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Bubble, Toil, and Trouble 

Bay Area hip hop ponders a Cristal boycott

Wednesday, Jun 28 2006
On June 14 Jay-Z told the Associated Press that he was boycotting Cristal, the fine French champagne that was once a name-checked favorite of the rapper-turned-CEO. Citing what he viewed as racist remarks made by the chairman of Cristal manufacturer Louis Roederer in the current issue of the Economist, Jay-Z pulled the high-end bubbly from his 40/40 Club establishments, where it sold for $350 and $600 a bottle, and removed all references to it from his lyrics at a recent live appearance at Radio City Music Hall.

In the Economist article "Bubbles and Bling," Roederer managing director Frederic Rouzaud said that the company observed its rap clientele with "curiosity and serenity." He insinuated that it wasn't thrilled with this demographic it acquired, adding, "We can't forbid people to buy it." But two days after Jay-Z's announcement, Rouzaud was back-pedaling, telling that Roederer is "totally open and tolerant to all forms of art and culture."

What Jay-Z and his supporters view as racism might be just that, but it's also an issue of class. By and large, denizens of the Bay Area hip-hop scene are far more likely to be able to identify a kush strain of chronic than recognize an elite cuvee like Cristal, which was developed in 1876 as the exclusive tipple of Tsar Alexander II. After all, this is the place where our biggest rapper (Vallejo's E-40) wrote a song about Carlo Rossi (called "Carlos Rossi"), his favorite "top of the line wine" which costs $6.99. Meanwhile, Cristal costs a minimum of $200 — that's if you're scraping the bargain bins — and can run up to five times that on the menus of trendy nightclubs in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. Louis Roederer pays special attention to Northern California; it actually owns a vineyard 125 miles north of S.F. So we decided to check with the local hip-hop community to see if Bay Area personalities can afford the boycott and the bottle itself.

Name: B-Legit, veteran soloist who rapped about rum cocktail "Hurricane" with cousin E-40 in The Click.

Amount of Cristal purchased pre-boycott: None.

Amount of Cristal planned for future purchase: None.

Beverage of choice: Hennessy ($31.99-$125.00) and Baileys Irish Cream ($18.99).

Name: Chuy Gomez, host of the alcohol-free programs "Chuy in the Morning" on KMEL 106.1 FM and "California Music Channel" on KTSF TV 26.

Amount of Cristal purchased pre-boycott: None.

Amount of Cristal planned for future purchase: I may buy a bottle for my son's graduation, but that isn't for another four years.

Beverage of choice: An almost slushy, cold Coke ($2.79 for a six-pack).

Name: Traxamillion, producer of Keak Da Sneak's local hit "Super Hyphie" and the forthcoming Slapp Addict Compilation.

Amount of Cristal purchased pre-boycott: None — I haven't even held the bottle.

Amount of Cristal planned for future purchase: If I was at a party and they were passing it out, I'd have some, but I can go through life without tasting it and I'd be OK.

Beverage of choice: Hurricane ($7-$10 at most bars) or "Katrinas," as I like to call them.

Name: Zion, MC in Zion I, a group inspired by the Black Panther legacy as well as "Cheeba Cheeba."

Amount of Cristal purchased pre-boycott: None, but I heard it was good.

Amount of Cristal planned for future purchase: None, because I take care of my skrill [money].

Beverage of choice: Water (free) is the best, but I dig on Vitamin Water, too ($1.39).

Name: Trackademicks, buzzing street remixer and producer on Mistah F.A.B.'s Son of a Pimp album.

Amount of Cristal purchased pre-boycott: I think I bought a bottle of Cristal once ... wait — that was Crystal hot sauce for my fried chicken.

Amount of Cristal planned for future purchase: I need to buy a bottle soon to go next to my Paul Wall grill and Jacob the Jeweler timepiece.

Beverage of choice: Breezy drinks like Sparks ($5.99 for a four-pack).

About The Author

Tamara Palmer


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