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Name: Adam Bernard
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Rappers In Advertising
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Common fell into the Gap

Here’s a weird coincidence for everyone. A few weeks ago Vinnie Scullo released his latest album, a project titled See You At The Gap. The title is tongue in cheek as the song of the same name is all about how stores like The Gap are destroying individuality and how you will never see Vinnie at such a place. Around the same time he released the album I turned on my TV and saw Common, an MC I’ve had nothing but the utmost respect for over the years, in a Gap commercial. Two MC’s I respect as artists and people were throwing completely divergent ideas at me at the same time, but I had to ask myself, can both be right?

I completely agree with Vinnie that stores like The Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch destroy individuality and create a world where people identify their level of coolness and self-worth with what brand of clothing they have on. I walked into a Gap store a few months ago and not only did everything look alike, but it was also a bit pricey for my taste, which is why I walked into their lower end store, Old Navy, to pick up a few things. Yeah, I know, it’s giving money to the same company, but it’s hard to turn down a $3 t-shirt when you need some new gear. So is Common supporting mildly expensive, and kind of bland, clothing with his ad for The Gap? Is he telling us to go buy our clothing there? Well, yes, but it’s really not that bad.

Back in the day LL Cool J did an ad for The Gap. He managed to throw in a Fubu reference that nobody at The Gap caught (“for us, by us, on the low”) and it made the ad legendary. LL grabbed a check from The Gap while also helping out a black owned company he was cool with. While Common didn’t manage to do that, and while my soul still throws up a little every time I see Common’s ad, I think I’ve come to terms with it and while it isn’t a great thing to see it also isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Common made some money, he didn’t hurt anybody (Gap's been working to eliminate sweatshops), and he expressed to the Hip-Hop community that there are clothing options out there other than the oversized gear plastered with logos that Hip-Hop clothing companies have been throwing at us for the past few years (whatever happened to dope looking Hip-Hop gear!?! Step your game up designers!).

Rappers are, more and more, appearing in advertisements, from Common’s Gap ad to Jay-Z doing commercials for Budweiser. This can be both good and bad for the culture. It’s bad when someone like Kanye West puts a company logo in his haircut and walks around looking like a fool for a check, but it’s good when an MC like Common can get some dap from a company like The Gap without giving up a piece of his soul. Once rappers become the norm in ads, though, like athletes are now, it will be time to make some important decisions.

If rappers get to a point where they are the ruling class of pitchmen it will be time for them to look at the products they’re being asked to hawk and carefully pick and choose who and what they will lend their voice and power to. So while it’s OK to take most any ad opportunity right now (ahem, most any. Get that logo out your hair Kanye!), a few years down the line it is my hope that MC’s will choose to disassociate themselves with the likes of liquor companies, fast foot restaurants, and any place with questionable overseas labor practices, in favor of places that support the community, give jobs to American people and promote a higher quality of health and living.

It’s important to show we as a community have power, but what’s more important is what we do with that power.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:02 AM  
  • At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Dr. Smoov said…

    When I first saw the ad I didn't know what to think. Being a big fan since he was know as Common Sense, my first reaction was oh no Common is "selling out", but the more I thought about it the less problems I had with it. The Gap dose sell the style of clothes that Common wears, Common has always know how to look good without looking like a thug. I am happy for a rapper of his caliber to make some money with out having to ignore his on principles or styles, since so many big money rappers change this styles to make money or drop their principles (if they ever had any). His rhymes in the ad only mention the Gap, not a endless shill. It is also good to see on TV that a rapper can look respectable without Armani and such. I don't see this as an attempt to try to market himself as more mainstream, just doing an ad for a company that has some social responsibility that he can live with. It works because of who he is, if it was Ghostface rapping about Gap then I would be screaming SELLOUT, or if Common was in an ad for say Harley Davidson (no dis on Harleys) I would have a some objection.

  • At 11:24 AM, Anonymous masterofself said…

    Props on another well written article. We had a major discussion about this over on the M7 Music boards. I know you probably don't have time to check it out, but if you could drop some knowledge on them. Peace

  • At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Tim said…

    Once again you forgot to include my homegirl Lil' Kim and her two walking billboards for the Dr. Katz Plastic/Restorative Center in Manhattan! lol.

    yayy im included (linked) for the kanye piece!

  • At 2:06 AM, Anonymous CMatic said…

    Gotta say, I agree with everything dr. smoov said

    And in high hopes of course, I am going to go out on a limb to say all this sellout talk will swiftly be forgotten when Finding Forever drops.

    God I love this blog.

  • At 8:12 AM, Blogger Adam said…

    Thanks for all the kind words everyone!

    And Master Of Self I hit up that board and dang there are some haters there. Though I guess it should figure, anytime someone makes a check someone else is almost always there to say there's something wrong with the way he or she did it.

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