The unbelievably true story behind the April Fools’ Day Hamburger Helper mixtape
It's the hottest album of 2016. And it's about a processed food product.
It's "Watch the Stove," the shockingly good mixtape released by Hamburger Helper for April Fools' Day. Except it's not a joke.
Well, the songs, including "Feed the Streets" and "In Love With the Glove," are about the packaged food product and include lyrics like "if you catch me at the stove, I was whippin' up a bowl" and "hold up I told you I'm servin' that stroganoff." But they're … good. Like, really good.
Hamburger Helper was trending worldwide on Twitter just hours after the album dropped.
"It's really taken off," Taylor Madrigal told me. You know him better as DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip, one of the people featured on the opening track of the album, "Feed the Streets."
I told him I absolutely needed to know everything about how "Watch the Stove" got made. It turns out General Mills (which owns Hamburger Helper) had been planning this for a while. It also turns out the entire collaboration was a local effort.
General Mills is headquartered in Minneapolis, where Madrigal also lives. (He said he went to daycare down the street from the plant where Hamburger Helper products are manufactured.) The people at Hamburger Helper were familiar with his work, including a song called " ... My Baby Mama."
Three months ago, GM approached him, he said, wanting to know if Madrigal and producer Bobby Raps wanted to work on a song with them. Liana Miller, the marketing communications planner for Hamburger Helper, said by email that the team had been kicking around the idea, joking with their Twitter followers (from @helper) about making a mixtape.
"When we saw the demand, we thought, why not?" Miller said in an emailed statement. For the album itself, "We chose to feature artists that were representative of our consumers." That included local up-and-coming talent like Madrigal.
"That's part of why we wanted to get involved," he said. "It's all Minnesota, local culture, local everything."
The duo received a few guidelines: The song had to be family-friendly. Nothing overtly inappropriate. No swear words. Obviously, it had to be about Hamburger Helper. Madrigal and Raps took it from there.
"Feed the Streets" came together over the course of a month. Hamburger Helper reached out to a local music school and asked students to contribute as well. College students are responsible for the tracks "Crazy," "Food for Your Soul" and "In Love With the Glove." Internet celebrity Niles Stewart a.k.a. Retro Spectro contributed the second track, "Hamburger Helper."
I asked Madrigal point blank: Why is this so good? How?
"We like to take pride in what we do, and we didn't want to give [General Mills] anything bad," he said. "We work really hard but don't take ourselves too seriously. We have fun." (Proof of that hard work: When we spoke on the phone, he was driving across the border into Canada, where he's DJing a show tonight in Vancouver. No word yet on when the official Watch the Stove world tour begins.)
It's possibly the greatest April Fools' Day prank of all time. Every other corporate #brand can just quit now. Most of these sorts of pranks make people feel stupid for believing something that's too good to be true. This one made people feel the opposite: It sounds too ridiculous to possibly be true.
But it is true. Hamburger Helper has a mixtape. And it's absolute fire.
Send Jessica Roy your mixtape on Twitter @jessica_roy.
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