Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Come on, Jay-Z, you already have Beyonce, do you really need this?

Another example of excellent reporting in the Atlantic: Zach O'Malley Greenburg examines how Jay-Z led rap and hip hop's abrupt turn from Cristal to Armand de Brignac as the champagne of choice. The damning evidence that Jay-Z receives millions from featuring Armand de Brignac in his videos and associating himself with the brand is disappointing.

What goes along with Armand de Brignac is Jay-Z. The rap­per put the flashy bottle on the map when he featured it in his 2006 music video for "Show Me What You Got." The video is typical of mainstream hip-hop, with one pos­sible exception: toward the end, a waiter presents Jay-Z with a bottle of Cristal champagne, and Jay-Z declines with a sweep of his hand. In its place, he accepts a gold bottle of then-unknown Armand de Brignac. Coming from some­one who'd been rapping Cristal's praises for years--and once bragged that he was "popping that Cristal when all y'all thought it was beer"--this marked a major departure.
Jay-Z's rolling in it:
The math looks extremely favorable for Jay-Z. The production cost per bottle of Armand de Brignac is about $13; the wholesale price is $225. The maximum output is 60,000 bottles per year. If Jay-Z splits the $212-per-bottle profit evenly with Cattier and Sovereign, a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests his annual take would be a little over $4 million. One of my sources confirmed that number, and added that Jay-Z may have received equity in Sov­ereign Brands worth about $50 million. All for dropping a few lyrical references and featuring Armand de Brignac in a couple of videos.
Great article, just superb reporting, but man, it's disappointing. I understand that rap and hip hop turned commercial a long time ago (no need for examples), but it still hurts to see how far hip hop has fallen.

UPDATE (March 28, 2011): The link has been dead since a couple of hours after I posted this. According to Politico on the 23rd, the Atlantic promised that they only had to make a few editorial changes and the page would be back up within 24 hours. On the 25th, the Atlantic told Fishbowl that the article hadn't gone through "routine editorial process," and it wouldn't be put back online. Very strange and disappointing. After much searching, I found the full article here.


  1. Hey! I had a long comment and it dissapeared! Anyways, hi rivk. First off, I don't think the article really is that convincing at drawing some damning connection between Jay-Z promoting this wine and him having shares in it prior to that move.
    BUT, even if you accept it, I feel like that is a total hip-hop move to begin with, and I don't know what you mean about it being disappointing, as if hip-hop has ever NOT had a strong materialistic (and therefore commercial, right?) vein to it. Like, how early are we talking? pre-Run-DMC? And how is this falling? I think by dropping cristal for their derogatory comments and then pushing his own preferred brand, Jay-Z is demonstrating the power hip hop holds in making or breaking a brand, and therefore the respect it can demand as a result.

  2. Hey Ben! I think there is a definitive difference from the materialist hip hop that we're used to than Jay-Z's actions in this one. Product placement? Values-wise, I don't think it's as 'bad' as the way he and others objectify women and rap about money and drugs, but the champagne choice wasn't based on values; this was a purely business decision, and that's a qualitative difference than what we've seen before in the hip hop world.

  3. I don't know. It is not like rappers appreciate a certain champagne because they are wine connoisseurs, people talk about drinking a certain brand (or really wearing a certain designer or whatever) because of the status it confers. So I kind of love how Jay-Z totally recognizes this and is at least using it to his advantage. You know how many rappers these days both own their own clothing line or alcohol or cologne and then namedrop it as something cool in their songs. Like Jay-Z has certainly done this for Roc-a-wear, so I feel like that line has already been crossed long ago and everyone is mostly fine with it.

  4. Starting and subsequent name-dropping one's own brand is tacky, but getting paid millions of dollars, not to do a commercial, but to be seen drinking and holding the champagne, is not only tacky but a real loss of credibility.

    Jay-Z's reputation is based on his reputation of being the coolest person in the room, the guy who finds and keeps up the trends. But how can he keep that reputation when the public finds out he was secretly getting paid for it? How can you trust a trendsetter like that? I really think this is unprecedented in hip hop.

  5. Okay, so I know this is an annoying thing to say without formulating my own argument but I just don't have the time right now--so all I will say is that I pretty much agree completely with Ben C.

    And BK represent!