Billie Eilish

A hip hop artist turns a TikTok hit into a record deal

Good morning. The latest TikTok trend is “clutter-core,” when all available home surfaces are covered in tchotchkes and mementos. If not cleaning my room counts as participating, I think I could become a real leader in this movement.

P.S. We’re heading into a long weekend, so the next edition to hit your inboxes (after this really good one you’re about to read) will come on Tuesday.

Indie Artist Signs with DefJam via TikTok Hit


Armani White has been in the hip-hop scene since 2014, toured with Vince Staples, and earned the stamp of approval from Pharrell. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that he signed his first ever record deal. So what changed? White made a TikTok hit—to the tune of 41 billion streams.

Here’s how it happened:

  • In February, White uploaded a TikTok with his song “BILLIE EILISH,” which sampled N.O.R.E.’s “Nothin’” and had that hook you’ve probably heard plenty by now: “Glock tucked, big t-shirt, Billie Eilish.”

  • The video went viral and kickstarted a trend in which TikTokers transition from baggy clothes to fancier ones when the beat drops. Over 700,000 videos have used the audio.

  • As the song’s momentum grew, fans wanted it released in full.

But there was one problem: White couldn’t release the song because the sample hadn't been approved for use. Regardless, White continued to post the song on TikTok, and eventually Billie herself posted it.

And it worked: In May, White was cleared to use the sample and finally released the song in its entirety. Since then, it’s racked up 58 million streams on Spotify.

By July, DefJam (which, ironically, owns the N.O.R.E. sample that kept White from releasing the song) signed White to a record deal.

Our Take

While there’s no formula for translating a viral hit into a career, White makes a compelling case for perseverance. By leveraging a large audience like Billie’s and continuing to push the song despite those sample roadblocks, he was able to gain the attention of big-name record labels. The bottom line: Sticking it out matters, but when you need that extra oomph, engaging the fan base of an artist with as much star power as Billie Eilish? Seems to work.

How Should Creators Respond to Public Criticism?

Johnny Harris / NYT Opinion

In August, journalist and YouTuber Johnny Harris covered the origins of European colonialism in a video titled How Europe Stole The World.

Soon after, history creator The Present Past released a critique of Harris’s video—which ended up getting more views than Harris’s original.

The criticism, according to The Past Present: Harris oversimplified and miscalculated.

“Johnny has a laudable goal of wanting to show the origins of European colonialism, but he cuts so many corners that history is sacrificed on the altar of storytelling,” The Present Past said. “In doing so he presents a warped version of what actually happened.”

Harris’s response: “My hope with this series was to give a highly simplified almost ‘story book’ version of a vastly complicated 500-year history so that those who are not usually interested in history could access the broad arc of European imperialism,” Harris commented on the critique video. “I still believe in that goal, but missed the mark with this one.”

Harris then issued corrections on the original video and announced plans to include time-stamped footnotes with sources in future video descriptions.

Our Take

All creators, regardless of niche, have a responsibility to their audience to do their best to tell the truth, especially when it comes to matters of fact. Owning that instead of pushing back seems to have earned Harris more trust.

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More Creators Are Coming to Pre-Roll Ads

Alexander Shatov / Unsplash

I've probably spent a year of my life watching the first five seconds of VRBO ads. What if, instead of those Google Ad campaigns that run in front of YouTube videos, you saw Rhett & Link talk about their new podcast? Or MrBeast share the latest Feastables snack?

That’s YouTube’s goal with a new Promotions tab in YouTube Studio that aims to make buying ads easier for creators. It’ll allow them to bypass Google Ads and instead run their existing content as promotions that play before other videos.

Our Take

This gives creators a more streamlined way to buy and make ads, something reminiscent of Instagram’s boosted posts. We’ll be interested to see how frequently creators put it to use.

🔥 Press Worthy