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Books: The Tanning of America

It’s thanks to hip-hop, if you believe Stoute and plenty of other marketing experts, that it’s foolish to target consumers by race in the traditional way.

(Photo: Anna Lisa Sang)

THE TANNING OF AMERICA: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy
(Gotham)
Steve Stoute

“You know what? F**k William Shatner,” says the octogenarian Sir Roger Moore one night at dinner in Monte Carlo. He’s boasting of having lived in the penthouse of a luxury building while Shatner merely lived in one of the units below; the former James Bond then glances meaningfully at the giant diamond on his wife’s finger, and his tablemates—including U2’s Bono, hip-hop star Jay-Z, and this book’s author—burst out laughing. To Stoute, founder and CEO of the hot New York branding and marketing firm Translation, the display of swagger from the working-class English war-veteran-turned-actor reinforced “how far hip-hop’s language and its unspoken, unwritten rules had travelled.”

It’s thanks to hip-hop, if you believe Stoute and plenty of other marketing experts, that it’s foolish to target consumers by race in the traditional way. Thanks to the “tanning” of the American people, “color is no longer a determining factor in how people think.” The aspirational element of hip-hop has become one of the most broadly influential factors in western consumerism, and Stoute’s successes working with the likes of McDonald’s and Reebok give him as strong a claim as anyone to be the oracle of the new North American marketplace.