Beats is a brand built on being defiant and resonant in culture, something that lends to our DNA as an agency. So when we at Translation had the unique opportunity to engineer a pairing that taps into the connection between basketball and rap culture, we collaborated with the biggest rapper in the game, Lil Baby, and one of the biggest stars in the NBA, Ja Morant – knowing this was our moment to make something much bigger than an ad for Beats.
We discovered that Ja Morant had a mantra he often used in his socials, “Dark Mode,” to reference when he was deeply focused on his training. “Dark Mode” started showing up on his posts, clothing, and team merch.Though he was using the phrase regularly, Beats wanted to give his mantra more momentum as the Grizzlies were headed towards the playoffs. And give the brand even more momentum coming off of their most successful product launch in a decade for its Studio Buds “It’s the Music” campaign.
Knowing he is Ja’s favorite artist, we hand-selected Lil Baby, to create a custom track that brought “Dark Mode” and Beats Studio Buds to the light, while also showing the parallel they represent – two young talents rising up to the top of their industries. The completely original track spoke to Ja’s unparalleled talent. Lil Baby switched up the tone, speed, and pace of his flow to effortlessly parallel Ja’s shifting mindset as he works under the shadows.
We worked with the visually inventive directing collective, Illimite World, to capture the feeling of Ja’s relentless game and Baby’s acrobatic flow. Shot completely on film, with a minimal set, “Welcome to the Dark” carved each image out of the darkness with a quiet intensity, blurring the boundaries between commercial film and art.
Our final piece received millions of social views and impressions but in the end, it was more than a music video. It became an anthem for Ja, circulated by top artists like DJ Khaled and headlined by publications like “Complex" -- even making its way into the Roblox video game. But perhaps biggest of all, “Welcome to the Dark” established Dark Mode as the place for Ja’s Fans, and helped Beats become the number one most relevant brand to the Gen Z audience.