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Home » 2 - Winter 06, MUSIC, NEWS, POP CULTURE

Money, Power and Respect by Emil Wilbekin

Submitted by on 19 Nov 2006 – 5:33 AM Comments

Branding (brand-ing) noun, 1970: the promotion of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand

Popular culture is about what’s hot. It’s whatever keeps our attention and interest for more than the fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol said everyone would have. What business people and marketing experts have discovered is that you can have more if you build an empire based on that celebrity. It’s like brand Botox. The examples are everywhere: Donald Trump, Madonna, Martha Stewart, Diddy, Paris Hilton, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and the list goes on. Nowadays, it’s no longer about being one thing. You have to be an “Army of Me” if you want to be a successful superstar.Branding (brand-ing) noun, 1970: the promotion of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand

Can’t stop; won’t stop (Diddy)

What Sean “Diddy” Combs taught us was that you could take your image and lifestyle and sell it to the masses. Hip-hop is about creating art, making money, and becoming an entrepreneur. Diddy helped create stars like Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Notorious B.I.G., and Mase. He launched Bad Boy Records, Justin’s restaurants, Sean John clothing, The Bad Boys of Comedy for HBO, the highly-rated Making the Band on MTV, and the hugely successful fragrance Unforgivable. From Pepsi spokesperson to VMA host, Diddy is the textbook version of “Making the Brand.”

Me, myself, and I (De La Soul)

Post Puffy’s hip-hop explosion, there are three celebrities who are building their armies without selling out their artistic integrity: Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, and Mos Def. These entrepreneurs are broadening their brands by keeping it real. Williams’ Virginia Beach skateboard sensibility gave him an edgy, fresh aesthetic in the bling bling baller world of hip-hop. Along with his partner Chad Hugo, Williams created a ping-pong, ball-bouncing synthesized sound that would reinvigorate urban music and help create the current electro-pop movement. Williams later fashioned a sneaker line called Ice Cream and Billionaire Boys Club, a clothing line inspired by boarders. Production and vocal collaborations with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Stefani, Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, and Ludacris gave Williams the perfect venue to brand his image and likeness. He could also promote the sportswear in the videos and appearances. Next he collaborated on a line of sunglasses with Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton and now appears in the Men’s Fall 2006 ad campaign. Throughout his brand development, Williams kept the geeky, skateboard image and became the cool kid in school at the same time.

Working so hard, every night and day And now we get the pay back. (Gwen Stefani)

Stefani has followed a similar formula as Williams. Stefani took her independent spirit and used that to propel herself to the height of style. As the front woman of No Doubt, Stefani, the spokesperson for riot girls worldwide, was able to recruit like-minded young women around the world into her funky, Mexicana/ Ska/skate style. Her first step in brand development was a successful collection of bags with Le Sportsac called L.A.M.B. An uber successful solo album, Love.Angel.Music. Baby., served as a rally call for young women and included references to Harajuku girls from Japan, who she also used as her backup dancers. Then Stefani launched L.A.M.B., a sportswear line that embodies her eclectic, edgy, and fashion forward sense of style. Snap! Stefani designs a limited edition camera with HP. Next, we will see her own L.A.M.B. accessories line as well as a sneaker line with Reebok.

You say one for the treble, two for the time Come on y’all let’s rock this! (Mos Def)

The latest artist to emerge as a creative brand builder is Mos Def. Aside from his large, underground hip-hop following with his collaborations with Talib Kweli as Black Star, Def was able to gain wider appeal in his stage and screen work. Bamboozled, Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party share Def’s aesthetic, sociopolitical swagger and cutting edge. Mos has appeared in numerous ad campaigns and fashion layouts due to his keen sense of style. This fall 2006, he released a pair of skate-inspired sneakers with Converse and a watch with the California-based company Nixon.

Emil Wilbekin