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Views From The Studio: Meet Producer Sonny Digital

Here, the Grammy-nominated music producer dishes on his grand foray onto Atlanta's music scene, trap beats, and his thoughts on being underrated in the game.

On a warm, late October afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia, Sonny Digital is quietly tilted back in a swivel chair, greenery in hand ready to light a spliff and get back to work after a pit stop to Smoothie King for a banana-tasting concoction.

The 24-year-old Grammy-nominated music producer is reflecting on all of his accomplishments to date and even some of his mistakes along the way that all worked out for the better in his case. To his right, a guitarist named Josh sits on a futon, as he plays back a recording brimming with just the right amount of bass.  This same small, carpeted room in Sonny's humble abode quietly nestled in the heart of the city housed numerous hits like "Tuesday," Makonnen's 2014 breakout that took him from virtual unknown to OVO Sound's starting five roster. Today, like many others, Sonny clocks countless hours behind production equipment cooking up dope beats. However, instead of supplying the perfect tempo to capture the mood of Future or Wiz Khalifa's latest club banger or deep cut, he's perfecting his own soon-to-be hit.

"It needs to be heard," he says contently nodding to the beat. "I need to get out that [trap] box. I ain’t motherf*****g regular. This sh*t is old news, I been making crazy sh*t for a minute and been to every damn spectrum. I just want people to f**k with the talent and stop holding a n***a back because I didn’t show y'all everywhere I could go with it."

Here, the music producer dishes on his grand foray onto Atlanta's then bubbling music scene, broadening his horizons beyond trap beats, and his thoughts on being underrated in the game for the latest installment of Views From The Studio.

How'd you get your start in producing?
Sonny Digital: The initial reason was that my friends and I rapped and there weren’t enough beats for everybody. So I just started making beats myself.

Who were some of your musical influences?
SD: Production-wise, I was listening to Shawty Redd. That n***a was getting it man. He changed the whole sound. I also was big on getting my hands on anything that wasn’t necessarily mainstream in Atlanta. People always forget about André 3000's importance too. Everything we have in the city is real diverse. You can go in so many directions. I was just the first to go in all those directions and kind of check it all out. If it wasn’t for Shawty Redd, I could guarantee there would be no me, no anybody. Those guys influenced a whole new sound, which turned into something else, which turned into something else, which is what it is today.

What was the first song of yours you heard on the radio?
SD: YC feat. Future “Racks on Racks.” That’s when my name kind of went industry. It was already moving around in Atlanta. You know, when you go to every city you got that one guy who’s on the brink of making it out, but ain’t made it out yet. That would’ve been me if I had never got “Racks.” If you think about it for real, we did shift the whole Atlanta music scene, took the steering wheel and just turned it.

True. “Racks” was a big hit for Atlanta, it was like a resurgence of the city's dance and trap roots combined, and it introduced a lot of people to Future too. How did it come about?
SD: I just emailed them beats. I used to hang with Gorilla Zoe and he used to be at Block ENT, and YC was signed over there. I just happened to send YC a beat and a couple of months later he started emailing me from some weird email asking about the beat. I honestly ain’t know who it was. I don’t respond to nobody I don’t know. He kept on hitting me though so one day I just hit him back because if someone is persistently hitting me then I know it’s serious. I hit him back and I found out who it was and that was that. I sold that bih for $300 though.

Wow, that’s crazy.
SD: Yeah, I mean, technically, they gave me my credit. See where I messed up was that I didn’t put my tag in there. People didn’t hear Sonny Digital so they didn’t identify me with the song. A lot of people today are just now finding out that I go back that far and I produced that song. It’s the same thing with “Same Damn Time” because my tag wasn’t in there. So it’s been like a catch up game with everybody. They’re just so far behind when it comes to me. People honestly just don’t know, although I feel like they should know. 

A lot of people stamp producers with a certain sound, but would you say that there is a specific Sonny Digital sound?
SD: No. You know, that’s a gift and a curse though because every time I put something out people can’t identify it quickly. The way people are, they lazy, they don’t want to go do the work and find out where it came from. But then again, it’s a good thing too because there are some people that do, do that and go look and then they’re like ‘aw sh*t, I f**k with this n***a’ and check out your entire catalog. At the same time though you have a lot of people whining, saying you've got to do something different, but as soon as you do something different, they say, ‘what the f**k is this, where the other sh*t at?’ It’s like dang man, what the f**k do y’all want?

Since there isn’t a consistent sound, would you say that there’s a formula to your creative process?
SD: I just be chilling and really going off of vibes. I just go in and f**k around and might find a cool ass sound that I personally like. It’s interesting the way I look at vocals because I don’t necessarily look at vocals as f***ing vocals. I look at it as an instrument and I’m just finding that one thing that’s missing to make it all sound good. It could be the difference between a beat sounding good and great. That’s just how I look at it, as far as when I’m making beats and stuff.

I heard you made Makonnen’s “Tuesday” in your house.
SD: Yeah, we made it in this room. I’m still here [laughs]. It’s more cost-efficient and it just makes more sense, especially if your neighbors ain’t tripping and you don't require a lot of people around, which I feel like if you’re working then you shouldn’t have a gang of people around anyway. Then again, you got to think about it, I’m young too. I don’t have a girlfriend, no family, nobody to really answer to so I can stay at home and really just get all my work done. We’re in two-thousand-fu****g-fifteen, going on 2016, all you need is some head phones and your laptop now. We don’t need no major studio, let’s be for real. You can record it here, in numerous places. It ain’t no place where you can’t record it. 

One of your biggest placements to date has to be Beyoncé ‘s "Bow Down / I Been On." What was that experience like?
SD: That all came about when I linked with Polow Da Don after hearing that he was interested in what I was doing. It always shocked me though because I was never like this big producer, so I was wondering why’d he be worried about what I got going on when he’s like one of my favorite producers. But when I went down there and met him, he was cool. The first day we met we worked on that “Bow Down” track, which was supposed to be for Rihanna but she had a deadline for her album and we didn’t meet the cut. So then he told me that Beyoncé had picked it, the song came out, and that was the song that came out and that was that. It was just a quick little play; it ain’t anything that I really glorify. Hit Boy actually did the “Bow Down” part, and I did the “I Been On” part where it’s the slowed down Texas sh*t.

Do you feel like people fully understand the importance of the producer today and respect their influence? Or do you feel the term is used loosely, although everyone has to start from somewhere?
SD: That is true but I think people should look into what they’re doing before they actually start initiating a name and taking it and running off with it. Because a lot of n****s, they not producers. A lot of n****s be temporary producers, taking up room. N****s be hot today and be gone tomorrow. So it’s like man, make sure you want to do this before you call yourself that. You can be a beat maker first. I ain’t going to downplay it, nothing like that, but I feel like before you actually hop in, you need to figure out and make sure you want to do this. Are you going to innovate this? What’s going to make you a producer? You sounding like me ain’t going to make you any better my n***a. Do your own sh*t.

So tell me about your friendship and working relationship with Metro Boomin. It unfortunately seems rare these days to have two producers who are killing the scene constantly collaborating. 
SD: That’s the bro, that ain’t no friendship. That’s all it really is and we just make beats together from time to time that just happen to be fly. We first linked when he hit me up a long time ago. Then he ended up going to school down here at Morehouse. We ended up linking after that and we just became real cool. It’s always been love. Ain’t nothing like he wanted something or I wanted something from him. He looks out for me and I look out for him. I look at him kind of just like my little brother. I really f**k with what Metro doing right now. He really pushing the culture.

Speaking of the culture, I feel like there's a definite void of female producers in the game. Man, what's good? 
SD: I don’t know. I be stressing that too. I be telling people, like if there was a female producer(s) that came through right now with some hard ass, crazy beats right now,  that sh*t would go crazy! WondaGurl is really holding down that lane right now and doing her thing. She’s extremely crazy and amazing on the beats. A few of us stayed with her for a month or two when we worked on Rodeo and she just stayed in the room all day just make beats all f****g day. She just be cranking new b*****s out all day like on crazy. And she young too. She getting it in though. But if there were more female producers, not saying taking her spot or anything, but just to really solidify the female lane, it would be crazy. You know history repeats itself for real though. It ain’t no Missy Elliott of our time though. I'm waiting.

Do you feel that you are underrated at all? What do you think is going to be able to change that in your mind?
SD: The problem right now is that people got me boxed in. They want to put all of us like Metro, TM88, Southside, and Zaytoven in the same category. It’s crazy because that’s really all of the producers in Atlanta, but everybody got they own box, they own indefinite sound. You can’t compare Zay’s beat to a Sonny Digital beat or a Metro beat; it’s that different. But we are placed on the same projects though, so people hear it on the same frequency. I understand why it happens. With me personally, I been on so many different spectrums. I don’t know if people underrate me though. I think it’s more of people not knowing. If they knew. A lot of my records, I just caught the short end of the sticks of all my records and stuff. But right now, I’m starting to get a little more recognition for all the work that I’m doing. If I can tell every single person right now, all the records that I’ve done, from way back when, letting them know I been had y'all rocking. Like when I do my shows and I run through my hits, I see all these people eyes light up like damn, this that n***a that we've been looking for. 

You DJ'ed during Makonnen's "Loudest Of The Loud" Tour, did that help your producing skills at all or make you think of producing in a different way?
SD: I’m not going to lie, it did. It gives you an idea of how crowds move, how to move a crowd, and what specific songs always move a crowd. It opened up my eyes. It’s like making a beat live, testing it out in front of the people and seeing how they react to it. And it helps you put together songs and stuff too. You just got to analyze a lot of things as you play songs. I don’t know. It teaches you a lot though.

Has your production style changed since you first started?
SD: It ain’t really changed, it just elevated. I’m real open minded. You see my boy in here with the guitar, and I’m supposed to be a trap producer, right? Come on now [laughs]. We just going up. I still got the same outlook and I stay true to the trap sh*t too. I mean, I make that stuff, but at this point it’s second nature, it’s something I’m never going to forget how to do. Right now I’m dibbling and dabbling into new, next level stuff.

Which I'd assume as getting back to rapping since you've been putting out songs here and there lately...
SD: Yeah. Something lately has me thinking that I want to do this artist sh*t all the way. When I put it out, I didn't even really know how to describe it or what to even call it. Off top, when you hear Sonny Digital or anything affiliated with that, it just affiliates with trap automatically. And as soon as the song comes on, you hear something that reminds you of some guitars or some electric guitars or something rock. So the general public just been putting stuff together and calling trap rock or trap metal or whatever. It's actually kind of hard. And it makes sense though and it’s really a open lane. My boy Josh brought up a good idea that the music I'm making doesn't sound like something you just go and rap on stage. I think it might require a band or something like that and we put on a real show. So that might be in the works, something like that, some crazy sh*t like that.

Did you have any reservations of stepping in the booth because people have this thing against producers-turned-rappers?
SD: Yeah, man, that's weird as hell and f***ing backwards. It don't make no sense though because if a rapper is making beats they get praise for that, but if a producer is rapping on his own beats, it’s like ‘why you doing that?’ It's funny because most of these producers be telling these artists what to do. Basically, a lot of these songs you hear today are products of the producers so people self consciously already be liking them. I don’t care though, it’s a community for this though now. It’s a whole other realm for that sh*t. When music is good, you can’t deny that, period. I’ve been making music for a long time now, and now I feel like it needs to be heard. Like I told you already, people been f*****g with what I been making for the last couple of years, knowingly or unknowingly. And that’s the good thing about it. A lot of people f**k with me and they don’t even know it.

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Ian Reid

Let Jacquees Tell It, He’s The Jodeci Of This R&B Game

Rodriquez Jacquees Broadnax doesn’t want to be the bad guy of R&B. He says this with a sinister, yet warm smile. With year-end debates taking over social circles, Jacquees wants all the flowers for his glowing debut, 4275. “I ain't never had a year like this, I got one of those careers and lives that keep going like this,” he says, as he raises his iced out wrist to draw his progression. “It keeps going up, my sh*t just keeps going up.”

At 24 years old, the singer knows a thing or two about the ever-changing genre. Nearly half of his life has been dedicated to music, specifically to quiet storm-like sounds that now take on new meaning in our adult love lives. He’s hibernated under the radar for some time with his 2014 debut EP 19 and released gentle falsettos and big name features with Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign and Trey Songz along the way.

But between his accolades, he’s been condemned for his favorable “Quemix” of Ella Mai’s “Trip” and now, his self-proclaimed status of “The King of R&B” for his generation.

"I just wanna let everybody know that I'm the king of R&B right now," Jacquees said in an Instagram post on Sunday (Dec. 9). "For this generation, I understand who done came and who done did that and that and that, but now it's my time. Jacquees, the king of R&B.”

R&B artists like J. Holiday and Pleasure P shared their two cents on the matter while the game’s most elite like Tank, Tyrese and Eric Bellinger dropping stacks of knowledge on the gift of consistency, respect, and talent. But Jacquees has these things and then some with legends like Jon B., Donell Jones and Jermaine Dupri in his corner. Despite quick reactions from his peers, Jacquees is confident in nature and proud of his space in the game.

“I think I'm the leader though, as far as males go, I think I'm the number one,” he tells VIBE, just days before his “King of R&B” comments went viral. “You're talking about R&B young dudes who understand who goin’ [at] it, [but] who are they going to put in the front? I believe everyone will say Jacquees.”

Jacquees’ music is just a branch of what R&B has evolved into. Over the years, artists like SZA, H.E.R., Daniel Caesar, The Internet, Miguel and many more have flipped the genre on its head by churning out music that not only speaks to the soul, but to their vocal abilities. Successful R&B records aren’t confined to rap guest verses and traditional instruments now take center stage. But Jacquees sits in an interesting space seeing as his style caters to a grey area of folks who just heard their first Monica album yesterday and now appreciate a good nayhoo like the rest of us.

With hopes to release his sophomore album in February 2019, Jacquees chats with VIBE about his confidence, making 7275 and why he’s the perfect leader for R&B today.

__

What have you learned about yourself as a human and an artist in 2018?

Jac

quees: This was my biggest year. I made the most money I’ve ever made. I dropped my album and was able to take care of my family. I ain’t never had a year like this and I thank God for that. I got one of those careers and lives that keep going like this, (slowly raises a hand to the ceiling) It keeps going up, my sh*t just keeps going up.

I think I learned about my whole self in 2018. Being that it was my biggest year, I went through a lot of stuff personally, but I think the biggest thing for me was listening to other people but also trusting myself. I have a strong mind so more of listening to myself helped.

Do you think you're the good guy or the bad guy in R&B?

Who do you think I am?

I think you’re a sweetie.

I don’t wanna be the bad guy, I’m a good guy. I’m easy to deal with. I’m a sweetie, but ain’t sh*t sweet though. (Laughs)

You have a lot of ‘90s and 2000s influence in your music. Do you ever feel you might sound dated, or do you think you’re bringing new sounds into the genre?

I just think I'm bringing a whole new sound. When I was younger, someone told me if you switch up what you’re doing, someone else is going to do it and you’re going to be pissed off. Just stick with it. When I was 14, everyone was telling me I needed to make club records but I didn’t want to do it. I remember CEOs saying, “Just let Jacquees do that [what he wants,]” because it’s a clock.

I figured out how to get my records at the club without changing who I was. I remember making “B.E.D.” and finding my flow on my project 19, you know? That’s when I got my swag.

What does love look like to you right now?

I think about a family. I think about me, a girl, a kid or something, like a whole family. One day I’m going to have it. I’ll still be in the game but I’ll say, “Yeah, that’s my wife over there with our son and daughter.” I'm getting older, too. I’ve been in the game for 10 years for real, but I’ll be 25 next year and soon they’ll be a little Jacquees.

There are a lot of layers in today’s R&B, especially in the mainstream resurgence it’s had. In that, there aren’t as many young male black vocalists being pushed to the forefront. I want to know your thoughts on where you exist in the genre today.

I think there's a big wave coming back right now because even if R&B didn't die down they weren’t promoting it that heavy. Artists were making songs, they just weren’t being acknowledged on a mainstream level. I think the game is really putting R&B back on top. You know, you’ve got artists like me, Tory [Lanez], Ella Mai, H.E.R., so many people, you know what I’m saying? Of course, you had Chris [Brown], Trey [Songz], all of them but that’s when we were in school. It’s a new time, ain’t no big male R&B singers.

I think I'm the leader though, as far as males go, I think I'm the number one. You're talking about R&B young dudes who understand who goin’ [at] it, [but] who are they going to put in the front? I believe everyone will say Jacquees. They’re not rugged like me. You’ve got Jodeci and Boyz II Men. I’m Jodeci, they’re all Boyz II Men. I’m street, they’re not street like me. You can hear it in their voice. There’s a difference.

It’s no disrespect to nobody because they’re all my friends, but I still wanna be number one. If we’re playing the game and I lose, I’ll be mad as hell but I’m still a good person. I just want to win.

As you should. Everyone wants to make the best music they can–

But I ain’t no hater either. The game is like a sport. The game is like high school. I remember being at this year’s BET Awards and seeing certain singers and thinking, ‘Oh, they’re seniors.’ I knew I was a freshman, but I saw Meek and all of them thought, “He’s a senior.’ You know how it is when you walk through school in the first year. Then the second you’re like, “I’m the ni**a now.”

When I did the Soul Train Awards in November, I felt like a sophomore that everybody knew. They knew me from my freshman year, but this time I’m playing varsity.

You’ve said before you want to do this for a long time–

Yeah, I want to make music forever and it’s my choice. I want to make enough money for me to turn down shows because now, I have to take everything I get. I always tell artists, you got this much time to make this much money. Because after that, sh*t’s closed. I've seen it happen.

For me, I know I got longevity in this game because I'm an R&B singer and a lot of R&B singers have longevity if you take care of yourself, you know what I'm saying? Even rappers, you know what I'm saying? You keep that flow going, don't do no lame sh*t, you know you’re stick around.

How do you take care of yourself?

You gotta take care of your health. That's number one. Your mind and your health is your biggest thing. Keeping good people around you...stay in good spirits with me. I like to keep good people around me. I like people around me [who] make me laugh. Smile, I don't really like people around me that I got to be like, “What's going on?” I just like people who are themselves.

Stream 4275 below.

READ MORE: Tyrese, Usher And Others Reacts To Jacquees' Claim That He's The King Of R&B

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Music Sermon: The Groundbreaking Sprite and St. Ides Hip-Hop Campaigns

Today, rap music is used to sell everything from electronics to tax filing services to nut butter grinding machines at Whole Foods. We understand that hip-hop culture is essentially the root of everything cool and hip in culture, period, and it’s been commodified and appropriated within an inch of its life. But in the early ‘90s, the genre was far from Madison Avenue-friendly. Aside from the groundbreaking deal between Adidas and RUN DMC, brands didn’t yet see full value and impact of hip-hop…except in the food and beverage industry.

Beverage companies centering campaigns for the urban demo around black music was nothing new; Coca-Cola had ads featuring artists such as New Edition and Anita Baker singing their hearts out for the cola in the ‘80s, and Schlitz Malt Liquor had a legendary – and hilarious - run of spots featuring The Commodores, The Four Tops, Teddy Pendergrass and more through the ‘70s and early ‘80s. However, in the early ‘90s two brands put their entire business on hip-hop’s back, by not only building their brands but spring-boarding the recognition of the music and artists as a marketing and advertising tool: Sprite soda and St. Ides malt liquor.

In the ‘80s, Sprite was languishing behind competitor 7Up when parent company Coca-Cola decided to focus on the youth market, and the quickly growing hip-hop culture was part of the strategy. African-American ad agency Burrell Communications tagged hip-hop acts for a series of spots that began a long-standing marriage between the brand and the culture, starting with Kurtis Blow in 1986. It was one of the first national TV ads to feature a rapper.

KURTIS BLOW - 1986

In 1990, the brand kicked off the “I Like the Sprite in You” campaign, using rap acts that matched the soft drink’s bubbly energy, starting with Heavy D & the Boyz before partnering with Kid ’n Play the following year. The ads featured the artists clad in lemon-lime fare, rhymin’ about lymon.

HEAVY D - 1990 KID’N PLAY – 1991

With Kris Kross, they turned it up a notch and had us crunk inside the Sprite can. Edgy. Also, this was catchy as hell.

KRIS KROSS - 1993

Then in 1994, a young brand manager from Clark Atlanta University named Darryl Cobbin had an idea for a new direction: Gen X was about authenticity and independence of thought, not following the hype. Sprite ditched the pop-friendly crossover acts and identified more “authentic” rap artists – lyricists with street and cultural cred – to rep the brand. “Lymon” was also out of the window, as they moved away from marketing taste and towards marketing attitude. (Cobbin later spearheaded the iconic, yet grammatically questionable, Boost Mobile “Where You At?” campaign.)

Gone were the bright yellow and green sets, because while the new slogan said, “Image is nothing,” it was all about image. Bright and shiny was traded for dark and gritty. Now we were in the studio; a fly on the wall for freestyle sessions. In the first spot of the series with Grand Puba and Large Professor, Puba closes with “First thing’s first, obey your thirst.” It’s legend even within Coca-Cola that Puba ad-libbed the phrase that then became the brand’s tagline that remains to this day.

GRAND PUBA & LARGE PROFESSOR - 1994 PETE ROCK & CL SMOOTH – 1994 A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – 1994

The “Obey Your Thirst” spots also took us the street corner, the club, and inside the ring when Sprite resurrected the legendary KRS One vs. MC Shan battle.

KRS ONE & MC SHAN - 1996 NAS & AZ – 1997 THE LOST BOYS – 1997

By the late ‘90s Sprite had spent roughly $70M on the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign, tripled sales, and commanded a majority market share of the citrus category (which also included 7Up, Sierra Mist, and Mountain Dew).

Sprite had also succeeded in becoming an official and established part of the culture. They were family. The brand further expanded into urban youth culture through a partnership with the NBA, while continuing to evolve the creative of the rap campaigns.

KOBE BRYANT, TIM DUNCAN & MISSY ELLIOTT – 1998

Near the end of the decade, Sprite explored the overlap between hip-hop culture, comics and martial arts with a series of posse spots based on Voltron (representing all hip-hop regions) and the 5 Deadly Venoms (with all female emcees).

VOLTRON SERIES - 1998 5 DEADLY VENOMS SERIES – 1999

Over the years, Sprite has continued to be one of the most consistent brands in hip-hop. We’ve grown accustomed to spotting the logo everywhere from music festivals and shows to the background of BET’s hip-hop cyphers. They revitalized the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign with Drake in 2010 and paid homage to the greatest lyricists in rap with the “Obey Your Verse” campaign featuring iconic rappers and cans with classic lyrics in 2015.

SPRITE "Obey Your Verse - Cooler" (starring Rakim) from SHOUT IT OUT LOUD MUSIC on Vimeo.

St. Ides’ run with hip-hop doesn’t have the same happy ending as Sprite’s. The brand’s usage of rap petered out in the mid-90s after wide backlash and a series of lawsuits.

For St. Ides, hip-hop was the brand campaign. It’s how they built their business. The brand was introduced in 1987 and their rap campaigns launched in 1988. The malt liquor 40 oz., with significantly higher alcohol content than beer at around a $2 price point, was already a staple in lower-income neighborhoods and hip-hop culture. The “Crooked I” capitalized on that.

Parent company McKenzie River secured Ice Cube as their anchor spokesperson and tapped West Coast producer DJ Pooh to spearhead advertising creative. Pooh lined up a veritable who’s who of additional West Coast rappers over the years, including Geto Boys, Cypress Hill, Warren G, Snoop and Tupac; plus the thorough-est from the East, including Eric B and Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie and EPMD.

EPMD & ICE CUBE - 1991 GETO BOYS & ICE CUBE – 1992 ERIC B & RAKIM - 1992

Unlike Sprite’s campaigns which were first jingles and still felt like commercials, even when elevated to trading hot bars for Obey Your Thirst. St. Ides spots, however, looked and felt like straight up music videos with album-worthy production and flow.

ICE CUBE – 1993 MC EIHT – 1994 NOTORIOUS B.I.G. – 1995

Complex even named Wu-Tang’s St. Ides spot “Shaolin Brew” as one of the collective’s 100 best songs! (But at least it’s ranked near the bottom; #97.)

WU-TANG CLAN - 1995

In fact, in 1994, the brand did turn the hottest of the joints into an album, with the St. Ides promotional mixtape dropping at your neighborhood liquor store. It featured full-length songs about getting twisted off the malt liquor from Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, Scarface, MC Eiht, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Nate Dogg.

The Snoop and Nate track is low key a jam, still. Homegirl in the background starting at the 10-second mark is a whole mood.

This blatant marketing of malt liquor directly to black and brown youth wasn’t going to go unchecked indefinitely. It was all irresponsible, even while being genius for the demo. In 1991, the Wall Street Journal listed the St. Ides ad campaign among one of the worst of the year, which probably didn’t matter at the time since WSJ readers weren’t St. Ides’ base.

In 1991, Public Enemy released Apocalypse ’91: The Empire Strikes Back. The album featured “100 Bottle Bags,” a direct criticism against malt liquor companies marketing specifically to urban communities “…but they don’t sell that sh*t in the white neighborhoods.” Shortly after the release, St. Ides found itself in Chuck D’s crosshairs, and he fired the first in a series of big shots against the brand, marking the beginning of the end of their love affair with hip-hop. An 80-second radio spot featuring Cube used a sample of Chuck’s voice without his permission. The ad had already aired over 500 times on rap radio shows when Chuck sued St. Ides parent company McKenzie River for five million dollars (they settled out of court).

Then, St. Ides and McKenzie River fell under legal scrutiny from the New York State Attorney General in 1992 for using verbiage like Cube’s lyric “Get your girl in the mood quicker, make your jimmy thicker…St. Ides.” to suggest the malt liquor increased sexual prowess. Can you imagine the think pieces if that spot ran today?

They were later in hot water with the New York AG’s office again, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (the ATF) for advertising perceived to the be targeted towards minors, with complaints that it glamorized gang affiliation and promoted sex. After having production completely shut down for a short while and getting hit with heavy fines, St. Ides tried to clean up its act, adding “drink responsibly” messaging into the spots.

By ’96 the run was over. Hip-hop was growing up, getting money and moving towards more sophisticated alcoholic beverage choices. Alizé and Hennessy, anyone?

The relationship between hip-hop and alcohol never ended, of course, but has continued to evolve to match the evolution of the lifestyle. We don’t go to the corner store no more, homie (save a brief return in the early aughts of Four Loko). We’re toasting to the good life with premium brands, some of which are now owned by the artists.

We can look back now with the wizened, woke eyes of maturity and possibly scrutinize our artists selling out at the expense of the community, but for the young and burgeoning hip-hop culture, both the St. Ides campaigns and the Sprite campaigns opened the door for the power and commodification of hip-hop and consumer brands. For better or for worse.

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J.Cole, Teyana Taylor And Other Snubs Of The 2019 Grammy Nominations

It's that time of year again when inner circles and strangers on the Internet debate who's up for a gramophone.

On Friday (Dec. 7), the nominees for 2019's Grammy Awards (Feb. 10) were announced to a span of hot takes, early but informed predictions, and a wall of confusion as to why certain artists were overlooked. While some entertainers excitedly received the good news (Cardi B discovered her nods while leaving a courthouse), others were left scratching their heads.

Here's a look at why those who were snubbed by the Recording Academy deserved to be nominated.

READ MORE: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, And Cardi B Lead 2019 Grammys Nominations

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