Artist: Kanye West, KRS-One and Nas
Song: "Better Than I've Ever Been" (Original Rick Rubin mix)
Surprisingly, the track has some foul lyrics (could that be a first for a branded song too?), but with the digital single benefiting youth charities in Baltimore, who can really complain? The remix above is a pretty dramatic de/re-construction of the original (the iteration that was nominated), which is a persistent, stomping jam that lays heavily upon Kanye's slurry, higher ed rhymes. The track works because the connection to product is only hinted implicitly in the chorus -- "Classic / I'm better than I've ever been" -- and slyly in a line from Nas later in: "Classic like the Air Ones, the hustler shoe / That's what I'm accustomed to."
Cornerstone, the same agency responsible for LCD Soundsystem's excellent and critically lauded "45:33" single for Nike Plus, shows how far branded music can go when talented artists are willing to take it there. With these kinds of projects, Nike has built up enough serious music cred, and I wonder if a boutique label could be far off.