On a broad socioeconomic basis, it's unlucky to be born black in this country. Chances are you'll have worse schools, a poorer neighborhood, and face more discrimination than white people. But if you're one of the lucky few who can get a toehold in the corporate world while still keeping abreast of the latest "urban" trends, you can get white businessmen to pay you millions of dollars just for spitballing ideas off the top of your head about how to sell things to white teenagers. Steve Stoute is living that dream.
Stoute is record exec and hip hop manager who figured out this dynamic early. He started a company called Translation Consulting & Brand Imaging that basically involved a large corporation— Reebok, or HP, or GM— coming to him and saying, "Who should we get for our BRAND IMAGE?" He would think for a second and reply, "How about.. Jay-Z?" Then the company would pay him an outrageous fee. And when he got tired of that last year, he sold the agency to Interpublic, a huge marketing firm holding company, for $10-15 million.
Now, he's teaming up with Jay-Z to start an ad agency called (dramatic pause) Translation Advertising! An accurate summary of what Jay-Z will be doing on a day to day basis for the agency is "nothing." Or as the New York Times puts it, he will "offer his creative and entrepreneurial ideas." An accurate summary of what Steve Stoute will be doing is, pretty much the same thing he was doing before. Which is to say, sitting in a meeting room with white business executives and making them feel cool enough to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to him. Now that Jay-Z is in-house, Stoute can just point across the room to signal his strategic branding ideas.
What do his dozens of employees do all day? Not work on the website, apparently. It doesn't really matter. You have to applaud Steve Stoute for his success in bringing the vague, undefined hustling role of a music manager into the corporate boardroom, and increasing his salary by a factor of ten. Jay-Z is rich enough not to even need a cushy job like this, but you can see why he's there: If Stoute ever gets attacked by a rap mogul again, Jay-Z can stab the offender. He has the experience.
Mr. Stoute, we salute your moxie. Your career is a lot like blogging: It has a low bar to entry; a high rate of failure; and even great financial success is no guarantee that the product's not crap.