Can you imagine a company that has no respect or want for your craft and you only learn about this after you’ve earned them millions of dollars through promotion? I can’t imagine it but Hip-Hop music has been burned so many times by this narrative that you would have to wonder at the intelligence of the artists who do it. The latest fallout before Hip-Hop’s reeducation was probably the Cristal wine boycott issued by Jay-Z after years of it being the unofficial, over-priced wine of the Hip-Hop crowd. after the managing director of Louis Roederer answered a question in The Escapist magazine about rappers drinking Cristal, Jay-Z responded and put a stop to anymore rappers referring to the wine in their lyrics and buying it up in any clubs:
“It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frederic Rouzaud views the ‘hip-hop’ culture as ‘unwelcome attention… I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including the 40/40 Club nor in my personal life.” – Jay-Z
This came about after so many brands had done the same through loaded commentary viewed as racist, or rumors started by rival brands. One of the best things to have happened recently for Hip-Hop has been the promotion of Ciroc Vodka for the masses being that the brand is owned by Sean “P-Diddy” Combs and essentially “keeps it in the neighborhood” and safe from concern that Hip-Hop buying dollars are going towards people who hate, or want no association with the culture or black people. Jay-Z has even bought into a certain wine company privately in order to promote it instead of Cristal and keep the money where it belongs.
While outsiders may view the Cristal situation as a strange misunderstanding, the complicated relationship between poor ghetto youth promoting big-money labels through their music has been in place since Hip-Hop can remember. Let us take a look at what has been good and bad for Hip-Hop music from a promotional standpoint.
Some of The Bad
Maybach – Has gone out of business recently. The types of people who are targeted for high-end luxury vehicles do not want a Rick Ross in their fellowship.
**Tommy Hilfiger – This one is complicated being that for 10 years rappers promoted Hilfiger clothes and the company responded by making their clothes baggier, and relative to the culture. After a time someone started a terrible rumor that Tommy Hilfiger was racist (an accusation he has cleared up by stating otherwise to Oprah Winfrey) but the damage was enough to cause a divorce between the music and brand. Coincidentally Mr. Hilfiger now has a son (Rich Hilfiger) who raps.
Cristal – We’ve already said enough.
Some of The Good
Timberland – Adopted by Hip-Hop in the 90’s (I had a few pairs), the cornbread colored Timberland boots became part of the “Hip-Hop head” uniform; this caused sales to triple for the company.
Adidas – Run DMC made “My Adidas” and the company reached out for a long-term million dollar deal with them. Since then Adidas has been the official shoe of Hip-Hop.
Nike – The shoe company has a solid relationship with Hip-Hop and the “Air Force Ones” have been lauded as the official “hustler’s shoe”.
Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) – LVMH has always embraced Hip-Hop culture.
While there are many more fallouts and success stories I would hope by now that Hip-Hop realizes the power of the music, and the power of securing contracts prior to promotion. Recently we have had many brands dropping artists due to public outcry over lyrics and it shows a lingering ignorance from the artists who sign that dotted line. Still with the advent of powerful business minds like Jay-Z and Diddy Combs, pretty soon a situation like Cristal will be too distant a memory to consider when it comes to Hip-Hop history.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.