LL Cool J, FUBU and the “Tanning of America”

Years later, we’re still talking about LL Cool J and FUBU. So proud to have been a part of this movement! Read the article below of an interview between Steve Stoute and the Daily News about his upcoming book, “The Tanning of America.” Congratulations Steve!

Hip-hop scored on LL Cool J’s hat trick, says Steve Stoute in new book

One of the biggest cultural and economic shifts to hit America has its roots in LL Cool J’s hat.

So writes brand-marketing guru Steve Stoute in his book, “The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy.”

The Gotham Books tome examines how hip-hop culture and mainstream America collided in the 1990s, “blurring cultural and demographic so permanently,” Stoute writes, “that it laid the foundation for a transformation.”

Stoute tells us the idea for the book came almost four years ago when he was traveling around the world for his client Samsung and realized how pervasive hip-hop music and fashion had become outside the U.S.

“It made me think about how this culture had become a universal language,” he says.

According to “The Tanning of America,” a seminal moment of this revolution occurred in 1997, when Queens rapper LL Cool J did what Stoute calls “one of the most unapologetic, bold and daring things I’ve ever seen anyone do.”

The Gap clothing line, looking to reinvigorate its brand, had signed the rapper for a TV commercial. When Cool went before the cameras, he wore a Gap outfit, but clueless producers let him keep on the hat he’d worn to the shoot.

That cap was emblazoned with the logo of what was then a fledgling clothing company marketing to young African-Americans: FUBU.

Cool, who had a piece of the business, even rapped the company’s full name, For Us, By Us, in mid-commercial, adding a sly “on the low” – code, Stoute says, that told viewers to buy FUBU “via word of mouth, like a street drug.”

The rapper had “just piggybacked FUBU onto Gap’s megabrand global massmarketing ad campaign,” Stoute writes. He adds that when he saw the TV ad, “It was like being hit by lightning.”

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