Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington and Mary J. Blige in a 2015 Apple Music commercial
YouTube screenshot

Is Apple Music marketing directly to black people or what?

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During Sunday night's Emmy Awards show on Fox, Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington and Mary J. Blige appeared in a new commercial promoting Apple Music's online streaming service. There were several, um—how should we say?—cultural clues that had my around-the-way, black-girl self feeling all nostalgic, and feeling like this huge tech company was targeting a certain sliver of black people specifically: hip-hop heads.

First off, Taraji and Kerry are headed to Mary's house, and Taraji stops and squeals in excitement when she realizes that Mary is playing old-school Slick Rick.

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"Oh, wait a minute. Is that Slick Rick? No she didn't," Henson exclaims. "Really, Mary? We startin' with Slick Rick?" she says as all three ladies hug like longtime friends. 

"The turn-up is real! Let me ask you a question: 'What made you blow the dust off of Slick Rick?' " Henson asks. (I'd bet everything in my wallet that line wasn't scripted.) Blige showed the girls her old-school mixtape collection that was in a box, and went on to explain how she doesn't need to pull out the antiques anymore because Apple Music creates playlists for you.

In a tweet sent out Sunday night, Apple Music specifically dubbed its curated playlists the "new mixtapes." Boy, is hip-hop winning.

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All three women were kiki'ing it up around Mary's coffee table, and turned up to jams like "No Diggity," Busta Rhymes' "Touch It" and the Bad Boy classic, "All About the Benjamins."

All they needed was bamboo earrings (at least two pair), except for, well, maybe Kerry, who I love but who seemed a bit out of place. She strikes me more as the Jack and Jill type of black chick and wasn't giving me the same around-the-way vibes I was getting from Taraji and Mary (who are besties in real life). But hey, Apple Music probably wants to market to the Jack and Jills of the world, too (smile). 

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Also, I couldn't help thinking about Jay Z, and whether Mary felt conflicted about appearing in a commercial for a product that is directly competing with her friend's online streaming service, Tidal. The folks at Apple Music know exactly what they're doing by focusing so heavily on the hip-hop generation in their marketing. It's a group that Jay Z no doubt thought he had an in with, since Tidal was marketed as a majority-black-owned company with a boatload of urban "artist-partners": Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Rihanna and Alicia Keyes.

It's safe to say that Apple Music is not conceding that demographic to Tidal without putting up a good fight first. Which I guess should have black people everywhere—the hip-hop generation especially—feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, since everyone seems to be vying for our approval. 

Oh, and there was more black-girl magic happening behind the scenes. The commercial was directed by Ava DuVernay, Entertainment Weekly reports. DuVernay revealed on Twitter Sunday night that it's the first of three commercials. The other two will be released "throughout the week," DuVernay tweeted. 

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https://twitter.com/AVAETC/status/645776624491761664?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

I can't wait to see if the ads feature more of this amazing black-girl trio or other artists. Tidal could learn a thing or two from Apple Music's marketing strategy. 

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.

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