What Do Migos Taste Like? Rap Snacks CEO Tells All
Shout out to MC Potato
RAP SNACKS chips go back like babies and pacifiers. And yes, there was an Ol’ Dirty Bastard potato chip back in the day—well, to be specific, it was a Dirt McGirt chip.
The name on the bag is important because even if you’re a huge fan of a particular rapper, you wouldn’t put just anything in your mouth—would you?
“Once they try it I got ’em!” says James Lindsay, the Philadelophia-born mastermind behind the “official snack of hip hop” as the brand has been labeled. “My flavors are different and the product is actually good,” he says. “They get hooked and they’ll buy it.”
After launching the brand in the mid ’90s and partnering with Master P, shifting industry trends caused Lindsay to step away from the chip game. He worked as Meek Mill’s brand manager for the past several years. Making a comeback like LL Cool J earlier this year, Rap Snacks are currently killing the snack game. Founder and CEO James Lindsay tells us they’re “the hottest thing in convenience stores right now.”
Currently available in more than 40 markets—Boston, New York, New Jersey, Philly, Virginia, ATL, Florida, Memphis, Nashville, Birmingham, New Orleans, Jackson MS, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Indiana. “Gone are the days of Cracker Jacks like prizes in your cereal,” the Rap Snacks website announces. “With the new Rap Snacks you can scan the back of the bag and win unreleased song from artist featured on the all new Rap Snacks Bag.”
We’re talking about an urban snack empire—soon expanding into popcorn and cookies. Basically Rap Snacks are the hottest chip in the game. But don’t take our word for it—listen to Migos:
Please note that this amazing video appeared on Lil Yachty’s YouTube channel. And sure enough, the next thing you know… Ooo-Wee!
Yep, Yachty’s got next. At this point we felt a burning need to reach out to the Lindsay, the CEO of the R-A-P-S-N-A-C-K-S. Peep game.
James Lindsay! Are you the sole founder, inventor, flavor technician, marketing genius, and boss man behind Rap Snacks?
Yes I am.
I remember Rap Snacks from back in the 1990s. When exactly was the launch?
OK, so the launch was in 1994.
Yeah, it’s 21 years bruh. You know I mean? [Give or take a few! —Ed.] It was Rap Snacks and it was MC Potato on the bag.
MC Potato? Seriously. [laughs]
About four or five years after that I got a deal with Universal to put their artists on the bag. At the time I’m pretty sure you remember stickers and the posters were really popular ways to promote music back then. So I told Jackie Reinhart, the head of marketing up there. “I’m doing 2 or 3 million bags of potato chips in the city, and I think you guys are wasting your money on these stickers and these cardboards — stuff that people throwin’ away. You could put your artists on my bag and it’s a built-in impression.”
Wait a minute, you were doing 3 million bags a day with MC Potato?
And remember back then every bag was 25 cents.
The chronic sells itself.
So what was your background before you started slangin’ snacks?
I was a marketing manager for Johnson Products and Warner Lambert.
Johnson in Chicago?
Yes, that was my first job with Mr. Johnson, sitting in sales/marketing meetings, trying to come up with products to sell.
And he didn’t want to do Rap Snacks?
He did hair care, so. Actually I left there and went to Warner Lambert. I went there and I sold that, territory manager in that position. And that’s when I came up with the Rap Snacks idea.
OK so you’re doing 3 million bags of MC Potato a day, and then you stepped to Universal and which artists were the first to sign on?
Aw, ti was Lil Wayne. We had Master P. We had Nelly, St. Lunatics…
So it was mostly like Dirty South?
Yes, very much so.
How were the artists to deal with?
I actually dealt with the labels. So I didn’t really deal with the artists. I met P after that. He called me. But I dealt with their marketing departments.
What did Master P say when he called you?
He was like, “Man, I’m seen these chips. I’m in love with them. I need to get with you and talk about how to get involved.”
Did you ever cut him in?
Yeah, I brought him in as a limited partner a while ago.
Master P is bout those Rap Chips! Are there any other artists partnered up with you?
Oh yeah, all my deals are 50/50 deals now. All the artists that are on my bags are 50/50 deals. The reason I did that is that, you know, my background was I did branding for Puma and Monster. I came up with 24K headphones with Meek Mill. But you know Puma, through all our deals—five, six years—they paid us some millions, but they were up $300 million. So what I’m telling these guys, “Start investing in your own brands. Realize how strong your brand is instead of listening to another corporation. You should have 50/50 deals. Why should they give you a small royalty check when you’re helping move their brand in the culture?”
That’s cool. So once you signed up with these artists, did that increase your sales?
Oh yes. It doubled it.
They were better than MC Potato?
Oh yeah, most definitely. Cause the reach was a lot more and people were familiar with it.
See, what happened with my brand is I’m the first guy to create a honey-barbecue potato chip. So when somebody look at the bag, they say “Ooh it has Master P! It has The Migos on it!” They gonna try it, and once they try it I got ’em! Because my flavors are different and the product is actually good. So I go to the flavor after that. I can put you on there after they start trying it for a couple times. They get hooked and they’ll buy it.
But we have to have something to make them taste if first. I don’t care if you have the best thing in the world in your product. If you don’t have no ability for them to pick it up, how they gonna know what’s good in the bag?
You sound like a master of the game. How do you decide what flavor to put with who?
Right, so I wanted to come up with something for the Migos. First and foremost I always thought the Migos was the most under-rated rap group out here. I think they’re like, twofold because they’re street, but their brand reaches really far. Cause they’re almost like the Black Beatles to me. That’s how I see the Migos.
Wait—I thought Rae Sremmurd was the Black Beatles?
Well… [Laughs] I just look at them as that. I’m not sayin’… I like Rae Sremmurd too, but when I think about these guys’ brand, that’s what I think about. You know?
So what do Migos taste like…?
They were the creators of the dab. I wanted to come up with something that was a combination of a flavor that nobody had out there, but that really researched well in the mom and pop stores. Sour cream did and Ranch did, so I came up with Sour Cream With A Dab of Ranch.
Did they have any input in it, or do you just tell them what it is?
I told them what it’s gonna be. They say, “Yeah we like that.” I’m the branding guy, I’m the marketing guy. So I’ll run it by them and tell them my ideas, and they tell me if they like it or not, or if we should do X, Y, and Z. But it was all me.
What is the molecular structure of these Rap Snacks?
Well it was almost training over the years. Unfortunately when you’re younger, and growing up in the inner city, you develop your taste buds. Because you usually buy potato chips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner sometimes. So I used to be a kid that did that, so I would basically put three of four bags of different flavors of chips into one bag. So I consider myself a mixologist of snack foods. That was one of my loves—that and music. So that’s how I came up with Rap Snacks.
So you were doing that as a kid?
Right, as a kid. Those flavors just come natural to me. It’s just something that I’m good at. I’m a very good cook. I have a good palate. It’s something that I know that people would like.
How did you choose Fabo’s flavor?
Again, the “Wavy” was all about the city concept. I had Lousiana with P. I couldn’t use “HOT” because Hot was Trademarked. So I came up with Lousiain Heat for Lil Boosie. I wanted to connect the brand and the culture for what they’re known for in their city. So I did the same thing with Fab. New York is know for it’s delis, right? And he’s about his cheddar. So New York Deli Cheddar.
Simple enough. But what’s the deal with this “Funky Nacho”? That sounds a little bit nasty.
Yeah [Laughs]. “Funky” was supposed to be slang for, like, out the box. Like, good.
Were people buying Funky Nacho?
A lot of it. The name of it is one thing—but once you taste it, it’s different.
Why did the brand go away for a while?
Well yeah, what happened was we had issues manufacturing for about 8 or 9 years. A lot of the manufacturers didn’t want to manufacture our brand because they didn’t want to do small bags. So the market changed where I used to do 100% small bags. Now I’m only 30% of that. So when that changed I was able to go out and repackage the brand. Meanwhile I was in the industry working with the artists on their brands. So I had an idea who I wanted to connect to the brand. That’s how you see the resurgence of the brand.
How’s the relaunch going so far?
Uh, it’s the hottest thing in the convenience stores right now in the country.
How do you know that?
Through the sales that I’m doing, and talking to the stores and distributors.
What does that mean money-wise?
I can’t say the money-wise, but I’ll tell you that it’s the fastest moving potato chip in a lot of these stores right now.
More than Utz and all those guys?
For that size, yeah.
Thank you. I appreciate it. My nickname is Patti Pies right now, so…
What’s your nickname?
Remember when Patti Pies took off? Two or three years ago, Patti Labelle had the Patti Pies?
Oh, so you’re trying to knock Patti out the box?
No, not at all! I’m just saying the resurgence of Rap Snacks is like that. Everybody wanted to try Patti Pies. Now everybody wanna taste Rap Snacks.
Do you have more artists coming?
Oh yes, very much so. We got a bunch of them coming. We’re connecting to a lot of different brands right now. We’re doing a popcorn line, we’re doing a potato chips line, and we’re doing a cookie line called Snackables.
I see you’re stacking chips right now. That’s what’s important.
There you go. That’s the name of the article: “Stackin’ Chips.”