The Rap Up

2017s top 5 collaborations between brands and artists (so far)

rapper collabs

By Ndu Donsa

We're halfway through 2017, and looking back at the last six months in South African rap culture, something that's really stood out for me is the abundance of brand collaborations. 

The brand collabs that worked best were the ones that actually aligned with rappers, allowing them to flex their personalities and creativity. Of course some brands missed the mark, but I’m here for that good good and loved how the following five brands worked with some of our favourite artists.

Before I share my list of top five brand collabs in the past six months, here's a criteria, of sorts, so that it's easy for you to see where I'm coming from – and can call me out if you think I'm talking smack. Go ahead and use the comments below. That's what they're there for...

The first standard was that the collab must have creativity at the heart of the campaign, and so here I looked for collabs that made me go "Wow.".

The second is authenticity. This is a simple one, really: did the collab make sense for the artist and was it credible in our eyes?

The last was talk-ability. Here I looked for a campaign that trended – or just got everyone talking and engaging with the collab. 

I've included video evidence to back-up my list, and can honestly say that even though this is advertising, it's still worth your hard-earned data bundles.

Scroll down for the dopest collabs from South African hip-hop this year thus far.

Riky Rick x Vaseline

Riky Rick and Vaseline

I would be hating if I did not make this the first collab of the year. Riky Rick recently got a deal with Vaseline. Yeah, Vaseline: and I was as surprised as the rest of you. However, the collab was all about personal grooming and how one needs to start strong, which in this case starts by taking care of your skin.

I really liked this collab because it was so unexpected. No-one would have thought that Riky would do something with Vaseline, but it turned out that the fit is magical. We're living in an era where looking good and taking care of yourself is generally accepted as preferable to looking scruffy. All in all, this was the best collab because of how it shattered what we expect rappers to be aligning themselves with these days – resulting in it being the most talked-about collaboration of 2017.

Nasty C + Mashabhuqe + Gigi Lamayne x Puma

Nasty C, Mashabhuqe, Gigi Lamayne and Puma

For me, the second dopest collab of the year features Nasty C, Mashabhuqe, Gigi Lamayne and Puma. I loved this campaign because of the perfect timing. 

Rappers like Nasty C are really running the streets in terms of getting their names out there. So it makes sense that the campaign was called #RunTheStreets. The magic for me is the voiceover that's delivered by Stogie T, as he really paints a picture of people who are never quitting, and how these guys are self-made. He also mentions how #RunTheStreets is all about following your instincts. It's really dope.

I guess the magic of this campaign was in the way it launched: a cinematic piece of video content that was as highly polished as the slickest TV ad.

Cassper Nyovest x Ciroc

Cassper Nyovest and Ciroc Vodka

This is the first alcohol brand to make it onto the list. Ciroc has always been active in hip-hop culture, from Da Les’ all-white party to Diddy, but the brand had to really do something big in order to keep its position as the rap game's premium spirit brand in the country. It made perfect sense when the brand announced Cassper as their new ambassador, resulting in the second most talked about collab for 2017 thus far.

This collab made sense for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that Cassper is arguably the biggest artist on the African continent right now. Cassper aligned nicely with their message, which is all about #onarrival. Secondly, the brand was clever in being part of Cassper Nyovest’s album roll-out for Thuto, managing to be present in his listening session and getting some product placement in 'Tito Mboweni'. Simply put, this brand understands leveraging a relationship to the full.

Rouge + Tshego x Levis

Rouge x Tshego x Levis

Another campaign that we did not see coming is from Levi's South Africa. To launch the 501 Skinny Jean, Levi's partnered with Rouge and Tshego, who are currently two of the hottest new artists in the country, based on their artistry and sound.

I love this campaign because it brought the personality of the artists to the fore. Sure, there were a lot of product shots in the videos, but the narratives of how they push things, how they live in Levi's, where they write music etc. really worked in this campaign. It's probably the more simple collab of 2017 but worked out great. 

Oh, and shout outs to Levi's for using both artists in their videos.

Kwesta x Red Heart

Kwesta and Red Heart Rum

The last collab is between Kwesta and Red Heart Rum. Let me start by saying that Red Heart Rum was very brave with this collab. I mean, they had to get the authenticity and the realness right from the the jump. We all know Kwesta – or Mr SAMA 23 to you – for spitting that real hip-hop and repping the hood to the full. So I guess what I loved about this was how playful it was, and how the other Rap Lyf members were incorporated into the campaign.

As for Red Heart? They were very clever in how they brought through their message of #LiveWithHeart and challenged Kwesta to rap using lyrics that he picked from a hat. It's not your typical approach when a brand asks an artist to make a song in one day, and then go perform it live in front of an audience. 

Shout out to Red Heart Rum: you guys take the prize for the most fun, clever, simple and strategically fit collab, in my book.

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