I recently attended a conference at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. The attendees were titans of industries in telecom, tech, and entertainment. Skiing during the day with a handful of highly curated panels in early evening leading into social activities at night — it was an incredible atmosphere.
One panel in particular really hit home on a multitude of levels. The panel was hosted by Jeffrey Katzenberg and featured five panelists. I want to focus in on one of the panelists and my encounter with her, as I’ve always respected her and have looked forward to meeting her.
To understand the significance of this encounter, here’s a quick background on me. I worked for Clive Davis at Arista Records starting in 1994. What a class act he was to work for. He was tough, sharp, relentless, and he set the standard of excellence of what a record label should be. In my position as a VP of promotion at 25 years old, I was part of the inner circle that helped Sean “Diddy” Combs launch his record label, Bad Boy. My role was to create opportunities at radio for Bad Boy artists which included Faith Evans, 112, Craig Mack, and, in my opinion and many others, the greatest to ever do it: The Notorious B.I.G.
As hip-hop is now mainstream with nine of the top 10 most streamed records on Spotify, it may seem like getting rap records played at radio was an easy assignment, but back in the mid-’90s very few stations outside of late-night rotations played hip-hop music. So we were on the outer edge of culture and truly tearing down cultural walls as we took Craig Mack and Biggie, as I like to call him, city to city and station to station. At some stations we even had to sneak the artists in to see the radio jock at 2 a.m. because many of these stations only allowed rap music to play late at night.
There is a rich history and incredible story to the ’90s hip-hop movement and I’m currently producing the documentary “Where Hip Hop Lives,” which will focus on Hot 97, the first radio station to play 24/7 hip-hop. The doc will be released later this year, and if you’re interested in how a seismic cultural shift called hip-hop happened I recommend you watch it.
So after my two years at Arista, where I had the honor of working for Clive and alongside Diddy (to be honest, I still call him Puff, even though he now likes being called Love), I founded and currently own Cornerstone Agency and Fader Media (fader.com) Our mission with Fader is to be ahead of the curve and give a voice to artists that begin their journey on the fringes of the underground. We want to provide a platform for them in order to drive their music to the heart of the mainstream while inspiring creativity in others. It’s very similar to what Hot 97 and other hip-hop stations did in the ’90s — we just do it through multiple channels.
Therefore hearing and meeting Arianna Huffington was, in simple terms, a very big deal to me.
The panel she was on was standing room only and featured founders, CEOs, and presidents of the biggest corporations in the world. The topic at hand was tech platforms and the challenges companies like YouTube and Viacom face in pushing their businesses into the future.
What was troubling to me was hearing these leaders talk about increasing viewing time and reach. More, more, more. To me as a content creator with an independent platform like Fader, I’ve always believed in creating quality and being purposeful in our storytelling. And what always stood out to me about working with Clive was his ability to balance art and commerce. It was always about quality. Essentially Clive’s philosophy was: If I make great records with great talent, we will win. So I’ve always pushed for that in our content.
As this panel about driving user time continued, Arianna stepped up — and her comments hit home. I’m a father of identical 3-year-old twin boys and YouTube programming is becoming a big part of their lives. Screens take their attention away from other things and, at times, become central to their in-home existence. It’s concerning. Well Arianna stopped the craziness with a potent statement about chicken and Legos.
A big topic in our home is how much time do we allow our twins to watch a screen as opposed to tactile and creative play. Arianna’s comment was in regards to the founders and purveyors of these outlets. She said when she goes to visit them at their homes, they don’t allow their kids to consume their own creations. They instead are in the backyard playing with chickens or in the living room building with Legos. She then drove the point home with the fact that these tech execs “never get high on their own supply.”
My favorite artist and someone I worked very closely with was Biggie, Diddy’s first artist at Bad Boy. Biggie had a song on his first album titled “Ten Crack Commandments.” He breaks down the 10 rules of what his life was like before he got signed to Bad Boy. It’s a verbal handbook on how to live by a code and survive in the streets — and one of the many lessons to be learned in this song is, you guessed it, “never get high on your own supply.”
So the next day after the panel when I met Arianna, I immediately thanked her for addressing the issue in such a powerful way. I told her how much her “chicken and Legos” comment meant to me and the fact that she followed it up with a quote that was also a Biggie lyric really meant a lot to me. She wasn’t familiar with the song “Ten Crack Commandments” but asked me to email her so she could read about it. I later emailed Biggie’s lyrics of “Ten Crack Commandments” to Arianna — and now I want to share them with you.
Please read them with a grain of salt as at the time Puffy signed Big to a record deal, he was caught up in the drug game. As I got to work closely with him, I saw incredible maturation. Things were happening fast in his life and he not only had an extremely creative mind and a brilliance with regard to poetry and melodies, or as they like to label it, rapping, he had a sharp business acumen and saw the path forward. He left the drug game behind and along with Puffy was leading the hip-hop revolution. I was fortunate to have many conversations with Big on his desire to create not just music, but make sure his crew was given their own opportunities, that he created and structured his business properly for growth so that he could provide for his mother and his daughter (his son Christopher Jr. wasn’t born yet,) and his desire to tell stories in TV and film.
Please think of Biggie as a storyteller, like an Oliver Stone or Mario Puzo. Who knows, if his life hadn’t tragically ended at the young age of 24, there is no doubt in my mind that he would’ve expanded his career past rap and into film. He was just that good.
At the end of the day, I believe a person is made up of their experiences, both trials and tribulations. And whether you’re a girl from Athens, Greece or a kid from Brooklyn, New York, we all want to better ourselves, provide for our children, and live better lives.
P.S. To quote Arianna from her email back to me, “what an amazing email to receive, thank you! And I adore the 10 crack commandments!”
“Ten Crack Commandments”
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
It’s the ten crack commandments, what?
I’ve been in this game for years, it made me an animal
It’s rules to this shit, I wrote me a manual
A step-by-step booklet for you to get
Your game on track, not your wig pushed back
Rule Number Uno, never let no one know
How much dough you hold cause you know
The cheddar breed jealousy ‘specially
If that man f**ked up, get yo’ ass stuck up
Number 2, never let ’em know your next move
Don’t you know Bad Boys move in silence and violence?
Take it from your highness
I done squeezed mad clips at these cats for their bricks and chips
Number 3, never trust no-bo-dy
Your moms’ll set that ass up, properly gassed up
Hoodied and masked up, shit, for that fast buck
She be laying in the bushes to light that ass up
Number 4, I know you heard this before
Never get high on your own supply
Number 5, never sell no crack where you rest at
I don’t care if they want a ounce, tell ’em bounce!
Number 6, that goddamn credit? Dead it
You think a crackhead paying you back, shit forget it!
7, this rule is so underrated
Keep your family and business completely separated
Money and blood don’t mix like 2 d*cks and no bitch
Find yourself in serious shit
Number 8, never keep no weight on you!
Them cats that squeeze your guns can hold jums too
Number 9 shoulda been Number 1 to me,
If you ain’t gettin’ bagged stay the f**k from police
If n****s think you snitchin’ they ain’t trying to listen
They be sittin’ in your kitchen, waiting to start hittin’
Number 10, a strong word called consignment
Strictly for live men, not for freshmen
If you ain’t got the clientele, say “hell no!”
‘Cause they gon’ want they money rain sleet hail snow
Follow these rules you’ll have mad bread to break up
If not, 24 years on the wake up
Slug hit your temple, watch your frame shake up
Caretaker did your makeup, when you passed
Your girl f**ked my man Jake up, heard in three weeks
She sniffed a whole half of cake up
Heard she suck a good d*ck, and can hook a steak up
Gotta go gotta go, more pies to bake up, word up
Songwriter: Christopher E. Martin
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