12 Lessons From JAY-Z’s 4:44 Album Release


Caption: The Last Time I Got To Visit The Roc Nation Office was Dec. 2016.

Because I’ve never been good at math, and 4:44 equals 12, I’ve decided to share 12 lessons we can all learn from JAY-Z’s newest album release. Plus it is no secret that I’m a huge fan of JAY-Z & Beyonce. I’ve written extensively about my adoration for Beyonce. When it comes to JAY-Z, I am most inspired by his longevity, his willingness to take risks and his commitment to social justice and philanthropy (via the Shawn Carter Foundation). 


JAY-Z’s newest album is set to drop on Tidal tomorrow, June 30th. I’ve been keeping a close eye from the initial announcement until now and wanted to share some tips that we can all adapt for our own enterprises:

  1. Create exclusivity which accelerates demand. We humans often find more value in things that are rare. By Jay-Z only offering his album through TIDAL, it creates more of a demand because it is more difficult to access. It will be interesting to view the metrics on TIDAL subscriptions between today (or actually dating back to the day before the public announcement of Jay-Z’s album) through 7 months (as Sprint is offering a ‘free’ TIDAL Subscription for 6 months). 
  2. Partner with other brands to amplify the message.  Sprint has 402K Subscribers on Twitter and 3.4 million “likes” on Facebook. JAY-Z is able to tap into their market through the shared social media campaign. The key to these kind of partnerships is to figure out a “win” for the brand. In the case of Sprint, they will obtain more subscribers from JAY-Z fans who make the switch, because they want the ‘free’ access to TIDAL. It also gives Sprint the opportunity to tap into the “hip-hop” community via JAY-Z’s fans who likely have a certain amount of disposable income. The listening parties are also happening inside Sprint Stores across the country, giving both brands an opportunity to tap into a different audience. 

screenshot3. Utilize fresh & unique colors. This peach & black color is an interesting combination. It is not a common color choice. It is also interesting that JAY is not including any representations of his physical self in the marketing that has occurred so far. It is likely connected to the content of the album and the overall creative vision of the project. What’s interesting is that that color scheme is now associated with JAY-Z and I’d imagine that we’ve all experienced enough impressions to make the association without even seeing the text. Notice that the add below does not have to even mention JAY-Z’s name or the name of the album. It just follows the brand identity.


4. Tap into influencers and taste makers. JAY is hosting several album release parties around the country, utilizing well known DJs in each city. Each of the DJ’s are promoting the album release parties on their social media channels, giving more added value to SPRINT. This also taps into the exclusivity piece. Most of the cities are likely areas where JAY-Z has the greatest amount of fan support, which is why data & metrics are so important, because both allow you to take calculated risks.


5. Utilize a variety of marketing platforms. Saturate the market. Utilize print and digital. Billboards and buses. The more that people see advertisements for the product, the more excited they become. The goal here is to make people feel like they are “surrounded” by your product.


6. Use gamification whenever possible. Embed a puzzle/create a sense of mystery. Initially advertisements with the numbers 4:44 popped up in Times Square. Eventually we learned that is the album title. What does it mean? Is it a time that is significant to JAY? Is it a time that is significant to humanity? It piques people’s interest because they want to know what it means. Spotify used a similar strategy when just before Prince’s music became available on their platform they purchased billboards and other ad space with simply their logo in white on a purple background. See the spotify ad below.


7. Let others do the talking for you. Allow your reputation to precede itself.  JAY-Z does have a Facebook page that is branded with the newest album and has been the primary source of distribution for most of the marketing materials. His Twitter Account is not branded with the album materials, but the product is well advertised on Twitter via Sprint, the influencers and the larger public. Lupita Nyongo shared a visual for the album here on her Facebook Page. Lupita is an accomplished actress, so tapping her to support this project is great, because again, there are going to be many fans of hers who may not be fans of JAY-Z (and vice versa). Not to mention she has 2.9 million “likes.” SPRINT is getting more impressions via Lupita’s page. screenshot

8. Align the personal and professional because it creates an echo effect. The world has been talking about the birth of The Carter Twins for the last two weeks. Jay-Z also made history earlier this month becoming the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Of course you want to hear from someone who is such a pioneer in the music space! It’s brilliant to release a project after a huge personal or professional milestone. When Blue was born, Jay released a singled called “Glory.” You can hear the song here.

9. Create dramatic visuals. In addition to the Lupita video, JAY dropped a similar black and white video of a black male running, seemingly out of breath. The videos are similar in length (10 – 20 seconds). The black and white is in stark contrast to the peach color of the album, but it is complimentary. Check out these stats on the power of video marketing from Boast.IO:

  1. Before reading any text, 60% of site visitors will watch a video if available. (Diode Digital)
  2. One minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. (Forrester Research)
  3. 56% of consumers believe if a company has a website, it should have video content. (Animoto)
  4. The Average user spends 16 minutes and 49 seconds a month watching online video ads. (ComScore)
  5. 80% of consumers say a video showing how a product or service works is important when learning about the company. (Animoto)
  6. Youtube has become the 2nd largest search engine – bigger than Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL combined. (Etail Insights)
  7. Video search results have a 41% higher click-through than plain text results. (Animoto)
  8. 50% of marketers consider customer testimonials, explainer tutorial videos, and demonstration videos the most effective types of video content used. (Asend2)
  9. 4 out of 5 consumers day demo videos are helpful. (Animoto)
  10. Your website is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of a search engines results page if it includes video. (Forrester Research)
  11. Online video accounts for 50% of mobile traffic, and is predicted to become 75% by 2016. (Cisco)
  12. 63% on consumers say companies who use video know how to reach their consumers. (Animoto)
  13. People stay 2 minutes longer on your site if you have video content. (ComScore)

10. Give people a short preview of what is to come. The videos seem to be a small piece of a larger story. They also include clips of the music. It never hurts to give a short preview of what is to come. The film industry has used this technique via trailers since 1913, and the fact that the practice still remains over 100 years later proves its value.

11. Once you have their attention, command the stage. You must have a clear CTA (Call to Action) once you’ve made all of this noise. It is clear that JAY-Z wants you to listen to (or maybe even watch?) the album, via the Sprint Platform, on TIDAL. Every single official thing that has been posted makes that clear. It is not enough to just post album artwork or project artwork. It is important to help people, help you, by informing them what you want them to do. It is also important that the message remain simple. When you have too many CTA’s it confuses and frustrates your audience.

12. Create multiple impressions over a specific timeline leading to the product release. Be very intentional about how you are going to market your product release. Utilize a calendar to actually plan out what will happen, when. Consider which brands, influencers and artists you can tap into, to support and amplify your work. The success (or failure) of your product or project release will be determined based on the metrics. Were you able to hit your targets in the timeline you planned?

I will definitely be up at midnight to experience the actual release of this project. I study brands like people watch sports, and I get so inspired and motivated by the brilliant things successful people do! Shout out to the entire Roc Nation Team and thank you for sharing your gifts with the world! Also, thanks for being so welcoming each time I’ve visited!

My Love Affair with New Orleans…


It is no secret that New Orleans is my favorite city outside of the Chicago, the city that I call home.

I’ve written about my love here…and here

The city of New Orleans hovers with an energy and a spirit that sticks to your thoughts. The architecture makes you feel like you’re stepping into a time capsule. Plaques throughout the city hint at just how long some of the buildings have been around. New Orleans is a fortress, that borders the Mississippi like an antique gold frame.

The only thing that I don’t like about New Orleans is the oppressive humidity (which happens mostly during the summer months). Outside of that it’s sensory perfection.

I had a chance to visit New Orleans last week to attend a conference with AARP.

We had an opportunity to tour HollyGrove – the neighborhood that Lil Wayne is from. We also had a chance to tour Bywater. In Hollygrove there is a neighborhood garden and farm, where residents are able to grow food and then sale it in the market. I spotted okra, bok choy and even organic milk and dairy products! They had a row of food where residents could fill a bag for $25.00.

StudioBE, created by artist Brandan “Bmike” Odums was super inspirational. It is a 30,000 square foot warehouse that is filled with art. StudioBE is SO hip-hop! I spent a couple of hours just taking in all of the art. Here are some of the favorite images from StudioBE:



You can also follow Bmike on Twitter here and StudioBE on Instagram here and Facebook here.

You can also learn more about StudioBE here. StudioBE was recently featured in an episode of Ava Duvernay’s Queen Sugar and an article in Ebony here.

Across the street from StudioBE, is NOCCA – New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. NOCCA was founded in 1973 and is regional, pre-professional arts training center that offers students intensive instruction in culinary arts, dance, media arts: filmmaking & audio production, music (classical, jazz, vocal), theatre arts (drama, musical theatre, theatre design), visual arts, and creative writing. Students audition to study at the school tuition-free. The school has a Culinary Arts Program supported by world-famous chef Emeril Lagasse. Donda’s House works in the after school space, so it was exciting to see an arts-centered academic program! Here are my photos:


Students work out of the Press St. Station and it is connected to the building. While we were there, Creative Writing students were giving evening presentations. Learn more about Press St. Station here.

The school was built on the site of a train station where the historic Plessy V. Ferguson case happened. Across the street from Bywater is the neighborhood Faubourg Marigny.


I had the chance to visit Holy Trinity Chuch, the location where Solange had her wedding. Check out the photos here:


While in New Orleans, I love to eat seafood and had the best Oysters I’ve ever had in my life a Neyow’s! Not only were the Oysters amazing, but so was everything on the menu (including the fried catfish and the fried chicken!). You have to have the signature Bow Wow drink which is 16 or so oz. of light & dark rum & fruit punch. Sip it slow, it will sneak up on you and they serve it in a to-go cup. I had the chance to meet the owner Tony and his wife Tanya was the chef! I’m always inspired to meet other couples who work together. Neyow’s will be opening up in a beautiful facility next door and they also own an event space across the street called Neyow’s Palace. Also, please have the bread pudding! It was served warm out of the oven & by far the best dessert I’ve ever tasted in my life! Check out Neyow’s on Yelp here.


No visit to New Orleans is complete without hearing Rebirth Brass Brand at Maple Leaf.


One day I hope to own an apartment or condo in New Orleans. I’d like to visit NOLA at least once a month at some point in the future because I love it THAT MUCH! Definitely adding NOLA to my vision board and if you have the opportunity to visit, I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Why The West Coast Is Winning in Hip Hop…

Currently listening to Schoolboy Q’s LP, Blank Face. I really like it! The first time I heard Schoolboy Q was on the song “Collard Greens” and I’ve been a fan ever since.


What is it about the West Coast that’s winning right now in Hip Hop?

(1) Musicality

Historically, West Coast Hip Hop has always been groovy. The artists who have achieved national fame, always have tracks that groove. Strong baselines & full instrumentation. Most of the beats on Blank Face sound great on their own merit. This is probably due to the influence of one of Hip Hop’s greatest producers Dr. Dre. The music is funky, jazzy and at times a little rock-n-roll.

(2) Distinct Voices

West Coast artists have figured out how to use their voices like instruments. Q’s voice sounds at times like a string instrument, and at other times it sounds like percussion. Kendrick has also mastered the use of his voice. For the longest time in hip hop, it felt like everybody sounded the same. They were applying the same technical sound to their voices. The thing that I love about Golden Age Hip Hop (and even Hip Hop in the 90s) is that you can tell by the voice, who is rapping. You know Nas’s voice, you know Jay-Z’s voice, you know Mystikal’s voice, you know DMX’s voice. Schoolboy Q & Kendrick both have unique voices that are distinctive.

(3) It’s Dynamic.

It’s not gangster music. It’s not conscious music. It’s a blend of both and you can appreciate it. They express vulnerability – fear, aspirations, and also classic hip hop bravado. They want to get the money, but the also want peace. They want the girls, but they also talk about love. It’s more connected to our real lived experience. Not some one-sided, inflated, one-dimensional reality.

(4) It Knocks.

A footnote for the musicality. You can feel the bass, which contributes to that hypnotic feeling. You can get lost in the track, and not lost like you have no idea what’s being said (seriously 75% of todays’ rap, I have to have translated for me), but lost like your conscious melds to the track. It has a certain bounce (that can play in the club) but also lends itself to just cruising in the car. It works in various settings.

So yeah, Blank Face, will be on rotation for me and I may even try to go to the concert! It’s rare that you have an album that you can play beginning to end, but this album works.

A Few Playlists To Download

I’m a huge fan of music. I subscribe to Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal, just because I want to be able to access as much music as possible. The artists that I really love, I actually purchase their music, usually on iTunes.


Here are some of my favorite playlists on Spotify:

Mellow Mood – perfect playlist for studying, relaxing, and vibing out: https://open.spotify.com/user/1239525257/playlist/1lf7XxsTtjIP26iVBfXYFF.

90s Music – All of your favorite hits from the 90s in one playlist. Be prepared to dance, to “Sang” along and to reminisce! https://open.spotify.com/user/1239525257/playlist/2kDHMBYeuyFgUpN9MRKvdb.

R & B Velvet – All of those sappy love songs, featuring some of the best R & B hits, all men, of all time: https://open.spotify.com/user/1239525257/playlist/7myUGMePJclpCpxW7PJhof.

Inspirational – Some of my favorite gospel and motivational songs. PRAISE HIM!: https://open.spotify.com/user/1239525257/playlist/1kvtUCqTt19yI5Ih7BPJ00.

Hip Hop – My favorite hip hop songs of all time! Rock The Bells! https://open.spotify.com/user/1239525257/playlist/4ZrlT2QSUeDaXMkmw762Wl.

Classic Soul Music – All of your momma’s and granny’s favorite songs. That “fine wine” music! https://open.spotify.com/user/1239525257/playlist/0FSCJcn6VbFYrlTmkh51s5.

Rock On – Rock & Roll hits! I didn’t really discover Rock and Alternative Music until I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota at the age of 14. Once I discovered it, I fell in love and regularly play this playlist. https://open.spotify.com/user/1239525257/playlist/1uJ36yjoeDMnlHNXLDWh0z.

I have an eclectic taste in music! Each of these playlists have 200+ songs on them, so you can follow them and rock for hours! Be sure to let me know which of the playlists if your favorite. I’m always adding to them too!!!

Music Monday + Miguel’s New Album

Happy Monday!


Caption: Artwork for Miguel’s New Album “Wildheart”

My life revolves around music and I have an eclectic taste in music. Every Monday, I will share 10 songs to add to your playlist.

10 Songs To Add To Your 90s Playlist:

(1) “Iesha” by Another Bad Creation

(2) “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe (BBD)

(3) “I Do Need You” by Bell Biv DeVoe (BBD)

(4) “Missing You” by Case

(5) Bring Back Your Love by Christion

(6) “I Want To Sex You Up” by Color Me Bad

(7) “Hay” by Crucial Conflict

(8) “No, No, No, Part 1” by Destiny’s Child

(9) “What They Want” featuring Sisqo by DMX

(10) “Who We Be” by DMX

Also, shout out to Miguel and NPR for making his new album “Wildheart” (released next Monday) available for streaming here: http://www.npr.org/2015/06/22/415459282/first-listen-miguel-wildheart. Both Miguel and The Weeknd give me that Prince vibe that I crave!

Playlist 1 of 1

Reimagining Masculinity & What We Can Learn From Pharrell’s Tears on Oprah

Watching this video of Pharrell brings up a lot of different thoughts for me. The first, is that it flies in the face of this notion that men aren’t supposed to cry, and definitely, men aren’t supposed to cry in public. I imagine all of the little boys that are told to “suck it up,” and “stop crying.” I think back on my childhood, and the many instances that boys were told that crying “was for sissies” and that they were somehow NOT men because of their tears.  Even Pharrell questions himself “What am I doing, crying on Oprah?”

Then, on another level, I see a man, so moved by the impact of his passion that he can’t help BUT cry. We’ve all had those moments, where miraculous things happen. When something beyond our wildest dreams becomes tangible. When we reach the peak and see how far we’ve climbed, or we reach the valley and and gain perspective. As I watch the video, and see Pharrell taking in the magnitude of those who’ve “taken ownership” of the song AROUND THE GLOBE, I see him overwhelmed with joy.

Oprah nails it when she says “it’s being used for something greater than yourself.” Pharrell responds with “it’s overwhelming, because I love what I do… ” and then he talks about the people who have believed in him from this point. Williams FIRST single, was writing on a 1992 hit called “Rump Shaker.” While the Neptunes have made numerous hits, I would definitely say that 2014 is Pharrell’s year, with “Happy” making him a pop phenomenon, being featured on the cover of Fast Company and winning 4 Grammy Awards. It’s been 22 years since he released that first single.

“I so now get why it’s so infectious, because it came from such a clear space that the energy was absolutely so uninterrupted by anything other than allowing it to flow from heart to heart.” No matter what we do, how many times does the energy get interrupted by our fears, by our shame, by our expectations? How much of our work comes from a murky, muddy or cloudy space? What do we need to do, to make sure that our work – whatever it is, flows from heart to heart? I’d like to thank Pharrell (and his tears) for that little reminder, and I wish him continued success because it is clear that music is both his passion and his purpose…

Support Rhymefest’s New Music Project “Violence is Sexy”


Dear Friends,

I am super excited! Today, my husband released his “Violence is Sexy” Project on pledge music. Check out the link here:


There are so many reasons why I’m excited about this project. Music has been a part of my husband’s world since 3rd grade, when he wrote his first rap. “Violence is Sexy” is important, because the music has not only amazing production, but intriguing concepts. Two of the songs can actually be heard on the website. This project is 100% independent and I am honestly moved and inspired by my husband’s courage and his agency!

I’m a firm believer that you “vote” not only with your voice, but with your dollars! I hear SO many people complain about the state of hip-hop (or rap 🙂 today, and while it is important to protest and reject that which we do not like, it is also important to support, promote and invest in that which we do find healthy healthy & uplifting.

By investing in “Violence is Sexy” you are making a statement, about the power of music and independence. Whether you are a die-hard Rhymefest fan (did you HEAR Man in the Mirror?) or you’re just being introduced, I encourage you to check out the site, check out the music and most of all support. My favorite song is “Lil Cousin.” The song will literally have you in tears. You can donate as little as $10.00 or as much as $5,000.00 and the gifts are pretty awesome AND you get something for every dollar you donate. We have 60 days to reach our goal and can’t do it without you!

In Solidarity,

Rhymefest’s #1 Fan a.k.a. “Mrs. Smith” a.k.a. “Mrs. Rhymefest” a.k.a. “Analog Girl”


15 Years of Beyonce… and Counting!


I’ll never forget watching BET and seeing a group of teenage girls singing, “You be saying no, no, no, no… when it’s really yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” At the time I was 14 years old and had just started high school. My estrogen was high, my energy was high and I could identify with the four girls who reminded me of myself. They reminded me of my cousins as we created our own dance routines and learned all of the words to their music – on tapes… (smile)


I’ve been a fan of Beyonce since I was 14 years old, so tonight I’m celebrating a 15 year fan-ship. I feel like I grew up with Beyonce and her songs have been the soundtrack of my life.

Dangerously In Love dropped my freshman year of college and “Crazy in Love” was my theme song as I had a new boyfriend and loved doing the “Uh oh” dance lol. It also captured my feeling of independence and control after all I was officially “grown.”

B Day dropped in 2006, the year I graduated from college. “Upgrade You” was my song of choice because I had my degree! I was confident and I knew that I was an asset to everyone I interacted with including my ex-husband who I was helping get through college.

Bow Down

I am Sasha Fierce in 2008. “Diva” was definitely my favorite song on that album because I was hustling. I transitioned from working at a great school into working for the best school not only in the city but the country (Michelle Obama was just one of the famous alums), and I even made up my own alter-ego. D. Nikki 🙂 “Halo” would also describe the new guy in my life the following year and “If I Were a Boy” and “Irreplaceable” became  my favorite songs as I said goodbye to a bad relationship and marriage in 2008.


I’ll never forget the moment Bey told the world she was pregnant in 2011 with “Love on Top” because I was pregnant too (R.I.P. to Biko, my baby girl who passed away when I was 5 months pregnant). I used to listen to “I Was Here” on repeat during my recovery after my loss and “Love on Top” still makes me remember the joyful 5 month connection I developed with my little girl inside my womb. During that time I also learned that she had a miscarriage which made me feel even more connected to the artist because that is a life altering experience. Blue Ivy is her miracle baby or as we call it in the fertility world “rainbow baby.” Her ray of sunshine after the storm of loss.

Bey Preg

This morning I downloaded Beyonce, an album that didn’t need any marketing and that wasn’t announced because, well, it didn’t have to be. Why spend (waste) money on a marketing budget, when you’ve built a media/entertainment empire? It also goes to show the power of branding and of people, because this album is about to obliterate whoever is sitting in that #1 spot. Beyonce’s music has always been released at pivotal moments in my life and this current album is no exception.


King Bey, as she called herself one day inspires us to work hard. She pushes her body to its limits and she gives her performances everything she has. Seeing Beyonce is an experience… She still maintains some of the mystery and magic of her persona by not revealing everything about her personal life. She is very careful about what she releases and she’s not a camera-whore. She’s gracious and classy. She takes risks – I appreciated her support of then candidate Barack Obama and I love to see her pics of her vacays – jetskiing, bungee jumping, touring the pyramids. She reminds me to not only work hard but to play hard.


I love seeing her connection with Jay! They are great business partners and they obviously inspire each other. I love how they collaborate on most of their projects and I love that they are continuing to grow and expand their empire.

So tonight is celebration of life of the last 15 years! I’m going with one of my best friends and we are going to scream the lyrics, dance and completely let loose. So world, I need you to “bring the beat in…” Make way for the Queen!!!

Free Chaka Khan Concert in Chicago!!!

The beautiful & talented diva Chaka Khan, will be honored this Sunday, by the City of Chicago with a street named after her to celebrate 40 years in music and her 60th birthday!


The event is free to the public on Sunday, July 28, 2013 and will be located at:

Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601

Doors open to the public at 5:30 p.m. and the concert begins at 6:00 p.m

Chaka Khan is one of my personal favorite artists and I am happy that she is receiving this honor!