Many people, more specifically older generations, would associate Hip Hop with violence, misogyny, profanity and gang banging. And to be fair they’re not wrong, simply misguided.
Stemming from the late 90’s, Hip hop has managed to cement itself into culture with on-going fashion trends, dance moves and social justice movements just to name a few.
The power to heal
But while many people struggle to look past the profanity, materialism, and high risk messages often celebrated within mainstream rap music, hip hop culture at its core, is built on values of social justice, peace, respect, self-worth, community and having fun. And because of these values, its increasingly being used as a therapeutic tool when working with young people. — Crooke & Travis Junior(2017)
Hip Hop has the power to heal, particularly among young people. Just look at how influential it has become all over the world. Almost every country has their own local hip hop scene that resonates among the youth. The genre speaks to everyone; the outcasts, the oppressed, the weak, the rebels and most significantly, people of color.
There have also been calls by certain authors for Hip Hop and its culturally relevant lessons to be introduced into the public school curriculum. According to Sunni Ali, who compiled Integrating Hip Hop & Cultural Relevant Lessons into the public school curriculum(2015), applying Hip hop lessons in a culturally relevant model allows teachers to listen to the needs of students’, speak about them and connect with their students’ culture.
This applies to Hip hop music that speaks to the community or social consciousness aspect of the genre, because just like Shakespeare, Hip hop also has modern day poets addressing the struggles of the people. And ultimately, allowing students to immerse themselves in the curriculum based on their community and their experiences increases their engagement in the classroom.
Hip hop and brands
The introduction of Hip hop and brand collaboration started with sneaker culture, which has its origins from the streets, based on how everyday people used to dress. Run-DMC was the first rap group, in the mid 1980s, to land a 1 million dollar deal with Adidas after their smash hit record ‘My Adidas’. This move would later shift the culture for future generations to come.
After which, Nelly would make a song called ‘Air Force Ones’ which would spike the sale of Nike Air Force sneakers. And thus stamped Nike’s presence within hip hop culture as it was formerly known to only be a Basketball sneaker.
From here on out a sizemic shift occurred whereby hip hop artists started realizing that the masses like to dress like they do. So they stared tailoring their dress sense to the youth and in some instances created their own streetwear. They realized that there was a market in fashion. With moguls such as Diddy creating Sean Jean; as well as Dame Dash, Jay-Z and Biggs whom created Roc-A-Wear.
Beats by Dre
In 2006 Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovin founded ‘Beats’ headphones. Which officially got launched in 2008. Beats’ marketing model was the first if its kind, using musicians and athletes to push the brand.
Musicians and athletes are easily the most influential people on the planet, especially when it comes to pop culture. Rappers reference their favorite athletes all the time in their lyrics, while athletes listen to their favorite rappers while training or partying, it’s all interlinked.
Since its launch Beats has managed to infiltrate every major pop artist’s music video. From the likes of Taylor Swift all the way to Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and even DJ Khaled. It was inevitable that you would see Beats by Dre headphones or the pill, placed in someone’s music video from time to time. This was the perfect platform for product placement.
As a consumer it made you curious, as to what the brand is about. Not to mention, the reach that Beats had also spoke to athletes. The insight that they had realized is that everyone listens to music, so if they can show that some of your favorite athletes use Beats while they are traveling or training, so can you.
And as they say, the rest is history as you may know Apple purchased Beats for 3 billion dollars as of 2014. Such is the power of Hip hop.
The influence of rappers
Over the past couple of years we’ve seen more and more rappers be the face of certain brands or specific campaigs. Post Malone and Bud Light; Cardi B and Pepsi; as well as Snopp Dogg and Dunkin’. The list goes on but the insight here is that brands have realized that rappers are leaders of the culture and most importantly they impact sales.
"With all the talk about the need for brands to be authentic, transparent, collaborative, accessible and inclusive, I feel that tapping into the driving forces that feel close to culture is a way that [brands] have been trying to be those things," Casandra Malowanczyk, director of strategy at Stink Studios, told Marketing Dive.
Even more so the current generation of new marketers and creatives grew up watching these hip hop acts and thus understand their influence and impact. Specifically, on how they can help brands propel themselves forward by tapping into this lifestyle and its authenticity.
Hip hop dictates trends
One of the key factors that makes hip hop so influential nowadays is the internet. From online challenges to the latest dance trends, Hip hop music and culture is always a part of it. Drake is the king of milking online challenges in order to promote a new song. And what’s crazy is that he doesn’t have to lift a finger, the fans do it for him. He’s done it with songs like ‘Hotline bling’, ‘In my feelings’, ‘Non-stop’ and most recently ‘Toosie slide’. All of which have peaked in the top 10 songs on the Billboard charts.
Hip-hop’s wide reach is also tied to the commercialization of the movement. Watkins points out that record companies, fashion labels, sports franchises, and even food and beverage companies are all selling their products by advertising the hip-hop lifestyle, and how their shoes, soda or sandwiches fit into it. — Katherine Neer
Appealing to fans of the genre is becoming big business. In 2017, Hip-Hop surpassed rock to become the US’s most listened to musical genre, making rappers and Hip-Hop artists obvious candidates for brand ambassador roles — Siobhan Rooney
A few of hip hop’s favorite brands
Hip hop has always had a stake in the hearts and minds of sneaker heads, particularly with brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma. However with the culture becoming more and more lucrative there is a rise in interest for more aspirational, luxury brands.
Bloomberg did an analysis in 2018 on what the most name dropped brands in hip hop songs, in the top 20, were for the previous 3 years. Without much surprise the top 5 were all luxury brands, more specifically, cars. This shows the kind of reach and appeal the lifestyle has to the masses. To the point where rappers like Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky appeared in promotions for Saint Laurent and Calvin Klein.
Not to mention Lil Pump’s, 2017 hit song ‘Gucci Gang’ has over 1 billion views on YouTube. Again this shows the power of Hip hop and product placement.
While some brands see the benefits of having rappers mention them others see the negative aspects such as Cristal executive, Frédéric Rouzaud, who made it apparent he was not a fan of it. “What can we do? … We can’t forbid people from buying it" he exclaimed in a 2006 interview with the Economist.
His remarks resulted in a call for a public boycott of the brand by rapper Jay-Z, as he is known for consistently mentioning the brand in his lyrics. From that point on he only mentioned competitor champagne brand, Armand de Brignac, also known as ‘Ace of Spades’.
In the end, Hip hop is a culture, one that is diverse and is driven by the youth. It is not limited to just music but infiltrates how people dress, how people feel, speak and most importantly how they express themselves. Once a brand is able to tap into this lifestyle in an authentic manner, there is no telling what kind of shift that will create for future generations. More importantly there’s no telling how much money and opportunities can be created from there on out.