By Marcus Franklin
Saturday, June 17, 2006
NEW YORK -- Rappers have long proclaimed their love for Cristal, frequently mentioning the high-end champagne in songs and popping the corks of the clear, gold-labeled bottles in music videos and at nightclubs.
But the makers of Cristal don't seem to feel the same way about hip-hop -- at least that's how rapper-turned-record executive Jay-Z sees it.
Now president and chief executive officer of Def Jam Records, the multiplatinum rapper has decided to boycott his once-beloved bubbly over comments from Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, the company that produces it.
In the Economist magazine, Rouzaud said the company viewed the affection for his company's champagne from rappers and their fans with "curiosity and serenity."
Asked by the magazine if the association between Cristal and the "bling lifestyle" could be detrimental, Rouzaud replied:
"That's a good question, but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."
The comments left a bad taste in Jay-Z's mouth. The rapper said he would pull Cristal from his small chain of popular sports lounges -- where bottles of Cristal sell for $450 and $600 -- as well as from his personal flutes.
"It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frederic Rouzaud, views the 'hip-hop' culture as 'unwelcome attention,' " Jay-Z said. "I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including the 40/40 Club nor in my personal life."
Jay-Z plans to replace Cristal -- which a club spokesman said it could never stock enough of -- with Krug and Dom Perignon at the Manhattan and Atlantic City locations.
Rouzaud did not return a message seeking comment. But it was the writer of the article, and not Rouzaud, who used the phrase "unwelcome attention." After Rouzaud's comments about Dom Perignon and Krug, scribe Gideon Rachman wrote: "Both Dom Perignon and Krug have had their share of unwelcome attention, too."
Still, Jay-Z spokesman Ron Berkowitz said his client remains offended.
"They're trying to distance themselves from the hip-hop community," Berkowitz said. "The hip-hop world certainly helped elevate the presence of Cristal. At the end of the day, isn't the goal for any company to sell bottles?"
Cristal, which Roederer considers its "jewel," began appearing on the lips of many hip-hop devotees after an onslaught of mentions in rap songs starting in the 1990s.
Jay-Z's adoration goes back to at least 1996, when he rhymed on the song "Can't Knock the Hustle": "My motto, stack rocks like Colorado / Auto off the champagne, Cristal's by the bottle."
Others with a fondness for Cristal include Sean "Diddy" Combs, Kanye West and Trina.
According to Agenda Inc., a brand strategy agency that tracks mentions in Billboard's Top 20 songs, Cristal ranked No. 8 in 2005, behind brands such as Mercedes, Nike, Bentley and Rolls-Royce.