2016 saw the rise of the merch game in SA Hip Hop. Hands down. Why? Because rappers decided to fully invest in themselves and create another form of income.
Look 2016 was not the actual year this started happening. Rappers have had a long symbiotic relationship with merch so let me not bore you with the facts and a history lesson ( Sips Tea Because Mr Lambert Told Me To Do This). I decided to write about this topic because it’s growing at such a frantic pace. But it has not even started to hit the main stream. But like all things I want to wear my fan hat on for a second. That way this becomes something you and me can both enjoy. We are equals ya dig?
There has never been a time to be fan in SA Hip Hop than right now. I mean all your favs are getting major gigs, releasing dope music and above all they are becoming reputable brands. So for the average fan this is all good news but the even better news comes in where you can start living and embracing the narrative of your artist in the form of merchandise. I am no merch expert ( sips tea) but I am fan of what the merch game is doing for the culture. But what are some of the tricks and insights regarding the merch game and why will this be a thing in 2017.
Here is the lowdown.
1.Merch Allows Rappers To Extend Their Music Narrative
I am not sure if you have noticed this but some rappers do not really think and plot being campaigns for their album launches. By big campaigns I am talking about releasing stuff in chapters which all speak to a narrative. Confused? Okay let me break it down. An artist teases us about his album. Shap. They release the album. Shap2. They then drop music videos. Shap 3. They then go on tours. Shap4. They then do the radio runs. Forget about the shaps now. This goes on and on and on until it’s two years till they release another album. Here is my problem. This method is flawed. Surely we as fans want to understand your every thought process. Thats the type of fan I am. By this I mean rappers should be unpacking their narrative from the beginning to the end. Here is where the merch comes in. Merch can tell a story not just on the tours you are going on but can really unpack your whole story. A great rapper who understood this was 50Cent. Everything he built was around a narrative and his approach had longevity.
2. Exclusive Does Not Lead To Cool
I don’t by the bull of exclusive merch. Yeah I know it gets people all fired up and you save your last penny, you wait in line, you all look cool and gas each other up. Miss me with that cool shit. I really think merch should be readily available wherever and whenever. The problem with this thinking is that merch is always an after thought. It’s the “Oh yeah we dropping our merch after the album”. SMH. Why not drop your merch before and album and let that be your promo for your album. You guys need to look up how Ryan Leslie does things. So exclusive is cool because you have to make a certain amount of T’s and all but the fan in Tabanchu is not clued up on the go in line, wait in the cue , do the snapping thing. They just want to buy your merch.
3. Know Your Customer
I can bet you my motor bike that the suburban kid you are trying to impress is prolly impressed by Tory Lanez, Lil Yachty ( Love Boat), 21 Savage. If you have money your options are open and you but. But let me tell you what you are not loyal. So I find it strange that merch is always targeted at a select few. Think of that kid from Tabanchu for a second.He would spend his last R300 on your Mr Rapper because you re his idol. We model C kids are not loyal. There is so much to choose from but for some you Mr rapper are everything. So how about you pop up where you actual consumer is. Oh and if you think I am talking shit or running my mouth i will be dropping a very interesting project that shows who do people search for the most because numbers don’t lie. This will be useful because it will show rappers where their base audience is. Let me shut up though. I am giving to much away.
Okay this third point may be flawed because brands like CashTime have had their products counterfeited but you get the point. I am saying that you should be trying to aquire fans ant retain them because lord knows these swag kings aint loyal.
Although these three points may seem negative they hopefully show you another side of SA Hip Hop Merch. South Africa is country with so many interesting and diverse people. I feel sometimes that we as the culture talk and gas each other so many times. You been on Twitter lately? I fell that this merch topic has not even started to resonate to people who are not fully engrained or understand the moves that Kanye and the like are making. So if you are involved in merch or know someone share with them these three tips. Or you can simply ignore them and do the same thing you always been doing. Trying to preach to the converted. Miss Me.