As an advertising reporter, I spend the vast majority of my time at work documenting all the different things companies do to tell their stories and convince customers to buy their products.
But for all the time, energy, and money these companies spend on advertising, some of the most valuable information people use to make their purchase decisions comes not from multi-million dollar ad campaigns but from the recommendations of people they admire.
On this front, perhaps no one is more influential right now than rapper/producer/fashion designer Kanye West, whose early championing of skinny jeans and shutter shades helped push those fashions back into the mainstream after a period of being dormant.
As such, we’ve decided to take a look at the consumer and luxury brands Kanye has referenced in his music to find out which brands have benefitted most from his imprimatur.
To do this, we went through Rap Genius’s extensive lyrics database and counted every one of Kanye’s references to consumer and luxury brands on his seven studio albums (College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808s & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch The Throne, and Yeezus.) All guest verses were excluded from our study, as were Jay Z’s verses on Watch The Throne, and the rambling part at the end of “Last Call” (you know the part I’m talking about).
Take a look at the charts we made to see which brand Mr. West has cited most often (Hint: It’s not Louis Vuitton), which of his albums have featured the most product placement, and a visualisation of every single one of Kanye’s brand shoutouts.
1. Most referenced brands
Though ‘Ye has famously proclaimed himself the Louis Vuitton Don, you might be surprised to find out the French fashion house is actually the rapper’s second-most frequently referenced brand, and by a wide margin. Indeed, the title of most-referenced product goes to the German auto maker Mercedes-Benz, which takes the checkered flag with a whopping 18 mentions. Mercedes-Benz also wins my personal award for Kanye’s best brand-infused flow (“Killin’ y’all n—– on that lyrical s—/Mayonnaise coloured Benz, I push Miracle Whips.” — Last Call).
2. “Couture-level Flow”
Though Mercedes-Benz was the brand Kanye referenced most across his seven studio albums, spots two through four are all fashion brands. In fact, 90 of Kanye’s 208 brand references were about clothing and fashion products (43%). In addition to cars and clothes, Kanye also liked talking about booze (15 references) and food, soft drinks and restaurants (20).
3. Tracking Materialism Over Time
Though Kanye’s aspirational first two albums, The College Dropout and Late Registration each included more than 50 references to specific products, his interest in rapping about such things has seemed to take a dive as he’s become more successful. In fact, his brooding 808s & Heartbreak in 2008 included just four product name-drops.
4. The Life of a Don
As you might expect, Kanye’s tastes skew toward luxury goods. But how much? 123 of the 208 products references (59%) were about luxury and high-end brands, with the rest spanning the gamut from Banana Republic all the way down to Depends. From Late Registration’s “Late“: “Will I make it from the student loans to a Benz-o?/Like old folks pissin’, I guess it all Depends, oh, oh.”
And now, a word cloud of every single brand Kanye has mentioned on his seven studio albums. Click the image to enlarge:
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