Rip Slyme in a One-Act Play Entitled "Sony Vaio: Fight the Power"

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At Rip Slyme headquarters…

Pes: Yo, yo, yo. ‘Sup, ‘sup, ‘sup.
Su: What?
Pes: Sorry. I mean, hey, can I have your attention everybody? Fumiya — stop sampling for a minute. We need to plan out the video for our brand new single “I.N.G.”
Fumiya: Wait, I thought we decided on a different name.
Pes: Ryo-Z thought it would be cooler if we named it after the Internationale Nederlanden Group insurance company.
Ryo-Z: Yo, I said AFLAC. No wait you said AFLAC. I said I.N.G.
Pes: That’s what I said. Anyway, we need a video.
Ryo-Z: Alright, I got it right here. (Takes bite of comically large sandwich) Get this: we are in suits. We are like advertising executives.
Su: Keep going.
Ryo-Z: We are selling the Sony Vaio computer. They’ve got all these colored versions now. So the video is us selling pitches for the Sony Vaio campaign, pitching to the old guys across the table. And there’s a bunch of cheerleaders.
Pes: I like it. Sony Vaio.
Fumiya: Wait, wait. Sony’s never going to go for that. We can’t just use their computer without permission.
Ryo-Z: Look, I don’t care what it takes, we have to convince those guys to let us use the computer in the video. Record sales are down and if we don’t have a hot video, we are never going to make any money.

At Sony Headquarters, Tokyo, Japan. An oriental melody floats through the air. Rip Slyme enters the building and STEP to the reception desk.

Receptionist: (trembling with fear) Ex… Excuse me, we can’t let you in without an appointment.
Ryo-Z: We don’t care about appointments, lady.
Su: You’re fired.

Rip Slyme crash through the doors to the corporate boardroom where the President of Sony and his male Secretary are sitting and drinking brandy. The President removes his monocle and does a double-take. They both move away from the fireplace and step off the polar bear rug.

President: How dare you roustabouts enter in such a ramshackle manner!
Ryo-Z: Listen, Granddad. We want rights to use your Sony Vaio computer in our new music video.
President: Music video?! I wouldn’t even know what such a thing would be if it on happenstance existed!
Secretary: Let’s hear them out.
Ilmari: Times have changed. The people have spoken — the people in the streets. The streets have spoken. And they have spoken that they want us to use your Sony Vaio computer in our music video. We are inventing a whole new art form — from the streets.
President: I highly doubt your record company would like that! You are not even on Sony! You’re on Warner! Humbug!
Ryo-Z: I’ll take that as permission granted. (High-fives Pes and winks at Ilmari.)

Rip Slyme exits.

President: I certainly don’t think our computer sales will be helped by having such ruffians shill it so crassly upon the television box.
Secretary: I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy, but part of me thinks that this may actually be a good idea. Kids are different now. And maybe for the music business itself to succeed, Rip Slyme need to show their audience that they are up with trends and down with the “hood” — as they are wont to say.
President: You sound like my grandson. Fine. Let them go and use the Vaio. Just know that I am blaming you when our shareholders find out!

FIN

W. David MARX (Marxy)
February 24, 2007

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

38 Responses

  1. rachael Says:

    i was pretty disappointed when this song/pv came out. nobody’s about to turn down an endorsement, but surely in a less blatant, off putting way?

    now waiting for the “i’m a vaio” cms.

  2. Chris_B Says:

    the irony here is so thick you need a saw to cut through it.

    Or as Hubert Farnsworth might say: “Bad news everyone! I’m getting dangerous readings on the uncoolomometer!”

  3. Carl Says:

    Post-modernity is dead.

  4. Momus Says:

    Whatever next? Run DMC singing “My Adidas”?

  5. marxy Says:

    Procrustean Seeing!

  6. Momus Says:

    You’re quite right, black people would never entertain corporate endorsements as part of their message. Hip hop is an oppositional culture, ill-at-ease with the Babylonian Mammon of capitalism. If it was true back in the days of Run DMC, it’s even more true now.

    As for the mystery of how such uncharacteristically materialistic values might have infiltrated the Japanese rap scene, I personally blame this bling thing on Antonin “Digiki” Gautier, who brought it from Paris, where Pedro “Busy P” Winter invented it.

  7. marxy Says:

    With “My Adidas,” the idea was that a rap group liked a product so much that they put said product into their own lyrics. (Street culture –> Rap Lyrics –> Marketing) This is not what is going on here in this video.

    That being said, obviously lately, champagne companies will pay to have their name dropped in a rap lyric. (Marketing –> Rap Lyrics –> Street Culture)

    However, how totally clumsy is this video in that 1) the ad placement was never in the lyrics or song originally, just the theme of the video was purchased 2) it’s not a brief line or single rhyme incorporated into the whole – it totally overpowers everything else going on 3) there’s not even satire on the marketing process. they never make fun of advertising, pitching the product, shooting the commercial even lightly: they just go through the process.

    While we may automatically “diss” on the Japanese hip hop group for not being “real” as defined narrowly by the originators in a way to keep authenticity within their own community, the lack of shame about selling out your entire video to be a four-minute commercial seems to at least fit with the dominant ideas of the marketplace within Japanese society. At least it fits with the hyper-extended 1950s American version of Japanese consumer culture where what’s good for Sony is good for Japan. No surprise that Rip Slyme are not counter-cultural, but their attempt to relate to counterculture or feign anti-social sentiment hits about 0. That doesn’t mean they can’t rock the party, but they’re going to sell you some hardware being sets.

  8. Momus Says:

    “At least it fits with the hyper-extended 1950s American version of Japanese consumer culture where what’s good for Sony is good for Japan.”

    Wow, it really takes intellectual gymnastics to turn something that’s going on in both Japanese and American hip hop right now and throw the Japanese version back five decades into America’s past! Congratulations! Now let’s hear how Nigo is an exact replica of a 1950s American shoe salesman in Kittyhawk, Wyoming!

  9. kransom Says:

    Kittyhawk, Wyoming? I always saw Nigo as more of an Al Bundy myself…

  10. Chris_B Says:

    Reading Uncle Momus talk about early hip hop is comedy gold in and of itself!

  11. alin Says:

    > 3) there’s not even satire on the marketing process. they never make fun of advertising,

    you really don’t see the satire here ? it is minimal, really tight but it’s here.
    this opens wide the question of what else you’re not seeing.

    It’s a rather tragic kind of satire but it’s there. In, when was it, 99 or 00 a japanese artist whose name escapes me now made a sculpture of the golden MacDonald’s M, it ended up at the Venice biennale courtesy of, sponsored by, MacDonalds. Awful as it was it was a shattering and in my opinion as relevant a piece as Duchamp’s fountain.

    So, are you with me, it was shattering precisely because the “attempt to relate to counterculture or feign anti-social sentiment hits about 0.”

    This video is not some ridiculous heir of ‘the hyper-extended 1950s American version of Japanese consumer culture where what’s good for Sony is good for Japan’ but of what i just mentioned. So is say Exonemo’s painting of the Google page purchesed by Google. It’s as I was saying tight and minimal but you must be thoroughly desensitized not to feel the tension.

    (now we’ve been through this before, please don’t say like with Makoto Aida or whoever it was that the 2 examples I gave are a totally different kind of thing to this video – that there are certain differences, that’s obvious)

  12. trevor Says:

    finally, something i can talk about.
    i actually think the “my adidas” refference is ok. if i was sitting in a room conversating about this. i would hope someone would bring it up. but, its not accurate. run dmc has already written “my adidas” and were already playing it at shows. adidas we’re also an underground street success. run dmc did indeed approch adidas about the whole thing. with a whole little presentation. showing crowds of kids singing along with the song, and holding up their adidas. adidas was not all so excited about it at first. i mean, run dmc. it was rap, and they we’re rocking the stick up kid style. and no laces! that was how inmates for murder rocked it. cause they couldn’t have laces.
    i would argue run dmc made the brand. verse the brand having anything to do with it. run dmc, atleast as quoted. (excuse me well i dont hunt down a refference here).. wrote and preformed the song originaly with no intent on making money with it. they just loved their adidas.

    anyways. jump to now. and boy is it a different world. brands pay artists, not even trying to hide it. to product place their products in songs. most infamously recently. where jay-z decided to boycott crystal. (sp?).. but somehow.. made up his own brand.. to shill. nice. obviously sneaker deals are now big money. (look at 50 cents). though people still name drop airforce ones.. cause they are just cooler. sneakers & rap, and the end of the day, are a bad example. because sneakers & rap went hand in hand before their was even then idea that rap was a commodity.

    ok, off track. this video. is 100% interesting. i would argue the idea isn’t a bad one. and i’m sure its more or less been done before. but with probably a fake product. rip sylme just went to the next place and used an actual product. an obvious product.
    from a company that has seen better days. and could sure as hell use some street cred right about now. are they on sony by any chance? (or subset of). anyways. i don’t find anything wrong with it. other then its just pure product placement. and does indeed challenge, whatever cred the song had imo. is that bad? probably not so much. it plays along the lines, that have been played for, since forever (in rap history).. or the cocky kids showing he old establishment how its done.
    videos are already commericals for the artists and music. so.. why not just make them commercials. their had been great success for artists in the US hooking up with the right ad.. (see.. psapp, the girl from yeah yeah yeash, casio vs. japan, the apples in stereo guy, postal service).

    so anyways. interesting example of music & business.
    at the end of the day. everyone is still amature hour when it comes to gross product shilling comapred to NASCAR.

  13. lauren Says:

    Ok, this PV is pretty lame, but, um, I totally think this idea could work if it were done a little bit differently. I mean, yeah, celebrity endorsement seems like a pathetic tactic to sell stuff with, but it is pretty par for the course in Japan, so I assume it’s pretty effective. Not that I’ve studied it, so if anyone wants to step in, you know.

    Because I totally dig the squares on the wall in the board room, the idea of a hip hop group dress up in suits and pitch an idea to The Man is cute and the process by which commercials get made can totally be interesting. I know, I know, you wouldn’t normally think, “You know what would make a good music video? One set in a board meeting!” but brainstorming and making The Pitch and filming and editing all to make a great final thing can be dramatic and interesting.

    I think the PV as it is just isn’t thought out enough – it doesn’t have the focus and the details to make it work. It’s boring. Obviously that could be fixed by making it a parody, but I doubt Sony would go for that. There are plenty of things that could make it interesting: an emphasis on the characters, less lackadaisical directing/editing, more details about how the process works… any number of things. Doesn’t save the song and it doesn’t fix any product placement concerns, but I think it could still be a neat thing that is fun to watch and that’s the idea, right? (Because then you can sell computers and CDs.)

  14. lauren Says:

    Kind of like

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=KHEIvF1U4PM

    perhaps? I always appreciated that the polictical messages in that were subtle in that.

  15. Chris_B Says:

    The video itself was just as dull as the music. The concept was also dull in the sense that it looked just like any TV dorama about corporate Japan and had only the slightest resemblance to the real thing except for the fact that too many “freshers” now look just like these loosers, not even knowing how to groom themselves for work. Nothing clever or ironic about it at all. Just a dull brand trying to inject some life into a dying product line with pseudo youth appeal.

    Bah AND humbug!

  16. trevor Says:

    oh oh! man, i love that Royksopp video. period.

  17. lauren Says:

    too many ‘in that’s…

  18. trevor Says:

    oh, btw. i do think this video totally needs to be ripped on. i don’t care the reasons. it’s like a fat guy ordering a diet coke with his supersized meal.
    but then, i think everything should be ripped on.

  19. lauren Says:

    It would help if Rip Slyme was a more charismatic bunch. But as soon as the second guy walks in the door making that awkward hand motion it’s pretty clear they aren’t about to work it. I think those cheerleader gals are the only ones who seem to be selling it, but they have an easier job being cute props of happiness and love. Not that you can’t fail at being effective eye candy either… check out those white chicks. They have either just been picked out of a Tokyo crowd or didn’t make it back home as an actress/model and went to Japan to get a break. Yikes.

  20. marxy Says:

    Russians.

  21. alin Says:

    Are we going to get an expanded theory on how today’s russians are two decades ago’s americans and israelis?

    trevor, mate , your capitals.

  22. dzima Says:

    I wonder what Marxy would make of Kim Gordon posing for Calvin Klein?

    http://itchylot.com/ck/misc_postcard_kimgordon_1.jpg

  23. Brown Says:

    Lauren, that Royskopp video is beautiful and brilliant, thank you for bring it to our (my) attention. Did you know the same song was used for an insurance commercial in America? Look it up on Youtube, the Geico caveman commercials are hilarious!

    I’ve gotta make this quick before I get sucked back into the quagmire, but let me say this: If I picked my favorite “things” in Japan (as was mentioned in the previous thread), they would all be people I personally know and love. Call it a cop-out, but abstract ideas and physical artifacts of material culture would have to come second. I’ll let MC Paul Barman finish my thought for me:

    http://www.mcpaulbarman.com/mp3/lovePEOPLEnotPLACES.mp3

    And just in case anyone sees Rip Slyme and thinks, “This is the state of Japanese hiphop,” I beseech you to peep this as an antidote:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgSPJzA9qiU

    And yes, I know Baku endorses/promotes Ortofon, Stanton, and Pioneer. I’m well aware that there is no escape.

  24. marxy Says:

    ”I wonder what Marxy would make of Kim Gordon posing for Calvin Klein?”

    Uhmmm… again, I don’t remember Sonic Youth dedicating a whole video to unironically shilling a product. I think no one is claiming that this is the first time musicians have endorsed products in their spare time.

  25. dzima Says:

    bracket number 1

    (alin, the name of the artist is Nakamura Masato, I have a dvd in which there’s a video of his once again dedicated to the maccas logo. He used to organise that Akihabara TV video exhibition, which was not only held at but sponsored by Bic Camera, Yodobashi, Sony, etc. That’s his schtick, the negotiating and “selling out” to big corporations not his actual work itself)

    bracket number 2

    (i’m probably the only one here typing from a Sony Vaio and I think they make good computers, I’d endorse them in my spare time…if I was anyone that is.)

  26. Brown Says:

    To problematize my own position: Is radical chic automatically superior to more superficially tame cultural products? What real change do either create in the relations of production or consumption?

  27. marxy Says:

    I think the idea of “cool” as created in America in the 20th century was inherently counter-cultural at the beginning, but slowly started to internalize a lot of capitalist values – like pecuniary success being the ultimate signifier of worth, etc. Cool may not be radical chic anymore, but you can’t claim that these the forces aren’t still battling it out within the definition of cool. It can be cool to sell out, but it can also not be cool to sell out. It’s a subjective position on where the line is drawn. (Someone less pretentious could have summed that up in one sentence.)

    “Now let’s hear how Nigo is an exact replica of a 1950s American shoe salesman in Kittyhawk, Wyoming!”

    (Isn’t Kitty Hawk in NC?) Nigo’s innovation or at least successful implementation of preexisting ideas was his subservience of all marketing to protecting the brand. This worked wonders, but when he decided to go bling bling and just take up current American hip hop over-the-top super-commercialism starting with the Pepsi campaign in 2000, that’s where the brand took a nosedive in Japan. In the short term, he probably increased sales, but he let his brand value be sucked up by other companies, rather than letting his brand steal the halo from other brands and personalities.

    Jay-Z throws in one line in a song, and the Jay-Z brand get a bit of a bump, and even if it’s damage, it’s slight damage. Rip Slyme don’t have a particularly strong brand – or admittedly, one based on keeping it real – but by become pitch-men for Sony Vaios first and a band second, they neutralize a lot of their impact. And it’s hard to see this as a collaborative 50-50 effort – Rip Slyme is getting a paycheck to make up for their “image down.”

    I think the interesting part is in the nuances of this action, which is why I don’t understand this “Run DMC did it, so we never have to talk about it again” thing comes from. Japanese hip hop is not unique, but this video IS something relatively new – at least in its own context of J-Pop.

  28. haikara Says:

    Still, the esthetics of (recent/gangsta) rap are all about “making it big”, by any means.

    For the genre’s original audience, the means to “making it big” were mostly showbiz itself and activites repressed by the Man. These activities (drug dealing &c) were valued highly because they made you money, not because you were “sticking it to the Man”. And their valuation came with capitalistic vocabulary: it’s “business”, where “you’re your own boss”. By the time the music got mass-marketed worldwide by the majors to disenfranchised-feeling middle-class kids, for whom the appeal of bling was not as visceral, “keeping it real” reduced to “being your own boss”.

    For Rip Slyme’s audience, there are few bigger ways of “making it big” than being a young ad exec that gets to pitch at Sony. The “bling” is the implied lifestyle, just like in those old Nelly videos where he and his mates all live in colonial mansions in boring-ass suburbia.

    I don’t think there’s much of a disconnect.

    So you could argue that:

    1) sticking it to the man doesn’t matter in RS’s case, maybe because there is no demographic divide between them and their target market, unlike with say 50cent.

    2) sticking it to the man is sufficiently represented by the fantasy of being a freewheelin’ young “rap guy type” and yet having your own company, dealing with big money.

    In any case, I’d argue association with the VAIO doesn’t detract from their brand. Rather, it’s a status symbol.

    Did you see the Jay-Z Hewlett-Packard laptop commercial where he’s “the CEO of rap”? It was basically a commercial for Jay-Z, paid for by HP. In rap status symbols, big business is just the step after swimming pools and Hummers.

    Caveat: what genre of music is Rip Slyme making anyway? It’s like neutered rap: fancy rhythms, soft singing. “J-Pop with rap characteristics” maybe. And what’s up with the stage name “Ilmarinen”? Way too bookish/obscure.

    What’s more interesting is: why is Sony getting Warner artists for this?

  29. alin Says:

    > Is radical chic automatically superior to more superficially tame cultural products?

    I think we’ll need another good decade of things going in a certain direction before the term (radical chic) might mean anything again. (to recover from the 90s that is.)
    Could you please specify where you see a distinction between the two.

  30. Aceface Says:

    ”Japanese hip hop is not unique”
    Japanese hip hop scene is indeed unique.
    I remember in 90’s.Spike Lee made PV for paleo-J-hip-hop clown,m.c.A.T!

  31. lauren Says:

    Yes, I’ve seen that Geico commercial. I liked the preppy caveman in an airprot with a tennis racket as a visual a lot. I know quite a few people who went out to buy the song after it too.

    Question: are the people that listen to RS really into a hiphop lifestyle? I was always under the impression that mostly “regular” people listened to them rather than those invested in the genre. Like, maybe they sound rap-ish, but it’s just jpop wearing a different sound and a touch different styling as a mask. (So it would be better to compare it to other Jpop groups and not to Jay Z so much.) No?

  32. Chris_B Says:

    Brown, thanks for that link. That didnt suck at all. They all look bored but still it was a good sound and an interesting video.

    “what genre of music is Rip Slyme making anyway”

    Plain vanilla JPOP.

    As for dreams of the lifestyle of pitching to a big company, I rather doubt it. Those small companies net crapola once the bills are paid and AFAICT none of their people live anything like a bling lifestyle. Just salarymen waiting for the combover.

    Dzima, I have owned Vaios (as well as many other Sony products). Never again though. The brand tax doesnt make up for the problems I’ve had with them. Once the windows rot sets in the only choice is a burn down. Forget upgrades cuz Sony has a bad history with supplying drivers for all the proprietary gizmos and such. Also the service costs were outrageous to replace broken parts and the turnaround time was way too slow. Not to mention the fact that all their in house software is buggy as all get out. To me, Sony is nothing but a has been.

  33. marxy Says:

    “Rather, it’s a status symbol.”

    It’s a pretty pedestrian status symbol. Everyone can buy a Sony Vaio. But I guess it’s the same with LV.

    “What’s more interesting is: why is Sony getting Warner artists for this?”

    Good question. Too obvious to have Kimura Kaera do it? Is she too punk rock?

    Although we often think about companies in the same conglomerate automatically being on friendly terms, when that is hardly the case.

  34. Slim Says:

    random diversion: Is it kaera or kaela? No one (including her, the record company, media) cares to keep it consistent.

  35. Brown Says:

    RS is the Japanese Sugar Ray- Remember them? Kaera is too rock-n-roll indeed- Wasn’t she recording w/Sadistic Mika Band a while back (for a Kirin beer ad)?

    And, yes, I’d say Primal and Rumi are getting radical on this joint. Among other things, they dis (empty, orthopraxic) Buddhism and “middle-aged soldiers … useless tools … on pills … kissing the boss’ ass … like pigs to the slaughter,” saying “We murder these hopeless livestock … and make the fence disappear!”

    Try selling beer or computers with rhymes like that in contemporary Japan (granted, it might be a better marketing move in a more Oedipal society). Baku gets mad respect from me. His first album (which this track appears on) was a great and varied work, Chris- best and most original hiphop album out of Japan since classic Krush. He’s got a new one out, but I haven’t heard that yet. I also love the fact that Baku said in an interview (quoting from memory here) “Just because we’re Japanese, and making our own style of hip-hip, doesn’t mean we have to throw shamisen in it or something obvious like that.” Which is kinda ironic, because East Flatbush Project (outta Brooklyn) had such a huge hit w/the koto-sampling “Tried by 12” (also a good track, but you know what I’m saying)…

  36. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    “I’m not a marketing-tool; I’m a marketing TOOL.”

  37. Brad Says:

    You know I have to chime in with a Shena Ringo connection.

    In most of her video compilations, she did a lot of fake commercials for real products. Soy milk, tissues, nail polish, shaving cream, Toshiba electronics, etc. They were all rather strange because in some while it looked like she was gently making fun of the products, they were still totally usable as real commercials.

    Someone with Youtube access could probably dig up some links.

  38. Frox Says:

    Lol, ING.
    I got a bank account with those people.