Cole Bennett is this generation's Rick Rubin
It’s Summer, 1983.
The Beastie Boys are a couple of girl-crazy high schoolers looking for a DJ to run their next show in lower Manhattan. A friend convinces them he “knows a guy” and guides them to a random dorm room at NYU. They knock on a door, and someone (scruffy and groggy) answers.
It’s Rick Rubin.
The rest is history.
Rick Rubin is arguably one of the greatest musical minds of our day. As Def Jam Records’ founder, he and Russell Simmons put artists like LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, and Run DMC on the map, laying root to New York’s early hip-hop scene.
But Rick is special.
Sure, he’s connected. It’s more than that. His value expands beyond simply having the right “plugs.”
Rick was special because he knows how to be an integrated piece, a natural extension to every artist’s creative mind.
His understanding of how to get the best out of an artist shifted him from being just another producer to being the music mogul.
And almost 40 years later, The Rick Rubin Effect is happening all over again.
His name is Cole Bennett.
The new Rick Rubin
Cole Bennett is the hardest working man in entertainment, and he’ll get what he wants because he has the right mind and (mind)set. He’s proving that anyone who wants something bad enough will find a way to get what they want, especially in an industry controlled by the establishment (AKA legacy labels, agents, and publishing houses).
But things are changing.
Small town kid. Big dreams
If Cole is known for two things, it’s his love for Chicago and hip & hop.
Raised by his single mother in small-town Plano, Illinois, Cole always gravitated towards something bigger than himself. He was drawn to Chicago and its vibrant hip-hop community. There was unique energy to it in the early 2010s.
In high school, he made a YouTube vlog called Lyrical Lemonade, a way for him to share his video work. Cole would drive to the city with his camera and document everything he saw, hopping from show to show, filming local artists, and recapping shows with friends for fun.
And he’d even end up at venues witnessing dudes like Chance the Rapper, who was unknown and just getting started at the time with the famous Acid Rap mixtape.
Here’s the first music video he ever uploaded. Keep this in mind visually, so you know how far he’s come as you read on.
Then college came knocking, so Cole enrolled at DePaul University.
But after sitting in countless film classes where professors would tell him it takes “years” to become a successful director/producer, he thought, “I can do this.”
So Cole said f*ck it. And dropped out after one year.
From then on, he started filming artists more seriously, along with hosting local shows for Chi-town’s up-and-coming rap scene.
He just tries shit that no one else would.
SoundCloud era & the come-up
Let’s take a step back.
Culturally, the early 2010s represented a shift in hip-hop & rap. Many people call it the “SoundCloud era” or “emo rap.” It’s where artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD, and Lil Pump got their start. It was all about experimentation, being carefree, and stripped down, moody sounds. Just like everything, it was an underground scene until it wasn’t.
Those same artists began attracting mainstream attention, and it was apt timing for Cole.
When did Cole launch Lyrical Lemonade? 2013.
It’s tough to attribute or pinpoint any one artist who gave Cole his break as a filmmaker. He was simply central to a fast-growing SoundCloud movement, so his Come Up was the culmination of many, many little wins that became colossal over time.
You blink, and next thing you know, Cole is filming every top Gen Z artist in the game.
The SoundCloud Era is gone, but it doesn’t matter because Cole works with whoever he wants now.
As a channel for sharing work, YouTube has been a constant, and now TikTok is central to both artist & music discovery.
A music video says a lot about you if you’re an artist. It’s an essential part of one’s brand, and Cole is at the forefront of that cultural shift.
With two videos he managed to put Lyrical Lemonade on the map.
Those two videos combined gained 327+ Million views.
From two videos.
Beyond that, he’s got around 16.5 Million YouTube Subscribers and over 6.7 Million followers on Instagram across his page and Lyrical Lemonade.
Here’s who “else” he’s worked with:
- Lil Tecca
- Juice WRLD
- Famous Dex
- Jack Harlow
- YBN Cordae
- Lil Uzi Vert
And he’s only 24. No, that’s not a typo.
Crafting your style
Every great artist has their own aesthetic, a signature you know them by.
Cole’s style is distinct. You could pick up on it from afar.
In the same way, one knows a Wes Anderson film when one sees it; the same goes for Cole.
Peep these two videos to see what I mean.
A steady merch business
Another reason Cole has maintained relevance has to do with his merch business.
He drops merch periodically under the name “Lenny,” an animated character that’s part of the Lyrical Lemonade world he’s built. He’s got 100k+ followers on that account and sells out of drops instantly.
He’s certainly got power to sell the merch, but what’s also fascinating is to look at his reselling power. In his most recent partnership with FaZe Clan, a brand from LA, Cole sold out 3,000 cans of a new, unique lemonade flavor. He sold each can for $10, excluding shipping. So, I went on Grailed, a secondhand clothing marketplace, and found that authentic cans are going for between $35-$45.
No, that’s not a typo.
What’s more? A t-shirt from his most recent Lenny x Sukamii was going for $300.
It’s simply a sign of the purchasing power Cole commands.
“Sold out” is just part of the gig for him. And not a bad problem to have either.
That said, it resurfaces an important discussion with brands like Lyrical Lemonade. Do you stay limited-run forever, relying on scarcity, or do you ramp up production and scale the brand through selling evergreen merch and signature lemonade flavors?
We can look to Travis Scott as an example of how to do both. I’d never be able to cop his Air Jordan’s, but I did have the opportunity to buy his spiked seltzer last week.
Perhaps the answer is both/and, not either/or.
Cole Capitán’s music entertainment empire
In a few years, he’s managed to unconventionally…
- Build a successful event & production house
- A diehard media arm with 16+ million YouTube subscribers
- A booming merch and beverage business…
Oh, and a $30 Million offer to buy Lyrical Lemonade (and god knows how many more).
But what else could he do?
Where Cole can go from here
Not that he’s asking for my advice (but if you’re reading this, Cole, let’s talk), but the way things are moving, here’s what I think Cole can build on:
- He becomes the first person to take a media brand (a YouTube vlog no less), Lyrical Lemonade, and morph it into a blossoming record label. Similar to OVO, he’ll discover and farm budding talent, putting his stamp of approval out into the universe.
- Grow Lyrical Lemonade’s shop into an 8-figure eCommerce business alone in just merch & lemonade sales, layering on special collabs with brands like Nike and Netflix.
- Create his music streaming platform (*ahem*, anyone remember MTV?) to centralize his work, rather than being platform dependent. It could become a destination for super fans, enthusiasts, and the intellectually curious to keep with what’s hot.
- Grow his evens & production business into a boutique firm, franchising creatives in marquee cities like London, Tokyo, LA, Paris, similar to how MILK Studios does for fashion and beauty brands.
- Grow Summer Smash into the most culturally relevant, exclusive music festival in the United States.
Let’s pause for a sec. This dude is a 24yr/old videographer by trade who, in a few years, has managed to post a lineup like this AT HIS music festival.
Let that sink in.
Sky’s the limit for Cole, and it’s time for us to give him proper credit. He’s no longer a kid with a camera at his hip, over-eagerly shooting everything he sees.
Cole represents the new guard. He’s becoming an entertainment mogul, changing the way we consume content. He’s positioning himself to control the next generation of music business et al.
But only if he wants to. And on his terms.