Top of the Charts: Nike Presto "Urban Canvas"

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A pan-Asian Nike Presto campaign, built on a wild fusion of street-level graffiti, demanded beats beyond the usual licensed or referenced dance track. So Wieden + Kennedy/Tokyo went to the source, bringing Japanese DJ/musician/producer DJ Uppercut into his first commercial venture. "He's part of a new breed of Japanese hybrid musicians who also happens to be the second artist we're going to release in the soon-to-launch W+K Tokyo Lab music label," says art director Eric Cruz, who notes that DJ Uppercut has already collaborated with bands like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The Presto brand has been associated with cutting-edge music since it's inception, with top talent like Ken Ishii, DJ Krush, DJ Kensei and Fumiya Tanaka working on a previous DJ-inspired campaign, the music of which was, true to form, released on vinyl. This campaign focused on street visuals over sounds and demanded suitably pan-Asian music.

"Uppercut has an unusual hybrid style, fusing abstract hip-hop and electronic club music, redefining what technologically-inspired music is," says Cruz. "His rich, textural approach to music uses traditional instruments as a point of departure to sample from and organically manipulate; and he uses the turntable itself as an instrument, distinctly different from how one would normally hear it. In this sense, he's hard to classify. But he exemplified the Presto campaign concept of 'Urban Canvas' - a digital and organic fusion of human expression." Uppercut provided an initial track to the creative team and animation/production company Motion Theory, and they sent back visuals inspired by the composition. "After several back-and-forths of build-and-destroy, we finally settled on a mix we both thought suited the project," says Cruz. "Electronica or hip-hop in most other cultures mean very specific things: ambient, rave or gangsta. This is Japanese electro hip-hop, if you can even call it that. Uppercut himself describes his music as pop. One of our goals as an agency is to broadcast relevant local talent. In this case, we wanted the rest of Asia to hear what Tokyo-ites were up to." The norm in Japanese commercials is commissioned music by Top 40 pop acts, but W+K/Tokyo's focus on collaboration and new expression led Cruz and company to Uppercut's door. "It also helped that Sasu and Kami, the two foremost street artists in Japan, are friends with Uppercut," adds Cruz. "Tokyo is a sophisticated and tight-knit culture. Everyone pays attention to what everyone else is doing, so it all gelled quite nicely."

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