For more than a decade The Source magazine has highlighted the business acumen of hip-hop’s heavyweights with their annual Power 30 list. Thanks to The Source, rap consumers can easily rattle off the names of record executives, artist managers, music video directors, and fashion moguls who continue to redefine the culture and lead by example. Before the list began in the late ‘90s, most music fans would only refer to Russell Simmons as the reason for the culture’s expansion and overall existence. Now they are able to credit Chris Lighty, Mona Scott, Lyor Cohen, Julie Greenwald, Wendy Day, Sylvia Rhone, Debra Lee, and countless others.
Unlike the Forbes magazine’s Cash Kings list that focuses solely on the financial assets of a rap mogul, The Source expanded the criteria to include money, power, and respect. Aspiring rap artists quickly learned that if they wanted to join Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella Records, they had to deal with Damon Dash first. If they hoped to be down with the Ruff Ryders camp, DMX didn’t make the final business decision. Everything had to get approved by Chivon, Dee, and Wah Dean, the co-founders of Earl Simmons’ former record label.
This year’s list includes Def Jam (No. 1), Diddy (No. 2), the Cash Money/Young Money team (No. 3), Jay-Z (No. 4), and the Interscope duo of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine (No. 5).
LOVE IT: The most impressive part of the list is the unique layout that shows the candidates as part of a stock exchange that reflects their current position and compares it to their placement from the previous year. You don’t have to grab your calculator for this or even attempt to look at last year’s tabulation. Each selection includes a summary on why they were chosen and comes with percentage points to show how much they improved or declined from their ranking in 2011.
More than one-third of the list consists of artists such as Rick Ross, Ice Cube, Diddy, and Kanye West which proves that although you are behind the mic, you can elect to operate behind the desk or hire a trustworthy team of young entrepreneurs to do it for you.
Mona Scott enters the list at No. 23 for her executive producer role on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop” series that started in New York and has spawned a spinoff based in Atlanta. Even though The Source doesn’t point this out, Scott was previously a regular entry on the Power 30 alongside Chris Lighty for her previous role as co-president of Violator Management.
The addition of Benjy Grinberg, CEO of Rostrum Records, at No. 18 is a major milestone for the man responsible for jumpstarting Wiz Khalifa’s career and making music history with Mac Miller. While this isn’t mentioned in his highlight reel, Grinberg is a former executive assistant to L.A. Reid, who comes in at No. 15. There’s nothing more powerful than being placed in the same company as your mentor.
HATE IT: We are not given any guidelines on how the list was compiled but if it is truly about power, diversity, and influence then Jay-Z deserves to be at No. 1. You can cite your own reason from his ownership stake in the Brooklyn Nets (even if it’s less than 1 percent), his role as an executive producer on NBA 2K13, the multi-year global agreement with Duracell, his best-selling memoir, “Decoded,” or the Watch the Throne Tour with Kanye West that spanned from October 2011 to June 2012 and became the highest grossing hip-hop concert tour in history. Even if you disregard those accolades there’s still more. Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival included a video introduction from President Barack Obama where he stated: “He [Jay-Z] didn’t come from power or privilege. He got ahead because he worked hard, learned from his mistakes, just plain refused to quit. That’s what Made in America means.” If you add the $4 million that Jay-Z and Beyonce raised at last month’s fundraiser for the President where donors were charged $40,000 to attend the event, you will soon realize that nothing in hip-hop surpassed his level of power in the last 12 months.
As they have done in the past, The Source decided to pair executives from the same company to make things more cohesive including the senior staff at Atlantic Records, the executive leadership at Def Jam, and Debra Lee and Stephen Hill at BET. However, the idea of combining Cash Money/Young Money with Baby, Slim, and Lil Wayne was a shortsighted approach when you consider that Young Money artists such as Drake and Nicki Minaj were given their own placement on the list. Lil Wayne deserves considerable acclaim for carving out his own dynasty from the Cash Money umbrella. The Source referred to the Blueprint Group of Gee Roberson, Kyambo, “Hip Hop” Joshua, Al Branch and Cortez Bryant for overseeing Lil Wayne’s TRUKFIT clothing line but really should have given Wayne his own lane for his accomplishments rather than giving the credit to his managers. Outside of his financial success, Wayne’s decision to remove Nicki Minaj and the Young Money roster from Hot 97’s Summer Jam lineup hours before her scheduled performance was a true display of power after feeling that his artist was disrespected by the station’s on-air personality Peter Rosenberg.
“As soon as she called me and told me she felt disrespected, I just declined everything,” said Wayne to MTV after the incident. “I pulled her from the show because… no person that works with me will be disrespected in my presence as long as I’m on this planet.”
The Power 30 proved to be a disappointment when it didn’t honor T.I. and his Grand Hustle CEO, Jason Geter, for all of their accomplishments throughout the year. Ever since T.I. came home they went into grind mode with VH1’s hit reality docu-series, “T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle,” T.I.’s recurring role in the “Boss” drama with Kelsey Grammer, his fledgling A.K.O.O. fashion line, and his latest “Trouble & Triumph” novel aimed at promoting literacy. When you add his title as Global Creative Consultant for Remy Martin Cognac that will include his K.I.N.G. Foundation there’s no way that you can deny T.I. and Geter’s power.
Ludacris and his Disturbing tha Peace partners didn’t make the list either. No one can discount his ability to diversify his brand as he created lucrative partnerships with Soul By Ludacris headphones and a cognac brand called Conjure, while increasing his presence in Hollywood. The trio of Luda, Jeff Dixon and Chaka Zulu deserved a nod because even without a solo album in stores since 2010, Ludacris still managed to make power moves.