Chicago rapper Korporate’s DIY strategy to boost his exposure created a lane that has led to a variety of opportunities.
But there’s more to his popular “#BlackChicagoBeLike” videos than surface-level information — he’s speaking on a part of Chicago that isn’t glamorous by any means.
Korporate acts in, narrates and produces the videos where many of the actors are friends of his. They portray the South Sider going about his business when a plot twist sets him up for an adventure, and some have reached over a million views.
“Originally, the concept of producing content came about as a result of trying to execute a marketing strategy from my music; I pretty much started doing music first. And that came about for me starting with spoken word in high school,” said Donovan Price, who performs as Korporate. “I didn’t expect [the success]; it was just a concept that I was experimenting with as a result of having friends out of town. They always had difficulty with understanding me when we were in casual conversation. So that is when I realized that Chicago really does have its own dictionary.
“When I say Black Chicago, it’s actually not in regard to ethnicity, but more so in regard to the other side of Chicago like the black market. The Chicago that’s opposite of the Bean [Cloud Gate], the Magnificent Mile and the North Side.”
Korporate is as proficient at monetizing social media as the best of them — including the Kardashians and other Instagram models. Between YouTube (1.7 million subscribers), Twitter (22,000 followers), and Instagram (1.1 million followers), Korporate appears to move the needle at will.
“The influence is definitely a blessing,” said Korporate, a Corliss High School alumnus. “I understand that I have to influence; so you know every available opportunity that I have, I use it to put something on people’s minds. Even with narrated stories that I do, though they may be very entertaining and humorous, the most important part of those videos for me is the moral of the story.
“At the end of the day after all the fun and games, I want you to be able to take something away from the videos. … It’s more of a blessing when I take that influence and actually use it effectively.”
Korporate’s influence goes far beyond social media. In fact, he believes the message — on mental health, relationships, family — in his videos changes attitudes.
“Black men who are deep in the streets come up to me and say: ‘Man, you really influenced me to reevaluate how I operate on a day-to-day basis,’ ” said Korporate. “... I originally produced these videos for the sake of trying to push my music to another level, but I never would have thought it would come to the point where [the videos] actually saved lives.”
Due to Jerk 48, Cloudz Smoke Shop and Chicago’s Home of Chicken & Waffles often being the backdrop in the videos, those Black-owned businesses say they’ve seen a bump in business due to their association with Korporate.
Korporate’s partnership with Jerk 48 and Cloudz Smoke Shop co-owners Jairus and Jamaya Brunner could land him in the ownership group when the husband-wife team opens another location.
“Me and Korporate have a relationship that has stretched over a five-, six-year term,” said Jairus Brunner. “Generally, we do four to five commercials with Korporate a year. Every quarter, we use social media as an outlet because a lot of kids don’t listen to the radio or watch TV anymore; everyone’s more YouTube- and social media-based.
“If you want to get your product out there, it’s a good way for good exposure, being synonymous with him. And now he has advertised for other businesses, [but] I think that [Jerk 48] is probably the one that’s most recognizable with Korporate himself.”
And what’s next for Korporate? He recently released a new album and he plans to add an interactive component to his videos.
“For example, at the end of the video, there may be a scenario where I’m being interrogated by the police about a situation,” said Korporate. “And at the end of the video what’s going to make it interactive is that, let’s say I have the detectives at the table, and then I’m going to stop and look into the camera and be like: ‘What y’all want me to do? Y’all want me to keep it ‘100’ [honest] or keep my mouth closed? …. Drop in the comments what you want me to do.’ And whatever the majority of the comments say, that’s how the next video is going to be, and that’s the direction and it’s gonna go.”