5 examples of innovative album rollouts in UK rap
Written by Cee Valentina
If executed well, an artist's album rollout can be just as exciting as the listening experience of the album content itself. Various artists and their marketing teams have utilized different strategies to generate interest as they present their albums to the world.
Simply posting the album cover and its tracklist just isn't enough... unless it's Beyonce.
Here are 5 examples of how UK rap artists have used innovative marketing strategies to create anticipation for their album releases.
The visuals matter.
A good album rollout should feel like an extension of the body of work it's aiming to promote and this is exactly what Nines and his team accomplished when he released his third studio album, Crabs in a Bucket in August 2020.
The album drop was accompanied by a short film, directed by Nines and Charlie Di Placido, which was screened live during an invite-only drive through premier. The short film gave insight into the life of Courtney Freckelton, complimenting the storytelling aspect of the album.
The drive-through only added to the experience and was an innovative way to bring "Church Road to Hollywood", while still following social distancing requirements in the height of a global pandemic. Fans were even given the chance to win tickets to the drive-through if they pre-ordered the album - a great tactic to push physical album sales.
An album rollout traditionally starts with the release of singles to tease fans with a taste of what is to come. Shortly after Nines announced the release date of Crabs in a Bucket, he dropped his lead single Clout followed by Airplane Mode featuring NSG.
But it was the visual accompaniments which really helped to build anticipation for the release of Crabs In The Bucket.
The video for Clout received positive reviews and was described as being the “most impressive visuals” seen all year by Complex UK at the time of its release. If we’re talking about innovation, directors Charles Di Placido and Nines really came through with an original concept of recreating iconic hip-hop album covers including 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me, 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Trying and Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In Da Corner.
From a creative standpoint, it was brilliant, eye-catching and unique, but also an effective way to market his new album, with Crabs In A Bucket being written across each of the covers he recreated.
Crabs In A Bucket went on to debut at Number 1, spending a total of 9 weeks on the Official UK Album Chart. It also led Nines to take home Album of the Year, while Clout was nominated for Video of the Year at the MOBO Awards 2020.
“Guess the features”
Ghetts recently announced the release of his album Conflict of Interest scheduled for 19 February 2021. The tracklist includes 16 tracks with notable features such as Skepta, Dave, Giggs, Wretch 32 and more.
But instead of simply dropping the tracklist on social media, he encouraged fans to “guess the features” by posting a video on Instagram and Twitter.
The video shows an image of a face split in half which could represent Ghetts as a young boy on one side and then a more current version of himself on the right-hand side of the image.
Fans, fellow music industry colleagUes and spectators were captivated by the fast appearing faces in the video as Each face revealed the upcoming features on the album.
If you weren't trying to press pause on each face, then what were you even doing?
Loski also adopted a similar idea in November 2020. When he announced his album Music, Trial & Trauma: A Drill Story. After tweeting a picture of his tracklist with the features being represented as iOS emojis, this prompted his supporters to guess the features on the album.
A creative tactic like this was a fun way to generate engagement and spread the word about his new album. Furthermore, fans quote tweeted it trying to figure out the features by looking at the clues given by the emojis.
Simple, but effective.
Skepta released his fifth studio album entitled Ignorance Is Bliss in May 2019 after setting the bar high with his Mercury Prize-winning album, Konnichiwa, released in 2016.
What makes the marketing campaign around Ignorance Is Bliss so interesting was the simplicity of it; starting from the thermal imaging camera style used in the album’s artwork and maintaining this as a theme throughout the album rollout.
The album artwork, which was shot by Manu S. Pillai, featured a grid of 9 thermal images, each of which seemed to mirror different themes within the album itself.
For example, Skepta touches on being a father in “Bullet From A Gun” and one of the central images in the artwork shows a man with a baby.
The thermal concept was continued throughout various areas of his rollout. A thermology billboard screen, located in one of London’s prime locations and cultural hotspots, Shoreditch High Street, attracted the attention of passers-by who could view thermographic images of themselves on the screen. Of course, this generated public interest, even more so when Skepta made a surprise appearance at the location.
Another innovative tactic was to incorporate real-time data with people’s listening experience. Fans could visit Skepta’s official website and see where others are listening to Ignorance Is Bliss all over the world with an interactive heatmap.
The map, which was shaped like a globe - or a “thermoglobe”-, showed real-time global data on which cities fans are streaming the album most. This real-time tracking method was a great way of encouraging fans to stream the album while still maintaining the thermal theme with the use of the heatmap.
Skepta also gifted fans with a special “Colors” performance, which dropped a week after the album release date on Colors’ YouTube channel. Skepta (and Colors) preserved the thermal theme by using a thermal vision filter in his performance for “No Sleep”.
Make a statement.
Headie One’s Edna, one of the three UK rap albums to debut at Number 1 in 2020, was the first studio album from Headie.
Named after Headie One’s late mother, Edna felt like A personal side to Headie. From the sentimental vibe given by artwork showing Headie looking into the palm of his hands at a nametag, to the use of the script typeface on the main artwork and the tracklisting as if Headie wrote it himself, not to mention the content of tracks like Therapy - everything felt very personal.
What was interesting was the decision to integrate high-resolution 3D scanning technology and create statues of Headie One as part of his album promotion.
Physical VFX statues were placed in numerous locations across central London and featured in his music video for Ain't It Different.
Assuming the aim was to generate interest, then this marketing tactic definitely fulfilled that goal as these statues caught the attention of passers-by who were lucky enough to see the physical statue and of fans on social media.
What are your favourite album rollouts in UK rap history?
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