Rapper-artist Ka5sh blends songs and jokes into internet gold
“My life sucked before memes, to be honest,” says Ka5sh (pronounced “cash”; his given name is Jordan Craig). In college in his native Fayetteville, N.C., he studied to be an elementary-school teacher, then worked a series of dead-end jobs before moving to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, where he met “a lot of heavy hitters” in the meme community. Ka5sh made memes to promote his own music, but “it wasn’t until I started connecting the dots, realizing that none of my homies who are big memers had ‘job’ jobs, [that] I was like, ‘Wait -- why am I making memes for free?’” He advertised himself as a freelance meme-maker on social media, then started hearing from labels: “They reach out with what they want to promote, and if I take on the client, I’ll send them some ideas, and we go from there.” His first big hit was a meme for Rae Sremmurd’s “Swang,” mixing country line-dancing videos with the song; now, he says, “rappers hit me up all the time, asking me to make memes for them for free for, like, clout.” But for Ka5sh, 26, meme-making is hard work. In peak memer mode, he’ll wake up at 9 a.m. and often spend 14 hours online, perusing reaction pics he has earmarked, “going through the recesses of my brain and picking out fire jokes,” and prepping posts. Now, he says, “everybody’s throwing their hat in the viral echo chamber, and it’s getting a little oversaturated.” (Ka5sh himself is expanding into acting, and will have a role on an upcoming Viceland reality show.) “You’ve got to know the artist’s brand and their fan base’s idea of them, and play around with that to make something that sticks. If any marketing nerds are reading this: Hire me if you want to make your artists’ songs go off.”
Creative director Craig Love made “The Middle” into a high-budget commercial
The video for Zedd and Maren Morris’ mega-hit “The Middle,” which premiered at the Grammy Awards in January, ends with a cluster of dancers assembling in a red-and-white bull’s-eye -- a nod to Target, the spot’s sponsor, which had at that point made similar high-budget ads-as-music-clips with Carly Rae Jepsen and Lil Yachty, Gwen Stefani and Imagine Dragons. But it was an ad agency creative director, Mother New York’s Love, who brought “The Middle” to life. “People watching the Grammys don’t want to see another commercial. They’re watching for the music,” says Love, 43. “So for a few years now, Target has been doing these huge music productions as a thank-you to viewers. We worked on different ideas for about six months, but nothing clicked until we heard a sneak preview of ‘The Middle.’” By that point, he and veteran music video director Dave Meyers (Maroon 5, Kendrick Lamar) had only nine days to produce the clip. “Timing is always crazy in advertising, but this was next level,” says Love. His advice to aspiring creative directors? Be ready to sweat (“You’d be surprised how much work goes into an ad”), and don’t major in advertising. “I make ads, but they’re often disguised as pop culture,” he says. “Your cultural perspective is what makes you valuable. You can learn what a ‘brand pillar’ is later.”
The Shade Room’s Angelica Nwandu reinvented the tabloid using social media
In early 2014, Nwandu was in the midst of a Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab in Utah when she got a furious call from her boss at the accounting firm that employed her. He had an ultimatum: Come back today, or you’re fired. She quit. It wasn’t long after that Nwandu turned her obsession with celebrity blogs into a business venture: The Shade Room, an Instagram account that posts gossipy reports on black culture. After one week of ’gramming, Nwandu, now 27, had 10,000 followers. Today, The Shade Room, which spills the latest tea on JAY-Z and Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown and others, boasts over 13 million followers and has spawned a website, Facebook page, YouTube channel and online store. In 2016, Nwandu, who initially monetized The Shade Room by selling promotional Instagram posts that she wrote, told Cosmopolitan, “If I got a week off, The Shade Room would probably burn down.” But that’s no longer the case. The Shade Room now has a staff, the participation of an investment firm and advertising partnerships with major corporations like McDonald’s, giving Nwandu enough breathing room to complete the film project she was working on at Sundance four years ago. The family drama Night Comes On won the NEXT Innovator Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and is set for an August release.
Fashion Nova CEO Richard Saghian snagged Cardi B as spokesmodel
On her Invasion of Privacy track “She Bad,” Cardi B sings, “I could buy designer, but this Fashion Nova fit” -- an ode to the body-conscious fast-fashion brand that Saghian, 36, founded in 2006. Four years ago, he noticed Cardi’s social media posts mentioning the brand. “They were hilarious -- she made some amazing videos about our jeans,” he recalls. “We started sending her packages [with our clothes], and a relationship began.” While Saghian won’t comment on the financial details of the deal, he says Fashion Nova and the artist “mutually prosper”; Cardi previously has said the brand offers her $20,000 a month to post pics of her wearing its designs. Besides working on similar “celebrity initiatives” with Bhad Bhabie and Kylie Jenner, Saghian spends his days attending design meetings, developing new product categories and working on overall brand strategy. Cardi B’s first collection for Fashion Nova drops in November; a new one will launch every quarter after that.