BITE Guest Trend | How Hip Hop culture evolved into multi-brand empires

Hip hop’s legendary innovators

The 90s “Obey Your Thirst” Sprite campaign was an integral part of my teenage years (not to show my age). Created by Lowe & Partners, it honoured individuality, youth and featured rising stars from the world of hip hop. These up-and-coming artists who embodied independence and rebellion included LL Cool J, Nas, and an adolescent Kobe Bryant. This campaign elevated the soft drink brand to cult status within pop culture and the “Obey Your Thirst” trademark became legendary. Sprite revived it in 2019, adapting the tagline to “Thirst for Yours” to be more inclusive to the overall influence of hip-hop culture on our society.

Modern brand legends that are bold enough to create strong partnerships with upcoming artists, have the opportunity to generate robust brand awareness for years to come.

Hip hop’s obsession with luxury fashion

There was a time in the 80s and 90s when high-end fashion brands didn’t think having young black talent wearing their clothes demonstrated the exclusive, aspirational look they were aiming for. However, as hip hop’s popularity soared, particularly in the early 2000s, attitudes changed. Nonetheless, hip hop stars continued to pay tribute to the luxury fashion brands they were now able to afford.

Luxury fashion house, Gucci, remains one of the most namechecked brands in hip hop songs, being mentioned nearly twenty-three thousand times.

And now we are seeing hip hop artists not only celebrating their success by adorning themselves in designer gear but taking up specific roles within the industry. Rapper and producer turned Creative Director for Louis Vuitton Menswear, Pharrell Williams, is taking the fashion industry by storm. When he presented his debut Men’s Spring Summer 2024 collection in Paris this year it was attended by fellow artists Beyonce, Jay-Z, Rihanna and Megan Thee Stallion.

This is the ultimate end game in brand collaboration and partnerships – that the relationship goes beyond a simple pairing and into something much more mutually beneficial. Where one cultural phenomenon feeds into another. The versatility and vision of hip hop has been enormous; it has grown beyond an American music genre into a global musical movement. Smart brands that found themselves in the epicentre of this phenomenon took note and embraced this wave of musicians and artists – and have taught us all something about brand collaboration and creativity.

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