A big part of advertising is leaving things on the cutting room floor. In the long run, you learn to justify the decision, live with it, or come to realize it was for the best.
Much of “The Baddest,” a Nike campaign in support of Kevin Durant’s seventh signature shoe, was shot in Memphis, Tennessee this past April. It only made sense to bring the music of that city into the mix. After all, nothing says bad like decades worth of Southern Soul, especially when so many of the musicians who helped create that sound are still working musicians in that city.
We made a pilgrimage to Royal Studios to cut a track with the legendary Hi Rhythm Section. We brought in Brooklyn-based vocalist Lee Fields to carry the lead on a song written for the campaign by William Bungeroth and Julie Nichols, arranged and stylized by Chicago’s J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound. That song—called “The Baddest”—was about the exact quality that makes Durant such a great basketball player and the musicians on the session such battled-tested pros.
We got to hang out at the studios, totally incognito, while the Hi Rhythm Section cut their demo of the track. And then we made another trip back for session with Fields, so we could film the proceedings and use bits of it in the spot. When we shipped in June, the spot had none of the footage and not a single second of music recorded at Royal.
The chance to record at Royal was life-affirming, life-altering, and everything in between. Although it didn’t work in the edit, we found a way you can hear it so that experience—and the music—don’t go to waste.
Written by William Bungeroth and Julie Nichols
Arrangement by J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound
Performed by Lee Fields
Performed by Hi Rhythm Section