The positive implications of hip-hop

Media mogul Steve Stoute speaks to SU students about his latest book and how hip-hop sparked the cultural curiosity that drove him to success.

Students quickly filled the seats of Hergenhan Auditorium Wednesday night and waited with anticipation for Steve Stoute, long time media mogul, advertising executive, and “hip-hop aficionado,” and the knowledge he would share.

Stoute entered the room and was met with the kind of resounding applause and echoes of cheers heard at a concert. After viewing an introductory film courtesy of Syracuse University's National Association of Black Journalists, discussion of his recently released book and journey through hip-hop began.

"The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy" hit bookshelves in September but its latest buzz has been all but too hard to ignore. The concept of tanning, a term describing hip-hop as a catalyst for blending American cultures, has raised much controversy since its release.

Stoute confirmed in his cool, calm, and collected manner that it has nothing to do with complexity but everything to do with mental capacity. It was written to address how “hip-hop (has written) the rules of the economy and altered the psyche of young Americans.”

Without this genre of music, he admits that his life would hardly be the same.

Revered for his candor, intellect, creative ability, and audacious business ventures in the music industry, there was a wave of startled expressions when Stoute admitted next that while hip-hop infused his cultural curiosity, the music industry wasn't the occupation he fantasized about as a child.

“Music wasn't my dream ... I love to move people culturally forward,” he said.

The communications business is fertile ground where confidence is key. “Hip-hop has done so much to give people with nothing, confidence,” Stoute said before breaking down the importance of branding, marketing tactics that harp on delivering the truth, and understanding the next generation of consumers.

His beginnings in hip-hop taught him many of the entrepreneurial skills he would go on to share.

One tip he emphasized was the value of identifying commonalities to illuminate why partnerships work. Another spoke of the dire need for people to stop viewing others through colored lenses, an element of tanning. "No longer does your ethnicity predetermine what drives you culturally,” he noted.

For as long as he can remember hip-hop has been the vehicle that's brought opportunities and opened doors. At the age of 41 he now jokes when saying, “I was always the most famous guy that no one knew.”

While he's still very much in the prime of his career, his witty comments, vibrant sense of humor, “fresh” swag and love for expensive shoes –- he wore Yves St. Laurent sneakers that evening –- are only fragments of the man that has strived to inform the world of the positive implications of hip-hop.

Credited for his tendency to think outside the box and support the very things others would condemn add to his undeniable likability and leverage in the hip-hop community.

He empowered students to continue delivering the truth and challenged them to create innovative ways to do so.

“You know you have a great idea when no one believes you,” he said.

Hip-hop taught him that.

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