Steve Stoute stopped by The Breakfast Club to discuss his new book, The Tanning of America. Stoute started out in the record business in the early nineties and helped launch the careers of several artists, including Nas and Mariah Carey. Angela Yee asked him about his transition into advertising and the ground breaking deal he did with Reebok.
“I was in the record business for years,” Steve said. “I was a manager. I was the president of Columbia Records, and then I went on to become the president of Interscope Records. I left the business when I was 29, 30, and I got into advertising. I wanted to do something different. I think that’s the first thing about the book, that I feel like is practical to the reader. That you could actually see where I made that shift in my career. And find courage to make that next step in your own career. And not be afraid to find your passion. No matter how good it looks on the other side. Because I was running records companies. At the time, that was the best thing in the world to do. Everybody coveted the job that I had. I went into something less popular in advertising. And I think that I did a really good job in making the adverting business, at least from our prospective, bridging the gap between music and advertising, I made it popular to be in advertising, and talk about branding.”
He discusses selling the Jay-Z & 50 Cent sneakers like they were CD’s. Stoute said, “The S. Carters and The G-Units, helped revive [Reebok] and brought that brand back. For a while, RBK became a very, very hot brand. And actually Reebok sold, as a result of the heat that was around that movement at the time.”
Charlamange Tha God asked Steve if he left the music business because he saw it was on a decline.
“That would be hot, if I was that good. But no,” he said. “I will tell you this much, I knew they were letting people in the record business that was really random. The artists’ they was signing was random. The executives that was coming on board was random. I felt like in any business, once it starts getting random, when people dont know the difference between whose really really good, and whose really not that good, that business will falter at some point.”
DJ Envy asked Stoute how he was able to get the corporate world comfortable with hip hop.
“That was the hardest part,” Steve said. “The hardest part was trying to translate the authentic nature. And try to get a company to realize, in order to truly communicate to the audience. To this young generation of kids, who you want to buy your goods and services. You really have to find comfort in discomfort. Because if you dont find that spot, then your going to end up doing the homogenized. The 2% milk version of the real thing. It’s nots going to work. We’ve seen many examples of bad ideas, or the fake version of something real.”
Stoute discusses the Pitbull and Dr. Pepper commercial saying, “people still don’t get it.” He talks about LL Cool J‘s Gap ad, saying LL was wearing a Fubu hat and says, “for us by us” in the spot. He said nobody at Gap was even aware of what he was saying. He discusses the pioneering partnership between Adidas and Run DMC. Steve says,”music changed, but the culture stuck.” He also discusses hip hop’s influence in race relations, and the similarities between religion and hip hop and.
Steve discusses missing out on signing Alicia Keys. Alicia and 50 Cent were dropped by the same guy from Columbia/Sony. Stoute says they didn’t embrace hip hop culture because they thought it was just a trend. Stoute brought Cash Money to Columbia and they passed on them. He talks about the lack of talent in the industry saying, “[people aren’t] buying the artists, their buying the songs.” He also spoke on his relationship with Dame Dash.