How rap music took over advertising

As genres such as hip-hop and grime cement their position in the mainstream, we explore how the brand world is increasingly taking note

When Travis Scott releases his own McDonald’s meal, Skepta creates a trainer with Nike and Cardi B is the face of everything from Pepsi to Reebok, it’s safe to say that rap music is well and truly part of the mainstream. In the US in particular, the relationship between marketing and rap dates back to the early days of hip-hop, when adidas signed a million-dollar endorsement deal with Run DMC off the back of the group’s track My Adidas, and Sprite launched its groundbreaking Obey Your Thirst campaign.

Now more than ever, we are seeing a spate of campaigns from all-American brands that collaborate with rappers in more integrated ways and are aimed at a wider audience. This year alone, the face of campaigns for Bud Light and Doritos was the instantly recognisable tattooed one of Post Malone, and Travis Scott reportedly made $20 million off the back of his internet-breaking McDonald’s collab and accompanying merch deal.

Across the pond, the popularity of rap, hip-hop and grime in the UK has soared in recent years, thanks in part to homegrown stars such as Little Simz, Stormzy and Dave. In 2020, rap made up a fifth of all singles listened to, according to the British Phonographic Industry, making the genre six times more popular than it was in 2000.