Hip-Hop Daily Dose #29: The "Lil Wayne Formula" That Could Explode Your Career

Lil Wayne's rise to massive success was no mistake.

It was his strategic use of content marketing that took him from popular rapper to superstar status.

Although most of us indie artists won't achieve platinum albums, there's a lot to learn from Lil Wayne's come up.

You can apply these principles immediately.

Content marketing happens when a brand publishes free, valuable content that its audience wants.

Lil Wayne didn't use ads, big budgets, or gimmick campaigns to sell his art.

He created a crapload of content...

In his case: mixtapes.

"Content marketing" wasn't even a catchphrase in the mid-2000's when Lil Wayne was doing all of this.

Now, brands are hip to the term.

It's becoming the standard to publish loads of videos, podcasts, long-form written copy, online courses, and photos...

...as often as possible.

Let's look at what Lil Wayne did instinctively.

Wayne focused on what he does best: smoking weed and writing entertaining raps.

He wasn't worried about all the other forms of content.

He knew that if he got high quality music in the hands of his fans, they'd keep coming back for more.

When we're creating content, we often ask:

How much is too much?

Won't our audience be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content we're pumping out?

In Wayne's case, there was no such thing as too much music.

Between the release of his fifth studio album, Tha Carter II (2005), and his sixth, Tha Carter III (2008), Weezy churned out three mixtapes.

Consumers didn't have to buy them...they were free.

The mixtapes were so good and so popular that when Weezy released Tha Carter III, he had enough momentum to have the best-selling album of 2008.

There's one other key part of his strategy between the two albums.

Wayne did a ton of features on other artist's tracks.

Between 2005 and 2008, he must've done hundreds of guest appearances.

Many of them charted high as hit songs.

Artists are often selective about whose track they'll feature on, but Wayne said he didn't care who it was as long as they could pay his fee (rumored to be a minimum of $80,000).

He didn't discriminate as much as other, much less popular rappers do.

In those three years between albums, Wayne may have worked on over 1,000 songs.

Compare that to the average rapper, who probably doesn't even drop a project of 15 songs per year.

How fast did Lil Wayne work?

He wasted no time releasing The Dedication mixtape...7 days after Tha Carter II studio album dropped.

Many top music magazines considered his mixtapes among the best records released each year.

In general, mixtapes have a reputation for being lower quality than studio albums.

Lil Wayne didn't sacrifice quality just because he was making free music.

I'd be remiss to forget all the work Wayne did before 2005-2008...and everything he did after the massive success of Tha Carter III. 

Wayne dropped his debut solo album in 1999. 

Eight - count them, eight - mixtapes dropped between 2002 and 2003 with his group, Squad Up. 

He hadn't even released a solo mixtape yet. 

From 2000-2004, he released 3 solo studio albums and 3 solo mixtapes. 

Wayne could've taken it easy after having the best selling album of 2008, but no... 

From 2008-2018, he dropped 10 mixtapes and 6 studio albums. 

He went hard for the first 10 years before reaching massive success, and went hard for the next 10 years after. 

Saying that he went hard is an understatement. 

He was a machine.

In Tha Carter documentary, which covered the time period in 2008 when Tha Carter III released, Wayne said:

"I want every artist to feel like they got to do way more than what they do. That'll be better for us as listeners...I do everything."

The documentary showed Wayne spending most of his free time recording with his portable gear...

On the bus, hotel, wherever he was.

Was it just work ethic that made Lil Wayne so successful?


Talent was definitely necessary.

But compare Lil Wayne's output to another workaholic rapper...Tupac.

The story goes that as soon as Tupac was released from prison, he went straight to the studio to record his next album right away.

Tupac made over 500 songs in his short lifetime (no mixtapes), and only one song ever hit #1 on the charts ("California Love").

If he hadn't had a workhorse mentality, we wouldn't have all those Top 40 hits we love.

And he never would've achieved a #1 record.

The moral here is that the more swings you take at bat, the more likely you are to hit a home run.

Tupac would urgently record a song, and immediately go into the next one.

He seemed to have the intuition that he wasn't going to live a long life.

I'm not sure what Lil Wayne's motivation is...

Perhaps escaping his childhood environment: "to survive and flourish amongst the horrors of his upbringing, he had to keep working with the blinkers up."

That's how The Fader put it in their article, "The Carter Documentary Showed Us How Small Lil Wayne’s World Was."

I just know that it worked really well for him.

Another thing to add about Wayne's success...

In Tha Carter documentary, Wayne said he's been on the road since the age of 11 or 12.

"I haven't went home since. It's nothing to me. It's easy."

It's not just an obsession with recording music then...

It's also an obsession with performing live.

How can an indie artist apply the content strategy of Lil Wayne?

1. Create music obsessively

2. Increase your total output of all content you make (visuals, written, audio)

3. Get really smart about how you promote your content

Have a website?

Write some blogs.

Make videos.

Start a podcast...if you're a recording artist, that one should be easy.

Only record your audio at a studio?

Get a USB mic that plugs into your computer for $100.

Record it on your iPhone.

You don't need equipment that costs thousands of dollars.

It doesn't have to be an analog recording.

Lil Wayne's mixtapes are full of beats he jacked from other artists...they're not even originals.

A HUGE "no-no" for all the indie singer-songwriters and perfectionists who want everything 100% original!

If you want your version of Weezy success, (assuming it's on a smaller scale...but heck, let's get ambitious...you want a platinum record?) you'll have to adopt a Weezy mindset.

Be open minded and super creative.

Remember, when you have limited resources, you must have unlimited creativity.

Use every available moment to brainstorm, plan, and produce content.

I have to add in a few other things about marketing your content...

This was important in the 2000's decade, but even more so now.

People have used these marketing techniques for decades, but the digital era has made it critical.

What I'm talking about is:

Making sure you have a way to contact your audience directly.

Yes...not only do you need dope songs, videos, photos, blogs, podcasts, and everything else you can think of...

You also need to compel your current and future fans to hit the play button on your content.

Which, over time, will hopefully, *maybe* compel them to buy your stuff.

It's a long shot if you think people will naturally find you on social media, follow you, and be extra excited about anything you're posting.

They're not.

They're worried about themselves 100% of the time.

You have to get and keep their attention.

Sure, you may get a True Fan here and there who loves indie music and will buy your $10 album on Bandcamp.

Can you make a living off the rando's that show up here and there though?

I doubt it.

Which is why you need to nurture your fans into Super Fans, also called True Fans.

You need to reach them outside of social media (phone, text, email, mail).

This takes even more time, understanding, and marketing IQ.

I've done some Hip-Hop Daily Dose episodes on these topics and will be doing more in the future.

You can hear my three-part marketing series on marketing and social media:

Click here to check out Episodes 9, 10, and 11.

Enter your email at the top of the Monikker Music Home Page and I'll send you more blogs and podcasts in the future.

Weezy had a much bigger platform to ride his mixtapes on...you probably don't.

It's time to get to work on a much bigger scale than you may be used to.

I know I'm extra motivated by Weezy's story now.

Final word about talent...you and/or other people may not think you're very good right now (which is subjective).

The only way to get better is to keep going.

If you've adopted a Weezy mindset and you create non-stop...you should improve at insanely fast levels.

If you don't improve, it may be true that you're better suited for a different career.

The vast majority of people should improve unless they truly have zero ability.

My point is...if you made 100 songs in 2020 and dropped them with a solid marketing plan...

...and you keep going into 2021 with the same Weezy mindset...how could you not succeed?

I just don't believe that you won't eventually break down those doors you're behind now.

For more info on music marketing and social media, Click Here to check out Episodes 9, 10, and 11 of my podcast, Hip-Hop Daily Dose.

Enter your email at the top of the Monikker Music Home Page and I'll send you more blogs and podcasts in the future.

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