Drake and his marketing team is the reason why Degrassi alumni, Aubrey Graham, has reached a level of super-stardom never seen before in the music industry. No, that does not mean he is the most talented or the greatest of all-time. On any level. It’s the result of a marketing team, in the era of social media and smart phones, being one of the most talented team of marketers in any industry. On the billboards and plaques, Drake is seen winning and looks like a genius doing so. It is Oliver El-Khatib, OVO co-founder, who is responsible for the mastermind of that genius. El-Khatib is the guy behind ‘the guy’. He served as the blogger for the start up OVO, which at first was used to publish commentary that was his own. His blog was the internet version of an open diary, posts that unconsciously laid the roots to create his brand. The heart on your sleeve maxim. Hip-Hop was a natural fixation to him, a fixation that he taught himself. El-Khatib did not graduate high school. It is ironic how it’s the guy behind ‘the guy’ who truly started from the bottom.
Not many fans analyze music the way that El-Khatib does, from the album’s production to the artist’s craft. Mixing this fixation with a passion for style was a recipe for success at Lounge, a store that as a manager El-Khatib transformed from a little shop, into an urban hub. It was a spot to listen to the hottest new music, see bands, and network with other people. The Lounge is where Drake, an actor, met his best director yet. The evolution of El-Khatib doing the same with OVO, yet on a much grander scale, is every bit as grassroots. Yet, a stroke of genius all the same. What started as a simple shout-out by Drake in his songs, has turned into a brand. An accomplishment achieved without over-the-top marketing scheme. One achieved without a multi million dollar ad campaign. In an era were anything can be marketed via numerous outlets, it is still word of mouth that as they say goes a long way.
El-Khatib had a creative passion for music, graphic design, art, fashion, and lifestyle that was holistic. Without even knowing it, this creative passion forged an interconnectedness that went out to become a brand. A passion that launched a global brand that includes a record label, concert series, and ubiquitous clothing line. The owl? Brilliant. Octobers Very Own (OVO)? Incredible. Genius is written all over everything this man and what his team does. Take a look at Drake’s discography. What you’ll see is a title of songs and album titles all perfectly named to be used as a hash tag. Or how about using a diamond as the cover art to his & Future’s “What A Time To Be Alive”, which WATTBA is also another brilliant hash tag by the way, because there is a diamond emoji. Everything Drake & Future touched in 2015 was gold. The diamond emoji is the perfect equivalent to that. It also due to my subconscious, makes me instantly remember their joint album. The internet was right when it put Drake & Future’s faces on LeBron James throwing Dwayne Wade an alley oop, both duos were never supposed to mesh well or happen. Yet, both teamed up at the peak of their respective talents. Just like with those Miami Heat teams, what a time to be alive it truly was. El-Khatib’s and his teams next stroke of genius was illustrating how to win a rap beef in the modern day.
It was strategic and smart for Drake to put out “Charged up”. No one knows the music industry better than those who are in it. That’s why it’s also simple to see that Drake recorded “Back to Back” before putting out “Charged Up” because it takes time to make a quality track. When “Back to Back’ dropped, not only was Drake in a room one level above Meek Mills hotel room repeatedly playing it all night, but it was another display of genius by El-Khatib and his team. The cover art was the iconic photo of former Blue Jays right field Joe Carter, jumping for joy, as he hit a series-clinching home run against the Philadelphia Phillies. This home run clinched Toronto consecutive World Series titles, hence the verbal assault that led to a Grammy nomination known as “Back to Back.” His ability to connect dots and curate a moldboard is on a level that the smartest marketing team ever in the NBA, Michael Jordan’, wanted to be a part of it. Let that sink it. This is an individual who started from a blog, the blog consisting of things he co-signed or found of interest. The love was there if he and his crew deemed it was worthy of it. Started from a blog to being the ear behind a show on Apple Music’s global steaming network, Beats 1. It is not all just him though. His business partners are all geniuses in their respective spaces. In life, not just the industry, it’s about what you’ve done lately. What one could call a “what have you done for me lately” society. Everything is very constant.
To be able to influence an entire generation is a sight to behold, by being comfortable with who you are, is inspiring. It’s similar to watching the way LeBron James’s career has progressed. Both individuals came onto the scene, co-signed by hype with LeBron’s #1 overdraft pick status and Drake with Lil Wayne’s co-sign and signing Drizzy to be his label partner. It seems like people sometimes forget that Lil Wayne used to be on every song on the radio, or at least it seemed that way. Clearly, artistically the man is a genius. Both have achieved or exceed that hype. By a lot. El-Khatib rarely gives interviews and prefers for Drake and OVO’s artists to be the ones on center state, yet he is the real wizard… – G.