3 Kings: A Review Guide for Hip-Hop Entrepreneurs
In 3 Kings: Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Hip-Hop’s Multibillion-Dollar Rise by Zack O’ Malley Greenburg (ZOMG), this book is an inspirational guide that highlights the rise of three of the best known artists in Hip-Hop and their connections they have on to their own brand identities and the consumer market. ZOMG’s analysis of the musical culture first takes on a biographical tone as the preliminary pages focus on Hip-Hop, its originators and their places of origin. As the book progresses, the literature takes on a different vibe as the book highlights the various paths each artist traveled and how they were able to gamble and capitalize on themselves as a brand to secure ‘the bag’ for themselves (make a lot of money).
For most of us when we hear these artists’ music in the Hip-Hop community, you hear in their music, how they transcended their humbling, yet dangerous environment to become the monoliths of the music industry. As the book highlights the aforementioned focusing on the artists’ success, their rise to stardom, and their stakes in multiple business endeavors; the primary gem hidden beneath the glam and allure to the street life is also the primary focus throughout the book:
Ownership in the Evolutionary World of Hip-Hop.
For example in Chapter 1: The Originators, ZOMG highlights the art form’s originators mentioning Hip-Hop legends such as ‘Afrika Bambaataa, Clive “DJ Cool Herc” Campbell, and Joseph “Grandmaster Flash” Saddler, while also creating an ambiguous historical lens to Hip-Hop’s true origins dating back as far as the Griots of West Africa, who’ve engaged in spoken-word storytelling via music. During these golden times, Hip-Hop started with two-turntables, a microphone and a crowd, but during these beginning times, there were two situations that robbed some of these successful lyricists of their happiness. The two quotes that best describes the robbery are:
“Nobody knew about rights or publishing or royalties of anything like that… There wasn’t no lawsuits back in the day…It wasn’t like…you stole my rhyme, I’m going to sue you….N**** didn’t know music like that, the politics of it… They weren’t business oriented”-pg. 26
“I don’t fault anyone for being a businessman. If I was more business oriented and had the right people around me all the time that I needed them, instead of MF’s that was trying to shove coke up my nose….” – pg.36
During these beginning times of Hip-Hop, the originators were making money, yet due to improper financial management based on the artists, lecherous management (improper royalty distribution from the label) practices and drug use, their money and artistic rights soon ended up in the hands of their management teams [Labels] only. As this methodology became the foundation for up and coming artists at the time, only a select few in the industry were able to create avenues that were able to salvage their music, talent and their money. Some of these changes are credited to Def-Jam’s cofounder Russell Simmons.
As the book progresses, the ‘gems’ dropped on ownership take on a different toll as ZOMG explains the entrepreneurial hustle dropped from the 3 Kings. One of the most notable gems stem from Chapter 6: Fashion Fortunes and describes how resiliency in starting and promoting your own brand is far more important than having a brand endorse you. For example, most know the origins of Rocawear and when it was first introduced; starting with sewing machines in the Roc-A-Fella offices of Def-Jam. What most people don’t know is that when the european designer Iceberg adamantly refused to provide Jay-Z and Damon Dash an endorsement deal (worth millions) plus a private jet; they turned to the originator of Hip-Hop endorsement deals, Russell Simmons for inspiration.
The gem from this situation was best said by Jay-Z as he described the real aspects of Hip-Hop ownership and business:
“Whenever possible, own the products you rap about, otherwise you’re just giving someone free business” – pg.129
In this situation, two additional gems were dropped; learning from the wisdom of others who do what you want to do and believing in your own brand power.
I also feel the need to mention another notable entry in this book and that is the rise of Hip-Hop’s questionable fourth king, 50 Cent (Chapter 7: Fourth King?). I was impressed to how ZOMG noted 50’s rise in Hip-Hop, which was quicker than the 3 Kings, and how he managed to carve a significant lane for himself in the industry. To this day I still remember ‘G..G..G..G-Unit’ and staying true to the entrepreneurial theme of this article, his deal that he made with Vitamin Water for the drink, formula 50 and his latest entrepreneurial venture with Starz, the critically acclaimed POWER series which was renewed for another season.
The Successful Consiglieres
The term Consiglieri was highly used in the Godfather movie series to describe a person who is the main adviser’s voice of reason. Additionally, these people don’t seek power or ambition, instead they often advise the main character in attempts for them to be successful and prosperous.
In 3 Kings, although the book doesn’t focus on them per se, I feel the need to recognize them here because it was their insight, past experiences and successes that led to the future progress and commercial success of Hip-Hop and the 3 Kings on both a commercial and global platform. Rather than describe them in detail (because there are a lot) I highlight the influential ones:
- Fred ‘Fab 5 Freddy’ Brathwaite – Hip-Hop Pioneer/Yo! MTV Raps host/ Grafitti Artist
- Troy Carter – Rap Veteran, Venture Capitalist, Spotify exec, Former manager of Lady Gaga
- Jimmy Iovine – Cofounder of Interscope Records and Beats, Longtime friend of Dr. Dre.
- Russell Simmons – Cofounder of Def-Jam, Phat Farm, Original Hip-Hop Entrepreneur.
These members created multiple paths for the 3 Kings to prosper as well as carving a nice niche for themselves in the Hip-Hop Industry.
ZOMG has written about the chronicles of Hip-Hop from a business perspective and highlighted the 3 most successful brands to be the figureheads of that industry. Although the book centers on the historic rises of Diddy, Jay-Z, and Dr. Dre, he also takes the time out to acknowledge the co-players that assisted in their climb to be superstars as well.
Overall, I really couldn’t put the book down and I finished reading it in a week. This book served as a guide for any entrepreneur, especially one who has submerged themselves in Hip-Hop, as a learning experience that could possibly move them from good to great. The music these legends produced brought massive joy to crowds and provided, for some, a great emotional situation or even a disappointing one to some event in your life. I’ll never forget, when I landed my first real good paying job, I played ‘All about the Benjamin’s’ by Puff Daddy and the Family; When my girlfriend cheated on me, repeatedly, ‘Is that your chick (The Lost Verses)’ by Memphis Bleek ft. Missy Elliot and Jay-Z, was my turmoil as Jay-Z’s verse really got into the actions of my ex and finally, when I bought my first car (2003 Honda Civic), Dr. Dre’s (Featuring Snoop Dogg) ‘Nothin’ But a G Thang’ was playing in my sound system for a whole week.
My only recommendation is that ZOMG should create a 3-part book series, which highlights the Kings’ historic rise in their own separate books. He did that with JAY-Z, in his book, Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z from Street Corner to the Corner Office. I only wish he would follow up with Dr.Dre and Diddy.
Overall, I rate 3 Kings...