Michael Santiago Render aka “Killer Mike” is one half of the rap duo Run The Jewels, who started a Netflix series in which he tries out some pretty divergent ideas. One of which was to spearhead a cultural outreach program to bring awareness to the perspectives of the rivals the Cripps and the Bloods. Old street gangs of southern Californian descent that have long been synonymized with the ilk of thuggish violence, crime, sex, drugs, and drug money. A closer look reveals a different story. Mike offered them a platform in 1 episode to explain their perspectives. The members of the respective groups often misunderstood backgrounds tell a tale of territories, protection, community, and looking out for one another’s kids and family. It’s another way of life most people aren’t privy to comprehend simply because they can’t relate to the socioeconomic disparity, lived-experience, and just don’t know anything about it. It’s another way of life and an unsavory system of precarious checks and balances altogether that many without access to greater finance and silver spoons aren’t born into.
23 sec Crip-A-Cola commercial @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a64slsJ7z_s
Members of both sides agree that their public relations are at an all-time low, and historically, they are viewed all as unfavorable characters to society. The ideological flip happens when they sit down and open up. They begin by discussing their ethics, values, and struggles. What seems illogical at first quickly starts to make sense and crystallize into a bigger picture. The takeaway is that we are all governed and united by the same principles: the need to survive and provide for our families in an ever constricting world.
With Mike’s help and platform to express themselves, the gangs come to a mutual breakthrough with the desires to go legitimate and sell a product that parodies the soda wars of Coke & Pepsi—with the epiphany that if all these sodas are essentially composed of the same non-complex, unrefined junk sugars that are linked to diabetes and osteoporosis, then they could in theory and practice recreate their own higher quality versions to sell direct to their economy. It is sold at convenience stores around Atlanta, Georgia at a profit they in turn use to run a legitimate business and enhance their lives. With the success and exposure from the show and locally, the demand quickly outgunned Crip-A-Cola’s supply. They are sold out to this day online and in stores with a hefty public outcry for more remaining daily on every major social media platform.
Through Killer Mike’s high profile status as a successful rap artist, professional voiceover actor (see Frisky Dingo / Archer), and as a vocal representative of the black community, he was able to give the disenfranchised something they’ve never had before: a franchise— A legitimate, tax paying business that help make ends meet. It was something everyone could believe in and take part in, not only in a delicious beverage, but the establishment of its grassroots commercial success. Customers in effect became participant observers in Crip A Cola’s story—and it is precisely that story that drew people into what they created. Only through properly explaining background and context can story transform a bunch of gang bangers into savvy businessmen who are now in charge of writing their own narrative. Where it goes next is all up to them and how the market perceives these deeply Americana roots in today’s limitless marketplace.
Killer Mike Interview— Helping Crips Make 'Crip-a-Cola' and Bloods Make 'Blood Pop' @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdgBEJvYzO4
With punk bands, it’s a little different. But the takeaway is the same: Breaking down social walls to collaborate by keeping your enemies closer can osmose your brand outside of your immediate social circle. If there’s a rivalry in your scene— play it up. If there’s a product you guys can mutually produce together, be it in audio, visual, or a practical product that might bring people together socially, that’s a win— and just one of the many goals of punk rock and live music itself: Unity.
Don’t just remain an island to the people you want to occasionally visit you and enjoy your brand or band— be a marketing force by integrating your ideas into the common spaces of public consciousness through a physical presence, other words known in devil’s speak as “retail”. I’ve seen bands make bank selling joints, hot sauce, beer, lunch boxes, ties, zippo lighters, underwear, shot glasses— hell it’s all been done before and it works. What works even better is finding your own personal niche to brand out to and capitalize on through trail and error. Sometimes the funniest, most ridiculous ideas can be the best ideas and show off that you have a sense of humor about what you’re doing— even if the end message is serious. Run the Product, and run your brand’s message through crazy ass merch with a heartfelt message. At No Pants, we can do the research with you, brainstorm options, and get you quotes on anything you can dream up. So dream accordingly— but dream big, and use your voice and branding in the public space to affect change in your community the way you want to: for the benefit of those around you.