Saba is Crowned ‘Chicagoan of the Year’ to Cap Off a Life-Changing 2018

“Like keep grindin’ boy, your life can change in one year.” – J. Cole

The Chicago Tribune has named Saba ‘Chicagoan of the Year’ as he wraps up a monstrous 2018 propelled by his sophomore album, CARE FOR ME. The album, which was recently ranked as the number one hip-hop and R&B album of 2018 by DJBooth, has been praised for its incredibly genuine and evocative content which finds Saba navigating his memories and emotions as he works to make sense of the death of his cousin and close collaborator, Walter Long Jr., aka dinnerwithjohn or John Walt, who was killed in February 2017 after being stabbed in Chicago.

While many hip-hop artists and fans (myself included) believe that Saba was snubbed of a Grammy nomination with CARE FOR ME, it’s great to witness this kind of overwhelmingly welcoming reaction to a growing artist who has helped cement Chicago’s status as a breeding ground for hip-hop’s next wave of outstanding talent.

In announcing Saba’s newfound title, Greg Kot from the Chicago Tribune offers his reaction to the songs that, through cathartic bars and stirring beats, so flawlessly convey a feeling of disturbance underscored by a glimmer of hope. He writes, “Rather than wallow in sadness, ‘Care for Me’ sounds by turns angry, mournful, philosophical and inspiring, particularly as it closes with the harrowing ‘Prom/King’ and the hopeful ‘Heaven All Around Me’ (‘No, I can’t feel your pain but I can see the stars’).”

Building on initial success and an established, yet undefined, fan base, Saba embarked on a 27-date nationwide tour this past spring, followed by a festival circuit that kept both new and old supporters satisfied throughout the summer. And he hasn’t let his foot off the gas since. After a Tiny Desk performance in October that saw him mimic the crowding of miscellaneous artifacts by packing the stage with eight of his closest friends and musical confidants (one of them being his dad), he wrapped up the year by heading overseas to rock with kids across Australia, New Zealand and Asia, including an illuminated sold out show in Tokyo.

While CARE FOR ME was the musical highlight of Saba’s 2018, it wasn’t his only offering in a breakout year. “Where It’s At,” “Excited” and “Papaya,” produced by longtime friend and frequent collaborator daedaePIVOT, who also co-executive produced CARE FOR ME in collaboration with Daoud and Saba, represent several of his latest releases, further developing a relatively lo-fi-driven sound that leaves just enough room for a strong voice to cut through and carry listeners throughout a two, three, four or more minute adventure.

Saba also delivered a few collaborative joints, such as the rimshot-popping “Beautiful Smile” with IDK, the uplifting “Stay Right Here” alongside Xavier Omär and fellow Chicagoan Mick Jenkins, as well as “Blood,” a crowd-moving debut release from Pivot Gang, a creative collective that counts Saba as a founding member. He also appeared in tandem with Noname and Smino on “Ace,” a soothing, standout tune from Noname’s critically-acclaimed Room 25.

What really confirms Saba’s status as the leading Chicago citizen of the year, however, is the way he and the Pivot Gang, in which Long is also an original member, celebrated and honored Long’s life through the second annual John Walt Day. The concert/fundraiser/budding holiday tradition, which took place on Nov. 24, 2018 at Concord Music Hall, benefits the John Walt Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower Chicago’s youth with art education and creative opportunity.

Selling out for the second year in a row, John Walt Day featured performances from the entire Pivot Gang, including Frsh Waters, MFn Melo, Joseph Chilliams and, of course, Saba, plus a special appearance from theMIND. With 1,400 fans and notable figures from Long’s family, such as his mother Nachelle Pugh, paying homage to the young artist taken far too soon, the event was a massive success and will serve as an inspiring marker of the progression of Pivot Gang for years to come.

As far as 2019 is concerned, Saba plans to continue to ride the success of CARE FOR ME during the beginning of the year as he tours throughout Europe, hitting Germany, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, among other locations. There are also rumorsthat Saba, Smino and Noname, three of the most influential Chicago-groomed hip-hop artists at the moment, may release a project together. And while it’ll be tough for the 24-year-old to top what was undoubtedly a career-elevating 365 days, albeit laced with heartache, I’m looking forward to consuming whatever he comes with next.

You can read the entire article about Saba’s ‘Chicagoan of the Year’ recognition here, and you can stream his near-if-not-perfect project, CARE FOR ME, below. Congrats on an incredible 2018, Saba!

4 Reasons Why Every Startup Needs to Create Its Own Blog

– Originally published through Voices of The MSU Hatch – 

As an agency-experienced PR student at Michigan State University, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate the many benefits that well-groomed blog content can offer organizations both big and small. In fact, I came up with the idea for this blog channel you are reading now and act as its editor.

It’s rather easy to start a blog — create a new tab on your company’s website or make an account on Medium. However, you’ll need to give people a reason to spend time with your brand, and there’s only one way to actualize this phenomenon: by creating appealing content.

For a startup, blogging comes in many shapes and sizes. But the process begins with determining who your audience includes and thinking critically about the topics they’ll find most intriguing. For example, our blog’s primary audience consists of young entrepreneurs and early-stage startup owners, as well as anyone who’s involved with entrepreneurship at Michigan State. The goal of our blog is to not only provide useful insight and ideas about starting a business, but to tell stories from The Hatch and MSU Entrepreneurship that readers will find interesting. In the end, we want to increase student and alumni involvement in campus entrepreneurship, as well as position our organization as a fresh source of startup-related guidance.

A glimpse of what some of our readers may look like. Pictured are the winners of the 2018 GreenLight Michigan Business Model Competition, hosted by Spartan Innovations. (Photo: John McGraw Photography)

Thought leadership, employee profiles, how-tos, features, company news and updates, opinion pieces, and more are all popular forms of writing that your startup’s blog could embody. Among these, thought leadership is one of the most widely adopted themes. It involves exploring trends throughout the larger industry landscape that your business competes in and providing original insight regarding these attitudes or behaviors. (This blog is considered a thought leadership piece.)

One effective way to shape your content focus is to do some research and explore your competitors’ blogs to discover what they’re writing about.

~ Scroll down to discover an outstanding list of blog post options. ~

Now that you have some sense of where to start when producing compelling blog content, you may be wondering, “Why should I make such an effort in the first place?” Here are four reasons to consider.

1. To Increase Site Traffic and Generate Leads

First and foremost, blogging will increase traffic to your site or other owned page and generate leads and sales opportunities. As a consumer, do you frequently visit a brand’s site unless you’re interested in learning more about the company and what product/service it offers? For most, the answer is no.

A well-written blog can change that.

Although there are plenty of marketing tactics focused on generating leads, very few are more organic than a blog. This kind of content marketing will allow you to capture attention through a distinct avenue and engage individuals using something more unique than boring product information. If readers are intrigued by your writing, they’ll be enticed to browse your site and discover what else is available.

To ensure you reach the right people, however, it’s critical to craft blogs with the interests of your audience in mind.

2. To Shape the Image and Voice of Your Brand

As a startup, differentiating your brand is of the utmost importance.

Entrepreneurs need to do everything in their power to positively position their brand in the mind of a consumer, whether it’s the first or fiftieth impression. This is especially true for a young business attempting to enter a highly competitive industry. By blogging in a consistent and genuine manner, you can shape the image and voice of your company to reflect its ideas and values.

Look at the attitudes that summarize your company’s culture and implement some of these aspects into your blog content. If you’re a more serious, down-to-earth team, your writing should reflect these beliefs. If your team is unconventional and somewhat goofy, don’t be afraid to give readers a sense of the way you collectively think and act.

Lastly, try to focus on subjects that will strengthen and reflect various elements of your mission. Understand the mutual convictions you share with your audience. In addition, make an effort to write in an understandable and friendly manner, and avoid using a lot of generic industry buzzwords as these won’t truly distinguish your ideas.

3. To Demonstrate Industry-Relevant Knowledge and Insight

As I mentioned earlier, thought leadership is one of the most popular blog themes for businesses of all kinds — and for good reason. Demonstrating an attitude of forward-thinking shows that your business is actively exploring the premier trends and next big innovations within your industry. Not only does it reflect in-depth knowledge, it positions your brand as a leader and your blog as a progressive source of information.

Plus, as a young startup owner, developing thought leadership pieces will help you learn more about trends and top-of-mind topics that are shaping your industry. By refining your own perspective on best practices and important shifts, you’ll be prepared to answer tough questions about how your startup is prepared for the future when it comes time to pitch your idea to potential investors or participate in an interview.

To gain a better comprehension of thought leadership content and what it looks like, check out these 10 awesome examples.

4. To Encourage Creativity Among Employees

Although there are plenty of business benefits to blogging, it should always act as a fun, creative outlet where founders and employees alike can express originality and hone their writing skills. Being an entrepreneur or working for a startup can involve many hectic and tedious activities, but taking the time to create a unique piece of writing is a perfect way to remain productive while refocusing energy.

Not only will this help your startup achieve its content goals, employees will feel an enhanced level of satisfaction and creativity. They may even feel inspired to share their work on their own social media.

Furthermore, writing is a powerful skill in business communications. Consistent blogging will significantly advance your writing ability and, therefore, further the success of your startup and your career.

Read more about why writing in business is so important.

It takes time to realize the full potential of your startup’s blog, but remember to enjoy the journey and celebrate symbolic milestones.

Now, get to writing!

~ Over 70 different blog content options to spur your motivation ~

An Open Letter to The Digital Spirit of Shinola

Dear Shinola,

My name is Gerard Smith and I’m a senior at Michigan State University studying advertising and PR. As part of a 400-level course, New Media Driver’s License, I’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly study and analyze your digital marketing strategy during the past few months. From social media, inbound marketing, and SEO, to the Shinola website and its mobile capability, I’ve been very impressed with the overall consistency and functionality of your digital properties.

The Shinola website is my favorite element of your digital presence as it provides visitors with a distinct and seamless user experience, both on computers and mobile devices. It’s well-designed, well-rounded, and easy to explore, while also offering compelling background information about Shinola and its products. The page that peaks my intrigue the most, however, is the blog. Or, as it’s more appropriately titled due to the nature of your business, “The Journal.”

Presented as “An Editorial Hub Dedicated to the Spirit of Shinola,” The Journal is as genuine as it’s engaging. By telling in-depth stories about the crafting of featured Shinola products, the lives and careers of outstanding team members, the passions of various social entrepreneurs from across the country through its #RollUpOurSleeves series, and more, Shinola gives individuals a unique reason to spend time with the brand — one unrelated to shopping. Using well-written and journalistic-styled copy, eye-catching images, and professional, attention-wary video, Shinola relays extraordinary adventures surrounding both people and products.

As an avid tennis player, I enjoyed the story of Kamau Murray and his XS Tennis Foundation, a nonprofit tennis facility that offers tennis training and academic tutoring to underserved youth in the South Side of Chicago. As someone who was born in Detroit and lives right outside the city to this day, I was inspired by the tale of Mama Shu and Avalon Village, a community enhancement initiative focused on neighborhood beautification and youth development.

Indeed, from a more formal content marketing perspective, The Journal represents a significant foundation on which Shinola should continue building.

Shinola is a young luxury fashion brand. And luxury fashion marketing and advertising is a highly competitive landscape. With so much quality content being produced and promoted every day, young fashion brands that are still fully refining their personality and solidifying themselves in the larger industry need to capitalize on any kind of unusual consumer positioning angle they can acquire. Besides offering stylish and hand-assembled products, Shinola’s primary point of positioning lies in its association with contemporary urban Detroit and the city’s well-known resurgence. A clear reflection of this positioning effort can be seen strung across the main entrance of each brick and mortar store, where “Detroit” acts as the subheading to a slightly larger “Shinola.”

By aligning the brand with the idea of being a modern-day underdog, Shinola appeals to Millennial consumers who have a connection to Detroit, live in an urban setting, or view themselves as rising stars. In addition, since its founding in 2013, Shinola has further cemented its Detroit affiliation by continuously making a positive community impact through employment and facility operations, while simultaneously adding a sense of excitement and energy to the growing culture of entrepreneurship.

The spirit of Shinola embodies an attitude so definitively complementary to the spirit of Detroit, and it’s an attitude that appeals to many people, not just those from the 313. Therefore, the establishment of a platform to tell inspiring, true stories of craftsmanship, individualism, entrepreneurship, social impact, style, and much more is incredibly insightful and on-brand. Most importantly, this content deeply interests a target audience composed of individualistic Millennials whom appreciate relevant stories that reflect their own values. In turn, many of these Millennials will become site visitors, then readers, site browsers, sales leads, converted customers, repeat customers, and, finally, brand loyal.

I strongly support Shinola’s current content and inbound marketing strategy as it relates to The Journal, and encourage your company to continue investing time and money to discover and document these one of a kind stories. Delivering content that is genuine and intriguing, yet demonstrative of brand positioning is difficult to accomplish. It’s even more difficult to motivate a person to make a purchase while remaining humble in approach. However, Shinola is in a strong position to fulfill this goal and improve sales using inbound marketing.

As a native Detroiter and Shinola customer, I may be biased in my support. But, through research and breakdown, I believe this approach to creating a positive audience connection will continue to be worthwhile. I want to congratulate your brand on creating an outstanding digital strategy and can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Gerard Smith

A Team of MSU Student Developers Created 4 Apps in Only 2 Months — And They’re About to Do It Again

The MSU Hatch Dev Shop team. Pictured from left to right: Aakash Bhargava (‘18), Gustavo Fernandes (‘18), Yash Vesikar (‘20), Chess Luo (‘19), and Simeon Goolsby (‘18)

Continue reading “A Team of MSU Student Developers Created 4 Apps in Only 2 Months — And They’re About to Do It Again”