Rap Snacks


Rap Snack bags feature hip-hop artists including the Big Tymers, Lil Romeo, Warren G and Miss Toi and positive messages encouraging buyers to “respect yourself” and “respect your elders.”

Gannett News Service

Hip-hop chips carry positive message to youthful munchers

The flavor of hip-hop has long been savored as a sweet sound from the streets. Now the musical art form is being used to tempt the taste buds with Rap Snacks, a snack line in now in stores that features hip-hop artists and philosophy.

James Lindsay, Rap Snacks owner, started the Philadelphia-based company in 1994. In the last two years the company has grown phenomenally, now selling between 2 million and 3 million small bags of snacks a week across the country -- even in the White House commissary, Lindsay said.

The snack bags feature hip-hop artists including the Big Tymers, Lil Romeo, Warren G and Miss Toi and positive messages encouraging buyers to "respect yourself" and "respect your elders."

Lindsay said he chose to put rappers on his bags instead of a mascot because hip-hop is the premier form of communication among youth.

The snacks are intended to do more than just whet the appetite. They are meant to fuel a hunger for success among urban youth, Lindsay said.

The colorful images of hip-hop artists capture the eye of consumers. Flavor names using hip- hop lingo like "Bar-B-Quing With My Honey" and "Back at the Ranch" connect with customers and the delectable and distinct taste seals the sweet deal.

Pretty Willie, Universal Records recording artist and former University of Mississippi track star, is featured on the salsa and cheese chips bag. The track star turned rap star was at one time ranked 10th in the Southeastern Conference and 11th in the nation for the 200-meter event. He earned a degree in psychology from Ole Miss last year.

The 22-year-old St. Louis native broke into the top 10 Billboard rap and R&B singles chart last spring with his single "Roll Wit Me" from his debut album "Life of Suella."

"After I saw the chips I was like 'Wow,' " said Willie, also the owner of the Wilflow Music Group. "It's a dream come true to have yourself on some chips and have everyone eating them and I hear mine taste the best so that's good."

The chips are a great way to grab the attention of fans, said Willie, whose second album "Money Don't Sleep" is slated for a spring 2003 release. The bags include information about artists' releases and Web sites.

"It's a great marketing tool, I wish I would have thought of it," he said. "The kids buy it and they like them. They will choose them before they get some regular old Lay's chips."

Lindsay said his snack line is in no way intended to be like typical snack food lines. Rap Snacks is committed to people as well as profits, and making investments in the black community is a priority, Lindsay said.

The company has an entrepreneurial training program to train inner-city youth to stop being consumers and start becoming owners.

"You have everyone taking away but you have to give back," Lindsay said. "Black people are going to spend, but that dollar is not going back into our communities."

Lindsay said through the training program he wants to instill in youth that they can venture into and be successful in any business, including snack foods. He said those who distribute his products can earn up to $3,000 a week.

John Tierre Miller, 25, of Jackson, Miss., said a photo of one of his favorite rappers -- Master P -- prompted him to buy a bag of the chips the first time he saw them for sale.

"I thought it was on the cutting edge of marketing with the cross promotion between music and food," he said. "They are getting the most out of one product, giving inspiring messages, a quality product as well as having an association with highly visible entertainers."

Wise Intelligent, a veteran rapper from Poor Righteous Teachers famous for the hip-hop classic "Rock This Funky Joint," is helping to market the products nationally to hip-hop fans.

"This is another way of taking hip-hop to another level and that's what we're supposed to be doing as artists and businessmen," Intelligent said. "This is expanding hip-hop beyond rapping, breaking and DJing."

Miller, also the owner of the Block Wear urban clothing line, said the success of Rap Snacks is an example of the widening appeal of hip-hop in the marketplace.

"Here you have this hip-hop culture that is growing," he said. "Not only does it consist of music, literature and clothing and the cutting edge aspect of it is food. It is feeding us. They (Rap Snacks) are setting the standard for things to come."