In 2018, hip-hop is as ubiquitous as ever. The culture that started off in the rubble of the South Bronx and spread throughout urban America has gone on to become embedded in pop culture. It influences the way we walk, the way we talk and even how companies advertise their products. Branding has long-been big business and is nothing new, but ad agencies have begun to utilizing the influence and charisma of the culture's biggest stars to help their clients drum up interest among consumers. And the best time of the year to grab everyone's attention with a hot new commercial is during the Super Bowl.
Last night (Feb. 4), the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, 41-33. And while Meek Mill's energetic "Dreams & Nightmares (Intro)" served as an anthem for the eventual champions, hip-hop also maintained a presence during the much-see commercials. The game was a thriller, but the commercials are another special wrinkle of the Super Bowl experience. Everyone from Cardi B to Yo Gotti got some shine last night, but they're far from the first rap figures to appear in the expensive, much-coveted ad time.
Over the last decade, brands have enlisted many of rap's elite to appear in their ads in an attempt to get on the competition—evidence of hip-hop's power as the straw that stirs pop culture as we know it. XXL compiles a few of the Super Bowl commercials that have truly left a mark over the years.
Diet Pepsi hooked up with Diddy for this Super Bowl commercial back in 2005, and it remains one of the more memorable of all-time in terms of blockbuster ads on the day of the big game. P. Diddy, who is having car trouble, is late to an awards show and is given a lift by a Diet Pepsi truck driver. His unusual arrival at the awards show -- which prompts Carson Daley to marvel, "I didn't know P. Diddy drove a Diet Pepsi truck" -- inspires a trend of people driving the same kind of rides. Everyone from grandmothers to Xzibit catch on to the trend, making for an amusing commercial that is as original as it is enjoyable.
LL Cool J, Missy Elliott & Busta Rhymes 2008 Pepsi Ad
Pepsi is king when it comes to showing love to rap artists in their Super Bowl ads and 2008 was yet another example of the brand's love affair with hip-hop. Diet Pepsi Max may not be the elixir of choice when most young people think of grabbing a soda, but the brand attempted to find footing in that demographic with their 2008 ad featuring LL Cool J, Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes. The commercial, which is soundtracked by the famous club hit, "What Is Love," begins with Troy Aikman and commentator Joe Buck speaking about the big game before Buck suddenly nods off, live on-air, which is the theme of the spot. LL, Missy and Busta get caught sleeping at an awards show, but get rejuvenated after taking a swig of Diet Pepsi Max, which means it must be the drink of veteran hip-hop champions.
MC Hammer 2009 Cash4Gold Ad
The 2009 Super Bowl featured a commercial that finds rap legend MC Hammer teaming up with Ed McMahon for what would be one of the funnier spots that year. The ad begins with McMahon detailing the rising market value of gold and how you can use Cash4Gold to exchange your unwanted gold for some fast cash. Then MC Hammer makes an unexpected appearance, shouting, "I can get cash for this gold medallion of me wearing a gold medallion" in tongue-in-cheek fashion. The former 357 general shows off a golden sledgehammer that he could sell, but McMahon offering up his golden hip replacement takes the cake. "We melting gold, baby," MC Hammer says at the end of the hilarious clip with his unlikely, yet equally charismatic co-star.
Will.i.am. and Pepsi made a big splash in 2009, with their Super Bowl commercial featuring the late, great Bob Dylan. Beginning with vintage footage of the folk legend peering through the lens of a pair of sunglasses before putting them on, will.i.am. appears and does the same, symbolizing the two cultural heroes of two separate generations seeing eye to eye. The clip includes audio of his classic 1974 cut, "Forever Young," on which Dylan sings, "May God blessing keep you always / May your wishes all come true / May you always do for others and let others do for you / May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung / And may you stay forever young" while footage from the past and present conveys his message even further.
The rapper then gives his own rendition of the record, rapping, "May your hands always be busy / May your feet always be swift / And may ya have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift / And may your heart always be joyful / And may your song always be sung / May you stay forever young," bringing the commercial full-circle and further adding to hip-hop's history with the Super Bowl.
A regular on Super Bowl Sunday, Bud Light got the hip-hop bug in 2010, and decided to incorporate it into one of their ads for that year. The commercial, which features a cameo from T-Pain, depicts a guy that begins speaking in Auto-Tune after his wife brings home a case of Bud Light. This spurs him to call up a few of his homies, who are also in tune with the Light. Just when the wife thinks things can't get wilder, she notices T-Pain is also in attendance. Asking her to "Pass that guacamole" in his signature Auto-Tune, Pain helps continue hip-hop's reputation of making a big splash during the Super Bowl weekend.
Detroit may not be making an appearance at the Super Bowl anytime soon, but one of its native sons made an appearance during the commercial breaks in 2011. The city's rap king Eminem made a rare endorsement with this Chrysler ad, which extols the virtues of the downtrodden town's blue-collar ethics and never-die attitude. Asking, "What does this city know about luxury," the narrator paints a vivid picture of what it means to be from Detroit over the beat from 8 Mile track, Eminem's "Lose Yourself." All the while the rapper rides through the city. Reaching his destination at the Fox Theater, Eminem walks in and is greeted by a choir, which he stands before while stating, "This is the Motor City. This is what we do," closing out one of the more moving Super Bowl commercials in recent memory.
Pepsi returned yet again with another star-studded Super Bowl commercial that showed their focus on the hip-hop generation in 2012 by featuring Flavor Flav alongside Melanie Amaro and Elton John. Set in a medieval court, a jester sings a horrid rendition of Nelly's "Hot in Herre" before getting banished by the legendary pianist via trap door. Amaro then appears out of nowhere and wows the court with her glass-shattering vocals and liberates all of the Pepsi in the kingdom after sending Elton John through the same trap door he sent the jester. There he meets Flav, who laughs at his new inmates fall from grace in one of the more original ads of that year.
Are you hangry?" Snoop Dogg asks at the beginning of his 2015 Super Bowl commercial for Eat 24. Acting as a professional physician, Snoop appears alongside comedian Gilbert Gottfried while listing the side effects that being hangry can bring, including uncontrollable yelling, hallucination, pants discomfort and a litany of other ailments. Gottfried is as outrageous as ever in this clip while being the hangry person in question and leaves viewers hysterical by yelling at a can of pickles for not being egg rolls and being upset at the fit of his pants.
Snoop, forever the ultimate pitchman, touts Eat 24 as "the app that tells hunger to shut up" and concluding that in his (fictional) medical opinion, it's "the best motherfucking way to order food online." While the West Coast may have lost on the field that day, its most beloved rapper won with this standout commercial. D-O-G-G displays the charisma that's allowed him to go from one of being one of Amerikaz Most Wanted to a media darling.
Lil Wayne2016 Apartments.com Ad
Lil Wayne may have had a rough 2015, but he's kicking the new year off in a major way with his appearance in this Super Bowl ad for Apartments.com. Weezy, who is cast alongside George Washington, has moved on up to the Eastside and invites the former President to come up to his pad and kick it, presumably to watch the big game. The rapper has his feet kicked back, enjoying the comforts of his home, and is down to let the prez lounge with him -- as long as he's come with a pack of hamburger and hot dog buns in tow. The original G.W. hasn't arrived empty-handed and he's granted entrance into Tunechi's digs to enjoy the party with him and his friends, who have the time of their life in this unpredictable clip.
Drake kept hotlines blinging throughout the second half of 2015, but if this Super Bowl commercial for T-Mobile is any indication, that isn't going to change anytime soon. The made man of OVO continues to win big by joining the hallowed club of rappers with the star power to make a splash during the biggest sporting event of the year. Plus, he shows off his acting chops in the process.
In this spot, Drake is doing the dance moves from his "Hotline Bling" music video while the song plays before three reps for a rival cellphone carrier run up and interrupt Drake. They inject their own lyrics centered around their own service and ruin the song. Drake, being the nice guy that he is, doesn't seem to mind, but the result is horrific and yet another reminder that T-mobile is the way to go and hip-hop continues to make its presence known during Super Bowl weekend.
Missy Elliott2017 Honda Ad
In a spot dubbed "Yearbooks," Honda brought to life the high school portraits of celebrities like Magic Johnson, Steve Carell and Missy Elliott. The message is all about self-confidence and dreaming big.
"If you want to make an album, make an album," says Missy, who's recorded some of music's most progressive LPs, most recently 2005's The Cookbook. Here's to hoping she follows her own advice.
Big Sean 2018 Rocket Mortgage Ad
Big Sean's monster hit "Bounce Back" gets prime placement in this one-minute commercial that also features actor-comedian Keegan-Michael Key. In it, Key—one-half of Comedy Central's Key & Peele—attempts to explain to a middle-aged dad what it means to "take an L" as the song plays on a car stereo. Sean Don unexpectedly emerges from the backseat to provide validation.
Fugee rapper Pras announced a new media venture in a dramatic, surprising fashion. He dropped a 30-second clip that begins with him on stage, stepping to a microphone in an empty auditorium. He's blindfolded and a black tape with four X's covers his mouth. He removes both and exits stage right without saying a word, as his brand's tagline—"Be Celebrated. Not Tolerated."—appears on the screen. Provocative.
Yo Gotti & Iggy Azalea2018 Monster Ad
Monster brings together this unlikely pair in a commercial touting its headphones and audio products. It starts by depicting Yo Gotti as a straphanger riding the New York City subway. Once the train door opens, we see Iggy Azalea standing on the platform, performing her Quavo-assisted single, "Survivor." Essentially, the two-and-a-half minute spot is a vehicle to promote the freshly released song, an potential Iggy comeback and the Aussie artist's hot-pink hair.
What would you do if your Alexa lost her voice? The creative folks at Amazon imagined that scenario in a commercial that replaced Alexa's artificial intelligence with the voices of Anthony Hopkins, actress Rebel Wilson, chef Gordon Ramsay and, most hilariously, Cardi B. She answers a command to play country music by blasting "Bodak Yellow." Responds to a query about the solar system with this hilarity:
How far is Mars? How am I supposed to know? I never been there! This guy wanna go to Mars! For what? [Laughs] There's not even oxygen there.