Tiffany B. Brown

Cristal vs. Hip-hop: Racism or anti-trash snobbery?

Remember the moment Cross Colors died at your high school?

Jay-Z has sworn off Cristal after the Champagne maker’s managing director, Frédéric Rouzaud, said he’s not all that happy with rappers associating themselves with his brand.

Jay-Z called the statements racist. But somehow I doubt Cristal would have a problem with Oprah, Kenneth Chenault, Wynton Marsalis or BET founder Bob Johnson sipping its bubb.

The difference to my eyes is couth. I mean, really Jay-Z: is a self-proclaimed former hustler/drug-dealer who plead guilty to stabbing someone. Does he really not see why Cristal might not want the shout out?

Hip-hop, though I (mostly) love it, is generally some of the most uncouth sh*t on the planet. It makes anything associated with it seem crass, excessive, and tacky. As my mama put it: “When rappers hold Cristal, it makes it look like Sneaky Pete.”

Hip-hop’s whole ethos replaces price with quality. I can completely understand why brand snobs and wine snobs would look askance at people who — if Cristal were priced the same as, say, Barefooot Bubbly — might not know the difference.

That’s not to say that the largely white music genres of pop, rock, or country are somehow more classy than hip-hop. Hell naw they ain’t. Shoot, if I were Krug, I’d be mad as hell to find out that Madonna and her would-be-trailer-trash-but-for-her- dance-moves-and-marginal-ability-to-hold-a-note self name-checked my product in a song. And Britney Spears? Pure trash. (I tell ya, the minute she endorses Old Navy, I’ll be done as a customer.)

But this debate goes to the core of luxury brands, and their associated snobbery: if trashy-acting “common folk” — and recording artists are basically common folks with money — they run the risk of their regular customer base eschewing the brand for something else that differentiates them. See Burberry vs. Chavs.

Or remember when Cross Colors died at your high school: the day you saw that nerdy kid sporting his brand-new, bright green jeans.

18 Responses to “Cristal vs. Hip-hop: Racism or anti-trash snobbery?”

  1. Yeah I don’t think that it’s racist either, but I have to say that I am curious to see whether this boycott does much for Cristal’s US bottom line. I’d love to see how Cristal reacts with, say, a 10% decrease in their revenue.

    This reminds me of the Timberland episode maybe 12-15 years ago where they claimed that the “urban market” didn’t represent a significant amount of their sales. There was no widescale boycott, but then again rappers had maybe a quarter of the pull that they do now. Sports bars and clothing lines by rappers were unheard of. Hell even movies were just coming around.

    Reading the Economist article though, I see a lot of room for potential media manipulation. There was a time when I thought that the Economist was above such things, but such a time has passed. The Christian Science Monitor stands as the last bastion of my faith in an objective and trustworthy media.

  2. Yeah I don’t think that it’s racist either, but I have to say that I am curious to see whether this boycott does much for Cristal’s US bottom line. I’d love to see how Cristal reacts with, say, a 10% decrease in their revenue.

    This reminds me of the Timberland episode maybe 12-15 years ago where they claimed that the “urban market” didn’t represent a significant amount of their sales. There was no widescale boycott, but then again rappers had maybe a quarter of the pull that they do now. Sports bars and clothing lines by rappers were unheard of. Hell even movies were just coming around.

    Reading the Economist article though, I see a lot of room for potential media manipulation. There was a time when I thought that the Economist was above such things, but such a time has passed. The Christian Science Monitor stands as the last bastion of my faith in an objective and trustworthy media.

  3. tiffany says:

    I’m guessing there are all of a dozen people who can both afford to drink Cristal and care enough to be insulted by Rouzard’s comments. The others probably understand where he’s coming from, if they don’t agree entirely. I honestly don’t know how much this will hurt Cristal’s bottom line.

    And funny thing about Timberland. They turned around and wholeheartedly embraced the urban market and started developing trendy boots.

  4. tiffany says:

    I’m guessing there are all of a dozen people who can both afford to drink Cristal and care enough to be insulted by Rouzard’s comments. The others probably understand where he’s coming from, if they don’t agree entirely. I honestly don’t know how much this will hurt Cristal’s bottom line.

    And funny thing about Timberland. They turned around and wholeheartedly embraced the urban market and started developing trendy boots.

  5. Simon says:

    This question aside, Cristal’s director Fr?ɬ©d?ɬ©ric Rouzaud made what I would call a big mistake in the business world: He insulted his client. Not only did he lose Jay-Z’s business, but also his endorsement. Jay-Z is publicly denouncing Cristal and calling for a boycott of their product! Rouzaud put himself in a public relations nightmare. The only choice he has left to save face for his company, is to apologize to Mr. Combs (or step down).

    The Economist article irked me because of its condescending tone. Who are they to compare rap artists to dictators? The quote “We make our champagne for that 3-5% of consumers who really know wine, and who take the time to taste it correctly.” attacks the 97% of their customers who aren’t self-proclaimed wine connoisseurs. The entire article was written as if champagne belonged only to today’s “aristocracy,” and not to the common folks like “rap artists.” Real smooth, with the Tsar Alexander II comparison. It would even better if they had a footnote explaining that there were numerous assassination attempts on that Tsar.

    If they had some balls, they would publicly defame their customers. Perhaps make an image of their product as a snobby high class drink for elitists. They’d lose most of their customers, maybe gain some snobby high class elitist ones… Business is business, and unless they want to lose all of their customers and become beggars, they should keep their grumblings to themselves.

  6. Simon says:

    This question aside, Cristal’s director Fr?ɬ©d?ɬ©ric Rouzaud made what I would call a big mistake in the business world: He insulted his client. Not only did he lose Jay-Z’s business, but also his endorsement. Jay-Z is publicly denouncing Cristal and calling for a boycott of their product! Rouzaud put himself in a public relations nightmare. The only choice he has left to save face for his company, is to apologize to Mr. Combs (or step down).

    The Economist article irked me because of its condescending tone. Who are they to compare rap artists to dictators? The quote “We make our champagne for that 3-5% of consumers who really know wine, and who take the time to taste it correctly.” attacks the 97% of their customers who aren’t self-proclaimed wine connoisseurs. The entire article was written as if champagne belonged only to today’s “aristocracy,” and not to the common folks like “rap artists.” Real smooth, with the Tsar Alexander II comparison. It would even better if they had a footnote explaining that there were numerous assassination attempts on that Tsar.

    If they had some balls, they would publicly defame their customers. Perhaps make an image of their product as a snobby high class drink for elitists. They’d lose most of their customers, maybe gain some snobby high class elitist ones… Business is business, and unless they want to lose all of their customers and become beggars, they should keep their grumblings to themselves.

  7. But as we know, whether people can afford something has no bearing on whether they buy it or not. If Jay Z is serving Cristal in his sports bars, I have a feeling that he moves a lot of product as this is the signature baller drink.

    I just don’t see a bunch of rich snobs breaking out the Cristal in copious amounts on the weekends. So I think that it is at least possible that Jay-Z and the Hip Hop marketing firm may have enough sway to at least make the boys across the pond feel a small pinch.

    But of course they would never admit to such a sting.

  8. But as we know, whether people can afford something has no bearing on whether they buy it or not. If Jay Z is serving Cristal in his sports bars, I have a feeling that he moves a lot of product as this is the signature baller drink.

    I just don’t see a bunch of rich snobs breaking out the Cristal in copious amounts on the weekends. So I think that it is at least possible that Jay-Z and the Hip Hop marketing firm may have enough sway to at least make the boys across the pond feel a small pinch.

    But of course they would never admit to such a sting.

  9. tiffany says:

    If Jay Z is serving Cristal in his sports bars, I have a feeling that he moves a lot of product as this is the signature baller drink.

    Not necessarily. Just because it’s stocked doesn’t mean it moves. Champagne, and all wine, really, can last a few years if it’s properly stored. Plenty of clubs and bars keep expensive bottles in stock for the show of it.

    Besides, rich snobs are often more genteel about displays of money and wealth. You wouldn’t see them out guzzling bottles of Cristal. They don’t need to demonstrate that they’ve got it, y’know? But they may have a case stashed in their wine cellar.

    I really still believe that most of the people who drink Cristal just don’t care enough abut the comments to stop drinking it. And those who would stop aren’t a large enough share of Cristal’s market to make them hurt. I doubt Jay-Z is selling and drinking 45 bottles of Cristal a night (17,000 bottles — 5% of Cristal’s current vintage production of 348,000 — divided by 365). Plus Cristal is just one brand in Roederer’s portfolio.

  10. tiffany says:

    If Jay Z is serving Cristal in his sports bars, I have a feeling that he moves a lot of product as this is the signature baller drink.

    Not necessarily. Just because it’s stocked doesn’t mean it moves. Champagne, and all wine, really, can last a few years if it’s properly stored. Plenty of clubs and bars keep expensive bottles in stock for the show of it.

    Besides, rich snobs are often more genteel about displays of money and wealth. You wouldn’t see them out guzzling bottles of Cristal. They don’t need to demonstrate that they’ve got it, y’know? But they may have a case stashed in their wine cellar.

    I really still believe that most of the people who drink Cristal just don’t care enough abut the comments to stop drinking it. And those who would stop aren’t a large enough share of Cristal’s market to make them hurt. I doubt Jay-Z is selling and drinking 45 bottles of Cristal a night (17,000 bottles — 5% of Cristal’s current vintage production of 348,000 — divided by 365). Plus Cristal is just one brand in Roederer’s portfolio.

  11. Osahon says:

    for a person who “loves” hip hop u sure do talk a lot of mess about it. It is true that there is a large part of hip hop that is not appropriate at least in terms of its vulgarity and violent lyrics but all hip hop is not like that. and u r no better than cristal’s owner who lumped it all together.

    and even if mr cristal harbored those types of views about hip hop it probably was still pretty stupid to make those comments. i mean he had a whole culture stuck on his liquor. he lost out big time.

    and for the record i bet that in his mind hip hop and black people are the same thing. thats why he is a racist.

    ps i dont think too many people count Oprah as being truly “black” anyway

  12. Osahon says:

    for a person who “loves” hip hop u sure do talk a lot of mess about it. It is true that there is a large part of hip hop that is not appropriate at least in terms of its vulgarity and violent lyrics but all hip hop is not like that. and u r no better than cristal’s owner who lumped it all together.

    and even if mr cristal harbored those types of views about hip hop it probably was still pretty stupid to make those comments. i mean he had a whole culture stuck on his liquor. he lost out big time.

    and for the record i bet that in his mind hip hop and black people are the same thing. thats why he is a racist.

    ps i dont think too many people count Oprah as being truly “black” anyway

  13. tiffany says:

    wow osahon. oprah not black? that’s a pretty limited definition of blackness you’ve got there. black != poor.

    i’ve been listening to hip-hop for 20+ years now so i know hip-hop isn’t (or rather, wasn’t) all about sex and violence. but it’s poor people’s music. and there’s probably some old money / new money tensions too.

    and no, cristal did not have a “whole culture stuck on his liquor”? he had materialistic baller wannabes and industry types with expense accounts buying his stuff. that’s not all of hip-hop culture. not by a long shot. but then you should know that all hip-hop is not like that, right?

  14. tiffany says:

    wow osahon. oprah not black? that’s a pretty limited definition of blackness you’ve got there. black != poor.

    i’ve been listening to hip-hop for 20+ years now so i know hip-hop isn’t (or rather, wasn’t) all about sex and violence. but it’s poor people’s music. and there’s probably some old money / new money tensions too.

    and no, cristal did not have a “whole culture stuck on his liquor”? he had materialistic baller wannabes and industry types with expense accounts buying his stuff. that’s not all of hip-hop culture. not by a long shot. but then you should know that all hip-hop is not like that, right?

  15. Peter C. says:

    Stop All This Non-sense. Cristal has been around since 1876 and was out on the market place since 1945. The monies that Cristal has made and will make is dependant on the same clientele that has always bought their fizz. Not the Hip Hop crew. It serves us right that as soon as we get a bit of money we plunge it into some expensive white mans product. I have an idea…why don’t we stay piling our millions into our own brands. Jay-Z, sounds like a nice fizzy name. Then our childrens children will be so proud to sip our own stuff. It’s the same for our big earners buying Louis Vuitton. That manufacturer negotiated with the Nazi’s for many years. As for Timberland. With that lynching tree as their motiff I still ain’t buying JACK **** from them.

    Jay-Z, P.Diddy, and Oprah. Push your funds into our Own Named Cars, Drinks, Supermarkets, Leather Goods etc. Then maybe within the next hundred years our off spring won’t have to rely on the white man for status….

    So, Raise your glass of “BeyonZee”, to the future…

  16. Peter C. says:

    Stop All This Non-sense. Cristal has been around since 1876 and was out on the market place since 1945. The monies that Cristal has made and will make is dependant on the same clientele that has always bought their fizz. Not the Hip Hop crew. It serves us right that as soon as we get a bit of money we plunge it into some expensive white mans product. I have an idea…why don’t we stay piling our millions into our own brands. Jay-Z, sounds like a nice fizzy name. Then our childrens children will be so proud to sip our own stuff. It’s the same for our big earners buying Louis Vuitton. That manufacturer negotiated with the Nazi’s for many years. As for Timberland. With that lynching tree as their motiff I still ain’t buying JACK **** from them.

    Jay-Z, P.Diddy, and Oprah. Push your funds into our Own Named Cars, Drinks, Supermarkets, Leather Goods etc. Then maybe within the next hundred years our off spring won’t have to rely on the white man for status….

    So, Raise your glass of “BeyonZee”, to the future…

  17. S.J. says:

    The House of Louis Roederer has been in existence since 1776, and will continue to be successful. I read the article in question carefully and there was nothing racist in it at all. At no time did the Managing Director mention Jay-Z or anyone else. People simply do not understand that the author of the piece used extrapolation. As for the reference to connoisseurship and the ability to appreciate the fine on its merits and the people who truly appreciate it, that was simply the truth. Nothing racist there either. The House of Roederer has NOTHING to be sorry for, and I am certain their sales will go up and not down.

  18. S.J. says:

    The House of Louis Roederer has been in existence since 1776, and will continue to be successful. I read the article in question carefully and there was nothing racist in it at all. At no time did the Managing Director mention Jay-Z or anyone else. People simply do not understand that the author of the piece used extrapolation. As for the reference to connoisseurship and the ability to appreciate the fine on its merits and the people who truly appreciate it, that was simply the truth. Nothing racist there either. The House of Roederer has NOTHING to be sorry for, and I am certain their sales will go up and not down.