More times than not in today’s media black men are portrayed in a negative light and the music industry sometimes gets that same stigma …
… but the combination of black men in music and with the recent headlines black music has been BAD! The good news is that there is a large group of black men in music who are doing power business moves not just in the United States but across the globe.
By Lamonte Hayes
Just like 77% of all Americans, it’s early morning and I’m checking my Instagram feed and I come across a post from Diddy, Puff, Sean Combs or one of his many other monikers. You could easily consider his eyes and tell him he was having a rough time even before you hit the play button. He started to speak and his words had so much passion on how “Sometimes you think your purpose is one thing BUT life is ever-changing and its levels to this SHIT!’ “You gotta redesign and clarify your purpose”
This post stuck with me most of the day. Later that same day I canvassed the financial sections in Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and I realized that several black men in the music have embraced life with ALL its changes and redesigned themselves and clarified their business and are making power business moves! Click NEXT below to see more hip hop black entrepreneurs
Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones is also known as Nasty Nas or just plain Nas is one of hip hops finest also comes across my social media feed making financial headlines as on the Wall Street Journal page as online platform Pluto TV is being sold to The Viacom Corporation for $340 Million dollars. The Pluto TV platform offers its users more than 100 streamable live TV channels and on-demand programming for free and NAS and his financial equity firm Queensbridge Venture invested in the Pluto TV platform back in 2014. Bravo!
In 2013 Nas established the Queens Bridge Venture Partners firm and was quoted saying “I’ve always wanted to be surrounded by the smartest people in the world, and didn’t want to limit it to just music,” Over the past 5 years QBVP has enjoyed sizable financial victories like Pill Pack, which is a door-to-door pharmacy service that was acquired by Amazon in 2018. The exact terms of the deal were not being officially disclosed but sources close to the deal say it was for just under $1 billion.
Currently, the QBVP portfolio includes several online platforms like Robin Hood, Splash and House Party that some say are next to a big hit in Silicon Valley.
Another co-owned Nas venture Sweet Chick recently made news headlines. This chicken and waffle micro chain during the recent federal government shutdown where over 800,000 federal workers experienced the longest government shutdown in United States history gave free meals to federal employees at their locations in New York and Los Angeles which is where many vowed to return after they were put back to work.
I think this was a wonderful community to give back and a great business move.
Calvin Cordozar Broadus was introduced to the world as Snoop Doggy Dog in 1992 and a few years later he developed into a musical phenomenon. Fast forward 26 years Snoop on the growing list of black men in music who have evolved and are making major power business moves. In 2015 Snoop decided to title his co-owned private venture capital firm Casa Verde Capital and the initial focus would be on “seed investments” in the developing cannabis industry. The term Casa Verde translated means “Green House” and over the years “green smoking” is something that makes Snoop is known for. With the current legal climate of decriminalizing cannabis possession and the $45 million-dollar initial investment in Casa Verde the fund is secure and is headed towards double or possible triple-digit profits.
LL Cool J and Ice Cube
From venture capital firms to television sports channels black men in the music industry continue to make major business moves and maneuvers. Hip Hop Titans Ice Cube and LL Cool J were also making recent CNBC financial news as they are making a bid to purchase 22 regional sports television networks. In 2018 The Walt Disney Company made a $71.3 Billion-dollar acquisition of 21st Century Fox. During this purchase, several lawmakers believed that Disney who owns ESPN, shouldn’t be able to own all of Fox’s sports networks. The Justice Department is forcing Disney to sell several sports stations.
This includes Fox Sports San Diego, Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports Southwest, and so on. Nestled in the list of channels is the YES Network. Per several reports, this total package of 22 television stations is valued between 15B to 25B. Ice Cube & LL have included billionaire Carolyn Rafaela in the partnership and are in talks with others’ financing sources to come aboard to complete the financing. These acquisitions would be a major power business move for all involved.
Kasseem Dean musically known as Swizz Beatz recently earned his certificate from the Owner/President Management Program at Harvard Business School. This program focuses on growing corporate and financial success while advancing leadership skills needed for becoming a CEO, COO, President, Managing Director, or Executive director of a major company. Kasseem is known by many as the super-producer Swizz Beatz who once was a DJ that evolved into a producer and then a recording artist and a now a powerful businessman.
As a brand promoter, Swizz has a lengthy resume of working with luxury brands like Tesla, Reebok, Aston Martin, Lotus and executing exclusive partnerships with Bally and Monster Headphones. Swizz was recently named the Global Chief for Culture for Bacardi Limited. He will be using his celebrity savvy for brands like Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire and Dewar’s. His goal is to create partnerships and ideas with these specific brands into music, art, and film and create business and awareness for the hip-hop culture globally. Just another example of power business from the focus on the spreading hip hop culture on a global scale.
Clifford Joseph Harris was professionally known as T.I. or Tip with his long-time business partner Jason Geter just launched an investment group titled Syndicate Tech Cypha. The focus of this fund is a target tech startup in its early, growth, and late stages. T.I. being one of today’s seasoned music veterans has found some success in film, television, clothing nightclubs and an artist-owner in the streaming service TIDAL. Tech Cypha is not T.I.’s first attempt in the tech investment space as has his first endeavor 13 years didn’t garner desired results. After recalibrating and focusing more on providing startups with capital, marketing, and branding direction through guided mentorship and various partnerships that include leveraging influencers as they pool their resources in technology investment. This again is another example of one of our hip hops elder statesman leading by example and continuing to make powerful business moves.
UPDATE: Tragically, Nipsey Hussle was murdered in front of his Marathon clothing store in Los Angles in 2019.
One of rap’s newest rising stars Nipsey Hussle is fresh off releasing his critically acclaimed first major studio album “Victory Lap” and has now turned his focus is on creating a resource network for students in underserved communities nationwide. Nipsey and his partner David Gross a real estate developer created a STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, Math) center and co-working space in his native Crenshaw District called Vector 90. “Too Big to Fail” is the title of the STEM Center and is designed to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and the inner city and focus on the lack of diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Their hope is to serve as a conduit between underrepresented groups and corporate partners in Silicon Valley and beyond and the goal is to use resource networks and duplicate it in markets across the country. This is not only a power business move but a move that will affect change for generations to come.
Nipsey is the owner of the fashion brand Marathon Clothing. His flagship brick and mortar store in the Crenshaw Boulevard District where it’s labeled as a “smart store” where customers use a phone app to enhance their buying experience and preview exclusive content from Nipsey himself. This app was created by a 21year old young black man Iddris Sandu who has written algorithms for Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter and the collaboration between himself and Nipsey was to blend technology into the fabric of the shop and create an unbelievable buying experience. Labeled at the first “smart store” in the country the plan is the build 10 other locations with each store having its own driven strategy. Nipsey being a young music veteran doing big business and creating a template for others to follow in retail along with empowering younger black men to participate in the process.
Queens native Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is also no stranger to doing a superior level of business after his redesign years ago. Back in 2007 while still at the top of his rap career he was a minority shareholder in a company Vitamin Water. Coca Cola bought the entire company for over 4 Billion dollars and Curtis walked away with $100 million dollars.
Like his recording resume his resume on business is lengthy and comprehensive from energy drinks like Street King where a portion of each sale is donated to help provide food for targeted areas on the continent of Africa to SMS studio headphones. The high-quality headphones also have the concept of donating a portion of each sale targeted areas that need clean drinking in various countries in Africa. 50 Cent also aligned himself with a spirit brand Effen Vodka where he became the majority stakeholder and he signed a lucrative deal with a luxury underwear brand Frigo reported north of 10 million dollars.
Also, back in 2008, Curtis Jackson started a film company with Lionsgate that produced over 10 feature films and then he made his transition into a television company G-Unit Films. This company has sold a multi-project deal to six different networks including the hit show Power on STARZ which he co-created, stars in, and executive produces and with its success if opening other opportunities for GUF on television. These are all examples of a black man who in music who still records new music but it doing big business and evolving at the same time.
36-year-old William Ray Norwood Jr. also known as Ray J or Brandy’s brother is also on the list of redesign and understanding his purpose. In 2017 after selling several million records, Ray J partnered with a wholesale company of consumer electronics distributors in the United States to create Raycon. This deal was reported to be north of 30 Million Dollars. Two years later he takes one product from the RayCon portfolio and sells it to Canadian company LoopShare for a reported 7 figure dollar amount. Financial reports indicate Ray Con is generating 2 to 3 million dollars a month and that its redesign is doing big business.
Jay-Z and Diddy: A Combined Force
Going back to Diddy and his heartfelt Instagram post he talked about the redesign that everyone must go through and I all could think of was his good friend Sean “Jay-Z” Carter. Both Diddy and Jay are no strangers to first being black and then being in music and both redesigning while doing superpower moves. They have both traded back and forth the number #1 cash earning positions on the Forbes list in the hip-hop and it’s all due to their redesign.
They both a long list of business accomplishments but the most notable are back in 2008 Jay Z, created a partnership with Live Nation the global entertainment company with revenues north of 10 Billion Dollars gave birth to Roc-Nation the entertainment company. Roc Nation has a reach an artist and producer management, sports management, touring and film. Some reports read as of today Roc Nation has over $600 million worth of athlete contracts and endorsements in their portfolio. Roc Nation has newly formed publishing arms which is rumored to have close to $50 million dollars’ worth of assets is that power business is music all spearheaded by Jay Z. Then in 2015 Jay-Z acquired a 56-million-dollar global subscription-based music streaming company named Tidal. Currently, Tidal is valued north of $500 million.
Sean Diddy Combs continues to add to his legacy of power business with his long-lasting relationship with spirit brands Cîroc and Deleon Tequila which both have a massive global reach and continue to evolve.
Revolt TV the digital cable television network created by Diddy is in its 6th year of operation and has a growing subscriber base with shows like State of the Culture, The Breakfast Club broadcast and its array of eclectic music videos.
Diddy also has a portfolio that includes a calorie-free beverage Aqua hydrate for athlete a Charter preparatory school in Harlem, New York and let’s not forget the Sean John clothing brand established back in 1998 still garners global sales and adds to his Sean Combs Enterprises brand.
More times than not in today’s media black men are portrayed in a negative light and the music industry sometimes gets that same stigma but the combination of black men in music and with the recent headlines black music has been BAD! The good news is that there is a large group of black men in music who are doing power business moves not just in the United States but across the globe.
This list is growing and as an elder in this music business told me, “Black people and our music are the architecture of cool and OUR Cool is what makes the world turn and be a better place.”
Lamonte Hayes is a Cultural Maven and Brand Builder and managing partner at BWP Marketing.