“Moët? Rolex. Big Benz, no flex.” — Killer Mike, “Southern Fried” (2012)
Our story about about the history of champagne in hip-hop deals primarily with New York City as the epicenter of the bottle-popping lifestyle. But other regions embraced bubbly as well, injecting their own local flair and influences into the trend.
West Coast rappers like Ice-T were mentioning champagne in their raps at the same time as the Golden Age’s hottest New York emcees. And Poetic Hustla’z, understudies of Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony from Cleveland, were Midwestern rappers who rhymed about Moët in the midst of the Shiny Suit Era, providing evidence that champagne talk also took hold in the Rust Belt rap culture.
But the South, depending upon whom you talk to, might have been the key region in popularizing the beverage outside of NYC. One of Atlanta’s all-time great emcees, Killer Mike, told First We Feast about his own experiences with champagne—specifically, Moët—and how it eventually factored into Southern rap music as groups like Houston’s UGK, Memphis’ 8Ball & MJG, and ATL’s Outkast exploded onto the scene in the early-1990s.
Killer Mike on bubbly: “We drinking champagne because we deserve this shit.”
I’d argue that the South has rapped about champagne as much as, if not more than, the East Coast because in the ’90s, that’s all we were—we made player music and booty-shaking music. And all that shit lent itself to champagne. It’s a big part of the culture here.
At the time I was growing up in Atlanta—the late ’80s, early ’90s—I had no idea of anybody drinking champagne besides the rich clients my mom worked for. I knew that it was something on Silver Spoons, and that was about it. But when I started getting into the clubs and just side-kicking around in the streets, I saw these players drinking drinking Dom. That was the bottle [to have] at the time.
But we weren’t buying $100 bottles of Dom—that was some Westside shit. That’s what I saw rich motherfuckers on Bankhead at the Silver Fox drink. So we started grabbing Moët. My man Mark, who’s like my brother, started buying bottles of Moët and he was like, “I ain’t drinking beer and gin and all of this other shit that anybody could buy.” He wanted to separate himself. We called it Mo-et. “We drinking Mo-et!”
I drink champagne for the same reason I only wear Rolex. Same reason I drive one European and one old-school car—because that’s what I saw players doing.
The first time we popped Mo’, I was with Mark. We were in Lithonia on New Year’s, right outside his townhouse. Mark and another partner of his, LeGarrette, had gotten some. The New Year’s before I think we had gotten a gallon of Seagram’s gin and we ended up drunk and then got sick, so we were like, “We’re not drinking that gin shit again.”
But he popped out this green bottle. And I was like, “What you drinking?” And he was like, “Mo-et, man.” And I was like, “For what?” And he was like, “This is what’s up! I’ll drink a bottle of this shit and I will be drunker than hell.” And he just kept going on about it. I’m like, Man, let me try this shit. And I drank it, but I drank it too fast and the bubbles came up my mouth, nose, everything. And I was like, “Shit! What are you drinking this shit for?” I didn’t think I liked the taste at first, but the more I was around him, the more I drank with him. I then started buying my own bottles and going in on cases.
So at around 16, 17 years old, he’s got us on the hype where we’re buying Moët in the club. And then we started buying it at the liquor store by the case and we started popping it off at barbecues. Eventually, the whole neighborhood was on it. This is when I was out in Decatur, bopping around and hustling out there on Rainbow Drive. Anybody who knows [Atlanta] knows that, at the time, Decatur just had more influence when it came to drug culture and spending more money. The liquor store on Covington Highway and Panola Road got to the point that they couldn’t keep cases of Moët.
When you pop champagne, man, a guy holding a 40 can’t stand next to you.
For me, it was always a status symbol. It was like showing other dudes our age in the trap, Hey, you in the trap, but you’re drinking beer and shit, and we get money. But the real shit was when we popped that shit out when girls were around. When you pop champagne, man, a guy holding a 40 can’t stand next to you. Our whole shit was, We drinking champagne because we deserve this shit. We feel like we some tall players and if you’re lucky enough to be in our company, then you get to indulge in this exquisite event. And it was pretty impressive to women, so we kept popping.
Later, I found out it can only be a champagne if it’s from Champagne [the region in France]. I’ve always been a Cognac and champagne guy. I never was really into the rosés or any flavored champagnes. I always liked my champagne dry—the kind that you drink to clean your palate before you eat something. That way we could add a juice if we wanted. Me, I’ll drink that shit with anything. I’ll drink it with a peanut butter sandwich at five in the morning—or a Waffle House grilled cheese, which I do every other January 1.
That’s about my story with it. I do it for the same reason I only wear Rolex. Same reason I only wear Filas. Same reason I drive one European and one old-school car—because that’s what I saw players doing. It’s like Calogero in A Bronx Tale: That’s what I saw Sonny and them doing, so that’s what I aspired to be.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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