A friend just emailed an article in which the managing director of Cristal champagne took issue with the popularity the alcoholic beverage has among hip hop heads.
According to AmericanBrandStand.com, Cristal is the 8th most mentioned brand on Billboard's Top 100 in 2005. Artists such as Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Trina dropped the name of the champagne 35 times. What does the managing director Frederic Rouzaud call all this free promotion by celebrities who ordinarily earn millions to endorse products?
Unwelcomed indeed. On the one hand, companies that are embarrassed that the hip hop community embraces their products are both racist and hypocritical. I wonder if classism is not at play, too. After all, if country musicians dropped their name brands in songs (without compensation for the endorsement) and thousands of White working-class people joined their consumer base, would they, too, consider that "unwelcomed attention?" I truly don't know.
But on the flip side, hip hop artists sell things to its primarily Black and Brown working-class listeners they do not need. Hell, they sell buying, period. Aren't our communities already targeted for a slew of toxic products as it is? Junk food, cigarettes, malt liquor... And while there are many exceptions, too many hip hop artists are also selling such things as misogyny, homophobia, unsafe sex, violence and a host of other deadly ideas and practices.
So I can only stay angry for a second when I hear that the maker of some alcoholic beverage, luxury vehicle, footwear and the like fail to appreciate the consumer love they get from hip hop heads. I hardly want to call for boycotts and demand that racist (and maybe classist) companies who feel that their products are sullied when consumed by people who create and listen to hip hop music. If they don't respect our consumer dollars, why should we be fighting to stuff them into their ungrateful pockets?
And then I think about all the things that we should be fighting for -- quality and affordable education, housing, health care and other topics that many hip hop artists won't touch. I know, I know... some do, and it's precisely because of that, they never make Billboard. Where is the website that tracks how often rappers calls for justice, peace and equality? The most priceless things have no trademark.
But the conclusion remains the same. It really doesn't matter how we feel when the managing director of Louis Roderer Cristal complains to The Economist, "What can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business." Clearly, hip hop artists shouldn't shill for bigoted companies who think our communities are beneath their products, but the answer is not to shout out Dom Perignon or Krug instead. Many hip hop artists pride themselves much more on promoting the truth than any brand, right? Well, the truth is that we do not need any of these brands regardless of whether the manufacturer in question desires our business or not.