As the resident VSB Big Sean apologist, even I have to admit when some people’s third favorite rapper caught an L. Big Sean and Jhene Aiko’s joint album Twenty88 — which is undeniably hot, check it out — (Editor's note: No) got overshadowed by possibly the greatest marketing triumph in recorded history, Watch The Stove. Hamburger Helper, yes, some people’s third favorite brand of boxed noodles and sauce dropped a five song mixtape on April’s Fools Day. This is not a joke or a prank. The tape is absolute fire. It so fire, I scalded my tongue was scalded listening to the beefy, cheesy goodness.
Now, this could have easily been tone deaf thinkpiece fodder, but, they played it straight. Remember when Busta Rhymes let us know that he loves money and regrowing your dreads post-40 is a bad idea? This is not the swagger wagon. Watch The Stove has taken postmodern meme rap beyond Lil’ B and Riff Raff. They know the know the form and they execute. Even the album art is deliciously tongue in cheek. At first glance, it’s an obvious play on Watch The Throne and the speculative Future x Drake art with dripping paint covering the iconic Helper Glove instead of the OVO owl. However, if you pay attention, you realize the background is crumpled aluminum foil. That’s right, the mixtape is a to-go plate. There’s levels to the shit.
The music itself touches on a number of styles. “Feed the Streets” is an unadulterated banger. A Young Thug understudy drops the gem, “Hold up I told you, I’m serving that stroganoff (BEEF), Hot out the oven, it’s like molten lava.” If you would’ve told me Thug actually ghostwrote this I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s obviously not good, per se, but its earnestness leaves you incredulously satisfied. Then, the tape moves into that new wave Nyquil PM R&B with “In Love With The Glove,” which may be about getting it in or possibly be a backhanded safe sex PSA. The following two tracks “Food for Your Soul” and “Crazy” are definitely the low lights. The former had to be unearthed from the Nappy Roots vault of lukewarm positivity and the latter tried to be a showcase for #barz but it seemed like the interns got tired of staying late to work on it. Luckily, the album ends on another trap classic, “Hamburger Helper.” A 60 percent success rate is more than satisfactory for a mixtape. Plus, even if all of the songs didn’t work, Hamburger Helper clearly displayed that he’s a student of the game.
There are a number of people I’d like thank for this even being a thing at all. First, and foremost all of the rappers who have “cooked,” counted “cheese,” and had “beef” over the years. Without them a moment like this couldn’t be possible. Also, much deserved praise to the unknown progenitor of the term “We eatin." For he truly laid the groundwork for this great work of art. Secondly, I have to thank all the good people at Hamburger Helper. The executive that approved this who ignored every fiber in his body that this was a dumbass idea. The Marketing Coordinator who was so bored at work that he got bold and listened to Future at his desk. Instead of saying “my bad” when he accidentally pulled out his headphones and blared “Inside the Mattress” throughout the office, he doubled down and claimed it was a new project. Last but certainly not least, I have to acknowledge, Illwyn, the McNally-Smith College of Music student that actually had to spend an entire semester of his life putting this together.
This is a transcendent moment in marketing history. As the Golden State Warriors close in on the 95-96 Bulls, I can’t help but to see parallels between Hamburger Helper and the marketing champions of yesteryear. Watch the Stove deserves its banner raised alongside “Wazzup!”, The Most Interesting Man In The World, and that time Oprah got people to forget the KFC is trash by giving away baked chicken coupons. Hamburger Helper broke the mold by fitting into it. If Desiigner and Bryson Tiller can ape established hip hop styles and blow up, why can’t Hamburger Helper do the same and make dinner easy for the mom on the go?