Skilled orators are savvy marketers by definition. Take for instance, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. The rapper-turned-businessman can deem a product cool or passé simply by how he flips it in a verse. But does Jay-Z co-signing a brand in rhyme necessarily equal a boost in its respective sales? Here, BlackEnterprise.com takes a look at some products that have been name-checked by the influential orator over the years, and how they fared in the aftermath. —Alvin Blanco (Images: Getty)
CRISTAL: According to Jay-Z’s recent book Decoded, the first time he mentioned the high-end champagne in rhyme was on 1996’s “Dead Presidents II,” when he rhymed, “Jay-Z the icon, baby, you like Dom’?/Maybe this Cristal will change your life…” The Brooklyn, NY native name-checked Cristal again on “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” also off his debut album, Reasonable Doubt (“My motto, stack rocks like Colorado/Auto off the champagne, Cristals by the bottle”). In 1997, champagne sales reached a five-year high of 14.5 million bottles sold, resulting in over $200 million in revenue. Coincidence? But alas, in 2006, Jay-Z announced he was boycotting Cristal after what he felt were racist remarks by Frédéric Rouzaud, Champagne Louis Roederer’s President and CEO, about hip-hop’s affection for the drink. Cristal’s sales dipped by 15% in 2009 compared with the previous year but experts attributed the drop-off to the economic recession rather than Jay-Z’s boycott. However, sales of the pricey bubbly are back on the up and up.
ACE OF SPADES: With Cristal officially in his doghouse, Jay-Z decided to unofficially, and lyrically, endorse upstart champagne brand Armand de Brignac aka Ace of Spades in 2006. Not only was the bubbly blatantly endorsed in rhyme—“H.O.V.A., gold bottles of that Ace of Spade/Why even fool with these other guys, they all stingy,” Jay-Z raps on “Show Me What You Got” from Kingdome Come (2006)—but the easily recognizable bottle was prominently displayed in the song’s video. In 2009 Armand de Brignac, which launched only three years prior with a staff of 20, revealed that its production run of 60,000 bottles was nearly sold out. Many credit Jay-Z’s co-sign of the bubbly for turning the boutique company into a major player.
MOTOROLA 2-WAY PAGER: On 2000’s “I Just Want To Love You (Give It 2 Me),” Jay-Z rhymed, “Only way to roll, Jigga and two ladies/I’m too cold, Motorola 2-way page me.” At the time, the Motorola 2-way pager (specifically the PageWriter 2000x and Timeport P930 models) was the communication tool of choice for the hip-hop generation. While Motorola’s profits were large in the late ’90s, by the early 2000’s the company fell victim to the tech sector’s decline, reporting a $1.2 billion dollar quarterly loss in January 2002. That was the same year T-Mobile debuted the Sidekick, which Jay-Z featured prominently in the video for 2002’s “Excuse Me Miss.” In a 2009 interview with New York radio personality DJ Clue Jay-Z declared that “Sidekicks are for girls.” Officially kicked to the curb, the trendy mobile device has since been replaced the BlackBerry, Android and iPhone, among other smart(er)phones, which, according to Nielsen Wire will dominate the mobile market by year’s end.
NEW YORK YANKEES APPAREL: As a native New Yorker, Jay-Z has long been a supporter of the hometown Yankees, sporting the MLB team’s baseball cap in countless photos. On his 1999 single, “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up),” he famously rhymes, “Hat cocked can’t see his eyes, who could it be?/With that new blue Yankee on, who but me?” Jay-Z’s continued support of the Bronx Bombers may have inspired more hip-hop fans to reach for a Yankees fitted, with apparel maker New Era stating that sales had risen 20% each year leading into 1999, but more than likely the sports team’s brand was catapulted by their 27 World Series Pennants, including one in 2000. However, last year Jay-Z did help move some of their products when he announced limited edition co-branded merchandise for sale at Yankee Stadium, including a special All-Black Everything Yankees baseball cap via New Era, which featured design nods to his The Blueprint 3 album and a $50 price tag.
THROWBACK JERSEYS: At the turn of the century throwback jerseys was all the rage. In fact, Mitchell & Ness, which produced a lot of the vintage sportswear, expected to make $50 million in 2003, double what it made in 2002. But Jay-Z threw a monkey wrench in the pot when he rhymed, “And I don’t wear jerseys, I’m 30-plus/Give me a crisp pair of jeans, ni**a, button up,” on his 2003 song “What More Can I Say.” With that line, Jay-Z led many a fan to hang their throwback jerseys in their closets, permanently, in lieu of a more clean-cut look. Although throwbacks are no longer as popular in hip-hop circles, sport fans still dig jerseys enough that Adidas purchased Mitchell & Ness in 2007 for an undisclosed amount.
REEBOK: Always the pitchman, Jay-Z also plugged his own product on 2003’s “What More Can I Say” (“S. Dots on my feet make my cipher complete”). The S. Dots on his feet where actually from Jay-Z’s shoe line through Reebok called S. Carter Collection by RBK, which launched that year. Two month after Jay-Z’s shoe sold out of 10,000 pair within an hour of it release, Reebok’s stock was up 55% from the previous year. Now, artists like 50 Cent, Kanye West and Swizz Beatz can thanks Jay-Z for landing sneaker deals without the need of a jumpshot.
ROCAWEAR: Founded in 1999 by Jay-Z and former business partner Damon Dash, Rocawear was name-dropped on the rapper’s record incessantly. The self-promotion worked, as Jay-Z was able to sell his stake in the clothing line in 2007 to Iconix for over $200 million. In addition to the hefty paycheck, he managed to retain a stake in the company—which boasts annual retail sales over $700 million—overseeing marketing, licensing, and product development personally.