Pepsi Teams Up with Local Artists for Its Full of Detroit Soul Campaign

Multidisciplinary artist Ndubisi Okoye talks creating a mural for the initiative that ”connects all of Detroit”
Ndubisi Okoye - pepsi
Ndubisi Okoye’s mural for Pepsi’s Full of Detroit Soul campaign.

Pepsi launched a new campaign today called Full of Detroit Soul. The multi-year initiative aims to celebrate the city and its art and musical history while also building upon the company’s partnerships within the community spanning eight decades.

Full of Detroit Soul was made in collaboration with Detroit-based artists and creators and honors the city’s impact on culture. In this first phase of the campaign, Pepsi has partnered with award-winning portrait painter Désirée Kelly, multidisciplinary artist Ndubisi Okoye, and illustrative fine artist Sydney James. Their artwork for Full of Detroit Soul now covers billboards and wallscapes across the city.

Pepsi has also partnered with Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter Kem, who was raised in metro Detroit. He will star in an exclusive virtual musical showcase including a meet-and-greet for Detroit residents only on Jan. 7.

As part of the campaign, limited-edition Full of Detroit Soul packaging will roll out on Pepsi 12 packs, and two-liter and 20 oz. bottles starting in early 2021 and will be available at Detroit retailers. Pepsi has also launched a digital hub for the campaign that features highlights on each artist with videos by Detroit-based production company Woodward Original. The spotlights are written and directed by Ariel Ellis, a director and creative at Woodward Original. 

Prior to the launch of the campaign, Hour Detroit spoke with Okoye to learn more about the mural he created for Full of Detroit Soul.

Hour Detroit: Can you tell us more about your mural and how it exemplifies your own ties to the city?

Ndubisi Okoye: I was just coming up with references to things that I think represent Detroit authentically and things that I like in Detroit, from food to sports, to culture, to art. It was a bunch of different pieces that represent what I think Detroit is, in there. If you look from the top down [of the mural], there’s a bunch of references to music and gospel specifically, that’s what I grew up on. Gospel music, soul music, and R&B, in either Motown or like the end of Motown era of music. So, I grew up on a lot of musical influences. I know Detroit is a big part of that itself, but my family is a big part of that as well. On the left and right side [of the mural], you have like arts and spray paint as an ode to all the murals around the city and also an ode to just the artistic culture in Detroit that I’ve been blessed to be a part of. Then outside of that, you have like food culture, that’s kind of slept on in Detroit. 

How long did it take for you to come up with the idea and complete the mural? 

I think the idea was there from the start, just seeing how I think Detroit is full of soul. At first, I thought that sentiment kind of felt old and new at the same time. It felt old in that people like my grandfather, like that’d be one of his favorite words, “soul,” and connect that to Detroit because of the Blackness of Detroit, but also the creativity of Detroit. But it felt kind of new in that we get to interpret what that means in 2020. I wanted to influence it with old and new stuff, if that makes sense. Like a historical tie, a creative tie, and a cultural tie that connects all of Detroit together.

What do you want people to take away from your mural, whether they’re from Detroit or not? 

That Detroit is diverse, just like the people in it. It’s diverse, vibrant, exciting — not just because of all the revitalization. It’s just exciting to be a person that grew up here and get to show it on a major scale, especially the place I get to call home.

What does Pepsi’s Full of Detroit project mean to you and how is it amplifying the city’s artistic community?

Pepsi has been in Detroit forever. I remember always riding by seeing the giant factory here. And I was like, “What did they do there?” But it just means for me, specifically, highlighting areas that have people of color, specifically Black people, and showing their values, their cultural influences, their music, and influence on a major scale. To show that it’s significant, beautiful, and worthy of being highlighted. [Pepsi] didn’t bring people in that weren’t from Detroit. It shows that we have a crop of talent, probably more dynamic than most cities in the country. As you can see through this campaign, you have figurative [artists], you have people that do more abstract like me, and you have people that do a hybrid of the two. So, you have diversity in all aspects of Detroit, just like you have in Black people, just like you have in food, just like you have in sports and culture. It’s just an extreme diversity here that makes the city so rich. [I’m] just proud to be a part of the campaign. I’m glad to be able to represent the city in my unique fashion.

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