Lesson #1: The days of recording a song, letting it sit for a few weeks—or, worse, a few months—and then putting it out and promoting it are looooooong gone.
Really, this isn't a lesson that Jay in particular taught us, but his situation does shine an even brighter light on it. For years now, rappers have recorded tracks, sat on them for awhile, and then tried to released them and build a lot of buzz around them when the timing felt right and their albums were finished and ready to drop. In recent years, some artists have done away with that approach by dropping songs almost immediately after recording them. But in Jay's case, he literally let folks know he was working on something, worked on it, kept them updated, and then put it out for everyone to hear.
Rap fans have become obsessed with "The Making Of..." pieces about how rap songs and rap albums from the past came together, and Jay basically just took it one step further. He let folks know how he made a song by letting them in on the process and building a healthy buzz for a song on the same day that he was both recording and releasing it. Rap fans have shorter attention spans than ever before, so this worked out perfectly for him and could help other artists interact with their fans and release new music as well.
Lesson #2: You need to open your doors to bloggers—and let them actually, you know, blog (and tweet)—more often!
It's always amazes us how often artists invite bloggers out to listening events and such but don't let them actually tweet their thoughts during it. That's like a baseball team inviting bunch of baseball fans out to a game and then asking them to sit quietly and not cheer. The cheering is what they should be there for! One thing Jay Electronica did while recording "Call of Duty MW3" was invite a few bloggers, including RapRadar's Elliott Wilson, and other well-known hip-hop personalities like Power 105.1's Angela Yee and let them do their thing. He let them create all the buzz around the track (for the record: Jay tweeted just twice on Monday). By doing that, he had thousands and thousands of kids all around the country—and probably the world!—anticipating the hell out of the song.
Lesson #3: Make your new songs and mixtapes events...without overselling them as such.
If you notice, Jay Electronica didn't jump on Twitter on Sunday and announce to the world that he'd be recording a new song on Monday. He didn't tell all the rap blogs that he'd be dropping a track at 11:47pm on Monday night or whatever time it was that "Call of Duty MW3" finally dropped. He didn't let all the hoopla get to his head and make the release of the song seem forced. Rather, he made it seem like he woke up Monday morning, got a call from Mobb Deep, and then jumped into the studio with them later on in the day to record a track. Organic. Even if that's not how it came together, Jay undersold the effort put behind the track and then oversold it once it was clear that him releasing a new song was turning into an event. That is how you get people excited about your new song, not by trying to beat it into their head or promising to release it by a certain time on such-and-such a day.
Lesson #4: Don't badger fans about buying your single on iTunes.
Know the one that was completely missing from the entire buildup to Jay's new song? A payoff. For him, at least. There was no talk about putting "Call of Duty MW3" on iTunes. No talk about buying it on the Roc Nation website. No talk about any money changing hands. This was a rapper recording a song, releasing the song for his fans, and the moving on. At press time, Jay still hasn't really even mentioned the song on Twitter. Yet, the song is out there, the lyrics to the song are out there, and the artwork for the song is out there. It's a lot to give to your fans—for free!—but this is how you get people excited about what you're doing. This is how J. Cole did it and now it looks like Jay Electronica is following in his footsteps. Can he keep the movement going? Time will tell. But he's successfully started one with this move.
Lesson #5: Taking a few months off from rapping wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Out of sight out of mind is the way rap music works today. If you're not dropping a new freestyle, putting out a new mixtape, or prepping your new album, you might as well be retired. One thing we noticed as Electronica was preparing to release "Call of Duty MW3" was the number of folks tweeting about how long it'd been since they'd heard anything from him. But as soon as he finished his all-day marathon and "Call of Duty MW3" was in the bag, it was like he'd never left. Earth to rappers: You don't need to record 5,647,824 new songs every week to stay relevant. Just put your all into one really good effort—which "Call of Duty MW3" is—and we'll pay attention. What a strange concept, right? Good thing Jay Electronica is strange enough to figure it out.