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Social media inspires hip-hop king’s #Hashtag smartphone

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An addiction to social media inspired the smartphone branded by South Africa’s leading hip hop artist, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

In his musical career, South Africa’s king of hip hop, Cassper Nyovest, has always beaten his own path. He released his first two albums on his own label, Family Tree. They were massive hits, both reaching Platinum status by selling more than 50 000 units each.

The second of these, entitled Reflioe (his real name), went gold in a single day when he filled the Dome, a 20 000-seat venue north of Johannesburg, by including a copy of the album with every ticket bought. The launch event was part-sponsored by AG Mobile, the local smartphone brand that is also the fastest-growing in South Africa.

That sponsorship started a relationship that will culminate, in the next fortnight, with the release of the first smartphone designed by a South African artist.

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Cassper Nyovest with the AG #Hashtag smartphone

“They were keen to empower us as a team,” he said before the unveiling of the phone last week. “We started a conversation around developing a phone I would help design. After a few meetings, we came up with concept of the AG #Hashtag. The reason was that I am addicted to is social media.”

Like AG in the mobile market, Cassper has one of the fastest growing followings in local social media. He has passed the half-million mark on Twitter, is followed by 766 000 people on Instagram, and is close to 2-million Facebook Likes.

His public life is lived through these outlets, which provide him both with a powerful marketing tool and a platform from which to counter media mischief.

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Nyovest with Gadget editor-in-chief Arthur Goldstuck at the launch of the AG #Hashtag

“I’ve always been a boy who messed with tech, with cellphones and video games. But I have always been addicted to social media, starting when it was just Mxit, then Facebook, then Twitter. I’ve always been that guy on social media and that’s how we built our brand. Before my music started playing on radio, I already had a big following on social media and it’s really empowered me.”

At times, it’s also attracted the wrong kind of attention when he has treated the reply window like a weapon. But he insists he has toned down.
“I’m just a very honest person and I’m opinionated but I’ve learned to grow more responsible. I came from the streets where I don’t have a boss and can say anything I want. But once I started dealing with other brands, I understood brand association. I’m more calm now and don’t share my opinion as much in public.”

The temptation is always there for artists to leverage social media as a sales platform. Cassper does it only indirectly.

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Cassper Nyovest with the AG #Hashtag smartphone

“I’m not like a guerilla marketer in terms of selling music. I don’t ask people to buy my music. I just try to put out good music and convince people to listen. I don’t like to fill up my timeline with price tags.”

The #Hashtag was designed to match the artist’s persona.

“I wanted the phone to stand out when it lies next to other phones on a table. I wanted it to be the phone you see from far. At first everyone was against it being red, but I convinced them. MTN doesn’t usually range red phones. The reason for being red was that it was inspired by one of my favourite shoes, the Nike Yeezy Red October sneakers.”

The shoes also happen to be a collaboration between a hip hop artist and a major brand, in this case Kanye West and Nike.

Cassper made three other demands: “It has to be fast because I’m a very impatient person, so the Internet also has to be fast. It should take good pics because I travel a lot and I like to capture moments. And it has to have serious battery life.”

The result is a 4G phone with a 5.5” display, 13MP rear camera and f/2.4 aperture, 1.5GHz Octa-core processor, and a fast-charging battery.

The founder of AG Mobile, Anthony Goodman, was happy to oblige.

“We were keen to follow the specs Cassper wanted, because it leads to what the consumer wants,” he said. “It wasn’t challenging, because it’s something we wanted to do: we wanted a high speed phone for a social media consumer, and the rest had to follow suit. We all worked together to make sure it happened.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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