Rap and hip-hop have dominated​ ​American pop culture. These music genres have increasingly grown in popularity from the 1990s to today. For the first​ ​time​ in history, rap and hip-hop are currently the most popular genres of music in the United States and the majority of the world, according to Forbes and several other sources. Though these genres once targeted a niche market, it wasn’t long before they were embraced by mainstream audiences. Artists such as Drake, Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, and other underground artists have been changing the way the genre is perceived and accepted.

Rappers and hip-hop artists have not only been changing the way people hear them, but also the way people see them and interact with their work. With the rise of rap and hip-hop music, a majority of young Americans have also adopted and embraced its culture. Rap and hip-hop culture is known for a certain sense of fashion, and several leading luxury and high-fashion brands are tapping its popularity by working with artists such as Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Pharrell, Rihanna, Pusha T, Travis Scott, The Weeknd, Vic Mensa, and Young Thug. These artists have been featured in campaigns and fashion shows because of their music and fashion sense.

When Kanye West made the decision to go from music to fashion, he made headlines and changed the way people saw him and many artists like him. He decided to collaborate with a luxury fashion designer to create the music video for his song “Wolves.” This video featured the unique and detailed products of this designer/brand. The video also featured many well known models, who work with the majority of luxury brands out there.

A$AP Rocky has not only designed his own lines and products for three widely-known high-fashion brands, but he has become the first person of color to be the face of a particular brand that has been a leader in the luxury fashion world for years, alongside Rihanna who was the first woman of color to be the face of this same company. A$AP Rocky has been known to be a lover of fashion, mentioning several brands in his music. His song “Fashion Killa” is a tribute to high-fashion and his love for it. He has been called the “Face of Luxury Fashion” by COMPLEX, earning that title and becoming an icon in the rap and high fashion industries through being featured on magazine covers and in several fashion campaigns. A$AP Rocky has also caused many luxury brands to become more relevant in the eyes of the public, just by simply wearing them – out on the daily or to red carpet events.

With the rise and popularity of social media, several rap and hip-hop artists are like A$AP Rocky, in that they are the sole source of fashion, trend, and brand exposure to many individuals. Aside from their music, this is a huge reason why such artists are growing in popularity and significance at such an accelerated rate.

What does this have to do with your brand?

If your target customer is a fashion-oriented, trendy individual from ages 18 – 35, chances are that rap and hip-hop might be a relevant addition to your current music. Adding this type of music could help in creating new and/or maintaining current relationships with this type of customer within your brick-and-mortar locations. When a customer makes the effort to come into a store, they are seeking to have a good and memorable experience – this includes good customer service, visual merchandising and the ability to relate to the products and the environment. A huge part of a customer’s in-store experience is the music, as it makes or breaks that relationship and environment. Playing music that is relevant to the brand, but also to the customer, is highly important as it adds a sense of personalization and helps to bring the store to life.

However, not only is the music relevant – the artists are extremely relevant, too. If an artist is the face of a high-fashion brand, customers can expect to walk in and hear their music playing. Many customers may be attracted to a brand simply because they have seen their favorite artist wearing such items, bridging that gap between rap/hip-hop and fashion stores. As many individuals are starting to learn about brands through their favorite artists like Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, playing their music in stores can make that connection.

Understandably, many rap and hop-hop songs are known for inappropriate and vulgar language, which brands may not want to associate with. Artists like A$AP Rocky might not be appropriate for the in-store environment. However, artists like Drake, Rihanna, Frank Ocean and Travis Scott have a number of great tracks with no explicit language, such as radio hits or inconspicuous clean versions. There are also many other artists who have made top charts with hip-hop tracks that are great for in-store environments.

Rap and hip-hop have become such an important part of America’s pop culture, whether it’s through the music or the way an artist dresses and interacts with their fanbase. Since many artists are growing influentially within the fashion world, it is important to take a step back and look at how this affects your brand and in-store locations. Some things to consider are: Can rap and hip-hop help you grow with your customers? Can it help you gain more customers? Lastly, can it help you, ultimately, grow and expand as a brand?

– Submitted by Naz Bokhari, Music Design