Spotlight: Rap Snacks CEO James Lindsay On Building A New Marketplace For Hip-Hop

“I knew that I created a brand years ago that I could rebrand and make synonymous with what’s going on in today’s world.”
There’s been a lot of talk these days about hip-hop going pop. But what about going popcorn? Or potato chips, or cheese puffs for that matter? Rap Snacks CEO and majority owner James Lindsay is bringing some of the genre’s biggest stars to convenience stores around the country by putting their likenesses on bags of chips, each featuring their own specifically-designed flavors with an exercise in next-level branding that’ll have music fans licking their lips.

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Lindsay originally launched the company in 1994 with a brand partnership with Master P, but things slowed down for Rap Snacks around 2011. But after spending years co-managing Meek Mill (a role he still holds), last year Lindsay rebranded and relaunched the business, sorting out previous issues with manufacturing and distribution and rolling out new flavors that included Migos’ Sour Cream with a Dab of Ranch, which even got its own jingle from the superstar trio.

Now, in markets around the East Coast and Midwest (with plans to expand westward) there are packs of Fetty Wap’s Honey Jalapeño, Boosie Badazz’s Louisiana Heat, Fabolous’ New York Deli Cheddar and Romeo Miller’s Bar-B-Quin with My Honey chips — the only holdover from the old flavors, which Lindsay claims to be the first-ever honey barbecue chip, created when Miller was known as Lil Romeo. (Miller, Master P’s son, is a limited partner in the company.) And, as of Sunday, Lindsay — who designs the flavors himself — has added four more varieties to the Rap Snacks roster: Lil Yachty’s Hot Cheese Fries and Hot Chili Pepper & Lime Crunchy Curls, Trina’s Honey Jalapeño cheese puffs and Migos’ new White Cheddar with a Dab of Ranch Popcorn. The company even has Rap Snacks-branded vending machines that will be going out to the market soon, playing music videos by their various endorsers.

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Lindsay says it’s the years spent working with Meek Mill where he saw changes in the music industry that signaled the time was right to bring Rap Snacks back. “I just noticed that with the internet these kids were really into items that were approved by the artists and I knew that I created a brand years ago that I could rebrand and make synonymous with what’s going on in today’s world,” he says. “Social media has played a big part in the resurgence of Rap Snacks, because people knew about it but everybody didn’t know about it.”

As far as the business goes, Lindsay says each flavor is a partnership with the artist. “I told these guys, ‘You make what I make,'” he says. “The new version of Rap Snacks is something just to teach these guys the power of their brand. Years ago they needed a lot of these big companies to pay them to do X, Y and Z, now they’re becoming the brand where they can sell through all their social media followers and they don’t really need those big companies anymore. They can make a lot of money just promoting their own brand.”

And, maybe in this case, their own chips too.

Spotlight

When you’re coming up make sure you focus on something that you really love to do. Do your research, be innovative and outwork everybody.

My big break came two years ago, when we relaunched Rap Snacks, because social media had caught up with the Rap Snacks brand. The Migos’ Rap Snacks jingle was the breaking point.

Dealing with musicians is very different because you have to learn how to think like they think. A lot of times they are in a more creative space when it comes to business. You have to learn how to meet them in the middle in order to build relationships and get the job done.

When I strategize I try to focus on the present and the future of how I am looking to move my business forward. A part of strategizing is out-of-the-box thinking. It’s called the surprise effect… People don’t see you coming.

I’ve learned to move in silence. I’ve learned to also be patient and be very strategic about how you move.

The best advice I’ve received is to do you… Be you, believe in your talents and bet on yourself instead of other people.

Spotlight is a new Billboard.biz series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact [email protected]