What do hip-hop culture and the powdery orange dust left on snackers’ fingers after eating Cheetos have in common? Patrons of this year’s Art Basel in Miami are about to find out.
Rock The Bells, the lifestyle juggernaut founded in 2018 by legendary rapper and hip-hop ambassador LL COOL J, is partnering with the classic Frito-Lay brand on an exhibit that features original art created entirely with the vibrant dust, trademarked as Cheetle, a live performance by Kaash Paige, and DJ sets from Just Blaze and DJ Millie, among others.
Curated by artist Lefty Out There, known for leaving his mark anonymously on the streets of major cities around the globe, the activation takes place this Saturday aboard a 220-foot, four-story yacht that will cruise the Miami Harbor while guests enjoy cocktails and “luxury” Cheetos-inspired cuisine.
The exhibit is among a swelling number of music-saturated events at the expansive art fair, which runs December 2-4. After Covid put the kibosh on the festivities last year, Art Basel is turning up the volume with Lizzo, Cardi B and Alicia Keys among performers set to take the stage this year.
Named for a song from LL’s debut album Radio, Rock The Bells offers content, commerce and experiences that honor the core elements of hip-hop—MCs, DJs, breakers and graffiti artists among them—connecting the ethos of the genre’s barrier-busting founders with today’s influencers. The company, which powers LL’s Rock The Bells Radio channel on SiriusXM, markets everything from clothing and footwear to bar ware and audio equipment.
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“As a company rooted in classic hip-hop, our mission is to deliver experiences and moments that honor the culture. Seeing how graffiti and street art are a core pillar of hip-hop, we saw Art Basel as a perfect tentpole for Rock The Bells to celebrate that vital component in a new and exciting way,” says James Cuthbert, president of Rock The Bells.
“We wanted to bring in a mix of artists that could bridge the gap between classic hip-hop and today’s current scene. By bringing in a dynamic young artist like Kaash Paige alongside someone like Just Blaze who has produced classics for Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, and many others, we feel that these artists are able to capture the essence of what Rock The Bells stands for and showcase how the elements of hip-hop have been carried through from generation to generation.”
When the dust settles, the Art Basel exhibit is about co-branding, and it speaks to the continuing allure of hip-hop culture as a way for companies to connect with audiences across a variety of demographics. This year marks the first Art Basel appearance for both Rock The Bells and Cheetos.
“Hip-hop has always been a powerful medium for self-expression and authenticity, two vital elements of brand building,” Cuthbert says. “Given our leadership’s iconic place in hip-hop history, we are able to act as a bridge between the pioneers of the hip-hop movement and those inspired by their groundbreaking influence, creating moments that reach audiences on a multicultural and multigenerational scale.”
Cheetos has teamed with Shaggy and MC Hammer on recent Super Bowl commercials. In 2020, the brand did a collab with rapper Bad Bunny for its “Deja tu Huella” campaign and continued the partnership this summer with the addition of a limited-edition collection from Adidas inspired by its official mascot Chester Cheetah.
“We’re a brand that’s deeply rooted in culture, so we couldn’t have imagined a better partner than Rock The Bells as we jump into the art world for the first time with an activation at Art Basel,” says Jessica Spaulding, senior director of marketing, Frito-Lay North America.
“Many of our brand activations revolve around music because we know that’s a passion point for our fans. We see a lot of synergies with Rock The Bells because we’re both brands that value individuality and creativity. This event truly brings everything that we celebrate at Cheetos under one roof—or mega yacht, in this case—for one night.”