In February fast-rising Hip Hop duo Run The Jewels (RTJ), aka Killer Mike and El-P released their second craft beer with at least two more planned, and that’s an interesting development even for those who don’t drink beer. Like their first foray into alcoholic beverages, a New England India Pale Ale (IPA) called Stay Gold released last year, the new stout is named after a song from their latest album, RTJ3: Panther like a Panther Stout.
And it uses not one, but three recipes, so it apparently comes in three flavours, depending on the region it’s manufactured in. The traditional stout will come from Interboro in New York; J Wakefield in Miami is collaborating with Panther Coffee to produce a coffee-infused brew, and Chicago’s Pipeworks is adding some oomph to their porter recipe with the addition of a bourbon barrel-aged blend. The new releases are great news for those who enjoy a beer or two while kicking back and playing casino games, and now, with these 3 flavours in the works it looks like there will be even more options to choose from.
Like their IPA Stay Gold, the rappers’ stout bears their fist-and-gun hand logo, and the artwork for the packaging was created by famous music industry artist Jermaine Rogers – he’s done posters for for Bowie, Radiohead, The Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters and countless others.
But the attention to detail and the duo’s enthusiastic immersion into the craft beer world of nuance and subtle differences is a sign of something bigger at work here: this is Hip Hop meets hipsterdom, and the unlikely pairing is getting along fine.
Diversification at the Forefront
RTJ have a big few months coming up; El-P and Killer Mike will be supporting Lorde on selected dates in the US during her Melodrama World Tour. Some people consider that an unlikely mix; but when you consider the many Hip Hop influences in the New Zealander’s art-indie-pop, they’re not that strange as bedfellows.
It seems that RTJ have always thought out the box, and have taken on some rather strange projects, all in the name of art and creative expression. Their diversity is part of what attracts so many fans, and they are not afraid to branch out into a variety of markets. They released a cat remix of their album aptly named “Meow the Jewels” in which they replaced all instrumentals with cat sounds, and Killer Mike has shown off his many talents by singing a wonderful opera duet, and rapping on a treadmill at the Eric André Show.
So perhaps it’s not that strange to see rappers moving in to the craft beer market – Hip Hop, 30 years ago the edgy thug music that “respectable” kids didn’t listen to, is now putting out the most hipster of products; a craft beer.
Their first one even has a quirky sense of humour, much like their cat-sounds inspired album: the oat-tinged Stay Gold IPA, also produced by microbrewery Interboro, was noted for its hoppiness – Hip-Hoppiness, geddit? It’s a fittingly corny celebration of Hip Hop’s triumphant shift from the margins to the mainstream.
Savvy Marketing as Well
When Stay Golf IPA hit the market last year, El-P was telling reporters how cool it was to have a six-pack full of beers with RTJ’s logo on it. And that’s usually the way it happens when a band has been huge for a long time, not just-getting-to-huge, as even RTJ’s most ardent fans have to admit they are.
But that’s also the way a skewed industry, with all the power in the wrong hands, worked, if a band got popular enough for a brand to make money from them, they’d be offered an endorsement deal – but no direct profit from product sales.
RTJ are owning the process and the product from the start, and will build both brands – the beers and the music – in tandem. They have a Legend Has It Pilsener, brewed by Berlin’s BRLO brewery coming out in Europe in April, and Double Down IPA set for release in October.
And with craft beer still a growing trend among young drinkers, many of whom have just got to the legal drinking age after being teen fans of the Hunger Games movies, RTJ supporting Lorde with a line of craft beers to punt is, frankly, marketing genius.
The Hunger Games fans will naturally be at the concerts, thanks to Lorde’s success with the soundtrack, and they’ll get to kick off the night with some thumping RTJ beats – and the next time they’re in the liquor store, they’re going to remember the logo. Pavlov’s dogs with a powerful thirst, if you will – and more power to them.
After all, if more artists in the music industry diversified when the money started to come in, would there be as many hard-luck stories from old-timers?