Excessive Branding Ventures Are Killing Hip-Hop’s Soul

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Plus more highs and lows from the world of rap this week, including memorable moments from Jeezy and Gucci’s Verzuz battle and a breakdown of why Future and Lil Uzi Vert’s album is so underwhelming.

Tyga in the video for Krabby Step
Tyga in the video for his unfortunate SpongeBob song “Krabby Step.” Graphic by Drew Litowitz.

Pitchfork writer Alphonse Pierre’s rap column covers songs, mixtapes, albums, Instagram freestyles, memes, tweets, fashion trendsand anything else that catches his attention.


Misadventures in hip-hop branding

I get it. Like athletes, musicians usually have a finite amount of time to make their money. Who are we to tell them not to? But hip-hop fans, like me, are protective. In our heads and hearts, rap is supposed to be the one thing that’s not allowed to be commodified or appropriated—though history has shown that quite a few rappers don’t agree. Here are some of the most egregious recent offenders when it comes to selling out hip-hop’s soul.

Tyga, Swae Lee, and Lil Mosey’s SpongeBob song

For the right price, corporations can get Tyga to do just about anything. Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies sent the reborn California rapper a check, and now he’s responsible for “Krabby Step,” a miserable-sounding song for the upcoming SpongeBob movie. You might be thinking, “Chill, Alphonse, it’s supposed to be a fun song for kids,” but hey, a lot of fun shit for kids sucks, and so does this.

The only tolerable part is Albert Hype and Tainy’s nautical production, which they clearly made in five minutes before spending the rest of the studio session doing snow angels in their newly acquired piles of money. The rest is predictably abysmal. “I’m flippin’ them patties, I’m chillin’ with Patrick,” blandly wails Swae Lee; it’s unclear if he’s ever seen more than one episode of SpongeBob. Of course, the biggest offender is Tyga, who leads the most basic dance-a-long imaginable: to the left, to the right, stand up, hands up. The order of the steps doesn’t even make sense, because you would need to stand up before stepping left or right. Again, I know you’re going to say, “Alphonse, the dance is for kids.” But c’mon, we’re in the age of TikTok, where kids have proven they can get the hang of Beyoncé-level choreography. Everyone can do a lot better here.

Lyrical Lemonade is helping to rebuild the NFL’s image

Director Cole Bennett’s Lyrical Lemonade, a platform popular for making cartoonish music videos for rising rap stars, has ties to the NFL that are slowly becoming more defined. Earlier this year the Chicago Bears announced their schedule with a Lyrical Lemonade animation soundtracked by the Jack Harlow “WHATS POPPIN” instrumental. Then the NFL as a whole did the same, announcing their season’s return with another animation made by the platform, this time with guest appearances by Saweetie, Kid Cudi, Lil Durk, and more. It sure seems like the NFL is looking to Lyrical Lemonade to help rebuild its image in the eyes of a younger audience wary of the league because of its treatment of Colin Kaepernick.

 

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