Lyrical Lemonade: The Revival of Music Video
Written and Illustrated by Abby Nopoulos
In the summer of 1981, MTV debuted on air for the first time ever with the Buggles’s Hit “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and the art of music videos was introduced to America. Even in the early days, MTV was known for walking the line of boundaries, one famous example being the airing of Madonna’s scandalous “Like a Prayer” video. In the early 2000, MTV was the go-to for getting your music video fix, but as the years have passed the showing of music videos has been reduced to YouTube and Instagram ads. Simply put, not as many people have the desire to watch music videos anymore, whether it be because of accessibility or the lack of good content. As streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime entered the picture, cable TV use dwindled alongside the music video market. The industry dried up as they tried to compete with the newest streaming platform. However, like a refreshing drink on a hot summer day, one multimedia company named Lyrical Lemonade is relieving the music video industry of their dehydration, and it’s making the rest of us thirsty.
While Lyrical Lemonade is expansive with their content—from merchandise to music reviews to festival hosting - it’s best known for its music video production and the association with the term “SoundCloud rapper.” The company started roughly 6 years ago, when a senior attending Illinois’ Plano High School by the name of Cole Bennett launched a YouTube channel titled “Lyrical Lemonade.” Bennett knew he wanted to work in the rap industry and was known to have been initially inspired by Chance the Rapper’s videos, alongside other Chicago-based names. Working with what he had available, Bennett started by driving an hour to and from Chicago on the weekends and shooting videos for local rappers with virtually no budget. One of the first rappers that Bennett started to film consistently was Chicago-native Famous Dex, who’s song “Hit Em Wit It” brought Bennett his first million views on YouTube. His big break originated from another Famous Dex video, which caught rapper Soulja Boy’s interest. After Soulja Boy offered Bennett a chance to film, his life changed completely.
With a little clout to his name, Bennett refused to slow down. Soon enough he was working with a wide variety of up-and-coming rappers, including a then 16-year-old Lil Pump. Today, Lyrical Lemonade has nearly 8 million subscribers on YouTube and with Bennett clocking in over 300 music video productions. He has worked with rising names like Lil Skies, Lil Xan, Ski Mask the Slump God, Juice WRLD, Trippie Redd, and so many more. Although fame and fortune are in Bennett’s hands, his dedication to the art of music video is more important than succumbing to the stacks of green proposed by bigger labels.
When asked, Bennett has told multiple sources that he enjoys working with younger artists because of how much more fun they have, combined with the refusal of compromising his creative vision with something else. For him, it’s all about the satisfaction of the artist and the journey of learning. In addition, Bennett is aware that Lyrical Lemonade has the power to give ambitious artists the opportunity of recognition. In Bennett’s interview with the YouTube channel Genius, he said “The YouTube channel has turned into a platform. So, I can really give people opportunities, and I can really break new artists. I can hand-pick someone I really believe in and do a video for them.”
Paired with his honest intentions, one must not forget the actual content he produces. Without a doubt, his music videos are unlike anything else being produced in today’s industry, and they all started with little to no budget. With an Airbnb reservation and his own animation skills, Bennett produced Lil Pump’s “D Rose” video, now with 166 million views and counting. From glowing eyes, to bright-colored line effects, to psychedelic settings—Bennett’s videos are dripping with personality. In the same Genius interview, Bennett emphasized his incorporation of eye-catching color, saying, “That’s what people want to see. They want to see something that makes them happy. Life is too serious.” In more recent videos, such as YNW Melly’s “Mixed Personalities,” the technical effects have advanced significantly. In this particular production, Bennett encased the featured artist Kanye West in a box of shifting grass, and had YNW Melly socializing with human-like robots and 3 headed aliens. The “Mixed Personalities” video just goes to prove that Bennett’s creative style is not only unmatched, but constantly progressing.
Today, Bennett finds himself making videos for Lyrical Lemonade legacies that feature big name rappers, pairings like Juice WRLD and Future or Lil Skies and Wiz Khalifa. Needless to say, his innovative skills have reassured his place in the spotlight. When advertising his new music video releases, viewers rush to see his work as if it was like tuning into MTV. Bennet himself has recognized the similarities between Lyrical Lemonade and MTV, and even telling media outlet Complex, “Lyrical Lemonade takes you back to the roots of what MTV once was, in terms of the music and the videos and people falling in love with all these different factors that go into the music.” Ultimately, by filling the void young Americans didn’t know they had, his work brought fame to rappers that would have never had the same opportunities, all before turning the young age of 23. With Lyrical Lemonade only in the first few years of its existence, what it is going to bring the next few years will undoubtedly quench our thirst.