April 14, 2011

When did rappers start dropping brand names?

Once upon a time, rappers did not talk about what kind of shoes they wore, or their hats, watches, sunglasses, etc. Or the cars they drove, the exotic fur their coat was made out of, etc. At least in the past 10 years, it's become standard to work Louis Vuitton, chinchilla, bla bla bla into their lyrics. I don't recall hearing that in the early '90s, like with MC Hammer or Sir Mix-a-Lot or LL Cool J or whoever. Even the early gangsta rap stuff, up through about 1994, didn't focus on the pursuit of material things -- just rollin' down the street, smokin' indo, sippin' on gin and juice.

So it was sometime during the '90s, no surprise -- that's when the whole culture, whites and blacks alike, started getting materialistic and devoting their lives to petty status contests. But someone who knows rap music better than I do, when did this start?


  1. uh, run dmc "my adidas"? 1986?


  2. 1986, Run-DMC's "My Adidas" on the album Raising Hell would be my guess.

  3. First example I can think of is 1990's Humpty Dance by Digital Underground:

    "I'll drink up all the Hennessey you got on the shelf

    so just let me introduce myself..."

    So I think we need to blame Humpty Hump.

  4. i think it started in the late 90's with Jay-Z's big pimpin video and "bling bling" by the hot boyz.You can youtube it.

  5. Start? Run DMC's My Adidas was released in 1986 but the brand name dropping wasn't inspired by Adidas. In fact, it took a member of Def Jam to convince Adidas to push some money Run DMC's way since they were promoting their sneakers in the US whereas before Adidas was focused primarily on the European market.
    I don't remember much product placement in the mid-90s rap but as the rap moguls started branching out in the mid-to-late 90s (Russell Simmons at Def Jam, Sean Combs at Bad Boy, Jay-Z at Roc-A-Fella), they definitely became more business savvy. While there had always been a sub-current of business expansion in rap, Simmons' Phat Farm brand existed in the early 90s and Wu-Wear was marketed in the mid-90s, it really came to the forefront in the late 90s to early 00s. As rappers began gaining more business savvy, the number of product placements increased (the first modern instance I can think of is Busta Rhyme's Pass the Courvoisier, Part II and I'd bet Busta pushed the song without major backing from the makers of Courvoisier and only after the song took off did it pass some money along). This was mostly because major businesses weren't interested in aligning themselves with an art form that they thought lacked mass appeal. This is why it took some time for rap to penetrate radio; programming directors did not want their target market to get "too black" otherwise the money they could charge for ads would significantly drop.
    Without major rap artists branching out in to other ventures, the corporate interest in product placement would've been lower, e.g. 50 Cent made more money from Vitamin Water than he did from album sales.
    Keep in mind, the unpaid placement of luxury signals has ALWAYS been present in rap. Benzes, Bentleys, Jacob the Jeweler all have been present in rap lyrics from very early on; e.g. "You'd rather see me in the pen/then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo" from NWA's Fuck the Police.
    The paid product placement only came after the corporate establishment became keen to the fact that white and younger audiences were listening to rap, which became pop by then. Then product placement and cross-marketing like Dr Dre's "Beats by Dre" headphones (which by the way, became popular after Maverick Carter (one of Lebron Jame's underlings) passed the headphones off the Olympic team) and the whole HP rap campaign (featuring artists like Beyonce, Dr Dre, Timbaland, and Jay-Z).

  6. Tupac name drops Cristal in his song Thug Passion (1996)

  7. LL ref's Air Jordans and FILA on 1987's B.A.D.

    Big Daddy Kane described himself as being "Fresh like Gucci" on '88's Long Live the Kane.

    In the late 80's rappers would wear clothes with Gucci and Vitton logos printed all over them.

  8. Think Sugarhill Gang in the 70s with "Rappers Delight" - "I got a Lincoln Continental and a sunroof Cadillac..."


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