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Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Lesson About Authenticity

How many times has this dude made it into your deck about an Authentic Youth Brand? The Jay-Z of the next generation. A alternative, active, carefree, entrepreneur; he's as multi-dimensional as his brands (BBC, Ice Cream) and the ones he reps (BAPES and even HP, which provides a clear link to Jay.) Still he never seems to "sell out." So he makes it onto a slide to show off his values, elasticity, and most importantly authenticity that allows him to move from early adopter to mainstream...and that's where the big money is.

I went along content and unquestioning about my image of Pharrell and wrote off any doubt as jealous or plain old hating. That is, until the other night when I tuned into BET's new-ish BEEF: The Series.

Skateboarder, Terry Kennedy was calling out Lupe Fiasco for his "Kick Push" album/song in particular, saying he was a poser (that he hardly skates) and even making a diss track. Issue is that Lupe never really claimed to be a great sk8r (is that still cool?, gr-8) - and Terry is certainly worse on the mic than Lupe is on the board. Weird that he didn't have any problem with Pharrell calling himself Skateboard P when he barely skates. Or is it? Nope. In fact, the beef was squashed by Pharrell who made beats for Lupe's new album and was featured on his new single remix AS WELL AS who created and funds the Ice Cream street skate team which TK leads. It's all about the Benjamins, baby.

In the end, it seems to me the least "real" dude is Kennedy. I have second thoughts about Pharrell, but in the end think he's still a sick marketer, understands himself as a brand. Plus, anyone who deads the silly situation gets respect. Lupe's cool too, though getting Chuck Anderson to do his album cover art was a little weak. Check out Piff Huxtable's take on the situation - and peep some real skating on his previous post - "you can be crazy... just don't be insane."

I always get an uncomfortable feeling when I see "Authenticity" on a brand pyramind, positioning, etc. - any slide really. It's like "cool." If you have to say/write it, you're not it. I've been substituting transparent, but the level is open to interpretation and more it's becoming more and more the reality for brands - companies or people. If you don't skate, don't front like you do. So brands looking to get in with this (or a different) sub-culture better think twice about how and if they can gain credibility. Sponsoring a team may not be the answer. And doing a spot with kids skating that ends with your logo and putting it on YouTube definitely isn't.


mike said...

I really like this post. More so because I'm from Virginia Beach area and you are dead right on Pharrell as a brand. Check out his store in Norfolk.

And I agree about authenticity. Just by saying your cool automatically means that you're not. It's kind of like the kid in high school that always try to fit in with the cool crowd. He just never got it and he was never really that cool.

Anyone that watches Beef has to realize that beefing is like the hip hop industry version of a viral campaign. It's all setup to get massive PR unless you're C-Murder but then again I don't know what to think of the south after that picture of Lil Wayne + Birdman on Piff Huxtable's blog. Whoa.

Craig Brimm said...

I've actually seen some of the "cool kids" call themselves cool and work double time to keep the cool pumpin'. With some kids "cool" is like a natural talent, they seem to have a knack for it and then purposely pursue it, practise it and cultivate it. I think cool is sort of effortlessly self aware. The brands with a similar genisis in leadership and ideas seem to share in this "cool" atmosphere. They have it and work very hard to keep it.

George Crichlow said...

Nice write up Seth.