A history of hip hop and wine
Waka Flocka Flame once rapped “the way you movin’ got me in a trance / DJ turn me up ladies this yo jam / Imma sip moscato and you gonna lose them pants”. Powerful, right? Poetry, right?
Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly if your rap level is expert, the hip hop scene actually has a well-rhymed history for pairing sneakers with syrah and bling with barrels. Forget those five fingers of Hennessy, what they love is getting around a good glass of vino. Thug life, wine life, same same.
So, for no reason other than to indulge yours truly (a wino with a penchant for baller beats), here is a blow-by-blow breakdown of hip hop’s longstanding relationship with wine:
Branson B. The O.G Champagne Guy
From T.I popping bottles to P. Diddy bathing women in Dom Perignon, it’s no secret that rappers have been downing their favourite fizz for decades.
But who exactly spearheaded the sparkling phenomenon? Your boy Branson Belchie, that’s who. Dubbed “hip-hop’s unofficial sommelier” by Forbes Magazine, this New York emcee almost singlehandedly introduced the big guns (I’m talking Biggie, I’m talking Puff) to bubbles.
“We drank a lot of Taittinger together,” Branson said about hanging out with Smalls. “One birthday, I gave him a six-liter bottle of it.” You know, because that’s what most mates give each other on their birthday – two pairs of socks, one bottle of cheap cologne and a waterfall of Taittinger.
“Bye Cristal” - Jay Z
Shawn Carter is a trendsetter. There’s no denying the man’s got influence. I mean, he married Beyonce, birthed Tidal, gave us The Blueprint and told the world to drink $500 bottles of liquid gold. And so the world did.
Back in the day, he and Dame Dash pushed Cristal harder than Wiz pushes Khalifa Kush. Straight up, no tobaccy. Then in 2006 he shook the game up: Jay Z bought Armand de Brignac and became the first rapper to ever own a Champagne label outright.
When he started waving away Cristal in preference for Ace of Spades the sales for the underdog bubbles jumped from 20,000 a year to 60,000 in just five turns of the sun.
Old mate Leo Di Caprio began celebrating his lack of academy awards with flutes of the stuff; Oprah was seen chugging it back at book clubs; and when the Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA Championship it was Ace magnums all round. Influence, man.
Nas & The Illmatic Moët
I heart Nas. Nas is my spirit animal. If I had to be a rapper, I’d be Nas. He’s articulate, and intelligent, and a babe, and he drinks Moët . So like, swoon.
He wasn’t the first emcee to rhyme about fizz - The Beastie Boys got on the bandwagon back in 1986 with Licensed to Ill - but he definitely made it his trademark.
It’s all about those opening bars to his second verse on ‘Represent’: “Yo, they call me Nas, I’m not your legal type of fella / Moët-drinking, marijuana-smoking street dweller”. He’s the guy who turned champagne into a marker of success. One foot still in the projects, and one hand clutching a flute - that’s how Nas rolls.
Nicki Minaj takes on moscato
Back in 2005, Lil Kim was the first bad ass lady to shout out the merits of sweet ass vino when she sang: “Still over in Brazil sippin moscato / you must’ve forgot though / so I’m a take it back to the block yo … ”. And take it back to block she did.
A couple of decades later and Nicki Minaj has well and truly taken up the moscato mantle, going where no female rapper has gone before: investing in an alcohol brand.
Now a co-owner of Myx Fusion, Nicki’s new business partner Myx CMO Mona Scott-Young calls Minaj a “game-changer”. And it’s true. Before her, alcohol, like rap, was a total boy’s game. Now she’s lead owner, creative director and brand ambassador.
On producing the wine, Minaj said “I didn’t want to create just another ordinary wine. I wanted to make something special, something unique, something that I would love to drink. My moscatos and sangrias create a completely different experience.”
Sure thing, Nicki. I’ll take a peach fusion, thanks.
Rick Ross rolls rosé
“Belaire on my table, I talk it then I live it / Walking around in my motherfucking Belaire Rosé / Cartier frames, Belaire on my breath / Sippin rosé with Rozay and it’s Belaire”. Alright Rick. We get it. You’re into the pink stuff. Luc Belaire, in particular.
Coming in red hot out of southern France, the Belaire brand is making some serious headway into the hip hop community with Rick Ross as lead ambassador and two (pretty cheap) sparkling vinos: Rare Rosé and Rare Brut.
I say cheap, because it’s sparkling wine and not Champagne. Which brings the price per bottle into the very affordable $30-$50 bracket. Because sometimes even ballers are on a budget.
Ross has taken his association with the wine next level, spawning the Black Bottle Boys, an “exclusive club” for rappers who wanna co-sign the rosé. Imagine the likes of Lil Durk and Dj Khaled wearing matching varsity jackets and you’re pretty much there.
It seems Belaire, much like Myx and Moët, Cristal and Ace before them, has cottoned onto that classic marketing strategy: find the right rapper and you’re guaranteed to sell magnums.