helpful, they certainly are not enough to truly captivate what should be its core audience, the digital music fan.

Target Audience

The campaign’s target audience is two-fold; the casual listener and the music enthusiast. More specifically however, Tidal’s core target market will consist of millennials, both men and women ages 18-34. As noted in Digital Music News, millennials are very particular about their music wants and needs. Among the tendencies attributed to said demographic are, buying music to show support and gratitude for the artists, craving intimate glimpses into daily activities of their favorite artists, wanting to feel involvement in the creation and branding process, frequent social media interaction across various platforms, wanting as little distance as possible between themselves and their favorite artists, constant access to artists whereabouts and intimate details, and a preference for shuffle mode listening which include diverse multi-genre playlist (Resnikoff, 2013).

As such, the advertisements for the casual fan will feature men and women of various ages and various ethnicities enjoying Tidal in a variety of settings such as, urban, suburban, upscale, and casual. Additionally, the music used for the ads will reflect the diversity of the music millennials listen to, ranging from pop, to hip hop, alternative, rock, rhythm & blues, edm, dance, house, freestyle, reggae, reggaeton, merengue, bachata, and salsa. This will intrigue not only American listeners, but also those in Latin America and Europe. Ultimately, it is our intent for the ads featuring a diverse array of millennial aged everyday people. These spots will be  designed to appeal to casual fans of various ethnicity and walks of life. Additionally, ads that feature high-profile artists will strike a nerve with the devout music enthusiast, or rather, the listener more likely to appreciate and respond to Tidal’s advantages in sound and video quality as well as its exclusivity rights with prominent artists.

Strategic Objectives

Tidal aims to be the premier high-end streaming service in the marketplace. It sees vast opportunities in the budding streaming music industry to become the go-to service for both the casual and most devout listener. Tidal’s strong ties and exclusive streaming deals with such high-profile artists as Beyoncé, Prince, Jay Z, and Kanye West present the company with unique marketing opportunities through both traditional television and radio platforms as well as various web based and social media driven content. The primary intent of this marketing campaign is to expedite growth of Tidal’s subscriber base (3 million currently), thereby bridging the gap between industry leaders Spotify (30 million) and Apple Music (8 million). Additionally, not enough has been done thus far to highlight Tidal’s existing successes and potential for even greater market share going forward. This campaign will directly refute the anti-Tidal sentiments explored above.

Another goal of this marketing campaign is to increase Tidal’s overall visibility in the marketplace, alluring both the casual listener and the more devout music fan. We aim to build upon the company’s existing Tidal’s #TidalForAll campaign with a more comprehensive approach. Traditional and satellite radio advertisements will be launched in conjunction with television commercials, online videos, and an integrated social media campaign utilizing Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Web based advertising will also consist of spots on other streaming services such as Yahoo Music, YouTube, and Pandora. There will be two approaches to the ads; videos and stills of casual listeners enjoying their favorite music on Tidal, and ads where Tidal artists are featured promoting the advantages of the services, namely, exclusive content and superior sound and video quality. This multi-faceted approach will engage undecided music fans by highlighting Tidal’s distinct strengths within the industry; higher quality sound and exclusive content not available on other streaming services.

Messaging Strategy

Our message is both simple and clear: Whether you’re a casual or devout music fan, Tidal is without a doubt the premier streaming service in the market place. To that end, our campaign will better utilize Tidal’s prominent artists line-up, and better promote its exclusive content in order to lure the devout music listener. For example, the recent passing of mega star, Prince, though tragic in nature, presents Tidal with an opportunity to the fallen mega star’s music streaming exclusively on the platform. Our campaign, by way of its visual advertisements, such as the web banner shown on appendix B, as well as television and radio spots and socia media outreach, will make it a point to highlight Tidal’s exclusive streaming right’s to not only Prince’s music, but also that of Jay-Z’s, Beyoncé’s and others (O’Malley, 2016). That Tidal is the only streaming service that carries the music of certain high profile artists needs to be a bigger part of the company’s advertising strategy. Our campaign, by way of an integrated mix of television, radio, web video, and social media ads will ensure this occurs.

Ultimately, while targeting the casual listener is key to our approach, as a set of ads featuring a variety of casual listeners in a variety settings is critical to our campaign’s success, we recognize that Tidal’s true opportunity for growth is capturing the nuanced millennial, or music “snob,” if you will. Tidal’s superior sound and video quality along with its exclusivity deals with prominent artists presents the company with a prime opportunity to differentiate itself from its competitors, effectively becoming the “high-end” streaming service. Our advertising campaign will both promote and capitalize on this notion of differentiation. Our social media campaign, by way of Snapchat video exclusives as well as live Twitter and Facebook question and answer initiatives will feed the millennials’ need for bridging the gap between artist and fan, as well as her/his thirst for exclusive content. These initiatives will drive growth and cement Tidal’s standing as the industry’s premier streaming service.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE OF TIDAL’S FICTIONAL ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

Can we just talk about guns for a minute?

Can we talk about guns for a minute

You watch that C-SPAN feed this week?  Shit got crazy up on Capitol Hill…

House Democrats led a sit-in at the Capitol building beginning Wednesday at 11:30 am and running for 25 straight hours.  Democratic Senators came and joined in support, Elizabeth Warren brought Dunkin.  Their intention was to force the House of Representatives to bring forth a bill on gun legislation for a vote, presumably one of the four (or Collins’ fifth option) that was voted down in the Senate on Monday.  Those four measures, two proposed by Republicans and two proposed by Democrats dealt with particular pieces of the gun control debate, from closing background check loopholes, to the not-as-simple-as-they-appear “no fly, no buy” measures that coordinate with the nation’s various no fly and terror watch lists.  All four were rejected along nearly perfect party lines despite a CNN poll this week that says a large percentage of Americans are in favor of some “common sense” gun measures: 90% supported universal background checks (I know, most places make you do some kind of check, we’ll get back to that in a moment), 87% supporting measures that would prevent felons and those who are mentally ill from getting a gun, and 85% supporting a “no fly, no buy” initiative. Yet even in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando or the many others so recent, we remain stubbornly entrenched in our views, with so little room for movement between the two sides.

In the wake of this type of terrible event, as the phenomenon becomes frighteningly common here in the United States, many of us scramble for answers, with questions and debates about where blame should lie and what solutions might exist towards prevention of future such tragedies.  Here in the United States, of course, the discussions surrounding gun violence, gun ownership rights, and what impact legal restrictions can and will have are nothing new.  The right to bear arms as outlined in the Second Amendment to our Constitution is passionately protected by a large portion of our citizenry, while the intention and language of said Amendment is the subject of its own debate within the context of modern weaponry.  What exactly is the definition of “a well regulated militia” and what bearing does that phrase have on the Amendment as a whole?  Many would say that the principle at the center of the Amendment and the right itself is defense against tyranny, believing that an armed citizenry cannot and will not be overtaken by tyrannical rule.  For many it also represents a spirit of personal independence and self-reliance, a drive to protect what is yours.  All of these are noble principles advocated by the pro-gun crowd.  That self-reliance bumps up against societal safety when taken to a particular extreme, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.

let's talk about guns

#NoBillNoBreak sit-in on Capitol Hill

The point is that this is an important dialogue worthy of a sophisticated and evolved citizenry, debating with our fellow Americans deep social issues of personal responsibility, freedom and prevention of tyranny, and how we perpetuate notions of violence.  And while that dialogue does take place in smaller pockets, on a large scale the two sides simply retreat to familiar and fervently defended stances with no movement made toward compromise.  As I mentioned, three of Monday’s Senate votes failed along perfect 53-47 party lines, while the bill sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy aimed at closing the “gun show loophole” gained an additional 3 votes from Senate Republicans.  In my opinion, each side of this debate has valid criticisms which we should accept and use as a basis for compromise.  On the political right, there are two great notions which comprise much of the argument. 1. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and 2. None of the measures proposed thus far would have had a specific impact on any of the recent tragedies (Omar Mateen was not on the no fly list, for instance).  The first is an age-old cliché that argues for personal responsibility but I think understates the deadly nature of firearms.  Guns have one solitary purpose, to kill, and when we passively move past that we skew the debate. I think perhaps a more accurate phrase would be “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people”.

The second point, that the proposed legislations don’t actually address issues that relate to any recent tragedy, is, I think, the more pressing one for the present dialogue.  Many critics argue that making background checks truly universal, including trade shows and private sales, is redundant given that, they claim, most places perform a background check anyway.  The “no fly, no buy” and related measures rely heavily on several different secret government lists, opening a litany of civil right issues while contributing little in the way of practical results.  And even an assault weapons ban (which I’ll get to in a moment) wouldn’t have affected the 2015 Louisiana movie theatre shooting, Dylann Roof’s shooting in Charleston, 2012’s Wisconsin temple shooting, or the 2011 Arizona shooting involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, all of which were perpetrated using only handguns.

Left Right and Center, let’s talk about guns! KEEP READING…

Rap Flashback – Schoolly D

Schoolly-DFor today’s Rap Flashback we’re taking it way back, as June 22nd 1962 marks the birthday of Philly’s Schoolly D.  Schoolly D’s rap career took off in the mid-80s and he’s best known for the classic Rap track, ‘P.S.K. What Does It Mean’, released in 1985 on Schoolly’s own independent label, Schoolly D Records.  Schoolly’s credited with being one of the first artists to introduce a hardcore element to Hip Hop music, rapping about sex, drugs, and violence.  Ice T in fact considers Schoolly as being the first gangsta rapper.  When asked about the origins of gansta Rap in a 2007 interview with Davey D, Ice had this to say:

Here’s the exact chronological order of what really went down: The first record that came out along those lines was Schoolly D‘s ‘P.S.K.’ Then the syncopation of that rap was used by me when I made Six In The Morning. The vocal delivery was the same: ‘…P.S.K. is makin’ that green’, ‘…six in the morning, police at my door’. When I heard that record I was like “Oh shit!” and call it a bite or what you will but I dug that record. My record didn’t sound like P.S.K., but I liked the way he was flowing with it. P.S.K. was talking about Park Side Killers but it was very vague. That was the only difference, when Schoolly did it, it was “…one by one, I’m knockin’ em out”. All he did was represent a gang on his record. I took that and wrote a record about guns, beating people down, and all that with Six In The Morning.

 

Schoolly’s influence was also evident beyond the 80s as ‘P.S.K.’  was resurrected on Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 release, Life After Death as the quick hitting ‘B.I.G. Interlude’.  For that classic track as well as groundbreaking content, Schoolly D, JP Lime salutes you!

“One by one I knocks ’em out”