Hip-hop entrepreneurs

It wasn’t enough for Jay-Z to get a Reebok endorsement or his own line of clothing. Even after he bought the New Jersey Nets, he still found a way to make a buzz in the alcohol industry, and he’s not alone.

The emergence of hip-hop created a lifestyle that has survived and adapted to three decades of pop culture. But can it survive a new era of mainstream supremacy where endorsements may crush its credibility?

Recent involvement in liquor endorsements is as trendy among hip-hop artists as low-carb diets among weight-conscious Americans.

Jermaine Dupri, who boasts that his 3Vodka company is the first brand to produce low-carb alcohol, is among the list of rappers who recently landed new liquor endorsements. Lil Flip’s Lucky Nites, Ja Rule’s The Mojito and Ice T’s Royal Ice have added them to the growing number of performers entering the liquor business.

The marriage of hip-hop to various aspects of culture isn’t new to this society. Sean Combs, better known as P. Diddy, made his footprints in the fashion world when he created his own line of clothing. Ice T and Nelly have recently released their energy drinks. Nelly’s “Pimp Juice” and Ice T’s “Liquid Ice” have already hit the shelves.

Now artists are looking to conquer the liquor business, and Cognac and Vodka-just to name a few-have not denied them access to their world.

But the transition of rappers entering the alcoholic beverage business has become controversial.

One of the main concerns of this union is that the endorsements may send a negative message to some of the members of a broad hip-hop audience.

The mere mention of Courvoisier in Busta Rhymes’ 2002 hit “Pass the Courvoisier” increased sales for the Cognac brand by 4.7 percent, according to the Beverage Network Web site.

Jay-Z’s partnership with Armadale hasn’t really increased sales, at least at one liquor store, according to Dallas Humphries, an employee at ABC Liquors on Apalachee Parkway. But Humphries said the low sales are due to Armadale’s expensive price.

“People aren’t eager to spend a lot on liquor they’ve never tried,” Humphries said.

He predicts this may change in the future, but the victory may be bittersweet.

“People will buy (Armadale) just because his name is [associated with] it,” said the 22-year-old senior criminal justice student from Arora, Colo.

There is a possibility that under age drinking may increase after the endorsements, but some students are hoping young people will focus on the positive aspects of the endorsements.

Amber Saunders, a fourth-year business student from Harlem, N.Y., said Jay-Z’s crossover appeal is admirable.

“Jay-Z is a black entrepreneur,” said the 21-year-old. “Hopefully, hip-hop fans will follow and see the steps of an entrepreneur rather than just drinking alcohol because they think that it’s cute.”

Contact Danielle Moore at daniellemm0782@hotmail.com