Last week, someone tweeted at us asking what is a co-sign and what weight does a co-sign carry in 2019. Curious, we posed the question to our Managing Editor, Donna-Claire Chesman, and DJBooth Senior Writer, Yoh.
Their conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
yoh [3:56 PM]
Hi, Donna. Happy Wednesday to you my friend. Sorry to hear you're under the weather today. Still up for our weekly quick chat?
donnacwrites [3:57 PM]
Good afternoon, my friend. Always up for our conversation even when I am the sickest First Lady this side of the DJBooth.
yoh [3:59 PM]
We appreciate you. I believe it was last week that a tweet was sent to DJBooth's Twitter asking a question about co-signs. It got me thinking, what does a co-sign mean in 2019? How would you answer such a question?
donnacwrites [4:01 PM]
Before we dive into what a co-sign means, we should define what a co-sign is. So, for me, a co-sign is everything from a retweet, to an IG post, to a feature. It is any act where one artist (or brand) is uplifting another artist (or brand). We often see co-signs as a bigger artist uplifting a smaller one, a la Drake and Lil Baby, but a co-sign doesn't have to have an imbalance of fame. It's even better when artists of similar levels co-sign each other because that helps build community and create an "all boats rise with the rising tide" situation for artists. What do you think?
yoh [4:12 PM]
Love the boat analogy. Yes, I agree, a co-sign is a form of public recognition. It can be a peer, or an idol, or anyone who goes the extra mile to acknowledge someone on a lower tier of notoriety. I often think about Patti Smith and her advice to the young: "Build a good name." Your name has so much value, and whom you choose to co-sign is an extension of that value. Lil Wayne's co-sign of Drake and Nicki Minaj was such a big deal because of his stature at the time. That's why co-signs are such a big deal in hip-hop, to a degree the right stamp of approval can enhance visibility and cause an increase of attention. Would you say the right co-sign is necessary to reach a certain level of stardom in 2019?
donnacwrites [4:18 PM]
I'm not sure if it's necessary, but it absolutely helps. Though, as I'm thinking about it, I realize that no art is made truly alone. We need our peers to make good art, so regardless of whether or not an artist gets that big Drake co-sign on their third song, or they're two albums in and Champagne Papi throws up their single on Instagram, we need support from one another to build a sustainable artist community.
So to go back to your original question, I would say that in 2019, a co-sign is everything because it might hint at longevity. If a bigger artist sees something in you, not only does that boost your morale and fan base, but it gives you a tangible goal to work towards. You now have the opportunity to be peers with, perhaps, an idol. Any serious artist would not squander such a thing. I have to imagine that being put on by a Drake or a Kendrick is an incredible fuel to what should be an already incredible fire. But have you ever seen artists fumble the co-sign?
yoh [4:36 PM]
Great question. Fumble is a funny word in this context. So many things happen before and after co-signs that effects an artist. Desiigner fumbled the momentum created by "Panda" and being attached to Kanye's "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1." Even the "Timmy Turner" remix that featured Kanye failed to move the needle even though the XXL Freestyle was a viral moment.
For whatever reason, I think about Wiz Khalifa's remix of Drake's "Started From The Bottom" a lot. He raps, "And I probably said no to it before / But I made 20 million so we should probably go on tour." Back in 2010, Drake invited Wiz on the Light Dreams and Nightmares Tour (a tour that featured The Clipse on the fourth leg). Wiz turned it down, to do continue his own Waken Baken tour. Obviously, back in 2010, a Wiz and Drake tour would've been huge, but I can't consider it a fumble since building his own base helped Khalifa in the long run. He can join his Pittsburgh brother Mac in saying, "I did it all without a Drake feature."
I know I've strayed from the question, but I love how much pride Mac had in such a boast. In a way even if you do fumble a co-sign if you do what you're supposed to you'll end up where you're supposed to go. Is there any recent examples where you saw a co-sign suddenly change an artists trajectory quicker than it would have been without?
donnacwrites [4:40 PM]
My mind goes right to Lil Baby. There is no way he would have been lauded as Rookie of the Year without having the Drake feature. It's not that Baby needed Drake to push him as an artist, but what he did need was the eyes. BlocBoy JB had a similar situation, and then he ended up on Rico Nasty's album, which is a co-sign of a different order. While I wasn't thrilled by the feature, I was happy to see his name out there. The best thing you can get from a co-sign, the most likely thing, is eyes and ears. As much as I would love to romanticize features as making artists into better artists a la J. Cole stepping up his game when on the mic with J.I.D, a co-sign is more of a platform or rolling out of the red carpet for whatever artist one act believes to be up next.
yoh [4:46 PM]
I'm pretty new to hive Rico, but did she have a co-sign between the 2017 mixtape Tales of Tacobella and the 2018 project Nasty?
donnacwrites [4:47 PM]
As far as I recall, her rise has been pretty organic to her. No major star came out and uplifted her, she just exploded off the back of her music videos and strength of her talent. Then the press began rolling in.
yoh [4:52 PM]
It's worth noting she announced her deal with Atlantic Records before the release of Nasty. That's another form of co-signing, the alignment with a major. When deals are done correctly, the label is able to be a benefactor that increases resources, provides an expansion of visibility, and can help with collaborating with bigger names. Rico hasn't needed a big co-sign to shine like a star, but being with a major does help with raising awareness and putting her in the position to maximize her innate talent.
donnacwrites [4:54 PM]
So let's total it: who can co-sign? A label, an artist, a tastemaker. Anyone else?
yoh [5:00 PM]
Do you consider brand partnerships a form of co-signing? Vince Staple's relationship with Sprite, Earl has his show on Red Bull Radio or Lil Yachty's commercial with Target are all opportunities where the artists were given platforms in a public space attached to big names. Even COLORS, our favorite YouTube series, gives a stamp of approval for every artist who performs before their perfectly selected backdrops.
donnacwrites [5:01 PM]
I would say so, all of those companies offer up artist platforms. So co-signs are pretty multiple.
yoh [5:08 PM]
Co-signs, of any form, can be worthwhile for all parties involved. Every co-sign we have mentioned thus far worked because they worked in favor of everyone involved. Lifting up and expanding the community. In the eternal words of Ace Boogie, "Everybody eats, b." That's how it should be.