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Hip-Hop Personality of The Week

Hip-Hop Personality of the Week: “The Commissioner” Steve Stoute

by . RJL

Hip-Hop Personality of the Week: “The Commissioner”  Steve Stoute

by . RJL

Steve Stoute (born June 26, 1970) is an American businessman and record executive. Stoute is the CEO of UnitedMasters, founder and CEO of the Translation, a marketing agency, and the author of The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy. Previously, he worked in the music industry as an American record executive and artist manager.

His stint in the world of music started at 26, when he became the President of the Urban Music Division at Sony Music Entertainment. He led legendary artists such as Mariah "The Voice" Carey, Nas, Fugees, Dre, Celine Dion and "The Fresh Prince," Will Smith. He then transitioned to Interscope Geffen A&R records as their new President in 1999 where he would form a life-long friendship with Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter after being a key player in Jay's partnership with Reebok at the time. He was often known for his great ability to form successful partnerships and bridge gaps between musicians and brands.

The Commissioner, as he is fondly known, was a manager to Nas, Trackmasters and Mary J. Blige. He is largely credit for transforming Nas from a critically acclaimed lyricist in “Illmatic” to a commercial success in “It Was Written”.

In April 1999, Diddy (then known as Puff Daddy), reportedly barged into the offices of Stoute with several bodyguards, and struck Stoute over the head with a champagne bottle. In June 1999, Stoute sued Combs, resulting in a $500,000 out-of-court settlement from Combs.The disagreement was over Combs' demand that the crucifix version of Nas’ “You Can Hate Me Now” video that he appeared in should not be aired. Nas narrated the beef on “Last Real Ni**a Alive” off his “God’s Son” album.

In 2001, Stoute moved from the music industry into the advertising industry. In 2004, he founded Translation, a creative solutions company. He has worked with clients including McDonald's (I'm Lovin' It campaign), The NBA and The NFL. In 2013, Stoute was named Ad Age's Executive of the year

In 2014, Stoute partnered with Google, Apple, and Andreessen Horowitz to found UnitedMasters, a technology platform that empowers over 1.9M global independent artists to distribute their music and reach their fullest potential—creatively and financially. UnitedMasters artists retain full ownership of their master recording rights and are able to earn beyond streaming through connections with the world's biggest brands.

Stoute released his first book The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy in 2011 through Gotham Books. In the book, Stoute draws from his diverse background in the music industry and brand marketing to chronicle how an upstart art form – street poetry set to beats – came to define urban culture as the new embodiment of cool.

In February 2014, the book was made into a four-part VH1 Rock Doc, "The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip-Hop." In April 2014, the book was released as an audiobook narrated by Kerry Washington.

The Commissioner’s current moves at UnitedMasters is disruptive to the recording companies stranglehold on the business in favour of artists particularly in Africa. In Nigeria, for example, a reliable source stated that through UnitedMasters the artists will own 100% of their masters in exchange for small fee of 20,000 Naira with access to marketing opportunities on platforms in partnership with UnitedMasters.

The Commissioner is a leading light for the promotion of hip-hop economy particularly ownership of means of production in the music business by blacks. He is considered a cultural icon in terms of his positive impact in empowering artists to own their body of work and ancillary incomes from ownership of brands and endorsements

Outside of work, Stoute serves as a board member for the Robinhood Foundation, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization. For over thirty years, Robinhood has partnered with 250+ nonprofits to support food, housing, education, legal services, workforce development, and more to New Yorkers living in poverty across all five boroughs.

Personally, Stoute is married to Lauren Branche and has two children - Pharaoh, who is 4 years old, and Sophia, who is 18 years old and is a freshman at Columbia University.


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