Cosign is King: On LeBron, Kylie, and Celebrity Influence

Ethan Davenport takes a look at the celebrity cosign.
By    August 16, 2017

Ethan Davenport filmed the Steph video.

Celebrity endorsements work well for some reason. Even though Shaq’s knees touched the sunroof of the car, at least one person bought a Buick because of him. Does Mila Kunis know that much about bourbon? Who cares, we’ll buy Jim Beam if she says so. When us regular folk see a fancy celebrity selling products within our wheelhouse, our subconscious realizes that dropping a down payment on a Buick may be exactly what’s stopping us from being a seven-foot NBA center.

My dad calls these people sheep, sub a few expletives, so you can only imagine how he felt when I told him about the troves of people who discover music only because it’s featured on Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat. Whether it makes him happy or not, Kylie’s Snapchat has oddly boosted the plays for Russ, 6LACK, and more, giving her the power of accidental cosigner. LeBron James took over a role as social media cosigner as well. The video of him showing off his too-little-too-late bald head went viral, allegedly helping to triple Tee Grizzley’s First Day Out sales, and making it seem as if there was some collusion going on between the two.

If that’s not enough to prove LeBron’s significance in rap, he’s received early releases of More Life and DAMN. and then previewed parts of the albums—as if the lifetime Nike contract didn’t already make me feel like a pleb. When you have superstar athletes included in your album rollout, late-stage capitalist America will eat it up like a Quarter-Pounder. And that video of the Cavs at the Future concert expunged LeBron of every Finals loss, proving March Madness beats Kumbaya for greatest team-building track.

Kylie’s music tastes lie more in obscurity, and that’s why her presence as social media curator is so intriguing. Steven Horowitz from Genius watched an entire year of her Snapchat (Was it worth it?) and traced the “Kylie bump” some of the lesser known artists received. Mickey Shiloh, once a songwriter for Janet Jackson, showed up on Kylie’s Snap and then trended on Google. Kylie listens to Ella Mai and even beat the majority of us to Kodak’s discography, which redeems any of the hate you could toss her way.

Whether it’s Kylie or LeBron or any famous person, there is something about a social media cosign that people seem to flock to. Seeing Russell Westbrook drinking Mtn. Dew Kickstart will always feel contrived, but seeing Kylie sing ten seconds of Amine with the Snapchat puppy filter almost gives the impression that she’s one of us.

She’s not.

The two have been bred for professional music curation. LeBron is the perfect mix of personable and superstar. I’ve never been able to relate to any part of his life, now or pre-NBA, but the openness of his social media makes it feel otherwise. With Kylie, her life was broadcast to us before Tyga rapped his “Bedrock” verse, and if we ignore the “famous for nothing” trope, she’s been successful since adolescence. They’re polarizing, and they’re people we love to hate, but they’ve been able to dominate Twitter culture (e.g. NBA GOAT tweets and #KylieJennerLipChallenge) for years. They’re two of the closest celebs to rap, without being directly involved in any of the music.

Perhaps this is the best way to get your song to pop; waiting around until LeBron or Kylie adds it to their playlist and gives you the keys to vitality. Soundcloud is on its way out and iHeart has turned every station it gets its hands on into Top 40 or country, leaving modern artists to either blow up the old school way—with hard work and years of waiting (gross)—or sell their soul to someone famous. The cosign, whether it’s a major celeb or popular artist, is typically worth more than the music. I gave CyHi The Prynce a few too many chances because of Kanye.

Celebrity social media as music curator is the instant gratification we crave as a culture. I can be a fly on the wall in a celebrity’s life, but also discover new music in less than ten seconds? Sign me up. Listening to a new song is more fulfilling than Thanksgiving dinner, but Spotify Discovery has always done me wrong. Somehow, having someone famous tell me what to listen to is the easiest way to achieve that, and the casual approach of social media gives me a sense that the music isn’t being sold to me, just suggested.

I’m still mulling over why an artist needs an A&R anyway. Have y’all heard Jimmy Smith at the beginning of “Pound Cake?” It’s an unnecessary old school job. In ten years, record companies may exclusively listen to the Kylie Snapchat playlist (which is at 500+ songs) to discover artists. And if you can, pay Kylie or LeBron to play your music on social media. It’s worth more than a Super Bowl ad and you’ll earn about a thousand clout tokens, supposedly enough for a 2017 record deal.

Nobody is above wishing they were a celebrity. Escaping from this life of student loan debt and Applebee’s for dinner to think about the lives of the rich and famous is enjoyable. TMZ is still around for a reason and even if you ramble on about how much you hate people in Hollywood, you’re still talking about people in Hollywood. We want to be them a little bit, but living through their social media lives will suffice, especially since we can listen to their favorite songs.

Calling people sheep when they follow the trend of celebrities is trite. If we like LeBron enough to watch his ridiculous gym videos, I’ll probably enjoy some of his favorite music because he’s more than “just another person” to me. We’re not sheep for buying into a cosign, forgive us for having weaknesses. Songs will blow up if they’re meant to—cosigner or not.