Las Vegas rapper earning millions of streams online

He slows his delivery to let the words sink in, the message marinate.

“I give my heart to all the disenchanted,” Ekoh rhymes, addressing frustrated musicians, as he decelerates from a verbal velocity level suggestive of an overcaffeinated auctioneer. “You’re not the only one the industry has left abandoned.”

The song, “Freeverse 3,” begs the question, what do you do when you’re on the outside of the music industry looking in?

For Ekoh, the answer was to become the industry.

It worked.

He no longer has a day job because of it.

With no record company, no manager, no publicist, no booking agent, blue-collar rapper Ekoh (Jeff Thompson) has taken advantage of the music business’ shift to streaming platforms and reliance on social media in a game-changing way.

He’s done so by essentially cutting out the industry’s middlemen in a way that wouldn’t have been possible not long ago.

Online success story

Thompson scored his biggest hit recently when “Freeverse 3” surpassed a million streams on Spotify, a remarkable feat for an unsigned artist.

And it doesn’t end there.

Thompson’s top five songs on Spotify have tallied nearly 3 million streams combined, and with a trio of full-length albums and myriad singles available on the site, he has the catalog to continue to generate significant numbers among his nearly 100,000 monthly Spotify listeners.

He’s also developed a strong video presence, filming a new clip for each single he releases. The video for his song “Daudrie,” for example, has surpassed 3 million views on Facebook.

While plenty of musicians bemoan the challenges of monetizing their art nowadays — no one buys records anymore! — Thompson represents the other side of the argument: the unprecedented power and control that artists can wield when they build their followings on their own, outside traditional music industry structures.

“I didn’t think I’d ever be able to not work a job and make enough money just doing music,” Thompson says, sitting in a southwest valley Starbucks, clad in a maroon ball cap, black T-shirt and camouflage shorts. “It’s been crazy.”

A scene veteran, Thompson has been among the city’s top hip-hop draws since he dropped his first full-length in 2013. But a little more than a year ago, he changed his approach after getting mired in creative doldrums.

“For a while, I was working with certain producers and my career was kind of being controlled by other people,” he says. “I wasn’t able to make what I wanted to make, when I wanted to make it. I wasn’t putting out songs, and when I was, it wasn’t stuff I was super stoked on. I finally just started doing what I wanted to do, trusting in myself, building my own brand. I wanted to grab people like me.”

Who is Ekoh?

In person, he’s an engaging, slightly anxious presence with the photogenic looks of a boy band heart-melter.

A self-professed comic book nerd and former skateboarder, Thompson was more into punk rock than hip-hop as a teenager. But during a stint in rehab, he began writing in journals, therapeutically expressing himself in poetry, which led to doing the same in rhyme form over a beat.

Ekoh was born.

In the years since, he has had to develop his name without any record company backing, but the flip side is being able to do so without any outside input.

“I feel like if a label had gotten behind me and kind of molded me into what they wanted me to be, even if I did gain a massive following, all the followers would be people I don’t relate with,” he says. “But since I’ve done it myself, these are people who get me, know what I’m talking about, like the same (stuff) I like. The connection’s everything. If you make something that sticks with people, then that’s how you get repeat listeners. It’s not like I have a million different listeners. I have a handful who listen a lot.”

Thompson caters to those listeners obsessively, working six days a week — he takes Mondays off to spend time with his girlfriend — constantly updating his social media accounts, releasing singles and videos — he’s dropped five this year alone with three more ready to go — continually honing his online ads and marketing strategy.

“It’s a grind, man. It’s tough,” he acknowledges. “Consistency is key. And patience, setting things up the right way, really caring about what you do. I used to write songs in a couple hours. Now I write songs in a couple days.”

Taking the reins

Thompson is a hands-on kind of guy: He wrote, produced and mixed his latest record, “The Detour,” which cracked the top 35 of the iTunes hip-hop chart despite being self-released.

His success has been gradual, the turning point coming roughly a year ago when “Freeverse” was released, the first song he issued after ditching the producers and following his own muse.

Despite all the streams he has garnered, Thompson is not getting rich just yet: Spotify has reported that its average royalty rate ranges from $0.006 to $0.0084. At that rate, a million streams would equate to $6,000 to $8,400.

Still, Thompson is making it work.

When we first caught up with him five years ago as he was releasing his debut, “Zzyzx Road,” he was juggling three jobs to make ends meet.

Now, his occupation is Ekoh.

“It’s a lot of work, ” he smiles. “But I’ve got the time.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Entertainment Videos
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of theatre talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N interactive exhibit
The new exhibit features original and recreated props and plenty of interactive features. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ice cream shop offers everything in the kitchen sink
Have you ever wanted to eat an ice cream sundae out of a kitchen sink? Who hasn't, right? At Sloan's, located inside the Venetian, you can do just that. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Maxie’s in Las Vegas puts eggs Benedict in a box
Chef David Mangual at Maxie’s in The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas makes his eggs Benedict in a brioche “box” layered with spinach, bacon and tomatoes and topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caviar Twinkie Served at Stripsteak in Las Vegas
Stripsteak Executive Pastry Chef Vivian Chang and Chef Gerald Chin create a novel savory food item that looks like a familiar sweet treat at the restaurant in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
NAB attendees battle to qualify for Fortnite event
NAB is sponsoring an online video game event with Epic Games’ Fortnite allowing attendees to qualify to go head to head with top players. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Arctic Shrimp Sandwich at Saga near Las Vegas
Chef Gert Kvalsund, a native of Norway, founded Saga Pastry + Sandwich in Henderson to give Scandinavians a taste of home. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk UNLVino
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk about the upcoming UNLVino vent. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Christie Brinkley at Smith & Wollensky
Christie Brinkley, in town for her run in “Chicago” at the Venetian Theatre, paid a visit to the Grand Canal Shoppes’ still-under-construction Smith Wollensky on Monday for a ceremonial first toast at the bar. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas
2 artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside Kaos nightclub and dayclub
A look at new club at Palms.
CinemaCon Brings Theater Professionals To Caesars
CinemaCon is not just celebs, it's also a place where theater owners can browse the latest in seats, projectors and concessions. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas restaurants provide a taste of ballpark food
The Las Vegas Ballpark, home to the Las Vegas Aviators, will serve food from Giada De Laurentiis and a team of favorite local restaurants. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Taste of the Town: Bobby Flay Opens Shark at the Palms - VIDEO
Bobby Flay opens Shark at the Palms; his first high-end restaurant in 15 years.
Chef Marc Marrone at T-Mobile Arena
Chef Marc Marrone has opened a bao cart at T-Mobile Arena. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio fountains celebrate 'Game of Thrones'
A medley of the theme for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the song “Winter Is Here” from the show premiered at the Bellagio Fountains water show on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The new number will run in rotation through April 13. The series premieres its eighth and final series on April 14. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan Aunt Chippy talks about being on Jimmy Kimmel's show
Concetta Potenza, Aunt “Chippy” to Jimmy Kimmel, talks about her first time being featured on her nephew’s show. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro at Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro At Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cotton candy crowns pancakes in Las Vegas
At Maxie’s at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, executive chef David Mangual fills pancakes with fruit and cream cheese and piles on pastel cotton candy, which is melted in a stream of chocolate syrup. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Bananas Foster Pancakes go up in flames at The Stove near Las Vegas
Chef Antonio Nunez at The Stove in Henderson, near Las Vegas, flames the pancakes tableside for a fiery presentation. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
El Loco Rollercoaster at Circus Circus' Adventuredome
The El Loco rollercoaster opened at the Circus Circus' Adventuredome in February 2014. It features a 90-foot ascent, followed by a drop that produces a negative 1.5 "verticle G," a 180-degree turn, and reverse 240-degree roll that turns into an inverted drop. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 45 mph and is the only indoor coaster of it's kind in the U.S., and is the second indoor El Loco coaster in the world, according to MGM Resorts.
Bartending flair competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show
Highlights from the ten contestants who competed for the Shake It Up Flair and Classic Competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Justin Kingsley Hall shares details on his next gig
Chef Justin Kinglsey hall shares some details about the newArts District restaurant he's developing with Kim Owens. (Al Mancini/Las Vegs Review-Journal)
Film prompted Carrie Hogan to found 2 farmers markets in Las Vegas
Carrie Hogan founded Fresh 52 Farmers and Artisan Market in Las Vegas after realizing she had to do something about the influence of factory farms on the food supply. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seafood dishes being made at Pasta Shop near Las Vegas
Executive chef Edwin Martinez incorporates fresh pasta into Lobster Salmon and Saffron Shrimp Sauté at Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson, near Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing