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The downpour of rain wasn’t going to keep me from hearing Steve Stoute speak at Howard. Shoot, I’d taken a chinatown bus from DC to NYC before JUST to hear him speak. I knew about his stint as Nas’ manager and about him currently managing Mary J Blige, but I was more impressed with the deals he had brokered for Will Smith, Jay-Z, and 50cent .  As an artist and an entrepreneur myself, I’ve always been interested in the merging worlds of commerce and art. I see branded entertainment as an emerging field; an area that will continue to expand as businesses explore new ways to create content that engages their audience. So it was a given that I’d brave the rainstorm and catch the discussion between Steve,  Dr. Gregory Carr, associate professor of Africana Studies at Howard University, and the audience.

The highpoint, for me, was hearing Steve tell the story behind “Jay-Z Blue” and GM. “Jay-Z Blue” at one point, was just a name and an idea in Steve’s head. It then became a color, a brighter blue, that he had created. The part that I found brilliant, from a branding and straight ‘hustlin’ perspective, is what Steve did next.

He sought out the family in New Jersey who owns Pantone Color and pitched and sold them on the idea to include “Jay-Z Blue” as a Pantone chip. Since Pantone is a dictionary of color, Steve was able to make “Jay-Z Blue” into a universal language that anybody, anywhere, can select and purchase.  Now that the color was available, Steve then offered it as a color option to GM in its line of cars.

And while people tend to get caught up on the caliber of artists he has worked with, Steve pointed out that the more important thing to focus on is the thought process behind the things he has done, not the headlines.

I look forward to reading his book The Tanning of America.

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