For our latest episode of Blueprint, Complex's Editor-in-Chief Noah Callahan-Bever sat down with talent manager and entrepreneur Scooter Braun for a conversation about the early days of managing Justin Bieber and Asher Roth, working (and getting fired) at Jermaine Dupri's So So Def, and what his future holds.
You can check out the full episode above, and catch a breakdown of the biggest takeaways below.
He was scared Justin Bieber was going to die
Bieber’s personal life went into a tailspin after the singer turned 18, with publicized moments ranging from wild to downright troubling. Braun says he attempted to intervene, and that he was more concerned about Bieber’s well-being than the publicity hit he was taking career-wise.
“To me the only point where ‘is it over’ wasn’t a scary career over; I thought I was going to lose him. I thought he was going to die,” he explains. “That was the scariest point because he was an adult, so he could go away from me. I couldn’t force him to stay next to me. There were points where I didn’t know if in the morning he was gonna be there. And I was petrified, and I was doing everything I could. And I think he knows that. And at the end of the day for him to come out of that and be where he is today is a testament to his strength.”
He used to sell fake IDs, but stopped because of the risk
It’s been known that Braun made money selling fake IDs in college (before his career really took off), but he’s never explained why he stopped until now. As the story goes, Braun got into the fake ID business with a friend, which they split 50-50. His only request? Never share their real names, and never keep in touch with the clientele. His friend couldn’t abide by those rules, so Braun dipped. “I never sold a fake ID again,” he says. “Sure enough, a couple months later, he got caught.”
Jermaine Dupri’s mom played a role in Braun being fired at So So Def
After dropping the fake ID gig, Braun got into party promotion in Atlanta, which led to him meeting and working with Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def imprint. He was quite successful, working his way up to executive director for marketing, but he was frustrated that he wasn’t able to implement some ideas he had for the label. His time with the company came to an abrupt end after a meeting with Dupri’s mother.
“One day I came to the office and Jermaine’s mom was there. She liked to be involved with the business stuff,” he recalls. “And she just kind of starts telling us all that we all are just using her son, that he could do this all without you guys.”
“It was a little frustrating, so I said, ‘Tina, I already had a business before this. I really don’t appreciate you saying that ‘cause it’s demeaning to me and the rest of the staff. I don’t know why you’re doing that.”
Braun says he left the office, and later met up with Dupri that night and there were no issues. The next day, he went back to the office and found a letter in his mailbox. “She has released me from my job, and it’s signed by her,” he says. “But then I look over; it’s also signed by Jermaine.”
Asher Roth’s publishing deal from “I Love College” saved Braun’s company from going under
Given his current status, it’s hard to imagine an unsuccessful Scooter Braun, but at one point he was staring down the barrel of failure before he could really get his management company off the ground.
When Braun brought on Justin Bieber and Asher Roth, he had enough money stored away that he could pay for their bills (rent, school, etc.) for 13 months. After that, he would be broke. By month 11, the reality of this whole plan started to settle in, and he was worried this might be the end.
“The next day Asher came in and played me ‘I Love College,’ and the publishing deal saved our company,” Braun says. “It just shows you how close success and failure lie.”
Braun never discovered the third artist he was looking for
When Scooter Braun transitioned into management in the late 2000s, he had his sights set on developing three kinds of artists. “I looked for a gap in the marketplace and I chose three different types of acts,” he says. “One was what Asher was, which was someone who could really really rap, but spoke to the white boy that Asher was. That loved hip-hop but didn’t have anybody like them in hip-hop, like wearing flip-flops.”
Box checked. The next was someone who could fit the young Michael Jackson mold. “When Michael was singing these angelic songs, you actually believed in love before you became an adult and got jaded ‘cause you had the angelic voice of a child speaking to you about love from the time you remembered it. And that’s the hole Justin filled.”
Two for two. But the third? He never found it. “It was like Britney [Spears] meets Pink, is the best way I can probably describe it.”