Lucian James, President of Agenda Inc., a strategic consulting company which specializes in ‘belief strategy’ for luxury brands, shares with us one of the inspiring editorials published in Fluxe; Agenda Inc.’s monthly newsletter about the future of luxury.
Since 2003, we have been studying the relationship between luxury brands and hip-hop culture in our annual American Brandstand report; a research project which tracks the appearance of luxury brands mentioned in U.S. hip-hop songs.
One of our key services at Agenda Inc. is to help traditional luxury brands understand the opportunities and risks of becoming involved in the spotlight of pop culture. American Brandstand has been a useful strategic resource to help clients understand the way in which their brands are being appropriated by – and appreciated in – a pop culture environment.
Recently, we have started examining the French rap scene – the second largest in the world – to assess its relationship with luxury brands. It’s a critical cultural time for French rap as it hits the mainstream like never before. Five years ago, rappers were slamming Sarkozy for his immigration policy, now Sarkozy’s son is a hip-hop producer, and Paris has just celebrated its biggest ever hip-hop festival.
And with mainstream success comes an inevitable amount of commercialization – exactly as happened in the early 2000s in the USA. French rap – like US rap – deals with themes of consumerism and identity. And like US rap, it reflects the brands with which rappers associate themselves. We have noticed – over the last 12 months – a sharp rise in the amount of luxury brands mentioned in French rap.
For example, in the top 10 rap songs on French radio playlists during June 2009, there were a total of 14 brands mentioned – 6 of which were premium / luxury brands; Aston Martin, Ferrari, Glock, JM Weston, KFC, Lancel, Lego, McDonalds, Mercedes Benz, MSN, Nike x 2, Playmobil, Smith & Wesson, Stan Smith.
Mercedes is a perennial hip-hop brand in US hip-hop also, but the appearance of some others, notably luxury shoe brand J.M Weston is particularly interesting, since it appears to be appearing in rap increasingly frequently.
The brand is mentioned in Booba’s current track ‘Double Poney’ (“T’as autant de style qu’un bas de survet’ avec une paire des Weston.” )
But was also mentioned in Tony Sad’s Mami track late last year. __“Je me suis bien habillé, je me suis bien coiffé, bien parfumé et J.M. Weston au pied, elle ne m’a même pas regardé.” __
JM Weston might be moving into the hip-hop spotlight; and if so, the brand needs to be prepared…
Burberry, and Cristal champagne became famous examples of brands that didn’t respond well to their hip-hop following. Other brands, like Cadillac and Hennessy have taken a much more strategic approach; and been much more successful as a result.
A full list of the brand mentions in the current French hip-hop top 10…
“Shoot à Babylone à bord d’une Martin Aston”
“Lunettes noires vitres baissées c’est moi dans la Benz-Hoo.”
“T’as autant de style qu’un bas de survet’ avec une paire des Weston.” — Double Poney, Booba
“Dededededeballe la pente de la vie en Ferrari / quequequequequetal c’est tous illicites tous sans krari.” — Bebebest, Lim & Zeler ft. Boulox
“Tout le monde en a marre des … en a marre des … Fatigue, bien vant kil nous montre kil est fort Nike bien avant l’ époque de Marvin Gaye.” — A La Mode de Chez Nous, Sexion d’assaut
“Le guigui caché dans le sac Lancel, De la m’zelle ceux que j’ai gonfler.”
“Appelle-moi Nicolas Mesrine ou Nike l’Amérique.”
“J’suis un punk des temps moderne ouai dit George Clooney / j’mange au KFC pour ronger des os d’poulets.” — Aka, Seth Gueko
Finally on this subject, apart from branded references, French rap is also striking for its pop culture and literary references… The top 10 French rap songs in June 2009 manage to name-check the following people; Marvin Gaye, Charlie Chaplin, Tom & Jerry, Luciano Pavarotti, Baudelaire, Mozart, and Victor Hugo is mentioned in two separate songs – the same amount as Nike…
“Je suis le seul écrivain potable depuis Victor Hugo.” raps Orelsan in Jimmy Punchline, a literary reference which we can’t imagine coming from the mic of a US rapper.
Perhaps it’s not so surprising. After all, France has a longer history of radical lyricists and vocal polemicists. Arthur Rimbaud would have made a great hip-hop star.
We’ll continue to study the rising tide of luxury brands in French rap and report back.