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“Raindrop, drop top” – a much-memed turn of phrase transformed Migos’ modest single into a radio juggernaut. The slow simmer to sudden boil of “Bad and Boujee,” the Atlanta trio’s trap-flavored homage to bourgeoise women who know their way around submachine guns, is more than a case study in viral potency. It’s actually further indicative of a paradigm shift in music consumption.

We’ve always known that listeners, to a certain extent, influence the expectations of labels and set the tone for an artist’s success. Yet the reality of a social-media driven consumer music model still hasn’t translated into alternative marketing solutions at most traditional labels. Large-scale promotional rollouts still happen around project releases.

Money still changes hands for radio plays, and tried-and-tested formulas are still applied to making that increasingly elusive “hit album,” a near impossibility in a world where streaming singles often hold more weight than entire albums. Songs like “Bad and Boujee,” Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” and Kodak Black’s ad-lib heavy “SKRT” are evidence that continuing along the beaten path could actually end up being a waste of resources and money.

GQ

Prior to the release of Culture, Migos already tried the more traditional route with their debut studio album, Young Rich Nation. Despite already having broken through with a string of mixtape hits including “Versace,” “Handsome and Wealthy,” and “Fight Night,” the project failed to attain the large-scale commercial success that Culture is currently enjoying. While it did garner generally positive reviews, the consensus was that the trio had put all of their eggs in the mumble-rap, club anthem basket, and served everything alongside a dose of cut-and-dry trap music.

The Guardian called the project, “a victory lap rather than a step forward.” Exclaim! described the production value as the least memorable thus far, especially in comparison to Migos’ many free mixtapes. But following this lukewarm reception, the trio released Back to the Bando, the mixtape that produced “Look at My Dab”, and subsequently triggered a nationwide dance craze.

Dabbin’ didn’t just find its way to congressional swearing-in ceremonies on its own, the internet helped, a lot. In fact, dab memes were the precursor to Bad & Boujee’s current viral fame. They’re also arguably part of the reason the album Culture  even exists – the trio rode the wave of the dance’s success straight to an acclaimed sophomore album. It’s an impressive feat considering the term “sophomore slump” doesn’t just come from nowhere.

No one can definitively say the group wouldn’t have found a mainstream foothold without internet infamy, but no one can deny the proliferation of the dab speeding up the process either. Migos themselves admitted they were at their best when they stayed true to their own sound. The syrupy production and stutter-start rhythm of “Bad and Boujee” does exactly that. And, as blood relatives who literally grew up together, they have a special kind of chemistry that allows them to effortlessly riff of off each other’s freewheeling ad-libs and unique flows.

The song got off to a bit of a sleepy start when it was released in October 2016. But that said, it enjoyed quite a bit of Soundcloud popularity – so much that it was actually the number one streamed song on the platform in November. On the Billboard charts, however, it only reached the 76th spot. By December, Soundcloud interest finally translated to social media and “Bad and Boujee” suddenly became a youth-driven viral phenomenon.

This shift can be traced in part to Twitter users taking to the platform to make their own riffs on the song’s opening lines, “rain drop, drop top,” and to discuss the meme-baiting single artwork which is actually a re-appropriated selfie from Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta personality, Tommie.

The viral popularity saw the song jump from slot 76 to 54 on Billboard; by mid-December it reached slot number two. On December 21, Migos performed the song to an extremely participatory crowd in Nigeria. After videos from the show went viral, the song rose from slot 26 to 13 on the Hot 100 chart. By December 30, it was number one on Spotfiy, Apple and iTunes. Then, in January of 2017, a well-placed Golden Globes shoutout from Donald Glover utterly propelled the song into the mainstream.

According to reports, Glover’s shoutout helped the song rack up an additional 10 million YouTube views and reach 67 million Spotify plays in only 12 hours. The next day it toppled Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” – a song that went viral thanks to the internet’s love of the #MannequinChallenge – and claimed the number one spot on the Hot 100 chart.

If there’s one thing that labels and artists can learn from Migos’ blueprint it is the power of harnessing viral trends. The effectiveness of GIFS and memes lies in their brevity and ability to translate hallmarks of our cultural zeitgeist into humorous, digestible and easily-shared micro-content. Memes also offer a natural complement to our current music preferences. In fact, our reasons for liking many popular hip-hop songs parallel our reasons for liking memes. Songs like “Bad and Boujee” offer an infectious beat, an intuitive hook, and ad libs that were made for yelling with relish; they’re arguably the song equivalent of what draws us to shareable content.

It kind of makes you wonder what would happen if artists actually started considering the songwriting process in the context of memes. We’ve seen the immense potential of memes and GIFs as free and effective marketing tools. So perhaps the way forward isn’t the club banger, visual album or surprise release – maybe it’s intentionally formulating songs to attain viral momentum. In other words, crafting your song with memes on the mind.

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.

For more of our musical op-eds, take a look at our reassessment of Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo’ one year later right here.

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