I’d like this post to send you off to read about the topic elsewhere! The topic being how hip-hop has affected all mainstream culture in the last 25 years and what that means for how you market products (including music).

And, this doesn’t just mean how you market hip-hop. It’s an exploration of how mindsets, attitudes, clothing and music – of all styles and genres – have been affected.

The starting point is a book called ‘The Tanning Of America: How the Culture of Hip-Hop Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy’ by a very smart markeing guy, Steve Stoute.

Read this Huffington Post introduction which has this extract from his book:

Yes, it’s true that in the past the idea of pushing brands would have been seen as inauthentic, or something you did after your career peaked, or as some kind of selling out. But no longer. Why not? Why wasn’t it selling out for rappers to embrace and promote Versace when it would have been seen that way for rock ‘n’ roll and R&B icons or pop superstars? Well, one reason, as we saw with “My Adidas,” was that it’s not a sellout when it’s authentic to your taste and style anyway and you’re already doing product placement for free. It was part of the art and far from selling out; Andy Warhol proved that when he painted iconic pop art portraits of products like Campbell’s soup cans, paying homage to one of the most classic, enduring American brands ever.

When I asked Jay-Z for his insights, he pointed out that many of the rock musicians had come from sustainable backgrounds, seeking acclaim for their talent and a level of cool that playing music gave them. For rappers coming out of the projects, getting paid and bettering yourself is part of gaining credibility. Jay reminded me also that it’s not selling out when a kid in the projects sees a guy rapping about Sprite or the Gap because they know he’ll be getting the money and that feeds his or her own aspiration. It’s not that being acknowledged for talent and great work isn’t desirable, but getting paid trumps those goals. I agree. I don’t think many hip-hop fans ever subscribed to the concept of selling out, not when you come from nothing and a deal can become part of your rags-to-riches success story.

And watch the video above of him interviewing Jay-Z.

Steve Stoute can be found interviewing Jay-Z further as well as Jimmy Iovine and others here. Well worth it.

And, go and have a look at how Stoute has used his understanding to market mainstream brands in a way that speaks authentically to the target audience.

You can see his company’s campaigns here.

And read this interview where he distills his thinking.

There’s plenty to learn here!