As the entertainment industry evolves throughout the pandemic, technology takes a leading role in storytelling. It seems like just about every day, a new live stream pops up on a different platform in-hand. With tiny movie theaters, concert halls, and live experiences available 24/7 – orbiting our mobile-first always-on infotainment lifestyles, the desire to connect more deeply – beyond watching or listening to someone on a screen – has never been such a priority.
While the entertainment industry attempts to solve for a lack of human interaction by creating live streaming content, a true feeling of connectivity rarely surfaces following such a viewing. With technology companies stepping up to facilitate live experiences – Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube – aligning more deliberately with creators on content and production, the intersection of music and technology may truly have a sensory-inclusive experiential future beyond the pandemic.
Enter Nipsey Hussle – the rapper and entrepreneur from Los Angeles who left a legacy bigger than the city of angels itself. In 2019 we lost “Nip,” as many called the Eritrean-born community leader, right on the very corner [of Crenshaw and Slauson] he sought to transform into an entrepreneurial hub for future generations. Atlantic Records exclusively shares that Nispey’s journey, music and legacy will be honored with THE MARATHON Live Visual Album — a 60 minute virtual, interactive, documentary-like experience — launching this Friday evening on Nipsey’s YouTube [Live] for its 10-year anniversary, to pay homage to The Marathon mixtape that put Nipsey on the mainstream map musically.
Unfolding as a journey through the city of Los Angeles and its storied landmarks from the driver’s seat of Nipsey’s infamous 2010 Mercedes SL600, Nipsey’s Marathon Clothing team commissioned creative agency OkiDoki to bring the experience to life. Tasked with creating a 2010 time capsule to document the evolution of The Marathon mixtape and the story of perseverance that came with it, the team at OkiDoki who specializes in leveraging invisible technology to make immersive multi-dimensional spaces – on and offline – drew inspiration from the Film noir aesthetic adding in tones of red to signify blood, sweat, and tears that come with building an empire. After designing experiences for the likes of Diddy, experimental clothing brand Fear Of God by Jerry Lorenzo, and PartyNextDoor, OkiDoki built the extremely unique experience using gaming tool, Unreal Engine, the framework created by Epic games in the late 90’s powering video games.
Constructed over several weeks, OkiDoki’s team of artists and engineers dreamt up a visual experience akin to a 3D, sound-forward movie unlike anything most have been able to access online during this pandemic. With the expectation of garnering between 100,000 and 200,000 viewers at once on the YouTube Live stream, the experience is interactive allowing fans to alter the visual destination by engaging in real-time chat with production.
Riding through the city in the nostalgia-filled 2009-2011 era of Los Angeles passing through Slauson Tees, Nipsey’s recording studio in Westlake, Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant & Market in Little Ethiopia, The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, Epic Records in Beverly Hills, and the Watts Towers. From the perspective of Nipsey’s journey – which in Los Angeles, is almost always by car, “his car wasn’t just a status symbol, it was a legacy – Nipsey’s car was his own personal music venue,” says Kameron Burk, Co-Founder of OkiDoki, “we wanted to let his vehicle be his presence.”
Creating a fully immersive digital experience requires specialization from different groups and many were involved to bring THE MARATHON Live Visual Album Experience to life. In addition to OkiDoki’s creative execution, The Marathon Clothing’s kernel of an idea to birth the visual dedication, YouTube’s part in bringing it to the masses, a unique Puma sponsorship was coordinated and reflected visually on a billboard inside of the live album stream, Nipsey’s label Atlantic Records came through to connect musical dots, and Jay-Zs Roc Nation – who coincidentally was set to take a meeting with Nip and the LAPD to address gang violence a day prior to Nipsey leaving the mortal world – was supportive in this effort.
The technology distribution piece, championed by YouTube, was led by Brittany Lewis, an Artist Relations manager at YouTube who has deep connections to Nipsey’s team from her time working at Spotify when hip-hop was in large part still discovered on YouTube. “That’s where stuff was happening in the rap community – YouTube was an entry point for hip-hop,” says Lewis whose role is about building deep and immersive relationships with artists and managers to help them understand and optimize YouTube’s platform and technology. Technology companies, as inventive as they are, still need people to nurture relationships, educate creators, and forge the path towards brand building equity. “Artist education matters and this [technology] is how you super serve them,” explains Lewis. “I am super happy Nispey’s team reached out and we were able to partner and to continue to keep his legacy alive because so much of his time was about investing in tech and promoting entrepreneurialism – ultimately he will continue to inspire a generation of young women and men to think about community.”