Sprite Debuts Cans With Classic Hip-Hop Lyrics, Preps New Drake Commercial

John Amis/AP Images for Sprite
 Drake performs during the Sprite Step Off National Finals on Feb. 20, 2010, in Atlanta.

Iconic hip-hop tracks have been licensed for many TV shows, films and commercials over the years. But what about a soda can? Sprite has just cut some of the most unique “synch” deals in recent memory by licensing 16 memorable verses from previous spokespeople Drake, Nas and Rakim as well as The Notorious B.I.G. for a collection of limited-edition cans and bottles that will be sold throughout the summer as part of a new campaign dubbed, “Obey Your Verse,” a nod to the brand’s 21-year-old tagline “Obey Your Thirst.”

Sample verses licensed include five from Drake (including “Started from the bottom” and “Tuscan Leather”’s “On a mission trying to shift the culture”), five from Nas (“The World Is Yours” and “It’s truth, that I am you, and I am proof”), Rakim (“Self-esteem makes me super, superb, and supreme,” and “Speak the truth”) and one from Biggie’s “One More Chance” (“Lyrically I’m supposed to represent.”)

Hip-hop has come a long way since Sprite first shined a light on the then-subculture in 1986, with a TV spot that featured rapper Kurtis Blow. And in the years since, Sprite has taken a “hip-hop and hoops” approach to its music and culture strategy, aligning with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Drake in recent years as part of its sponsorship of events like NBA All-Star Week.

Kimberly Paige, vice president of Sprite Brands, tells Billboard that although many of other brands have since associated themselves with the genre, “we wanted to stay true to how hip-hop started, which is having an honest, self-expressive point of view or opinion on something. We chose lyrics that really embody the spirit of the brand and the best, iconic lyrics that have been a part of hip-hop culture.”

As part of the campaign, sources tell Billboard that Drake is expected to appear in a new TV commercial set to debut as soon as this weekend’s coverage of the NBA Finals this weekend, his first since “The Spark,"  which kicked off a five-year (and counting) relationship between the rapper and the brand. Paige teases other surprises, too: “We’re gonna look at everything we do and how to bring it life in the marketplace, which will unfold over the next couple of weeks.”

Though licensing lyrics for commercial use is never easy, particularly when hip-hop artists’ catalogs can be split among multiple publishers, Paige says the whole process took about two to three weeks on Sprite’s end. “We were able and very fortunate to work with some amazing partners, who took what could have been a very long and extensive process and made it easy -- they really hit it out of the ballpark,” she says.

Other artists who’ve recently appeared on soda cans? Tiesto and Martin Garrix, currently, for 7Up and Beyonce, as well as Bruno Mars (in support of his 2014 Super Bowl Halftime performance).