You also worked with Jay-Z
Fuck, you’re like the journalist from, what’s the movie? The one with James Caan?
In your book, you had a really interesting story about an encounter with NBA Commissioner David Stern. How did you know David Stern?
NBA licensed jerseys were selling like crazy, primarily because of hip-hop culture wearing NBA jerseys as fashion. The part that was funny was, David Stern was resistant to it, but then he finally got there. When Jay-Z came out with “Change Clothes” it was a dramatic drop in licensed apparel. David Stern asked me, “Could you ask Jay-Z to change clothes again?”
When I was working with Reebok, Paul Fineman sent me to see David Stern to try to explain to him, basically, the tanning of America: That all rappers wanted to be basketball players and basketball players wanted to be rappers.
NBA licensed jerseys were selling like crazy, primarily because of hip-hop culture wearing NBA jerseys as fashion. And that he should—in marketing the NBA and marketing NBA apparel, which Reebok had the license for—take that quotient into consideration.
David Stern was very open-minded to that and I think he went through a curve of like, I understand it now. The part that was funny was, he was resistant to it, but then he finally got there. And then when Jay-Z came out with “Change Clothes” it was a dramatic drop in licensed apparel.
After Paul Fineman sold the company, he threw a going away dinner and I saw David Stern again. David asked me, “Could you ask Jay-Z to change clothes again?” Cause he felt the effects of when it pulled back.
I think that’s the same thing with the guy from Cristal is saying, I think he’s biting his words right now, saying, “I wish I’d never said that.” Cause they’re seeing an overall decline in their business, again, as a result of not embracing the audience that is purchasing your product.
One thing that has been well-documented everywhere is about how you were very instrumental in Jay-Z dropping the Motorola Two Way reference. How did that come about?
That was a long time ago, there’s so many different iterations to that story. Two-way pagers were everywhere, before Blackberries and all that other kind of stuff. It was the first device that my generation were using to connect. We were actually using it before email.
Jay did it and I don’t remember the details but, I got two-way pagers to the set. But at the time just reaching out to a company like Motorola and saying, “Yo, he said this in a song, supply x amount for the video,” or whatever it was at the time, was a big deal! Nobody would do that.
So it wasn’t any sort of compensation or anything?
No. Early on you had to prove the model out, it had nothing to do with compensation.
Once the song dropped, did sales spike?
Yeah, the whole category. By the way, just in general, hip-hop was a very good place to provide aspiration to many products. When they provided the aspiration, whether it’s in lyrics or showcase product in music videos, it spikes sales and awareness.
In the book, Empire State of Mind, author Zack O'Malley Greenburg wrote about you and Jay-Z doing the Jay-Z Blue. At the time, it looked there were going to be a lot of products in Jay-Z Blue but it quieted down. What was the whole thing with Jay-Z Blue, the color?
Everything in Zach O'Malley Greenburg’s book, Empire State of Mind, is not accurate. I told him that. He got close on a lot of stuff, but it was not 100% accurate. Not at all.
Jay-Z Blue was a brilliant concept that we went through a lot of hurdles to get to be a Pantone color chip. And it was one of those things that we started that we didn’t finish when we should have, but we’re working on finishing now. That’s the answer.
Was there a reason why it got off track?
So many opportunities to capture, maybe? There were so many things going on at the time, that we couldn’t necessarily get it all done.
So that’s still in the works?
And another thing that seemed to be in the works was the Jay-Z Jeep. What happened to the Jeep deal?
The Jay-Z Jeep deal was a part of the Jay-Z Blue deal. In fact, the story’s right over there if you want to look at it. If you want to read it, I had it framed. We showed the car at the Detroit auto show. Everything in Zach’s book is not accurate. I told him that, by the way. He got close on a lot of stuff, but it was not 100% accurate. Not at all.
In the book, MC Serch was saying that everything was supposed to be straight, Jay-Z was supposed to fly in, and at the last minute one of the upper management people got shaky and was kind of like, “I don’t know about his history. I don’t know if we should do this deal.”
I don’t know what they’re talking about. I think Serch is fantastic, but I don’t know what he’s talking about.
For your awareness, there’s this truck that you’re talking about that was rolled out, but they were talking about a different prototype that was a Jay-Z Jeep that was actually supposed to be—
There was supposed to be a Puff Jeep, a Jay-Z Jeep. A lot of those brands were saying those things to get affiliated, but they weren’t willing to spend any money.
Right, the way they said it the Jay-Z deal was done. They had already put the money behind it and it just took one executive.
I cannot comment on that. I don’t know that story.