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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
8/23/2004 11:06:29 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Foxy Brown, Lil Jon and Jay-Z.

Foxy Brown hasn't released a record in three years and her label, Def Jam, dropped her about a year ago.

But it doesn't mean she's not still in business.

Next month, Alexis & Gianni furrier begins distributing the Foxy Brown Luxury Furs collection to stores across the country.

"She's young and sexy. People of all ethnicities and economic groups will want to wear her furs," said Bijan Khozooie, Alexis & Gianni's chief operating officer.

Increasingly, a record deal isn't the only contract a rapper signs.

Promoting and creating new products has become standard operating procedure for artists whose shelf life is slightly longer than warm brie.

"They are incredible business thinkers. Working the American machine is what they are doing. I think part of their art is controlling their checkbooks," said Bryan Mattox, an advertising executive at Burrell Communications. "They are artists of the deal."

In some cases, rappers are promoting products before they even have released an album.

The Game, a member of 50 Cent's G-Unit rap group, is set to drop his first CD in October, yet he could be found posing in Reebok advertisements.

"Just the fact that he is doing business with 50 Cent and 50 is such a good partner for us means that we will probably do business with him," said Que Gaskins, the head of Reebok's Rbk division, the home of shoes by 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams.

Both Burrell and Reebok's market research found that rappers are the most efficient vehicles to reach a wide swath of consumers — black, white, affluent and working class — who are willing to pay to echo the lifestyles of their favorite MCs.

Reebok enjoyed a 350 percent increase in sales of Rbk shoes between 2003 and 2004.

When she signed her first record contract at 15, Foxy Brown made an effort to turn herself into a brand.

Sitting in the front row of fashion shows, being a fixture at all the right parties, maintaining a sexy appearance and playing out rivalries in public kept Foxy from fading away from the public's memory when she didn't have a record to support.

Her fans will buy furs, handbags and DeCarlo jeans from Foxy Brown, the label, in the same way that shoppers will rush to buy a new scent of their favorite brands of fabric softener.

"I wanted to create a global brand that superseded any record that I could ever make. I don't want my relevancy to just be tied to a record. I want to always be able to go to premieres and be photographed on the red carpet and be on Page Six, to still be necessary and relevant," Foxy said.

"This is progress. All of the ambitious rappers who surround themselves with smart people will have a diverse portfolio of products," said James Cruz, vice president of marketing and promotions for Violator Management.

P. Diddy is the consummate promoter who has launched the careers of many artists. Now he has a designer fashion label and is opening stores to further his brand.

"There are no 50-year-old rappers, so the smart artists are looking out for their futures."

The influence of rap can be seen outside fashion. Lil Jon along with his partners the East Side Boyz have been making noise since the 1996 but didn't get mainstream attention until he was featured on Usher's ubiquitous "Yeah" last year.

Now that his name has Power, Lil Jon is racking up product endorsements.

A good-time aura led Oakley to enlist Lil Jon to create red camouflage Zero sunglasses, among other products. Lil Jon's frenetic posture made him a natural front man for an energy drink called Crunk!!!, the name of a rap style that, like him, has its roots in the South.

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