Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dart Adams presents Journey Into Mystery: Investigating The Sprite Curse

Over the years, there have been several real or imagined curses ranging from the legendary Curse Of The Bambino to smaller curses like the covers of Sports Illustrated and EA Sports’ NBA Live and Madden games. One of the most discussed in social circles is the “Sprite Curse” said to affect those that appear in Sprite commercials. Is the Sprite Curse just an urban myth, a coincidence or is it something much more real? I’ll tackle that very subject here in this blog. Let’s start at the beginning:


Kurtis Blow is the first Hip Hop artist to appear in a commercial for a soft drink. This year, Kurtis Blow would star in the film “Krush Groove” and record the final hit of his recording career “If I Ruled The World”. Kurtis Blow’s style was too old school and his career went into decline. In 1988, he released “Back By Popular Demand” to a lukewarm reception and abysmal sales. The Hip Hop audience had moved on to acts like Rakim, KRS One, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Public Enemy, Ice T and N.W.A. He retired from rapping shortly afterwards.

Heavy D. & The Boyz were riding the success of their breakout album “Big Tyme” when they appeared in their Sprite commercial. Months after the spot first aired, Trouble T. Roy of The Boyz died in a freak accident while on tour. In 1991, a celebrity basketball game/concert starring Heavy D. & The Boyz was oversold and didn’t have sufficient security in place leading to a stampede that killed 9 people and injured hundreds. Both incidents sank Heavy D into a long depression (that he has long since emerged from).

Kid N’ Play was hot off of their hit album “Funhouse” and their successful film “House Party” when they hawked the lymony beverage. Kid N’ Play would release one more album (“Face The Nation”) as well as several movies before their deal with Select Records dissolved and fourth album tentatively titled “Void” was shelved after the lukewarm sales of the “House Party 3” soundtrack and their final single “Bounce”.

Kid N’ Play broke up officially in 1995 and shortly thereafter Play’s clothing line IV Plai and his line of barbershops called Playtime were in dire financial straits. Soon, Play’s marriage would end and he’d be charged with failure to pay child support. Kid was able to continue working as a producer, actor, show host and a touring stand up comedian. Play was recently in a car accident but escaped with minor injuries.


Jermaine Dupri’s newest discovery Kriss Kross went quadruple Platinum with their first album “Totally Krossed Out” and they had released their second LP “Da Bomb” when they appeared in their Sprite ad. Their sophomore album barely went Platinum and their singles sold nowhere as well as the previous project.

Group member Chris Kelly also had to deal with issues stemming from him having leukemia, Jermaine Dupri focused on Da Brat, Xscape and outside production. When Kriss Kross finally returned in 1996 with the “Young, Rich & Dangerous” EP they managed two minor hits and barely went Gold. They claim to have had material for a fourth album for years but Jermaine Dupri hasn’t even attempted to get back to them. I guess he missed the bus.

A Tribe Called Quest was the next group to appear in a Sprite commercial. They had just come off of their classic “Midnight Marauders” album and they were breaking into the mainstream market. In 1996, they would release their least acclaimed project by both fans and critics “Beats, Rhymes and Life”. Tribe’s newest album yeilded only two singles and neither of them fared very well. Two years later, they announced that they would break up and “The Love Movement” would be their final album as a group.

Shortly thereafter, Q Tip, Phife and Ali Shaheed Muhammad would all release other projects. Phife’s “Da Ventilation LP” was filled with several scathing verses aimed at Tip. Eventually, all beefs were deaded and A Tribe Called Quest got back together and toured last summer. As of the writing of this blog, no album is forthcoming.

Large Professor appeared in a Sprite commercial with Grand Puba. He had signed a solo deal with Geffen Records to release his album titled “The LP”. He released two singles and videos for the songs “Mad Scientist” and “Ijusswannachill”. The singles did moderately well but Geffen expected them to do a lot better sales and chartswise. Politics, red tape and internal drama at the label led to “The LP” being shelved and Large Professor was released from his deal. Large Professor didn’t release a solo album until 2002 when his Matador LP “1st Class” hit shelves (when you bought it online you got a copy of “The LP” along with it).

Grand Puba was fresh off the release of his new LP “2000”. The album failed to produce hits like his previous album did and didn’t sell very well. Grand Puba didn’t release another solo album until his indie LP “Understand This” in 2001. He was recorded several projects with Brand Nubian who continue to go strong.

Pete Rock & CL Smooth appeared in the other Sprite commercial featuring two emcees freestyling in the studio. Shortly after it first hit the air, the group announced that they were breaking up after two classic efforts that failed to move a significant amount of units. 

Pete Rock released multiple projects and featured CL several times in recent years but CL Smooth has since come out in interviews and said that they’d never work together again. CL Smooth has released the mixtape “Man On Fire”and the LP “American Me” last year on Shaman Work while earlier this year Pete Rock dropped “NY’s Finest” on Nature Sounds.

The Lost Boyz appeared in a new Sprite campaign based on the classic film “Wild Style”. The Lost Boyz had gone Gold with their two previous projects and were working on their third album “LB IV Life”. In March 1999, group member Freaky Tah was shot and killed months before the album could be released. It would be the first time that an LB album would fail to sell well. They had a brief reunion album tour before group member DJ Spigg Nice would be found guilty on several counts of armed robbery and sentenced to 37 years in jail.

Nas and AZ appeared together in another Sprite commercial based on Double Trouble’s legendary “Stoop Rap”. Nas would go on to record his two most critically panned projects “I Am” and “Nastadamus” while AZ would release his album “Pieces Of A Man” that would just come short of going Gold. Due to internal problems at his record label AZ was released from his record deal.

AZ made the independent album “S.O.S.A. (Save Our Streets, AZ)” and that sold an excess of 100,000 copies independently which secured him another deal with Motown Records. His subsequent major label albums ("9 Livez" & "Aziatic") have each had dissapointing sales numbers  but AZ is still one of the most well respected lyricists in all of Hip Hop. His new album “Undeniable” drops April 1st, 2008.


Sprite unleashes the new Voltron ad campaign on the public featuring different emcees and groups representing different regions of the country and they each occupied one of Voltrons lions:

Goodie Mob was enjoying the success that came with their sophomore album “Still Standing”. Soon they’d switch labels to Arista and change their sound on the third LP, the critically panned and commercially disappointing “World Party”. The fallout from “World Party” lead to Cee Lo leaving the group. The group released two more projects on the indie circuit and have since reunited. A new reunion album is reportedly forthcoming.

Mack 10 of Westside Connection was fresh off of his album “The Recipe”. His subsequent albums began to sell less and less and his marriage to T-Boz of TLC turned ugly in a very short time. He was released from his label deal and signed with Cash Money Records.  When that album also failed to move units he was released from that deal as well. He is still the owner of his own record label but he’s never returned to his former place in the Rap world.

Fat Joe’s career actually took off in 1998 and he began to make hit singles and pervade the mainstream market. Ever since 2005, beginning with his album “All Or Nothing” his albums have been selling less and less and his music is becoming less and less inspired since he entered a feud with 50 Cent who won’t let up on him even for a moment. His last two albums “Me, Myself And I” and “The Elephant In The Room” have had meager sales and the Terror Squad as we knew it is no more.

Common was between two classic albums “One Day It Will All Make Sense” and “Like Water For Chocolate”. Soon afterwards, he’d enter a relationship with Erykah Badu and change his image even more than he had previously. This lead to the release of his worst received album “Electric Circus”. It wasn’t until three years later when Kanye West took the reigns and cosigned Common that his career took off again. He is now one of the biggest artists and up and coming actors in the industry today.

Sprite began a new campaign based on the Kung Fu classic film “The Five Deadly Venoms” but in the place of the original Venoms are five female emcees:

Kool Keith appeared as a villain in the commercials that did battle with the Venoms. His major label debut album “Black Elvis” Lost In Space” was about to drop on Ruffhouse/Columbia. His vinyl had an odd printing defect in which the entire first run of his album’s vinyl pressing repeated side A on all four sides of the two piece vinyl. To make things worse, shortly after his album was released Ruffhouse/Columbia ceased operations and the project wasn’t promoted well and few copies were pressed. Kool Keith is back to recording underground albums for his core audience.

Eve was coming off of her double Platinum debut album when she appeared in this commercial. Even though she’s had hits, film roles and a television show her sales have gone down with each album (from double Platinum to Platinum to Gold). Her present project “Here I Am” had two singles released that went nowhere and it’s been pushed back a full year since “Tambourine” first came out at the time of this writing. Ya gotta love Aftermath!

Angie Martinez released her albums “Up Close And Personal” and “Animal House” to modest sales after appearing in this commercial. She’s managed a few hits in her rapping career and has since retired from recording.

Amil was pretty much just used for guest appearances and hooks when she appeared in these commercials. Her album “All Money Is Legal” was released in 2000 and it failed to sell or produce a hit after “4 Da Fam” and “I Got That” featuring Beyonce both caught a brick. Amil was relesed from her Roc A Fella deal and is currentlty working on an indie project.

Mia X had released three well recieved albums on No Limit Records and was riding the success of her 1998 album “Mama Drama” when she appeared in this Sprite campaign. She ended up leaving No Limit Records shortly thereafter and as of this time she has never recorded another album although she did appear on a mixtape back in 2006.

Sprite started up a new campaign called “What Are You Thinking?” that featured artists in scenarios where people and their own prejudices and issues with racial stereotypes were examined:

Beanie Sigel had several issues with the law and ended up going to jail in 2005 after he recorded the album “The B. Coming”. His group State Property dissolved and Roc A Fella Records fell apart while he was incarcerated. He returned to the world and switched from Dame Dash to Jay-Z and Def Jam. His new album “The Solution” has been out for about six months and has still failed to crack 100,000 units in sales. He has also recently been sent back to the bing for three months because he violated his parole agreement. Damn your crisp lymony flavor, Sprite!

Mos Def has since failed to get back to the heights that he was at when he recorded “Black On Both Sides”. His albums “The New Danger” and “True Magic” have both failed commercially. His marriage of 10 years also fell apart in 2005 and he’s been dogged by accusations that he hasn’t been paying child support in full. His film career is still going well.

Pharoahe Monch had a 7 year gap between studio albums (2000’s “Internal Affairs” and 2007’s “Desire”) and his long rumored deal with Interscope’s Shady Records fell through at the last minute. Several songs that should’ve made that album couldn’t due to sample clearance issues.

Other victims of the Sprite Curse:

Arsenio Hall: After his talk show ended it's run he struggled to find work or successfully pitch new projects to television  networks or movie studios. His friend and fellow stand up comedian  Jay Leno (whom he used to kill in the ratings back in the day) kept him employed and let him do segments for "The Tonight Show".

Hi-Five: After enjoying much success, shortly after Hi-Fives Sprite commercial aired in 1992 one of their members (Roderick "Pooh" Clark) was seriously injured in a car accident and was never able to perform again. Their next album flopped, they broke up and lead singer Tony Thompson went solo. He was found dead in June 2007 in what has been called a huffing accident by authorities.

EnVogue: Found out after the release of their album "Funky Divas" that they signed a bad deal that gave them a poor percentage of royalties. They were broke although they had every possible accolade imaginable. Their sales began to decline with each following album and they had a harder time making hits as the years went on. Dawn Robinson left in 1997 just to sign with Aftermath. Wow.

Grant Hill: Between 2000-2004 Grant Hill's ankle only allowed him to play in 47 total games. He almost died from complications caused by a staph infection in 2003 following yet another ankle surgery where his ankle was purposely broken and reset. He spent six straight months receiving antibiotics intravenously following the incident.

Keith Murray: Did a voice over for a Sprite commercial back in 1996. He went to jail in 1999 and got out in 2001. He signed to Def Jam and got into a fight in the Def Jam offices because they failed to properly promote his project. He was dropped from Def Jam two weeks before his much delayed album "He's Keith Murray!" was finally released in 2003.

Allen Iverson: A scrapped Hip Hop album on MCA Records (as "Jewelz") and some intermittent troubles with the law lie amongst a disappointing showing as captain of the USA Men's Basketball Team at the 2004 Summer Olympics where the Americans came home with the Bronze medal. Team USA C0-captain Tim Duncan also appeared in a Sprite ad as well. Coincidence?

Kobe Bryant: While staying at an Eagle, Colorado hotel in 2003 Kobe Bryant allegedly sexually assaulted a 19 year old hotel employee. This Sprite commercial was pulled shortly after he was charged along with several other endorsement deals with Adidas and Gnutella. I guess homie was obeying his thirst.



Anonymous said...

what about orlando jones? (i think that was his name)
he was in the commercials for a bit, ended up getting some movie parts...

Unknown said...

Great post Dart and one that makes you think.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding post, Dart. This one took me back...

Max said...

Wasn't Orlando Jones in those "make 7 Up Yours" commercials? Anyway, this is some fantastic research. I don't even remember half of those ads; I suppose the only one the curse hasn't hit significanty is Tim Duncan, although his team is considered the most technically efficient and, as such, most boring team in the NBA (although I lik ethe Spurs).

Dart Adams said...

So far LeBron James has been safe...but this Vogue cover controversy has been interesting. Coincidence?


Anonymous said...

Very informative. Your research game is heavy...

I always wondered why so many of those people, including Eve, fell off so hard...It was the Sprite curse!

Anonymous said...

actually max i think you're right...Orlando Jones was in 7Up commercials, not sprite.

damn. Tried to stump dart, and it didnt work of course.

haha excellent post my man, keep it coming

Anonymous said...

Alias of OVM was in a sprite commercial. Right around the time he won every major battle in New England....