Flower power: Rapper Trinidad James irritates compatriots with sneaker brand misnomer

Trinidadian-American rapper Trinidad James, performing at 2013's Under The Influence Tour in Toronto, Canada. Photo by The Come Up Show on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

United States-based Trinidadian-American rapper Trinidad James, probably best known for his 2012 debut single “All Gold Everything” (as well as a writing credit on Bruno Mars’ Grammy-winning song “Uptown Funk“), is the latest in a list of celebrities finding themselves in disfavour with Trinidad and Tobago social media users.

On the heels of Michael B. Jordan's “J'ouvert” rum brand and Nicki Minaj's vaccine misinformation, came James’ October 4 tweet that his new sneaker line “look[ed] to the hibiscus flower for inspiration, the national flower of his hometown, Trinidad and Tobago.”

Trinidad and Tobago is a country, not a town, and its national flower is the Chaconia.

Once the online backlash started, the rapper deleted the tweet, but screenshots were already being shared liberally. On Facebook, Trinidadian netizen Nyssa Pierre lamented:

I’m so tired of these Trini adjacents. Jesus.

On Monday morning, Trinidad James announced a sneaker collab with Saucony, ironically under his label called “HOMMEWRK” yet he would have failed this homework assignment. Why?

Because he named the line after our national flower – the…HIBISCUS??????
A LITERAL GOOGLE SEARCH SIR. It’s the kissmehass Chaconia!

Keep we name out allyuh mouth [if] y’all gonna keep dragging the flag. PLEASE. […]

I am truly TIRED of the bastardization of mockery of all things 868. We are not a friggin commodity for you to, not only use any how you feel, but to not be held to account when you get it SO wrong. Enough. […]


Her compatriot Leslie-Ann Joan Boiselle added:

Total Disrespect!! Your research team SUCKS!!! […] Saucony – what the royal pack of nonsense are you promoting here? Is there no due diligence? What kind of marketing people you got working for you?

One Twitter user quipped:

In what came across to many as a half-hearted mea culpa, the rapper posted a photo on Instagram of the sneaker design, which was embroidered with a hibiscus flower, thanking his “Trinis all around the internet who brought [his] ‘Mistake’ to [his] knowledge.” It was accompanied by several different video clips of his apology.

For the most part, however, Trinbagonians were having none of it, with many of them expressing amazement at the fact that he could even remember how to speak with a Trinidadian accent:

His apology landed him in more hot water after he said that hibiscus was used to make sorrel, his favourite local drink.

While the sorrel plant is part of the Hibiscus sabdariffa family, it is quite different from the hibiscus flower displayed on the sneaker, which does not yield sorrel. James responded to this distinction by saying:

It's a sneaker not a book we making. The hibiscus flower that they use to make sorrel is the same colour. The hibiscus is a way more beautiful flower than the sorrel plant. That's why we market that flower that grow in Trinidad. Respectfully relax.

While some supported the rapper's view, saying he was “entitled to at least one mistake,” others were happy to continue with the picong:

Some Twitter users suggested he must not have done very well in school, while others marvelled that the rapper could not master a task as simple as a Google search. Tammy Jo, however, brought up the bigger issue of people widely believing the inaccuracies posted on social media:

Meanwhile, several social media users posited that the whole faux pas was a marketing ploy to get people talking about the sneaker brand:

Deliberate or not, the whole situation left a bad taste in the mouths of proudly patriotic Trinbagonians:

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