Look It’s no secret that Castle Lite is the biggest premium brand in South Africa that continues to deliver on its brand purpose of shattering barriers to enjoyment more specifically within hip hop culture. For the past six years, Castle Lite has, through the annual trendsetting Castle Lite Unlocks hip hop concert unlocked extraordinary enjoyment for its consumers. True to the brand’s innovative nature and pushing boundaries, this year Castle Lite has evolved to an epic two-day hip hop experience which will thrill consumers on the 17th and 18th of June. Day one of the two-day hip hop experience will see consumers step into an immersive sub-zero experience featuring extra cold street culture, master classes, unforgettable performances, inspiring Cold Table Convos, street fashion where Hip Hop enthusiasts congregate and share their love for all aspects of the culture. Highly respected hip hop guru, Sway Calloway will also be part of Day 1 where he will host the SwayColdCyphers. This un-missable experience will culminate in a sub-zero headline performance by US rap star, Meek Mill on 17 June 2019. Day two will be graced with international names such as Post Malone, who is the musical protégé of the 2013 Castle Lite Unlocks headline act, Kanye West. He will share the stage with our very own South African trailblazers, Nasty C, Rouge & Ricky Rick for an extra cold experience.
Now with the official countdown to the most anticipated experience in local Hip Hop already in motion. HYPE got the opportunity to talk to Castle Lite Brand Director Silke Bucker to discuss how the Castle Lite brand has effortlessly continued to embed itself within Hip Hop culture all these years, how the brand continues to support Hip Hop culture from a pan-African point of view, the upcoming 2-day #CastleLiteUnlocks experience as well as the year 2020. Read the interview below:
First of all, we have to commend Castle Lite for really being involved with the progression and growth of hip hop culture. It’s been like what 7/8 years of constant support. What about hip hop culture really attracted Castle Lite to build a relationship with?
You know it’s quite actually interesting. So, we’ve been involved as a brand with hip hop for almost 8 years now. So, if you rewind to like 2010, 2011 when hip hop was very much growing across Africa, very few brands were investing in the genre. So, because we identify with the values in hip hop, values like inclusivity, innovation, being quite progressive and expressive… Those values are very much entrenched in the Castle Lite DNA. So, we decided that this (hip hop) is what we want to partner with. Fast-forward now to 2019, hip hop is now the biggest genre in the world. It overtook Rock I think about a year & a half ago… It’s now the biggest music genre in the world and because of that, the fact that it’s shaping South African culture, a lot of other brands are joining the conversation, which I totally understand and that’s a great thing for our local talent to give more platforms to more people to showcase their talent. We’ve been involved in hip hop for so long and we’ve done a lot right. It’s not just Unlocks, we’ve partnered with a lot of our local talent from music videos all through to album launches, using them in our advertising and last year we did #HipHopHerstory where we actually took a stand and spoke about the inclusivity & the nature of women’s role in the evolution of hip hop. So, we do try to bring quite a credible and authentic story to people and the culture but also just trying to be a brand that puts artists together.
For almost a decade Castle Lite has brought amazing international level music experience. Last year you gave us Chance, the year before that Travis & Bryson then the year prior to that Cole. 2019 is obviously bigger, as it will be a 2-day extra cold experience filled with a variety of other sub-culture showcases, pop-ups, convos, etc. What inspired that?
So, when we thought about 2019 Unlocks, it was very clear that we couldn’t just do another concert so you can’t just throw money at it, bring big hip hop artists from the states and then think that you’re part of the culture. That’s not what it’s about. So, we really set out to be part of hip hop across Africa and to shape the culture alongside the influencers versus just being a brand that’s capitalizing on the growth. So how we planned this year is we then said, “how do we evolve Unlocks from a one-night concert experience to a full-on culture movement?” and that’s how we got to two days of everything hip hop unlocks in one place. So, day one is really all about the culture. We’ve got all of our phenomenal talents with us on the day they’re bringing things outside of music to the story. We know there are some limited-edition sneaker drops. Some of the artists are dropping some fashion lines. Obviously, there’ll be some performances and then we also have panel discussions where we talk about some topics in hip hop that are sometimes a little bit hard to speak about in quite a small environment where fans can then get a bit closer to their artists and ask the questions that they need to ask. So, it really is all about the culture. It’s not just about performances and then because we don’t want to lose the impossible nature of the brand in the sense that we bring to the front in terms of sale, that’s why we still have the massive concert experience that fans can look forward to, that’s completely immersed and unlike any other hip hop concert, possibly, in the world.
What about Castle Lite would you say really makes the brand such a perfect hip hop partner, a cultural shifter and progressive?
I think that as a career, we are quite a progressive brand and we do things differently. So, when you think about what your brand stands for and what’s in your brand’s DNA, it’s very important to partner with like-minded people and like-minded areas or cultures. So, if you look at what Castle Lite has done in the last 8 years, its completely turned beyond its head. We innovate all the time. We do things that no other beer brand even dreams of doing. So, we are quite progressive, and we express it and we’ve very much outspoken about inclusivity. I mean if you think about values like that, it fits 100% within the hip hop story. They’re very expressive, you know standing out for what you believe in and paving your own way, so not just following the norm but doing things differently. So, in terms of values and how the brand fits within the hip hop space, it was quite an easy decision to make and it fits. Hip hop is very edgy. It’s very progressive and that also helps us to elevate ourselves out of just being a brand, into something that’s a lot cooler with a lot more meaning to our consumers as well.
I also think if you have an honest conversation with yourself as a brand, we all have money to bring artists, right? It’s not about that so we can’t pride ourselves with being a part of the culture and standing and believing in hip hop if we are not actively investing in the culture. We are involved, showing, highlighting stories in hip hop that are important to address… It’s really hard as a brand to creatively play in a space that is not a branding space. It’s literally a journey that I have had to go through with the artists and a lot of the times, it’s not easy. So we don’t want to be the brand that just says “okay cool, you’ve made it now, so now I want to be your sponsor” or “you’ve made it now, so now I want to partner with you.” That’s not what it’s about, so you can also see, with the artists that we choose for our Unlocks concerts, we never choose the biggest artists in South Africa. We always choose the artists that are just bubbling under and they just about to make it big and they just need that platform just to show the world how amazing they are. So, we invest in people that do think differently, that put in the work in their craft and that work really hard. We don’t just partner with you once you’ve made it. Obviously, once you made it, we still want to be there, and we still want to be your partner and collaborate as much as we can but that’s not what we do. We don’t sit back and then once you make it, then say “hey buddy now, here we are, we want to be your friend.”
People are already excited about not only seeing their favorite local acts on stage but seeing the likes of Meek Mill and Post Malone too. Internationally, how soon or far are international acts chosen? Do you look at the demands from the Caste Lite followers as inspiration for the next Unlocks show?
[Laughs] Yeah look, it’s funny because even when Unlocks is over, people already start talking to us saying “please bring this person”. I mean with Meek Mill, he put out his tweet last year where he said: “I want to do a big ass show in Africa.” People tagged Castle Lite and said, “please can this be Unlocks next year?”. So it’s amazing to see how this is part of South African hip hop culture. Like people know that we bring the coolest cats here and that we bring people here that wouldn’t come to South Africa if it wasn’t for the brand. So, we definitely keep our finger on the pulse. We do listen to what consumers tell us and what they ask us, but we also make sure that we bring people that wouldn’t, ever maybe have thought about coming to South Africa. So, I know that other concert promoters have been trying to get Post Malone to South Africa for the last 2 years and no one has managed to get it right. The fact that we as Castle Lite managed to get that guy here after all his Grammy nominations etc. that’s an amazing story right? But why’s it amazing? It’s because of the history we’ve built in Unlocks. It’s not just a brand. It’s like when we go to the office and we show them the last 8 years of Castle Unlocks and the scale of production how much the fans enjoy having these artists here, that’s what sells and convinces them to come to the shores of South Africa. It’s so humbling and it’s such as a privilege to work on this project because you can also see how much it means to people. So, when we choose our artists, we make sure that we choose artists that do think differently and pave their own way. You know all of these guys you mentioned; they all have different stories. So, when we did Drake, he wasn’t big yet, he was on the brink, no one really knew who he was. I think we had a 7000 packed concert and it was by invite only. You couldn’t even buy the tickets and here we brought Drake. It was amazing but it wouldn’t be like if you had to bring Drake now, it would be a completely different scenario you know and Kanye, we brought when we thought he was making a comeback. So, he went down a little bit and then he made a comeback and that’s when we brought him to South Africa. Travis completely blew my mind. I didn’t know that; I mean we sold out in like two days and it was crazy. I was completely surprised. So that was the first time we brought a little bit of the trap genre into our concerts. J. Cole sold out in 2 hours. We put the billboard out and it sold out in 2 hours. And all of these artists sing differently like Chance is quite soulful and it’s all about stuff that is meaningful to him. You know he does sing completely differently and that’s what we associated it with last year. We try to choose artists that also link back to what the brand is about and what we stand for. So, like going out of your way to do things differently, innovating within the genre you know, being true to who you are as an artist because that’s what’s important to us as a brand. It’s not just about bringing the biggest people here. It’s about whose story do we want to tell this year and what do we want to share with the fans. But we do listen to what people say as well. Unfortunately, I can’t bring Drake. So, it comes out every year and every year I get hit with a stick “we just want Drake, we just want Drake”. I also want Drake, it’s not that easy [Laughs]
[Laughs] And I was just about to say please bring Drake. So, this means that there will definitely be an Unlocks for 2020 too? Does this also mean that you guys have started prepping for that?
There will be. So, I’m already working on next year’s Unlocks. I’m already working on the contract for who we might look at bringing and how we want to evolve the property. We want to see how much bigger we can make it next year. So, 2 years ago when we did a concert, we brought Travis Scott and Future and we took Future to Tanzania and Mozambique. It was crazy, I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life before and then last year we took J. Cole to Nigeria. So, this year we took our artists, so Cassper went to Zambia and Nasty C is going to Tanzania & Mozambique… It’s crazy. I mean if you watched the videos on Instagram these guys post, it looks like 15 000 sold out concerts. It’s amazing, I mean we want to see how big we can make Unlocks and how far we can push it and take the extent out of just South because we are an African brand so need to build hip hop across the continent, not just in South Africa. So, we’ve got big dreams but we’re working on next year already.