By now, I'm sure most people have seen the commercial/video for the 2015 Toyota Sienna minivan. It features a new version of the Sienna family (The Neuberts) from the original "Swagger Wagon" video from 2010. There's one big difference between the 2010 version and this latest 2014 version.
The 2014 version is exactly how I like my cultural appropriation and the 2010 version was trying too hard.
Oh, and to prove that its having fun, motherfucking Busta Rhymes has a verse on this one…and it ain't even the best verse on the song. But you know, if the sun don't shine then the sun don't shine.
Let's talk about cultural appropriation/swagger jackin' first before get into why I love this. Nearly every argument that Black people make about why its irritating when mainstream society appropriates hip-hop culture and fails miserably is completely valid. Imitiation is not always the best form of flattery. Wanting to "be like Black people" without wanting to be Black people is not something most of us can really appreciate. And that's totally fair. Also, I know that Black =/= hip-hop but mainstream society ties them together so we're going to do the same. Anyway, the point is, most times, I also get annoyed by the way that things deemed inherently Black get jacked and remixed into some caricature without any real respect for the art-form, history, or culture present.
This isn't the case with this video. See, there are three ways to appropriate culture. There's the type where it seems like you're making fun of and/or disrespecting a culture (ie college "Thug parties", McDonald's commercials though I enjoyed them, Kenny G, etc), there's a respectful appropriation that pays homage without being disrespectful (think of the Washington Redskins name and logo fiasco…then think of the COMPLETE opposite of it), and then there's stuff like "Swagger Wagon" where it seems like everybody involved gets the joke and understands that the best way to do it is to go balls to the wall, and be tasteful about it.
This is how I like my swagger jackin'. Plus, Busta Rhymes got in on it and he's an elder statesman. Which makes this the polar opposite of that non-sensical Garnier Fructis fuckjob Memphis Bleek was in years ago. That was just embarassing. Almost as bad as the LFO featuring MOP song. *shudder*
So let's talk about "Swagger Wagon" for a moment, mmkay? Here's how I know I was happy about this song: I wanted to be in this video.There's a huge block party scene at the end where I swear on my momma on my hood, I would have loved to been bustin' a Souljay Boy in.
Then let's talk about the family. The daughter? She is everything. If I didn't know any better, I'd think she was actually planning on pursuing a career in the hip-hop arts. She is giving so much attitude and greatness. Funny enough, my 5-year-old daughter is the exact same way. The son is cool, but the daughter is definitely going to date Black guys when she gets older. There's no way around that.
Then there's the father. See, the reason why this works and doesn't offend me (despite using hip-hop to hock mini-vans) is the same reason why Andy Samberg's "Lazy Sunday" SNL sketch worked so well for me years ago. It was so clearly goofy white people doing their best that it worked. And that's the father in this. He looks like he has no business anywhere near a boombox, and yet he's fully committed to the struggle. Even the verse-less mother is fun with the Sirius XM product placement and the mention of Busta Rhymes like they ain't actually listening to Burt Bacharach in the spare time.
Oh, and the dad had the best verse. Even including Busta's verse. And this is what I mean…fun. It just works. For me. And I still really want to be apart of this video.
Good job, Toyota. I do not hate you. That's the win-win.