In the late 90’s, I worked in an urban haberdashery…
That means I sold clothes to black folks. The store I worked in was an odd mix of inexpensive ($125 each or 2-for-$200) suits of cheapish materials against moderately expensive ($650+) ones with accessories matching each price point. We also had urban wear at the end of the Karl Kani era and beginning of FUBU and the likes.
Bookmark that FUBU thing, it is coming back up shortly and will be on the exam.
One of the things I noticed working in that store that I would later find applicable in music and life in general is that urban folks LOVE a copycat hustle…
LL Cool J helped Daymond John and the FUBU cats out with some cash (<– allegedly) and a HUGE boost by wering one of THEIR hats in a Gap commercial (!!!) back when Gap commercials were a thing. Now an urbanwear company is a thing on a larger scale than ever before. Normal companies existed, but next thing you know, Nas is behind one (Remember Willie Esco?), Fat Joe is behind one (FJ560, anyone?) we all know about Sean John, which is the only one that has exhibited any staying power.
Shit, later in the game, when higher-end gear started to come out with Iceberg History emblazoned with cartoon characters, FUBU turned copycatted with their “Platinum” line, featuring Fat Albert and them. We could probably see this as the beginning of the end (or sign of the times, honestly), because you can get FUBU in Wal Mart now.
In the years that would follow, it felt like EVERY rapper, wannabe rapper, hood thot, zesty college junior dude and club promoter would try to shill their own clothing line because they had seen a FEW people do it before them.
Not an original idea, but it was attempted time and time and time again, some continuing on into the 2010s still (poorly) going at it.
I left that store so I could get a job with a more consistent schedule so I could go back to college, just as I ripened into drinking age.
After shamelessly promoting expensive-but-mediocre vodkas like Grey Goose and Belvedere, someone got the bright idea:
Why don’t I latch on with one of these distribution companies and put my name behind one of these things?
(Phlip note: none of these rappers actually OWN their liquor companies, they simply have a deal with the people who do to appear that they do)
I want to say it was Jay-Z and Dame Dash who did that shit first, but once they started talking about it in their songs and people FLOCKED to go buy it, every one with a record deal and a little bit of attention went to get a new revenue stream.
Diddy made them all look foolish when he linked with the same company that distributes Crown Royal (please Google the name Diageo). Then the arms race was on, and now AGAIN we have people in a mad dash to append their names to semi and ultra-premium liquors.
50 Cent releases his “debut” album Get Rich or Die Trying. The central theme of the promotion of it was conflict with people who might have disagreed with his previous attempt to break into the industry, but more direct were his shots DIRECTLY at people by name. AND IT WORKED!!! At that point, and for several years since — ESPECIALLY by Curtis himself — it was unheard of to release an album without starting some shit with someone, with or without reasoning. TO THIS DAY people are playing this tactic, even when it blows up in Meek Mill‘s face repeatedly. Their labels will not be bothered with stopping this clownshow because the publicit is as good as anything that they could have paid good money for and the only real risk is their artist getting beaten, stabbed or shot.
And we all know that dead rappers get better grass-roots promotion just for being dead.
This past Wednesday, we saw the largest powerball jackpot in history. My FB wall was lined with people discussing what they would do WHEN they won. To boot, mine included what would transpire IF I did. People claiming the money “in Jesus’ name,” a couple of resignation letters already written.
“But where is the copycat in that?” you ask…
In four days, the jackpot went from an already record 700something million to ONE AND A HALF BILLION. Not only were the people who normally play — and yes, I spent the same $6 I normally allow myself every couple of weeks for it — but lines out of the DOOR in stores nationwide for everyone who didn’t establish a reasonable retirement strategy to shine on their “haters” in the face of karmic irony served for even having such thoughts.
At the end of it all, tons of people are guilty of this behavior, in the real world and all over.
Let someone win $50 on a scratch off and post about it on the networks, dozens of friends are buying them. Let a miserably single person mention they met someone, their miserably single friends want to know where so THEY can go there. Say you found $20 bucks in a parking lot, people will LITERALLY go to that same fucking parking lot seeing if perhaps the person lost more! Perhaps it is human nature?
Perhaps we’re all a little fucked up.
Words by PHLIP
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