I tried to ignore this mock-rap video for the Toyota Sienna, in which a square suburban family raps about a minivan alongside an increasingly washed-up Busta Rhymes. It came out Friday, and people were up in arms all weekend — but for all the wrong reasons.
There's the video above. A little girl, pointing at the camera and rolling her neck, starts off the track with "listen up, mother-fathers!" over a 2008-era rap beat. They do the Soulja Boy, a dance from a song that was popular in 2007. And then they bring out Busta Rhymes, who (arguably) hit his creative peak long before the pair of kids in this video were born. The whole thing is pretty awful to watch because it relies on a bunch of cliche ideas of what a rap song and video is supposed to be, just like the 2010 "swagger wagon" video that played off a 16-year-old Gangsta Boo song.
I saw the video Friday night after a few car blogs posted it. Everyone generally agreed it was ridiculous. But then Twitter caught a hold of it and all the accusations of cultural appropriation started flying. (It didn't help that this week, a Katy Perry video with loads of questionable homages debuted just after snippets of an interview where she addressed accusations of cultural appropriation also hit the web.)
Here's my beef: I couldn't give a shit about cultural appropriation. I'm not here to talk about how pissed I am that Macklemore won a Grammy over Kendrick Lamar or why Iggy Azalea has the most popular rap song right now. White people doing rap is a debate that should have fizzled out a decade ago and really, I don't care either way.
What I don't get is why Toyota and other companies keep doing this, this whole "let's put a bunch of clearly awkward white people in a hip-hop setting and laugh at them because it's a whole inside joke we shouldn't be taking seriously"-type advertising. Isn't the inside joke played out? Like using blue liquid in tampon ads? There's no other way to get the point across?
Ironically, I'd argue that Busta Rhymes is partly responsible for this kind of marketing. Remember way back when at the MTV Video Music Awards when producers paired him up with Martha Stewart to present an award?
Oh wow, she's soooo out of her element. Let's keep doing variants of this over the next two decades. Like the Cheerios honeybee rapping with Nelly:
Or rapping to put in a Taco Bell order:
Or maybe this whole trend is older than I thought…
But going back to Toyota, how about a new way to market the Sienna? You know, like talking about how you've made an actual product something worth buying instead of tired old gimmicks to move the market. This ad campaign would be better for Mitsubishi.