April Fools’ pranks are the worst! It’s fun to say, like, “I’m pregnant” on Facebook or “we’re making our dairy-free vegan ice cream with human breast milk” in a press release, when you’re actually not, but it’s not really fun to have to sift through a bunch of insufferable crap to figure out who’s full of crap and who isn’t. So if you’re going to create an April Fools’ prank, you should probably take a lesson from Hamburger Helper–dump the lies, and just make something really good that people actually want, instead. In this case, against all odds, it’s a mixtape in which a consortium of unknown rappers trade bars about the greatness of their product.
Watch The Stove is five tracks long, and while it sounds dumb as hell on the surface, there are a few things behind it that make it work. First, they didn’t try to get wacky and zany with it–the combination of “Hamburger Helper” and “rap mixtape” is enough, thanks. Instead, musically, they took the project relatively seriously. They tapped legit, if largely unknown, producers–YouTube comedian Niles Stewart, who makes beats as Retro Spectro, has the highest profile of the bunch–to create tracks that are really just about Hamburger Helper. Second, as incongruous as it seems, Hamburger Helper actually does make some sense as a brand to be in the rap game. Like, there’s no shortage of hip-hop songs about growing up poor, and food like Hamburger Helper is definitely an identifier of that kind of life. It may be goofy, but rappers have been spitting lines about Hamburger Helper for a long time–Eminem, Jay-Z, Gucci Mane, Chance The Rapper, and Denzel Curry have all referenced the brand in songs in recent years, so dropping a trap beat on “Feed The Streets” while a rapper says, “Y’all want beef, and I’ma serve it” doesn’t sound dumb. Hip-hop has always been about making growing up poor sound cool, which is a solid thing for a brand like Hamburger Helper to tie itself to.
In other words, the mixtape is funny–I mean, it’s five songs of people rapping about friggin’ Hamburger Helper–but it’s not dumb. That’s a rare balance for brands going into weird places like this to strike, and especially unique on April Fools’ Day, when brands are busy trolling themselves with dumb gags. There are trap beats and club bangers, there are early ’90s “conscious”-style tracks with names like “Food For The Soul,” there are slow jams like “In Love With The Glove.” All of them are pretty listenable, and invite the listener to join in on the joke, if they like rap and celebrating another way to make a dollar out of 15 cents. Watch The Stove is definitely silly, but brands looking to make an impact on April Fools’ Day should take a lesson–don’t take yourselves seriously, but take what you’re putting out into the world seriously enough that people make time for it, and maybe you can win the Internet’s most annoying holiday.