By: Uba Anyadiegwu
What exactly is a “co-sign?”
It’s quite simple: it is when an artist, usually someone with commercial success, gives a different artist, usually someone with lower success, a shout-out by acknowledging that they like his/her music. Co-signs can also be when those successful artists allow up-and-coming artists to be featured on their songs. Co-signs truly fuel why every artist is commercially popular today. Every hip-hop artist at one point in their career was given a co-sign; and because of that co-sign, this was the main reason why they were able to achieve mainstream success. Every artist dreams to receive some kind of co-sign from another artist. Without co-signs, artist diversity in hip-hop would be very shallow. Artists such as Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore and Chance the Rapper all received co-signs. So, who co-signed them?
When Drake was making his way to fame, he had a couple of notable co-signs from smaller artists. However, the biggest one he received, which put his name on the map, was from his mentor, Lil Wayne. This co-sign came around 2009, which was when Lil Wayne was at his peak. After the highly praised Tha Carter 3, anything Lil Wayne did or said at the time would be gold. So once Lil Wayne called Drake out, everyone jumped on the ex-Degrassi actor, rap star that we now know Drake as. Collaboration cuts were the main reason for Drake’s success, with Lil Wayne being featured on four songs off of Drake’s stand out mixtape So Far Gone.
Once Drake made a name for himself, he soon had the power to co-sign and help any up-and-coming artists that were still under many radars. One of the new “kings” of today’s hip-hop world is Kendrick Lamar, and his huge success began with a co-sign from Drake himself. Drake allowed not only Kendrick, but also A$AP Rocky, to tour with him on the “Club Paradise Tour” in 2012. After a successful tour, the buzz that Kendrick was creating was getting greater and everyone was paying attention. At this time, Kendrick Lamar was getting a lot of praise from the mainstream hip-hop industry. However, even before this occasion, Kendrick received probably one of the most important and monumental co-signs that you can obtain. In 2011, Kendrick was awarded with a live co-sign from the Game, Kurrupt, and two West Coast legends, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, at the Hollywood Music Box concert in Los Angeles, California. At this concert, Kendrick was passed down the West Coast torch by all of these West Coast rappers to become the next best hip-hop artist from the West Coast region. This was a huge moment, with other artists such as Big Sean and Common being at the same concert to witness it. At that point, Kendrick was destined to become one of hip-hop’s greats, with people even stating he’s the reincarnated version of Tupac. Below is the video of Kendrick Lamar receiving the torch from the West Coast legends.
Yeezy has been an active hip-hop artist for about 15 years now. When Kanye first came out, he was co-signed from his good pal, Jay-Z. At the time, they weren’t really good pals, more of a master training his mentor. Jay-Z gave Kanye West the biggest co-sign by having him come up on stage and introduce himself to everyone as Jay’s newest signee. After Jay-Z introduced his fans to Kanye West, he gave Kanye the first “Rock A Fella Chain.” This chain resembles that you are in fact a part of the “Rock A Fella” family, and for Kanye to receive the first one ever was monumental. Below is the concert where Kanye received the chain and was given the chance to deliver a quick freestyle as well.
Chance is the most recent up-and-coming hip-hop artist who is receiving so many different co-signs from some of the most popular artists in the game. Chance’s first co-sign came from his now good friend, Childish Gambino. Childish is one of the main reasons why Chance has gained so much attention over the past year. He gifted Chance not only a feature verse on Gambino’s summer 2012 mixtape Royalty, but he also invited Chance on his U.S. tour, which really created a greater buzz for the rapper. Since Gambino’s co-sign, Chance has received a verbal co-sign from the likes of J. Cole, with Cole tweeting “Chance is saving hip hop.” Furthermore, he received another co-sign from the current Grammy winner, Macklemore. Then, Chance got another co-sign from Lil Wayne. On Wayne’s most recent mixtape, Dedication 5, Chance had a stellar feature verse on one of the standout tracks “You Song,” where Chance and Lil Wayne share the stage and both deliver with some great lines. On the song Chance raps, “Fuck it I’ll hire Geoffrey to get a beverage if you should ever get parched/ You feel like Ruby Dee to me, great and powerful Ossie/ Who’s behind the man behind the curtain? Foxy/C offee brown as the bosom I flew in on/ Nose round like the wheels that my rims spin on.” Chance yet again got a co-sign from arguably one of the most popular overall artists in the world. This man, or teenager, goes by the name of Justin Bieber. On his new hit single, “Confident,” Chance not only gets a feature verse, but also received some video time from the official music video which now has over 19 million views on Youtube. With this many co-signs happening this early in his career, Chance has the potential for having a huge 2014.
Out of most hip-hop artists today, many may try to argue that Macklemore became very successful and didn’t receive any co-signs. However, this is false. Macklemore’s rise to fame was very independent, however he did receive some help from, not a successful artist, but a successful celebrity. This celebrity would be Ellen Degeneres. After Ellen heard “Same Love,” one of Macklemore’s more popular and deeper songs, she fell in love with the meaning of the song and had the duo perform the track on her daytime show. This co-sign from Ellen really gave Macklemore and Ryan Lewis a new and larger fan base. Ellen has a similar power that Oprah has: if she likes something, then her huge fan base will like it as well. This worked in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ favor, as they went on to win four Grammys at this year’s awards.
The term co-sign is a fancy, more modern way of saying recommendation. Everywhere in life, assistance is needed by a higher individual. Not only in hip-hop, but in life in general. You won’t become a successful business person unless you have good connections or know someone with a higher role who has helped guide you to success. Mainstream success comes from who likes your material and who knows you or in some cases, who you know. Anyone can give a co-sign, but if you aren’t a highly popular or known individual, then has that co-sign really served its purpose? I co-sign multiple artists on a weekly basis, but unfortunately, at the end of the day, I’m not on the radar like Jay-Z is. In all, co-signs are extremely important depending on who you receive one from. They are not only the core source of a hip-hop artist’s commercial success, but a core source for a successful human being.