The way today’s music icons emerge has shifted right along with the music. Social media has become the foundation of many newer artists’ careers, along with helping established figures spread their message.
Memes help too, with a fair share of artists getting their start from photos and videos that spread around Instagram and Twitter.
There’s no shortage of people trying to take advantage of this phenomenon, but very few actually make it. The way it’s looking now, Martin Vo, better known as F0BG0D, might be the next to do the almost-impossible.
He recently passed the 30,000 follower mark on Instagram, and his streams are going up every day. One of his latest singles, #TheStove, is a hard-hitting trap cut that’s coming close to breaking 250,000 plays on Spotify.
This success has inspired him to do a music video for the track, which he’s never done before. In the midst of all this, F0BG0D took some time out to speak with me about his origins, his promotion secrets, the upcoming video and more.
He only moved to Orange County from Vietnam in 2011, and his name is tied to the experience:
“So the ‘F0B’ in my name [refers to] FOB, which means ‘fresh off the boat,’ [a term] for immigrants. I came to Cali with zero English skills. I got bullied a lot for it, and they called me FOB. Now I use the name to embrace it. You’re actually one of the few people I’ve told about that connection.”
In the years since he’s been here, his English has improved drastically, and nothing apart from a slight accent gives away that he wasn’t born and raised here.
He’s also made a point to extend his network outside of SoCal, linking up with several artists in the Bay Area. One of these artists is 24kgoldn, a collaborator of his who recently signed a million-dollar deal with Columbia Records.
He, like F0BG0D, is only 18.
F0BG0D first heard of 24k during a live stream from hip-hop focused media outlet No Jumper. He reached out and they started working on a song, which he describes as one of his favorite tracks, although it has yet to be finished.
They did end up completing a collaboration, though, which you can listen to here.
As I got to know his discography more, I noticed that pop culture references, especially nods to classic American animated shows, are a common thread.
He has a track titled Lightning McKing, and #TheStove’s intro is a sample from the hit show Phineas and Ferb. He’s also wearing a SpongeBob shirt in the latter’s cover.
I asked about this, and wondered whether his upbringing in Vietnam meant he had a different diet of TV content.
As he tells it, though, kids in Vietnam have the same access to cartoons and other animated shows as their American counterparts.
When it comes to anime, his top picks are the never-ending One Piece and JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure. For cartoons, Regular Show takes first place in his heart. He gave an honorable mention to American Dad, too.
Steering back toward music, I wanted to see who he thought, outside of himself, was poised to blow up in the coming years.
He shouts out a contemporary named So Low, along with an artist that goes by EGOVERT, who, so far, has the most played song of the year on the famed Elevator YouTube channel.
Locally speaking, though, he feels the hip-hop scene in Orange County is due for a renewal, and he believes he’ll be able to bring about changes through his own work.
Realizing we had barely discussed this work, I wanted to find out more about the upcoming music video for #TheStove.
It’s being directed in part by Truly Young, who some might know is the daughter of producer, rapper and industry titan, Dr. Dre. Rising videographer and USC film student Elan Bia is also directing.
When asked why he felt #TheStove was the song to set his debut video to, he answers plainly: It’s been his fastest growing track to date. But it wasn’t meant to be that way.
“It started out as a troll song … my intention was not to be taken seriously,” he reveals.
“You know why it’s called #TheStove? It’s a parody of #TheWoah. I wanted people to do the Woah dance to it, which is why it had that kind of beat. All these industry people started telling me ‘Alright, that’s your best song.’ I thought, ‘Really?’”
Because of this response, he’s taken extra care to promote it. For him, memes are the lifeblood of the modern marketing strategy, especially in music.
“Memes are easy [promotion] because everyone can relate to [what you post] and spread it quicker. If you just show me your music, I probably won’t be impressed, but if you attach something funny I’ll probably show my friends.”
“It just keeps spreading, and everyone wants to be involved, especially with the Tik Tok challenges and all that. … I’m telling you right now, Tik Tok is the wave. I’m going to try and promote less on Instagram and focus more on Tik Tok.”
Specifically, he plans on working with influencers already established on the platform to do videos to his songs and get them trending on a larger scale.
In case you didn’t see the videos, iLOVEFRiDAY succeeded with this strategy back when they were promoting their track, “Mia Khalifa.”
He also drops some secrets on how one can get content featured on Worldstar Hip Hop’s Instagram page, which boasts a following of nearly 22 million.
“You know where they get their content from? Reddit. I post my stuff on Reddit all the time, and they pick it up without me paying anything. They have people paying $3,000 for one post, when they shouldn’t be paying a dime.”
One could say he’s developed his marketing and social media skills as much as his art. His drive, however, is founded in his love for creation and the desire to spark that in others.
“My goal is to have a big enough platform to inspire the next generation of creatives … now everybody in my area wants to do the same thing as me, and I like that, I like influencing people.”