Why Underwear Brand Ethika Is Dropping Mixtapes With Lil Wayne, Meek Mill & More

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"We bought fortunate," says CEO Matt Cook, recalling when he came upon rappers liked his firm's boxer briefs.

Six years in the past the leaders of Ethika, a way of life model primarily based in San Clemente, California, realized they could have hit some type of jackpot: Turns out, the hip-hop neighborhood had an affinity for his or her boxer briefs.

"We bought fortunate," says Matt Cook, Ethika's CEO. So they reached out some comparatively unknown rappers on the time, together with Machine Gun Kelly, Meek Mill and Kid Ink, Cook says, all of whom "have been sporting the product and liked it."

Soon, Ethika was partnering with its artist followers to create customized attire and enlisted the acts to report unique songs for a collection of annual mixtapes that the model releases. Ethika has now collaborated with everybody from Lil Wayne to Casey Veggies, not too long ago dropping a brand new 13-song mixtape referred to as The Prophesy, that includes authentic tracks from NBA YoungerBoy, Ski Mask the Slump God, Mozzy and extra. The offers are mutually useful: The songs are given away totally free, whereas artists earn royalties from the customized merchandise and the road builds its model and buyer base by the varied partnerships.

Ethika's first RGB mixtape was launched in 2017, that includes Meek Mill, Lil Durk, Kid Ink and extra. That was adopted by RGB 2 final May, which clocked greater than 10 million streams with tracks by Lil Wayne, Kodak Black, Lil Skies and a couple of Chainz. With the latest launch of The Prophesy, Ethika is planning to drop two mixtapes a yr shifting ahead with one other RGB installment deliberate for this summer time.

"Never thought I might be designing a pair of my very own underwear," says Yung Pinch, who contributed a monitor to The Prophesy. "I'm tremendous stoked with the way in which they got here out! Crazy to see how many individuals have taken eye to 'The Beach Boy' and it's dope I bought to bless the followers with an unique report, 'Sunset,' on the Ethika mixtape that was launched with the brand new underwear."

Billboard caught up with Cook to listen to extra about Ethika's music technique and the place the corporate is headed subsequent.

What was the concept behind the music technique?

I bought concerned within the model in 2012. At that point, they have been simply promoting product to athletes. Then we began to exit to retail. I felt like underwear was a class that may very well be relevant to everybody -- it didn't matter in case you're a surfer, a basketball participant otherwise you performed the piano, you continue to wore underwear. Music was the idea that was the connection for individuals. I believed if we might get a music program going that aligned with the model, in the way in which that the hip-hop tradition does -- it's a little bit extra edgy and it's extra modern -- we might have the potential to enchantment to an enormous group of individuals. So the connection to completely different genres of individuals and athletes and musicians and so forth was the driving issue. We had a number of ambassadors that have been musicians however we thought, "Let's take it a step additional and put out a mixtape."

Do you pay the musicians?

They give us the tracks so we personal these. What we do is we design a pair of Ethikas for them. They get the royalty off the pairs that we promote; that's how they make the cash. We've bought a good platform to push by our retail channel and our [e-commerce] channel and thus the power to reveal individuals.

Lil Wayne, for instance, did an unique monitor for us. We've additionally accomplished signature pairs that we've bought at retail and in all places for him. The exclusivity's vital as a result of if it's not unique, individuals might simply go hearken to the music some other place.

How do you get acts to create authentic songs for the model?

We put out the RGB mixtape two years in the past. Once we did the primary one, then every part -- our second RGB after which The Prophesy that we simply did -- was straightforward as a result of we did a number of promotion across the first one. We did a celebration, we did a glance ebook, we printed out catalogs. All the artists bought items and we flew them out. So when the subsequent challenge got here up, it was straightforward. Lil Wayne, as an illustration, wasn't on the primary one however he wished to be on the second. So we didn't even should ask a number of the guys; they wished to be on it as a result of they wished simply the model alignment and the publicity.

How do you choose the artists you need to take part within the mixtapes?

We've had Meek Mill to Lil Wayne to 2 Chainz. We've had Kodak Black, which is extra of an up-and-comer. We've had Lil Skies, who's an up-and-comer, simply been fairly sizzling this final yr or so. Then we've bought some guys which were possibly a little bit bit older however are nonetheless a little bit bit related, like Chevy Woods or Kid Ink or Casey Veggies or what not.

Then this final mixtape was all about us going out and discovering all these new younger artists which might be making a reputation for themselves on YouTube. They'll create music, put it up and begin to get a following by HotNewHipHop or Lyrical Lemonade, and all the sudden they've bought like 20 million views on their video. So we thought, "Let's go and create a mixtape that's simply the younger, new guys and put that out" -- we'll have a rookie mixtape after which we'll have a veteran type of mixtape.

We are going to do two a yr. The first one's the RGB and that's simply the idea of crimson, inexperienced, blue, like an additive shade. Those colours collectively are extra highly effective than individually, in order that was an idea. Then, The Prophesy, we're going to do a kind of a yr. That's us predicting, "Hey, these are the blokes sooner or later which might be going to be large."

How do you launch the music?

We promote and launch the music on our website and on SoundCloud. Then we've companions that we give particular releases with. Like final yr, Complex bought Meek Mill's music a day early. So we'll do some strategic companions to get the music out as a result of it might't be paid for. If it's paid for, then it violates the agreements that the artists have with the report labels. So it must be free. I believe we've like 11 million streams on our final RGB mixtape.

We're presently constructing a music studio in our workplace constructing. We have plans to do some issues like a enterprise mannequin across the music as a result of we get fed a number of youthful artists due to the older artists that we work with. We have individuals coming to us on a regular basis. We'd love to do one thing in music however with a accomplice, with a Universal or with an Epic or one thing like that, the place we might work with them on doing it as a result of we're not specialists in publishing and distribution of content material in music and so forth.

How has the music program been a recreation changer for the model?

We get a number of visitors from Instagram and our e-mail lists. When we pull collectively a Meek Mill and a Lil Wayne and a 2 Chainz and a Kodak Black and a Kid Ink and a Slump God and Mozzy and NBA YoungerBoy, then you definitely're speaking about 30, 40, 50 million individuals inside the group that's pushing out, "Hey, that is the mixtape that I'm part of. Go hearken to it." That publicity flips on a swap and it drives individuals to the location. People are listening to the music however they're additionally shopping for product after which they turn out to be return clients for us.