Remember when celebrity perfumes and clothing lines were all the rage? Well, things have most certainly changed. Now instead of hocking brands like RocaWear and FUBU, many tech-savvy celebs are sporting everything from headphone companies to mobile apps. From Dr. Dre to Will.i.am, to LL Cool J, celebrity tech deals seemed to be the norm in 2012 as companies compete for an increasingly tech-centric audience. – Winston Ford
Dr. Dre – Beats Audio
The ubiquitous Beats by Dr. Dre headphones are over 4 years old, yet Dr. Dre continues to make news, becoming the highest-earning musician for 2012, according to Forbes. How? By raking in a cool $110 million thanks to a buyback offer from phone maker HTC, in addition to extending the Beats line to include collaborations with HP and Chrysler.
These deals have continued to make Dre a household name despite the fact that he has not released an album in over 10 years. With all of his cash, many fans aren’t holding their breath for new music any time soon.
Will.i.am – Intel and i.am
Traditional endorsement deals use to have celebrities hawking products in commercials, but one company decided to take things a bit further. Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am signed on to be the “Director of Tech Innovation” at Intel, with the producer assisting the chipmaker with research, development and product testing for its current Ultrabook laptops.
Not content with his new job title, last month the mogul launched a camera phone accessory and social network brilliantly titled i.am. The stylish accessory turns regular iPhones into a 14-megapixel digital camera and uploads pics to a branded photo-sharing website that he hopes will rival Facebook and Instagram.
MC Hammer – Square and WireDoo
Let’s face it, we still associate MC Hammer with questionable music choices, 90s excess, and parachute pants.
However, in the past few years, Hammer has become an active player in the tech sector. The MC was an early adopter of Twitter, and he acts as a mentor to young black tech entrepreneurs. As an angel investor, Hammer backed mobile e-commerce startup Square, which inked a $25 million deal with Starbucks in August and will process over $10 billion in payments this year.
WireDoo, the rapper’s “deep search engine” poised to compete against Google and Bing, will launch in 2013.
LL Cool J – Boomdizzle, Dolby and Sony VAIO
The rapper, crooner, actor, and all-around ladies man is now a tech innovator. In 2008, LL Cool J launched Boomdizzle, which allows aspiring recording artists to connect with other artists and enter contests for recording contracts and prizes.
During this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the entrepreneur partnered with Dolby to launch My Connect Studio, a virtual recording studio and collaboration suite that allows artists to make music on the Internet. Following that announcement, Cool James inked a deal with Sony to produce a branded VAIO laptop with My Connect Studio production tools bundled with the operating software.
Big Boi and B.o.B. – Electronic Arts
Video games and hip-hop have gone hand in hand, however artist involvement seemed to be limited to sports franchises and motion oriented games such as Dance Dance Revolution. However, video game publishers know that there are more ways to reach urban consumers in the $17 billion industry.
Multi-million dollar game publisher Electronic Arts tapped Atlanta-based rappers Big Boi (one half of the duo Outkast) and Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr., better known as B.o.B., not only to create the theme song for it’s upcoming shooter Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, but to also appear as playable characters in the game’s storyline. In addition, EA consulted with the rappers who designed custom weapons, tools, and clothing for the game.