Commercial Rap

This may be old news to those of you knee deep in the interweb trenches, but poet-ternt-rapper-ternt-something else Saul Williams recently lent his song “List of Demands (Reparations)” to a Nike commerical. Since then there’s been a whole lot of outrage in the virtual patchouli community. Here is a dizzy video where Saul discusses the issue. Now I may talk a good sell out game, but I find the idea of not going to a concert because of who the artist sells his music to be the most meaningless and self defeating form of ‘activism’ on the planet. Have fun sitting at home, sucker.

But I digress.Let the man get his money. As long as Saul’s not putting Nike drops on his album interludes or getting third world laborers to print his next mixtape cover we’re straight. I mean, he sold out, homie. But get that money. Corporations have had a long time love affair hip hop. It allows the suits to extend their youth and it lets broke rappers get paid. I, however, am more disappointed that Saul merely sold Nike an old record, rather than recording an entirely new song. Thus the Sha Clack Clack Shox rap that was running through my head when I first heard of this ‘scandal’ never came to be. You see, advertising commissioned rap songs are the untold history of hip hop. Until now. Here’s a quick run down of the few I can remember. (Yeah, that’s the real reason for this post. Got you hippies with the ol’ Saul Williams bait-n-switch.)

Every Rapper Ever For St. Ides
Here’s the campaign that started it all. Rapping about St. Ides on radio on TV moved a lot of cheap malt liquor and inspired many a Source editorial throughout the early 90s. The Youtubers got fairly comprehensive with this collection, even if a few are shaky hand cam rips: Biggie, King Tee, Snoop & Pac, Ice Cube & the Geto Boys, another Cube and Dr. Dre. For a split second I thought dude was pouring a ten gallon jug of crooked I on himself in the beginning of the Dre one. There is also a great comp of all the radio spots out there somewhere.

Pete & CL For Sprite
This was a series Sprite ran in the mid 90s with artists like Pete Rock Grand Puba, Large Professor cracking jokes and half freestylng in the studio. They later ‘reissued’ only this Pete & CL one, which is probably the reason it’s the only one on youtube. There was also a KRS/Shan one around the same time, which is untraceable.

Sprite x Voltron x Regional Rap
Sprite loves hip hop. In this later campaign Goodie Mob, Common, Fat Joe and Mack 10 (hey batting .500, works for me) team up to save tha kulture from Voltron (ok?) at the behest of Bambattaa. There was also a later follow up, with a Kung Fu theme where Kool Keith gets a bunch of female rappers to fight… uh… someone. I don’t remember.

Jadakiss for Allen Iverson for Reebok
Reebok was another great corporate sponser for hip hop. Though I’m not sure Jada was the best choice, especially at the height of his diss every Philly rapper campaign. I mean my man Boo Bonic (ayo) was sitting close enough to trip Kucoc! AI could’ve hollered then. Nonetheless, these were kinda hot. A5 Version, A6 Version. Styles also did one for KG, which was slightly less exciting. I think there might have been a few more in the series too.

De La Soul For Lugz

Past their prime De La push never were good boots. Why is this audio on my hard drive and why isn’t the video on youtube?

Jay-Z & 50 For Reebok
Kind of underwhelming in retrospect. This dropped right before these guys became less rappers and more corporate entities.

Boost Mobile City Behind Us
Dope record, vapid ad campaign. It’s kind of biting the Sprite/Voltron thing, come to think of it. Except without the cartoon space robots. The follow up is just painful. I mean really Mickey Avalon and Jermanie Dupri?

Juelz & Just Blaze for Nike
I think this is the last time I heard Juelz rap. What happened to that guy?

I’m sure I’m forgetting dozens. Refresh my memory. Preferably with Youtube links. Also I want to give a crazy, down syndrome shout to the Burger King DJ.

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  • Ryan

    Missy Elliot for Sprite as well. Twista for McDonald’s……..oh wait, nevermind.

  • Tray

    “I think this is the last time I heard Juelz rap. What happened to that guy?”

    A new song with him and Weezy Crackhead Baby just came out. Half of it is listenable!

    Oh, and the Nas/AZ sprite commercial is on youtube too. As is the “untraceable” KRS/Shan one –

  • Rockcity

    Nas and AZ did Sprite as well and its on youtube.

  • bding7
  • ri067953

    Yo, I had never seen that King Tee ad. King Tee was the perfect fit for the campaign ‘cept I thought he drank gin and super socco.

  • earleybird

    i actually wish that this song was on the new wu album….RZA for Nike

  • Incilin

    This is a great post. This shit really is the untold story of hip hop. I like that you found ads from famous rappers that I aint seen before, but what about those terrible ads with unknown rappers rapping about McDonalds and such? Those shits are just stupid, but funny as hell.

    One that I love that you don’t have is Busta Rhymes driving the monsta truck a la Mad Max (or Pac in California Love) for Mountain Dew (following the Sprite formula I guess) I don’t remember if there was any actual rapping tho. Either way it aint on YouTube.

    One thing you got to check out is this god-awful ad for Opitum Online. I was watching it the other day thinking someone should write about these ridiculous ads that use rap music. It’s actually regeaton but it’s so bad it’s worth the viewing.

  • Incilin

    BTW, which Philly rapper besides Beans did Jada diss? Or did I miss something?

    • noz

      jada from an old source interview:
      “I take that as criticism but a whole state got on because of me. Philly’s on right now because of me. Everybody’s tryin’ to sound like me.”

  • Crimson

    Snoop Dogg for Cal Worthington Ford.

    “Tell em big Snoop Dogg sent ya.”

  • render

    good drop

    those jada/ai spots are on some dope shit…forgot all about all of these

    and that boost track shoulda been a single. aint as if any of those dudes are really rapping about cellphones in the first place

  • Pierzy

    Wu-Tang did a great St. Ides commercial too (which is played in the background during one of the intros on Cuban Linx)…

  • noz

    i just remembered the recent rza/vincent gallo belve commercial, which was crazy. they cut the abbot out of the youtube clip though, sadly.

    • monique r.


      Great drop….whatever happened to Lugz?

  • eauhellzgnaw
  • d

    i figure it doesn’t count, but that unreleased biggie pepsi commercial was nuts.

  • thoreauly77

    “Past their prime De La push never were good boots.”

    - what the hell is this sentence even supposed to mean? aside from that, the song is easily the best one out of all.

    • Tray

      A past-their-prime De La shill for boots that were never good.

  • fakerthanfake

    i can’t find it anywhere but freakin akrobatik did a radio spot for brisk’s new green tea drink. hilarious, to say the least

  • pileofshirt69

    Pharoahe Monch originally recorded “Behind Closed Doors” for a Lugz commercial the summer before “Simon Says” dropped.

  • jollyrench

    How about Classic with Kanye Rakim and KRS-One, its an advertisement for Air Forces.

  • jay paso


  • Tray

    Oh, Styles P and the And 1 Kevin Garnett commercial! One of my favorites.

  • concerned hater

    The best part of those st.ides radio ads is not that the rappers are pushing the great taste of the drink, but rather the “get stoopid” kind of drunk that it provides.

    …and then there’s the ice cube/king tee: “get your girl in the mood quicker” st.ides promo.

    haha, I’m enjoying re-listening to these…

    Yoyo, noted punstress, with the “femalt liquor” promo.


  • Hashim Warren

    I did this exact post months ago. Not saying you bit, but well, actually I am!

  • JUMZ

    Nas and AZ for the sprite joint.. str8 classic

  • Simple like ABC

    Wu-Tang Clan = St Ides TV Commercial


  • vega

    “Every rapper ever for St. Ides”

    Chuck D. would like to have a word with you about this.

  • rkm

    Most random one of all: Talib Kweli for the Big Ten a few years back. Actually a pretty good flow though.

  • rec

    F-A-B-O-L-O-U-S for R double e B-O-K

  • Therm

    Biz Markie for Washington DC area car dealership, Eastern Motors:

  • Therm

    Extra credit to the Sprite Nas and AZ commercial for refrencing the Double Trouble scene from Wild Style.

  • earleybird

    Dont forget Common for coca cola and the Gap

  • Conor

    Scarface & Stevie Franchise for Reebok

  • Therm

    I want to talk about Saul Williams dammit. It’s disappointing that he went on some long rant about ethical consumerism and how he’s influencing Nike. Total bullshit. His last album was equally a steaming terd. What he could have said was: “I am getting this money so I can keep on making music. Fuck Nike.” I liked his radio rant about rappers sounding like neo-cons, but then he turns around and shills for major companies. SELL OUT.

  • d. b. cooper

    Yeah, the DJ Drank compilation of St. Ides commercials is great. However it omits my very favorite (along with MC Eiht’s The Brew Tok Me Unda): Threat’s, which used the beat on the phone interludes from Sickinnahead, which everyone who ever heard that album wanted Threat to rap on.

  • d. b. cooper

    That’s the DJ Pooh beat I’m talking about in the background. I never saw this one. I have a vague and fond memory of seeing the Threat commercial on Yo! MTV Raps one night and being blown away, since Yo! wouldn’t play Let the Dogs Loose (a horrible policy on their part).

  • TKG

    Hyphy King of Queens ad from Bay Area CW newtwork

    At same time the DC CW network was running a Chuck Brown ad for King of Queens and Judge Mathis.

    I’m assuming “use local hip hop scene for commercials” was a was a national CW advertising directive.

    Hoping someone has a chopped and screwed “Gilmore Girls” ad from the Texas CW.

  • Jay Smooth

    Favorites y’all didn’t get to yet:

    Craig G for Van Grack

    Daddy-O for Polly-O string chese

    Fu Schnickens for Lugz:

  • BrazenK

    Snoop Dogg and a bunch of other rappers for the [Special Brew]. Those 2 lil kid rappers [The Future] from the Mc Donald’s commercials. West Coast Rapper Threat for the St. Ides commericals is always forgotten, or never seen before. I have it on tape somewhere. lol.

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