When is a song not a song? Could it be when lyrics with Hennessy are featured? What about Courvoisier, Cristal Champagne, Moet et Chandon, Cîroc Vodka, Patron Tequila, and more?

Popular Liquor in Hip Hop: 20% of Rap Music Refers to Alcohol
The one that started it all: Busta Rhymes, P Diddy, & Pharrell — Pass The Courvoisier Part II

Do shout outs for particular alcohol varieties in songs—and the hip hop genre in particular—actually warrant being termed as advertising? With over 20% of all rap songs referring to liquor in some form or other, it’s no wonder brands are so keen to sign up the biggest musical artists to become ambassadors for their label.

This penchant for name dropping led to a study being undertaken by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, with the results being declared in a journal called, Addiction. 793 songs were studied from the US Billboard Top 100 from the years 2005 – 2007, and a massive 21.5% of them mentioned alcohol. And of these, 24.3% mentioned liquor by its brand name.

The most popular liquor in hip hop ranks in the following order:

  1. Hennessy Cognac
  2. Patron Tequila
  3. Grey Goose Vodka
  4. Cristal Champagne

Just music? Or should this be considered advertising?

Busta Rhymes and P Diddy famously told us to “Pass The Courvoisier” in 2002. Snoop Dog extolled the virtues of Landy Cognac in the song, “Luv Drunk” in 2008, Dopetrackz were “Drinkin Remy” in She’s Thick Wit It Pt. 2, and Drake proclaimed his love of Hennessy with the release of One Dance in 2016. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes mentioning just a few of the many Cognac song lyrics.

You might think that these mentions are nothing more than rap artists declaring their love of a certain drink. However, the legal drinking age with the USA is 21. It’s absolutely against the law to direct such advertising to anyone below this age. But the majority of those listen to hip hop are teenagers and young adults. So this brings about the ethical question of, “Can the mention of hard liquor brands within hip hop lyrics be construed as advertising?”

Increase in liquor sales: Is it just coincidence?

 When Pass The Courvoisier first hit the charts in May 2002 it can’t really have been considered mainstream (it made number 83). But when Busta Rhymes brought P Diddy and Pharrell on board for the remix known as “Part II”, the song hit a far more respectable number 16 in June of the same year. In the following 12 months sales of Courvoisier leapt by 18.9%. The then parent company of Courvoisier, Allied Domecq, then proceeded to forge a deal with Rhymes and Diddy.

Popular Liquor in Hip Hop: 20% of Rap Music Refers to Alcohol
Sean “Diddy” Combs (previously P Diddy), was the face of Courvoisier, and more recently as the frontman of of Ciroc Vodka

Landy Cognac soon followed suit with Snoop Dogg becoming the face of their eaux-de-vie in 2008. Since then liquor brands across the whole industry have fallen over themselves to grab a piece of the action, with some hip hop stars going a step further and bringing us their own personal creations. Examples such as D’Usse and Jay-Z, Ludacris and Conjure Cognac, Nas with Hennessy and the Wild Rabbit campaign, and Sean “Diddy’” Combs (previously known as P Diddy) and Cîroc Vodka are just a few such partnerships.

Popular Liquor in Hip Hop: 20% of Rap Music Refers to Alcohol
Ludacris: The face of Conjoure Cognac

These actions surely make a case that these lyrical collaborations are gold dust for the liquor companies. After all, currently they’re not counted as advertising, yet appear to improve sales figures—and quite dramatically, in some cases.

Dr. Brian Primack, who led the aforementioned Pittsburgh University of Medicine study, said that

Brand appearances are important to assess because they may function as advertising, whether or not they are paid for or sanctioned by the alcohol industry.”

He also says that it’s not yet known if this kind of advertising is more effective than regular advertising, but it’s something that needs to be assessed.

Well, a good few years have passed since this study took place, and the incidences of liquor in music lyrics shows no signs of abating. In fact, it’s increasing. Once mainly the land of hip hop lyrics, dropping a brand name or that of alcohol in virtually any music genre is now the norm for many artists.

[email protected] (Northwestern University in ) carried out a study that examined the Billboard’s Top 100 Year End charts over the decade of 2007-2016. When the numbers were crunched it showed that 22.4% of songs mentioned alcohol in one form or another, from Hennessy lyrics to the love of Cîroc Vodka.

Liquor lyrics by genre in the Billboard Hot 100 charts

Data from the Northwestern study showed us that the five music genres (from those that made the Billboard Hot 100 charts) that had the most alcohol centered music were as follows:

  1. Hip Hop – at 37.65%
  2. Country – 36.05%
  3. Rap – 33.71%
  4. Electronic – 27.27%
  5. Dance – 23.77%

And when it comes to the artists themselves, those who mentioned liquor and/or brands the most were some of the most mainstream of the moment:

  1. Pink – 83.33%
  2. Flo Rida – 69.23%
  3. Luke Bryan – 62.5%
  4. Beyoncé – 38.46%
  5. Drake – 27.27%

Interestingly, artists such as Justin Bieber, Calvin Harris, One Republic, One Direction, and Adele had no mentions of liquor in any of their songs.

Of course, being as the world of hip hop is renowned for its bling, and that Cognac is regarded as a luxury drink, it makes sense that Hennessy et al are so prolific in hip hop lyrics.

It’s quite interesting to note that the love of rap artists for Martell isn’t quite so obvious, although we’ve found mentions in Outkast’s, Funky Ride (1994 – “Martell and Coke has got me there”), WORKINME by Quavo (2018 — “Two cups, Martell pour it neat”), and F*** 12, Quavo & Offset (2018 — “Double my cup and pour yak (Martell)”

Liquor in song lyrics is here to stay. And when it comes to those of “the brown” one of the most popular liquors in hip hop is still the world’s number one selling Cognac, Hennessy.

Sources: thestar.com, counselling.northwestern.edu

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

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