Last night, superstar MC Drake tapped into a community that most people wouldn’t think was possible for him: the world of gaming — more specifically, live-streaming. Tagging along with popular Twitch streamer Ninja, he brought his star power (and a few of his famous friends) to the popular gaming platform, catapulting the view count past the Twitch record of 360k.
Rappers and musicians playing video games isn’t a novel concept; hell, it isn’t even a new one. But the fact that Drake stepped down from his crystal castle of rap royalty to play video games with one of the community’s biggest influencers is definitely groundbreaking in itself.
Ninja is considered one of the best players of Epic Games’ “Fortnite,” a free-to-play “battle royal” game that can pit up to 100 players against each other in a huge world map. Dropped into the map with very few resources, players are forced to scavenge, kill, and build their way to becoming the last person standing. It’s popular because of its Pixar-meets-anime graphical fidelity and “easy to play, hard to master” building mechanics.
It’s the same type of visual style that saw games like “Overwatch” become a gaming zeitgeist just a year ago (“Overwatch” now has a international gaming league that airs weekly on Twitch). The “battle royal” concept has been a concept that has taken the gaming world by storm and games like “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknownBattlegrounds” sit at the forefront with a player base that has exceeded 10 million players between the both of them.
The phenomenon of these games have given them prime real estate atop the leaderboards at Twitch, a platform that boasts its users use to watch more minutes of video than Youtube. Taking the concept of “followers” to the next level, players can earn subscriptions from their fans, which pays out a small donation of $5 a month. Ninja has more than 140,000 subscribers—so you can do the math about how much he’s making by playing “Fortnite” with his friends. With this much mainstream attention, from casuals and hardcores alike, it really shouldn’t be surprising that Ninja (and “Fortnite”) crossed Drake’s radar.
“I started playing [Fortnite] about a month ago,” Drake said on stream as Ninja build a fort to protect them from their bloodthirsty online enemies. A month ago, “Fortnite” reached a playerbase of 45 million, with 3.4 people playing it concurrently — again, not a coincidence. Drake has been an early adopter of trends, rappers, and musical styles. This time, he’s planting his flag on gaming culture. In this community, gamers don’t care about who is hotter, who is tougher, or who writes their own raps. It’s the perfect place to sit down, and do an impromptu interview while banging off headshots with an assault rifle.
While playing, Ninja found out some behind-the-scenes info about the “God’s Plan” video, and Drake revealed that he likes pineapple on his pizzas. Not particularly interesting to the blogosphere of hip-hop — but the perfect integration into an underrepresented section of nerd culture by mainstream hip-hop.
Drake doesn’t give out many interviews, but he had everyone hanging off of his every word in between his (in-game) kills and deaths. He was giving these people an exclusive, and it’s not something that he does every day. “We can break that record, that’s easy,” Drake told Ninja as he tweeted the link to the stream on his personal Twitter account. The tweet has over 120k retweets as of this writing — which is more than he got for posting his “God’s Plan” music video.
Though artists like T-Pain, YBN Nahmir, Soulja Boy, and more have created Twitch accounts and play the games, the community has now been “seen” by a star that arguably eclipses their reach. The fact that Drake teamed the most popular influencer of the popular game shouldn’t be lost on anyone either.
During the launch of his 2017 album DROGAS, Lupe Fiasco challenged Daigo Umehara, an undisputed legend of Capcom’s “Street Fighter” fighting game series to a match. He held a tournament promoting its current iteration (“Street Fighter V”) and his album, and for all intents and purposes it got a little bit of press.
But imagine if it had been Drake, or even Travis Scott (who eventually joined Ninja’s party during his stream) using the game to promote their new album, or single. It would have taken the visibility of a game that receives at least 200k views and combined it with their rabid fanbase. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.
While fans watched Ninja, Drake, Kim DotCom, Travis Scott, and NFL Wide Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster trade funny quips as they fought for survival, I’m sure that record companies and video game companies saw dollar signs.
Drake didn’t even stream the game from his own Twitch account, but imagine if he did? Or if he dropped a new single afterward. The door may have been cracked, and we have to thank people like Soulja Boy for that, but Drake’s stream has kicked it down completely, potentially opening a new frontier in both gaming and music.