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Has a day gone by without being assaulted by someone you sort-of-kind-of-maybe know on Facebook or Twitter hitting you with a “Check Out My Dope New Video/Song… Subscribe, RT and Support!” tweet? Chances are one hasn’t. God forbid you ever comment on a YouTube video, as the “HotFiyahSpitta Wants To Be Your Friend” and “BITCHIGOTBARS Sent You a Video” messages will certainly begin to inundate your inbox. We know why they do it: guerilla marketing, grass-roots campaigning, building a fan base, garnering a buzz, more cliche phrases etc. all in the hopes of getting signed off that ONE video that goes viral. However, what they are really doing is forcing their music on you, the listener. Their growth isn’t happening organically from word of mouth and genuine infatuation with their content. The latter strategy would be successfully utilized to procure a major label deal by Mike Jones … Who?… Mike Jones… Who? …Not that Mike Jones… the other Mike Jones: Wax. Read more of this YouTube pioneer’s story and what lessons unsigned artists today can learn from him.
Wax is arguably the original “YouTube Rapper.” One of the first artists consistently making videos and posting them for the world to love and critique. It all started on May 4, 2007 with this video: “WAX SPITS FURY YET AGAIN!!!!!!!!”
A pompadour-adorned Wax spits an intricate AAAB/CCCB/DDDE/FFFE rhyme scheme for the first few minutes before effortlessly transitioning into a (most likely) freestyle. 6 minutes of straight bars. Nothing groundbreaking about this other than proving the fact that he can, in fact, rap.
Wax would garner a bit of attention by posting his entry on November 3, 2007 for the VIBE Magazine “Verses Contest,” which Prince EA would go on to win.
However, heavy interest wouldn’t be established until January 4, 2008, when Wax uploaded his most watched video to date, “WAX: NEW CRACK!!!!”
Though Wax most likely did not know this at the time or even plan the effects, this video would establish two very important roles and motif’s in his success. The first being him driving in his car while rapping; the second being him rapping over “The Traffic Jam” by Stephen Marley.
It would take 4 years and over 200 videos totaling over 16,000,000 views before achieving what every neophyte and salty veteran has always wanted— a deal.
The Unintentional Marketing Plan
That’s how I, and I’m sure many others, were first introduced to Wax. It’s not an intentional gimmick like being a BASEDGOD or a deliberate attempt to go viral like “White Kid Raps Fast.” It was born out of necessity. Wax had numerous noise complaints lodged against him from his neighbors. He was forced to shoot videos in his car. Sure, it seems silly, but it gave Wax a way to distinguish himself from others. It became his shtick.
Put A Beat On
Unlike most online rappers, Wax rarely hopped on an industry beat. For the most part his efforts were focused on creating original content. It’s easy to rap on the hottest beat du jour and rest on someone else’s laurels and ideas, but making your own stuff will ultimately make you a better artist. However, what Wax did instead was rap over instrumental sections and breaks of songs not necessarily intended for rap. For instance, the beat in the “New Crack” video is “The Traffic Jam” by Steve Marley.
Here Wax pays homage to his DMV area heritage by rapping over the Go-Go classic “The Bud” by The Huck-a-Bucks.
Bonus: Herbal T, his identical twin (and equally dope) brother, drops 32 bars over “Apache” by Incredible Bongo Band at a BBQ.
I can’t say that rapping over The Jones Girls songs are superior to rapping over “Otis,” but what it does do is set you apart from the 8,998 other people who are flooding the interwebz with their latest “freestyle” over the same beat. It shows your musicality and diversity. Plus, if not for anything else, it might make someone go “Whoa, that was cool. I should go check out more music by The Huck-a-Bucks.”
At some point, Wax began to include absurd search tags for his YouTube video. The first instance being “horse fucking death” and “radical midget stunts” on his “Wax On The A Millie Beat” video. These tags would morph from afterthought phrases like “ass pounding piihb? omg lol tortoise rape” to fully developed ideas and sentences like “ozzy osbourne biting off bat head while shitting and pissing directly downward into my mouth several onlookers masturbate.” Reading the tags of a Wax video are like an Easter egg of sorts for fans, just another dimension of his endless entertainment.
Proving Content is King
Sure, you can try your best to make one wacky/shocking video that gets tens of thousands of views, but how do you leverage that? How do you convert viewers to fans? How do you get them to keep coming back and checking out your product? Ultimately, it is by providing consistent, quality content. Wax’s YouTube stream is exemplary of this. It reads like a Marketing 101 textbook. There isn’t just generic music video after generic music video. There are commercials, skits, characters, behind the scenes videos and more. If his video catalog were bonds, Wu-Tang Financial would be pleased.
Creative Music Videos
“Stay Off My Facebook”
When Wax was about to drop his mixtape Scrublife, instead of doing a lame teaser trailer, he created this. Perhaps the greatest literal interpretation of any lyrics. Shouts to EOM getting the chips and soda out of the microwave.
He also created the Billy Mays-esque pitchman, Corey Steele, to promote his Scrublife Party Packs.
Characters and Skits
Wax has a bevvy of created personas that have made appearances throughout the years: English Chef Jean Bobbington, the booty-freckle-loving Count Spatula and Gokub The Mathematical. But, perhaps none are as famous as Dale Firebird.
While he was busy flying around the country with his manager, Brian Washington, making music and meeting with record executives, Wax began to deliver a “Wax Weekly” series which chronicled his transcontinental hi-jinks. The topics ranged from him being in the studio with Jim Jonsin to simply buying a new car. Even though some of the episodes aren’t music related, it give fans a look into who he is as a person, creating an even stronger bond because they now feel like they “know” him.
Wax entered the A1 “Sing For Your Beef” Contest and to raise awareness and get people to vote, he did a “16 Bars A Day For A Week” video series. He delivered a verse with accompanying video per day for a week while encouraging people to vote for him in the contest. The series would eventually be turned over to the fans who got to dictate topic. It was only a matter of time before it spiraled out of control into a rap about John Stamos. Wax would end up winning the contest probably due in large part to this tactic.
Another video Wax did for the A1 contest, a parody of David Banner’s “Get Like Me (Stuntin is a Habit)”
What It All Means
“How come people think that funny stuff has any less of a craft to it? It’s hard being funny.” — MC Paul Barman
What Wax essentially did was foster a relationship between him, his peers and his fans. He wasn’t focused on views or empty retweets. Instead, he focused on providing a reason to want to be associated with him by delivering entertaining content and irreproachable music. Wax surrounded himself with a team: fellow musicians and personalities who would promote his music to their fan base, an incredible manager and a talented videographer. Every facet of Wax is shrouded in excellence. It is truly all about quality over quantity. Build personal connections between yourself, fans and your peers. And, for the love of Allah, reciprocate in those relationships. Help the people who have helped you. Promote their endeavors and return the favor.
Too many people are under the impression that 100,000 YouTube views equates to success, which is simply not true. In this age of “What have you done for me lately?” and the mindset that fans are entitled to free music, how many of those viewers will pay $5 for your mixtape? If those views came from spamming twitter or tricking people into watching your video by mislabeling it, the chances are probably around low-fat milk percentages. However, if you build brand loyalty and make people want to be apart of what you are offering, they will have no qualms with parting with their money. You have to know your audience and occassionally bend to their expectations.
At what point in Wax’s career his marketing plan went from “dumb luck” to “thoroughly calculated,” we may never know. But, one thing is certain, he succeeded, and you can too. Make people want to be apart of what you are offering.
Interview with Wax
RG: What made you want to upload a video to YouTube of you rapping and doing music?
Wax: The shit that made me and my brother start our own youtube channel was a contest Vibe magazine had a few years back. It was called “Vibe Verses” and was basically a contest where you upload a video of yourself spitting a verse to one of the beats they provided. I didn’t win the contest but I did really well and got a lot of views and comments and what not. We figured why not just make some more videos and have fun with it. We had already shot our EPICLY AMAZING video for our single “Decadent” off our album Grizzly Season so that was all the more reason to start.
RG: Was it always your goal to use YouTube to try and make a name for yourself with music?
Wax: Not really. I have always wanted to make a living off music since I was a little kid but I never thought it was actually possible. I just enjoy rapping and making music and YouTube is a fun medium for me. After a while it was a way to make some extra money and promote albums and T-shirts and such. I never had any grandiose visions with it though.
RG: Your YouTube video catalog is diverse; it isn’t just music videos. There are skits, commercials, characters, parodies, etc. Did you ever make the conscious decision to “entertain” people? Or do you just really enjoy, as you’ve said yourself, “doing dumb shit?”
Wax: I absolutely love doing dumb shit. I never really had any goals when I was young to do acting, but once I started making music videos I discovered that I enjoy it. I also hang out with a lot of comedians and I love making people laugh. I definitely never ever considered comedy/acting as something i wanted to do though i just kinda stumbled into it. It all started with the music. I have been doing live shows playing music since I was a kid, so yeah I definitely like to entertain people for some reason.
RG: How much of being an unsigned artist is Do-It-Yourself. For example: learning to video edit, make your own beats graphic design, selling merch, etc.?
Wax: I guess that all depends on the artist. Everybody does it differently, some people do a lot of shit themselves while some people put together good teams and what not. In this day and age I would say it is vital to use every tool you can to promote your music, but really the most important thing is to perfect your craft and make sure your shit is quality. If your music sucks the last thing you should be doing is promoting it. For me I have definitely edited videos, made beats, sold merch, etc. all by myself. Now I have built up a team to help. I have always sucked at any type of art/graphic design though my boy Galen who I have known forever has always helped me with that.
RG: You have an solid team around you: a smart manager, EOM, other talented musicians, amazing videographers. How important is it for an artist to surround himself with a team that believes in you?
Wax: Oh snap, I guess I talked a lot about that in the last answer. Building a team is definitely important just for that fact that after a while there is simply not enough hours in the day to do everything yourself. I am blessed to know a bunch of talented people that help me every day.
RG: How has being a “YouTube rapper” been beneficial for you? What are the negatives?
Wax: It has been beneficial in that youtube is kind of a “community” and people are willing to help each other out as far as promotion and collaboration and what not. I have met a lot of great people through YouTube, many of whom are really popular on there. I guess the negatives would be that it is considered kind of corny and nerdy. Luckily I actually am corny and nerdy so it works out perfect.
RG: I’ve seen where people get upset at you for not continuing an online cypher and being “the old Wax.” How do you balance the expectations of long-time online fans and what Def Jam/your team has for you?
Wax: That particular online cypher came at a time where I happened to be extremely busy. I want to keep anyone who is a fan of my shit happy, but I also want to progress and do new shit too. At this point my plan is to just make more music and videos, put out another mixtape or two, then hopefully build up enough momentum to drop an official major label album. It ain’t easy. I have never been the type of person that puts out 8 mixtapes a week and shit. I prefer quality over quantity. In this day and age it is much harder for people who think like that because content gets old so fast and people constantly want new shit. I think ultimately my long time fans will be happy as long as I make entertaining music and videos and what not.
RG: How does it feel to hear people say they are fans of you and not know anything about your YouTube exploits?
Wax: That is something that happened when I put out my last mixtape. Scrublife had a pretty crazy viral life. Not only online, but just through straight word of mouth. Now when I do shows that is what everybody is familiar with, some might have no idea about my youtube presence. It feels good I am just happy that my music affects people, hopefully in a positive way.
RG: The breadth of your music knowledge is extensive (Shouts to New Jack Swing). If you could collaborate with any artist/band of any genre of any era for a collaborative album who would it be?
Wax: That’s a tough question, off the top of my head as I am feeling right now probably Black Sabbath in there early years with Ozzy. Their shit was dark but it was actually kinda funky and definitely something that could be rapped over. Ozzy could just sing enormous hooks and I could rap the verses. Shit would be cool.
RG: What can we expect from Wax in the future? I know your video for “Too Loud” off your upcoming mixtape will be dropping in the coming weeks. Do you have a release date for that project? Have any other things in the works you’d like to tell/tease everyone with?
Wax: At this time I am shooting to release my new mixtape “Eviction Notice” on November 28th. I will be shooting a few more music videos for some of the songs off there, and I really wanna shoot some more skits too. After that I will continue working on songs for my album and do mad shows, as well. I hope it all works out. I have been really stressed out recently haha
RG: Last question, on a rap scale from 1 to “Fucking Beast,” where does your identical twin brother, Herbal T, rank?
Wax: I would put him at “fucking beast.”
I have personally transcribed every song on Wax’s most recent and critically-acclaimed Scrublife Mixtape. If you aren’t familiar with Wax, it’s a great place to start. Hopefully, this post whet your appetite for more. If it didn’t, then may Satan infect your life with his red-dark power and curse you with a life full of paper cuts and cat urine.
PS: Ay yo, Brian, what’s good with that Scrublife Internship position?
Wax — Scrublife Mixtape Lyrics
Wax – 2010 Til Infinity Lyrics
Wax – American Beer Lyrics
Wax – Dispensary Girl Lyrics
Wax – Don’t Need Lyrics
Wax – Shoo Ba Doop Lyrics
Wax – Everything Lyrics
Wax – FAIL Lyrics
Wax – Elements Swing Lyrics
Wax – Limousine Lyrics
Wax – Mary Lyrics
Wax – Music and Liquor Lyrics
Wax – New Crack Lyrics
Wax – Not So Bad At All Lyrics
Wax – Old Ways Lyrics
Wax – RED Lyrics
Wax – Two Wheels Lyrics
Wax – Wax Goes Bananas Lyrics