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New American Songbook | Brand Expansion


The emcee Action Bronson recently released a cookbook — I can’t say the real title in polite company, but let’s just say that it’s the less kid-friendly version of “Holy moly, that’s delicious.” While Bronson makes his figurative bread and butter in music, a large part of his persona as an emcee is regaling his audience with as many tales of his culinary exploits as with other similarly Bacchanalian pursuits. 

The cookbook, as far as I can tell, is reasonable, though completely indistinguishable from any number of other cookbooks that are more about expanding a brand than they are about cooking. But this did remind me that I once owned Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, a video game starring my favorite Wu Tang Clan emcees, so it turns out the cookbook is good for nostalgia, at least.

Bronson and Wu Tang are far from the only ones to get into auxiliary verticals to promote themselves: Notable examples from fashion include Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm line and Jay Z’s Rocawear. Wu Tang probably did it best, expanding not only into clothes, but even offering 1-900 numbers linked to each of their emcees. I have no idea what happened when you called the numbers.

Brand expansion is part of the normal package a musician is supposed to supply these days, I suppose. The rebellious group Run the Jewels speaks out about the evils of capitalism, but at the same time is collaborating with microbreweries to produce branded lines of stouts and IPAs.

I don’t worry too much about it; it’s a quintessentially American vibe. After all, as Walt Whitman wrote: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”