The Ruler’s Back

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

This is an exciting year for hip-hop. On August 11th, it turns 50. I fell in love with it back in high school. It was the first music that spoke to me and it’s had my heart ever since.

Hip-hop is a culture, a mindset, and a lifestyle. It’s made up of our generation’s greatest storytellers. It’s a crucial element of our collective historiography, not pulled from history books but written by the hip-hop community itself.

Hip-hop changed the world in many ways and it changed the playing field for brand partnerships forever. Before hip-hop, brand partnerships were viewed as “selling out.” But when Run DMC made an entire arena hold up their Adidas shell toes, branding became cool.

Brand partnerships are now a badge of honor. They are a necessary co-sign; a marketing boost; a serious growth hack. The entrepreneurial spirit of hip-hop culture had a tremendous impact on the entertainment ecosystem and shifted power dynamics in music.

One of my favorites storytellers in hip-hop history is Slick Rick. Rick and I go back like 8-tracks. I proudly participated in his homecoming show in London, where he was born before spending most of his life in the Bronx. We had him at Wembley! Since then, I have worked with him and his wife, Mandy, on countless events, parties, and activations.

This year, the Grammys offered him a well deserved lifetime achievement award, which he graciously accepted. But Rick isn’t into reminiscing. He’s looking forward now…to his first album in 24 years. It’s dropping this summer, was produced by Idris Elba, and is being distributed by Nas’ Mass Appeal label. The rollout I’ve been watching unfold – which features a cartoon and an iconic coffee table book about his jewelry collection – sounds incredible.

Collaborations made Rick who he is. In 1984, he partnered with Doug E. Fresh and made hip-hop history. He then proceeded to work with countless rockstars and brands. He’s the most sampled hip hop artist in history. But what excites me most is his openness to new ideas.

Yesterday morning in San Diego, the invite-only PTTOW! summit held a sparks session around collaboration and storytelling. PTTOW is a global community of creative brand marketers. Their annual summit focuses on culture, curation, and relationship building. It’s a top tier gathering for marketing experts in terms of quality, the team behind it, and the attendees. At the end of the day, PTTOW! awarded Rick an award for his contribution to culture. It was a very special day.

I’ve spent my career at the intersection of art and commerce. I have great respect for the legends, especially those like Slick Rick who put in the work to remain relevant through visionary partnerships, and who keep creating for the culture, decades later.

No Fields Found.

Also published on Medium.