On a rain-soaked March afternoon, rap artist Jay-Z and his partner, Damon Dash, are taking care of business. They cruise down the slick Manhattan streets4Jay-Z in his sleek, black Mercedes and Dash in a huge Land Rover with entourage in tow4to their next appointment. This time, they’re preparing for what will turn out to be a two-hour photo shoot. Jay-Z inspects more than 15 styles of shoes before selecting the right footwear (he never wears the same pair twice), while Dash, an amateur boxer still pumped up from 12 rounds of sparring, uses his weapons of choice4a two-way pager and cell phone4to keep track of pending business deals.
This is how they roll. In any given hour of any day, the duo could be found in the studio producing the next hottest CD, shooting a music video, reviewing the latest gear from their successful line of urban apparel, or screening one of their “thug life” movies, chock-full of rap acts from their music label. To manipulate these complementary activities, they pay attention to the smallest of details4even shoes for a photo session4and seek out the next lucrative opportunity. It’s all part of a strategic plan to effectively use one project to cross-promote their image and cluster of brands.
That’s how Jay-Z, Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke created Roc-A-Fella Enterprises, a $300 million empire that used hip-hop to emerge as a major business force. Roc-A-Fella’s music and films may depict the hard knock life, but its operation is top flight. And, in the process, it’s generating paper4loads of it. “We didn’t like the way the music biz was treating us,” says Dash, CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records, the label he formed with Jay-Z (a.k.a. Shawn Carter), 10 years ago. “I’m not going to let anyone tell me what to do. It’s our music and we’re going to do it our way.”
Over the years, Roc-A-Fella expanded on that philosophy. Today, visit their Website and you can find4and purchase4an array of products through “Roc-A-Fella Center.” Such efforts have generated $100 million for their record label, another $150 million for Roc-A-Wear apparel, and $50 million for projects such as films. And coming soon: Roc-A-Fella Sports.
The products and images created by Roc-A-Fella’s Dash and Jay-Z, as well as their brethren Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and Master P have created the Hip-Hop Economy, an economic force transforming commerce across the globe. Think that’s hype? Well, think again. Every hip-hop CD sold, every dollar made from urban gear, every buck generated from television shows, radio programs, films, and even video games with a bit of “flava” contribute to this $5 billion burgeoning sector.
Over the next four issues, BE will explore hip-hop’s impact on the music, fashion, sports, and film industries. In this part, we reveal its power in shaping advertising campaigns and directing consumer purchases.
Hip-hop is the culture of America’s urban youth. It’s a way of dressing, speaking, and behaving, all with an in-your-face attitude. It evolved from rap music, a sound born in the inner city, characterized by