News & Views

Rappers and Wrappers: Sunday at SXSW

by Contagious Team

How are food trucks like hip-hop?

Nope, don’t wait for a punchline. That was the central question of a recent research project we undertook with Lapiz. How are food trucks like hip-hop?

It's not such a far-out comparison, when you think about it; from J Dilla's Donuts to MF Doom's MM.. Food, some of hip-hop's classic albums are associated with food. Heck, Snoop Dogg rapped about baked goods in Martha Stewart's kitchen.

But we weren't solely looking at crossover between the two worlds. We set out to understand how these two cultural phenomena grew from small, localized developments into world-changing and market-shifting cultural expressions. How were their evolutions similar? How did they differ? And perhaps most importantly, what could brands learn from their journeys?

Working with respected culture journalist Khalid Salaam, we connected with the individuals driving the nascence of each cultural trend to understand how everything went down. Together we identified key moments of cultural expansion and the implications of those moments, analyzed the fundamental factors that influenced their conception, evolution, and extension, and talked to the people who were witnesses to that growth to get a closer look and an authentic perspective.

We landed on a number of interesting insights, from the tangential industries that speed along a movement's growth (think: companies that retrofit food trucks or synthesizers that democratize beat-making) to the decreasing importance of media gatekeepers. And we heard great stories from people like Steven Hager, the journalist who coined the term hip-hop, Charlie Stettler, who secured the first corporate sponsorship for a hip-hop event, and James Barrington, who led the fight for food-truck-friendly legislation in the Seattle area.

There’s no equation that can be solved to predict the next small movement that will make a big impact. But there is a lens that makes it easier to understand the evolution of cultural manifestations as they grow.

We’re developing ideas about what this evolution means for culture – and the people, companies, and brands that seek to shape it. We'll be presenting our findings this weekend at SXSW – come see us at 2pm on Sunday, March 13th, in Hilton Austin Downtown Salon K, talking about the biggest takeaways and most interesting insights from our research. We'll be releasing the full report the following week, so keep your eyes on this space.