Heavy D, Kid N Play, and Kris Kross for Sprite 1991, Kid N Play 1993
Sprite was one of the earliest companies to realize how instrumental and marketable rap could be to advertising, so kudos to them for that. Futhermore, the relationship between Sprite and the hip-hop culture has lasted decades. In 1991, Sprite aired ads which featured the late Heavy D and Kid N Play dressed in yellow and green or lemon-lime outfits to make you FEEL that lemon flavor. The commercials were a success, so Sprite did it again in 1993 with Kris Kross (RIP Chris Kelly).
MC Hammer for Taco Bell 1989
Hungry for a late snack? What if there's a big donkey in the middle of the road? What if zombies take over the earth? Or what if your fans just won't leave you alone? Life will always throw us curveballs. But thanks to the fashionable, talented, AND crafty MC Hammer, there's a way to satisfy that hunger AND avoid all those obstacles. The answer to your problem, parachute pants. That's right. In this commercial, Hammer uses his parachute pants as an actual parachute.
Redman for Karl Kani
This commercial is dope. It has fashion, style, and Redman's hard, awesome flow. He goes so hard that at the end of his verse, the commercial goes into a freeze frame, but the whole thing was so awesome we're not asking any questions. Just watch!
Kurtis Blow for Sprite 1986
In this commercial for Sprite, Kurtis Blow acts as an anchorman who's here to give us the news that "without lymon it's not happenin', so sorry, 7 Up!" It was so corny, it worked. So bad, it was good. It was the birth of Sprite's relationship with hip-hop culture.
Jay Z for Heineken 2003
Jay Z and his hit record "Excuse Me Miss" appear in this smooth Heineken ad featuring a hot girl acting as Hov's girlfriend. Deep down we all know Jay prefers cognac over beer any day of the week, but seeing him pour it, that hot girl, hearing "Excuse Me Miss" playing in the background...it works. It makes us want to buy a six-pack of Heinken at 711 or at the very least go to the bar...you get it.
A Tribe Called Quest for Sprite 1994
This goes out to all the non-believers...in thirst. Sprite is known for some of the most iconic hip-hop ads in history. In this commercial, Q-Tip recites a poem while kids dance under freeways and giant floating Sprite cans.
Eminem for Chrysler 2011
The full version of this ad was only aired once, during the Superbowl. What does a city like Detroit, a town that's been to hell and back know about luxury? "Well I'll tell you. More than most. It's the hottest fires that make the hardest steel. Add hardwork, conviction and knowhow. That's who we are." Cue the slow guitairs to Eminem's "Lose Yourself." "That's our story." The voiceover reminds us it's "probably not" the one we've been hearing or reading. Detroit is a place to be proud of.
Mos Def for Jordans XVI
This is one of the dopest sports commercials ever. In my many cases, rappers will just lend their songs to an ad, but in this case Mos didn't just lend "Umi Says" to the Jordan XVI campaign, he gave them the entire video! How insane is that? Anyway, the edited in slo-mo sports shots and cameos look a little weird and misplaced, but still. This is amazing.
In an Absolut World, N.E.R.D's "Truth Or Dare" was bumpin and boys could take a pill that would turn them into Kanye West, for approximately four hours according to the pill packaging. Though Absolut how accessible the pills were. Only in an Absolut World.
Ice Cube for Nike P Rod SB Dunks 2009
This super dope ad promoted skater Paul Rodriduguez's Nike Dunk line and paid homage to Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day" video. Ice Cube himself makes an appearance in this ad in the same blue lowrider he drove in the "It Was A Good Day" video. The Nike commercial nails the vibe of Cube's video so well that you may actually feel like you're back in 1993. Nike's vision was to turn a video about finding the positives in a world of social injustice and poverty into a commercial about skating and chilling. They did exactly that. The video and song are unforgettable already. Much respect to Paul Rodriguez and Nike for being able to pay homage in such a beautiful way.
Nike Second Coming 2007
This ad promoted the Nike Air Force Ones 25s and featured some of the best players of era such as Steve Nash, Kobe, LeBron (with a pretty decent hairline, Rasheed Wallace, and many more dressed in fatigues (white Nike tracksuits) ready for combat). BOOM. They start playing. This is all to the tune of Juelz Santana's "The Second Coming." The whole thing is just awesome. It was one of the commercials where you just have to find out what the song is and get it immediately. It just got everyone so hype. The music, the players, the intensity. Simply amazing.
KRS One vs. MC Shan for Sprite 1996
Sprite is back at it again, this time with an ad featuring the Bridge Wars, the biggest rap feud of the era. Shan and KRS One were definitely up there in age, but they held their own. It was fun and entertaining. And it made us all smile to see them share the ring in good spirits. A fun rap battle with two former foes coming together.
So Jay Z and 50 haven't always been the best of friends, and it's kinda weird how this whole thing came together, but, basically, money talks. So Hov and 50 rapped on this Just Blaze-produced track to sell Reeboks. Each rapper even got his own personal sneaker line, S. Carter and G-Unit. Both had a brief period of success.
Jay Z for HP 2006
"I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man." Hol up, Hov. You're both now. So you're gonna need a new notebook to keep everything together. Jay was way ahead of us, though. He broke down his business plan in this super crispy, subtle, and sophisticated commercial. Of course he managed to slip in the dynasty sign. "My passport says Shawn, but you may know me by another name."
50 Cent for Vitamin Water 2007
In this silly commercial for Vitamin Water, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson conducts an orchestra that is supposed to perform Beethoven's Ninth. The commentators tell us that 50 has always loved the work of Beethoven. We see 50 take a sip of Vitamin Water and one commentator says that it's really helped with his performance. "One more change." DJ Whoo Kid will now be playing the viola. And now, the show begins. And orchesta starts performing 50's hit "In Da Club." "Sounds like he's integrated his hit 'In Da Club.' At the Extraordinary." 50 Cent was not only a spokesperson, but an investor, in Vitamin Water.
Nas and AZ/Missy/The Lost Boyz for Sprite 1997/1998
Throughout the 90s, many hip-hop artists rapped in support of that crisp lymon taste that only Sprite could deliver. So by the late '90s, Sprite had cemented its place at the forefront of hip-hop advertisting. In 1997, they started their "Wild Style Campaign," which took the hottest rappers of the time, Nas, AZ, The Lost Boyz, and Missy Elliott, and placed them in classic scenes from the biblical hip-hop film "Wild Style." First up, Nas and AZ recreate Double Trouble's "Here's a little story that must be told..." stoop routine.
In this super awesome ad, the Lost Boyz are placed in the films stage scene.
In Missy's ad, the rapper chronicles the Cold Crush/Fantastic 5 basketball battle, but this time, the competitors are Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. The "Wild Style" campaign was awesome because it appealed to both hip-hop's current and past fans. There was a touch of modern and a dash of nostalgia, and it all came together to form something truly magical.
Ok...So imagine having a bunch of chains with your face on them. That's weird enough, right? Unless, of course, you've always wanted a bunch of chains with your face on them...Anyway, now imagine all the heads come to life and saying "BOOM!" That's essentially what happened in Rick Ross' 2010 commercial for Nike. The Ricky Rozay heads said "BOOM!" And then you were instantly like, "I need some new Nike gear." Now in Nike's defense, they showed a really awesome, super quick sports montage, so it's not totally off to think that this ad inspired people to go out and buy a pair of Nike sneakers, or any other Nike-related item. Maybe you were even inspired to buy a Rick Ross album. That's great too! And if you actually bought a chain with you own face on it...Well...Respect.
Jay Z for Rhapsody 2009
This commercial was artful, simple, and beautiful. With "Run This Town" playing in the background, Jay Z recreated all his album covers in a minute, through wardrobe and set changes. It's kind of hard to explain, but it's classy and amazing. Just watch. "Jay Z fans get it."
Kanye, Game, and Ludacris for Boost Mobile 2004
This ad was like a music video. Kanye was in the studio in Chicago, Ludacris was partying in Atlanta, and Game was driving in LA. The three called each other, with their Boost Mobile phones, of course, and started spitting bars. What we got was a super dope banger called "Where Ya At?" "Southside, outside, eastside, let's ride..."
Honestly, it's doubtful that the ad inspired anyone to actually sign up for Boost Mobile service, but no one has forgotten that awesome banger. A year later, Boost relaunched the campaign with Jermanie Dupri, Young Jeezy, and Mickey Avalon. But "Where Ya At 2.0" just wasn't as successful.
Jay Z for Samsung 2013
Watching this commercial just made you feel a combination of hyped up and really good. Jay's on the balcony overlooking the New York City skyline talking on his Samsung Galaxy. Then he goes back in the studio. He's talking about the album, playing beats for Timbo and Rick Rubin. Seeing Rick on the couch with his closed, patting his belly, vibing to the music, it just made us smile. Jay told us the new album would be out July 4. "We need to write the new rules." And then BOOM. That climax hits everyone's rocking out, and Jay Z tells us he "just wants a Picasso." And then we hear the beat to "Tom Ford." The commercial features Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Pharrell, and Rick Rubin helping Hov work on his newest album Magna Carta Holy Grail. "The idea is to really finish the album and drop it." But not to sell phones, at least not according to the ad. "MagnCartaHolyGrail.Com appeared across the screen followed by #SamSungGalaxy. That was the only mention of the phone. Later, we learned that Samsung Galaxy owners could get the album early and for free, but the ad was designed to sell Jay Z's new album, and not the phone.
Grand Puba, Pete Rock, CL Smooth, and Large Professor for Sprite 1994
Sprite's "Obey Your Thirst" freestyles were seriously legendary. There was no glitz or glamour. Just really awesome hip-hop perforfmed in a casual studio setting. The performers were guys like Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Large Professor and Grand Puba. Sprite had solidified its place in hip-hop, but these freestyles showed that Sprite truly got it. The rappers they used in this campaign were relatively underground. This was real hip-hop. It was just really nice and refreshing to see.
Biggie for St. Ides 1995
Ok, so the backstory of this commercial is kind of weird. It all went down at the height of the West Coast/East Coast rap beef, and West Coast DJ Pooh, who was in the charge of the St. Ides commercials, gave Biggie some beat that was later taken by the Dogg Pound, and eventually they would use it to record their "New York, New York" diss record. In the video, Snoop went as far as to kick down the Manhattan skyscrapers. Somehow, this led to Biggie getting his own ad for St. Ides. It was actually pretty perfect, though. New York's biggest rapper selling malt liquor to the sounds of an anti-New York beat. Totally brilliant. The commercial was dope, and Big Poppa sounded super smooth and crispy rapping "Forget the taste that's less filling, I'd rather have some Ides and some dimes in the crib chilling." In that particular exchange, Biggie definitely won the battle. It's weird to think that Snoop was so cold-hearted at one-point...
Run DMC for Adidas 1987
"My Adidas" is one of the most unforgettable jingles of all time. Run DMC's partnership with Adidas was monumental for many reasons. First, it set the standards for many hip-hop partnerships, think Kanye West/Louis V, Pharrell/Nigo, A$AP Rocky and Jeremy Scott for Adidas. You get the idea. And second, it was a breakthrough for music executive Lyor Cohen, who at the time was a young go-getter just starting out. Cohen helped broker the deal between Run DMC and Adidas.
Two words. Four syllables. That's all it took to change an entire culture.
Diddy & Ciroc Present: Art of Celebration 2011
Ok, so he's Puff Daddy again, and we're secretly hoping for the return of the Shiny Suit Era, but when this commercial aired he was still Diddy. Set in a luxurious Las Vegas Casino, the commercial featured Diddy (of course), Aaron Paul, Eva Pigford, Michael K. Williams, and more, "Luck Be A Lady" played in the background, and Diddy and friends gambled and partied all night, drinking Ciroc, of course. The voiceover describes Ciroc Ultra Premium as "perfectly smooth," and that's exactly what this ad is, "perfectly smooth."
Jadakiss for Allen Iverson's Reeboks A5 2001
The commercial for Allen Iverson's the Answer 5 was definitely a classic. The ad aired in 2001 when AI ruled the NBA. Jadakiss raps that Allen Iverson is the "answer and the problem" as AI demonstrates his skills. Remember when Allen Iverson was actually fun to watch!?