Last night’s Young Money showcase at the Austin Music Hall had all the trademarks of a typical Lil Wayne show: plenty of affiliated guests (Mystical, Jay Sean, Lil Chuckie, etc), the obligatory shirt removal and, of course, a healthy dose of impassioned lyric-spitting from the diminutive rapper.
One element, however, was decidedly different from Lil Wayne’s norm. Plastered all around the 4,200-capacity arena were banners bearing the word “DEWeezy”; the moniker was also displayed on the massive screen behind the stage at various points during the show.
A portmanteau of Wayne’s nickname and Pepsi’s Mountain Dew, the slogan is part of a new campaign backed by the beverage giant. It’s also Wayne’s first major endorsement deal. So why, after 15 years in the music business, did he decide to start now?
“It was just time,” said Derek Jackson, chief of the Glu agency, which brokered the deal. “I think they saw that–and they were smart enough to say, ‘Let’s get into [this] business and make some things happen.’”
While terms of the agreement haven’t been disclosed, Jackson told me that it’s a “multi-million dollar deal,” and that the pact is for one year with an option for more. Jackson also said that the option provides for the possibility of Pepsi and Mountain Dew bankrolling an original film with Lil Wayne.
The deal is the biggest in Mountain Dew’s history, and the executives on hand last night in Austin were gushing about their new star.
“We are celebrating Wayne through this campaign as an artist who found his personal success by following his own path,” said Mountain Dew brand manager Jamal Henderson after the show. “There is no other artist who embodies that ethos more than Lil Wayne, who is not only always dancing outside of the box but makes no apologies for who he is.”
In addition to Wayne, Henderson says his company’s new campaign will feature a handful of individuals known for carving their own paths, including country singer Jason Aldean, skateboarders Paul Rodriquez and Theotis Beasley, snowboarder Danny Davis and rapper Mac Miller.
The DEWeezy campaign isn’t the only manner in which Wayne is expanding his commercial horizons—his new clothing line, Trukfit, was promoted heavily at the concert as well. It seems he’s finally on the verge of joining Jay-Z, Diddy and others among hip-hop’s highest entrepreneurial ranks.
“He has a slew of things going on this year,” said Jackson. “You’re going to start to see him jingle.”