Whether it is the unique animation-style music videos, canned lemonade, organic environment flourishing within a warehouse in Chicago, or Summer Smash music festival; Cole Bennett, 24, has quickly become a prominent figure in the music industry and he is nowhere near slowing down. What originally formed as an idea for a blog, quickly became more after Bennett swiftly established himself as a prominent figure amongst the hip-hop/rap community. Bennett released his first music video in high school, at the age of 17. Thus, his brand, Lyrical Lemonade, has spearheaded itself to be a symbol of attaining any dream, no matter the depth.
Big City Mindset
Bennett was born in Plano, Illinois about an hour from the bright lights of Chicago. The opportunity the “windy city” screams called to the young entrepreneur at a young age. Bennett made trips to Chicago every weekend after getting his driver’s license. There, he explored the depths of the city and documented everything he experienced. Most of which included attending events for rising artists: Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins, Chance the Rapper, etc. The footage was edited together and uploaded onto his YouTube Channel. There, viewers watched show recaps, documentaries, and local cyphers. Bennett studied digital cinema at DePaul University but stopped attending because of business goals taking his mind elsewhere. Thereafter, Lyrical Lemonade was born, no longer just a high school dream scribbled in a notebook.
“You’d see Vic Mensa just walking down the street. Everything was right in front of you. It was all happening right in front of your eyes, and it was the craziest thing.” – Cole Bennett, COMPLEX Interview
In 2017, Bennett began working with artists like Lil Pump, Ski Mask the Slump God, and Famous Dex. This made him one of the most in-demand video directors in the market, for a quickly developing punk subgenre formed from the work of the SoundCloud youth. At the age of 22, he had already created more than 300 music videos. What made him stick out was his specific editing style. All of his videos add animation to enhance the classic editing done. You can watch Bennett’s work develop in his Music Video Reels located on the Lyrical Lemonade YouTube channel.
After working with other big-name artists like Juice Wrld, Kanye West, Trippie Redd, etc., Bennett found his work reaching outside of Chicago. But, no matter what offer came his way, the “windy city” continued to drag him in. Although Bennett admitted moving his business to larger cities, like New York or Los Angeles, would make his business grow even faster, he wanted to stay where the roots of his goals lie.
“I am in a position where I can help possibly make Chicago that next city, the next L.A., in terms of resources and hubs,” he says, “and really just make people more aware of the music culture here. For some people, it’s beneficial to move out of Chicago once you’re in a position to do so, but I think that there is also something to say about trying to give back to the city.” – Cole Bennett, COMPLEX Interview
Bennett recognizes the harsh environment that surrounds the small communities of Chicago, which makes venues nervous to book hip-hop events in the city. But, Bennett has worked to break this stigma down by hosting Lyrical Lemonade’s first summer music festival, Summer Smash, 2018. Many artists who worked closely with Bennett supported the event and what it stood for the community. These artists included Trippie Redd, Lil Skies, Lil Mosey, Gunna, Ski Mask the Slump God, and Famous Dex. All of which, and more, performed that year. On the first day, the event brought in over 11,000 people, and the next year 20,000 people. Sadly the festival was canceled this year due to COVID-19, but Bennett is planning on making the festival a three-day event for summer 2021.
“We want Chicago to be the place everyone wants to be. As much violence as there is going on in the summer, there are just as many amazing things happening. Festival season is always such a highlight in all these kids’ lives in Chicago. It’s just a fun time to be around, so it was important for me to bring something like this to Chicago. It inspires people and gives them a fun, safe place to go and have a good time for a weekend. It’s something to look forward to. Something to take pride in, really.” – Cole Bennett, COMPLEX Interview
Supporting the Dreaming Youth
In May 2019, Bennett mentioned in a TED talk how important it is for not only society but his work environment to be full of “glass-half-full” thinkers. He hints most of the business’s success has come from the small space full of people who like to share what seems like crazy ideas. Then, they find ways to make their ideas work and end up making it happen. Bennett shared the importance for people to have a safe space where they can have conversations about hip-hop, where it currently is, and where they would like to take it. Due to this close space, everything Lyrical Lemonade produces originates from the office building and the collaboration of the people within it. The team has forged a lot of trust within the hip-hop/rap and youth community because of their focus on quality over quantity. It shows the amount of time they are willing to put into their projects to make them attuned to their audience and staying aware of what they want to see next. But, this means they must be selective in their work and partnerships with artists. However, being selective has its perks for many young artists. As seen with artists like Lil Tecca and Lil Mosey, Cole Bennett directing a music video is a major step into the music industry. Juice Wrld signed a $3 million record deal with Interscope not long after his first music video, “All Girls Are the Same,” with Bennett released. Therefore, Lyrical Lemonade has become a major platform for rising rappers to take that step from SoundCloud status to record label status. In turn, portraying Lyrical Lemonade’s focus on the future of hip-hop/rap.
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade
It is apparent Bennett craves crazy ideas, and that is evident in the new projects being produced rapidly. Although many predicted a line of lemonade from the company, I don’t think we expected it so soon. In a 2018 interview with Gary Vaynerchuk, Bennett first entertained the idea, which warranted many phone calls from beverage companies looking to partner with the influencer. Bennett launched his cans of lemonade in 2019 at large entertainment events like Summer Smash and ComplexCon. Now, he sells them on the Lyrical Lemonade website in 4-packs. As part of Lyrical Lemonade’s seven-year anniversary, limited edition collectors cans were available for not only fans of Lyrical Lemonade, but fans of artists working closely with Bennett. Artists with special cans include Lil Tecca, Blueface, Polo G, and The Kid Laroi. Bennett hopes to make the lemonade available in stores across the country soon.
Another project Bennett recently dropped in April 2020 was, “The Life of Lenny.” This project includes a series of short animated clips portraying the different adventures of wooden-like friend, Lenny. Lenny was created to portray positive vibes, especially during a time of COVID-19 fear and mourning for those in the Juice Wrld community. “The Life of Lenny” is found on Lyrical Lemonade 2’s YouTube channel and Lenny sometimes makes a cameo in Bennett’s music videos.
Other projects Bennett hopes to pursue in the future are other mediums of entertainment including cartoons, feature films, TV shows, and books. But one thing that will always stay constant is Bennett’s love for Chicago, work in music videos, roots in hip-hop/rap, and faith in the dreams of the youth.
Featured Image: Thred
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