Not3s Fnatic deal speaks volumes about esports’ interest in hip-hop
Guess what the cool kids are into?
As marriages go, it might not have been the most high-profile in the history of esports and rap, but few have been more groundbreaking. Earlier this fall, Fnatic planted a flag in the booming world of urban music. The London, England–based gaming and lifestyle organization opened up its chequebook for British rapper MC Lukman “Not3s” Odunaike. His official job on the masthead is now “Influencer”.
That means he’s being paid to post, retweet, and talk up all things Fnatic on iTunes Ping, Google Plus, Myspace, Yik Yak, Friendster, Vine, Meerkat, and DailyBooth. And also, if he has time, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Assuming the likes of Pa Salieu, Trillary Banks, Br3nya, and Headie One are frequent flyers on your Spotify playlists, you probably know Not3s as the rapper famous for the breakout smash “Addison Lee”. Since first bubbling up from the underground in 2017 the 22-year-old has piled up 533,000 followers on Instagram, and close to 122,000 on Twitter
Translated, that means a whole wack of music fans in a highly coveted demographic are paying to attention to what Not3s has to say. And not just on whether or whether not Manchester United is the greatest football—which is to say soccer—team in the world.
Not3s not the first in bed
Backing up a bit, it’s not like Not3s is the first hip-hop star to climb into bed with an esports organization. From Drake turning on the money tap as a 100 Thieves investor, to Travis Scott taking the stage in the virtual world of Fortnite, rep and esports have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship.
Both started out as fiercely underground movements where to fully participate meant going all-in on a lifestyle: clothes, footwear, attitude, and more. And both have seen that lifestyle explode into the mainstream on a global scale.
On the attire front, consider the way that sneakers have been a part of hip-hop life since Run-D.M.C. made their Adidas as much a part of their image as their porkpie hats.
Odds are pretty good that esports organizations are more than keenly aware of the importance of what’s on your feet. Back in 2018 Immortals partnered with K-Swiss for an early esports lifestyle sneaker.
Adidas rolled out a special VIT.01 for Team Vitality in 2019. And Puma released a catch-all Active Gaming Footwear earlier this year. If you need a reminder to SEEK, ATTACK, CRUISE, and DEFENSE, put down that pair of Nike Air Yeezy 2 ‘Red October’ sneakers, and get busy on Amazon.
Hip-hop stars often investors
But back to Not3s. There’s a reason, Fnatic planted a flag in the booming world of urban music. As noted, there’s been no shortage of hip-hop stars who’ve signed on with esports as investors.
A funny thing about the hip-hop world is that it’s all about forward momentum. No amount of money is ever enough, which explains why Coombs, Dr. Dre, and Drake are where they are on the Fortune 500.
From Drake to Post Malone to Sean “Puffy” Coombs, the gaming landscape is littered with stars who’ve moved to boost their net worth. They’ve recognized esports as an explosive growth industry which makes it a no-brainer for investing in. The key words there is investing. They’re fronting the money, not showing up and then collecting a cheque for that act of showing up. Or posting on Google Wave, Google Buzz, and FriendFeed.
What even more interesting is the patch Fnatic has gone while adding to its influencer stable.
Organization use influencers to make inroads with those outside of the traditional esports. That explains future basketball star Lebron James Jr. being tapped by FaZe clan, U.K. startup Guild Esports using soccer god David Beckham to drum up investor interest,. And English actor Asa Butterfield repping the Netherland’s-spawned Team Liquid. Catch a star, and you’ve an immediate and devoted audience for your brand.
If all the above have something in common, it’s living a clean and more or less disciplined lifestyle. One of the first—if not the first—hip-hop artists to be signed as an influencer by an esports organization, Not3s marks a break from that thinking. Sometimes it’s okay to align yourself with a badass.
Hip-hop is badass
And rightly or wrongly though, hip-hop is still considered profoundly badass—a game where the weed comes in Glad garbage bags, hot tubs are filled with Armand de Brignac, and, from the studio and beyond, rules are made to be rewritten.
No one is going to suggest that Not3s is the second coming of XXXTentacion, Brotha Lynch Hung, or Ra Diggs. But the 23-year-old’s story is a familiar one to anyone whose followed the rap game. In interviews he’s talked about making a decision to escape the streets—his younger years marked by school expulsions, arrests, and a lifestyle that no mother wants for her child.
All that builds something known as street-cred. And that cred is invaluable in a world where everyone wants to sit at the same lunch table as the cool kids.
What’s at stake? Recognizing that consumers don’t always thing for themselves, gaming companies spend up to 30 percent of their budgets on marketing. Adweek estimates that $10 billion will be spent this year getting influencers to send a message to both established and potential fans.
In announcing the deal, Fnatic called the partnership part of a “Larger mission to continue pushing the boundaries of the gaming and esports sector as it enters mainstream culture.”
And while the company didn’t say why Fnatic planted a flag in hip-hop, part of that boundary pushing is making Fnatic seems cooler than the competition. Take a big step forward Not3s.