The Internet Is Upset With Busta Rhymes’ Cameo In “Swagger Wagon” Car Commercial

By Chris DeVille / August 4, 2014 - 2:43 pm

In 2010, Toyota promoted its Sienna minivan by dubbing it the “Swagger Wagon,” complete with a music video that featured two WASPy suburban parents boasting about their vehicle in forced hip-hop slang. Last Friday, the company revived the “Swagger Wagon” concept (and the strained euphemism “motherfather”) with a new white nuclear family, new imitation-DJ-Mustard production, a very elaborate neighborhood dance number, and a guest verse from Busta Rhymes. It’s quite a thing to see:

Voices around the internet are not happy about this turn of events. Among those infuriated by this ad’s existence and/or Busta’s association with such flagrant cultural appropriation and stereotyping:

  • Rolling Stone: “As far as viral ads go, the clip harkens back to Burger King’s controversial 2012 Mary J. Blige clip, in which she sang about fried chicken wraps, spurring criticism for playing up racial stereotypes.”
  • The Source: “What can we say about Toyota’s ‘Swagger Wagon’ music video that can’t already be assumed from its painfully corny and dated name? Not very much.”
  • Radio.com: “Did Busta Rhymes Just Star In The Worst Commercial Ever?”
  • Hip-Hop Wired: “Busta Rhymes, say it isn’t so.”
  • HuffPo: “Oh, Busta Rhymes, what have you done?”
  • Jalopnik: “I couldn’t give a shit about cultural appropriation. I’m not here to talk about how pissed I am that Macklemore won a Grammy over Kendrick Lamar or why Iggy Azalea has the most popular rap song right now. White people doing rap is a debate that should have fizzled out a decade ago and really, I don’t care either way. What I don’t get is why Toyota and other companies keep doing this, this whole “let’s put a bunch of clearly awkward white people in a hip-hop setting and laugh at them because it’s a whole inside joke we shouldn’t be taking seriously”-type advertising. Isn’t the inside joke played out? Like using blue liquid in tampon ads? There’s no other way to get the point across?”

Is this commercial tasteless? Almost certainly. Is it oblivious to its own tastelessness? That’s doubtful. Ad Week wonders, “Is Toyota’s Swagger Wagon Sequel Good Cringey or Bad Cringey?” Either way, it’s definitely intentionally cringey, which all viewers ought to realize. Here’s a genuine question to ponder: If Toyota made the same commercial but with a black suburban family, would people be more or less pissed off?