Friday, February 11, 2005


Been There, Done Tang

I'm upset because I just got tricked (again) into bouncing my head to an MC's tight rhymes over a sick beat on the radio, only to realize later that it was a soda commercial.

I miss the days when rappers shied away from product placement and endorsements.

I hesitate to show my age, but when I was in high school, it seemed like the only MCs doing commercials were "soft" "crossover" rappers like MC Hammer (who plugged Taco Bell and Pepsi, among others). And at least Hammer never gave shout-outs to products in his own songs, nor did he hurt 'em.

It's hard to pinpoint the precise point that hip hop merged with corporate marketing, but ain't no doubt that in 2005 it's the norm for rappers to collaborate with corporate product pushers.

To name a few: the Roots plug Coke, Rakim hawks Hennessy, De La Soul wear LUGZ, Jurassic 5 promote MasterCard, KRS-One spits (or spat) rhymes for Nike, Dr. Dre prefers Coors Light, Talib Kweli rocks Ecko, Lyrics Born provides the new jingle for coke, and everyone from Tribe to Missy hypes Sprite. (Is there anyone today who raps about refusing to being a billboard?)

And then there are those who shell out actual hit songs that shill goods. I think Lil' Kim alone has name-dropped every brand on Madison Avenue. Mentioning "Cristal" has pratically become a fifth element of hip hop.

If anything, the only divide today is between artists hawking others' goods and those promoting their own line of products (e.g., Jay-Z's "Rocawear," Nelly's "Pimp Juice" energy drink).

When did we get to this point where few seem to care that hip hop's hit songs are indistinguishable from commercials? "Pass the Courvoisier," anyone? (Not that it matters, but there seems to be some dispute over whether Puffy and Busta were paid, retroactively or otherwise, by the Courvoisier company.)

I realize that the relationship between hip hop, product placement, and commercial endorsements goes back to the mid-1980s when Run D.M.C. got paid over a million dollars to endorse Adidas and Kurtis Blow was doing Sprite commercials. But I submit that these were the exceptions to the rule.

I also recognize that this is, arguably, a predictable consequence of the global appeal of hip hop, elevating its stars on the same plane as other musicians, athletes, actors/actresses, and hotel heiresses who "accidentally" do porn.

And most of all, I understand that a lot of these MCs aren't getting paid (or didn't get paid) what they deserve. I know ... everyone's gotta put food on the table.

Nonetheless, I miss the days when street cred was at odds with Wall Street cred. I long for the era when Public Enemy pressured their peers not to touch a liquor ad with a ten foot clock.

So, in resigned homage to our current state of hip hop product placement, I've put together the following ideas to help artists and companies finalize the sell out process.

    • Terror Squad & Fat Joe: Sizzlean Back

    • Naughty By Nature: Hip Hop HooRay-Bans

    • N.W.A.: Straight Outta Comp USA

    • Public Enemy: Black Sharpies In The Hour of Chaos

    • Eminem: The Real Slim-Fast Shady

    • Eric B & Rakim: George B. is President

    • Notorious B.I.G.: Mo Money, Mo Prada

    • 2Pac: Brenda's Got A Baby Gap

    • Busta Rhymes: Woo-Hah!! Got You All In Chex Mix

    • DMX: Ex-Lax Gon Give It To Ya

    • Mary J. Blige: No More Dramamine

    • Nas: The World is Coors

    • Chingy: Balla Baby Wipes

    • LL Cool J: I Can't Believe It's Not Big Ole Butter

    • Jay-Z: Preparation H to tha Izzo

    • Erykah Badu: Love of My Lifesavers

    • Jurassic 5: What's Golden Grahams?

    • Wu-Tang: Da Mystery of Minute Maid Juiceboxin

    • Fugees: Fu-Gee-La Salsa

    • Dr. Dre & Snoop: Nothin' But A G's Tang

    • Kanye West: Jesus Woks

    • Salt 'n Pepa: Let's Talk About Kotex

    • P. Diddy: PE 2000 Flushes

    • Hieroglyphics: Third Eye Visine

    • Cypress Hill: How I Could Just Kill A Hungry-Man
To the windoooow! To the Wal-Mart!