When the piano line from Kanye West's "Runaway" rang out during the first commercial break of this year's Super Bowl (for Bud Light Platinum), it signified more than just a rare commercial synch of a West song. It was one of 2012's first "tanning moments," as Steve Stoute would refer to it in his book, "The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy." It was also a spot produced by Stoute's agency, Translation, which he co-founded in 2008 with Jay-Z after a 10-year career in the record industry that included high-profile stints at Sony and Interscope.
Stoute credits his close ties to the hip-hop community for changing the tone of Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl ads, which also included a mashup of Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" with the Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary." "They were too busy doing frat humor to do something like 'Runaway' as a soundtrack," he says. "If it wasn't for the work I'd done, Kanye would have never trusted me to use that song. We understand this 'tan' mind-set, we understand this cross-cultural landscape of this generation that doesn't see color."
Specializing in multicultural marketing, Translation has had a strong focus on music, from creating a campaign with Wrigley's Doublemint that became the basis of Chris Brown's "Forever" to an upcoming hip-hop initiative for Sprite. Up next, Stoute reteams with Anheuser-Busch for September's Made in America festival, to be held Labor Day weekend in Philadelphia with a cross-genre lineup set to include Skrillex, D'Angelo, Pearl Jam, Odd Future and headliner Jay-Z, who also curated the festival.
What's been your proudest moment in the last 12 months?
One of my proudest moments was at my book-release event. Reverend Run from Run-D.M.C. gave me his Raising Hell gold plaque. It was a proclamation that what I was doing was the right thing. He was part of a generation that formed a culture, and I made him proud. If you look at my interviews for "The Tanning Effect," you'll see me and Pharrell and Will.i.am and Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Gaga speaking about how music, culture, hip-hop culture is impacting suburban households and how that has affected corporate America.
What was the mission of Translation when you founded it in 2008, and how has it evolved?
I'd seen that brands needed to be closer to pop culture and cool, and that the record business needed partners that could underwrite initiatives. I've always seen that as the perfect marriage, which is why I named the company "Translation" from the beginning. Culturally they don't see each other the same; they speak two different languages. This year, we worked on this the festival for Jay-Z, which took eight months to put together. We're putting together a festival with a great roster of talent that's going to be groundbreaking and it's created by Budweiser-so is that a record business initiative or is that a branding initiative? Seeing those lines blur is where we want to be.
Y ou haven't worked full-time in the music industry in more than a decade. What excites you about music right now?
What's getting my juices flowing is the combination of electronic and hip-hop. Those are both the most intense forms of music that speak to the youth. The opportunity to bring them closer together excites me more-that's why you'll see Skrillex and Calvin Harris at the same festival with people like Jay-Z and Odd Future. When you listen to electronic music and listen to hip-hop, they sound really far apart sonically, but they appeal to the same audience. People feel they're more far apart than they are, but I want to bring them together. - Andrew Hampp