Devin Cobbs understands the value of creating space for genuine human connection. Cobbs is the marketing force behind the 40oz Bounce tour, and most recently the 4 Lovers Only R&B party.
Originally from South Carolina, Cobbs moved to New York with dreams of being a journalist but ended up homeless. “Nobody knew I was homeless. I would keep [my] haircut and take showers at Planet Fitness. Sometimes I’d sleep there, or on the Long Island Ferry. I always thought to myself, this is just going to make the story that much greater. I remember putting change together to buy dollar pizzas and M&M’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It taught me that everything will always be OK.” Eventually, Cobbs found an opportunity as a marketing intern.
Around the same time, 40oz Van—whose real name is Joel Fuller—was heating up the summer with his infamous 40oz Bounce parties. Fuller is an entrepreneur and an event creator who produces and promotes parties via social media. New York was the mecca for those experiences. An after effect of moving into the marketing department, Cobbs ended up connecting with 40oz Van.
“In any situation, I like to look at what I can provide. For Van, I saw that he was only doing events in NY. I figured I could help him take his events to different markets. I told him I could take him on a tour before I had ever even gotten on a plane.”
Cobbs told 40oz Van that he could take 40oz Bounce on a national tour, although he had no connections in any of markets outside of NYC at the time. The national 40oz Bounce tour resulted in 50 tour stops, bringing in about 30,000 attendees over the course of two years.
Fill in the Gaps
The success of the 40oz Bounce tour helped Cobbs transition from fitting in to standing out. He wasn’t just a creative trying to find his place in the industry; he was an accomplished event planner and curator. However, the true mark of a forward thinker is the ability to fill in gaps that folks of the same profession have yet to fill. While there were countless events being thrown especially in New York, Cobbs trained his eyes on providing the experiences people weren’t getting yet. Thus, the idea for 4 Lovers Only was born.
“I think less about the live event and more about connecting with people. I want to know everybody. I want to have a connection with everyone who comes through the door. I think connecting with people is a lost art. Once things become a money grab, you see the creativity dwindle. When you do anything with love and creativity first, it works.”
After noticing that he hadn’t seen an event specific to 90s R&B, he dove into plans to occupy that vacancy in the culture. More importantly, he looked for ways to give attendees a feeling of genuine service. It couldn’t be about ticket sales or revenue from the bar. More importantly, it couldn’t be some exclusive industry party filled with the same people who see each other at every private event and only interact for professional gain or a chance at a “candid” photo for social media clout.
“I hadn’t seen an event that was specific to 90s R&B. How can we take it up a notch? We’ll get the right sponsors and partnerships so that people don’t have to buy anything. For the consumer, you’re not being sold anything besides a good time. We make it cool to do a sponsored event. It’s not industry people only. Everyone can pull up, from a record exec to some guy who saw the flyer on social media and wanted to come.”
“I know for sure that what drives me now is knowing that I want to be remembered for all of this. People think I have my entire life planned out. I don’t. I wake up every day and plan for that day. I don’t worry about where I’ll be by 30. I want to know what we can do to make people remember this sh*t. I don’t care if I’m working at McDonalds 10 years from now. If I have a kid and can tell them I was out here doing this and people can validate it, that’s the most important thing.”
Once you’re able to recognize and tap into what fuels you, it’s time to look at how you can use your gifts to solve problems bigger than yourself. The fact is, black people in America navigate through more overt systemic oppression and daily micro-aggressions than we care to count. All while balancing the stress and anxiety of just wanting to make it in this world as successful adults. We’re constantly on our toes and carrying that much stress without any release is dangerous. Cobbs isn’t just throwing events. He’s creating safe spaces to decompress.
“For me, it’s not just a party, it’s therapy. We do all this work for four hours, but for some people, it’s the best four hours to just be. We deal with all these societal ailments plus wanting to be successful. I want to be the person that creates space where everyone can let their hair down, and I don’t want to take any money out your pockets. I’m going to charge the corporations for that. That’s why I don’t like to be called a promoter; I’m giving you a party. I’m giving you therapy. The best feeling is having people telling me they had a good time.”