Class Is In Session

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“Immaculate, this scatter rapping, no passing my blunt


Don’t you put me on freshman covers, I’m posing with lunch


Think they worthy of presence presently passing ’em up


No competing with bleachers jogging I’m running a muck” 

– Isaiah Rashad (“Soliloquy”)

Well, it’s that time of year again and everyone’s favorite debate can now begin; who should grace the cover and make the 2014 XXL Magazine freshman list? As the years go on, I find this list to be irrelevant, simply because of the over saturation of rappers and how rapidly new ones emerge on the scene. Additionally, at this point, there is a something for everybody and there really is no need to complain about the artists you don’t like. Just remember, having millions of YouTube hits and Twitter followers does not always translate in to mainstream success!

Both in 2012 and 2013, I got 5 out of the 10 correct, so I’m hoping for a better score this year! Feel free to share your list with me: You can post your list in the comment section at the bottom of the page or Tweet me @BreezyOnTheBeat! As always, I will update this page once the official cover is out!

Predictions for Cover:

August Alsina – August had a strong single and radio rotation with his single “I Luv It” featuring Trey Songz and Chris Brown, he also has a great sense of melody, and signed with Def Jam this year. His debut album, Testimony, is scheduled to be released on April 15th.

Sage The Gemini – Say what you want about Sage, but with two big singles (“Red Nose” and “Gas Pedal“), and girls twerking all over Vine, you can’t deny the impact his music has had in the clubs and on the radio this year.

Troy Ave – Acclaimed as one of the leaders of the new New York City hip-hop, Troy Ave has been putting in a lot of work this year in order to make himself a staple in the industry.

Ty Dolla $ – The Taylor Gang representer from the West Coast has had a great year so far with his own singles, as well as producing and writing for others including Chris Brown (“Loyal“) and Jennifer Lopez (“Girls“). His recently released Beach House EP has been well received thus far.

Chance The Rapper – The Internet has spoken.

Lil’ Bibby – With a co-sign from Drake and an impressive debut mixtape, Free Crack, Lil’ Bibby is one of this years leaders of the Chicago hip-hop scene.

Isaiah Rashad – TDE’s latest addition has been a nice fit to the crew and slowly proving that he can hold his own in a room full of superstars.

Young Thug – According to DJ Drama’s interview with The Breakfast Club, Young Thug declined to be on the cover.

K Camp – Atlanta’s K. Camp has been creating a strong buzz with his singles “Money Baby” and “Cut Her Off” featuring 2 Chainz; he recently signed a deal with Interscope as well.

Rich Homie Quan – “Type of Way” was a major his this year, he is featured on YG’s breakout single “My Hitta,” and he helped Michigan State win the Rose Bowl. Don’t feel any type of way when he’s on the cover Just work harder! 

Vic Mensa –  #SAVEMONEY

Perhaps a trip to the XXL office?

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Fat Trel – MMG’s latest signee has had a strong buzz over the last few years and with the help of Rick Ross, Fat Trel should have no problem being at the forefront this year.

Honorary Member: Doe B. (RIP)

Honorable Mentions:

See you in 2015!
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Update: I didn’t do so bad!
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2014 Freshman Class
Chance The Rapper. Rich Homie Quan. Isaiah Rashad. Ty Dolla $ign. Lil’ Durk. Troy Ave. Vic Mensa. Lil’ Bibby. Jon Connor. Jarren Benton. August Alsina.
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Death Over Designer

“Fashion killed rock and roll. Fashion killed contemporary art, and turned it vulgar. And if hip-hop artists are not careful it will also kill hip-hop.”

– Jean Touitou, Founder of A.P.C. (via Style.com)

Kanye West in Givenchy kilt

Kanye West in Givenchy kilt

Gianni Versace is rolling over in his grave. Not only was the legendary designer murdered, but his brand is slowly as well. The cause of death; rappers. I initially wanted to write this article six months ago when Givenchy, Balmain, and Alexander Wang were the victims, but now is the right time. With luxury rap at an all time high, at what point do consumers stop feeding into the garbage coming from their speakers and remain practical? (Do you really need an $120 white tee from the Kanye West x A.P.C. collection? Absolutely not.) First, more than half of the rappers who rap about these luxury goods can’t really afford them. Second, you all look stupid! Kilts, capes, and long shirts that look like dresses? I’ll pass…

“I made Jesus Walks, so I’m never going to hell
Couture level flow is never going on sale
Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses
Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive”

– Kanye West (“Otis“)

Whether it is considered high fashion or not, it looks ridiculous on most. Although trends are meant to be set, they don’t always have to be followed. Enter Migos; if you aren’t familiar with the Atlanta-based trio, allow me the honor of introducing you. Quavo, Offset (currently incarcerated), and TakeOff have been buzzing the streets and Internet with their latest mixtape, YRN, filled with nursery rhymes and catchy choruses. One of the songs from mixtape, titled Versace, took off and sprung the attention of Drake, who later added his own verse. The simplicity of the hook, not only has everyone singing it, but scrambling for every last nickel in their piggy banks to afford the brands clothes. For example, at the 2013 BET Awards in June, DJ Drama, J. Cole, and Brandon T. Jackson all showed up in the same sweater. Not only was this embarrassing for all three, but the Migos Halloween costume officially indicated that hip-hop has killed the brand.

BET Awards

(L to R: DJ Drama, J. Cole, Brandon T. Jackson) – 2013 BET Awards

“Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace Versace, Versace Versace

Versace, Versace Versace, Versace Versace”

– Migos (“Versace”)

With respect to the BET Awards wardrobe incident, Complex author James Harris said it best, “If anything, this serves as a very public reminder that style is not achieved by simply copping an expensive and/or rare piece and throwing it on. Creating a representation of your personal sense of style and aesthetic takes much more than that, and should be much more about attitude and perspective than price tag and brand name.” Therefore, let’s leave the styling to Kanye and A$AP Rocky who actually collaborate with designers like A.P.C., Givenchy, and Raf Simmons and appreciate the way the clothes are made.

“I rather buy 80 gold chains and go ign’ant

I know Spike Lee gone kill me but let me finish

Blame it on the pigment, we living no limits

Them gold Master P ceilings was just a figment” 

– Kanye West (“Clique”)

Of course the ultimate goal in hip-hop is to make money and live comfortably – the American dream – but there’s a right and a wrong way to do this. In the latest episode of Complex TV’s The Combat Jack Show, Yonkers MC Styles P was asked what the, “dumbest rapper shit he’s ever done” was. His response; “waste money.” He continued by saying, “Living by hip-hop standards is the stupidest fucking thing you can do.” With that being said, don’t be surprised if you see the veteran rapper riding the Metro North rather than walking the streets of SoHo! It’s always good to see a artist with longevity realize the importance of good credit and paying taxes rather than trying to maintain a high fashion wardrobe.

A$AP Rocky with designer Alexander Wang

A$AP Rocky with designer Alexander Wang

I’ll leave you with this riddle – a white rapper from Seattle, WA named Macklemore walks into a thrift shop with only $20 in his pocket. 4 minutes later, he comes out with three platinum singles and almost 900,000 copies of his album sold independently. On the other side of the United States, an Atlanta rapper named Ca$h Out buys a condo for his wrist and signs with LA Reid’s Epic Records, but most likely can no longer afford the condo he lives in and a debut album nowhere in sight. Oh yeah, don’t be surprised if Trinidad James is in a Cash4Gold commercial in the near future!

Heads up Tom Ford and MCM, hip-hop is coming for you next…

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Versace2

Update: After doing a little research, I have found some more interesting statistics on this topic. Last week, I visited the Versace store in SoHo, NYC and spoke with a salesman. After telling about my article, we began to discuss sales, and the overall business of the company. He told me that he is surprised how a predominately gay fashion line has completely crossed-over into the hip-hop culture. Furthermore, he said that all mens shoes and clothes are constantly sold out in the New York and Atlanta stores and the demand is hard to keep up with. On the other hand, sales in the women’s department aren’t as strong. As you can see from the pictures, Versace is a supporter of The Notorious B.I.G., as well as The Christopher Wallace Foundation. In fact, they even sell the glasses and jewelry he commonly wore supporting the brand. Fascinating stuff.

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Update #2Jay Z Causes Huge Spike in Tom Ford Searches on Yahoo

Album Review: J. Cole – Born Sinner

The other day, my good friend Adam Friedman posted a lengthy review on his Facebook of J. Cole’s sophomore album Born Sinner (In stores Tuesday, June 18th). As a former blogger himself (RIP FreshRespect.Blogspot.com), and a passionate J. Cole fan, as soon as I read his review I knew need to give him this outlet to share his thoughts on the rising Roc Nation superstar. Below you will find Adam’s story on how he witnessed a young J. Cole perform in 2009 to the success he has seen him achieve in 2013. Hope you enjoy.

Born Sinner Cover

By Adam Friedman

On a cold, wet Wednesday night in 2009, a buddy of mine (the only one I could convince) and I took a drive up 81N to the Schine Student Center of Syracuse University. We had class pretty early the next morning, but the chance to see a young and budding Wale was too tempting. We rolled up in more than one way, just as some clowns from Ithaca College would be expected too.

The venue was small, dark, and literally had no stage. We stood right in front of the floor level microphone surrounded by unplugged instruments, completely oblivious to what we were in for. Some time passed, but the dim-lit student center was still far from full.

“We would like to welcome Roc Nation’s first signed artist. This is his first show as a member of Roc Nation so show him some love, ladies and gentlemen: J. Cole.” The place stayed pretty quiet as a six-foot-three St. John’s alum took a nervous walk toward the mic…

Hip hop is still a relatively young genre that over the last decade has been destroyed from the inside-out due to the average consumers need for instant gratification. Due to the invention of the iPod and the dreaded playlist, a cohesive project is no longer desired, regardless of the genre. The truth is, musicians as a whole have had no choice but to succumb to the lazy strategy of making hits over substance to stay relevant over recent years. Internet blogs (oops) and the iTunes Store have helped solidify the platform that the average listener uses as a crutch, looking for the new hit; the song that everyone is going to want to hear, as opposed to appreciating the full sound, the common theme, the cohesive project of the artist. Some of the greatest rappers of all time wouldn’t even stand a chance in today’s market.

J. Cole’s second album “Born Sinner” is a self-loathing reflection on his career thus-far, covering the mistakes and wrongdoings that he has committed due to the temptations within the industry, as well as the journey leading to it: women, money, and fame. The album is similar to a confessional at church for the sins that Cole is ultimately expected to make, as the title of the album indicates.

Villuminati is quite the introduction, not like we expected anything less. The combination of a Biggie sample and the hook “sometimes I brag like Hov” is a clear indication that Cole is ready to be compared to the best. How do you define greatness? Comparison to the best to ever do it. “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is Cole.”

The next five songs (with the exception of the Mo Money Interlude) highlight the tempting lifestyle that comes with the fame, focusing primarily on women. Each song is very different from the other, but the message is clear, women are always on Cole’s mind, and Cole loves him some pussy. In LAnd of the Snakes, he starts getting used to L.A., enjoying the simple pleasures of the beautiful women around him, especially the “Sunday’s with a cherry on-top.” He falls in love on the lead single Power Trip, as shown in the music video featuring Miguel. Cole starts to open his eyes with the help of some liquor on Trouble, “liquor all in my breath, bitches all in my sight.” He is fully aware of the predictability of the women he can bring home each and every night, and clearly, they are all trouble. Runaway is a self-reflection on his past relationships and how he continues to runaway from the commitment and consequences that they may entail. “How the fuck did my life become a damn love song?” is a confession that can be guided back to the lyrics of Power Trip and how easily one can fall in love. The bottom line is, you have to be careful about what you say and do around females, especially in his position as a rapper. Being famous makes nothing easier, as much as the average person may envy the celebrity lifestyle. Cole admits his mistakes to us and asks for forgiveness by explaining the inter-workings of his mind, most importantly as to why he committed these sins, whether it is cheating or sleeping around, and how they are basically inevitable in some situations.

The next phase of the album actually began after Power Trip with the Mo Money Interlude in which Cole has his first experience with some substantial capital gain. Life is good (so it seems), as he goes down the line on different ways different people spend their money. The focus on the temptation of money continues with Rich Niggaz, the song that sounds closest to Pre-RocNation Cole. This track centers around the uneven distribution of wealth within the industry. He uses examples of his life before fame; a fatherless kid with a hardworking mother, a drug user who still did everything she could to keep the family stable, to show how easy it is for corporations to sell you your dreams and get you a ticket out of poverty. Little do you know, you’re stepping into a different kind of struggle, although one is much worse than the other. The song focuses on the forgotten evil surrounding money, and where you put a price on selling out. “There go you, selling me dreams and, telling me things you knew, said, you got what I want, I got what you need, how much for your soul…”

Where’s Jermaine and Forbidden Fruit are the climax of the album, the indication that Jermaine has woken up and is stronger than the temptations that have arose. The gospel choir is presumably a remembrance of Fayetteville, a wake up call if you will. Forbidden Fruit is a clear play off of the story of Adam and Eve, but the message of the song lies in the shared bridge of Cole and Kendrick. “Bitches come and go (you know that), money come and go (you know that), love come and go (don’t shit last)” is a simplification of Cole’s past struggles over the course of the album. Men and women both cheat, money is spent regardless, and love is lost. Nothing lasts forever. This realization is what makes Forbidden Fruit a celebration for Cole overcoming his temptations over the course of his career, most notably with women and money. It’s also dope that he has the voice of Kendrick Lamar to help guide him.

Next up is Chaining Day, a much less dramatic song about the temptation for material things, most importantly the jesus piece, a common symbol within post 90’s hip hop culture. It’s his money and he’s going to do what he wants with it, what’s important is that it keeps coming. The song ends with “ok I lied,” the same line that the next track, Ain’t That Some Shit begins with. This next track is Cole’s bragging moment. As dark as the first half of the album was, you know Cole wasn’t going to leave us without going off on some bars about the good in his life. He now has control over his relationships, he’s traveling the world, and he’s repping his name, home, and family in the best way that he can.

The positive message behind Crooked Smile matched with the catchy hook sung by TLC will guarantee regular radio rotation all summer long. What is amazing is the ability to squeeze in a hit without making it stand out. This is what Cole will be remembered for over the course of his long career. The song is about not changing who you are for anybody, most notably his crooked smile and how far he has gotten with it. Why change now?

After the release of his debut album “Sideline Story,” it was clear that songs were grabbed from various projects and pieced together to form somewhat of a marketable product. Perhaps his biggest hit to date (Workout) was criticized by one of Cole’s biggest inspirations, Nasty Nas. Let Nas Down is the perfect way for Jermaine to tell the world that he is done with the bullshit. If a song sells, it sells, but the charts aren’t the main focus anymore. “Yeah, long live the idols, may they never be your rivals, Pac was like Jesus, Nas wrote the Bible, Now what you’re bot to hear’s a tale of glory and sin, No I.D. my mentor now let the story begin.” The hook says it all: he let down the people that he is really in the game for. This song is an indicator that change has come.

The biggest difference between this project and his debut album is the clear intention for the album to be listened to from start to finish. One could say that the strongest song of the album (Forbidden Fruit) is ruined by the 90-second conclusion in which “Lil Cole” walks into the jewelry store feeling himself, rambling about the “rose gold joint” and “the platinum watch.” The mini-skit seems out of place, until the next song Chaining Day begins. “Look at me, pathetic nigga, this chain that I bought, you mix greed pain and fame this is heinous result.” The contrast is intentional, showing how easy it is for anyone to fall off track and get distracted by the fame. The only way to understand this message is by listening to the album in order, from top to bottom. IN any other order and it loses its’ meaning entirely. The album also begins and ends with the same hook sung by James Fauntleroy, “I’m a Born Sinner, but I die better than that.” The project comes full circle, as Born Sinner acts as the ending credits for the movie that was “Born Sinner.”

Cole’s second album is far from the expected sophomore slump. Born Sinner challenges the everyday hip hop fan to listen for more than a hot beat and witty punchlines. The idea is dark, sinister, and above all honest, something that mainstream rap culture has been missing for far too long. The cohesive theme revolves around temptation, whether it be chasing money, girls, or fame. We are all born sinners, but as life goes on we get better, simple as that. J. Cole’s highly anticipated second album Born Sinner hits shelves Tuesday June 18th! Support real hip hop!!

Thinking Outside of the Box: An Interview with Billy Mann

Billy_Mann

Billy Mann

Resume:

Singer/Songwriter/Producer

 Founder/CEO of Green & Bloom/Top1ine & Chairman of management firm Manncom

GBTopline Logo

Former President of New Music A&R International and President of Global Artist Management at EMI Music

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Billy Mann is an executive you want to know. While many of the industries power players are in front of the camera promoting their labels and brands, Billy is quietly doing that same. Prior to the formation of his companies Green & Bloom/Top1ine & Manncom, Billy Mann was writing and producing for P!nk (“God Is a DJ,” “Stupid Girls,” “I’m Not Dead” and “Nobody Knows”), Robyn (“My Only Reason”), Backstreet Boys (“Poster Girl,” Panic,” “Love Will Keep You Up All Night,” and “Unexpected Sunday Afternoon”) Celine Dion (“Treat Her Like A Lady” and “Amar Haciendo el Amor”), and more. Additionally, during his time at EMI Music, Billy Mann was responsible for helping to launch David Guetta‘s worldwide career. With so much accomplished and experience behind him, having the ability to talk with him was an honor. The information being shared is something that I believe will benefit aspiring artists of all genres. I hope you enjoy this interview and acquire the same amount of knowledge as I did. Please let me know what you think! Leave a comment or send me an email.

Interview Breakdown:

Explanation of Green & Bloom/Topl1ne and Manncom  (0:08 – 3:00)

Talking about his artist Alex Aiono & the struggles aspiring artists are facing (3:01 – 5:34)

What to look for in an aspiring artist (5:35 – 7:38)

How important is it for executives to think globally (7:39 – 10:33)

The importance of publishing and other business aspects of the music industry (10:34 – 15:48)

How Billy learned the music business and his thoughts on music business programs in schools (15:49 – 18:29)

Conclusion (18:30 – 19:50)

A River of Nickels

“In business it’s about who wants you the most” 

– T.I. (Interview with Larry King for OraTV)

Record Dea;

In recent years, the phrase, “How did [insert rapper here] get a record deal when my flow and lyrics are so much better” has been said one too many times. The truth of the matter is that maybe you are better, but you are failing to make the necessary connections in order to enhance your career. Those who have generated organic, viral fans bases rather than spamming people on Twitter and Facebook have seen the greatest reward. One of the beauties of seeing your music reach maximum attention gives you the ability to understand your fan base and value your worth as a musician. 1 million followers do not translate into $1 million dollars.

“We’re a team, 360 degrees, we will reach your goals!

We’ll get a third of the merch that you sell out on the road

Along with a third of the money you make when you’re out doing your shows

Manager gets 20, booking agent gets 10

So shit, after taxes you and Ryan have 7% to split”

– Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (“Jimmy Iovine”)

Record deals come in two forms these days: 360 deals or joint venture label deals. Recently, we have see Drake form his own label through Warner Bros. Records, in 2011, A$AP Rocky’s deal with Sony/RCA Records/Polo Grounds gave him $3 million and the ability to form his own label A$AP Worldwide, and most recently Trinidad Jame$’ $2 million and Chief Keef’s $6 million deals, respectively.

Bottom line is that you get what you negotiate and despite the hate Chief Keef frequently receives, he got exactly what he wanted. In a recent article by DNAInfo.com Chicago, Keef’s lucrative deal was broken down in ways most people outside the industry rarely see.

chiefkeeffinallyrich

Below, I have simplified and broken down the deal so that aspiring artists/record label owners know what to look for and negotiate when the time comes.

  • Number of albums: 3
  • Must sell 250,000 copies of debut “Finally Rich” by Dec. 31, 2013 in order for Interscope to continue to release Keef’s music

         Note: “Finally Rich” has sold 192,137 copies as of August 1, 2013

  • Advance: Upfront money that is paid directly to a recording artist: $440,000
  • Album Budget: Money used to pay for studio time, producers, and other expenses during the creating of album: $300,000
  • Creation of imprint “Glory Boyz Entertainment (GBE)”
    • Separate 3-year deal
    • GBE Advance: $440,000; additional $180,000 + 40% ownership internship for Chief Keef & manager; additional $10,000 + 10% ownership interest to GBE rapper Fredo Santana
    • GBE Overhead Expenses: Expenses of operating a business: $200,000
    • If Interscope suffers $4.5 million in loses, contract is terminated

“You ask for slack and wanna get cut loose from the label

Not able ’cause you signed at the table

For a pretty cash advance, now they got a song and dance

That you didn’t recoup, more soup wit’ ya meal?

‘Cause this is the real when you get a record deal”

–       A Tribe Called Quest (“Show Business”)

Although Chief Keef may have had the luck of the draw, others have to earn their multi-million dollar deals by way of seniority and longevity. After the December 2012 release of his album, Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, Atlanta rapper T.I. became a free agent. After being signed to Atlantic Records for almost 11 years, rumor has it that the self-proclaimed “King of the South” is negotiating a highly structured deal that could earn him an estimated $75 million. If Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Sony, or Universal, all whom T.I. has met with, want him, they’re going to have to make some big promises.

TI-Dre

T.I. with Dr. Dre

  • 3 albums
  • 10-20% of publishing, touring, merchandise, film and TV rights
  • Endorsement deals with major corporations
  • Exclusive signing of all Grand Hustle artists

Ultimately, it’s your decision; you can be swimming in millions or you can be swimming in pennies and nickels. It’s simple; but you must recognize the difference of perception and reality first. You might be the best lyricist in the world, but can you make a hit record? You might have over 1,000,000 YouTube views, but do you have a local/regional foundation? Have you made your mark and created an impact? You also must take into consideration how times have changed. When T.I. went to L.A. Reid’s office at Arista Records in 2001, following his debut album, I’m Serious, and asked for a $2 million budget for his second album, he was dropped from the label immediately. Today, Trinidad Jame$ has one major song under his belt and limited rap experience, but earned himself his $2 million deal from Def Jam.

Remember, the same about of time you spend hating on an artist for the accomplishment, you could be spending advancing yourself; Talib Kweli taught me that!

T.I. with L.A. Reid

T.I. with L.A. Reid

Trinidad James

Trinidad Jame$

Missed my interview with T.I.? Check it out here!

Update: May 10, 2013 – T.I. Talks ‘$200 Million’ Major Label Deal & ‘G.D.O.D.’ Mixtape (via Billboard)

One Man, One Culture: Hello Brooklyn

Me in the photo booth at The Barclay’s Center

“Welcome to the Empire State / Home of the World Trade. Birthplace of Michael Jordan / Home of Biggie Smalls. Roc-A-Fella Records headquarters”

– Jay-Z Feat. Cam’ron – Welcome to New York City

On Friday, November 23rd, I entered the Barclay’s Center for the first time to watch the Brooklyn Nets take on the Los Angeles Clippers. Of course I was excited to check out the game, but I was more excited to see the architecture of the building, because prior to music, that was my passion. The $1 billion dollar arena is filled with bright lights, enormous LCD screens, and nostalgic Brooklyn eateries. As I continued to walk around the facility, I kept saying to my brother, “This place is very hip-hop.” Could this be because of minority owner Jay-Z or is it because of todays culture? The answer is both. Located on the corner of Atlantic Ave. and Flatbush Ave., I saw many people walk into the arena with Nets snap backs by Adidas, ‘So NY’ fitted hats – (a phrase coined by Brooklyn rapper Fabolous), and the very popular, limited edition 40oz NY Givenchy inspired snap back. Overall, it was incredible to see firsthand the dominance of hip-hop and how it is one of the primary sources of marketing in 2012.

Final Score: Brooklyn Nets – 86; Los Angeles Clippers – 76

“Bet a yard (Naw!) / Bet a hundred mil /

That by the songs end I’ll probably start another trend”

 – Jay-Z – 30 Something

Jay-Z has managed to take an entire culture and make it the driving force behind a new team, brand, and economy. Sitting next to the Brooklyn Nets bench along with Beyoncè & Kelly Rowland, you could tell how proud Jay-Z is that he can now, park at his own arena (Jay-Z, “3 Kings”). After all, his music and various other entities are incorporated throughout the entire facility.

“He is [the face of the team], He is us. He is how people are going to see that place.”

– Bruce Ratner, Barclay’s Center financier & developer (New York Times)

RocaWear

RocaWear store at The Barclay’s Center

On the corner of Atlantic Ave., right next to the official Brooklyn Nets team store, you can find RocaWear, Jay-Z’s urban apparel that at one time grossed over $700 million in sales. Although Jay-Z sold the rights to the Rocawear brand in 2007 to Iconix Brand Group for $204 million, he still retains stake in the company and continues to oversee the marketing, licensing, and product development.

40/40 Club & Restaurant

Jay-Z at the grand opening of the 40/40 Club @ The Barclay’s Center

Overlooking the court, you can find Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club & Restaurant. The club has created an element that gives spectators the ability to party and watch the game at the same time. Although it is too early to project the success of the club, the original 40/40 Club located in lower Manhattan is expected to generate a $10 million per year profit*.

Music

On The Court

Every dribble of the basketball is complimented with a beat. Whether it’s warming up to French Montana’s “Pop That” or hustling down the court to a Jay-Z instrumental, the Barclay’s Center is constantly making sure you’re on your feet cheering. Additionally, each halftime show features a performance by a known artist (so far R&B singer Mario & Slick Rick have performed).

Off The Court

To open the Barclay’s Center, Jay-Z performed a series of 8 concerts at affordable prices (*an average Jay-Z ticket is usually $119 per show) to 18,000 fans per night.

Math: 18,000 people x 8 nights = 144,000 tickets sold

Jay-Z Performing at The Barclay’s Center

According to Forbes Magazine, Jay-Z’s shows generated an estimated $15 million, leaving a cool $5 million for Jay-Z himself.

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Other involvements for Jay-Z in the team/arena include: helped design team logo & colors, chooses halftime performances and music coordination, Armand de Brignac (Ace of Spades) champagne is served in suites (financial interest in brand), and advertising (Jay-Z co-owns marketing/PR firm Translation with Steve Stoute).

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The fourth largest, first hardest, Brooklyn is the place /

Settled by the Dutch many years ago /

Three billion strong and here we go

– Mos Def – Brooklyn 

The purpose of this post is not to show off Jay-Z’s entities or financial success. We all know what he has and what he’s capable of creating and doing. Many artists are one-dimensional these days and fail to see the opportunities that corporate America can provide. Clearly, consumers and major company executives trust the youth and their culture to place large budgets on projects they see future profit in. Hip-hop isn’t about being misogynistic, a gangster, or drug dealer/user; those are personal choices. It’s about incorporating a passion for music and expanding it to a broader audience that will allow you to reach personal and professional success. Jay-Z has a loyal fan base, New York City enjoys basketball, and Brooklyn residents love their borough; it’s a match made in heaven. I hope that every artist can see the bigger picture and take their careers to the next level. I also encourage everyone to visit the Barclay’s Center if they have the opportunity!

* – Information gathered by Zach O’Malley Greenburg & Forbes Magazine

Power Of A Dollar

“Musicians are poor, there’s no getting around that. Freelance musicians have to tie together a lot of different things to make a living, and don’t have a lot of support from their teams. There are successful musicians — but the vast majority of people aren’t that.”

– Jean Cook (Future of Music Coalition, July 31, 2012)

As I conclude my summer internship here in New York City, I feel that it is important that I share a part of my experience with all aspiring artists. Sitting in my cubical at this medium size accounting firm, gold and platinum plaques fill the hallways of the music department. Some of the plaques belong to recognizable names of hip-hop, rock, R&B, and everything in between; at the same time, some of the plaques may have you questioning who the artists are and how did they manage to sell 500,000 to a million copies of their album. To me, this symbolizes how the music industry has completely changed over the years and how technology has clearly transformed everything. As we know, records aren’t selling like they used to and artists are often left struggling and searching for royalties in order to survive. Ironically, Cassidy said it best, and he’s probably one of these people,

“Royalty checks come, like, once in a blue moon” 

– Cassidy (“I’m A Hustla“)  

This summer, I have seen first hand some of hip-hop’s legendary DJs and rap groups, who many of you would kill to meet and have your music heard by, reach serious financial difficulties. These difficulties stem from many things: poor business management in the past, buying unnecessary items (the hip-hop stigma), and not paying taxes. If there is one thing that I’ve learned this summer it is that Uncle Sam and the IRS want, and will get the money they are owed. Right, Young Buck & Beanie Sigel? Bottom line, whether you are an artist with a big budget or you’re an artist with a smaller budget, but has consistent touring and strong merchandise sales, please hire a good business manager/accountant. Their services will take off a lot of your financial stresses.

By this point in the blog I would hope that you would be asking the question, “How do I make sure that I don’t reach that point?” Simple – Branding and Touring. Let’s start with branding.

Branding

Many of today’s top artists are getting bored with just rapping. Swizz Beatz, for example, designs cars, paints, and is an executive at Reebok, Pharrell has about 6 clothing lines, a book coming out, and a new multimedia company called I Am Other, Lil’ Wayne decided to hop on a skateboard, and Snoop Dogg decided to change his name to Snoop Lion in order to become a reincarnated Bob Marley. Additionally, we’ve seen Diddy take over the alcohol industry with Ciroc and of course, Dr. Dre is the staple of headphones. All of these guys have found ways to stretch their money and image, yet still remain household names and attract different demographics. A recent Huffington Post article suggested,

“According to industry experts, the only way to make money in the music business is to turn an artist into a brand — then do everything in your power to maximize that brand’s value. Songs make an artist famous in the first place, and allow the artist to define his or her brand.” 

– Joe Satran (Huffington Post, July 31, 2012)

That statement alone clearly exemplifies the importance of giving and earning respect within the music industry. Major corporations aren’t going to endorse artists who have weak followings, a poor image, or a criminal record – as we’ve seen with T.I. and his loss of Chevrolet and Axe sponsorships.

Touring

A recent survey conducted concluded that musicians made an average of about $34,000 off their music in America, before deducting expenses from touring and recording. Trust me, after doing payroll tax and completing tax forms 940 and 941 all summer, I have learned that there are many people that need to get paid on behalf of the work they’ve done for you if you want to have a legitimate entity. Just because the overall average of revenue earned in America is low, doesn’t mean that affects every artist. Take legendary band The Who for example, they are about to embark on a 37 city tour in 2012/2013 on a $20 million dollar budget! Unfortunately, not every artist can successfully do that. The days of having one hit record + million albums sold + tour = longevity are far gone; in today’s market, you may only remain relevant for 6 – 8 months with that formula. That’s why the new formula is consistent music + strong/loyal fan base + continuous touring + merchandise sales = success. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your team on how you want to approach your career.

There you have it readers, and in the words of a fellow South Floridian, “Always pay your taxes, never pay these hoes” – Rick Ross (“MMG The World Is Yours”). I hope that my insight will lead you on a path of great fortune and fame; just don’t forget to give me the 10% I’m entitled to for teaching you a thing or two! Until next time…