“I randomly asked Siri what the No. 1 song in the world was,” Stacia Mac, Polo G’s “momager,” recalls. It was a conversation she was happy to have. “She said, ‘Rapstar’! I was so proud of my son at that moment!”
Getting “Rapstar” to top charts globally in 2021 proved a family affair from the jump. “We talked internally as a family,” Mac notes. “Together, we decided Polo’s album-launch strategy should lead with the ‘Rapstar’ single rollout. The label wanted another song for the first single, but we stood our ground. We appreciate their insights and all they do, but we know the fan base – we knew what they wanted to hear.”
As such, in her management role, Mac found herself going 24/7 once “Rapstar’s” ingenious slow-trickle campaign of leaks and snippets kicked off a social-media sensation. “We saw all the views and decided to go all in with it,” says Mac, who aspires to moguldom herself. “Inclusive engagement across platforms had to be properly rolled out. That was really important. We found it really played to TikTok’s strengths, and the song just went crazy viral there. You could immediately see the impact first week, with ‘Rapstar’ entering the charts at No. 1, and it just kept skyrocketing.”
Following her son’s triumphs, Mac went from a career as a Chicago property manager to building her own company, ODA Management. At ODA, she directs the careers of Polo G, his sister Leilani, and dancehall star China Doll; at the same time, Mac is developing new artists, having forged a new label partnership with Geffen, House of Legends – all while expanding into creating podcasts alongside industry seminars and events (she’s debuting her first “Industry Cheat Code” workshop in Atlanta on Dec. 5).
“Coming from Chicago gives you a drive like no other,” Mac explains. “Seriously, it’s the secret sauce. Living there, that hustle just gets embedded inside of you. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Once you learn the streets of Chicago, take it from me, you can maneuver any boardroom.”
VARIETY: When did you know you and Polo had a hit on your hands with “Rapstar”?
MAC: I’ve always had a good ear. From [Polo G’s 2019 hit] “Pop Out” on, I’ve been able to predict which of his songs would be most impactful – and I always knew “Rapstar” was one of those.
How did you pivot to the track’s unique marketing rollout based on a slow drip of teased snippets and artful leaks across socials?
It’s funny — when Polo has a hit, he likes to sit on it. I don’t know why, but he does! So he finally brought the song to me, and then it immediately went viral everywhere thereafter. It was just floating around on social media with millions of views. Seeing those metrics, I was like, “You have to put this song out – you’ve sat on it long enough.” And it was one of our best rollouts – an instant success. I mean, there are few songs or artists who have ever had the kind of first-week numbers that “Rapstar” amassed.
“Rapstar” exploded memorably on TikTok. How did Polo’s social strategy evolve in this process?
He was strongest on YouTube. Polo had his biggest presence there; that’s where most of his fans lived, so he’d always include a heavy YouTube component at the start of his rollouts. Polo would also sometimes drop things he was working on there and test the waters with it. Depending on their success, some of his YouTube things would become songs he’d eventually release on DSPs, or he’d just leave them on his channel. So he did that, too, with “Rapstar” – and yeah, it went crazy. The rest is history.
With “Rapstar,” it seemed like practically every line became a meme.
That’s not a coincidence. We’re seeing that data, too, because that’s how Polo structures his songs. We don’t leave anything up to chance. Everything we do with Polo’s career is highly strategic. So Polo makes sure in his songwriting process that, bar for bar, he doesn’t just put words in randomly. There’s no dead space: he knows the hook is important – but it also has to be captionable, quotable, tweet-able, GIF-able. Every line has to be something memorable enough so that someone wants to use it as a caption, hashtag, or meme.
So, from your perspective, what was the tipping point for “Rapstar” – the social media moment, a key synch, radio add, or specific playlist/platform that amplified the record?
Our social media strategy worked because it was truly about was the fans. Of course, playlisting played a role, but it was the core fan base elevating the streams and downloads; fans just starting their own movement on social media proved the most pivotal part of the rollout. So we prepared and executed plans for maximum fan engagement literally every single day until “Rapstar” dropped – and it worked. After all that, we knew that the day the song came out, it was going to go nuts like it did. By doing the release properly, fans were receptive because it became something that they were really waiting for – and already having a conversation around.
To your mind, what was it about “Rapstar” that grabbed listeners? Was it the chorus? The beat? The lyrics? The hook? The melody? The message?
It’s the personal aspect that always grabs people in his songs. He does it in such a way that’s so subtle and very relatable. Polo has fought through some shit and been through some stuff, and he knows all these shiny things he’s attained from his success means nothing until he heals himself. That relatability to me is what makes his songs go. His storytelling takes you on a ride where you can see and feel everything that he’s feeling and can relate to it in real time.
During the trajectory of “Rapstar,” what was your proudest moment, personally, in terms of your contribution?
My son having the No. 1 song in the world two weeks in a row! That was it, especially me backing that play when others doubted it – you know, “We don’t think that’s the song.” That was gratifying. Don’t ever doubt your gut. Go go with it, and stay true to what works for you – not what other people think.
TikTok was where many first encountered “Rapstar.” In your opinion, where else are you seeing music discovery happen these days?
I’m seeing a big impact from gaming placements. Gaming has clearly increased our downloads and streams.
Is there anyone else you’d like to shout out for helping make “Rapstar” the phenomenon that it was?
It’s definitely a group effort with Polo. His core team definitely couldn’t do it without our label publicist, Mike Navarra. Mike’s instrumental in getting Polo the publicity he needs, when he needs it: once we’re pushing something, Mike’s like, “Okay, I’m going to get this out there, everywhere.” I tell people all the time, if you’re at Times Square when the ball drops and nobody knows about it, then it didn’t happen. Mike makes it happen. And the radio team has been amazing in rolling us out properly, as well as our whole Columbia/Sony family, too. Of course, Steve “Steve-O” Carless, my co-management partner, is always there to back our plays. Polo’s older sister, Leilani, and the rest of our immediate family have also been crucial to our success. I wish I could take all the credit, but I’m blessed to have an amazing team.
In the wake of the “Rapstar” phenomenon, have you worked with any new artists, songwriters, or producers this year who really impressed you?
I’m excited about working with my daughter, Leilani. Seeing her dedication and getting to see where she’ll be a year from now is exciting. I just like to see the way that my children grow.