Artists promote themselves in a variety of ways; some hire managers, others use YouTube and social media, and some rely on a favorable word of mouth while booking shows themselves. There are also those who approach their artistic careers with a shrewdly open business mindset — building bridges by networking everywhere they go and seeking out collaborations with seemingly anyone with talent.
This is what Shaquan Bivens has done for his brand as a rap artist. And, so far, he’s accelerated his success, doubling his online streams from 62,000 in 2018 to 120,000 in just the first half of 2019. Working with well-established local artists, like Chilldren of Indigo and Rakim Al-Jabbaar, has widened Bivens' exposure as an artist while creating ties that prove that, in the world of music, legends can coexist.
“For example, it’s one thing to have a YouTube account or Instagram, but it’s another to have a joint account with others to build collectively,” Bivens says, explaining how prioritizing collaboration over competition has brought success to his career. “People are scared they’re going to get outdone and I’m not like that. I just say ‘whatever,’ because it’s a mutual benefit no matter what. When you work with people you want to work with, nobody loses.”
The exposure Bivens has accrued for himself and the artists he’s worked with exemplifies the non-zero sum game theory, a win-win situation where two or a few prove to be better than one. The artist explains this through a sports metaphor: “Everybody wants to be Kobe, and everyone should, but even Kobe averaged more assists. When you own your own, you can’t be in a position to lose from the success of another. Like a team, you can win together.”
It’s that type of attitude that has kept Bivens’ rap career escalating over the last two years, aside from his talent as an artist. With an old-school '90s flair and a voice as smooth as Drake’s, he’s become known around DFW for his powerful stage presence and experimental live performances.
“A lot of artists take their time. ... I like to be authentic to the moment,” Bivens says, referring to one of his biggest inspirations, The Fugees, who were known to cut live sets midsong and start freestyling with their band, oftentimes sending crowds into a frenzy of excitement.
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“The Fugees were big on sending energy back 360 degrees," Bivens says. "I know the boundary before someone’s like, ‘This guy’s the shit,’ or, ‘He’s boring,’ so I love to read the crowd and, even if I get reckless, bring it back to the best entertainment.”
Aside from rapping, writing and performing, Bivens is a mogul behind the scenes as well, screenwriting all his video content and acting as his own manager, scheduling and bookings, independently. But the artist has developed a clever method of finding aid in his marketing. Some of his most successful endeavors have been as a brand ambassador, which has provided the funding, supplies and additional exposure that has helped to elevate his rap career.
Alliances with brands like Herb’n Kids CBD and Grown Kids clothing have brought more traffic to his social media, through photos and branding in his music videos. Bivens also formed close-knit relationships with top-tier liquor and beer companies like Fireball, Tuaca, Native Texan beer and Peroni, who used him in a campaign to alter the company’s demographic to match a younger, millennial vibe.
The event that he hosted was called Rage Radio at Deep Ellum Art Company, where Peroni provided beer for guests and Bivens held a live performance — thus, a non-zero sum game is facilitated. As Bivens might say, “Everybody wins.”