All of the memes played a major role in the song’s success. A 2017 Fader report sources analytics company Crimson Hexagon’s tabulation that “Twitter posts about the song have directly mirrored its Hot 100 rise, increasing by nearly 600 percent since the beginning of November .” Hexagon also reported that “around 82 percent” of the 600,000 tweets about the song (as of Jan. 2, 2017) came after the day Fox posted the first “you know” meme.
“Bad and Boujee” debuted at 76 on the Hot 100, and shot all the way to No. 1 in January 2017. Fox’s meme, as well as the “rain drop, drop top” phenomenon were vital to that rise. Now, Bass reflects, “I can’t take credit for starting [the “you know” meme], but I definitely was a student of it, and that was my first foray [into meme marketing].”
Bass realized that the key to the meme’s success was the way it visualized a feeling that couldn’t be articulated through mere words. “It’s always hard to explain how music makes you feel,” she says. “When I would see my grandmother and aunts, and parents in church, and they are so moved by music, sometimes I would be like, ‘That’s how some of these songs make me feel.’ But there was a more visual component to that. I think the meme culture gave us that. It’s like, ‘Yes, that’s exactly how I feel.’ It just gives you the visual interpretation of it. There’s really no rules. It doesn’t have to be this one thing. ‘Who knew SpongeBob would correlate with that?’”
Indeed, memes and viral trends are limitless. Sometimes, like with “Bad and Boujee,” a meme is a choice morsel of a smash song that speaks to its hysteria. In Gunna’s case, a simple emoji speaks to a “player lifestyle” reflected in his music and gaudy fashion sense. Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer“ (which Bass was also involved in) became a mission statement for women who, like Megan, were choosing to live how they wanted with no shame. Drake’s “Feeling Myself” challenge was a fun reflection of a feel-good song (which was ripe for all kinds of satire). All of these moments were subtle extensions of the artists’ personas, which helped them stay at the forefront of public consciousness.
“If you’re going to do something weird for the sake of being weird, do [it] for sure. But if you’re doing it with the intention of, like, ‘I’m going to make something that’s so funny that people are going to try to make it a meme,’ that’s dumb.” – Ka5sh
For Corbett-Rice, her “a-ha” moment with meme marketing has come from working with Saweetie, another artist who has mastered the art of taking her personality viral. Since focusing on rap in 2018, she’s built a brand that corporations are clamoring to tap into, in order to get the attention of fellow “icy girls.”
“Saweetie was an artist who obviously started out on social media and had a decent following before being signed to us,” Corbett-Rice recalls. “But I think over the last two years, [we’ve succeeded with] how we created marketing initiatives that tied into her music, that then tied into content. And then obviously, just her in general, the content that she produces on socials has allowed her to get big brand deals.”
Saweetie has been able to parlay her social presence into strategic partnerships with Mac Cosmetics, KISS Colors, Revolve, Crocs, and yes, McDonalds. Corbett-Rice credits Saweetie “being able to go on social media, and [show] things that she loves to do [like] creating these crafty meals that’s from McDonald’s, and going viral [from it]. Everyone’s like, ‘What is she eating?’ And then eventually that sparked interest from McDonald’s to say, ‘Hey, we want to work with her.’” Corbett-Rice adds, “She’s not trying to be anyone else but her, and I think fans see that.”
It can be tenuous for artists to attempt to create spectacle with their content. Take album covers like Kevo Muney’s Baby G.O.A.T., which depicted him being birthed by a goat, or Drake’s Certified Lover Boy, which he veritably sacrificed to the meme gods. The strategy may have taken serious thought, but the results weren’t taken seriously. Brands, media outlets, and every other kind of social account co-opted Certified Lover Boy’s tile emoji format, which helped boost consciousness of the album, but it also sparked reactions like, “Drake gotta be trolling man no fucking way.”
Despite the polarizing results, though, Lil Gnar says he felt like it was a good idea. “That’s one of the best ways to do it, because then you’re going viral, but it’s literally just for the music,” he says. Then he qualifies that, “You just got to know yourself. Some people’s line of what’s cool and what ain’t differs. Some people will do stuff that ain’t necessarily the coolest, but they feel like it’s cool.”