Hip-Hop Marketing Execs Need to Get “Lost” – Sucker Punch Me, Please

There’s really nothing hip-hop about ABC’s Lost, one of my obsessions since the first episode premiere back in September 2004. The show had me at the guy-gets-sucked-into-the-airplane’s-still-spinning-turbine. Though, I must admit, I love the fact that I can write about it here on XXLMag.com; that’s the beauty of a staffer’s blog week—it’s his or her time to let the distinctive personality radiate.

And, fact is, I’m all over the place.

Earlier today, I came across an exhaustive feature over at Wired that is essentially catnip for any self-respecting Lost junkie, I asked myself, “How can I relate this to hip-hop, since it’s my blog week and all?” I figure, there’s no use in trying to curb one’s enthusiasm about art, especially when I can connect the dots here.

So what have I come up with? Something rooted in the marketing wizardry of sir J.J. Abrams, co-creator of Lost and the guy who knows how to set-up a project better than anyone in the business. Just revisit his pre-release hype machine employed for 2008’s Cloverfield, the handheld-camera monster gem that he produced. How, when we all went to see Transformers that previous summer, we were blasted by a title-less trailer that culminated in the Statue of Liberty’s head hurling across the screen?

I, for one, left the theater not thinking about Optimus Prime’s crew—I immediately went home and researched the hell out of that mysterious and anonymous trailer. That’s the power of effective marketing, and Abrams’ team (Bad Robot) has pulled similar tricks with Lost over the years.

Those fake Dharma Initiative commercials that have aired within episodes. The fugazi Oceanic Airlines billboards. All of the online hoopla surrounding the Hanso Foundation. The list of clever promotions extends like The Human Centipede (Has anyone here seen that trailer? If not, click here to give it a look and please don’t hate me for the suggestion.)

All of this is to say, why can’t record labels and/or rappers come up with marketing schemes like these for their albums? Especially in this Internet age—the possibilities are endless. Drop bait-and-switches all across Twitter. Leak cryptic mp3s to the major blogs, a distorted instrumental with half-bars interspersed in hiccup form. Construct phony Q&A features with folks who claim to have been in the studio when a certain song was recorded, but then don’t name the track or artist(s) responsible. Send the cyber world into frenzy, with just a basic misdirection or two.

And then, smack, debut the new street single out of nowhere—forget the unceremonious Twitter announcements of when your new record is going to premiere. When I see via tweet that Eminem’s first single from this summer’s Recovery is called “Not Afraid” and will hit radio this Friday, I’m left a bit disappointed, wishing that the song would have hit me by surprise Friday morning.

Of course, this argument is tough, considering that sites like Twitter and blogs are unstoppable beasts at this point, and asking artists to consider alternate routes for self-promotion is like requesting a Nas album entirely produced by DJ Premier.

Wasted lung work.

Am I alone in this? Would anyone else out there enjoy a bit of creative planning on the parts of labels and rappers? I’m not saying J.J. Abrams needs to take over a major label (but, come to think of that…); I just believe in ingenuity. I’m the guy who refuses to watch behind-the-scenes clips from music video shoots and scoffs at trailers for rap vids. Show me the damn finished product and let me be impressed on the spot. Sucker-punches are welcome in my world. —Matt Barone

  • NotYourAverageJoe UK

    I think half the reason Jay Electronica has so many people waiting for his next move is because of marketing. The air of mystery and infrequent snippets clearly annoys the fuck out of the ‘gimme gimme’ internet blog readers.

    • Casey

      Truth. At the same time, gotta walk the line and stay mysterious without being called lazy like Dre.

    • http://www.jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

      That Jay Elect “Dear Moleskine” clip on Youtube does have me grinding my teeth in anticipation for the full length version. Incredible beat that made me pay more attention to Just Blaze’s work who produced it.

  • Jesus Martinez

    I feel ya on this post. Since nobody is sellin nowadays this would really help get some hype and move units showing creativity.

    I’ve also been watchin Lost since it first started, I pretty much just want it to end now, hopefully it wont make me go crazy like the Sopranos did (that Human Centipede trailer looked fuckin crazy too, btw, I saw it yesterday)

  • El Tico Loco

    Isn’t this what the Wu Massacre short videos were trying to accomplish?

  • http://SGM7.com Tyler

    Great post Homie. . . Much more like Trent Reznor of NIN with a splash of J.J. Abrams this cat & this company have been directly on your point or vibe for sometime now over there at SGM7.com in their approach of bringing their newest musical sound “Urban Rock” to the masses from a well known but always behind the scenes & curtain producer named: Robert Reives who have worked with such people as 2pac on No More Pain & How do U Want it along with people like Timbaland who use to work up under Robert
    Reives when Robert was working side by side with Devante on JODECI as well as on the 1st Ginwuine album & the Aaliyah project One in a Million to name a few. SGM7.com are taking things to another level just like you mention in your post so get up on it or get left behind & Love it or Hate it, tell a Friend ya’ dig.

  • Lowedwn

    Great post. Definitely would be some ingenious shit if somebody actually went that route.

  • http://www.jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

    I remember right before Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” came out his first two videos DEMANDED that we pay attention. In “Let Me Ride”, nobody knew that Dre and Cube patched things up, so when Cube made that cameo appearance coming out of the girls bathroom…whoa! And the video for “Fuck Wit Dre Day” was probably the funniest thing I saw that year. Marketing mission accomplished.

    I could name a few other successful marketing plans but I’ll cut it off right here. Good post.

  • http://www.bboycult.com $yk

    I don’t watch ‘Lost’, but I know what you’re trying to say.

    I’m surprised that with all of this technology now someone hasn’t done it yet, but I understand the part where labels (media) won’t really WANT this to happen, because you wouldn’t need them/have their hands in your pockets.

    But yeah, a cat could come from left field and if he has the right visuals and web capability, can be a phenom w/o ever leaving the house OR showing their face, just dropping hot music. Could even stream a performance off a good web cam from the basement/couch/watering hole.

  • Key

    We all know Jay-z is probably the king of marketing when it comes to his albums. Remember the hot 97 freestyle before his album “Kingdom Come” dropped. Also the order which he releases his singles, videos, and how he performs all add up into one grand marketing package. I mean, lets face it, isn’t the name Roc-a-fella the best name ever for a record label. From commercials during NBA on TNT to viral videos premiering upcoming releases (blue magic, American Gangster), to photo shoots and cursing on hot 97 lol, Jay is one slick gato when it comes to marketing. Agree?

  • caino

    Rappers sometimes need to learn that less is more!

  • http://www.emcdl.com EmCDL

    This dude just gave me some ideas…..