Eight months after launching 300 Entertainment, principals Lyor Cohen, Todd Moscowitz and Kevin Liles are toasting their first No. 1 album: Closer by 25-year-old Mike Stud.
The college baseball pitcher-turned-rapper surprised chart-watchers when he topped Billboard’s Rap Albums tally in the issue dated July 26 with 15,000 in first-week sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Equally impressive: Stud’s out-of-nowhere debut, released by Electric Feel Records and distributed via 300/WEA/Atlantic, came without the benefit of a costly radio campaign, because the deal closed so quickly and there was only limited time for a run-up to the album’s July 7 release. Instead, Closer was powered by the title track’s 300,000 YouTube views, a Pandora pre-release album stream, and the 33-city The #StudSummer Tour, which kicked off on July 10.
Hitting the road has contributed to Stud’s increasing success: “It’s a big part of the story,” says Cohen. “Mike and [Electric Feel owner] Austin Rosen are quickly developing a strong base the old-fashioned way: growing it city to city, one venue at a time.”
Cohen describes Stud’s debut as one of the industry’s “most stealth” surprises, albeit three years in the making. Following Stud’s 2010 breakthrough clip “College Humor,” a paean to undergrad hedonism (which dovetailed into more YouTube posts — including a remix of Justin Bieber’s hit “Boyfriend”), the Rhode Island native has amassed some 35 million total views on his channel.
This also marks a crucial win for Cohen, the veteran label head who helped usher in hip-hop as a genre and a cultural movement, first by managing Run-D.M.C. and later running Def Jam and then Warner Music Group until 2012.