NEW YORK (AP) — One of the
hottest-selling T-shirts around the country shows a simply drawn
snowman with a menacing expression.
The T-shirt originated with rapper Young Jeezy.
It’s not Frosty’s evil
twin. The image popularized by drug-dealer-turned-rapper Young Jeezy
symbolizes those who sell a white substance known on the street as
Anti-drug campaigners and education officials are
alarmed, saying the T-shirt and others like it are part of
sophisticated marketing campaigns using coded symbols for drug culture
that parents and teachers are not likely to understand. Some schools
are banning kids from wearing the snowman images.
“The snowman is
made of white, grainy stuff like sugar,” said 12-year-old
seventh-grader Mailik Mason, standing next to his mother in a Manhattan
store selling the snowman shirts. “It has to do with a certain drug,
crack or coke.”
Young Jeezy’s hit debut album, “Let’s Get It:
Thug Motivation 101,” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard album charts. On
one of his songs he raps, “Get it? Jeezy the Snowman / I’m iced out,
plus I got that snow, man.”
The shirt was first produced solely
for Jeezy by Miskeen Originals, a hip-hop fashion firm in New Jersey,
the company says. The owner, Yaniv Zaken, says his artists produced a
handful for the rapper to wear on TV appearances.
They then sold
a larger batch to retailers, but pulled them when Zaken discovered that
his employees had not licensed the T-shirt from Jeezy.
sure what the snowman meant until the artist explained to me that it
was a drug dealer, the man delivering snow,” Zaken said. “Now everyone
is selling the snowman — all unlicensed. It’s become a street-hood hit
A spokesman for Young Jeezy’s record label, Def Jam
Records, confirmed that the rapper held the rights to the snowman image
but declined to comment on complaints that it was sending children the
“This is part of a phenomena in which parents have
no idea what their children are exposed to. There is a code that
children are aware of but not parents,” says Sue Rusche, president and
CEO of the anti-drug group National Families In Action.
organization has tried to pressure companies that they believed were
targeting children with drug messages, like fashion companies marketing
“heroin chic” in the 1990s. She was unaware of the snowman T-shirt.
says he’d like to have a snowman T-shirt — but that his school in
Brooklyn has banned it. His mother, Autherine Mason, 34, said she had
been unaware of the snowman’s meaning and wouldn’t buy it for her son
now that she knows.
Dr. Gilbert Botvin, director of the Institute
for Prevention Research at Cornell University Medical College, has been
studying what influences children to use drugs and alcohol. He believes
that pop culture does play a role.
“The research tells us that
influences coming from the media can have a profound effect on kids and
influence them to use drugs,” he says. “All of these things help to
convey the impression that engaging in these behaviors using drugs is
normal and that drugs might help you be successful or sexy or
Botvin says parents need to educate themselves about
the media their kids are consuming and pressure schools to monitor what
messages they allow students to advertise.
But sometimes it’s hard to overcome the buzz on the street.
Ali Kourani, a Manhattan wholesale salesman, says the T-shirt is their top seller across the country.
“It’s big money,” Kourani said.
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