Nike Scores Grammy Nomination for a Branded Song

Kanye West, Others Contribute to Air Force One Jam

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"Classic (Better Than I've Ever Been)" DJ Premiere mix, which was remixed from the now-Grammy-nominated track.

Artist: Kanye West, KRS-One and Nas
Song: "Better Than I've Ever Been" (Original Rick Rubin mix)
Marketer: Nike
Agency: Cornerstone
Purchase: Kanye West, Nas & KRS-One - Better Than I've Ever Been - Single - Better Than I've Ever Been
While some would argue that Nike doesn't really need to pay rappers to promote its shoes, the extra efforts of Cornerstone have obviously paid off. Earlier this year, the marketing agency commissioned KRS-One, Nas and Kanye West to record a song, the Rick-Rubin-produced "Better Than I've Ever Been," to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Air Force One sneaker. Last week, the song became what is most likely the first branded tune to ever be nominated for a Grammy.

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.