A Brief History Of Rap Meme Merchandise

Joe Budden meme shirt

Lil Mama jacking Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ spotlightKanye West shrugging his way through interrupting Taylor Swift. Michael Jordan crying at his NBA Hall Of Fame acceptance speech. All three of these events kicked off the mainstream fascination with memes in 2009, to the point where a meme’s popularity waxes and wanes in days, if not hours. Last week, Joe Budden went memetic yet again when he chased Drake fans harassing him on Snapchat through the streets of suburban New Jersey, and now he’s got shirts and hats to commemorate that one time he tried to break the Grand Theft Auto land speed record.

Joe Budden meme

It’s said that sex and nostalgia always sell, but we’d better throw memes on that list, too. Viral memes sell everything from Palmer’s cocoa butter to iHOP and Carl’s Jr, but for every celebrity whose meme hits critical mass as a fake album cover, there’s a select few who are crafty enough to turn internet laughs into quick cash – and sometimes not even for the celebrities they dress down.  


Drake YOLO Polo

Drake Yolo Polo meme

Drake in Dada clothing circa 2013 was edging dangerously close to peak Drake. The internet took full advantage of a shot of a backwards glancing Drake on the set of his  “No New Friends” video by putting it through the meme machine, and it wasn’t long before Joseph Evans and Tony Cerniglia embroidered the photo on shirts and the YOLO Polo was born. Needless to say, the shirts sold like crazy; so crazy, in fact, that Drake himself ordered five of the shirts, which ended up being shipped to an invalid address.

Evans and Cerniglia also put their embroidery magic to work on diving Jay Z and Miguel post-Billboard Music Awards stage leap, two more red-hot memes that burned out quick.

Jay Z meme

Miguel meme

Birdman ‘Respek’

Birdman Respek meme shirt

We’ve all seen Birdman wile out on The Breakfast Club. “Put some respek on my name,” “All tree a y’all,” and “Y’all finished or y’all done?” were seared into our collective minds in the two weeks that followed the appearance, and Birdman – not content with effectively killing Lil Wayne’s career – decided to run the joke into the ground himself by dropping an entire clothing line splattered with all the quotables from the interview. You think that’s bad? You should hear the song.  


Running Budden

What started off as a Drake/Joe feud on wax eventually morphed into Budden chasing hecklers down the street evolved into memes that even Budden himself found hilarious for a minute.

Just today, he hopped on the meme production train by throwing his now infamous running meme on t-shirts and hats. 

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Whether positive or negative, memes mean big money if you’re willing to invest.

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