Famous Faces on TV: 10 Commercials Starring Singers and Rappers
Before Nicki Minaj got a check to rep Pepsi and Eminem reinvented Chrysler into a classy, badass vehicle in just 60 seconds, veteran hip-hop and R&B artists paved the way for earning extra coin by endorsing drinks, fashion and other products. The BoomBox went back in time and found 10 commercials where entertainers — ranging from the late Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Notorious B.I.G. to R. Kelly, Paula Abdul, Nas and AZ — applied their powerful vocals to jingles. Surprisingly, these famous reps did well for their associated brands, with some of these spots leaving us thirsty for a soda or itching to put on a pair of Adidas Superstars even today.
Diet Coke was first introduced in 1982, and four years later, Whitney Houston — fresh off the release of her eponymous 13x platinum 1985 self-titled debut — was plugging the one calorie soda with her diva hair and slim figure. Houston attached her high notes to the “Just for the taste of it!” slogan, making it sound like it too was Grammy worthy. Sadly for the iconic singer, a different type of “coke” would lead her down a different path.
9. Paula Abdul Dances for Diet Coke
Paula Abdul filmed several dance-tastic montages for Coca-Cola Company, but the most popular of the bunch is this 1991 Diet Coke ad that paired her with her childhood dance hero Gene Kelly, among others. But what’s the connection? It’s all in the 1s. Diet Coke was still a “one calorie” drink, and Abdul’s 1988 debut album, “Forever Your Girl,” had four tracks — “Straight Up,” “Forever Your Girl,” “Cold Hearted” and “Opposites Attract” — that all reached No. 1.
R. Kelly‘s love for the game was not only apparent in his weepy “Space Jam” hit, “I Believe I Can Fly,” but also in this interesting 2002 ad for Reebok. Before his Lolita-like sex scandals, the Chicago R&B star inked a deal with the sports outfitter and brought basketball and slam dunks into the recording studio.
Right around the time she released her third album, La Bella Mafia, Lil’ Kim appeared alongside “The Nanny” star Fran Drescher in this 2003 spot for retailer Old Navy. Dressed up like a snow bunny, Kim plugged “every color fleece” and the store’s graphic hoodie. “Lil’ Kim will keep it hot in the Old Navy hood,” she promised. Get it? Hood, like neighborhood but also hoodie.
This well, thought-out chewing gum campaign only went down in 2008, but it produced a hit single for its spokesperson, Chris Brown. Breezy put his own spin on the longtime Wrigley tagline singing, “Double your pleasure, double your fun and dance forever” in the refrain. The single version that was added to the reissue of Breezy’s second album, Exclusive, went 4x platinum. Despite all the varying degrees of “commercial success,” Wrigley later dumped Brown from his deal days after his assault on Rihanna in 2009.
5. LL Cool J Looks Fly in FUBU
Can’t say we’ve seen the dapper actor LL Cool J rock anything but a fancy suit on the red carpet in recent years, but back in the day, the “Mama Said Knock You Out” rapper loved his FUBU. Oddly enough, this commercial ended up having the opposite intended affect. Instead of making you want to put on FUBU, LL’s sexy, breathy delivery — “FUBU: runs the fashion world for real/ FUBU: the look, the style, the vibe, the feel,” he raps –- makes you want to get naked.
This 1984 Pepsi commercial starring the Jacksons did not have a happy ending. The cola company sponsored the Jacksons final tour in exchange for two commercials. During filming for the second TV spot — the “The Choice of a New Generation” jingle played to the tune of Michael Jackson‘s hit “Billie Jean” — stage pyrotechnics infamously lit MJ’s hair on fire leaving him seriously burned. The pop icon would blame the mishap for his future skin augmentations. Alas, ever loyal to the No. 2 cola, the Jackson estate recently signed a posthumous deal that will put the King of Pop’s silhouette on Pepsi cans.
Let’s just assess what we see in this clip. Nas and AZ. Sitting on a stoop. Rapping about Sprite. Pass this delicious, refreshing, citrus soda our way, now! This ’90s commercial still delivers thanks to the fresh 16 bars these two frequent collaborators spit almost two decades ago: “Here’s a little story that must be told/ About true players rocking the ice and gold … Playas hate us why?/ Gators made us fly/ And we rock all the linen with the latest ties.” Is this up on iTunes, yet? Gonna go take a bath in Sprite now.
Rap and St. Ides went hand in hand together in the ’90s, with everyone including Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur sipping and repping the malt liquor. But the standout spot for this 21 and over drink belongs to the late Notorious B.I.G. Forget the usual 40 ounces of freedom. Biggie used to be a hustler, now he’s a 22-brew guzzler. When Biggie raps “Other beers I’m not lovin’ ya” in this commercial, it’s time to turn up the bass and pop open this 8.2 percent ABV beverage.
Apart from being hip-hop pioneers, Run-DMC were also known for three things: fedora hats, big-ass gold chains and their Adidas kicks (no laces). So when Adidas needed a campaign that would make it the new Reebok, the “My Adidas” rappers — who just dropped their Golden Era album Raising Hell — were a no-brainer. Future-mogul and then-manager Russell Simmons invited Adidas executives to a show, which prompted them to sign the rap trio to a 1.6 million dollar deal that included their own line of laceless footwear.
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