Today, there are tons of creators and young rappers who are entering the viral music scene. Only a few manage to build an authentic brand and grow by collaborating with other artists and creating amazing content to feed their brand and voice. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with YBN Nahmir to get the inside scoop on how he’s managed to disrupt an entire industry.
Two years ago, Nahir, a.k.a. Nick Simmons, was a little-known Xbox 360 player with an impressive number of followers on his game-playing channel. Better known today as YBN Nahmir, he’s got a single, “Rubbin’ Off the Paint,” which is climbing the charts; and he can boast more than one hundred ten million views on YouTube.
How did he get there? His talent is just the beginning: The story of how he built his personal brand will inspire you.
In fact, Nahmir leveraged innovative technologies to build buzz, develop skills and connect with collaborators. His career started out with Xbox 360. He developed a fan base for his game-plays with the system. Then, he used a Rock Band setup to learn about music: He is one of the few musicians who can honestly say they were self-taught on the Xbox.
He describes his progression from a music enthusiast to a music producer, telling me, “I got started when I was young … like, rapping with other people; and I got tired of rapping with other people’s music … I just fell in love with music, and I started writing stuff, and freestyling.”
In the absence of expensive recording equipment, Nahmir self-taught himself to record his early songs. This might sound like a story about kids and tech today, but Xbox 360 gave Nahmir the beginnings of a personal brand. He became an artist who innovates with technologies, platforms and musical equipment. The connectivity of the system gave him a platform and let him develop a network.
This digital platform allowed Nahmir to develop a diverse set of influences that created a style with mass appeal. His network and his sound reflect a snapshot of America today. He is a musician who truly reflects the modern music scene because of how his sound and network echo both digital globalization and the rich, regional sounds of different styles of American rap.
The result has been a style with broad appeal but one that resists a generic sound. From a business perspective, this helps his product appeal to more audiences and gives him more opportunities to continue to innovate his sound. This positioning will ensure that he maintains a career, instead of jbecoming just a flash in the pan.
Nahmir described to me his strategies for maintaining trust and accountability,with the phrase “Keep the circle tight.” Although he has connected with many different, talented people, trust is a powerful and central value. Nahmir may be only 18 years old, but he has enormous interpersonal intelligence. His strategy is focused on maintaining good relationships and building bridges, but with the right people at the right time and for the right reasons.
He is also wary about throwing his trust to just anyone, so he has developed a circle of trust in his life and in his team. The business lesson in this statement has applications in almost every field. Positive and well-curated relationships matter more than a media blitzkrieg that results in disengagement and viewer exhaustion. Collaboration and partnerships should be done only if the brands align.
Social media connector
Nahmir’s social media strategy allows him to maintain authenticity and connect with his fans where they are. Instead of working with every social media platform and cross-posting, or spending enormous amounts of time and effort on unique posts to each platform, Nahmir meets his fans where they are. His preferred platform is Instagram, and its media richness synergizes with his output.
His definition of success aligns with authenticity more generally: “Success means… you made it,” Nahmir told me. “You’re living how what you said you were going to live.” From this perspective, success can be fluid and reflects a movement toward a goal.”
Instead of developing a large social media profile on each platform, he said he’s decided to pursue an in-depth presence on the social media platform where the majority of his fans hang out.
Overall, his business and personal strategy reflects positive goals. Devoted to his family, Nahmir wants to use his career mostly to help his family out. Another core value for him is humility. It’s central to his goals, and this increases the likability of his brand. His goals are concrete and innocuous — he wants to help out his family! And, in terms of branding, this is a strategic positioning.
Overall, Nahmir’s brand strategies reflect an intuitive understanding of entrepreneurship that has been uniquely applied to the rap world. His strategies have disrupted traditional strategies of self-branding in rap. And his strategies offer lessons valuable to any artist or small business owner, because these brand strategies are highly portable.
This young rapper could teach a master class in long-term business branding: Other entrepreneurs could learn from his music as well as the backstory that has helped him rocket to the top.