By J. Bachelor
The grind isn’t limited to the highly competitive world of hip hop music. It’s a concept that Rap Snacks CEO James Lindsay understands all too well. Twenty-one years after his product hit the market, the urban snack has experienced a renaissance of sorts: Featuring flavors by music favorites including Lil Boosie, Trina and The Migos, the brand has grabbed the attention — and appetites — of a whole new generation.
We caught up with Lindsay to discuss the company’s early years, the big names they’ve attracted and how a strong online fan base helped to once again make Rap Snacks the trendiest chip on the market.
HHW: Before we hop into any talk about Rap Snacks, I’ve gotta give you a belated congratulations on your Eagles and their Super Bowl win.
JAMES LINDSAY: I appreciate that, brother. You’re starting the interview off right!
HHW: You’re a Philly guy, how’d it feel seeing your hometown become champions?
JAMES LINDSAY: It felt amazing, man. We waited a long time for that to happen, so to see the struggles of all the teams coming up and to know everybody’s a die hard fan, from Will Smith to Jill Scott and everybody that came up in Philly, it’s amazing.
HHW: Incredible. Now I wanna hop into what you’ve got going on, because Rap Snacks have been getting a lot of publicity as of late but a lot of the kids don’t know that this isn’t your first time around the block with this particular product.
JAMES LINDSAY: When I started the product in 1994, I just noticed from an inner city kid in Philly that there weren’t a lot of things that looked like me on the shelf.
HHW: I remember Rap Snacks in the early 90s, then there seemed to be a quiet period, and all of a sudden the company made a lot of noise again.
JAMES LINDSAY: Manufacturing was a big issue for me. Years ago, I made a lot of small bags and the manufacturer wasn’t really happy about that because it’s really hard on their machines and they weren’t really making any money. I limited my manufacturing for a little while and lent my services to these artists, helping take their brand from the streets to Corporate America. While that happened, I kept my eye on the industry. The economics of it have changed, the manufacturers are more plentiful and those two factors are why you’re hearing more noise.
HHW: I had the Migos chips in Atlanta during a music festival, was that a deal you locked in before they became big?
JAMES LINDSAY: Yeah I locked that in before they became big.
HHW: You may have a future as an A&R, you’re spotting the talent early.
JAMES LINDSAY: I’ve been part of Meek Mill’s management group for seven years. I’ve been in the studio listening to other guys and when you get in that rhythm, you can tell the hits.
HHW: I’ve also had the Boosie and Romeo bags, don’t think I’ve seen a Meek flavor yet. Which would make sense because you’re two Philly guys.
JAMES LINDSAY: Man we’ve been planning Meek’s flavor for a while, we’re just making sure that when he gets out that we’ll have something, but we’re ready for him.
HHW: You’re also expanding with the roster of artists featured by the brand, but there’s a new vending machine on the way, tell us about that.
JAMES LINDSAY: Yeah, what I did was make a digital vending machine for The Migos and Lil Boosie, and it’s another marketing tool for the brand. It’s vending and music and it just makes sense.
HHW: Social media has played a big role in helping spread the word.
JAMES LINDSAY: And it’s been all organic which tells me people have genuine love for the brand. I posted a letter from a customer who went to the store and had never seen the chips before, but it made him feel so good. He felt good to go in the store and see someone who looks like him. It’s a God-given opportunity for me to break the ground, not only for my team, but for others who come behind me.