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Why Are Rappers Obsessed With Casamigos Now?

To start with, there was Hennessy. “The Genesis,” the primary observe on Nas’s 1994 debut studio album, Illmatic, packs in 4 mentions of the cognac model. “Take this Hennessy,” Nas says. “Cross that henrock, cross that henrock,” says Nas’s youthful brother, Jungle. “We drinkin’ this straight up with no chaser,” replies the rapper AZ.

Within the many years that adopted, Hennessy turned a fixture of rap lyrics. 2pac’s 1996 hit “How Do U Need It” known as Hennessy “a favourite of my homies after we floss on our enemies.” Within the 1998 music “Weed and Hennesey,” Grasp P rapped: “I smoke weed, and Hennesey / Simply to make it by the times man.” Six years later, the references had been nonetheless in all places; in 2004, Trick Daddy boasted “See I understand how to regulate my Hennessy” on his Thug Matrimony observe “Gangsta Livin’.” Cristal champagne and Patrón tequila quickly turned rap staples, too, popularized by songs resembling Jay-Z’s “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” from 1996’s Affordable Doubt: “Waddle off the champagne, Cristals by the bottle.” Within the 2006 earworm “Snap Yo Fingers,” Lil Jon rapped about mixing Patrón with Percocet: “I pop, I drank / I’m on Patrón and Perc, I can’t thank.” As rap developed from its homegrown roots into one thing glossier and extra business, the liquor name-drops developed, too, right into a sort of lyrical shorthand for opulent, larger-than-life success and its pitfalls.

However in recent times, I’ve seen that, seemingly out of nowhere, a unique liquor model is in all places. Activate any hip-hop or Prime 40 radio station and also you’ll hear it too: Casamigos this, Casamigos that. Everybody appears to be obsessive about Casamigos. The Atlanta rapper Lil Child name-checks the tequila on each Nicki Minaj’s “Do We Have a Drawback?” (“She a lil demon off that Casamigos”) and Drake’s “Women Need Women” (“We received 1942 Casamigos, it’s getting heated”). Saucy Santana has referenced the model on at the least 4 separate songs since December 2020. Soulja Boy launched an entire music known as “Casamigos” final yr. How on earth did a comparatively new model of tequila—one co-founded in 2013 by George Clooney, of all folks—seize hip-hop tradition and problem Hennessy’s reign so quick?

Casamigos’ rise to rap prominence arguably started with Younger Thug. In September 2018, the Atlanta-based artist launched “Sin,” on which Jaden Smith joins him and raps, “Casamigos received me spinnin’.” There had been a handful of lyrical nods to the model way back to 2015 (as an example: in The Sport’s “Quik’s Groove”), however “Sin” marked the primary time a rapper with such clear pop-crossover attraction had name-checked it. (A yr earlier, the tequila had been bought to the British drinks large Diageo for at the least $700 million, which additionally doubtless kicked its distribution into larger gear.)

By late 2021, artists from everywhere in the nation had additionally began citing the tequila, typically as a sort of fact serum or as artistic inspiration, of their lyrics—amongst them the Atlanta rapper Okay Camp (“Casamigos to the pinnacle, I overlook what I stated”), St. Louis’s Smino (“Casamigos received me so sincere, I’m sorry”), and Brooklyn’s Fivio International (“Casamigo assist me get within the zone”). This yr alone, the model has been referenced almost 100 occasions in rap songs listed on the lyric-annotation platform Genius.

Chart of references to Casamigos in rap lyrics, from 2013—2022

Tahir Hemphill, a multimedia artist and researcher who created the searchable rap-lyric database Rap Almanac, has additionally seen this development. “Whenever you speak Hennessy, you concentrate on Black & Milds, Yankee fitteds, Timbs. You concentrate on Hennessy, henrock,” Hemphill informed me, dipping right into a dramatically decrease register. “Casamigos is unquestionably a unique life-style.” He thinks its recognition in hip-hop has to do with the best way the model speaks to a contemporary tackle the finer issues: “It’s imported; it has 4 syllables; it’s [in the] Spanish language,” Hemphill stated. “It makes you fancy.”

This tracks with one of many causes rappers began mentioning particular manufacturers of alcohol many years in the past.“It’s not simply ‘I ordered champagne’; they need to let you know how costly the champagne was by the model or how top-shelf it’s,” Tuma Basa, the director of Black music and tradition at YouTube, informed me. “Artists are attempting to color an correct image of the life-style that they’re promoting to the viewers, who’s residing vicariously by them.”

Although Casamigos doesn’t conjure the ostentatious grandeur of Cristal, with its gilded, extravagantly priced bottle, most of the model’s promoting campaigns have leaned closely on photographs of Clooney himself, trying gently windblown on a motorbike or sipping tequila alongside his co-founder Rande Gerber. The 23-year-old Brooklyn musician Cassius Cruz, whose music “Pienso en Ti” mentions the tequila (“Shit received me on go, Casamigo”), informed me that Clooney was a part of the tequila’s attraction. “At any time when I reference alcohol in my music, I’m sort of cloaking myself in these projections,” Cruz stated. “I need to take that coolness and that suave vibe and superimpose that onto no matter I’m doing.”

However among the current Casamigos lyrics appear to be doing one thing extra nuanced than that too. Take the primary verse of “Neo,” from the 28-year-old Portland-raised artist Aminé: “Simply touched down, we in Euro / Italy summer season, Lake Como,” he raps. “Driving on the boat subsequent to Clooney’s home / Sippin’ on a lil Casamigo.” Though that scene would possibly appear to be a standard-issue life-style brag, it additionally incorporates a playful contradiction: Many would absolutely take into account Aminé and his mates, younger Black folks, misplaced within the rarefied setting of Clooney’s Italian trip dwelling. The disconnect between that staid European milieu and, probably, a rowdy group of newly moneyed younger Black males is enjoyable, the sort of wink that rappers resembling Jay-Z and Ye have additionally deployed to smugly satisfying impact.

Inevitably, all these Casamigos references find yourself seeping into the bigger tradition. On TikTok, movies tagged with “casamigoschallenge”—that includes keen contributors downing a shot (or way more) of Casamigos—have netted almost 200 million views complete. Previously few years, events promoting Casamigos open bars or Casamigos-forward cocktail lists have been becoming a member of, and in some instances look like changing, the Hennessy-centric occasions which have lengthy dominated nightlife in some cities with sizable populations of Black folks.

Casamigos’ sudden dominance is particularly notable when you think about it in historic phrases. In spite of everything, earlier generations of Black customers, Nas and different rappers included, didn’t simply spontaneously resolve to start out shopping for Hennessy en masse. French cognac producers had been constructing ties with Black American customers for the reason that early twentieth century, starting with the U.S. troopers stationed in Europe. After the top of World Battle II, Hennessy turned the primary spirit model to place adverts in Black-owned magazines resembling Ebony and Jet. When President Barack Obama was elected, Hennessy made a limited-edition cognac that now sells for greater than $1,000 amongst collectors. By the point Hennessy introduced on Nas as a model ambassador in 2013, it had lengthy since established itself as the preferred cognac in the USA, largely due to Black customers. By Illmatic’s twentieth anniversary in 2014, Hennessy was selling a documentary concerning the album’s creation.

For the manufacturers that embraced it, hip-hop ended up being an accelerator of types. In 2002, a Courvoisier spokesperson informed Fortune that Busta Rhymes’s infectious (and unsponsored) paean had helped the cognac line “obtain double-digit proportion development” that yr. However the relationships between alcohol manufacturers and hip-hop artists have additionally typically been difficult. In 2006, Jay-Z had been emphatically rapping about Cristal for at the least a decade when an govt on the firm that produces the champagne made a remark suggesting that the model was lower than happy with its recognition amongst rappers: “We are able to’t forbid folks from shopping for it. I’m positive Dom Pérignon or Krug can be delighted to have their enterprise.” Jay-Z responded by boycotting the model and buying a competing one, Armand de Brignac (colloquially often called Ace of Spades). He additionally rapped concerning the slight on 2009’s “On to the Subsequent One”: “I used to drink Cristal, them muh’fuckers racist / So I switched gold bottles on to that Spade shit.”

Cristal isn’t the one model that has alienated Black clients by seeming to attempt to distance its picture from hip-hop tradition. In 2018, the organizers of a mega-popular Black occasion sequence often called Henny Palooza—which had begun as an impromptu gathering thrown by just a few mates in New York in 2012 and developed right into a multicity, ticketed occasion with 1000’s of attendees—tweeted that Hennessy had by no means sponsored Henny Palooza as a result of it didn’t “worth us, us being the younger, bold, artistic minorities which might be truly the tradition that they declare to be part of.” (On the time, the corporate as an alternative pointed to its “lengthy historical past of supporting the African-American group,” and a Hennessy spokesperson informed The New York Instances that the corporate doesn’t touch upon particulars of any sponsorships.) The occasion sequence received sponsored by D’Ussé cognac as an alternative—a model partly owned by Jay-Z.

In keeping with Liz Paquette, the pinnacle of shopper insights on the alcohol-delivery service Drizly, Casamigos gross sales now outpace each Hennessy and D’Ussé in New York and Atlanta. In New York, it’s the best-selling model of any spirit in 2022 up to now.

Casamigos has been very coy about its founders’ views on its prevalence in rap. A lot of its publicly out there advertising supplies don’t appear to be focusing on Black customers in the best way that, say, Hennessy’s Nas-led 2021 movie tribute to Black companies did.

In 2015, Casamigos launched one other marketing campaign known as “Home of Associates,” that includes younger folks sitting round a campfire, strumming guitars amid just a few scattered tequila bottles. It’s idyllic in an early-2000s-Hollister-ad approach; it’s additionally remarkably white. By a consultant, Casamigos’ co-founder Rande Gerber didn’t reply a query concerning the model’s recognition amongst rappers specifically, opting as an alternative to offer a conveniently generic assertion: “​So many individuals are ingesting it an increasing number of daily they usually unfold the phrase,” he stated by way of electronic mail.

What Gerber didn’t say, however what appears true to me as somebody who has been listening to rappers name-drop liquor manufacturers since properly earlier than I may legally drink, is that Casamigos has edged out Hennessy partly due to the model’s personal canny self-positioning. Its value level is excessive sufficient to appear luxe however not so excessive that it feels inaccessible; its shiny, easy packaging makes it an interesting social-media prop; even its founders’ silence on the subject of Casamigos’ function in hip-hop might be learn as a strategic transfer meant to maintain the model’s demographic attraction as broad as attainable.

Or perhaps the reason being less complicated than any of that. Hemphill’s Rap Almanac does linguistic evaluation of songs, and after we chatted about Casamigos’ recognition in hip-hop, he supplied a concept that appeared virtually suspiciously apparent. It was the sort of concept that comes not from finding out hip-hop formally however from having been immersed in it, from having belted songs with mates at events and recited verses within the mirror alone. “It would simply be,” he stated with amusing, “that Casamigos is extra enjoyable to rhyme with than Hennessy.”

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