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Jay-Z Launches Boycott of Cristal After Exec's Comments

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 one rapper-turned-record executive sees it.

Multi-platinum rapper Jay-Z, now president and chief executive officer of Def Jam Records, has decided to boycott his once-beloved bubbly over comments from the managing director of the company that produces it.

In a special summer issue of The Economist magazine, Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, 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 (euro357) and $600 (euro476) -- 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 in a statement released Wednesday. "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 of his 40/40 Club. (There are plans for clubs in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Singapore, and Hong Kong, according to the club's Web site.)

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 following an onslaught of mentions in rap songs as early as 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 Combs, Kanye West, and Trina.

According to Agenda Inc., a brand strategy agency that tracks mentions in Billboard's top 20 songs, Cristal ranked number eight in 2005, behind other brands such as Mercedes, Nike, Bentley and Rolls Royce.

Louis Roederer was founded in 1776 and is still family-owned, according to its Web site. Cristal was created in 1876 exclusively for Tsar Alexander II. Roederer stopped making the champagne after 1917 but started again in the 1940s.

Boycotts aren't new to hip-hop. In 2003, Pepsi agreed to give $3 million (euro2.38 million) to charity after Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons threatened a boycott because the soda company canceled an endorsement deal with rapper Ludacris in the wake of complaints from commentator Bill O'Reilly.