Niykee Heaton Niykee Heaton
VIBE/ Stacy-Ann Ellis

Interview: Niykee Heaton Takes Us On Her Journey From The ‘Net To A National Tour

Niykee Heaton won't let anyone knock her music hustle, determined to prove that she's much more than just a pretty face on your IG timeline.

Niykee Heaton refuses to let the unseasonably crisp 43-degree April temps in NYC bother her during her day of press runs. As she struts into VIBE’s Manhattan offices, she’s wearing a heavy, light-colored jean jacket and an oversized gray NBK (“Naturyl Born Killers,” her personal brand) sweatshirt, which work perfectly with the rather frightful weather outside. However, she can also be seen wearing two mighty-thin layers of flesh-toned leggings, which are more than likely designed to make you do a double take.

“Don’t wear pants!” she says to me with a grin. “You’ve got such a cute little body!” Her confident, no-f**ks given personality is not far off from the open book presence she’s known for on social media. You may be one of her 2 million Instagram followers, but the 21-year-old blonde bombshell is here to prove she can do more than break the Internet.

The Illinois-bred songstress gained immense popularity via YouTube three years ago by performing acoustic versions of hip-hop songs from the comfort of her bedroom, such as Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa” and Trinidad Jame$’ “All Gold Everything.” Since then, her extreme work-ethic coupled with her mastery of self-promotion has helped her emerge as a bright spot in the pop music realm. She’s had the chance to work with Russell Simmons and Migos, she’s met with Kanye West in the studio, and has performed at events like UMG’s “Music Is Universal” SXSW showcase this past March.

The Capitol Records signee recently wrapped up her first headlining concert, The Bedroom Tour, in late 2015, which was sold out for all 20 stops. A “do-it-yourself” kind of gal, the Florida local self-wrote and produced her debut EP, 2014’s Bad Intentions, as well as her March 2016 mixtape, The Bedroom Tour Playlist, which features remixed and remastered versions of the songs performed on the tour.

Her steady rise as a musician has not been easy. Internet trolls and detractors have questioned if she is truly a musical force to be reckoned with, but it seems like she’s not letting anyone knock her hustle, proving that she is much more than just a pretty face. Read on to learn about your #WCW’s experiences both online and on the music radar.

VIBE: What’s it like making the transition from YouTube into the music industry?
Niykee Heaton: For me, it wasn't such a crazy transition, because I never really thought of myself as a “YouTube star.” I never wanted to be a Youtube star. I always thought it was kind of corny when people would just do covers for a living; I never wanted to be known as that. I'm grateful that I could get noticed through YouTube and by doing covers, but that was never a long term thing for me, so it was really easy to be like push that to the side, and be like, "Wait, this is my real music." So I kinda did that without thinking. It was my fans who had to catch up and make that transition, which they're slowly doing.

How has having a South African upbringing shaped you, because I know your mom is from there, right?
I was actually born in Illinois. My sister was born in South Africa and all my mother's side still live there, so I'm actually half. Even though I was pretty much raised in the United States and I only went there to visit family, I always felt like that was home. And I never knew why I felt so out of place in Chicago until I went back and I visited my family, and I was like "oh, this is where I'm meant to be." I love South Africa. That's where I want to retire, that's where I wanna be whenever I have downtime, but having that sort of background. My mom's family are very much hippies and very free-spirited. Very, very laid back, very about nature and beauty and everything like that, so I think having that side to my ancestry is pretty cool. I think that's where I get my free-spiritedness from.

What type of music did your parents play in your house when you were growing up?
My parents kind of had sh*t taste in music. I think my mom was into, like, Steely Dan or something. I was like "you're so annoying." My dad, I don't think he was a crazy music person either, it was more of my siblings. They were the ones who were very musical. My sister had a very deep appreciation for music, and my brother plays the mandolin and the banjo and everything like that, so that's where I kind of got all my music taste from, my siblings. They listened to a lot of folk and bluegrass, so I was kind of brought up on that. Then, when I ventured out and I could think for myself, I started listening to rap music, so it’s kind of like those two worlds collided.

Who’s the first rap artist that you were like, “oh yeah, this is my person”?
I remember exactly! 'Cause I was in fourth or fifth grade, and it was Lil Jon. I was like, "This. Is. Everything." That was the first type of music I got into.

A little crunk!
I guess it would be crunk music. I was like, “This is my life! This is who I'm meant to be!" I was like nine and my siblings tried to beat down my door, telling me to turn it down. I was like, "Nuh-uh. This is me now." [laughs]

What was it like working with Migos on your song “Bad Intentions”?
They're really cool. I've always been fans of them, and they're just the, like, sweetest guys ever. I was actually on tour, and I was in Atlanta performing and they stopped by to support. I had no idea until I got off stage and they were right there. They came in, performed a song and then, we went back to the studio with them and hung out. Then we went to the strip club with them. It was like a whole big adventure with them, but we ended up forming a really good relationship with all of them, and I'm in love with all three of them. I love them, they're honestly so cool. They’re one of the only artists that I've met who I've imagined them and perceived them a certain way, and when I met them, I was not disappointed. They were exactly what I thought they would be. They’re the best people ever.

When you’re writing songs, where do you get your inspiration?
I feel like I draw inspiration from everything around me, including my past and things that I went through. I feel like it isn't just the stories I've had to tell from my childhood, it's... I might be going through a rough patch right now, or I might be going through some things, and I draw inspiration from the frustration that I'm dealing with. Or, you know, some guy that didn't answer my text. I draw inspiration from pretty much everywhere. But I try not to write about specific places, events or people. I like to keep it broad and talk about emotions or moods or just a vibe, because I feel like people can relate to something more generalized rather than something so specific.

I get that. You don’t want them to be like, “Oh, she’s talking about herself. Why would I want to listen to that?”
Exactly. Not everyone got their heart broken by the guy named Jimmy on a Wednesday, but everyone can relate to pain and loss and stuff like that, so that's kind of how I like to keep my music: generalized.

One of your songs “Devil” (off of the Bedroom Tour Playlist) has a very blues-inspired sound. Did you listen to a lot of blues music by way of your siblings?
What's weird is that they never really listened to blues! But actually, the way I learned how to sing is that I found a Diana Ross Greatest Hits album, and I literally memorized and mimicked every one of those songs until I could teach myself how to sing. Because I didn't naturally know how; I sounded awful, I was like, tone deaf, and everyone was like "Can you f**king stop singing?" I had to teach myself how and that's how I did it. I listened to Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and a lot of Nat King Cole, and I feel like that kind of stuck with me. So I do have that kind of bluesy soul resonance that stayed with my vibe, mixed in with all the other weird components about my music. I feel like there's so many weird elements to it.

What’s your favorite song from The Bedroom Tour Playlist?
“Devil” is my favorite because it reminded me of AC/DC meets Juicy J [laughs]. But for us, we put Playlist out and everyone was like aren't you so excited? We were like, "No, we've been hearing these songs for, like, four years!" I've already written 30 new songs that I'm ready to put out, so we're very tired of them!

What "it factor" do you think you can bring to the music industry that we haven't already seen before?
I think the one thing about me that's very different from all the other artists and acts in the industry right now is that I really pride myself on being a real musician and a real artist. I was horrified when I found out that people in this industry don't write their own music. They have nothing to do with any of their songs, they just act like a puppet, and it absolutely horrified me because at first, people wanted me to do that. They wanted to take away and strip me of my identity and have me be this puppet. There's no f**kin’ way. I'd rather never be famous. I'd rather give all this up right now because you cannot take away my music from me. Most of the pop stars out right now, they're performers or they're recording artists or they're just really polished, amazing mannequins. But there's a difference between being that and being a musician, and I feel that's what I am. I'm a musician, I make music from scratch, from the ground up. I produce it, I write it, I sing it, I perform it, and I feel that's the way music should be. I want to bring that back into the industry. And also, hey, I can do it wearing minimal clothing, and I still do it well! You know? You can do all these things, you don't have to have guidelines or restrictions or rules. You can be exactly what you wanna be if you can do it well.

You get a lot of attention on social media, so how do you balance it out, so your presence doesn’t interfere with your music career?
I feel like it's a hard thing to do. For me, as a human-being, it isn't hard, but I feel like for everyone looking at me and perceiving me as a person, it's hard for them to accept me as a musician and also as a person who is just something pretty to look at. What sucks about society is they have this concept and this idea that if you are pretty to look at, and if you have a nice body and a nice face, then how dare you claim to also have any sort of talent. They want you to just be pretty and just be a model, so it's hard trying to convince people that, no, I can do both, I don't have to pick one. I don't have to wear a garbage bag over my whole body in order for you to take me seriously, and to take my voice seriously and my talents. No one should have to choose. You can own your sexuality and be empowered, and also claim the craft and be an intellectual. That's the message that I'm trying to push and the movement that we're standing behind. But it's hard, because people are very close-minded.

Do you want to be a role model in that sense, or would you rather not have that stigma?
I never wanted to be a role model, because I'm not perfect. I'm not like a little Disney Channel star who, you know... I'm a human being with flaws, and I never thought that I would have these young girls looking up to me and calling me their idol. It's so crazy to me. Before, I would have said "oh, hell no. I don't want any of that. I don't want to do any of that, I just want to do music." But, I think it's because of the girls who have reached out and told me their story and how I've helped them that I feel, not obligated, but I feel like I can't shy away from that now, because they almost kind of gave me that title, and I don't want to let them down. I'm just gonna keep pushing and keep doing what I'm supposed to do.

How do you push the haters away who have tried to discount your success?
At first it was hard because I'm not a mean person. I don't think I've ever bullied anyone online or said mean things or ever just tried to hurt anyone, so it's hard for me to understand that. That was really crazy to me, so I was like, maybe, I just don't look at any of those things. But what's hard is that in order to see the comments and messages from my real fans saying positive things, I have to go and see all the terrible things, too. In order to appreciate the fans who are there to show me love, I have to hurt myself by seeing all of these awful things. It's hard to balance, so I try to stay away from Instagram comments because that's where most of the [rolls eyes] is, so I try not to read Instagram comments. But Twitter is good. It’s mostly my real fans so it's not that hard.

I feel like back in the day, people were always showing midriff and skin, and today, it’s such a big deal. I don’t get it.
I don't know why society sexualizes nudity so much. It's just skin! Unless I'm literally demonstrating the use of dildos or having sex with someone right in front of you, I'm not being sexual. It's just me owning my body and being proud of it. I'm not doing anything sexual, just because people perceive it that way is not my problem, and I'm not gonna put on a cape to make people more comfortable with me being nude. I'm always so hot!

It’s always either so hot or so cold! I’m dreading summer, I absolutely hate it. Do you have bad humidity in Florida?
So much humidity! So, no clothes! I love the humidity though, to be honest, because it's another reason to be nude [laughs]. Just wear less clothes, I said it's fine!

 

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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.

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

Jaquees: 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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