The word ‘corporate’ has seemingly become the enemy of original Hip Hop concepts on many levels. Corporate approach is the reason that commercially viable music has taken over the radio and TV. Hey, they focus on making money and whether it’s done via the culture of a foreign country or a local culture of Hip Hop, it clearly sublimates driven by financial gain impulses.
So, it is rear and surprising to see a company like Smirnoff creating a space for less commercial artists to be creative and original via their ‘corporate’ efforts. KRS-1, Common and Q-Tip were all the first ones to be involved in the newly founded Smirnoff Signature Mix Series. DJ Premier, Just Blaze and Cool & Dre remixed a few of their classic songs. Boogie Down Production’s Criminal Minded, A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight and Common’s The Light were all remixed by those producers to create new songs brought into commercial spotlight by Smirnoff. Of course, they also created drinks named after these remixes. The Southside, result of Common and Just Blaze collaboration is your green apple vodka mixed with cranberry juice. The Cypha, is a raspberry vodka with pineapple juice, echoing KRS-1 and DJ Premier’s effort. The Blueberry Abstract took the music of Q-Tip and Cool & Dre to result in blueberry vodka mix with lemonade. Moreover, Smirnoff shot videos of those songs, distributed rear vinyl albums with these songs among radio stations and major club DJs in the country and put together a press conference in a New York club with all those stars. Perhaps it’s time to stop looking at the word ‘corporate’ exclusively as the enemy of the Hip Hop culture. They also made those songs and vodeos available for download at www.SmirnoffSignatureMixSeries.com.
It’s not uncommon to see T.I. or Lil Wayne being endorsed by these corporate giants. Liquor companies and cell phone companies caught on a long time ago to the commercial viability of Hip Hop music. There it’s all about money thou. When KRS-1, The Teacha is all of a sudden in a commercial spotlight, that’s something new. He’s deliberately avoided it to spread the culture of Hip Hop. Now he gets to have both. When Hip Hop most commercial conscious artist, Common, gets recognized for an effort made off of a classic hit without any help of Kanye West, that’s something new. When the all but fallen apart A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip is rapping, instead of DJing on a big screen and radio stations across the country like it was 1995, that’s something new. His own album has been months and months in the making and it took Smirnoff to bring his music to the spotlight.
Hosted by SWAY, put together by Cornerstone Promotion and deliciously accommodated by Smirnoff, the press conference and concert set off a new era, as it seems. ‘Corporate’ combined efforts with old school, conscious Hip Hop artists and produced new music and new drinks. Most importantly it was not done via the well-traveled road of exploiting ring-tone rap. These were classics remixed and everyone at the panel, from KRS-1 to Cool & Dre, thanked and admired Smirnoff for their efforts.
The con cert itself was an amazing experience in itself. First, Q-Tip set it off and half-way through his set began beatboxing. His ala Hollywood look and feel was replaced by that old school feel. Then Common brought his piercing sight, his undying love for music, precise targeted rhymes and fighter energy to the stage. He only followed protocol for so long. After a short while he broke down to a freestyle and reminded everyone that Chi-city reps one of the tightest lyricist in the game. The show didn’t truly set off till KRS-1 got on stage. Instead of doing his projected 3-4 songs like the other 2, he put on a 40-minute show filled with amazing energy, undying love for the craft and plenty of unexpected surprises. He went off rapping to classical music and the originality of that already familiar song was amazing enough. He ended by jumping in the crowd and getting everyone into his spirit. It was the other artists that he brought with him is what made it so unique. DJ Premier on the tables spun for legends that night. Melle Mel got on the mic. Hakim from Channel Live got on the mic. Positive K got on the mic. Grandmaster Flash got on a mic. Buckshot, 5ft E and other underground and old school celebrities came through.
An instant classic night made possible by Smirnoff and some of Hip Hop’s greatest. Definitely a night to remember. It’s already seen a ton of publicity. Without a doubt a night to celebrate. It was off the hook the entire time. Certainly a night to replicate. Smirnoff got this series going all over the country now.
Boundaries were not broken that night. Revelation never made. Inventions not introduced. Yet, it has become rather impossible to think of the word ‘corporate’ as the enemy of real Hip Hop. Anyone still in doubt should ask KRS, Common or Tip to make sure.