"In 2015, social media is a monster," proclaimed iLoveMemphis (fka iHeartMemphis), during a recent visit to The FADER's offices in New York. And he would know, as he has successfully harnessed its power in order to launch his career.
The 22-year-old Tennessee native, whose real name is Richard Colbert, struck gold this year when short videos featuring all variety of folks dancing to his single "Hit the Quan"—an instructional-style dance song about Rich Homie Quan's trademark move—multiplied across social networks like Instagram and Vine. Its popularity online eventually propelled "Hit the Quan" onto the Billboard charts, where it eventually cracked the top 20 on the Hot 100 and the top 10 on the Hip Hop/R&B charts. A feat, seeing as he claims to have laid down in under an hour. But also exactly what he had hoped would happen.
iLoveMemphis doesn't consider himself a musician, per say, he just sees music as a way to make money and a chance for him to do good. "There was a funny little thing on Instagram about how everybody is dying in the world and y'all just want to hit the quan, but that's good," he said. "People are happy when they hit the quan, I watch videos and they are laughing and smiling. I'm changing their world!"
During a recent visit to The FADER's offices in New York, iLoveMemphis spoke openly about the unlikely success of "Hit The Quan," what it takes to go viral, and his haters. Read our conversation, condensed and edited for clarity, below.
How did you get started?
I was local celebrity in Memphis, people used to know me as @StraightOutOfMemphis on Instagram—I had 72,000 followers, I was buzzin' around. At first I was doing modeling, posting little modeling pictures to get my fanbase up. Then I started making funny videos, different stuff like wearing wigs and just being funny. I moved from the funny videos to throwing parties, where I was making money, meeting new people, and started getting more followers. That’s where idea of making music came from, I knew that everybody liked to dance and turn up.
How long have you been making music?
I been doing music for about a year now, after I linked up with Miami Mike, who is Soulja Boy's manager. Music moves faster than my previous occupations; "Hit the Quan" was the explosion I needed.
How do you think "Hit the Quan" will go down in history?
"Hit the Quan" started a new era for dancing again. Kendrick Lamar did my dance in his video. Drake had the dance in the "Hotline Bling" video. Rich Homie Quan has dancers out dancing. Young Thug has dancers in his new video. There are even hood dudes dancing now. Everybody's dancing, and I believe that Silento's "Watch Me (Whip)" and "Hit The Quan" set those standards for making dance a trend.
"Music moves faster than my previous occupations; 'Hit the Quan' was the explosion I needed."
How would you describe your workflow?
My work flow is about staying in the people's face and promoting. That’s where my success came from: posting my fans on my page. I feel like artists don't do that as much as I do—I sacrificed sleep for two weeks so my videos would go viral, posting people all day. It works!
You have to take advantage of social media. It's not about the song—it's about the relationship and the connection that you have with your fans. The more love people feel like you’re showing them, the more they're going to support you. So I show love all the time. If I had to give someone one-step: post other people doing your dance and listening to your music. If you do that, more people gon’ wanna be on your page. That's the formula.
What is your creative process like?
I make my dance first. Then, I make a little snippet and I post it to see how the people like it. If they like it, I make the rest of the song. I've always worked on singles more, pushing out singles and focusing on them. I like throwing out different things, but as far as a powerful dance single, I just push that one single until it's time for something new. But I'm about to start making songs that are like a minute and a half, two minutes long. You're going to get more views that way, because they can listen to it over and over.
So in addition to using it as a way of broadcasting, you also use your followers like a focus group—
For the trends, yes. I sit back and watch, and when I see something so much, I write a song about it. See, it's about timing. Dabbing is the new trend.
There lots of songs about dabbing out now, what makes "Lean and Dabb" different?
First off when you're making a dance song, kids dance more than anybody so it has to be positive. There has to be no cursing at all, because that will slow you down from getting on shows. And anyways, it's 2015 and our vocabulary is bigger than the couple of curse words that we're using. You don't have to put curse words in a song to make it a hit. If "Hit the Quan" had a curse word in it, I wouldn't be sitting here today.
What did you listen to growing up?
Lil Wayne. He’s just so different and brilliant. He’s very creative.
Do you think that your almost scientific process pose a threat to rappers who trade on the spontaneity of their creative process, like Wayne?
[Anybody who thinks this is] gon' have to meet me in my office. [laughs] You think it's like [rappers have been putting] in hard work and then [I show up]? No. You got to work smart. I'm not about to strain and hurt my brain trying to come up with something hard. I'm going to make it easy on me. I'm not going around telling people they have to hit the quan a certain way—you can swing your arms however you want, just get down low. I want to make it as easy as possible so you can post it on your page and people can see it.
They are going to have make another genre for serious music, because we want the kids happy. All that thinking and stuff and you saying words that people don't know? No—we need simple words that the kids know. I'm telling you right now, at least five dance songs will be in the top ten in 2015.
Why do you think dance songs like “Hit the Quan” has performed so well on the charts?
Drake has a certain fanbase, some people don't like Drake. Future has a certain fanbase, some people don't like Future. You have whites that listen to certain people in the Top 10, you have blacks that listen to certain people in the Top 10. Everybody dances. And they might want to get to know who iLoveMemphis is, but once that song come one, they don't care who we are—they just do the dance!
“They might want to get to know who @ILoveMemphis is, but once that song come one, they don’t care who we are—they just do the dance!”
Do you consider yourself a musician?
I'm an entertainer. A lot of people are like, "What song are you going to put out next?" But I'm more worried about what I'm going to do next. My goal is just to be the biggest I can be. It's about showcasing my talents, and it's about being the best I can be using music as a stepping-stone. It's not even about music.
What is the next step for you?
You want to know something seriously? For me to be in the lane of dancing and then to hop out to do something different would be ridiculous. As long as I'm winning, I have to stay in my lane until I find something that will make me bigger. People get cocky and arrogant, but I haven't made it until I feel like I never need to work again. [For now,] “Hit the Quan” is feeding me.