Much ado, as of late, is being made about T.I. leading the charge of various industry-type folks calling for the boycott of the once-popular fashion brand, Gucci. As previously reported, T.I. (real name: Clifford Harris) was just one of many celebrities who dragged the brand to hell and back for its seemingly blackface-inspired sweater.
The Rubber Band Man, in fact, was so incensed by Gucci’s faux pas, he called upon his nearly 10 million Instagram followers to not only no longer buy Gucci but to not wear anything by the revered Italian fashion brand for at least the next three months. (Prada and Moncler came in for their share of roasting from T.I., too, for their own perceived racist advertising.)
Not far behind the Ant-Man and the Wasp star was Soulja Boy, who never met an opportunity for a promo that he didn’t like (though in this case, his bandwagon-jumping was welcome).
And acclaimed director Spike Lee also took to his social media accounts to proclaim that he would no longer wear Prada or Gucci “until they hired black designers,” while calling the fashion houses’ behavior “coonery and buffoonery.” (Yikes!)
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I,Spike Lee Of Sound Mind And Body Will No Longer Wear Prada Or Gucci Until They Hire Some Black Designers " To Be In Da Room When It Happens". It's Obvious To Da Peoples That They Don't Have A Clue When It Comes To Racist, Blackface Hateful Imagery. WAKE UP. Ya-Dig? Sho-Nuff. And Dat's Da "Coonery And Buffoonery” Truth,Ruth.
As New York celebrates yet another Fashion Week, some members of the fashion press are questioning whether Clifford and friends can succeed in hitting Gucci where it hurts (in the pocket). Their eyebrows are specially raised when T.I.’s wife Tiny Harris was caught wearing the contentious brand, and Mariah Carey was snapped at Disney World wearing Gucci as well.
But they’d be sorely remiss to underestimate the power of Hip Hop to effectuate change.
Because Hip Hop-led boycotts do work.
Just ask JAY-Z.
In 2006, Frederic Rouzad — the manager of the company that makes Cristal champagne — was asked by The Economist about his thoughts about the popularity of his cherished champagne’s popularity amongst rappers.
“What can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it,” he replied.
Not exactly what one would call a ringing endorsement of rappers — and many in Hip Hop, including JAY-Z, took this statement, correctly, as a racist slight. At the time, social media wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, but that didn’t stop Hova from calling upon his fellow Hip Hop Illuminati — friends, fans, and industry professionals alike — to boycott the brand.
The following month, a mysterious new kind of gold bottle appeared in the video for the equally Budweiser-promotin’ “Show Me What You Got.”
That video would introduce the world to the brand of champagne called Armand de Brignac, which would eventually be nicknamed “Ace of Spades” after its logo on the bottle.
Later, it was revealed that the Ace of Spades champagne was merely a reboot of Antique Gold champagne line. Sold almost exclusively in France, Antique Gold was discontinued in 2006, shortly before Ace of Spades made its debut on American shores. Even more interestingly, Cattier — the company that manufactures both Antique Gold and Ace of Spades — billed the Ace of Spades American launch as champagne that was “making its North American debut this year, after enjoying success as a premium, high-end brand in France,” according to Forbes.
Whatever the case, the wine industry clapped back — and hard — at JAY-Z for daring to step on once-sacred ground that belonged, up until that point, exclusively to rich, white, European males from a remote district in an eastern provence of France.
New York City-based wine blogger and amateur sommelier Lyle Fass, in fact, infamously said that Ace of Spades “tasted like shit” and was “the biggest rip-off in the history of wine.” While other notables in the wine industry were a bit more forgiving about Ace of Spades — the overall consensus was that, while it was a fine enough product for its $60 price point, it wasn’t the greatest champagne in the history of the world, which was perfectly alright for all things considered. Fass felt that JAY-Z was trying to foist a scam to end all scams on the unsuspecting public.
Sounds about white.
Indeed, according to AdAge, the so-called “wine experts” swore on everything that a spunky rapper with a big mouth wasn’t going to anything at all to affect Cristal. The audiences were just not the same, they sniffed. What did these broke rappers know?
Apparently, as it would turn out, these “broke rappers” would know a lot more than the wine industry gave them credit for.
While JAY-Z couldn’t “break” Cristal’s brand overall — they’re still in business, after all — he gave a much-needed boost to the brand’s rivals. The boost he gave them, in fact, was enough to make the Cristal brand lose a lot of face in the global wine market and Hip Hop space, overall. You’ll be hard pressed to find a rapper who dominates the streaming era and regularly tries to bend their rhymes with variations like Cristyle or Cristaaall.
No longer the designator of exclusivity, Cristal has become quite a ‘common’-type brand, and it was bested by a bottle of champagne whose owner, at that point, was best known for “Originator 99 (Nigga What),” and being one of Superhead’s conquests.
That’s gotta hurt.
So the next time someone tells you that Hip Hop can’t effectuate change — or that its stars can’t move the needle in either direction when it comes to a boycott — all you have to do is remind them of what happened to Cristal.
“You don’t fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity.” —— Bobby Seale.