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76 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI


David Banner WORDS KEYLA MCKNEELY PHOTOGRAPHY RICHARDFLOOD.COM

I

t is easy for society to group all rap artists into one judgmental category and say they are all the same; but it’s not so easy to prove it, especially when you fix your attention to one artist, in-particular, who screams to make a difference within the Black community with his music and his philanthropic efforts. Getting to know Mississippi bred rap artist, David Banner should not be taken for granted and is as easy as listening to the lyrics of any of his soon to be five albums. Each album name signifies time, a specific time in his life and what he has gone through. When talking to him, it only takes one glance into his eyes to tell there is deep rooted knowledge hiding behind his pupils. Even though life for him has been very rough at times, he appreciates the path he has taken so much so that he spends time informing and mentoring his audience on his mistakes hoping they will not do the same. Banner is not afraid to tell the truth; and there is nothing stronger than a man with a spirit – a spirit to do better, achieve greatness and a spirit to provide. It is because of this spirit, Banner has been able to succeed through many adversities such as being homeless and living in his van when he was trying to get his music heard. In some cases, I would say ignorance truly is bliss, but is not when ignorance is holding you back from learning and appreciating a real, talented person with a good, genuine heart. Banner has a new, much-anticipated album set for release in October called, The Greatest Story Ever Told. With this album, listeners can expect a wide collaboration with great artists and great stories told to you by Banner himself. He credits this album as being a musical documentary. For Banner, this past year has been extremely tough and he even discloses his bouts with depression. However, over the past few months, there is a new horizon for Banner, even a new love and he wants to share this journey with all. Many times introduced to us as David Banner the Rapper, allow yourself to become familiar with David Banner, The Actor. I had the great opportunity to sit with Banner while he was in LA auditioning for new roles and putting the finishing touches on his new album. He opened himself up for me and now I want to share it with you. Get to know him as a person, you won’t be disappointed. Issue XI • OwnerS Illustrated • 77


“We give kids a false interpretation of what a man is supposed to be. Sometimes you have to let the kids see you fall or not succeed so they won’t give up when the same thing happens to them.” — David Banner Tell me about this new album coming out. It’s called, The Greatest Story Ever Told. I can say it is one of the best repped albums in the last three years. The first single is called, “9mm.” The second will be, “Get Like Me.” I know you have a few collaborations on this album. Yeah, I have a song with Chris Brown, UGK, Snoop Dog, Akon, Yung Joc, T.I., Carl Thomas, Jim Jones, etc… This album is documenting my life from when I first started out and I was homeless, struggling to who I am now. I went from sleeping in my van to having a house in New York, LA, Atlanta and Mississippi. It’s like a story, being that it comes from the perspective that I didn’t have any major labels behind me, and when I did get signed to a major label it was when SRC [SRC/Universal Motown] first started. I was the first act, so I didn’t have that power structure around me and if anything, I helped them get off their feet. I didn’t end up signing to anyone who could mentor me and put me in the faces of their fans. Every piece of success I had, I scrounge it up myself and I think if people want to see a person come from a non-popular place and put it on his back and walk up the hill, this album will show them, no matter where you are from, if you believe in God and you’re ready to put in the work that is called upon, then you will make it. So, from the beginning of you being a musician and rapping, how long did it take you before you were signed the first time? Can you actually put a year on it? It was about 10 years. I’ve been doing this since I was in the 78 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI

sixth grade. That’s a long time to wait when you have a dream… But I think that struggle was a blessing because if I would have gotten on anytime before then, I probably would be somewhere high on crack or something like that. A lot of times when our success does not come or that job that we want doesn’t come, we think that it is the devil or God not listening to our pleas and cries; sometimes God knows that his child is not prepared. I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t learned all the things I needed to learn in order to be the leader that God has allowed me to be. It’s funny, I see all the stuff that I do now, all the adversities and all the trials and tribulations, how those lessons prepared me for the stuff that I am doing now. It is amazing and I am very happy for the process. I went through a major depression last year. Rappers don’t talk about that kind of sh*t man. Our race generally doesn’t like to talk about that. Right. We give kids a false interpretation of what a man is supposed to be. Sometimes you have to let the kids see you fall or not succeed so they won’t give up when the same thing happens to them. One of the biggest problems in the world is when you think you’re the only one that’s going through something. So, I try to allow this album, The Greatest Story Ever Told, to be an open book to my life, so kids maybe won’t have to go through the same things I did and if they did, they’ll know that they can get through it. Look at me I’m stunning. (He smiles and I chuckle).


Can you tell me more about your depression and what provoked it. I wouldn’t wish depression on my enemy. To be trapped in your own body, I couldn’t sleep for days at a time. When I think about it now, I don’t deal with any bull or levels of stress. Any relationship that I had with a friend, girlfriend or whatever… if at anytime it starts to get stressful, I cut it off. I don’t even want to get close to going back there. I have never been depressed before and maybe because I was such an alcoholic before, I was close to a depression and didn’t know it. Now, I don’t really mess around like that anymore and as I become a man, hopefully my stories will help others. If there is one problem in the black community it is that we don’t mentor or have mentors. That is why people don’t mind giving athletes $80 million because they don’t know what to do with it anyway. They just go buy shoes and cars; basically, they give the money right back. So, as far as understanding that, I want to hopefully be one of those people that kids can come back to. Wow. That is very admirable. With your new life, has your work ethic changed? Actually after I came out of my depression, I don’t work like I used to. God revealed to me that he is my God – not rap music. I use to do 18-20 hour days. Now, I go in the studio and do what I have to do and if I don’t feel it, I go home. I work hard but I don’t overwork myself and I don’t kill myself. I go home and now I’m going to take off a couple of days- go ride my motorcyclego running or jogging and when I come back to the studio, I’m recharged. I would rather work four hours a day at 100 percent. I get a whole lot more done. My work ethic is still there but it’s a little bit smarter and I’m starting to learn, it’s crazy. I said this a couple days ago in an interview and I never really thought about it, but it’s true… I really didn’t start loving myself until about four months ago. I dropped down in weight and started training and I stopped letting people treat me any kind of way – I mean business-wise. If I come and do your interview and my sh*t isn’t right, I’m not going to do it. If my dressing room isn’t right, I’m not doing the show. I tell people all the time, treat me like you would want your kids to be treated because I don’t ask for more than what I’ve earned or what I deserve. People are not ready when they say they are going to be ready. We come to shows and sit around two or three hours, man, you could have been in the bed sleep. It’s definitely been a revelation. It has been a travel and a journey that affected me as a man because now, for the first time in my life, I’m happy with just being Lavelle Crump, not David Banner. I’m happy with being myself, by myself living in that big ole’ house alone; if the music works, I know it’s within Gods will. You have to work hard… It isn’t just left up to God. You have to work for it too and meet him half way. He takes over when you can’t do anymore. That is what faith is about- you doing all that you can and right before you are just ready to give up, God steps in and says, “Okay, I got you. Let me take care of this for you.” Why should God help you and you’re not helping yourself. You wouldn’t help anybody that is not helping themselves. Why should you? In essence, as long as I do what I am supposed to do and I am in line with him, there is nothing that I can’t do. In the end, I just want to go to heaven. I would love to have a triple platinum album but I would much rather be here as a martyr- with people knowing that I helped other people; knowing that I had an influence and an affect on somebody’s life and more than just a hot record. How did you get out of your depression? The only way to get out of it is to keep living and the only way to deal with depression is to recognize it, then deal with the

problem. If your girlfriend or boyfriend is stressing you out that bad, get them out of your life. Depression is easier than people give it credit for. The only thing that people have to understand is if it took you seven months of bull to depress you, then it’s going to take, at the least, half of that to get it off of you. People think like me; I was looking for the overnight solution and then I realized maybe it’s something that God wants me to learn. Let me sit in this valley for a minute. Let me see what it is he is trying to tell me. I had a nice house, a Bentley, from the outside, I was straight, inside I wasn’t about sh*t. I was overweight and 21 points away from diabetes, unhealthy, drinking too much, too many leaches. The title of my second album was “Baptized in Dirty Water.” That’s what it meant; No matter what your intentions are if you are in dirty water, nine times out of 10, you are going to come out filthy, even if you are trying to get better. What are you doing here in LA? Training. I’m trying to become a movie star. I want to be an actor. (He smiles joyfully) That is what I want to do with the rest of my life. Are you still going to make music? I might. I’ve found a new girlfriend, a new love. She’s prettier and makes more money. Meaning acting… (laughter) Yeah, Music doesn’t allow me to be somebody different than David Banner. I tried to expand my music horizons and do different types of music, but people just really want me to be the “Like a Pimp” David Banner. When I make the most money, it’s when I make music like my songs, “Play” and “Like a Pimp.” So, I tried the Cadillac on 22’s, I tried the Crank it Up’s. I tried to push the envelope. Do you think people expect that from you because you’re from Mississippi? I don’t know. But what they do get is an intelligent, articulate black man and people can’t stand that. And they are surprised, I’m sure! They are very surprised and I love it. So, also since they think I’m stupid they reveal their true selves to me. I saw you in Black Snake Moan and your breakout performance was nice. Are there any other projects you are working on or auditioning for? I recently shot This Christmas with Idris Elba, Chris Brown, Delroy Lindo, Regina King, Columbus Short, Laz Alonso and other great respected actors. Also, I have Days of Wrath coming out. Me, Laurence Fishburne, Slim Thug, Rick Ross; It’s going to be hot. You’re going to be proud of it. How was your experience working with Laurence Fishburne? Wonderful. We actually weren’t in the same scene but I had an opportunity to spend some time with him. It was almost like sitting by King [Martin Luther King] in that, he was very regal. Even with the way he talks (Banner beginning to imitate him as he raises his chin). He talks this way (following with a smooth voice), “Hahaha David, I really like your work there.” So, he didn’t have any problems with you as an artist coming from music? Oh no, man. When people see that you’re serious and you stand like a man, and you’re actually studying the craft they respect that. I flew back and forth from Mississippi every week for a Issue XI • OwnerS Illustrated • 79


year taking acting classes before I took my first movie because I didn’t want people to say the same thing about me. What classes did you take? She is still my acting coach now. Her name is Warner Loughlin. She’s beautiful, awesome. How did you go about getting your role in Black Snake Moan? I tried out for the movie and this is something people don’t know, I actually sucked the first time. I did really badly. First of all, I didn’t have an agency backing me. I found out about the movie on my own and right before I walked in to audition, I found out my daddy had cancer. I was just about to walk through the door. So, I had that to deal with and then, at the time, my album wasn’t doing so well and Hurricane Katrina happened. All of that was going on at the same time and that was sort of like the beginning of me going into my depression. It was a terrible time and when I auditioned, I felt so bad. Afterwards, I went to Kim, the casting director, and I told her I know I can do this but everything is f*cked up for me right now. I asked her to please give me another chance because I knew I was the person for the role. She gave me two weeks. I canceled all of my shows and I locked myself up. At that time, that is the only thing I did was live that character. I came back and I wrecked it so hard that they said they weren’t supposed to tell me, but I had the role. And that was history. How was that feeling? I know you felt great afterwards. No, not really. I have a theory. I was also SGA president at Southern University in Baton Rouge. I was a thug off of the street who just happened to be smart. I never wanted to be SGA president. It was actually a challenge. We were sitting in a poetry reading and I don’t like to hear people complaining and not do anything about it, so I told them if they all shut up, I will run for president myself. They said – well if you run, we will support you. I was like well I’ll go sign up, not thinking that they were really going to be behind me. So, I signed up and they said we’re behind you. Well when I won, I realized it’s easy to lose, but not to get the part. If you lose, you just go back to being who you are everyday anyway. The problem and when the responsibility starts is when you make it. That is when the pressure starts. Do you think your fans are expecting more of you now? I think I really confuse my fans and I really do apologize to them. I’ve always tried to please me and what I was going through mood wise and musicly. In part, my fans don’t know what to expect. Is he going to be a revolutionary, is he going to be on some sex, is he going to be on God, is he going to be on some pimping, is he going to be killing people or is he going to be saving the world? Who is David Banner? I’ve had so many of my fans tell me that and ask me who I am because they are confused. It is going to be a great definition of who I am with this record, the Greatest Story Ever Told. I know who I am and more than that, I know what my fans want to hear from me and I’m just going to consistently give them what they want. When you go to McDonald’s, you know you want a number one. Get out of the way and let somebody else order; you know you want a Big Mac, fries and a coke product. When you come to David Banner, I know what you want. You want some street, but you want streets with a little bit of revolutionary edge and some God. That is all people want from David Banner. They’re saying, “Let me think about something – just a little bitthen, go back to jamming. • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI

And, you have a new project coming up soon with the Cartoon Network. That Crook’d Sip. I am an executive producer as well as a voice and I do the soundtrack. I heard it will be very interesting, to say the least. Tell me all about it. It is a revolutionary cartoon and deeply rooted in race relations. I honestly can’t believe they are letting me do this cartoon. It is more controversial than any record I have put out. But, the thing I learned as I got older is that revolution doesn’t always have to be mean or mad. If you can make people think about stuff and make them smile and laugh at the same time, it is more powerful than any gun or punch that you can throw and with the success of Dave Chappelle and the Boondocks, they have put black people in the position to do whatever we want to. So I am pushing the envelope. What is the show about? It’s about this white family who is mentally trapped in the 1800’s but they are in Mississippi present time. So, imagine if white folks talked the way that they used to talk in the 1800’s to us today. It’s crazy. My character, Virgil owns the hottest restaurant in Miss. He is young, black and successful so you know he is getting hated on by other black folks. But his family still stays with the white folks on the plantation. So, he is dealing with that. It is silly and far off, but the stuff that we talk about is really real. And, it makes people think. How did that deal come about for you? My homeboy Nick Weidenfeld from the cartoon network was a really big fan of David Banner. He actually wrote the cartoon and didn’t know me- never thinking he would meet me. But, he was so heavily influenced by my first album, then he met me at Ludacris’ Red Light District Party and we have been homies ever since. I was at that party. Yeah, that was the greatest party I’ve ever been to. But it’s crazy because I love cartoons. One thing I tell people is everybody says they are gangsta rappers but they won’t tell the truth. If you’re gangsta, you’re gangsta regardless of what you do. I like the Powerpuff Girls, The Avatar, I like Dexter’s Laboratory. The only thing I watch is Cartoons and ESPN because my life is gangsta. I don’t want to sit up and look at Belly and Scarface, etc. I live that life and I see that stuff in my neighborhoods all the time. I want to be happy and cartoons make me happy. I’m hooked on Justice League and Smallville. I watched five years of Smallville in three months. One of my most gangsta homeboys told me to watch it, then next thing you know I’m saying f*ck Lex Luther! What was your favorite game growing up as a child? Basketball. I loved Shaq and Baron Davis. I know you are a man for giving back and have hosted some really great efforts to earn money for Hurricane Katrina. Do you have any philanthropic endeavors going on now? Man that is all I did for a while. It hurts me that I do as much as I do in the community and people don’t support the good guy. I’m the person who does all the drops and Katrina work for years. I stand up for the people and the people don’t stand up for me. It’s time for people to stand up for me. Go buy The Greatest Story Ever Told – my album – if you want me to continue to do the work that I do, because if I keep doing, I’m going to mess around and be broke.


“It is going to be a great definition of who I am with this record, the Greatest Story Ever Told. I know who I am and more than that, I know what my fans want to hear from me and I’m just going to consistently give them what they want. “ — david banner Issue XI • OwnerS Illustrated • 81


82 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI

h u s t l e WORDS Damola

“I take quarter water sold it in bottles for 2 bucks, Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions, that’s what’s up”

50 CENT


$

n o m i c $

Image courtesy of Interscope Records

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Photography: Banks 84 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI


Y

ou really cannot speak about someone until you have had a chance to walk in their shoes. While the culture and art form of hip-hop globally prospers, the origins and environments that inspire the culture are often overlooked, ignored and discarded in any logical discussion about the negative impacts of the culture. When talking heads and pundits railed with the assertions of Don Imus that his racially charged comments were derived from hip-hop, they simply were endorsing ignorance and ignorance is a disease not an excuse. In a world where people still hang nooses on trees, and ride around with nooses on their pickups in hopes of a return to an era of slavery and racial injustice, the fact remains that the deck is stacked against black youth like you can never fathom. The art and science of these hustlers/ entrepreneurs who come from the most down trodden, impoverished, violent neighborhoods could make them the darlings of Wall Street and enterprise if properly applied. In the 80’s during the Ronald Regan Era the narcotics trade reached an all-time high and its byproduct are disenfranchised youth who had little options for survival. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is one such product who was essentially orphaned at age eight in Southside Queens, NY home of notorious drug kingpins Pappy Mason, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, Montana, et all, and he actually went head-up against Preme who has been suspected of ordering the infamous “hit” on his life in front of 50 Cent’s grandmothers house and his son on May 24, 2000.

When you are young in the blighted urban environments, your best hope for success is either through sports or entertainment, otherwise your employment is on the corner in the enterprise of narcotics and your dream is to go from a G ($1,000) to a key (one kilo of substance) to fulfill fantasies of living like Al Pacino’s character Scarface. 50 Cent had these dreams but refined them. Sports didn’t work as he had golden glove aspirations, narcotics was no longer an option after the attempt on his life, and entertainment was a long shot due to his feud with then powerful Supreme affiliated Murder Inc. “I’m a be bigger than Cat, bigger than Preme, I’m a be the last one standing, know what I mean,” he chimes on a recent street opus “Southside”. He has fulfilled his claims as he has surpassed all the “OG’s” by applying the mentality the environment fostered into legitimate enterprise. Every negative he bore on his shoulders, he has turned into strength. From his crafty approach to move his mixtapes on the same streets where narcotics was no longer an option, garnering himself the opportunity to enter an agreement with Dr Dre and Eminem as a recording artist, to his upcoming book the 50th Law with Robert Greene, where he’s adding his own survival philosophies to the best selling 48 Laws of Power. 50 Cent is an empire unto himself and his management Violator and him have carefully crafted highly lucrative agreements that reward him from the over $6 billion in revenue he has earned for his partners since his debut in 2003. To date, his biggest deal has been with Glaceau, the makers of Vitamin Water, which was acquired by Coca-Cola this year for $4.1 billion. In 2005 I asked him, “how did you decide to buy a piece of it? (Vitamin Water). His response was, “It’s always better to have a bigger piece of a pie- especially when there are a lot of opportunities there

for you. Vitamin Water is a privately-owned company and it’s based in Queens. You know how companies give stock options? Well they had stocks and they freed up enough for me to buy enough to make it a priority.” That answer was good enough to understand his take estimated from $100,000,000 to over $400,000,000 was substantial and the move in itself shrewd. Yet without the partnership with 50 Cent, the sale wouldn’t have net anywhere close to the final amount. 50 Cent is the best endorser there is, period, because he integrates the campaigns into his lifestyle and at the height of his popularity, the small company from Queens enjoyed year over year profits in excess of 100% as they integrated their brand into 50 Cent’s tours and marketing. 50 Cent’s relationship with Reebok is still vibrant as a new shoe, The Trilla, will debut this fall after over 4 million pairs of G-Unit’s have been sold along with boots, jackets, hats and accessories. Marc Echo recently renewed 50 Cent’s clothing deal which also includes a women and kids line, and also gave him new digs in his building in Midtown New York. The 1500 sq-ft penthouse includes a gym, studio, shower and anything a mogul could desire; small, however, compared to a 50,000 sq estate in Connecticut which is currently on the market for $18.5 million. 50 Cent recently partnered with General Motors, Pontiac division and already has been showcasing their all-new rear wheel drive vehicle the G8 in video’s with Ciara and Robin Thicke. He has even given away one of the G6 GXP Streets. They also sponsored his legendary Five Borough Tour of New York City. At his shows, he brought out affiliates of his enemies in their own borough. His book venture with MTV has flourished and production on a film based on Ski Mask Way has already begun. That production however isn’t 50 Cent’s only film venture; he is currently filming Righteous Kill with Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro, who also plan to film New Orleans with 50 Cent. Nicolas Cage is also in pairings with him in the boxing movie The Dance, and he and manager Chris Lighty are working on a film about an underground car ring called Live Bet. This of course is in addition to Home of the Brave about the Iraq war filmed with Jessica Biel and Samuel Jackson, which is expected to be released nationwide soon. He also has a line of condoms he is planning to call Magic Stick, along with another foray into the Video Game world where his Bulletproof was a smashing success selling over 2 million copies. To date, he has also been active with his G-Unity Foundation; In fact, 50 cents of each G-Unit sneaker sale was donated to charity. These other ventures make moot his recent charts battle with Kanye West. Their friendly competition brought consumers to the registers with Kanye selling 960,000 to 50 Cent’s 691,000- both the highest first week debuts of the year. Kanye’s total actually was the best debut since 50 Cent’s last album The Massacre. Sales reached 1.14 million when released in March of 2005. Worldwide sales for 50 Cent’s Curtis album approached 2 million in the first week according to parent company Vivendi, so his popularity is as strong as ever. This year, he also plans to release a group album with G-Unit and you can forecast his involvement as Executive Producer on other albums such as Rocafella’s Freeway and the legendary L.L. Cool J. According to Forbes, 50 earned $32 million last year and was second to only Jay-Z among hip-hop Cash Kings. In a historic move, him, Jay-Z and Diddy, the top three on the Forbes list, made a remix to his smash single I Get Money and titled it Forbes 1-2-3, the billionaire remix. Love

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“I think the only thing missing from hip-hop is an IQ test. You have a lot of idiots involved and a lot of people who really are not learning. Like, a lot of sh*t that I’ll make comment to and the reason why people have interest in me as an artist is because they see me give them the game.” 86 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI


him or hate him, he is an American Icon, a Horatio Alger story of where a determination to get rich or die trying could land you. I spoke with him as he prepped his new album and was awaiting the impending sale of Vitamin Water. The final figure is undisclosed but his response then of his interest was very interesting. We also spoke about a lot of other things as it is always an interesting interview with him. Our dialogue went as follows. So basically man start off with the evolution of where you at right now because initially, it was the promotion of the G-Unit brand and now it’s sort of the Curtis Jackson thing It’s still G-Unit. I was content financially on the sales of Get Rich. I did what really great rappers do in their whole career on my first record, right after Get Rich, of course, Interscope wanted another solo record. Instead, I gave them GUnit Beg for Mercy. Following Beg for Mercy, scanned 3 million records worldwide; Lloyd Banks, 2 millions records, Hunger for More; Straight Outta Cashville (Young Buck) ,1.5 million; and Tony Yayo sold 800,000 copies. I actually cut his legs off because I came out a week after him (with a DVD packaged version of Massacre). That was a lesson to me because I didn’t realize only one train could run down the track… At the time you had the DVD the week after… The momentum shifted off of Yayo back to 50 Cent and he wasn’t physically able to travel to different markets to keep people interested in Yayo. I just feel like Yayo’s project would have done a lot better if he had the same time span that Banks and Buck’s records had. I believe he would have sold a million records, you know. And based on the success that I’ve been having as a solo artist, the standards are raised higher as far as the general public is concerned with G-Unit material. So, when you have Cam’ron for instance, when we were having that conversation on the radio, he makes references to Banks selling the same amount of records as Jim Jones like, ‘How many records did Banks sell? But Banks’ worst performance is Jimmy’s best performance… Exactly. Do you understand what I’m saying? I didn’t even understand why he would point that out because it just made him look bad. I think the only thing missing from hip-hop is an IQ test. You have a lot of idiots involved and a lot of people who really are not learning. Like, a lot of sh*t that I’ll make comment to and the reason why people have interest in me as an artist is because they see me give them the game. Right after I use it, I give it to them and they can do what they want with it…and I’ll move to the next situation. I’ll have things that I won’t expose to the public because I haven’t done it yet. While I’m in negotiations or in conversations with other companies, I don’t make reference to a deal that I haven’t signed. To be honest, you kind of set the blueprint with the mixtape game for Jeezy and T.I.. At the time when you were coming out was when T.I. got down with Drama and he had In the Streets:Part Three and then the

single 24’s. Puffy brought the remix. He took the music that his mom was playing and turned it into his music; see what I’m saying. He took that hit music from back then. That is why Big had the Juicy and all of those other joints that he rocked until it was crazy at that point and they made it new and young again and fresh and you can credit that to Puff. Irv followed him trying to create that same thing with remixes Do I Do with K-Ci singing over Stevie Wonder. He did a lot of records over and my contribution was evolving because I’m conditioned to song write. I wrote in song format even when I was performing as a freestyle artist because it had been beaten into my head that the most important component in the song, the repetitive portion of it, is the chorus. People decide whether they like it. You have 15 seconds before they skip to the next one. If I give you a CD of someone you have never heard and you give it a shot, that first couple records you play it about 15 seconds and you hear the beat playing, if this person isn’t saying something that you enjoy, you skip to the next one. I kind of think that the music game now is kind of tailormade for your skill set because it’s a songwriter’s market. Like Akon, he’s a great songwriter and if you look at the charts he has a lot of top tens. At the same time what Akon does that a lot of artists don’t is that he’s a producer at the same time. He’ll take his production, put his chorus over it while he’s hot and everybody’s going to buy it because it sounds like a hit that’s playing on the radio. I didn’t compromise myself in any way and that’s why when I came, it was a lane for me that is not there for the rest of them. You’ll see your 50 Cent renditions going on like crazy. There are artists that do their version of 50 Cent and now they might be able to do some things and be really talented artists, but what they can’t do better than me is be me. You know, it’s just built in. I feel that. If there are four things that make a star, I’d say its quality material, performance, appearance, and personality and if you lack in one of those areas you’ve got to pick up the slack in one of those areas. I just think that me being who I am and being comfortable enough to be who I am, allows me to place myself on a level that they can’t get to right now. There are artists that believe the concept of faking it until you make it. That’s cool but damn; you don’t want to put yourself out there in a space where you’re making comparisons that are visibly wrong. For instance, I’ll use Cam’ron again. He’ll say he runs Dipset and Fifty runs G Unit- it’s just two people being competitive… Yeah… Yeah, but when you say that, what is the comparison? My last album sold 9.8 million. I’m twenty million on two projects, thirty million if you add it all up and this guy sold 200,000 on his last album. Do you understand what I’m saying? What you see is like the response Jay-Z gave when Cam was trying to attack him. It’s a reflection of his character. Jay-Z said I’m not even going to respond to this; he’s just looking for attention. When Nas did it, he just fell back from it. That’s not his real thing; he doesn’t really like

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the confrontation like that and when he did something he was not supposed to do with me, me jumping on his ass is a direct reflection of my character. (laughter) You see what I’m saying. Then it’s like it is just who we are away from the actual art, the music… The personality, the character… But the personality of a person that cuts through into the actual art form. So, even though I know it’s cool for you to get the attention, I’m going to give you more attention than you can bear. He didn’t realize when my album cycle’s come it is two albums, two full years of me on your ass before I start to fade away. The only reason my album is cut off is because I cut them off. I could still be selling The Massacre. I still had I’ll Build You Up with Jamie Foxx when he was winning Oscars. I still had Trick Get In My Car, Out of Control, the original one. I did the remix to set Mobb Deep up. I constantly make sacrifices for people around me, because the way I was raised is you take care of your crew and altercations and other situations, they’ll take care of you. People say things about me, right, but you know what you’ll never hear them say, ‘that I beat them for their money.’ I have so much of my own, why would I be looking to beat them for their money? I’ve heard artists complain that Puffy did it. I’ve heard artists complain Master P did it. I’ve heard artists complain Baby did it. See, my concept is a simple concept… If you don’t feed the players, they’re not going to be strong enough to win championships. Yes, tell us about that because in Vegas, there is a shot everybody saw on the web with you, Jermaine, Steve, Diddy, Jay, Jeezy, Nelly, Ashanti; that’s a lot of money sitting in one place. But to me, when I see that, it’s like the reason why I even started our magazine as far as the urban entrepreneurial lifestyle. All of you did not come from a traditional background. Now you have net worth’s of at least fifty million and up. I think from time to time we use each other for energy. We see one of us will be hot and our attitude is like, man we have to get my sh*t right. We don’t have any direct issues, particularly like Nelly. I’m alright with Nelly. We don’t have any differences. I’ll stop my car if I see him somewhere and say, “what up yo, what are you doing.” He’ll say, “yo, I’m going to the studio.” (I’ll say) alright. I’m going back to the Beverly Hills Hotel.” Something is wrong with you if you don’t like to see someone else do good. That concept lives in the hood for real. A ni**a’ll blow your head off for having a nice car, man, and it’s just because they’ll start to count your money for you. Then you’ll start looking like something to eat. They’ll see a person getting money and then they are like trying to see how they can get some of that money. Now, do you see yourself doing any investments or partnerships with the people that you saw on stage? What’s ill is that I wouldn’t turn away from an opportunity to be a part of a good business deal based on the other people involved. I would provide an opportunity for them to make money if it was a situation that they could already get involved with. I’m comfortable in my skin. Nobody can change the opportunities that are going to come my way, you know. Because if it was up to other people, I’m sure I wouldn’t have or be where I’m at today. Everybody on that stage is aware. They know good music when they hear it and 88 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI

everybody on that stage heard 50 Cent before he was signed and didn’t provide an opportunity…because everybody on that stage was pretty much there before I got there, everybody except maybe Jeezy. And it’s understandable. They just couldn’t bear the circumstances of the situation that was going on with me. You know what I mean? But that comes from the environment, even in the music. What I rap about is the harsh reality. That’s what actually goes on, on different levels. And it might, I might repeat myself trying to capture it in a perfect way, but it’s about the real content and the real experiences. When I do it perfectly, I’ll leave it alone. I don’t make remixes to records that were done right the first time. In Da Club, the record was the way I wrote it and when I put Snoop on P.I.M.P., I said my original verse. I never changed what I was saying. I just added a little flavor to it because Snoop’s verse was hot already. I used that as an opportunity to set up Beg for Mercy putting Banks and Buck at the end. That was also good for the tour, too, because he opened up for… He was right there with us. It was a good move. I just look at every opportunity and option that opens up for me and I feel that I can go somewhere and accomplish things that people didn’t think was possible. They asked me am I’m a role model and I said I’m not sure if I’m a role model, but I’m sure I’m inspiring. You are definitely inspiring. I make people believe it’s possible where I’m from. The ni**a in the hood right now that hears me is saying, ‘damn we think alike.’ They ID with me. That’s why they love me. That’s why they enjoy what I’m actually doing. Oprah Winfrey does the same thing but she’s doing it to a demographic of middle-aged white women that ID with her and say, ‘wow me and Oprah think alike.’ If you don’t have a frame of reference, you can’t relate. There’s no connecting point of a 50-year-old black woman to… Hip-hop… People in their twenties and thirties making music. Yes, but outside of that, again, the music embodies a harsh reality that she’s not been subjected to for how many years. We’re writing about something that they don’t want people to even acknowledge exists. So, if you’ll say music is so influential that we should censor it, how about how influential Scarface was to a demographic of people. Shoot, Sopranos. How about Goodfellas? How about Godfather? How about The Casino? The Untouchables? All of these movies are in consistent rotation with people that may be incarcerated right now. They watched this content. I mean, it might have helped them have the aggression that it takes to survive in their environment, but they watch those images repeatedly. Now, let’s go into your movies. Have you began shooting the DeNiro movie yet, New Orleans? We haven’t actually shot it yet. That will be at the end of this year and the Dance Box.


Photography: Banks

“I make people believe it’s possible where I’m from... They ID with me. That’s why they love me.”

Issue XI • OwnerS Illustrated • 89


The Dance Box and then you have another movie about the races, right, in New York? Live Bet. Chris is co-producing that one, too, right? Then, Home of the Brave. Home of the Brave is about the Iraq war. Actually, I think they are sensitive to releasing it, considering we’re still at war. Yeah, I saw it. It’s deep. I play a character in the joint, Jamal Aiken. It’s a 23-year old 90 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI

character that comes home altered from the experience. How are you going to tell a person not to kill, ‘it’s not the right thing to do;’ kill only when it’s for your country. And when you come back, you realize that nobody else was at war while you were at war. Everybody around you is living normal lives. Like we are living our regular lives right now while they’re at war. To have that much death around you, I believe it changes your spirit. It changes who you are as a person. For instance, if you have 40 people in your platoon and you come back and there is 37, and then you have 32, and so forth, you begin to think, Oh sh*t, they are writing death notes. If-if-if I pass away, mail this off for me.’


the newspaper sells and why the news constantly promotes something that happened and put a crazy spin on it. For instance, if a kid shoots another kid; the news will say this big kid shot a little kid over a quarter. It’s alarming. Dramatic. But, what they are not telling you is that this kid was stealing the other kid’s Jordans that took him a long time to earn. Well, the kid keeps taking it from this other kid until finally, the kid say’s “this is how I’m going to stop him” and pops him. I’m not saying that it’s right, but ask me if I understand. I’ll tell you yes because of the circumstances I came up in. The news just always has a way of painting this negative or not-so-true picture. Right. I’m always thinking, who puts them in a position to judge somebody when you don’t have the background or know what was going on that made... You know what it is? Them being in a public position, you have to acknowledge you’re public property. Once you get into a public position, everybody has a right to their opinion of you. While people have a right to their opinion of me, my skin gets super thick because I accept that. I use every situation strategically for something else that I need it for. So true. So, about your movie roles, did you actually read for American Gangster, the one with Denzel? I did.

Photography: Banks

But you didn’t want it? [Ridley] Scott thought I was too popular for the actual role that I was reading for. He thought they would just see 50 Cent and not the actual character and it was such a small role that it didn’t make sense for me to do it.

That’s real. So you can’t be the same person after being in that type of mind frame for months and months at a time. You’re feeling like you can die any day now. I really think that death is a large form of entertainment. I think there is interest that is built in with any living being. Yeah, every time something tragic happens, it’s on the news cycle at all times. People generally are conditioned to love tragedy. That’s why

Yeah, they ended up using Common and T.I. for that. I didn’t understand that, though, when he said that to me. They felt like maybe I might be too popular? What are you talking about? It is just people’s perception of me. When the role is not big enough for you to see a different character, you just see 50 Cent. Okay. He thought the role was not a role that would make me stand out. So, I was like, “aw, it’s cool.”

I also heard you were producing The Ski Mask Way. I’m actually converting the book The Ski Mask Way through G Unit books into a film. Okay. When we talked last, you talked about adapting and learning a lot from hustles. When I heard about your book company, I knew where you were going with that. We’ll only do straight to DVD series if the picture isn’t good enough for the screen. But, if it’s good enough for the big screen, you already own the property. You already own the story, you know. You buy the rights to the books before it hits the store. Issue XI • OwnerS Illustrated • 91


It’s a joint situation. It is me and the actual writers involved; we create a synopsis to create the treatment for the actual book and then they kind of develop it. I don’t stand over their shoulders because I don’t want to make it less than it can actually be. If you write books for a living, the graphic content in a book, there are things that a writer can do to make you see certain specific colors, objects, things. They can take you to a different time period. Right. Like, we might both read it and see something similar and just based on the way it’s actually structured in the story; it’ll give you a vision. So, now, what is going on with Vitamin Water? We just did the very first television commercial campaign for Vitamin Water. And you still have ownership there? I own 30 percent of it. I can’t wait till it sells. Oh, man I was hearing three billion and four billion. But you see how much the brand has grown. Since you came on board. Everybody’s aware of it. Before I first got wind of it, it was only in one actual workout place that I was in that I would have seen it in. I came across it and I bought it and then I did the research. It was a private-owned company based in Queens and I investigated the possibility of doing business with them. Yeah, you set up a lot of people, man. Tell our readers about the video game. You did like two million? The video game money is different. That is $59.99. $59.99! It isn’t like the CD. You sell two million of them and you’re going to be smiling. Are you going to do another one? Yeah, I already started. I have two new video games coming. With Universal, too? Yeah, Universal and G Unit and another joint. So, are they going to be similar? New games. One is a total new game. The other one is Bulletproof: Part Two. How about the clothing? The clothing is good. I actually renegotiated my deal. Nice. Well, before we wrap, everyone is going to want to know what’s going on with the Unit. Buck, Banks, Sha, Hot Rod… There is a point that every artist, I think, wants the people that’s screaming and putting their hands up to be there for them. I want that too. Like, Em, he has a luxury that I don’t have. He has 50 Cent. Do you understand what I’m saying? He can go home and just say, “I’m not going to put an album out next year.” He will still make money the same way he

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would if he was putting his album out because the year he is not coming out, I am. He makes the same money that following year. His cut is 25 percent. Like, as a joint venture, Aftermath has 25 percent, Shady has 25 percent, Interscope has 50 percent on 50 Cent. And you get whatever they… No, with my deal, I get what’s been contractually agreed to in the deal. They have the label money on 50 Cent so that those chunks are big chunks when you start doing 9.812 and 9.8 million on your CD sales. So it’s cool, Eminem makes great money when he’s working and then he makes great money when he’s not. I can’t say I’m going to go sit down right now when my artist wants to. I have to continue to do what I have to do because I am not going to settle on good when I can do great. That is just not the way I was brought up. The guy that is content with his three hundred or so and say’s I’m good while customers are still coming- he is supposed to be working for somebody. Exactly. So, I think they are just at a point where they want it to be for them. I’ve done everything possible to support them. I have made sacrifices constantly. How about, I turned off my album to start the G-Unit album when I could of still been doing If I Can’t and this is the Get Rich era If I Can’t and Poor Little Rich. I stopped to do Beg For Mercy and then when it came time for The Massacre, I did the Out of Control remix to set up Mobb Deep. And then, when it was The Massacre, I said, ‘I’m good if I can make a hit record by myself. I’m great if I can make a hit record that sets up another artist. So I went with Candy Shop first to bring Olivia to light and then when it didn’t work, at that point, I said I have to do something to get her out again, so I came back on the soundtrack with Best Friend, again. When I was doing Best Friend, I, in my heart, wanted to be doing I Whup Your Head Boy. That would have set up M.O.P, though. But you know what, that deal wasn’t solid. It was done but M.O.P. was still recording their record. So what’s up with their project now? They are a horse with three legs. I’m not betting on them. You have to have everything right…in this climate anyway. You have to come all the way right. I committed to working with them based on them being talented vocally, but with the content that’s in the music, they have to be able to present themselves a certain way because with the energy that’s on the music, you have to have that energy to display on stage and if they don’t work themselves into a good physical position to get themselves together to go present it, what am I going to do? It’s just certain things that… They have to be in shape and have a visual image. Right. If your lyrical contents is “I’ll whip your ass,” I don’t believe you if you can’t run up three stairs. It’s just the honest to God truth and they’ll have whatever it is, their perception to be different. I’m not considering doing anything that feels like it’s in a losing effort right now. You placed a good bet on Mayweather, though. Yeah.


“I’m not considering doing anything that feels like it’s in a losing effort right now.”

How about the foundation? G-Unity. Well, I do a lot of different charitable stuff that they don’t talk about because it doesn’t coincide with the picture they’ve painted to the public about who I am. You know what I mean? And, if I wasn’t doing it from my heart, I’d have to be publicizing myself and saying tell everybody I did this.’ But it’s not necessary for that. In G-Unit Clothing, when you buy them, it is an additional 50 cent on the price tag that adds up and it is donated to existing charitable organizations as opposed to creating a notfor-profit organization because that would be running another business, having to delegate responsibilities and having office space to do that. Issue XI • OwnerS Illustrated • 93


FASHION

Ashley Paige Has It All Sewn Up

A

shley Paige had a concept in the mid 90’s and decided to develop it. Ms. Paige worked hard on a hand-knit bikini fashion line. Circa 2007, Ashley has just opened a boutique at 1616 Cahuenga in Hollywood showcasing the name of Studio 1616. Actresses from Liv Tyler and Kate Hudson have worn her collectable pieces and you can find her line featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue with a suggested retail price of $1000 and beyond. Over sixty boutiques currently sell her line including the exclusive Saks Fifth Avenue and Henri Bendels. A Pensacola Florida native, Ashley has a B.A degree in marketing and fashion design and we were fortunate enough to catch up with her in Vegas while she was promoting her new venture as designer for the Girls Gone Wild Line.

28 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue


Q&A ASHLEY PAIGE Currently, what is your best seller? A bikini I call Love Joe, Angel and Wild.

Photos courtesy of Ashley Paige

You also were featured on some covers… Sports Illustrated launched my career so I owe a lot of thanks to them… 944Magazine sponsored my last party and fashion show which is actually where Joe and I sat down, had a cocktail together and joked about it. I said, ‘I should do your bikinis,’ and that’s how we got started with that.

Ashley how did you get started in the fashion industry? I started my business six years ago in Brooklyn, New York in a brownstone basement apartment. I walked the streets of Manhattan doing my R&D (research and development), figuring out how to make knit bikinis water-friendly, wearable. I also wanted to take a vintage 70’s look into a modern, sexy look. It wasn’t easy. Where did you get your inspiration to even get started? My inspiration comes from my memories of growing up on the beach with my mom, dad and family. I’m a 70’s girl, so the knit bikinis are 70’s inspired. I wanted my niche to be only knit bikinis. What is your new venture? Well, with this collaboration with Girls Gone Wild®, I just signed a licensing deal with Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild®. He’s a brilliant business man and I’m a brilliant business woman. We collaborated to design a lycra bikini line with a contemporary price point for Girls Gone Wild®. It will be sold in department stores such as Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Nordi’s…virtually everywhere. But for today, for this Vegas event, I’m here to tell everybody about my new collaboration with GGW. We’re doing it with the high-end, expensive bikinis- one time only.

What are some of the goals you wish or have accomplished with your line? When I started, one of my goals was to get press in Paper magazine. I’ve done that and we are featured in there with Dog Rescue because we love animals and love to give back. Now, I’m featured in Vogue, Elle, L.A. Confidential, Maxim, Stuff, TV Guide, etc. Jessica Alba, Carmen Electra, Tara Reid, Kelis, Kate Bosworth, Pamela Anderson, Britney Spears, Mena Suvari…they all have modeled my line. I have everybody pretty much, even J. Lo. I’m spoiled when it comes to press. Every trailer park across America will have my bikini on their table…I think that’s cool. With Girls Gone Wild, we’re going to be a household name with the clothing. Also, a lot of times, I’m featured in Teen Vogue and I have a big teen base. And, I’ve been featured in Sports Illustrated for six years in a row including covers, their calendar and their DVDs. Your bikinis are definitely gorgeous and have a nice fit. How are you able to get these people to wear your clothing? Well, because the knit bikini was so different when it came out six years ago, it caught attention. The style caught on and transforms people. Stylists start trends and when you are a nobody and first beginning in fashion with no money, just an idea, but you have an interesting product, you put it in front of the stylists and they in-turn get your product into magazines. This way, you get free publicity. Next thing you know, you have a name and that’s the only way to do it. That means you have to be good, actually different and the best to make it in anything- that’s what I believe. So, I’m the best and the first in the knit bikinis. I love this. What advice or comments do you have for women who are trying to get into the design profession? Don’t believe anything that anybody tells you. Do your research. Never give up and don’t stop; whatever you do. On the worst of the worst days- I mean, if the IRS comes in and flashes a badge like they did with me; if the landlord comes and tries to throw you out, he’s going to have to drag you out, do not quit. Hang with the right people, the real people. Hang with money people and work like a dog and you will make it. Womens Issue • OwnerS Illustrated •29


Photos courtesy of Ashley Paige

ASHLEY PAIGE

30 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue


Womens Issue • OwnerS Illustrated • 31


MONEY

$ BIG BOI’s

FINANCIAL TIPS WORDS: Damola PHOTOGRAPHY: RichardFlood.com

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W

ith a massively successful recording career with over 19 million copies sold in the US and an estimated total of 50 million worldwide, Big Boi, a member of the ground breaking duo OutKast, has enjoyed tremendous financial success. Learning under the tutelage of former LaFace CEO and current Island Def Jam Chairman, L.A. Reid, Big Boi has mastered the transition from artist to entrepreneur. L.A Reid sold LaFace to Jive Zomba in 2003 for a reported $100 million based on the success of groups like Outkast, Toni Braxton, TLC, and Usher to name a few. Big Boi’s vast ventures include movie roles such as the Idlewild project with partner Andre 3000 and the Jellybean project, now titled “ATL” with fellow ATLien T.I.. Big Boi also has his hands in Pitfall Kennels, a dog breeding farm; Boom Boom Room Productions, a production team that includes himself, Sleepy Brown, the Beat Bullies, and Nate Wonder; Stankonia studios; Chunk of the Earth Mortgage; 14 condo’s in the Hard Rock Café Condos in Vegas; over 100 apartment units in Cartersville, GA in partnership with Andre 3000; 10 rental properties in Georgia; a restaurant named “501 Ocean” in Miami in partnership with Lil Jon, Usher, T.J. Duckett, and some accountants; mutual funds and bonds portfolio in addition to stocks such as Apple, Home Depot, and Disney. He also has endorsements with T-mobile, Blockbuster, Reebok, Wendy’s and Cadillac. Big Boi is a true southern mogul who built his empire from the ground up. There were no southern megastars in Rap before him and Andre, and they have always taken risks with their product and remained true to themselves. He has great perspective and insight on money management, wealth building, and dynasty building. I had the fortunate opportunity to spend some time with him at his businesses, a special event, and I also got a chance to spend time with his staff. Big Boi openly shared with me his wealth building tips and his business philosophy on a variety of topics; and in turn, I am sharing it with you, our readers. As Big Boi told me, “you have to be willing to learn and talk, you have to be open- minded and just read everything. Don’t just sign anything in the blind. If it’s your dream you got to get a piece of it when it sells, like L.A. Reid did when you build it up and you get that payday.”

yourself” Legal Council “If you are going to be an owner of anything, get you a ‘fire’ attorney …. You are going to need that right representation, someone who is going to get the best deal for you when the paperwork is on the table” Wealth Creation “Right now, I’m working on my children’s kids. Then I’m trying to work on the ones after that, so that when you’re gone, you leave a legacy, a transfer of wealth, that’s what it’s all about. It is about wealth accumulation, preservation of wealth and transfer of wealth. That’s how they do it like kings and queens in London. That is how its stays in the family and then they pass it on. When your kids get to a certain age, they have to learn what you learn so that they can play the game. So, if you are not here they can carry it on. You don’t want to work this hard from something to nothing and not leave your kids any instructions…. One wild summer and it’s all gone”

“Right now I’m working on my kids’ kids. Then I’m trying to work on the ones after that so that when I’m gone I leave a legacy, a transfer of wealth, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about wealth accumulation, preservation of wealth and transfer of wealth.”

Taxes “First, pay your taxes. But, to get it back you must write off certain things that are business related….Certain cars are company cars, you can write off a certain portion of your mortgage on your home if you have an office in your home.” Love of Cars “For me, my fetish is cars. So, you budget. You have to set aside….. I have to do a concert or do two shows then I could do this. To me I like to secure my future then everything is ‘slurpie’ after that. I don’t have to work another day in my life”

Big Boi, On Being an Owner “I love the independence. I’m my own boss. I don’t have to answer to anybody, but God”

What to Invest in “Bonds are a big thing. I actually have stock. But, I really weigh heavy on bonds due to the volatile nature of the stock market. I do bonds and mutual funds; things like that…. You have to read and get information. Don’t just let your money sit in the bank; you have to check on interest rates. One thing my accountant taught me is to make sure your money is making anywhere between 8-12% a year, at least. That’s a good investment. Also, Mutual funds, bonds, different kind of stocks, real estate and land provide good investment opportunity. You can never go wrong with land or something that’s going to appreciate. If you go out and buy a chunk of land, especially in Atlanta since the price of land is going up and hold it for later, someone might want to develop it or settle or build a subdivision….. Don’t put your faith in material items. Invest in precious metals, gold silver and platinum. I check the commodities, you can invest in companies that go in and get the gold.”

Risks “When you take a risk, the rewards are that much greater. But, you have to believe in yourself, so regardless of the outcome you remained true to

On being a Pioneer and an Icon “It is good. At least, you know your life meant something to somebody besides your family and friends.” Issue VI • OwnerS Illustrated • 43


Lifestyle — Travel

F

ounded by Tony Thurston, Dream Flights Luxury Travel, Inc. (DFLT) is an intermediate luxury travel company of private jets. DFLT has plans to transition into a Charter Carrier, which will allow DFLT to own, manage, and operate aircraft for itself and others. General services provided by DFLT include booking flights and arranging accommodations and ground transportation. DFLT also caters to its clients’ specific requests, such as special meals or other items necessary to meet client’s needs and tastes. Its mission is to provide one stop service from door to door. DFLT’s clients make one call to DFLT to arrange their round trip air travel and everything in between. “Our customers shall want for nothing. We provide them with a carefree experience while in our care,” says Tony. DFLT has a variety of aircraft to choose from (Super King Air 200, Citation V, Falcon 50, Challenger, Learjet 60, Westwind II, Piaggio Avanti, Citation X, Gulfstream III, Gulfstream IV, Gulfstream V, Boeing Business Jet, 757, and 777). The company also offers executive configuration to provide daily flights at convenient times from any point of origin in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Hawaii!!! Same day or extended stay trips are available. Door to door limousine service will be provided upon request. They also have Jets available for purchase through its parent company the Somnium Investment Group. Currently, DFLT is offering special full service packages for the upcoming Super Bowl in Jacksonville, FL. The Super Bowl package includes: charter jet service, rental car or limo service, Super Bowl Tickets, tickets to the NFL Commissioner

STORY: Damola PHOTOGRAPHY: RichardFlood.com

Parties. DFLT also offers several entertainment options such as: live bands, DJ’s, comedians, casinos with poker tables and, catered meals or buffets, or hors d’oeuvres. Once you touch down (pun intended), DFLT offers exclusive accommodations, which include an array of luxury home options, and luxury car rentals. If you are planning to go to the Super Bowl, and really want to ball out, Dream Flight Luxury Travel can take you there and back in opulence and style. Tony Thurston was born in Topeka, Kansas in 1965. His father worked in the oil and gas industry and he is no stranger to travel. He has lived in Portland, Oregon; Bethouia, Arzew; Algeria, Africa and Houston, Texas. Tony’s personal travels inspired him to enter the travel industry and create a complete luxury travel service. The Chairman of the companies is Earl Fitzgerald. Earl is one of the founders of Kinder Care, and has vast experience in the procurement of properties. The V.P. of Marketing/Operations is Bob Livermore. Bob utilizes his vast experience as a former Air Force Pilot with White House experience and his PR and Marketing Firm (Marketing Plus Group) to further enhance DFLT’s full service brand. Stevie Ray is the V. P. of Developmental Services. Tony Thurston also owns, Somnium Investment Group (SIG), which is an Asset Management Company. SIG manages diverse group of assets from, including import / export (shipping), real estate, scholarship funds, apartment complexes, low income housing, charitable foundations, churches, and schools. Through SIG, Tony is able to interact with a wide variety of people and gain valuable insight into the lifestyle and expectations of his luxury clientele.

18 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue III

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Dream Flights Luxury Travel, Inc. offers the following services: o

Luxury Home Accommodations

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Casino Entertainment

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Event Planners

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Golf Fundraising

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Limousine Service

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Annual Corporate Events

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Executive Jet Service

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Corp Outings and Parties

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Motorcycle Rentals

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Maid Service

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Luxury Car Rentals

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Nanny Service

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Celebrity Guest Speakers

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Gourmet Catering

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Event Ticket Procurement

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Day Spa & Salon Treatments

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Security Service

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Travel Reservations

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Corporate Hospitality

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On Site Host Coordinator

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Corporate Golf Outings

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Super Bowl Sporting Events

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Corporate Entertainment

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LIFESTYLE • AUTOMOTIVE

48 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue


FAIRUZ ARABO

A HABIT OF EXCELLENCE Words Staff Writer Photography Duane Johnson

I

Fairuz Arabo, Strategic and Advanced Color & Materials Designer for Ford Motor Company with the Ford Interceptor concept.

t was once said genius is 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration. Well, it is hard not to be inspired when you view the work of Ford Motor Company’s Strategic and Advanced Color & Materials Designer, Fairuz Jane Arabo. Not convinced to allow being a minority and a woman deter her from succeeding in the ultra competitive automotive design industry, Fairuz got to where she is by hard work and sacrifice. “I started out as a junior in high school. I did a drawing and my art teacher thought it was cool. I went to the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit (www.ccscad. edu). I took high school classes, extension classes, built my portfolio and I ended up staying in it and eight years later, here I am, loving it. It is in my blood, it’s a passion of mine,” says Fairuz. But enjoying that passion did not come easy, “instead of partying in high school my junior and senior year, I spent my nights driving to the Center for Creative Studies taking classes. I spent my weekends and summers there building up my portfolio because it was so competitive. I spent six years there and I spent those six years working on my scholarships,” proclaims Fairuz. “I worked as hard as I could to be number one in my class; not as a woman. I put gender aside. I didn’t want to be known as a woman designer or a woman student. I just wanted to be known as a good talented designer. I worked as hard as I could until 5 o’clock in the morning while some of my classmates were coming home from partying.” It is evident Fairuz’s hard work has paid off. “I have been doing concepts now for about two years and I love it,” says Fairuz. In the automotive industry, concepts are a very critical component to manufacturing. It is within concepts that design language is developed for new products and new engineering ideas are developed. It also is where excitement is created for new products. We caught up with Fairuz in Detroit where Ford debuted two concepts she worked on- the muscle car V8 Interceptor, and the people mover, Airstream. Of her role, she stated, “I work with an awesome team of unbelievably talented designers… my role is to design the colors, all the colors, all the materials, the interior leather, finishes, exterior color finishes, under coat finishes, graphics, and anything in the interior you can see, feel, and touch.” The Detroit native now works out of Ford’s design studio in Irvine, California, yet her Detroit principle still stays with her till this day. “I still have that work ethic today. This is not a 9 to 5 job. Sometimes it’s seven in the morning to seven in the morning just to get it right.” Those principles showed in her highly praised work on the Interceptor which featured, “belting leather, boss black,” and according to her, “just a basic pearl- anybody can do this in their garage.” While she makes her job seem so easy, her results are hard to duplicate, yet Fairuz offers some words of wisdom, “It’s a passion. It doesn’t matter if you are working at Home Depot or McDonalds, it’s your passion; it’s your drive. Do whatever it takes to get it done right.” And, doing it right hasn’t been foreign to Fairuz, “I had it at a young age and kept going because I knew where I wanted to be.” Mums the word about future projects, but expect to see Fairuz’s work at a showroom near you. Womens Issue • OwnerS Illustrated • 49


Funk Master Flex THERE IS NONE HIGHER Interview: Damola

68 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue IX


M

ore than just a DJ, Funkmaster Flex is a movement unto himself. As a tastemaker and a trusted voice on New York’s #1 hip hop and R&B station Hot 97, with an audience of over 2 million listeners per week, Flex has truly been responsible for several

Working with Dana Lincoln on the last version of the Lincoln Navigator, Funk Flex created his own edition of the SUV which sold to great success. Ford Motor Company is now a sponsor of the powerful DJ, along with Lugz who gave him is own driving shoe. Turtle Wax, Castrol Oil, Quaker State (he even had his own line of engine oil), Hot wheels, Cooper Tire, JL Audio, and now ESPN are also part of Flex’s long list of sponsors, which even further secures the fact that Funkmaster Flex is just in a whole ‘nother league.

After The Jaz-O Originators era, I personally got re-introduced to Jay-Z’s music by Funk Flex bringing him in to the Hot 97 studios in January of 1995 to speak to the New York audience and play his single, “Dead Presidents”. This is just one example of how countless artists have benefited when Flex drops his signature bomb to their records, certifies them official, and as Flex says, “A go.” Fully understanding the mechanics of the industry, Flex created a company called Franchise Marketing over a decade ago. With Franchise Marketing alongside with his Big Dog record pool of DJ’s, internationally Funk Flex truly “broke” artists, introducing their singles to the world with a type of energy that immediately added fire to the track.

Having customized cars for everybody from T.O., to 50 Cent, Ludacris, to Queen Latifah, Danika Patrick, to Sean Combs, Shaquille O’ Neal, to too many to name, Flex now has his own official edition of cars through Ford Motor Company. This edition includes a Fusion, a F-150, and the all new Expedition. Flex also now has his own show on ESPN called All Muscle with Funk Master Flex in addition to a new show also with ESPN that is to debut in April of 2007 on ESPN2 called, Funk Master Flex’s Car Wars. Car Wars will feature contestants betting it all, from the mortgage to whatever is necessary in a battle to customize the new Ford Expedition.

notable artists careers.

As another means to expand his ability to break records, Funkmaster Flex released mixtape albums featuring a laundry list of artists who include: Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, The LOX, Wu Tang, Dipset, and so many others who have contributed to the albums great successes. With five of his mixtape albums going certified gold for selling over 500,000 copies, Flex’s mixtapes became an integral part of the hip-hop culture. A bonafied entrepreneur and a true lover of the automotive lifestyle, in 2001 Funkmaster Flex tapped into his relationships in the recording industry to create his very first celebrity car show, which took place in New Jersey. The results were phenomenal, as the competitive nature of celebrities was showcased and duels over who donned the better car ensued, the stage was now set for the Funkmaster Flex Celebrity Car Show of 2002. With over 30,000 people at the opening gate, (I was one of them) attendees were treated to drag races, various customizations of luxury autos as well as everyday cars, and most exclusively, an impressive display of celebrity car collections. Boasting a net worth of well over $15 million, this celebrity collection included cars owned by Diddy, Wyclef, Busta, Baby, Dipset, and others. Made up of Zonda’s, McLarens, Lamborghini’s, Ferraris, Bentleys, Motorcycles, Tractor Trailers, Tour Buses, it was truly a sight to see, including Funk Flex’s own Team Baurtwell edition cars, which featured true American muscle cars and SUV’s. There were also several live performances by Dipset, Cash Money, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Wyclef and others, complete with live feeds to Hot97. The Funk Flex Celebrity Car Show of 2002 was again another smashing success that will serve as the blueprint for other car shows and even magazines to follow. Flex, ever the enthusiast, also brought awareness to the New York Auto Show at the Jacob Jarvis Center, and had spoke at length of the then impending arrival of Ford’s GT based on the GT40. Simply the best DJ on the planet, Funkflex can sell anything. With his own show Ride with Flex debuting in 2002 on Spike TV he again created a genre that will spawn others to follow. Flex is also very family-oriented as his wife partners with him in his ventures and was instrumental in production of his TV show. Producing episodes of Ride With Flex under her own company, RED Moxie.

More than a DJ, more like a Svengali, a guru, and an evangelist for the car culture and hip-hop alike you got to “fix your face”, and “don’t get gassed” when in the presence of greatness because there is absolutely no competition in the DJ arena when it comes to Flex. We caught up with Flex at a recent car show and he showed us his new Ford Fusion and spoke about a number of other things, including New York Hip-Hop’s downturn. So listen up, because class is in session. Tell us about what’s going on with this Fusion right here? Just give us an overview. Ford Fusion, you know. I’m becoming a Fusion man ‘cause I’m putting together a lot of hot joints. This one’s put together for this year to take around [they] got the custom Funkmaster Flex wheels on it. I like to call it three-tone interior. Two tones is two colors. It’s three colors in this joint, nice, matching the outside custom blue paint. So you wanna show us some of this? Yeah I wanted it to be bright but not over the top. Twenties are there. [Walks around the car pointing out the features] Leather seats happening. Everything is natural looking. Real crazy, and nice. How about the sound? Sound’s pretty crankin’, man. We got TV’s in it, too. JL audio sound system. Did you do anything under the hood? Anymore horses? Nah, it’s still regular stock 200 and change in horses. What size wheels are these? Twenties. So which company is partnering with you to do the Funkmaster Flex wheels? It’s actually-- it’s a company called Bose. B-o-s-e. They do the audio, too? No…it’s just wheels. You know, you started the car show phenomenon and now it’s now gotten a lot of the corporations aware. So tell us Issue Issue IX •IX OwnerS • OwnerS Illustrated Illustrated • 69 •


about this Ford deal you got ‘cause I understand that you guys are now continuing it further. Yeah, we’re doing a lot of vehicles together. We got some F-150’s we’re working on. We’re also working on some Expeditions. How did that deal come about? Ford knew about some of my car shows. They knew I was doing customizations. They knew I was putting cars together. So you know, we all got together and decided we’re gonna put some vehicles out, design some good things. It’s been a great relationship. It’s important that we just kind of go through it a little bit, because I don’t even know of anyone that got their own customization deal with a major automotive manufacturer. I think some of the other guys don’t love it as much as I love it. I love it. I wanna do it. This is what I wanna do. Of course, and even from your customization of celebrity cars you spawned Pimp My Ride, and a lot of other shows, because when you were doing it nobody else was doing that. Nobody was thinking about it, but you know what’s cool is like I’m a big fan of Xzibit, [a] big fan of Chip Foose and those guys because they kind of like just enhanced what I laid down. And that’s cool, you know. I enjoy that they were able to make it interesting. So the whole thing about it is that we wanna really get into how you’re influencing the culture. Because even with other television networks getting involved to showcase car

customization, and becoming aware of the urban market’s love for cars, the car shows are still not acknowledging the music influences like yourself on the car industry. So do you feel like you getting your just due across the board in the industry? Aw, I think you never feel you getting your just due, ever. Nothing is ever enough you know, but I tell you something man, in all honesty I feel Ford is giving me my just due. They’re really believing in me and I really like that about them. So are you gonna work with any of the other divisions or even under the premier automotive group divisions? FLEX: Naw. You know what, though, I think I might do a little bit for Lincoln. You know we’ve been talking. ‘Cause I remember the first car I saw you customize was the Navigator. Yeah and I was really like just… I was just doing ‘em. I didn’t know nobody at Lincoln. I just put ‘em together. Is that how they got an awareness? Naw ‘cause it was a different division. It was more like Ford knew about my TV show, then they learned everything else about me. How many shows do you have right now? I got two now, I’m on ESPN. I left Spike. Now I’m on ESPN’s own customization show. You know my wife had the idea of a customize show, putting the camera on customizing cars and shopping it to the network and it worked out pretty good.

“I

think you never feel you getting your just due, ever. Nothing is ever enough you know but I tell you something man in all honesty I feel Ford is giving me my just due. They’re like really believing in me and I really like that about them.” — FUNK MASTER FLEX 70 • OwnerS • OwnerS Illustrated Illustrated • Issue • Issue IX IX


So that’s her company, Red Moxie. That’s actually great. So how is that, working with your wife and even working with cars? She likes cars so it was a cool combination. So is she a gear head like you? Into the motors? The old schools? The vintage? The muscle? She likes it all, new and old. So now talk about like the GT 500. Have you had a chance to drive that? Oh I bought it. You bought one? So talk about that and what you love about it. 500 horses, that’s the ultimate. That’s it. 500 horsepower is hot, nothing hotter. So you doing the Flex edition Mustang? No I just customize for myself. So what is different from what you would do for yourself than what you would do for let’s say for one of your celebrity clients? ‘Cause I know sometimes when you doing stuff for yourself your tastes might be a little different. I’m probably a little more conservative, a little bit more horsepower. Celebrities probably want a little bit more flash. So now let’s go into where you started as far as the music and your influences. I still love the music. I’m still there. And Hot 97, ‘cause you been there forever. Eons.

It’s like almost, I dare say, you built the house of Hot 9-7. I think the radio is still love. I still love breaking records and hearing new talent. I love doing it so it’s cool. I really like it a lot….I love hearing new talent. I love recognizing new talent. I love being on the radio. I love meeting new personalities and I think I love being around those type of people. [I love] being around creative people. I love seeing a person’s smile on their face just being an artist and enjoying the business. I just love seeing them happy. It’s cool to be in a business that you can do something you love doing. Everybody talks about the New York [sound] taking a hit. The south is running it. From your perspective, who do you think- who are the next cats out of New York that you think got the potential to bring it back to the east? Dipset of course, but to be a little bit more specific, JR Rider, Hell Rell, J Mills, Saigon, Papoose. Yeah, Papoose is probably in front of them all. So do you see yourself taking on an artist yourself? Oh naw, definitely not, but I’ma pay attention to all these new guys. So now, what’s the difference in breaking a car, ‘cause you moved a lot of cars for Ford? I tell you it’s very similar, man, you gotta make what the people want to see, you know, do what the people want. It’s almost like envisioning the future. You gotta have the vision of the future to be successful. ∞ For more of the Funk Flex interview and video clips of his special edition cars visit us at www.ownersillustrated.com. Issue IX • OwnerS Illustrated • 71


Photography: Damola

MONEY

Russell Simmons’ Annual Hip Hop Summit – Atlanta, GA

E

xcitement was high as I walked through the doors of the John Lewis Gymnasium of Morris Brown College to attend the Russell Simmons Hip-Hop Summit. I was just as excited, if not more, than the thousands of students and aspiring artists attending. From the loud sounds that resonated throughout the gym, it is apparent this event is huge. I mean, legends were in the building.

natural element, it didn’t take much for everyone in the building to get up on their feet and “rock” their own rendition of “walk it out” and other popular down South hip-hop songs. However, this wasn’t only a star studded event meant to entertain, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) convenes each year to educate college students, aspiring entertainers and community members about the importance of financial literacy, easier put

A-list guests ranging from Doug E. Fresh as key emcee, Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri as hosts/ panelists, and Chrysler Financial as the corporate sponsor, created a lot of well-deserved hype around this event. This year’s summit was titled, “Get Your Money Right,” on

– how to handle money. Panelists spoke on their experiences with gaining and saving money and provided great answers on repairing bad credit and understanding credit scores. Home ownership, entrepreneurship, vehicle financing, the meaning of a FICO score, and building good, healthy relationships were also

Financial Empowerment. Panelists included: Russell Simmons; Ludacris; super-producer Brian Michael Cox; Young Jeezy; Chaka Zulu (Co-CEO of DTP); Paul Wall; Roberta Shields of the Ludacris Foundation; Dr. Benjamin Chavis; Latino reggae star Chingo Bling; Bobby Valentino; rap artist Remy Ma; DJ Drama; Killer Mike; rap artist Kurrupt, Vanessa Williams, Executive Director of Black Mayors; and financial analysts Jerrod Potchman and James Whitlow of Chrysler Financial. The summit began with Doug E. Fresh on the “mic” hyping the crowd and introducing the panelists. With the rap legend in his

key points. Answers came from the hearts of each panelist as they touched on their own personal experiences with bad credit, building their credit and/ or going bankrupt. Chaka Zulu, coCEO of DTP (Disturbing Tha Peace), provided words of wisdom saying, “Money comes and goes. Don’t spend it immediately; Always plan for the slow season.” Rap artist Remy Ma provided the females with a different perspective saying, “Women tend to go against each other. Stop the cattiness. Work together and stop depending on men. Get your own money.” She also urged women to, “Save money. Plan for the future; your kid’s future.”

52 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue IX


As a woman, I was inspired by her simple, yet profound words of wisdom. Just like everyone else, I listened hard and took notes. Luckily, “Get Your Money Right” workbooks were given to all participants. This workbook is extremely helpful. I recommend for everyone to download it from the www.hsan.org website. One big lesson of the evening, among others, was to be willing to learn. “Surround yourself around positive people,” says Russell Simmons. “Joining with Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris to host the Atlanta Hip-Hop Summit is a special blessing,” said Simmons. “[Atlanta] is known for its great contributions to hiphop, as well as being a center for social change in our nation and world. ‘Get Your Money Right’ is an opportunity for the core of our demographic –18 to 35 year olds—to gain invaluable information on financial empowerment.” And, judging from the mega-million empire that Simmons has created, the man knows what he is talking about. Now, we just have to decide if we’re ready to listen. Whether you have great WORDS OF WISDOM FROM PANELISTS “Be 100 percent focused on all of this. Use this panel as a template for what your next step is. Use people as your example. People make mistakes; See those and learn from them. You don’t have to take the falls we did. Dedication, hard work and faith make any dream that you have come true.” — Jermaine Dupri “Your credit is like your word. In order to build your credit, keep your credit under 30 to 40%. Don’t max out your credit cards and try to always buy something that has equity in it. Check all three credit reports and your FICO score.” — Doug E. Fresh “Business is fickle. Education is key. No one can take a degree from you.” — Bobby Valentino “We must take ownership. Find a level of commitment to give back to our communities.” — Roberta Shields “Live under your means. Pay taxes. Save money.” — Brian Michael Cox “We can’t continue to expect everyone else to help us and to lift us up. It starts with your block. You choose who your neighbors are. Read about the 203K program.” — Vanessa Williams Write down day-to-day expenses. Go back and analyze what you spent. At the end of 30 days, have a budget and learn to live within your means.” — James Whitmore, Chrysler Financial “Strategize- like a game of chess. Learn the principles on how to get your money right.” — Jerrod Potchman, Chrysler Financial “I climbed the ‘everything’ ladder. People make the mistake of not wanting to take the time to get to where they want to go. Clear one path, and then keep going to clear the next one.” — Jermaine Dupri

credit and are in good financial standing or you are struggling to make ends meet and can’t find a way to save money, EVERYONE can learn from this “admission free” summit. Leaders of our community are holding this event, every year, working towards economic advancement. They want us to attend; to participate in our future. Russell Simmons, along with the board members of HSAN, recognizes that education is best taught early on and through the avenues that attract our youth. Hip-Hop is widespread throughout our culture and cannot be ignored. It’s important that we become proactive in our own lives and in our communities. Many of us are just living day-today, running the rat race. Take time to marinate on instances in our lives; the things we are proud of; the things we would like to change. Then do it. Easier said than done, I know. I’m talking to myself as well. To get the party started, I’ve provided you, the reader, with some valuable quotes from certain panelists for you to pontificate. Be educated and take notes! — Keyla McNeely

“Go get it yourself. If you are broke, it’s your fault. Keep hustlin’ until you get it. Money does not fall out of the sky.” — Paul Wall “Principles to becoming wealthy – Stack your money. Decide you are going to get money and make money. People who make money are determined not to fail. Change the crew you hang around to people who can teach you something. In order to succeed, look in the mirror and decide that the most important person is you- not a celebrity. It’s you. Your grind is going to come from the number of times you get up from being told No. Make a decision- I will not die, I will not lose. Stack money.” — Killer Mike About The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) Founded in 2001, the HSAN is dedicated to harnessing the cultural relevance of hip-hop music to serve as a catalyst for education advocacy and other societal concerns fundamental to the empowerment of youth throughout the United States. HSAN is a non-profit, non-partisan worldwide coalition of hip-hop artists, entertainment industry leaders, education advocates, civil right proponents and youth leaders united in the belief that hip-hop is a powerful and influential agent for social change which must be responsibly and proactively utilized to fight the war on poverty and injustice. About Chrysler Financial Chrysler Financial offers a complete line of world-class automotive financial products and services for both dealers and consumers of Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles. In addition of offering vehicle wholesale and retail financing, Chrysler Financial provides fleet management and lines of credit to Chrysler Group dealers. As an industry leader in automotive financing, Chrysler Financial provides its customers with the most innovative and efficient methods of doing business. For more information, visit www.chryslerfinancial.com.

Issue IX • OwnerS Illustrated • 53


Lifestyle — Residential

TheRealDealon Mr.Holyfield


T

The Holyfield estate seems to roll off into the

distance when it is viewed from a spot along the two lane highway that runs across the entrance. It unfolds and spreads up a curving driveway that separates and allows paved access to buildings and areas removed from the vision of street traffic. The place is big. 235 acres of land with a 54,000 square foot mansion sitting on top like a cake figurine. Bold but tasteful, it makes a statement of luxury that is reminiscent of the castles of Europe, but in a metropolitan environment. The marble floors and detailed architecture are immaculate. The pool area and cabana would shame most five star resorts. In a word, its awesome. The Holyfield estate says, “I am the heavy weight champion of the world. I prayed, practiced, trained and fought my way to the top.” The estate has over 100 rooms in the main house, a sizable guest house that doubles as business space, a recording studio, training facility, playground, resort-style swimming pool and acres of manicured grounds, which include a stable with horses! Still, Evander Holyfield is a people’s champion. As a child, he was talented in many sports, but chose boxing because he believed it was the only sport in which, “No one can stop you from winning. The only person who can stop you from winning is yourself . . . If you don’t quit, you can reach your goal.” He didn’t quit. Instead, he won the Junior Olympics at age 11

weighing only 65 pounds. He also won for every subsequent year until he joined the U.S. Olympic team in 1988. Thereafter, he went through the ranks to become the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, despite the fact that most people thought he was too small. Today, he is larger than life and has the distinction of being the only heavyweight boxing champion in history capture the title four times. Capturing the heavyweight title 4 times meant losing it four times. Each time Evander lost the title, he was faced with a decision — quit or come back. Each time, he chose not too quit. “The big motivating factor for me in being able to lose four fights and still be the person that I am . . . is that you always have to be able to go to another level. I wouldn’t be the person that I am if the competition wasn’t tough,” he explained. “I didn’t quit and I reached my goals,” he concluded. Nevertheless, no belt, mansion, plaque or trophy can hide his enormous humanitarian spirit. He is not arrogant or pretentious. Rather, he is down to earth and refreshingly humble. He represents the man that has witnessed and reflected on the world around him, while striving to be the best the world has to offer. His keen awareness assists him in the ring and on the outside.


Mr. Holyfield attributes a large part of his success to the charity of the people who supported him as a child and early in his career. Since his family didn’t have much money when he was growing up, young Evander could not afford the programs that would nurture a championship boxer. He was fortunate because others were generous. “As a kid, we [were] poor,” he recalls. “I was the youngest of nine and going to the Boys Club was where I got my opportunity . . . I didn’t have the money, but someone was nice enough to pay for me to go to the Boys Club . . . people pretty much paid for everything I [did] as a young kid,” he said. “My mother gave me direction, but other people always provided me with money,” he added. When he became the heavyweight at age 28, the roles reversed and he was in a position to play the role of benefactor. “When I became the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion at age 28, I didn’t think that someone would actually pay me $22 million to do something that I do real well and that I like . . . When I gave thought to it, I realized that, as a kid, someone else gave me an opportunity . . . I started the Holyfield Foundation where I can give as many kids opportunities who have goals and want to be something,” he said with pride. At the Holyfield Youth Center, education and practical moral values are enriched in a safe environment. The center emphasizes education because knowledge is power. “No Knowledge, no power,” cautioned Evander. While he doesn’t necessarily expect to find the next Holyfield at the Youth Center, he feels that “it could be someone else who may change the world in some other kind of way by helping people,” he explained. “I know that I wouldn’t be the person that I am if the opportunity didn’t come from someone else other than my parents,” he said. Mr. Holyfield is also a businessman, but his foray into that role was a result of his desire to help others. “I come from a family that loves music . . . Once God blessed me to do well for myself, I started running into artists and started helping them out . . . one day, somebody said, ‘why don’t you just get a record label?’ I said, ‘how do you it?’ They talked me into it and I put a lot of money into it,” he recalls. “And, like they say, where a man’s money is that is where his heart is. So, I am in the music business,” he said. Evander’s Real Deal Records is planning to release R&B group, 4Shades, later this year and they have other artists in the studio. Initially, Evander took a backseat to the day to day running of Real Deal, but has since began to play a more “hands on” role, which he enjoys. Even though he stays on top of the business, he still gives his artists a great deal of creative freedom. “My record company represents me,” says Evander. “You have to meet the people where they are at . . . and help them identify who they are. If its good, we go with it.” Another one of Evander’s business ventures is MBC Network (Major Broadcasting Cable Network), which

he operates with CEO and “super lawyer,” Willie Gary; Marlon Jackson; former Detroit Tigers baseball star, Cecil Fielder; and media executive, Alvin James. MBC’s mission is to “Empower, Embrace and Impact Urban Communities With Programming That Uplifts Families Rather Than Tears Them Down.” Evander sees MBC Network as a way for black people to take control of their destiny. “Someone always told our vision,” he said. “I thought it was time for our people to start telling our own business. It’s time to present more of our own images and perspectives of us,” he added. MBC Network reaches 30 million homes via major cable companies like Comcast and Adelphia. Mr. Holyfield tries to be selective in his business relationships. “Some people might have the right skills but not the right attitude for the job,” he says. Through his Holyfield Management company, he continues his practice of surrounding himself with helpful like-minded individuals. It is important for Mr. Holyfield to have room and time to focus because in addition to his business and charitable ventures, he still plans to box. He’s made history as the only fighter to capture the heavyweight championship four times and he is adamant about retiring with the title. His management company is designed to orchestrate his affairs while he maintains his top-notch athletic condition. Although his passion is helping others, his love for delivering a few lumps is what makes it possible. He offers a tip for anyone in pursuit of individual goals. “Find something you love to do. If you love it, being good at it and being a success with it becomes easy.” WLS


Guests are greeted by a grand entrance

A dining room ďŹ t for a king

The entertainment room is chic yet cozy


Real Estate

“Rhymes I make give me real estate for me to own” — Rakim

Inside Jay-Z’s $2.5 Billion Deal

From Marcy to Madison Square and Back STORY: Deity Dah CONTRIBUTING WRITER: Reginald A. Greene, Esq.

“You know your ass is Willie when they got you in the Mag for like half a Billie”

A

s Jay-Z matures from jerseys to button up shirts, he also plans to buy the New Jersey Nets and put them in Brooklyn jerseys. Jay-Z is lauded as a Rap Icon, one of the best to ever bless a mic. Judging by his growing business portfolio and tremendous success as an entrepreneur, however, it is clear that Jay-Zʼs success in the music industry is as much a reflection of his lyrical prowess as it is of his business savvy, know-how, credibility and determination – quite simply, his hustle. Without so much as a High School Diploma, but with a boat-load of hustle, Jay-Z has aligned himself with some of the most powerful people in New York City to become a partner in a $2.5 Billion dollar project centered around the purchase of the New Jersey Nets NBA franchise, but including residential, commercial, and retail development. In doing so, Jay-Z has partnered with Bruce Ratner, CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, a New York based development firm that is part of Forest City Enterprises, Inc. based in Cleveland, Ohio. 80 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue IV


Forest City Enterprises, Inc. has been in business for nearly 80 years and although publicly held, the company is reportedly controlled by the Ratner family that emigrated to the United States from Poland in 1920. So, how does a self-professed, former drug dealer from Brooklyn align himself with such a powerful family and become partners with one of the most successful sports and entertainment franchises that America has to offer? The intriguing story and details of the massive project and itʼs implications will follow, but first, letʼs examine the history of the parties involved. JAY-Z Shawn Carter a/k/a Jay-Z has “held you down for eight summers,” selling over 22 million albums since launching Roc-a-fella Records in 1995 with savvy partners Damon “Dame” Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke and he has “the hottest chick in the game (Beyonceʼ)” rocking his chain. Jay-Z, Dame and Biggs have created an empire that earns over $500 million annually according to Fortune Magazine. Jay-Z also has won all of the major awards including Billboard, MTV, American Music, BET, Billboard, Grammyʼs, MTV and Soul Train. His 50/50 partnership deal with Reebok for the S. Carter shoe collection marks the first time a non-athlete has ever had a signature shoe line. That venture has been so successful according to a Bloomberg News report that it contributed significantly to Reebokʼs 14% increase in profits in the third quarter of 2003 with net sales of $1.04 billion. Not only does he contribute to Reebokʼs bottom line, he also outsells other shoes lines endorsed by athletes. Always ahead of the fashion curve, Jay-Z will soon release new S. Carter styles plus classic variations like the retro styled, red white and royal blue edition on July 4, 2004. The S. Carter shoes launch was so successful that it is the fastest selling sneaker in Reebok history. As a result of Jay-Zʼs success, fellow rapper, 50 Cent, was able to get a deal for his G-Unit shoe line with Reebok that has also been wildly successful. Jay-Zʼs other endorsements include Belvedere, Heineken, Mercedes-Benz and Nokia, which released a Jay- Z inspired line of “Black” phones that double as MP3 players and came pre-loaded with Jay-Zʼs Black album. Jay-Zʼs other business ventures include Roc-A-Fella Films, which released documentary style films such as, Streets is Watching, Backstage, State Property and feature films such as Paid in Full and the soon to be released Paper Soldiers and Death of a Dynasty; Rocawear clothing, which carries mens, womens, girls, boys, big and tall, lounge wear, hats and belts with a reported $350 million in sales in 2003; Armadale Premium two grain, triple distilled Scottish vodka distributed by Roc-a-fella in the United States (See OIM Premier Issue); and 40/40 Club, which is an elite sports bar in New York City. Jay-Z also has ownership of the wildly successful “Roc The Mic Tour,” which earned $29 Million in 2003 with Jay-Z and 50 Cent as headliners with Busta Rhymes, Sean Paul, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliot, and Fabolous also co-starring. Lastly, Jay-Zʼs autobiography entitled, the Black Book, will soon be released. On the philanthropic level, Jay-Zʼs Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund pays for the college tuition of Marcy area high school students who meet certain criteria and the Jay-Z Santa Claus Toy Drive supplies thousands of dollars in toys each year for the children of Marcy in Brooklyn. Adding to his many diverse holdings and successful ventures, JayZ is rumored to be working on a deal for an S. Carter Record Label

with Lyor Cohen who is now the head of Warner Brothers Music Group, which was recently sold to billionaire, Edgar Bronsfman, Jr. of Seagramʼs fame for $2.6 Billion. Bronsfman is responsible for merging Polygram, A&M, Geffen, Interscope, Island records, Universal Records, and Def Jam into Universal Music Group in 1998 and then selling the company to Vivendi, a French water treatment company, which formed Vivendi Universal to create a consumer-focused, performance-driven, values-based global media and communications company. Rapstress Foxy Brown and Brooklyn newcomer, Gravy, have been mentioned as potential signings for the new S. Carter label. On the real estate front, nearly two years after his attempted purchase of an exclusive penthouse in Manhattan, which was thwarted by a stubborn co-op board due to cultural prejudice, Jay-Z is in the process of acquiring the Tribecca New York penthouse of acclaimed actor, Robert Dinero, for a reported $13 million. Jay-Z has come a long way from the crime infested Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, New York where Jay-Z saw his first murder when he was 12 years old. Not even Hollywood could have predicted his level of success. THE RATNER FAMILY Bruce Ratner has been President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies since the company was formed in 1982. Under his 22 years of leadership, the company has become one of the foremost urban developers in the country with projects throughout the five Boroughs of New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Their projects focus on commercial retail and residential developments and include over 10 million square feet of space and more than 900 hotel rooms in two urban hotel complexes. In addition, they have 4.5 million square feet of residential, office, and retail space in development. Their flagship project is the Metro Tech Center (photo inset). It is a $1 billion, 7 million square foot office, academic and high-tech development in Downtown Brooklyn, New York. This 14 building complex began in 1988 and the two final buildings include 9 Metro Tech Center South, which is a 675,000 square-foot, 19 story office building that opened in the summer of 2003 with Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the largest health insurers in New York State, as tenants. The other building is 330 Jay Street (also known as 12 Metro Tech Center), a 32 story building with 1.1 million square feet of space that houses the Kings County Supreme and Family Courts, along with commercial office space. Other notable projects in Brooklyn include the Atlantic Terminal office and retail complex, the Atlantic Center, and One Pier Point Plaza. Forest City Ratner Companies is also responsible for the Harlem Center at Malcolm X Blvd. and 125th Street in Harlem, New York and the Hilton Times Square, Entertainment and Retail Development in Manhattan. Bruce Ratner is the son of Harry Ratner and a graduate from Harvard, cum laude, in 1967 Columbia Law School in 1970. He has held many civil positions with the New York City Government. From 1978 to 1982 he served as Commissioner of Consumer Affairs during Mayor Ed Kochʼs Administration. Prior to that, he taught at NYU Law School and was director of the Model Cities Program and head of the Consumer Protection Division during Mayor John Lindsayʼs Administration. An Art lover, Bruce Ratner sits on the boards of the Museum of Jewish Heritage/A living Memorial to the Holocaust, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Academy of Music, City Parks Founda


The Metro Tech Center Complex (outlined in yellow).

Roof Garden view of the planned Brooklyn Arena. tion, International Rescue Committee, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and the New York City Partnership. Bruce Ratner comes from a powerful and proud family who came to America from Poland as the Ratowczerʼs in 1920. Upon arrival at Ellis Island, they soon moved to Cleveland and adopted the family name of Ratner. In 1921, Charles Ratner, who had come to America several years before the rest of his family, started Forest City Materials, which was a lumber company. By 1925, the Ratners had expanded their operation to include the building of garages for homeowners when the automotive industry began to boom. By 1929, Forest City Materials and the Ratnerʼs Buckeye Materials companies combined into one family owned venture in the lumber and building materials business. Siblings Leonard, Max and Fannye were co-founders with Charles. Today, Leonardʼs son Albert is the Chairman of Forest City Enterprises, Inc. Forest City Enterprises, Inc., is based in Cleveland Ohio and has almost $6 billion in assets. It has been traded on the New York Stock Exchange since 1960 (NYSE: FCEA/FCEB). The company owns, develops and manages a diverse portfolio of real estate in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The principal business segments of Forest City Enterprises include a commercial, a residen82 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue IV

tial, land development and lumber trading. The commercial business segment, which is the largest, has more than 77 completed retail, offices, hotels and mixed-use properties as well as 12 regional malls with gross leasable areas of 4 million square feet, 29 specialty retail centers with 5.7 million square feet, 28 office buildings with 7.8 million square feet and 8 hotels with 2941 rooms. One of their notable projects is the re-development of Tower City, a retail and office complex in Cleveland, Ohio. The residential business segment owns and/or manages 125 apartment communities with 36,904 units. The land development business unit works with major corporations and individual landowners in developing master planned communities and acquiring land for residential, commercial, and industrial use. The company owns 6600 acres of developable land and 32 projects. Lastly, the lumber trading segment sells approximately 8 billion board feet of lumber annually. THE DEAL On January 23, 2004, a distinguished group that included, Bruce Ratner, New York Governor George Pataki, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assemblyman Rodger Green (whoʼs district falls within the planned construction site), NBA Legend Bernard King, and Jay-Z were present at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to announce the purchase of the Nets. This announcement was significant in that it also included a plan to create a $2.5 billion development project called The Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. The bid to purchase the Nets was approved for $300 million. With this announcement, Jay-Z became the first hip-hop entrepreneur to participate in the purchase of a professional sports franchise. As Jay-Z joins this exclusive partnership, his urban background and proven “hustle” certainly will be an asset to the venture. The Nets deal is part of the massive $2.5 billion mixed-use development in Downtown Brooklyn, New York that will include residential, commercial, a sports and entertainment arena, and open areas. The project is expected to take 10 years to complete. When completed the project will include 2.1 million square feet of commercial office space, 300,000 square feet of retail space, 4.4 million square feet of residential space consisting of 4500 units of affordable, middle income, and market rate housing. In addition, this six block development with contain 6 acres of parks and open space. JPMorgan Chase served as advisor in the acquisition of the Nets and will likely be involved in the financing of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yard Project. The NBA is one of the worldʼs most popular sports associations and the 29 franchises had revenues in excess of $2.3 billion during the 2001-02 season. The NBA sells itʼs entertainment product internationally by broadcasting itʼs game to 205 countries and over 750 million households. Houston Rocket, Yao Ming, is a native of China, which has over one billion people with 250 million TV households. He is expected to further expand the NBA reach as the 2008 Olympics approach in Bejing, China. Jay-Zʼs direct involvement in this deal is a major coup because,


typically, the artists who make the music are often not the primary beneficiaries of the financial windfalls. Case in point. Bob Johnson created the BET network to showcase the music videos created, financed and produced by entrepreneurs like Jay-Z and Mr. Johnson was able to leverage the popularity of music videos into a deal with media giant, Viacom, that made Bob Johnson a billionaire. Bob Johnson recently purchased an NBA expansion franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats, for a record $300 Million. Jay-Z has obviously been taking good notes and is similarly poised to join the ranks of the NBA owners. The Nets were established in 1976 as an ABA team, but later joined the NBA. The team has made impressive showings in the past two NBA Championship Series and have long term broadcast agreements with the YES Network, which is owned by George Steinbrenner, the owner of the N.Y. Yankees Baseball Team. Rod Thorn, a well-respected league executive who was responsible for drafting Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls in 1984, is the Team President and General Manager of the Nets. The Nets are led on the basketball court by the ever exciting Jason Kidd, a perennial All Star, and one of the best players in the NBA. They also have a group of young and promising players such as Kenyon Martin who has his own Reebok sneaker deal, and Richard Jefferson. The site for the new Brooklyn Arena will be adjacent to the Atlantic Terminal, which is the third largest transportation hub in New York City. The Atlantic Terminal provides service to 9 subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road and will provide convenient transportation to the Arena for patrons of games and entertainment events. This location is also historic. It is the site where Walter Oʼ Malley, the legendary owner of baseballʼs Brooklyn Dodgers, had planned for the teamʼs home in 1957. When OʼMalleyʼs bid to build the stadium proved unsuccessful, he moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles. The project, which will be completed in two phases, is expected to create 15,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs. The first phase will include the development of the $483 million Arena, which will cover 800,000 square feet and seat 19,000 for basketball games and 20,000 for entertainment and concert events. Construction is slated to begin at the end of 2004 and is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2006. In addition to the Arena, there also will be 300,000 square feet of commercial space, with the possibility of one residential building. The Arena is expected to create 400 permanent jobs for the Brooklyn community. The second phase will include the development of the massive mixed-use facility over a ten year period. Internationally acclaimed, Frank Gehry, and his firm, Gehry Partners, have been tapped to be the architects for the project. Gehryʼs accolades include 100 national and regional awards from the American Institute of Architects. Gehry Partners will team up with Laurie Olin and Olin Partnership for the landscaping on the project. Laurie Olin is currently a professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as Chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University from 1982-1986. Olin Partnership was founded by Laurie Olin and three other principals, Lucinda Sanders, Dennis McGlade and Susan Weiler, in 1995. This development is going to be a tremendous economic opportunity for the Brooklyn community and for Jay-Z. He is now a glob-

View from a luxury suite in the planned Brooklyn Arena. ally recognized Icon in music, fashion and business. He is living proof that one can truly go from “Rags to Riches” with the right combination of attributes – the right hustle. Not only has Jay-Z proven he can sell out Madison Square Garden in a day, but he also has proven that he can buy an arena that is likely to sell out for years to come. While some will continue to argue “whoʼs the best Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?” Jay-Z ended the debate on the cut “What More Can I Say” from his Black Album: “Look what I embody. The soul of a hustler, I really ran the street, got a CEOʼs mind that marketing plan was me . . . add that to the fact I went plat a bunch of times, times that by my influence on Pop Culture, Iʼm supposed to be number one on everybodyʼs list.” True Indeed. Brooklyn, Stand Up! ∞

Jay-Z: The Early Days – Reflections from The Editor-in-Chief Although I had some inclination that Jay-Z would be successful during a chance meeting at BET, which was then headquartered in Washington, D.C., before Bob Johnson became a billionaire by selling the company to Viacom in 1996, I could not have foreseen the level of success he has achieved in relatively short time frame. When I first met Jay-Z he had not yet released Reasonable Doubt. He was mild mannered but focused, wearing a customized Rocafella jacket and still beaming for the success of the “Ainʼt no Ni**a” and “Dead Presidents” singles. Jay-Z was preparing for the release of Reasonable Doubt which according to him “turned the people out.” He was on a promotional tour with then distributor, Priority Records. Rocafella had a single deal for the song “In My Lifetime” on a label called “Payday.” When that project failed to make an impact and the majors were still showing no love, Jay-Z partnered with dance music distributor, Freeze Records, and released the “Ainʼt no Ni**a” single featuring Foxy Brown and my personal favorite “Dead Presidents.” Their marketing slogan was You Canʼt Change a Playerʼs Game in the Ninth Inning. I met Jay-Z again later that year at a Vibe party honoring Russell Simmons where Jay-Z, now certified Gold, performed on stage with a bottle of Cristal. After the performance, Jay-Z appeared to enjoying festivities with partners, Dame Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, with the Wu Tang Clan also in VIP. Little did I know that they were probably negotiating the Roc-a-Fella deal with Russell Simmons to join Roc-a-Fella Records with Def Jam for what would become the greatest bargain in the industry at less than $2 million. The rest is history.


Photo Courtesy of The Chrysler Group DaimlerChrysler AG

Judy Brunson The Soul of DaimlerChrysler’s resurgence INTERVIEW Damola 24 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue


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Judy Brunson emerged on the automotive scene just over three years ago as elected assistant to the CEO of the Chrysler Group. Her purpose was to make a way out of no way and turn around Chrysler’s ailing business practices through hard work and planning. With a plan that deviated from the American Automotive business model that relied on making profits from sales of trucks and SUV’s, the Chrysler Group invested in a rear wheel drive platform and began making exciting products that would draw consumer response. Virtually, the plan did away with the need for discounting. The LX platform that underpins the 300, Magnum and Charger models, allowed the Chrysler Group to integrate expertise from the luxury Daimler division and create affordable American luxury for consumers. This design platform contributed to prices stretching from a base of $23,000 to nearly $40,000, while at the same time eliminating models that were underperforming.

I got a chance to visit DaimlerChrysler’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan to have a chat with Judy Brunson, Senior Manager of Product Planning for DaimlerChrysler. We discussed how Chrysler’s new popularity all came to be, what her role was in this venture and what her role would be now that Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO has been promoted to Chairman of the Board of DaimlerChrysler AG. Now, he will personally oversee the Mercedes division in Germany as well. In our interview, we learned how DaimlerChrysler continues to flourish, enjoying an increase in sales while other Detroit manufactures have been continually losing market share. Our dialogue also ventured to new products and an overall strategy for success in the automotive field. Please get to know Judy Brunson, protégé of Dr. Zetsche and a woman to watch in the automotive world.

now which was our original plan from the beginning when he first called me. The plan was that I would work with him and learn his management style. He would train and groom me and then I would provide him what he needed to be successful in the U.S. market. I would help him become who he is – the face of the Chrysler Group.

PHOTO: DAMOLA

That was the initial plan three years ago and now it’s come to fruition? Yes, it has absolutely come to fruition. He has become probably one of the most recognizable automotive CEO’s in the world and arguably one of the most recognizable CEO’s period.

Can you give us an introduction of who you are and what you do? I am Judy Brunson and I work with Dr. Dieter Zetsche, who is currently the CEO of Chrysler Group and at the end of the year will be Chairman of the Board of Management for DaimlerChrysler AG. Tell our readers a little bit about your history. How did you get started and how did you get into this position at Chrysler? I have a technical background. I’m an engineer by degree, an electrical engineer undergraduate. Where did you go to school? I went to GMI for my undergraduate degree. I have a mechanical engineering Masters and I have an MBA. I’ve worked with Chrysler for a number of years. Dr. Zetsche came into the group in November of 2000 and I started working with him in December of 2002. So, that’s been almost three years

Tell us about the steps it took and the things you had to contribute to achieve this goal. When Dr. Zetsche came to the Chrysler Group, it was well publicized that the group was not doing as well as we are doing today. Dr. Zetsche came in with a mission to turn-around the Chrysler Group, therefore we put in place a turn-around plan. When I came on board, my mission was to ensure that our goals were achieved. My role is all over the place with him. I travel with him, I write for him, I… So, you are going to Germany with him. Yes, I’m going to Germany, but I am not going to live in Germany. I’m going to help him transition to his new position. My role will always be as it was intended; I am the background person that runs everything so he can be out front in the public. There was a two-fold mission to our relationship. I was to leech and learn everything that I could from the best absolute most brilliant manager in the world and then I was to help him be the German American that he needed to be in order to become the face of the corporation for the Chrysler Group. So what does that mean? That means that when he goes out publicly and speaks, I am the person who makes sure that what he is saying are the best words to represent the Chrysler Group. We’ve

Womens Issue • OwnerS Illustrated • 25


“From the beginning our plan was to protect for an onslaught of new and dynamic products. That started with the Crossfire, then the Pacifica, then the 300C, the Magnum and the Charger. Those products were in the works five years ago.” — Judy Brunson But, what were some of the steps because the turnaround is tremendous. I looked at the performances of the other American auto makers and they’re losing a lot of money. Yet, the Chrysler Group is very profitable right now. One thing we learned early on is to get a handle on our costs so we did a lot of cutting up front. It’s not a secret that we cut a lot of heads out of the Chrysler Group. Our material costs decreased drastically. The monies that we spent to produce new products is something that we protected fiercely because it all comes down to product. From the beginning our plan was to protect for an onslaught of new and dynamic products. That started with the Crossfire, then the Pacifica, then the 300C, the Magnum and the Charger. Those products were in the works five years ago. 26 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue

How long does it take to develop a vehicle? We worked on cutting costs by shortening. A while ago it took us around five years to develop a product. Recently, we have been systematically reducing that time. Technically, we can get a vehicle to market in twenty-four months. So, to go from five or more years down to twenty-four months is phenomenal. It takes a lot of costs out, a lot of fat, and a lot of inefficiencies out of the process. It allows us to get those products to the market when we need to get them out because it is a hot product. What is the strategy with the Mercedes Group? The strategy is Dieter Zetsche, plain and simple. He is basically a turnaround king. He will go to Mercedes Car Group and address the issues; he’ll control the costs, improve the quality and he’ll protect the product. Simple. And what will your role be there? My role with Dr. Zetsche in his transition is simply to transition. I will not become an employee of Mercedes Car

PHOTO: DAMOLA

looked at media clips and we understand how he’s going to be perceived in the media and we want to make sure that he’s got the right face. He’s so charismatic, so it’s not a lot to do!


Group. I will remain with the Chrysler Group. Like I said earlier, the objective always was for him to send me to head an organization for him. That will still happen when it’s going to happen. We are working on it. So, the plan was to put you in charge of a group; work under him and learn all the intricacies, his techniques of how he’s able to improve and make a brand successful and take these lessons to now apply it to a group and be a head of that group? Absolutely. I will take his management style and apply it as best I can to my next assignment whatever that will be. He will be very instrumental in determining what that will be. Tell us about the challenges you have as a woman, a black woman in a male dominated auto industry. I think that being a female in the automotive industry is sort of unique in and of itself and being a black female is even more unique. There are a lot of opportunities and advantages. The key is to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. There are not a lot of us in the automotive industry and that’s not because there are no qualified black females. It is just an industry that has been predominantly filled by the majority. However, it is definitely a field where there is a lot of opportunity for us. What do you think would create a change where more people, qualified people will be able to get positions? Well, right now there are black females with technical backgrounds from a college standpoint and the population of them is increasing. Also, the automotive industry isn’t the only place that a woman with a technical background can go. We have to do a better job in the automotive industry of attracting the people in the crop; presenting a package to those highpotential black females or females in general. We have to let them know there are opportunities in the automotive industry and in Detroit. What’s the value of the urban market to the group and how do you think that influences the product? Well, there are a lot of demographics. Our targets are 18-25, 26-30 and 35-50. Typically when we design a product we look at a product and design it because it is aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, we have had some success in the marketplace because our products are not just aesthetically pleasing to one demographic, they appeal across the board. The young urban hip-hop demographic is in tune with our vehicles. I can’t say that we set out to design the 300C to only excite the young urban hip-hop person, per se, because it excited everybody. It’s the most awarded car ever. Yes, and that’s what our designers set out to do. They design products that are aesthetically pleasing, that answers questions that a lot of different markets and demographics have asked. Is there going to be any synergies between developments of vehicles from the Mercedes Group to the Jeep to the Dodge to the Chrysler?

What we have been doing is volume bundling and packaging components and using one component across several product lines. That will continue to happen. What you won’t see is a Chrysler badge on a Mercedes product. For example, we wouldn’t take an E-Class and bring it over here and badge it as a Chrysler and try to sell it. That type of thing will never happen. Mercedes will be Mercedes, Chrysler will be Chrysler, and Dodge and Jeep respectively will be what they are. But, under the surface of the car we will definitely use those components across many different car lines. For example, the Mercedes engine in the Crossfire. Absolutely. I just have two questions. How is your personal life? Are you married and how does that affect your position within the company. I am married and I’m a mom. I am the mother of fourteen yearold identical twin boys. It’s a huge time commitment and my job is a huge time commitment. I have a lot of support from my husband because he is a wonderful person. My boys are car heads so they love this industry. They really love the fact their mommy works for Dieter Zetsche, who to them is like the car czar. In their mind, it’s pretty cool. So, even though I travel a lot and work a lot of hours, I do have a lot of support at home. My husband and our family help out as well. So it works. It’s helpful when they really appreciate what I am doing and who I’m doing it for. There have been rumors of a spin off of the Chrysler Group from the Mercedes Group. Can you address what the future holds for the entire DaimlerChrysler AG and Smart? Smart is a part of Mercedes Car Group and that will remain. There are no plans or discussions under way to change that. It’s a very successful conglomerate. We are a global company and have products in every segment, every passenger car segment and we’re happy with the results of the merger so far, and there are no plans to splitting off. Okay. Can you lend a word of advice to young women who aspire to take advantage of the opportunities that you have talked about? How can they position themselves to take advantage of those opportunities and be able to now enter into the automotive field? I would suggest that young women concentrate on the technical fields. While we do have more women and African-Americans entering technical fields than ever before, the actual numbers are still very low. For whatever reason, we tend to shy away from the sciences and the more difficult higher level math courses and we shouldn’t. There is opportunity for us there. We can excel when we put forth the effort in our early educational areas early on before high school. It has to happen in middle school first. You have to really become serious about your education in middle school and then follow it through to the high school level, then move into the technical fields in college. There are tons of scholarships out there that are just untapped resources. We can be successful in predominantly majority dominated technical fields. There is just room for tons of opportunity. Womens Issue • OwnerS Illustrated • 27


Photo courtesy of Jive Records

COVER FEATURE

76 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue


KELIS BOLD &Beautiful

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78 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue

Photography: Duane Johnson

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ince her introduction on the late great ODB’s climate in the music recording single, “I got your Money,” to her breakout industry, artists are under pressure empowerment single, “I hate you so much to find new avenues to garner more right now,” Kelis has been a trendsetter with a revenue as CD sales are rapidly style and cultural impact all unto her own. Her declining and digital music sales are “Milkshake” brought all the boys to the yard more geared to selling jingles than and took her Tasty album to gold selling status, complete albums. Partnerships with yet the “Bossy” Harlem native, a product of corporations are crucial especially multicultural parents with ancestry in China, Puerto Rico, for tour support and enhancing and African American, Kelis has always boldly gone her own artists profiles. Kelis enjoys a great direction and has been acclaimed for it. Kelis married Hip-Hop relationship with Ford who has royalty, Nasir Jones a.k.a Nas and they soon have a reality show allowed her to be herself in their set to debut on MTV with a working title, Mr. & Mrs. Jones. lucrative partnership, “Ford has been An avid cooking fan, she is also working on a cookbook, along really supportive of the stuff that I’m with a clothing line, and several other creative endeavors. doing... the other thing I appreciated However, one endeavor close to her heart is her partnership is that they didn’t ask me to change.” with Ford Motor Company in the promotion of their new Some of the things Ford supported crossover SUV, the EDGE. A car lover, Kelis stated “I think included the release party for her it is great to associate women with cars…we drive too and husband’s album, Hip-Hop is Dead,, what I want is important. I drive my own cars.” Speaking for along with her tours. Always busy, a lot of women, marketing of automobiles have generally been Kelis informed us, “I’m starting geared toward the Alpha male but Ford with the Edge made to work on a new record and I’m the bold move and dared to be different. “I got involved with the Edge and I liked what they were saying and what they wanted to do, and what they were marketing towards. I like something that looks good, drives well and fits my lifestyle and I do a lot of stuff. I also travel a lot and I always have luggage and bags,” enlightens Kelis. As a Grammy nominated artist who has topped charts globally, Kelis is also a mother to her husbands’ daughter, Destiny who spends time with them in their home in Atlanta. The EDGE has been a successful vehicle for Ford introducing a new design language for the company that invented the assembly line production. A company founded on the principle that every man should be able to afford a quality motor vehicle, Kelis was also impressed by the chances they took with the Edge. “There are still things about it that is sexy,” says Kelis. “They made a lot of Kelis with the Ford Edge at the bold choices with it.” 2007 NAIAS Auto Show in Detroit Currently, with the new


Kelis with the Ford Interceptor Concept at the 2007 NAIAS Auto Show in Detroit

going to be touring,” but she also cautions young women on the difficulties and disappointments to be expected in the current climate in the music industry… “It’s something you do if you can’t do anything else. It’s not something I would say to go for.” Many opportunities exist behind the scenes however, as several women find employment in Marketing and Publicity, and even in senior executive positions with legendary Sylvia Rhone heading the Motown legacy. With a style true to her own and beauty and grace unparalleled, Kelis remains bold and keeps an edge over the competition by simply being herself. To keep up with Kelis visit www.kelisonline.com

“I THINK IT IS GREAT TO ASSOCIATE WOMEN WITH CARS…WE DRIVE TOO AND WHAT I WANT IS IMPORTANT, I DRIVE MY OWN CARS.” — Kelis Womens Issue • OwnerS Illustrated • 79


La La

Exclusive Interview with

How did you get your break on MTV? I used to be on the radio in Atlanta and LA and that’s how I got to MTV. Which radio stations were you on in Atlanta & LA? Hot 97.5 in Atlanta and 100.4 the beat in LA. As a person featured on TV all week how important is your image and who are some of the people who help you shape it? I have a stylist but my friends are most important to me because the can see how I come across on TV and I look to them for what’s hot out there. But I talk to different stylist and we work it out like that. What drew you into the entertainment industry? It was sort of like a work study program I did for high school, I left school early and worked at the radio station and by being there I thought this is something I want to be a part of. What excites you about fashion? That it’s always changing and it’s something that things cycle like its trending towards things from the past and it’s definitely not boring. What do you think is missing in the fashion industry and how do you think Muchunu can fill the gap? I don’t necessarily know what’s missing I just think it’s hot for new designers to step in and not necessarily bring something that is not there, but to add to what’s there and bring their own vibe to it. How did you meet the designer Muchunu Vusi? Through a mutual friend in the Baltimore, MD area. What attracted you to his designs? I like the fact that his clothes are different, like one coat has Ray Charles face on the back to racing jackets I just like that he switches it up. Working at MTV which has several fashion productions how can you see the designs of Muchunu fitting in and what differentiates his designs? The clothes are urban and have a hip-hop feel to them but still are different because he puts his own twist to them and it fits right in because you can see people wearing them every day not like the clothes that are overly priced. The jeans line is not just plain jeans,

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he adds his own patches to them and the race car jackets are cut differently, everything has it’s own unique twist. What kind of training did you have to become a broadcast journalist/VJ? Me and Ludacris started together in Atlanta and we were interns first and then we kind of moved up from there to do a radio show and when I moved to LA I did something on the radio station out there and it got hot and MTV called me. What advice do you have for people trying to enter the industry? I always tell people you got to be willing to work for free because with internships the experience you get from that is so valuable and a lot of times companies want to hire from within so if you were interning and doing well you would be one of the first people the look at when its time to hire. I just emphasize internships cuz people complain that they got to get paid but in the long run it’s worth it.

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Lil Wayne

Taking Over the Reigns of Cash Money 70 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue VI


Images Courtesy of Universal Records

RichardFlood.com

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ash Money Records has long made its mark in the Southern Music landscape. A part of this mark is having released several hits and recorded culture influencing artists, including the Label CEO Bryan “Baby” Williams and his adopted son since the age of 12, Lil Wayne. Baby and his Brother Ronald “Slim” Williams, have helmed Cash Money Records for over 13 years and their success has enhanced the independent music blueprint that is now being enjoyed throughout the south in cities from Houston, TX to Atlanta, GA. We recently published a cover feature on Baby in issue IV. But since then, changes have occurred at Cash Money; longtime producer and composer Mannie Fresh has left the fold, along with star talent Juvenile. In the mist of this turmoil rumors began to swirl that Lil Wayne himself was leaving the fold for greener pastures to join Jay-Z at Def Jam, sister label to their distributor Universal Motown Records. When the smoke and chaos finally settled, Lil Wayne emerged with a phenomenal album that is without any contributions from Mannie Fresh; and a newfound responsibility as the new President of Cash Money Records, along with being CEO of his own imprint Young Money Records.

Words: Deity Dah

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“Our reality is different from everybody else...In New Orleans, you got a 70% chance of failing, failure meaning dying.” Owners Illustrated Magazine had the pleasure of sitting down with Lil Wayne, a.k.a. Wheezy F Baby, a.k.a. Birdman JR, a.k.a. the Fireman, to discuss his evolution from Cash Money fan to Cash Money President and the impact of Hurricane Katrina to him and his family. “You get a 25 year old, 30 year old person and ask who their old school south rapper is, and I may fall in that picture, I’m still here.” Lil Wayne These are words you wouldn’t anticipate to hear from a twenty-three year old who as “The Fireman,” has been influencing the Southern Hip-Hop landscape and global culture as an artist of Cash Money Records since 1995 with mega-hits including the coined phrase “Bling Bling”. Lil Wayne has had a tremendous career as a pioneer and icon that made girls ‘drop it like its hot’ long Before Snoop Dogg and Pharell paired for their massive hit. Wayne is a native of New Orleans’ notorious 17th Ward, in a neighborhood called Hollygrove. “Our reality is different from everybody else…. In New Orleans you got a 70% chance of failing, failure meaning dying,” speaks Lil Wayne of his reality. Out of this environment he listened to and idolized early Cash Money recording artists such as Pimp Daddy and UNLV, who he cites as some of his early influences. It is only fitting that a few years later he would meet Label co-CEO’s brothers, Baby and Slim and to go on to have Baby adopt him. In 1995, he would release his debut album True Story at age 12 on Cash Money Records, as the duo “B.G.’s” with rapper B.G. With several platinum albums under his belt and numerous guest appearances, Lil Wayne’s presence has been felt. However, with the leadership set in place by Baby, it was natural for him to aspire to get more and be more involved behind the scenes. As he was getting comfortable in his new role as President, tragedy struck the Gulf Region and devastated New Orleans. Even though a millionaire, he and his brethren were not immune to the disaster that took the new home he had just built for his mother. “I have got to rebuild my momma’s house, my momma had no insurance or nothing,” Lil Wayne says. His plight is endemic to a lot of people in the region who had home insurance but not flood insurance, for a flood like this has never hit this country before. Faced with the tragedy however, his remains undaunted and defiant, Lil Wayne says, “Personally I’m a hustler and you can’t let tragedy touch you at all if you’re a hustler… let me tell you something, a hustler never worries about what you lose. You try to figure out what you can gain. To even worry about what I lost is a loss; it’s gone; only time you got to dwell on the past is when it’s great history.” Yet as he has a determination to rebuild what has been lost personally from his stock, he empathizes with others who have been affected. “I feel for everyone that’s been affected- my family and people that is not my family and for people that have been affected worse” As efforts get underway to rebuild and reshape New Orleans, Lil Wayne got a pulse on the situation but has a focus on rebuilding his community Lil Wayne says, “Donald Trump was about to build the Trump Towers over there [before the Hurricane]…. If I do anything with real estate in my city, it’s going to be in the hood.” Lil Wayne is not a novice at real estate having learned to diversify his interests from Baby and Slim. He joined them in investing in the red hot Miami real estate market. “My hands

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are in real estate in Miami. So, if you are looking to get a condo, holla at your boy.” Real estate is not the only venture Lil Wayne has outside of Music. He has just recently signed on as a spokesperson for Reebok to endorse a line of sneakers. “I got a sneaker deal with Reebok. It’s supposed to drop February 28…. They do the urban thing and they haven’t lost yet …I felt it’s time for me, of course, to have a shoe or something outside of records”. To augment his ventures and enhance his personal growth, Lil Wayne is currently studying Psychology at the University of Houston. All this is a lot to maintain for any twenty-three year old, but Lil Wayne is undaunted and focused- especially on his music. ‘Tha Carter II’ is the first album to be released under his new role as President of Cash Money Records and CEO of Young Money Records. In putting the album together, he utilized new in-house producers and his relationships built over many years in the industry. When asked about his process of crafting memorable lines, he reveals he doesn’t write his lyrics down, it’s all improvisational. “I don’t write. When you don’t write, it’s you. It’s natural.” Notoriously absent, however, is longtime collaborator Mannie Fresh. Of his absence, Lil Wayne stated flatly, “We don’t need him.” Instead he utilized new blood and the energy is evident in the product. For his packaging of his CD, Wheezy put together one of the years best covers and an all-time classic that was inspired by another President Carter, Shawn a.k.a. Jay-Z. On Jay-Z’s best selling disk to date “The Hard Knock Life, Volume II,” he posed on the cover of his CD in front of his Bentley Azure to illustrate his success level and position. As a member of the crew that created Bling Bling and promoted that esthetic to the fullest, it is only fitting Young Wheezy does the same. “I had just got my Phantom. So, I was like why not, I got a Phantom and I’m like 22. I’m about to throw my sh*t on my cover with no shirt, I got 20 G’s in both pockets sticking out and some shine; Just me, my money and my whip – “Tha Carter II.” Well loved by the females, Lil Wayne states, “I’m a playa.” It’s not surprising he has caught the interest and attention of Hip-Hop diamond princess, Trina. But, he remains coy about their relationship, simply stating “She’s a cool girl”. Always the hustler, he is involved in other projects outside of Cash Money records. Having recently finished a tour with former ‘Boyz in Da Hood’ member Young Jeezy, and T.I., he now replaces Jeezy in the group and appears on some songs with T.I. on the project. “Me and T.I. just became

“Personally, I’m a hustler, and you can’t let tragedy touch you at all if you a hustler... To even worry about what I lost is a loss – it’s gone – only time you got to dwell on the past is when it’s great history.” 74 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue VI


“It was nothing for him [Diddy] to ask me to do anything. I’m there just like if we were to ask him to do anything we would expect the same.” the new members of Boyz in da Hood. The album drops May 24th, beware.” When asked exactly how the deal materialized with Diddy to record as a member of the group, he replied, “It was nothing for him [Diddy] to ask me to do anything. I’m there; just like if we were to ask him to do anything, we would expect the same”. A lesson well learned in the art of diplomacy that will serve him well in his new role as the spearhead of the careers of R&B Legend Tina Marie, along with songstress’ Lil Mo and Kiki Wyatt, with Boo & Gotti still in the fold and female rapper Tateeze. As for aspiring acts looking to sign with his company, Lil Wayne is looking for hustlers like K-Gates from New Orleans who didn’t make it to the Ultimate Hustler finale but has impressed Wayne with his grind - from a fan; to collaborator; to foe; to the couch on 106&Park. I once learned if you want to join an organization and flourish, one must learn the corporate culture and adapt yourself to it. Lil Wayne is leading Cash Money Records into a very prosperous future. In fact, it is safe to say that he is personally betting on it. ∞

Issue VI • OwnerS Illustrated • 77


Small Business

“Nobody’s going to pay you like you pay yourself” — cam’ron

Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele “Building Legacy Wealth” STORY: Damola

PHOTOGRAPHY: Wil David

of 25 and 44, a higher percentage than the national average. Approximately 90 percent of Maryland’s 5.5 million residents live in the densely populated corridor between Baltimore and Washington D.C. Jurisdictions with the greatest population densities include Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, which border Washington D.C. Maryland also has many of tax advantages for an urban business seeking to locate there. Case in point, suppose Rocawear wanted to locate in Maryland. Below are some of the advantages. The state has: • No gross receipts tax on manufacturers • No corporate franchise tax • No unitary tax on profits • No income tax on foreign dividends (if the corporation owns 50 percent or more of the subsidiary)

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or an urban entrepreneur, the state of Maryland offers a number of excellent opportunities to establish businesses and build “legacy” wealth. That is, wealth for generations to come. To get the inside scoop, Owners Illustrated met with the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Michael Steele, at the State House in Annapolis, Maryland and confirmed that knowledge is indeed power. “Legacy wealth is about creating the free wheeling entrepreneurial spirit,” explained Lt. Gov. Steele. “The focus should be legacy wealth - - creating a legacy of wealth for this and future generations . . . Jay-Z represents Legacy wealth. He is going to create jobs with his ventures. Russell [Simmons] is the quintessential entrepreneur. He took what we knew about in our community to build an empire.” As a minority leader, Lt. Gov. Steele knows what motivates the urban community and he is determined to expose urban entrepreneurs to all the benefits of doing business in Maryland. “I want us to focus more on investments than bling bling,” he says. “I feel obligated as an elected official to make certain resources we have available to entrepreneurs. We create pathways to capital and resources that will get minority entrepreneurs off the ground.” To that end, Maryland does over $5 billion in contracts annually and, by law, at least $500 million must go to minority and small businesses. In retail, the state of Maryland ranks fifth nationally, with combined sales of $105 billion. Maryland’s residents are very affluent, boasting the fourth highest per capita personal income in the United States at $37,331. This is 18% more than the national average. Maryland also has the fifth highest buying income at $182 billion per year. Montgomery County, Maryland, which is just to the North of Washington, D.C., is one of the most affluent counties in the nation, with a per capita personal income of $51,750. On the opposite end, Maryland has one of the lowest poverty rates in the nation - - 8.2 percent of Marylanders live below the poverty line as compared with 12.7 percent nationally. Maryland is the 42nd largest by size, but with its 5.5 million residents, it ranks 19th by population. More importantly, that number is projected to increase 10 percent by 2010. Maryland has an abundance of prime workforce-age residents, with nearly one-third of the state’s population between the ages

• No separate school taxes By locating their next facility in Maryland, companies can take advantage of over $5 million in tax credits under the One Maryland Tax Credit Program. In addition, businesses that invest in an economic development project in a “qualified distressed county” may qualify for project tax credits of up to $5 million and start-up tax credits of up to $500,000 • Companies locating in a “One Maryland” jurisdiction may qualify for up to $5.5 million in income tax credits. • Companies locating in the targeted areas receive favored consideration for other project support such as low cost financing and new employee training grants. • Other advantages may include Job Creation Tax Credits, and Enterprise Zone property and income tax credits. Project Tax Credit Project tax credits of up to $5 million are based on qualifying costs and expenses incurred by the business entity in connection with the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, installation, and equipping of an eligible economic development project. Eligible costs may include, among others, land acquisition, performance and contract bonds, insurance, architectural and engineering services, environmental mitigation, and utility installation. Eligible project costs must be at least $500,000. Project costs in excess of $5 million are not eligible for the project tax credit. Start-up Tax Credit The start-up tax credit is for the expense of moving a business from outside Maryland and for the costs of furnishing and equipping a new location for ordinary business functions. Examples of eligible start-up costs include the cost of fixed telecommunications equipment, office equipment, or office furnishings. The start-up credit earned may not exceed the lesser of $500,000 of eligible start-up costs or $10,000 times the number of new, qualified positions created. Film production is a growing industry in Maryland. In 2003, Maryland hosted 286 days of filming for major film and television productions. In addition, there were 79 other productions including

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short films, commercials, documentaries, industrials, and music videos. This production activity generated approximately $65 million in direct expenditures, resulting in an economic impact of $141 million. For the avid cinematographer or videographer, Maryland offers a rich array of landscapes and natural scenery. Whether it’s the mountains in the west, the rolling hills and farmlands in the center, the beautiful waterfront and sandy beaches of the Eastern Shore, or the gritty and grimy urban streets, Maryland has something for everyone. Architecture that spans the centuries from colonial to modern and illustrates a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds can be found throughout the state. In fact HBO’s The Wire, is based on Baltimore Maryland and filmed there. Qualified feature, television, cable, commercial, documentary, music video and other productions may take advantage of an available exemption from the 5% state sales tax. The exemption is for sales, rentals and services there is an office dedicated to attracting such projects. The Maryland Film Office is a marketing arm of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development. It works to attract feature film, television, video and commercial production to shoot on location in the State of Maryland. The Maryland Film Office offers the following services for major productions:

Interview with Michael Steele

• Location scouting • Photo library • Pre-production research • Government and community liaison • Full service throughout production The Maryland Film Office is located at 217 East Redwood Street, 9th floor Baltimore, MD 21202 (410) 767-6340 As you have seen, there are many lucrative and exciting opportunities in the state of Maryland. In fact, we could easily do an entire issue on the opportunities in fields like Bio Technology with the NIH (National Institute of Health), located in Bethesda, Maryland and Medicine with the prestigious John Hopkins Medical Center where noted Dr. Ben Carson performed the world renowned separation of the Siamese twins joined at the head. In the technology sector, Maryland is second only to Silicon Valley, California and has programs that invest in ideas and entrepreneurs. In short, there are many ways to get money by creating or expanding business opportunities in Maryland. For more information, visit www.maryland.com or www.mdminoritybusiness. com and browse the many links.

“Legacy wealth is about creating the free wheeling entrepreneurial spirit. Creating a legacy of wealth for this and future generations. In the civil rights movement the objective was reaching the lunch counter the post civil rights struggle is not about access it’s about ownership. If you can buy the lunch counter you can eat for the long term.” — Lt. Governor Michael Steele

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Damola: Minority Business Enterprise Reform. How did that work? From what I hear it’s 10% of state contracts and they have to list their MBE’s. Lt Gov. Steele: What we did is a bottom up evaluation of our minority business system. We looked at what was current in state law; what was currently required; what was working and what was not working; what was efficient and what was not efficient. And the commission that I chaired on MBE did that bottom review. The consensus of that was we were able to gather from actually business owners, actual entrepreneurs; men and women who risk capital, who risk their livelihoods in some cases, to start their own business to bring to the table what their experience was. As a result of that there were 50 recommendation that our commission sent to the governor. Damola: Those business, what sector were they in? Lt. Gov Steele: All of them, everything. If it was a business it was covered. We had the service industry; we had construction, from Big Daddy’s Barber Shop to Harbor Bank. So, we had a cross section of minority business that were represented at the table, who had an opportunity to speak and present and teach us what was really going on. Damola: How long did this go on? Lt. Gov. Steele: This was a 6 week commission that was conducted between July and Sept 2003. We submitted legislation we produced. There were 2 bills I introduced on behalf of the administration. One bill would require that a prime contactor would have to identify at the time of bid who is minority subcontractor was going to be. The reason for that was to avoid, basically a sub-contractor being used to get a bid but not be a part of the deal. So for example if I wanted to bid, ok I get your company as a prime. So when the state called you to get relevant information or to find out what was going on, you would say. “What? I didn’t see it on this contract, I just used your name…” Damola: Oh, I see what you’re saying. So to prevent companies from using the minority business name to gain an advantage you wanted to make sure…

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Lt. Gov. Steele: That was actually part of the deal. Damola: Full disclosure. Lt Gov. Steele: Full disclosure that’s exactly right. We want full disclosure for the requirement…we put in place this requirement that at the time you place your bid not only do you tell us who your sub-prime is, your minority, your MBE firm is, you should also tell us…show us the paper work that speaks to the relationship so there is a contract between you and me; a memorandum of understanding, a formal agreement as part of the deal. So, that the state knows you have vested interest in this contract as well. That was the first thing. The second piece which is actually more significant was, the state will now require 10% of all its procurement statewide will be placed into a reserve account for small business and these small businesses can compete head to head against each other for a piece of that pie. So, break it down, each department has to go through what it’s annual procurements are. So, lets say the Department of General Services has an annual procurement of $100 million. So they procure a $100 million worth of services a year. Under the state law…under the legislation we have, the Department of General Services will now have to carve out 10% of that or $10 million and put it into a reserve account and they can do it any number of ways. Damola: Let’s say for a young entrepreneur how can you package yourself to now win… Lt. Gov. Steele: What we have also put in place and are putting in place right now. We kind of looked at MBE from a holistic point of view. I got kind of tired running into brothers who…have the technical capacity, they don’t have the organizational capacity together so that they can market their firm, so that they can make it. When a fella tells me I’m doing $100,000 – lets make it realistic $300,000, $400,000 of business a year; and you ask them where’s their business plan and they go “I don’t know”. Or you ask them how much you’re paying yourself and they say “I pay myself about half that”, then you know they have a problem. They don’t understand the fundamentals of running a business. So what we’re trying to do is to put in place technical assistance, there’s educational opportunities for these small business owners to learn how to be small business. We’re putting in place all the resources that are available to state government to help a small business become successful. Now it doesn’t guarantee success, it doesn’t …not every business that’s created is going to be a Fortune 500 company. But, out goal is if your business fails it wouldn’t be because you didn’t know how. It won’t be because you didn’t have access to resources. That is market determined. In other words if your business is successful or it fails and you have done everything that you should as a business owner or as an entrepreneur it is because the market determined that and that’s what markets do. The other side of that is the protégé program we want to put in place. Damola: So, how much of a budget is there and in what form is it resource centered? Lt Gov. Steele: It’s actually being developed now, right now. What we are trying to do is centralize the process, so everything is oriented out of the Governor’s Office for Minority Affairs. And what they do is they have access to the network of people who provide technical assistance, economic financing, capital assistance, and all other components. Damola: Yeah talk about that. Lt. Gov. Steele: The protégé program is another to help a budding entrepreneur a small business owner to get a foothold in the business world. Going back to my IT example, on that contract… on that $40 million contact with $4 million carved out you find yourself in that situation, instead of you and I being competitors, you work with me. I’m the new kid on the block; you’re the more established

business. We try to partner…or the state would say “Why don’t you two partner up and start your own company because there is a synergy there between your two companies. You will benefit directly from it and I will benefit directly from it because even though we’re competitors I will learn from expertise, which would make me a better competitor later on. That’s good for you later on because if you have good competition in the market place it’ll push you to go a little further to think a little bit more outside the box. Like “How can we be more creative with this? How do we deal with now with the heat I’m getting from the young dogs behind me?” And you get to see up close and personal whether or not your mode of thinking is outdated. Damola: Exactly. Lt Gov. Steele: It might have been the same 5 years ago, but now you got a brother taking that widget and spinning it in a new way. He is marketing differently and he’s carving his own nice and that’s good and you got some flaws along the way that you would identify that he would need some help. He needs help on the financing side. He needs help on how to position himself to take some advantage from his marketing capability. So, that protégé is a way we can create competition but also create opportunities for businesses to learn from each other because I have always believed in a competitive environment there is nothing I can’t learn from what you’re doing. Damola: Where can people get the information about that? Lt. Gov. Steele: The key website for that is www.mdminoritybusiness.com Damola: So now we are talking about Maryland’s focus, where are we investing ourselves? Lt. Gov Steele: Yeah exactly. The question is where are we focusing our efforts in terms of investing in ourselves as community because like I said we can afford more than one Oprah Winfrey or Ben Johnson. We are not limited. The only limitation we have is what we place on ourselves. So, if we are going to be about a legacy of wealth creation then we’ve got to be serious about investing in the legacy. Now that requires us to look at entrepreneurial spirit in a way where we see it as an asset, so that we get beyond what is traditionally expected of African Americans in business. In other words not just rap CD’s and Nike products; we don’t need to rely just on someone else to sign us up for a contract to create another millionaire. I’m saying in our historically black colleges and universities there are some young men and women who will be the next Charles Drew, who will be the next Bill Gates. And, those are the one we need to focus on; those are the ones we need to invest in as well because they are the ones that are going to create the real legacy of wealth. You know, how many black kids know that every time you come to a stoplight it is a black man that invented that and because of the time that black man invented that he couldn’t capitalize on his invention? Can you imagine if the state or the feds or whatever had to write a check when they put up a stoplight in this country? That’s legacy wealth. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what we need to capture. And we don’t do that. We’re one shot, it’s all about me. What I’m saying is take back that one shot and spread a little bit of the love and investing back in that community. That’s what Jay-Z is doing. Jay-Z is a very smart entrepreneur. He’s taking the wealth of his talent, the wealth that is generated by his talent and he’s creating a legacy of wealth. That’s what he is all about. He is going to have it, if he stays on point, if he stays true to the deals he want to do. If he stays true to the commitment he made to the community he going to have a legacy of wealth to show for future generations.

48 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue III

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12/14/04 12:24:11 AM


Fashion

Like Magic The Fashion Industry Invades Las Vegas

Damola with Russell Simmons

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he first leg of the biannual Magic International Conference (the “Magic Marketplace”) was held in Las Vegas, NV this past February. The Las Vegas Convention center hosted the Menʼs, Children, Urban Wear and the Edge expos. The Sands Hotel and Casino played host for the Womenʼs Wear expo. Held every August and February, the Magic Show is a four-day expo, which features nearly every aspect of the fashion industry - - buyers, designers, manufacturers, licensing companies, retailers, wholesalers and, of course, celebrities who were on hand to promote their own clothing lines. The February Magic Marketplace gives attendees a chance to see the latest fashions and preview the newest trends. Owners Illustrated Magazine was on hand to cover the event and document the impact of urban fashion on the fashion industry. We also attended the related events, such as the Urban Fashion Awards and numerous star-studded parties. The “Designer” exhibits at the Magic Marketplace featured industry giants such as Guess, Ralph Lauren and Perry Ellis, with each presenting collections that are likely to fly off the racks this Summer. Footwear designers, Sergio Brutini and Stacy Adams, had exotic colors and quality material combinations that established “Players” worldwide are going to love and that aspiring Players will crave. “Throwback Jersey” Kings, Mitchell & Ness, were also on hand to feature new lines like their active wear products. Other NBAlicensed products were in abundance as Unique Sports Generation, G-III Sports, Unk Life course Reebok, which had an enormous

booth featuring new jerseys and athletic products, took center stage. Several urban wear designers were featured in various exhibits. These included such notables as Karl Kani (who was also in attendance), Fubu , Akademics, State Property by Rocawear, and surprise newcomer, ARME. Russell Simmons was also in attendance, showcasing Phat Farm, Baby Phat and his accessories such as phones and jewelry. He also displayed his shoes and the Run Athletics line that he has with his brother, Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons. Russell expressed the pride that he has in Run Athletics and explained the thinking behind his “Slave Owners” ad campaign. He stated that when Run DMC was endorsing Adidas, Run was a slave because he had no ownership and wasnʼt getting true value for his services. Now, however, Run is an owner of his own athletic and apparel accessories line. I also spoke with hip-hop mogul and fashion designer, P. Miller (a/k/a Master P), and discussed his clothing line and the reports of financial distress within his organization. Master P said that he had to file bankruptcy on his No Limit Records to clear past obligation and be able to start anew with the New No Limit. Currently, his video for “Them Jeans” is in rotation on 106 and Park and will serve as the launch vehicle for his Passion clothing line for women . P. Diddyʼs Sean John line was featured in the “Designer” section with the high quality display that has become typical for the line. The Sean John set was constructed to resemble a high-end retail outlet, complete with two levels and garment displays visible


Money

Magic Johnson and Ford Motor Company are Giving $100,000 to Young Entrepreneurs

STORY: Staff Writer PHOTOGRAPHY: Ford Motor Company

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arvin “Magic” Johnson was an AllStar on the hardwood and now he is the consummate businessman in the hood, bringing his expertise to a new generation of urban entrepreneurs. Magic Johnson partnered with Ford Motor Company to sponsor the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Business Classic. The HBCU Business Classic is a real world business plan competition with $100,000 in scholarships. It is that is open to 370,000 HBCU students across the nation and their prospective schools. According to Tony Brown, senior vice president, Global Purchasing, Ford Motor Company, “this competition will empower HBCU students to achieve personal wealth with the residual effect of building communities through economic development,” which Brown acknowledges has been “one of the core goals of Ford Motor Company since its inception.” “Ford continues to recognize a need in the black business community to educate and develop the next generation of black entrepreneurs.” 52 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue III

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It has now been documented that, while blacks are twice as likely as whites to start a business, black businesses have been among the least likely to grow or survive - due to the marked lack of educational and support programs that focus on black entrepreneurship and financing. Small businesses represent 99 percent of all businesses in the U.S. and create 75 percent of the new jobs. Overall, minority owned small firms are growing at 30 percent versus 7 percent for all U.S. firms, according to the most recent report from the Commerce Department Census Bureau. “Blacks spend $700 billion annually in the U.S., but less than 7 percent of those dollars return to the black community,” said George Fraser, founder of one of the largest black networking conferences, FraserNet, and a competition judge. “Blacks control only 2 percent of the nation’s wealth.” As we know, not only do black businesses struggle harder to survive, blacks also face the larger issue of a wealth gap in the U.S. To address this situation, Magic Johnson and Ford Motor Company hope to fuel the spirit

of urban entrepreneurs and provide them with opportunities and resources to succeed. HBCUs were selected for this competition because they enroll upwards of 370,000 students at 119 different schools, account for approximately one-third black graduates annually and represent roughly 3 percent of the nation’s overall college population. To enter the competition, teams of two to five HBCU students and a faculty advisor must submit a 10-page business plan via the Ford HBCU Business website at www.ford.com/go/hbcu. The plans must be include: type of business, product or service, pricing considerations, target market and competition, and general operations. Ford will also provide all students who participate with a free online subscription to DiversityInc.com. An advisory panel of SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business” will then judge the plans based on overall presentation of the business plan, its likelihood of successful and overall benefit to the community. The judges will narrow the competition down to five teams that will advance to the finals.

continued on pg. 92

12/14/04 12:24:18 AM


DJ SMURF IS

Mr.

Collipark

WORDS: Andrea Auracle and Damola INTERVIEW: Damola PHOTOGRAPHY: ShawnDowdell.com


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ost folks may not know DJ Smurf by name, but if you listen to Southern rap music any at all you definitely know his handiwork. As one of the South’s leading DJ/producers, DJ Smurf, also known as Mr. Collipark, is responsible for crafting some of today’s hypest rhythms including notable singles for theYing Yang Twins like past year’s indomitable “Say Ai Yi Yi”, and “Whistle While You Twerk”. Emerging out of Atlanta’s ever-popular bass music scene, releasing his first album, Versastyles, for Wrap Records in 1995, DJ Smurf has risen to become one of the South’s most explosive beat-miners. A couple years later, Collipark Music appeared on the Benz label, with appearances by MC Shy D and tha Rhythum. The nation was ablaze with the intimate club banger single, “Wait” [The Whisper Song] by the Ying-Yang Twins, which was created by Mr. Collipark himself along with the similar “Play” by David Banner. Mr. Colipark as he would like to call himself nowadays has also enjoyed tremendous success with the Ying Yang Twins at TVT records where they have scored two platinum albums. He also has a separate agreement with Asylum Records to release other artist under his Colipark Music Label. Indeed things are going great for this Southern production legend who has been shaping music for over a decade and can remember vividly the days of grinding and frying chicken out of the rear window with the hot summer heat serving as a stove. We all have seen him by now with the Ying Yang Twins in heavy video and radio rotation with their singles from their latest album United State of Atlanta scoring hits with “Wait”, “Baad”, and “Shake”. The Godfather of Crunk sat down with Owners Illustrated to give us a first-hand look at how he’s been able to survive the evolution of the brutal world that is the music business. Let people know who you are. Holla at your folks. Right now I’m like a vet. Before it was even crunk music I was in the game as the artist doing what we call bass music which like is the foundation of the energy that crunk music has a lot of people don’t know came from what we call bass music or booty shake music what have you and it kinda fused into right now the beats just slowed down its still bass in it and it still got the energy but now ni--as just yelling on it so its crunk music. Tell us how you first started. How did you first get in this game? I was rapping back when Lil Jon the King of Crunk was A&Ring over at So So Def. I was an artist at Ichiban Records. Ichiban Records was like the only outlet that real Atlanta Southern acts had that was like the only thing we had down here at the time. Matter of fact, Lil Jon first record came out over there. At that time we was just doing music that we liked. It wasn’t labeled. We just did good music. Artists like myself, MC Shy D, Kilo, Raheem the Dream. You had a lot of sh-t that influenced what’s going on now but we didn’t have the attention that we have now. People don’t know the history of the game but all crunk music is is slow and has the energy of bass music we just slowed it down. Magic Mike was a big part. Artist just did they own thing and they doing they own variations of what bass music is today. How did you start the label? Well the thing was for myself and a lot of artist out here out of this whole South and the new South before people got started was we didn’t have anymore outlets. When Ichiban Records went bankrupt I mean that was basically the main outlet that we had. So I gotta give props to Raheem the Dream because as far as the entrepreneur aspect of it he was the first one to branch off and say f--k this artist sh-t I’m fitting to get me a young cat who’s out here and try some of this new sh-t. People don’t give him his credit. Raheem and Drama was like the first act to come out of Atlanta that started this whole sh-t. Miracle, Pastor Troy. Troy actu-

ally didn’t drop before Drama but as far as when Raheem went and got Drama and put that sh-t out his self that was the beginning of a whole movement down here. It started the whole Lil Jon thing, Luda, it started us, it started everybody who came after that. Drama and Raheem was the first ni--as to do it so that was my inspiration for starting Collipark as a label. I had the name and I had a “company” but I wasn’t really pursuing that how I’m doing it now. It was just something that was there while I was rapping and sh-t. After Raheem put that Drama sh-t out there and blow it like he did I said f--k it man I can do it too. Why Collipark? That’s where we sitting right now. We in College Park. But ni--as from here don’t say College Park we say Collipark. Collipark that’s how we talk so I had to rep where I’m from hence the name of the label. What was the first thing ya’ll put out? “Whistle While You Twerk”. That came out in 2000. That was the very first record that we did. Honestly, we did that sh-t just for here. We made a record for the strip clubs in Atlanta. We didn’t even make it for strip clubs worldwide. If you remember we just called out Strokers, Mickey’s, Blue Flames. We made a record for Atlanta and that sh-t just blew the f--k up. And that record would have sold 10 Million copies had we not ran into the sample issue. But that’s what happen and it closed us down for a minute but we were able to bounce back with the record “Say Ai Yi Yi”. Tell me this. “Whistle While You Twerk”, how much did you start off the label with? When ni--as come to me talking about I got this money. I got that money. I’m trying to do this. Help me do that, help me do this. I tell them all you need is a hit record. I recorded they whole first album for $2500 in two weeks. Let me tell you something all the money in the world all that does is disguise or delay you finding out whether you have a hit or not. When you go out spending all that money. When you ain’t got sh-t the only thing you can do is give it to a ni--a. If you give it to a ni--a if a ni--a like it it’s on. It’s no more complicated than that. So who did the production on that? I did. I did all the production for Ying Yang up until “Get Low” and “Salt Shaker”. Them the only two records that they’ve done that I haven’t produced. Lil Jon did that. How did ya’ll go about the video? For “Whistle While You Twerk” what was the first spot you went to? It was obvious all the strip clubs. That’s where it started. I was with an independent distributor called S&B. They was the same distributor all of us started out with before we got major deals. They had Drama, they had Ying Yang, they had Lil Jon, they had Luda, they Miracle and they had Pastor Troy. Everybody that signed that was doing some records back then had them. What we did we got like 1000 promo CDs singles done up and dog all we did we got in the car me and Ying Yang we hit the road. We was so grimmey with it we had to fry chicken from home in the f--king back window of the car with the loaf of bread. That’s how grimy we was with the sh-t. I remember like was yesterday. In the little 39 dollar special rental car. We started out with nothing. As an artist I saw that sh-t wasn’t working because Ichiban Records was folding they didn’t have the stab that they had when it was thriving before I went all the way broke, music just like the dope game you gotta know how to flip it. You don’t know how to flip it you ain’t gone last. Before I was all the way on my sh-t I said I’mma flip my sh-t. Out of my pocket I put maybe 5 grand into it before I started seeing a return. The record was instant. What is S&B doing right now? They ain’t doing sh-t. S&B could have been the biggest thing since f-king Rap-A-Lot. S&B could have been like a f--king Koch Records especially how big the South is right now. All this Lil Scrappy and this sh-t that came after us S&B would have had it but let me tell you S&B did they f--ked everybody who went over there. Nobody left S&B happy. Nobody. Myself, Lil Jon, Rasheeda, Raheem nobody. Ni--as got smart because we had figured the game on how to get the records hot but he wasn’t trying to do you know. The sh-t that he was trying to do just didn’t make Issue VI • OwnerS Illustrated • 57


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isney didn’t own the publishing to the record [Whistle While You Twerk]. It was a lady. The song was “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White. In the lady’s eyes it disrespected the song and I could understand that because it was a children’s song and part of an institution…Universal offered up a million dollars for the sample and she turned it down.” — Mr. Collipark no sense because he was treating the game like it was going to be gone tomorrow. But here it is we 4 years later and it’s better than ever out the South right now. S&B ain’t doing sh-t right now. So after ya’ll pressed up the single, how many songs way on the single? Two. Actually, I had kinda got scared with “Whistle While You Twerk” if you pulled up on BDS pull then “Whistle While You Twerk” being the B side and the A side which is a record called “Bring Ya Ass Outdoors”. That’s when that whole crunk sh-t really did start getting big so ni--as wasn’t really talking about no pu--y back then. Everybody was talking about busting heads. But that’s what made Ying Yangs special cause even in the midst of all of that we came with “Whistle While You Twerk” and we out sold every ni--a Pastor Troy , Luda all of them until they got with they major we sold more records out of S&B than anybody that ever sold. How many did ya’ll sell? That figure is out to the jury. We sold an excessive of 100,000 albums mind you we wasn’t even supposed to put that muthaf--ker out. We had done a deal with Universal and he put it out anyway. We had to make him stop pressing the album, which killed the Universal deal because 100,000 was too much for the impact of they album. It gets deep dog but we sold an excessive of 100,000 albums and with the single I think he’s admitting to selling 300,000 independently. See that was more money than just a regular single. So what was the split on something like that? It was a 75/25 deal. So ya’ll kept 75%? So he paid ya’ll all that he owed? You gotta understand that situation got complicated because of the sample. It wasn’t Disney. Disney didn’t own the publishing to the record. It was a lady. The song was “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White.

58 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue VI

In the lady’s eyes it disrespected the song and I could understand that because it was a children’s song and part of an institution. Not only did we make a rap record that would have been bad enough but we talking about bitches stripping in the club, pu--y farting and all that on top of that. She didn’t want no parts of it. Universal offered up a million dollars for the sample and she turned it down. A million dollars for the sample. She turned it down. The space that she own’s was the guy who wrote the music for the first three Disney movies. So she inherited, I don’t know if it was her husband or her father she inherited the rights to the publishing of that sh-t so she’s actually sued Disney before for the Epcot sh-t when they tried to so something with that Fantasia I think that’s hers too. So Disney didn’t have nothing to so with that issue cause they didn’t own it. She owned it. But I couldn’t blame her. So did ya’ll have to pay her money? Luckily, the only good thing for me that came out of it was she stopped it before it got too big. Now had we sold a million records of that sh-t then she came I would have been crushed. But the fact that she came when she did. Money wasn’t even an issue for her. She just wanted it stopped. Point blank period. At worst she would have let it fall through, die down then drop the lawsuit. How much did she wind up getting paid? I can’t disclose that but it was nothing. But again that wasn’t the issue for her. So did ya’ll end up keeping most of the money? Naw I’m not saying that either. I had to pay 6 law firms out of that. I had to pay 6 law firms out of that. Out of my money. I had to hire New York attorneys. My distributor had to hire New York attorneys. I had an attorney here. My distributor had an attorney here. She went through like 2 or 3 sets of attorneys. All that money came at the cost of me so the attorneys wound up making more money than anybody. I look at it like this that’s the price I had to pay to get into the game. A lot of people that sh-t would have crushed. To have record like that big and to have it yanked from up under you and then not only that having the S&B cats in the midst of all that the sh-t he was doing f--k up my Universal situation. That’s how we wound up getting off of Universal. Our sh-t at Universal was so f--ked up from S&B that they didn’t know what to do. What kind of deal did ya’ll have at Universal? It was distribution deal. It was a nice deal. My point is because it was that type of deal they wasn’t wiling to stick they neck out and do anything necessary to make that situation work for me cause they wasn’t making the bigger cut. With that first go around dog I learned about 10 years worth of business. No bulls--t. So ya’ll were still able to make money off of shows though right? Yeah but back the game wasn’t what it is now. It’s nationwide now but back then it was still regional. We was local. I mean we could still make a living thank God but it wasn’t like it is now. One thing I can say about Ying Yang and the type of records that we make with club breakers they never die so even after radio stop playing your s--t we still jumping in the club. We never stop working from “Whistle While You Twerk” to right now year round. Never stop. ∞


GIVING BACK

Charles Grant’s Bayou Bling Charity Event

Unique Whips’ Will Castro

Charles Grant

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Georgia Native, Charles Grant who recently signed a $63 million contract does not easily forget the less fortunate citizens of New Orleans where he plays. With the help of Marshawn Evans of 3M Sports & Entertainment and the sponsorship of Rolls Royce, Grant put together a first class weekend this past summer in Atlanta with several of his colleagues throughout the NFL along with Basketball players like Denver Nugget’s Allen Iverson and Miami Heat’s Antoine Walker. The annual fundraiser is named Bayou Bling and sponsored by Charles Grant’s S.A.C.K. Success Foundation from June 22 through June 24. Enjoyments include a football camp and clinic for the youth at the Atlanta Boys and Girls club, a celebrity basketball game and silent auction, along with a VIP affair called the Players Ball at Justin’s Restaurant. Music producer Mannie Fresh was also on hand as several celebrities participated in a weekend of fun for the kids along with fundraising for the still displaced residents of New Orleans due to hurricane Katrina. Other charles Grant S.A.C.K. Success Foundation projects include Hurricane Katrina Playground Builds, Access GRANTed Scholarships, the Grant Go-Getters Youth Recognition program, and the signature Charles Grant Kids Day Out. For more information visit www.edge3m. com

56 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI


Mannie Fresh

Q&A with Charles Grant Talk about the off-season regimen you do to get ready for the next season. Man, I trained at my spot in Orlando for about six weeks. I’ll be going there when I leave here. It’s a wonderful thing, though. This is the most important, me giving back to the kids. I think the kids are the best thing that could ever happen to us and every year, it’s going to be somebody else new coming up. I have a daughter and she is going to help somebody else when she grows up. So, we are just trying to make sure the kids understand that it is more than one way to get out there. You could be in sports, you could be a lawyer, doctor, all that. There are different ways to succeed in life. Let me ask you one more question because you are a Georgia boy… you don’t even live in the soil of N.O., but you are out here bringing a lot of your colleagues and you are doing all this for a land that you just adopted because you work there. Tell our readers about the importance of taking a view beyond just you. I have been living in New Orleans for six years. The people of New Orleans showed me love. I can go from the gulliest (toughest) hood spot to the best glamorous spot and everybody in Louisiana takes care of me wherever I go. They show me a lot of love, so, I show them love back and that is the thing that I want to tell a lot of people that are in the same situation as me… Always be willing to give back and stay humble. A lot of people will respect you for that. You should always respect people.

Issue XI • OwnerS Illustrated • 57


GIVING BACK

The Three Kings of Washington Give Back

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hat was simply a collection of teammates and alumni of the University of Miami has turned into a charity endeavor which provided young fans fun and games along with an opportunity to meet their favorite NFL players in the off-season. The Washington Redskins stars Santana Moss, Clinton Portis and Sean Taylor, also dubbed the Three Kings of Washington, brought several of their fellow players to Washington this past summer to interact with fans, especially the youth who look up to them as heroes. Both Santana Moss and Clinton Portis have registered their foundations as 501(c)(3) non- profits with an office in Gainesville, Florida since 2004 for Portis and 2002 in South Florida for Moss. Both of their foundations have an emphasis on the youth. They held autograph signings along with carnival rides and games as all pro’s such as Andre Johnson, Chad Johnson, Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee and others descended upon the nations capitol. This was the second annual event and it was a success. For more information visit: www.myspace.com/3kingsofwashington.

58 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI


TOYZ: CARS

PONTIAC G6 GXP STREET

Craig Bierley (left), Marketing Director for Pontiac, and Chris Hornberger, Ad Manager for Pontiac

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hings are new at Pontiac. Fresh off the success of the Solstice and the G6, Pontiac is now prepping up anticipation for the all-new rear wheel drive vehicle, the G8. We had an opportunity to meet two men who are responsible for the awareness and marketing efforts during an event they were sponsoring involving endorsee 50 Cent in New York. They have also tied into the marketing of the Hot Halo3 video game. With both 50 Cent and Halo 3, they are giving away Pontiac’s all new G6 GXP Street. Please introduce yourselves and your job description for Pontiac? CB: I’m Craig Bierley, the Marketing Director for Pontiac. CH: Chris Hornberger, Ad Manager for Pontiac. Alright. So we’re here at the 50 Cent show at the Hammerstein Ballroom. How did your relationship with Fifty actually develop? CH: Our relationship with Fifty actually developed in January beginning at the Detroit North American International Auto Show. He really was attracted to the G6 Street that we were showcasing as a concept vehicle. He really liked it. He also had a lot of quotes out there saying, ‘you used to have to pimp your ride, now your ride already comes pimped.’ And again, Fifty’s whole marketing with Reebok invited a wider audience or things that are attainable, not necessarily the $100,000 car. And, with Pontiac, we have performance. We have design. Our cars are affordable and attainable for his fans. So that’s really where our relationship was built from.

30 • OwnerS Illustrated • Issue XI

CB: It’s real important to him that the products he is involved with are attainable for his fans and the G6 GXP Street is a great example of that. It’s a hot car with great performance and an attractive price point. Please tell us about the new revamped product line for Pontiact. The Grand Prix and the Grand Am are gone. It’s a whole new product line. CB: The product renaissance started when we introduced the Solstice. Next, we brought out the G6 and there’s three versions of the G6. This fall, we’re introducing the G6 GXP Street which adds our performance nameplate to the G6 line. We have a Solstice GXP, a Torrent GXP and our ultimate performance car that’s coming out the beginning of next year- the G8 which is the V8 version of the G8. It’s going to have over 360 horsepower and produce 0-60 in a little over five seconds. It really is our flagship product. Pontiac talks about affordability and when I think about the Solstice, even the Solstice GXP fully-loaded, that’s under $30,000, but the performance is like what you would get with a foreign luxury convertible. With this, what are you trying to communicate to the consumer-base now about Pontiac? CB: What we’re really trying to communicate is really an aspirational performance that’s attainable. So, we have vehicles that are among the best in their class in terms of overall performance, vehicle dynamics, acceleration, but at the same time, a terrific value.


Of course. So now you have the G8 GXP at the top of the line. Are there any other things that we could expect from Pontiac? CB: Well, we haven’t made an announcement about the G8 GXP, but we have a G8 that we’re introducing. And yeah, there’ll be some more news later this year. So now… CB: I can’t say anything more than that. (laughter) Now, what are some of the other things? Obviously, I saw the G8 in about three of his videos. CB: The G6 CH: Yes, the G6 and the G8 Yeah, I saw the G8 in two of his videos actually, the new one with Robin Thicke and also… CH: That was Follow My Lead and also Amusement Park. Exactly. He had those in the video. What are some of the other ways you’re integrating his marketing ability with what you guys are trying to communicate about your products? CB: We are really trying to do that very organically so we were trying to do it in music events. We really like sponsoring the 5 Burroughs Concert Tour like the event we just had in Las Vegas the night before the VMA’s. We also sponsored a concert that he put on at the Hard Rock Hotel; it was huge attendance the night before the VMA’s so that’s kind of the way we’re trying to approach it. We’re really going after the music audience. What are some of the other things that we could expect as far as marketing and reaching audience bases from GM and especially Pontiac? CH: Well, at Pontiac, we always are taking the lead on a lot of initiatives out there. We are always in the forefront in all of the marketing at General Motors. We have done things with Myspace, with Second Life and other avenues like that. We are always trying to be progressive and get in the forefront, in essence, we have a lot of things that we’re still working on. For us, digital is a huge component, you know. Our consumers are in their mid-twenties and so forth. So, we’re always thinking of the next level and the digital aspects. We are trying to work with a lot of music artists in our Pontiac Garage platform. We have all ranges of artists from Avril Lavigne, all the way to 50 Cent that performed on the Pontiac Garage. We are just tying to get the Pontiac brand awareness out there to the consumer about the all-new Pontiac that we were talking about. Craig’s already mentioned it with our product line with the Solstice and the upcoming G8. Pontiac has a lot of great things and products out there and we want to make consumers aware.

CB: It has a completely unique front clip, a unique hood. It has unique fascias. It has a unique grill, a lot of jewelry on the frontend of the car (a lot of bling), unique wheels, a ground effects package, a unique rear spoiler, some touches on the inside of the car, and then a big wing spoiler that comes off of that. So, the G6 GXP Street really is set apart from the other G6’s in the line. Now, are they able to order that from any dealership across the country? CB: Sure are. So, basically, that’s like a package? CB: Yeah. CH: Like Craig said, it has the hood scoops, the chrome inserts on the lower fascia in the grill. You know, bigger rims… It seemed lowered a little bit, too. CH: With the ground effects… CB: The ground effects help do that visually. CH: …it does and the hammerhead spoiler too. So, it (CB: with the big wheels on it.) Definitely an aggressive look. Please give our readers some of the details behind this contest you have with 50 Cent. I know that a lucky person can ultimately win a GXP Street. Is there a website that people can go to? CH: Yes. First, you have to buy the CD. We have the blow-in in the CD insert and you login to www.IWant50sGXP.com and that’s where you get a chance to enter to win for a G6 GXP Street which Fifty will personally deliver to you at your home. How long does that contest run and when will the vehicle be delivered? CH: It runs, obviously, September 11 when the album started for approximately about a month. We figure that’s when the first million CDs will be sold. They appear in the first million inserts there. And roughly about a month or two, after six to eight weeks after we have the consumer that wins, we’ll deliver that G6 straight to him or her. So around SEMA time. CH: Exactly. (laughter) CH: We have something coming in SEMA as well. So, stay tuned.

Were you involved with Ludacris and the Solstice campaign? CH: Yeah, we worked with him as well. We had Luda also perform with us at CBS. We had the Road to the Final Four show and had Luda on the Pontiac Garage here at Times Square and a concert with him in Atlanta where we had almost 75,000 people in attendance. So, right now, everyone is just trying to see the new Pontiac. Music is one of the platforms that we’re using to get that word out. Now obviously, after-market business is like a 29 billion dollar business in itself. So, give us a little clue-in as to the Pontiac Street and what consumers could expect and what are some of the features on the vehicle? Issue XI • OwnerS Illustrated • 31


64 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue


Salli Richardson-Whitfield A Regal Lady With a Beautiful Mind

S

INTERVIEW Damola

IMAGE Richard Flood

alli Richardson Whitfield is an extremely accomplished actress. Her career began in the Kuumba Workshop in Chicago, IL, which led her to Los Angeles where she landed numerous guest roles on series such as, Silk Stalkings and Star Trek Deep Space 9. Later in 1993, she captured the audienceʼs heart with her role as the romantic love interest of Mario Van Peebles in the black cowboy flick, Posse. Landing roles in other minority driven films such as Low Down Dirty Shame, Mo Money, Biker Boyz, and Antoine Fisher, Salli has earned her chops acting opposite many of great leading men. Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Lawrence Fishburne, and most recently Morris Chestnut in Anaconda: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, to name a few. In addition to her many film appearances, she has also appeared in numerous TV shows including the CBS crime drama, CSI Miami. Salli is married to former Cosby show guest actor, Dondre Whitfield and they share one child. Owners had a chance to catch up with Ms. Whitfield in LA. Always pleasant, Salli had a lot to share with us about her working career, the industry and married life. What part of Chicago are you from? Iʼm from the south side. How long have you been in the movie business? Iʼve been here in LA for almost 12-13 years. But, Iʼve been acting since I was 15. But I really was working around 21 or so. How was it working with Mario Van Peebles and his father in Posse? His father played my father actually. That was a good first experience. There were explosions and firearms everywhere, it felt real. How did you get the role at that time? I auditioned for it in the beginning but I didnʼt get the job. They hired someone else and after a few days of shooting, she got fired. By that time, I had just moved to L.A and hadnʼt done anything. If I recall correctly, they called me on a Thursday and I was shooting that Saturday. Wow. It was a good surprise. It was another opportunity for you. It was one of those things where I went in and they loved me right away. The other female had done stuff before and they werenʼt sure if my look was perfect for the role because she

was supposed to be black and Indian. I went in there thinking this should be my job, but you know how politics can be at the last minute. How was it working on Anaconda? That was serious. It was three months of Fiji. How does that work, when you go overseas to shoot a production like that? Well, most of our stuff we shot on location. Most of the crew was from Australia, so thatʼs a little closer. You just form a new little family when youʼre in the middle of nowhere. How different is it working on a movie rather a sitcom? Wow, when you awake and youʼre out of the country… I mean Fiji is far – itʼs different. Itʼs not like you can go home and visit. It was the hardest job physically Iʼve ever done in my life. Itʼs just five weeks of nights where you shoot in the jungle and with the rain machine. It is freezing cold and every day you go in, they cover you with mud and put leaves on you and spray you with water to make you look wet. If it isnʼt raining, then it was just miserable… a miserable shoot. Morris Chestnut and other big men where in it and if they were cold, then you know I was cold. How long have you been married? Iʼve been married almost 4 years… September 8th is our wedding anniversary. How is it to have a spouse in the industry as well? We understand each other. But you know it gets hard. When I was shooting in Fiji, he was shooting another movie which was far away. So, we spent almost a year of our marriage seeing each other maybe four months out of that year. While I was shooting, he shot two movies that were out of town. It was really hard. But, when we get back with each other we reconnect. How different is your relationship with your husband than past relationships that youʼve had with people outside the industry? Well, most of the people Iʼve dated have been in the business somehow. It is just like any other profession. If youʼre a lawyer, you meet other lawyers. You meet people in the same business as you because that is what you are around the most. My husband is from Brooklyn, Iʼm from Chicago. Weʼre pretty normal people. He is not real Hollywood and Iʼm not either. We donʼt go to a lot of parties or hang out that much, so that makes it easy for us. We just donʼt get caught up in it. Womens Issue • OwnerS Illustrated • 65


TOYZ: TOYZMAKERS

CHRYSLER’S SECRET WEAPON

Courtesy Chrysler

RALPH GILES

As changes have totally transformed Chrysler we can’t help but to remember a short history two years ago to be exact when a young designer turned the industry on its ears and wowed Journalist around the globe with his work on the LX platform. Now Daimler and Chrysler have spilt and the Magnum is no more in its memory we are reprinting an exclusive interview we ran in Owners Illustrated Magazine.

B

y now, everyone has seen the all new Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Magnum. And there is no denying they have radically changed the views on American automotive design. Everyone from multi-millionaire athletes and entertainers like 50 Cent have owned these vehicles. The question, however, is how did these vehicles come about? OIM demystifies the 300, the Magnum, and the new Charger, by talking one-on-one with the designer who set it all in motion. Ralph Giles, a Canadian native, has been working with DaimlerChrysler for 13 years. Had had a lot to share on these cars and the overall process of automotive design to manufacture. If you are like myself who had dreams of designing cars someday, or you like to customize vehicles, there are some interesting things Ralph spoke to us about. Here is our exclusive interview. So, how did you get started? Well, it’s, pretty simple. There’s about four design schools in the country. I went to the one that happens to be in Detroit, called, College of Art and Design in downtown Detroit. To get into that school you actually have to have some inclination already or you have to be an artist of sorts. I was always into sketching cars since I was a young man…literally. I never knew at the time that it was such a career as car designing.…I always thought it was more of an engineering degree, but it’s a much more artistic career than I thought. So it’s kinda cool because I don’t do too much math everyday. There’s a lot of industrial design schools, but there’s only a really, really limited amount of automotive design schools. And those are more like vocational schools, where you’re pretty much – I mean they are credit colleges, but the minute you’re in, you’re in car design. It’s very concentrated. So how long have you been with Chrysler? Since 1992, so approximately 13 years now. 50 • OwnersToyz.com

So, what was the first car you were involved with? The first car I was involved with was a concept car, actually a few concepts, called the Dodge Intrepid ESX. It was a hybrid electric. It was actually a precursor to the last generation of Intrepids. So it was kind of a fun project. I did mostly interiors at that time. So when was the decision made, design wise, to try to combine, I guess the LHS, the Intrepid, 300M, and Concorde, to all be under the 300 design? Well, we don’t think that way, actually. We don’t combine ideas. We like to call it more heritage. We have our own heritage that comes from 50 years ago and obviously every time you make a car, it’s part of history. Some people want to try to tie it in. You know, we don’t really mix it all together. That’s a misconception I think got out there. But the decision was made to do this kind of car several years ago. If you’ve been paying attention to our concept cars, you can do some research, you can find that we’ve been doing kind of premium Chrysler concepts for the last ten years or so. The one which is probably closest to the 300, was called the Chrysler Chronos. So there’s a lot of rich heritage. Our company was striving to move the brand forward and upwards. So these concept cars were a way of exercising this you know, trying to find a formula. The 300 borrows a little bit from the Chronos in terms of the front end, there’s some of that magic there. But that’s where the inspiration comes from. Actually when I look at the 300 design, I can also see a lot of the heritage of the original 300. Matter fact, when that car was being clayed up, in the very, very beginning, we had a 300, a C300, a 1955 C300 in the studio, just for inspiration. I mean, to remind everyone that we were trying to create something really special here. Not necessarily to aid anything, just to kind of get the mood in the right way.


Of course. So what was the inspiration behind the design? Well, there’s nothing less than a few things going on. First of all, we wanted to create what we call a noble proportion. We wanted the car to be, not a typical sleek sedan. We wanted to get back up to, first of all, getting the car to feel more upright. Basically we lifted the passengers about 2 inches. So they sit a little more proudly in the car, they see down the road better. And people are used to that now; they drive a lot of SUVs, a lot of trucks. So, it’s not imperative for them to go back to a low-slung car. We wanted to create something a little different. And that drove a different aesthetic. It drove a totally different look to the car. We tried doing the sleek looks over the package. And it just didn’t look good. We started to look at more upright looks – and when I say “upright” I mean the grille stood up, the windshield’s more vertical. That kind of silhouette worked much better with this new package that we’re gonna do. Not to mention the HEMI. We knew from day one we were gonna put the “HEMI” in the car, and that’s a good-sized engine. It requires quite a good-sized front end to carry that engine. So then also… You need a longer hood. Exactly. So that dictated a certain look. Then once we got going, we realized we have something that looks rather classic. You know, we have a very classic proportion, which resonated extremely well with people, when we went to early research. So, was there any inspiration from the Bentley? Not really. We never had a Bentley in our studio and said, “let’s look at that,” you know what I mean. What the irony is, when you come up with the proportions, I mean if you look at a Bentley frontally, it carries five people, it has a big V8 engine, the people sit up right. So all of a sudden, yeah, you have a similar overall silhouette. But I dare you if you put the cars next to each other, there’s nothing in common. Absolutely nothing. But it was one of the problems when we did the research and people said the same thing. The Bentley is easily a 20% bigger car than ours in every measure. It’s much longer, much taller, much bigger. I mean, it’s just the presence. I think that’s a beautiful compliment because I think the 300 definitely has presence, and presence is what a Bentley has, that’s what a Rolls-Royce has. When you see one of those rolling down the road, you’re like “Oh my gosh, there’s somebody important in that car,” you know what I mean? And the 300, at a wonderful price point, has that same respect. And that’s the magic of the car. For $25 to $30,000 you can feel like royalty. Are you guys designing a convertible for the 300? I cannot talk about future products. We get asked that a lot, but we are always cooking up stuff.

showroom floor already looking somewhat tricked out, you know what I mean? So there’s a little bit of that spark already, just in the nature of the car. And when we did the 300 we knew we’re gonna come out with 20” wheels, we have them now on the SRT, going into production in a few months. So we had to kind of leave that room in there. And then, the minute you do the wheels, you’re just like “uh oh,” we left them enough room to do that.(add wheels) I talked to Myles, owner of Dub Magazine. That’s the one thing that started the whole craze. We realized, this is one of the only cars – the only other car you can put 20s and 22s on is the BMW 7 series. There’s no other passenger car that can fit wheels that big. So it’s like, he said “this car is gonna blow up”. And he was right…it did. So, again, I think it’s that we’re more like-minded. We enjoy, and love cars so much that it just comes out in the product. People that love cars gravitate to cars like that. So, it’s a cool relationship. I know that it does have some components from the E-Class. How much of that is that… Yeah, and again, that’s another huge misconception about the car. That’s great that you would think it shares with the E-Class, but the EClass is a whole different size. We have a much longer wheel base, a different track. There’s only, the transmission, and the steering column I would say are verbatim pieces from the E-Class. And actually those are made in America. We want to re-develop because it’s good, you know what I mean? The rest of the car is more of the philosophy. Mercedes has 30-40 years of rear driving experience. And they’ve consulted us and helped us develop the best rear drive we could, but there’s no parts that are shared. It’s just the philosophies are the same, you know? Our parts have to be different dimensions, different materials, because we have a bigger wheel and tire than they do. Different vehicle weights, different power components. It’s more of using the experience of Mercedes and making sure we get it right the first time than using actual parts. OK, that’s really interesting right there, because, it’s like having the best engineers consult and then to be able to offer these great technologies to people in an affordable way. Precisely. And that’s really what merging is all about. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing as a global company. That is what Daimler Chrysler’s advantage is over any other manufacturer. Our engineers, some fly over to Germany and others fly from Germany to the US. And we’re constantly trading ideas, because it’s some things they’re good at, and some things we’re good at. So merging turns out to be a great thing. Going from there to the Magnum. Which, I guess is the same L… what’s the platform? LX Platform.

How much, do you think, does the urban after market culture influence what you’re doing? Well, I like to put it this way: I’ve been asked that question a few times. But I’ve been thinking about this for a few months and I think what happens is we at Chrysler, we’re such enthusiasts ourselves. You know, we’re car enthusiasts, too, just like everybody else. And we think we have a likemindedness to those guys. And I myself, you know every time I get a car, I put wheels on it. Every time—I like to customize a car. And at Chrysler, I would argue that our cars leave the

Courtesy Chrysler

Of course. There was a convertible at the [NAIAS 2005] show, however. Yes, there was a four-door convertible done by an outside company, called America’s Specialty Cars. They did a wonderful job. We’re very, very happy they did that. We think it’s a compliment to our vehicle. But, we have no association to that project.

Chrysler Aspen HEMI Hybrid OwnersToyz.com • 51


the philosophy? Well, actually, the Charger’s not necessarily about doors. And I guess we expected a little bit of angst when we showed the car with 4 doors. And I think as time goes on people will get it. We already have some special things worked up for the car that you’ll see very shortly that will underscore the car’s attitude. I have nothing but positive thoughts about this car. I think it’s gonna blow up just as well as the others. Again, it’s all about the attitude. It’s what I would call a 4 door coup. It’s got a very rakish roof, it’s got a very rakish body/side, absolutely menacing front end – A very athletic body. You have to see it in person, just like the 300; you gotta be on the highway and see these things driving by you, and then people will be like “Ok, I got it now.” So, I’m pretty confident about that car.

Courtesy Dodge

Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrid

LX Platform? I mean, one thing about the Magnum it’s like totally revolutionized the station wagon. I mean, it’s like now wagons are cool. You know, I remember talking about this car, and that car’s really special to me. Because honestly it was a little bit of a struggle. The American station wagon has really been a forgettable thing, you know what I mean? So for us, you know I remember being in a meeting, and talking to my guys and saying, “trust me on this one because we’re gonna do this one with love. We’re gonna really love this thing. And make it cool.” You know… granted, it has 71 cubic feet of space; it’s not the biggest wagon in the world. And that was never the point. The point was we wanted it to be the coolest wagon in the world, and I think we did that. What was the inspiration and what was some of the design philosophy behind that? Well, again the design philosophy was to have something that was more steady. Ok, the typical wagon formula is almost like a shrunken down SUV, like a box basically. And we wanted to make the car have some drama. The wagon in our mind was really an alternative to a sedan. A lot of people in our situation, a lot of young men in my studio that are just having young families, they kind of need a car that does everything. They like the handling of a sports car, they like the space of an SUV. They like, you know, the functionality of putting the seats down to carry big stuff once in and go to Home Depot or whatever. So, this car is really a result of, “hey, what would you do if you had a clean sheet of paper and you needed something that had all these attributes?” And a wagon was like the perfect formula. So, it combined functionality and style like no other. That was really what we wanted to do. And we love it! Have you seen the brand new SRT-8 Magnum that was shown?

I guess traditionally, the Charger has always been a 2-door. I guess a lot of people remember it from The Dukes of Hazzard. So what’s 52 • OwnersToyz.com

So what is your exact role? Like in your job description? I call it director. It’s actually a very accurate title. It’s very much like a movie director. Actually, I don’t sketch anymore because I’m in management. I coordinate the events, I pick the sketches, I help manage the execution, I deal with engineering, deal with marketing, and deal with public relations. Kind of like the hub for a vehicle. I manage all the requests from engineering and make sure it doesn’t compromise the design. If I need to fight for something, I go to bat for it, whatever… because I’m really directing the execution and the creation of a vehicle. But I have a great team of designers and a great team of engineers. So I’m part of a vertical team of easily 3000 people. So think of it that way. No one person puts a car together. So what advice can you give to young, aspiring designers? Honestly, my advice to them is first of all there’s no such thing as barriers. I thought there would be when I first started this business, but there really aren’t. If anything, your color makes you that much more noticeable. It can be an advantage in some way, because it’s missing. There really isn’t enough color in the industry, and I think that should happen. But it starts at the school level – people getting into the industry in the first place. Anything is possible, especially in this country. You just gotta want it. There’s financial aid, there’s all kinds of mechanisms to go around the financial issues that’s in the way. It’s really about dreaming and going for it!

Dodge Charger

Courtesy Dodge

I was actually gonna ask you about that because I love the wheel package. Oh, yeah, that came out of our studio. It came from an enthusiastic bunch of guys saying, “why not?” You know, no one’s ever done that – only the Germans have done that, and again, that’s at twice the price of us. So we’re offering a very athletic family vehicle. It’s a really cool combination.

Will there probably be an SRT? Perhaps, perhaps.


Sylvia Rhone

More Than A Legend, The Standard For Excellence In The Music Recording Industry

INTERVIEW Damola IMAGE Matthew Jordan Smith

42 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue


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ery few, if any, can claim the pedigree of Sylvia Rhone. With over a 30 year tenure that started out as a secretary and elevated to being the first woman to become chairman/CEO of a major recording company in 1994 when she was appointed to that post at Electra Records, her legacy is unmatched. In a past ad campaign, Nissan Motor Company honored her in a series of shorts honoring black legacy achievers. However, her path has not been easy as a pioneer having to battle sexism and racism along the way and recently corporate restructuring after the sale of Warner Brothers Music Group to the Bronfman’s. That change left her without a post, but always the fighter, she landed on her feet with a new post as Executive VP of Universal Records and President of Motown. It was 1974 when her illustrious career began at Buddha Records. From Buddha she moved on to Atlantic Records, where in 1986 she became Vice President/General Manager of Atlantic’s Black Music Operation and in two short years she was promoted to Senior Vice President of Atlantic Records. Her first historic milestone occurred in 1990 when she became the first African American woman to head a major record company when she was named CEO/President of Atlantic’s new East West Records America division. A year later, when the East West artist roster and operations were combined with Taco Records, Ms. Rhone was named Chairman/CEO of Atco/EastWest, and subsequently EastWest Records America. On her mantle you could see over two dozen awards for achievements during her career including the Turner Broadcasting 2004 Trumpet awards and an induction into National Association of Black Female Executives In Music And Entertainment Hall Of Fame. As a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, at the University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Rhone was named an Alumni Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, and is a recipient of the Black Alumni of Pratt’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Her career has been a touchstone for women in the entertainment industry, but even greater are the artists she has been involved with by launching their careers. Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Fabulous, Das Efx’s, En Vogue, Gerald Levert, Pantera, Dream Theater, Metallica, Jet, Staind, Tami, Yolanda Adams, Tracy Chapman, and Jason Mraz, among others have all had the privilege to benefit from her expertise. Still as impassioned now as she was over 30 years ago, she is now ushering a new era at the legendary Motown records. With an acute music ear and a capable team, Ms. Sylvia Rhone is now overseeing the careers of artists like Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, Michael McDonald, Brian McKnight, India.Arie, QTip, Toni Braxton, Nick Cannon, David Banner, Nelly, and new talents like Chamillionaire, Remy Ma, J Millz, among others. During a junket for a core of independent publications, I had the fortune to speak to this legend and gain insight into how she ascended to her position and what lessons she can pass on to future generations. Sylvia: So, tell me about your week…. Who did you like, what was hot?

Damola: Q-Tip, Yummy, I loved Remy Ma, Chamillionare was a nice surprise and J Millz. What track did you like off the Q-tip record? The Jackson 5 one, that was real hot. That’s what I’m feeling. Also the one with Andre because I could see a vision of how that could move his product. To give him his space to where he could breathe in today’s market and be successful in his environment, because you have to be conscience of that. Right. I think Q-tips project is going to be off the hook because he is an icon and he hasn’t been out for a long time. I think he can add something fresh to the game right now. I’m excited. I’m glad everyone likes that move record, that’s a hot record. It’s a very hot record. I think one good thing about the junket is that a lot of your artists come from different spectrums of urban music, so it was a great thing to give us an experience of people from different spectrums. I really appreciate that comment because that is one of the initiates of the company, to really diversify the company, and you have just witnessed what we have in the hip hop area. But we do have some new, other artists that are more kind of R&B, urban R&B. They are young and fresh. A new girl we signed out of Detroit named Sway can play the keyboard and play acoustic guitar. She is opening up for a lot of the college dates with John Legend, who’s going to be off the hook. We have about 6 projects signed that are going into production now. We just gave you a taste of the new Motown, but you’re going to see that a lot of things are going to be unique. I hope visionary to most people, and that will add something fresh and new to music because I think things get very stale quickly in music and people try to follow the leader. So you know one person heads there and then everybody tries to be Ciara, for example. Exactly Or everybody tries to copy somebody else. We are trying to be trendsetters rather than followers. But how do you find what to look for? It is really hard. It comes from so many different places and not just one place. It comes from a brother you might meet in a club that says, “Could you listen to my CD?” I mean, its so many different places, you never know when you are going to find it. How do you integrate working with a lot of your partners, because they are so different like SRC, Big Face, David Banners company, DTP, to name a few. Even at this junket, it seems to be a lot of coordination of a lot of people that are doing their own independent thing to all come together and be fluid in how they present it. How do you coordinate all of these different artists together and equally present them to the press? I think a lot of the effort of coordinating this really is a responsibility and credit to Wendy Washington and her department. They did an excellent job and they were excellent Womens Issue • OwnerS Illustrated • 43


Sylvia Rhone — Music Industry Icon in keeping your senses titillated with the different designs in the room and the food and the places. A lot of creative effort went into this week for you guys. Know and appreciate that. But on the real, we do business together, and we try to work as a family. And SRC, Cash Money, and Blackground are all extensions of the family, so we really try to work together to coordinate even our creative efforts. We exchange our assets when we have collabos with certain acts. We let you know that [David] Banner will do something on one of our acts and produce one of our acts and vice versa. We try to keep the family strong and it is getting stronger and stronger as a result of our people. A Member of Press court: For an artist that is not in a major market how would you suggest them to get to an A&R? An A&R person is always reachable. If an artist is a new artist that needs to be developed, then they should try to develop themselves locally. Take for instance Chamillionaire, Mike Jones and those cats that came out of Swisha House, or even in the early Cash Money days before they went and got a big deal with Universal. These guys were working and grinding it out in their hometown. They were selling records out of their trunks and going into radio stations themselves. So, I think a lot of it has to be on that artist. Artists need to ask themselves, “how bad do you want it that you can go out there and be a self starter and an entrepreneur?” It takes some responsibility. If the needle starts to tick, people will catch it right away. But you have to be able to move the needle yourself because nobody is going to give you anything for nothing. You need to be an entrepreneur. Be an Owner; own your own thing. Yes, you have to. You can own your own thing, or you can just make the awareness and the word of mouth within your home base so hot that you know, when you bring it in, you have a story to tell. It is harder to get signed now because it is so competitive. There are so few labels and the money is squeezed. So, when you come into an office you really need to be hot. To do that, get your record hot in the clubs and go to your local radio station and try to get some love from there. There are so many ways that you can create that heat locally. (In reference to junket) Did interns work on putting this together? Yes, exactly. There definitely are openings to young kids if they want that record position experience. I think we only think about artists, but there is a whole business side that is open to a lot of people that can provide far more security than becoming an artist. Listen to this woman. There was a poster that said, “Universal, under new management” that I observed from the listening session the other day. Who are some of these key people and what is the new direction that you guys are taking Universal? Some of the key people are myself, Tone from trackmasters, 44 • OwnerS Illustrated • Womens Issue

Wendy Washington, Shanti Das, etc. It is not so much under new management. That was really kind of a concept and a new philosophy, not different people so to speak. That new philosophy is defining new artists that we are signing. That is why we are saying under new management. Such as Motown going through several transitions of being neosoul; it was kind of not defined, so we’re just trying to define it. This is a new chapter, and hopefully we have some great success in the next chapter of Motown. Having the history that you have and seeing things evolve over the years into this new digital convergence, how do you perceive what’s going on and how do you take advantage of some of the new responses from the consumer base and the new environment? That is a big question, but I’ve been doing it for 30 years and there have been periods where you are doing the same thing. But, you can’t do the same things you used to do yesterday. Everyday you have to look at what you are doing with a different point of view because technology has changed dramatically, such as the way that we sell music and we are just catching up with that wave. We have created new media departments just to deal with how we are going to market through an online experience because 10 years from now, we will not be buying records from the store. CD’s will be non-existent; they will be like the 8-track and cassettes. So, we are preparing ourselves for how we are going to market that and be a part of the future. What do you think has given you the ability to be a pioneer not only as a woman, but also as a black woman to come into this industry and become CEO, a person of power for so long? How can a person see your path, and what has made you or given you the ability to traject such a path to be at a CEO level in this industry? I started as a secretary. I do have a degree, but my degree wasn’t really applicable to what I wanted to do. So, when I made a decision to get into the business, I started as a secretary and I still am as passionate about my job as I was back then. I worked my way up a very long ladder. A lot of it is based on my commitment and my work ethic and my passion most of all, and a component that none of us can really control, luck. Basically, I was in the right place at the right time and I earned the opportunities I got and I was able to hold onto them. However, certainly I have had my ups and downs. I feel so fortunate to have been able to survive because a lot of people I entered the business with are no longer in the business. It’s a very cruel business, it can either be very good to you or it can chew you up and spit you out.

I worked my way up a very long ladder.

A lot of it is based on my commitment and my work ethic and my passion most of all, and a component that none of us can really control, luck. — Sylvia Rhone


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