Rap stars lose taste for Cristal after owner's attack on 'bling'

Geneviève Roberts
Friday 16 June 2006 00:53 BST

Rappers have long professed their love of drinking "Cristals by the bottle", incorporating the champagne - which can sell for more than £700 - in lyrics and music videos.

But Louis Roederer, makers of the gold-labelled Cristal, have not welcomed their association with the "bling" lifestyle, provoking leading names in the rap music industry, including Jay-Z, the president of Def Jam records, to boycott the brand.

In a summer issue of The Economist, Frederic Rouzaud, the 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". When asked if the association with the "bling lifestyle" could be detrimental, Mr 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."

Yesterday, Jay-Z said he would pull Cristal from his chain of sports lounges - where bottles sell for £357 and £476 - and his Manhattan and Atlantic City clubs, as well as from his personal flutes, and replace it with Krug and Dom Perignon. He said: "It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal views the 'hip-hop' culture as unwelcome attention. 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."

However, it was not Mr Rouzaud, but the author of the article who used the phrase "unwelcome attention" that so angered the hip-hop artist. After quoting Mr Rouzaud, Gideon Rachman wrote: "Both Dom Perignon and Krug have had their share of unwelcome attention, too."

Ron Berkowitz, Jay-Z's agent, said his client remained offended. "They're trying to distance themselves from the hip-hop community," he 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 was created in 1876 for Tsar Alexander II of Russia, has been featured in hip-hop lyrics since the early 1990s. Kanye West, 50 Cent, Mos Def and Beenie Man have all referenced the brand. Jay-Z first mentioned the drink in 1996 on the song Can't Knock the Hustle: "My motto, stack rocks like Colorado/Auto off the champagne, Cristals by the bottle."

Boycotts by rappers have proved effective in the past. In 2003, Pepsi agreed to give £2.38m to charity after the Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons threatened a boycott. The drinks company had cancelled an advertising campaign by one of its rappers, Ludacris, after criticism over offensive language, in favour of an advert by the Osbourne family. Simmons said they were "no less vulgar".

Rappers' delight

Jay-Z "In My Lifetime"

Only pop and droppin Cristal's down my throat, take a swigga

My style, ladies intoxicated by my profile

Your rollin with a pro with, money to blow child

Kanye West "Celebration"

You know what though? You my favorite accident

So go head pop some Cristal

For my newborn child cuz now y'all

50 Cent "The Hit"

When we came through the do'

I copped a case of Cristal, and copped one bottle of Mo

Mos Def "Got"

And while you Cristal sippin', they rubbin' up they mittens

With heat in mint condition to start the getti-gettin'

Beenie Man "Yagga Yo" (feat So Solid Crew)

When I'm down they will blaze trees wit me

Sip the Cristal cause life is easy

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