The 20% Rule

Adventures with the algorithm and an explanation for all the information

You might be wondering why I’ve been writing so much about my album. Shouldn’t I leave a little mystery? Let the music speak for itself? Being an artist in today’s internet era makes that pretty much impossible. Every social media platform is designed to create more friction and distance between us. The same apps that talk about “bringing people closer together” end up being used on a massive scale to stoke division, manipulate elections and keep us disoriented. I started this newsletter because I wanted to develop a stronger link with my audience where I could communicate directly with them without a buffer. I wanted to take matters into my own hands and not have to bend to the whims of the algorithm.

I hoped to further elaborate on the process of making Parallel World in an intimate way that isn’t really possible elsewhere on social media. Both Facebook and Instagram adhere to the 20% rule: images made up of over 20% text are significantly reduced in reach by the algorithm. Facebook has “found that images with less than 20% text perform better” as ads and has based the functionality of their apps on this principle. To me, it sounds like they want to deprioritize reading to keep you scrolling and potentially buying.

Ducking and dodging these algorithms requires almost as much creativity as making the music. Let me be transparent about how I came to the conclusion about what I wanted to do with promoting this record. One of my points of emphasis was to do things like write essays and include additional materials when I presented the album because I felt like I didn’t make the conceptual aspects around my self-titled 2018 album completely clear. Considering I was coming back from a five and a half year break between albums, I wished I had done more to explain what the record was about in a way that wasn’t just doing interviews. Maybe I didn’t know exactly what that would be at first but I knew it was something that I wanted to make happen somehow.

Traditional press can bring you to another level and boost your visibility. It definitely still has value in 2021, even if your avenues are more limited than ever and record companies with bigger budgets and more powerful publicists can outmuscle independent artists for press exposure as if they were spending millions in a Facebook ad auction. But what I’ve learned on this album rollout is that the best thing an artist can do is just focus on cultivating the fanbase they already have and find a way to tell their story on their own terms. It makes me really happy to see people who haven’t listened to my music in almost ten years are coming back to check out what I’m up to now. I was also surprised to see interviewers picking up on themes that I elaborated on in this newsletter, even pointing to the fact that I write one as being notable itself.

The media landscape has changed dramatically since I first started. There was a lot of chaos and volatility before marketers figured out how to profit from these platforms. There was more room for weird stuff like Edmontonian electro rap to break through and get in front of people. It’s interesting to see how your music is received depending on who you are, what it’s about and who is covering it. I’ve been really happy to see so many young people of colour interviewing me. On the other side of things, one writer passed on writing about the album because they weren’t “covering anything political” and that it was “too much of a hot topic right now.” What a privilege it is to be able to choose not to be political in this day and age.

The process of rolling out this album has turned out to be incredibly empowering. Going all out and doing things in this unconventional way has received a great response and it’s emboldened me to go even harder with it. Turns out people are ready for rap songs about surveillance and structural racism. I went from feeling like I needed to get covered by publications to remain relevant to being reminded that they actually need me more than I need them. The lesson to take away from all of this is that we have more control over our own destiny as artists than we are often told that we have.

Parallel World is out now on all platforms


Parallel World Syllabus

Books / Writing

- “The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times—all because I’m black” by Desmond Cole (Toronto Life)

- Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

- How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

- Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing

- The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States by Samuel A. Floyd

TV / Film / Theatre

- I May Destroy You

- Dave Chappelle, 8:46

- Fairview

Resources re. Gentrification in Toronto

Encampment Support Network, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Keep Your Rent Toronto, People’s Defence TO, Shelter and Housing Justice Network, Toronto Tiny Shelters, Community Fridges Toronto

Music

I created this playlist of songs that inspired me when I was working on the album. Lots of political music but also tracks from genres that influenced me such as UK drill, classic grime, electronic music and some contemporary rap that I’ve liked recently


The Legend of Rollie: Some Links from the Past

  • Really nice to have a conversation with Tom Murray at the Edmonton Journal to discuss the making of the album. It’s harder than ever to get covered by a mainstream newspaper with smaller culture sections and less of a focus on the arts so I feel absolutely blessed that they still wanted to talk to me in 2021

  • Kyle Mullin at Complex Canada did a nice piece where they reached out to Manga Saint Hilare, Jacques Greene, Korea Town Acid and myself about different aspects of the album. Definitely a different angle than other features I’ve done recently

  • My dream of doing a basketball podcast is finally a reality after my chat with Sean Woodley at Locked On Raptors on their May 6th episode. Listen to me struggle to remember the full opening day roster for the 2013-2014 Raptors and reminisce about the magical summer of 2019 when we won the Larry O’B

  • Today is the final Bandcamp Friday where they waive their fees and artists get 100% of the proceeds. If you've been thinking of picking up Parallel World, today would be a great day to do it. Thanks to everyone who has copped the album so far!

Pick up the limited edition silver mirror vinyl while supplies last

Parallel World long sleeve shirts are shipping out next week and they come with a free download of the album

I also put together some bundles for people including autographed copies of the vinyl, take a look at all the options on my merch page


You can find me on my websiteTwitterInstagramSpotifyApple Music and Bandcamp. I DJ on Twitch every Saturday at 7 PM EST