I am not going to pretend like I was rooting for Kreayshawn to succeed. I wasn’t.
As soon as I heard the Oakland rapper’s amazingly annoying popular single, “Gucci Gucci,” I knew I never wanted to hear it again. Ever.
Despite hating it immensely, the song, which found Kreayshawn (pronounced “creation”) singing about her disdain for girls who love designer labels, became a viral hit. And after racking up millions of YouTube views, major record labels were clamoring to sign her to a deal. She eventually hooked up with Sony/Columbia and was blessed with a million dollar advance, all on the strength of her buzz.
Soon every magazine, blog, and radio show seemed poised to make Kreayshawn into an unstoppable success–sort of a hip hop Lady Gaga–but thankfully, that didn’t happen.
Despite last summer’s hype, Kreayshawn went on to sale just 3,900 albums in her first week, making it the weakest major label debut in history. Ouch.
As a hip hop fan, it worked every single one of my nerves to see Kreayshawn garner so much attention when more talented emcees deserved to shine. But witnessing her swift rise made me nervous. Rap is already teetering on the verge of being completely soul-less, and had Kreayshawn blown up, it might have pushed it over the edge.
While it’s easy for me to chuckle at her flop, I’d rather use it as a lesson.
So what can we learn from Kreayshawn’s record-setting failure?
Hype is only part of the equation
In the span of a few months Kreayshawn racked up millions of YouTube views, hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, and scored interviews with many respected publications. Why? Hype. Before she’d even released an album she was already deemed the next big thing in hip hop. Only….she wasn’t. Once the hype wore off, we were left with horrible rhymes and a somewhat erratic, albeit interesting, personality.
That isn’t enough. At the end of the day, content is king. And no matter how many followers you attract on social media, what turns them into believers in your work is your work.
Too often writers/entrepreneurs focus on building a following without making sure their product (or content) is valuable. Don’t ever put building your audience ahead of putting out great content. It’s a recipe for disaster.
You have to believe in what you do
In interviews, Kreayshawn came off as someone who just fell into rapping and could pick up and leave it at any time. Although she describes herself as a creative person, she didn’t strike me as being especially committed to her craft. She wasn’t studying other rappers, her elementary rhymes didn’t show any sort of commitment to getting better, and her on stage performances were downright boring.
When you’re not feeling whatever you’re doing people will know. If you don’t absolutely love what you do and are just using it as a stepping-stone to cash in, your audience will not be in love with you. And if they’re not convinced, they won’t shell out their hard-earned cash to support you. Be passionate about your work.
Even if you fail, stay positive
Despite news of her historically low sales making the rounds on the web, Kreayshawn seems to be staying quite positive, at least in public. Intead of going on a rant about why folks should cut her some slack, she tweeted yesterday, “Im so confused right now. Why is everyone so concerned with me? I think I’m just really popular.”
Delusional? Maybe. But when the world is against you and folks are literally laughing at your demise, success requires us to look our critics in the face and hold our heads high anyway. While I don’t like her music at all, I do respect her ability to brush off the critiques and continue doing the work.
While it’s important to reflect on constructive criticism (i.e. you need to work on them rhymes, girl), it’s equally important to be able to ignore the negative noise. On the path to achieving our goals, we will experience some setbacks and perhaps a few failures, but how we respond to them is what’s important.
If we give up simply because we failed, then all of our hard work will be for naught. But if we pick ourselves up and keep on trucking after being hit with a massive challenge, then we’ll be better equipped to handle any challenge that comes our way in the future.