A few months back, we noticed that country artists had become a refuge for marketers looking for blue-collar authenticity at a time when everyone was beginning to feel a little more blue collar. Now Canada's National Post is suggesting that hip-hop and R&B artists have been getting into the same game, dropping luxury goods as quickly as consumers did this year.
... Where once Jay-Z proudly wooed his conquests with Cristal and serenaded Beyonce with the keys to a Benz, this year, cut-rate hip-poppers Shwayze sang "Baby, will you be my Corona and lime?" and licensed their song Buzzin' to an ad for the "incredibly fuel efficient" Pontiac Vibe. Where Tony Yayo and 50 Cent once boasted about taking "first class flights headed towards Vegas," this year's club phenom Lady Gaga promotes staying at home and gambling away your defaulting mortgage payments with bwin.com, whose logo is prominently displayed in her video for Poker Face.
There's plenty of counter-examples to this; take the rush for everyone from Dr. Dre to Snoop Dogg to unveil their own brands of cognac or Louis Vuitton's continually successful courtship of hip-hop moguls. But we can also add to the signs of "downscaling" LL Cool J's clothing line at Sears and the proliferation of artist-branded shoes, status items within the grasp of most consumers.
The Bling Era has been on a steady decline for some time now, but it seems likely that the economy has been hastening its demise. That, coupled with the fact that marketers in every industry seem more comfortable than ever with hip-hop icons (and they themselves seem loathe to resist), would explain why we're seeing more Souljaboys at Walmart these days. Whether that's a shift in hip-hop culture or a cunning adaption to the times at hand, perhaps we'll find out by next Christmas.