James Cuthbert is the president of Rock the Bells, a global lifestyle brand media company founded by LL COOL J that serves as the primary outlet for classic hip-hop. Yet Cuthbert doesn’t know where he would be without the rhythmic and poetic musical genre in his formative years.
“I remember, in middle school, it was like the early 90s and when the Wu-Tang first came out, etching a GZA on every desk in school because I wanted to be part of the Wu-Tang. Tang,” he said, laughing. his devotion to his Hip Hop fandom. “I remember the first time I heard De La Soul, Three Feet High and Rising running around my house yelling ‘Buddy’, not knowing what they were talking about.”
However, Cuthbert was unsure at the time how gender would guide him in his professional life. The turning point in his career was when he landed a job at Sprite in 2014 to lead their music business. The company gave Cuthbert carte blanche to infuse authentic Hip Hop culture into product marketing.
“It doesn’t have to be brand come and culture look silly or you sway and dance or dance. You can portray talent authentically. We did a program with Drake, Rakim , Biggie, Tupac and J Cole, and I knew my way was not [only] make a living, but I can follow my passion of finding ways to elevate Hip Hop culture, a culture that has meant so much to me,” he says introspectively.
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Now that a judge reward LL COOL J the trademark of Rock The Bells and all of its intellectual property from a former promoter who illegally used the name based on his 1985 hit, the inaugural festival will take place under new management on Saturday, August 6, 2022, in its hometown of Queens, New York.
Rock The Bells first launched in 2018 as a SiriusXM radio station, as the first digital platform to expand Hip-Hop culture from its inception to today through content, commerce and experiential offers.
With Cuthbert at the helm, he once again has the opportunity to combine his love of the art form with his business acumen and deliver a defining festival that brings culture to life. The festival is organized by LL COOL J, and they were both attentive to every nuance to properly execute the brand.
“When [thinking] when to do it, [we thought] right around Hip Hop’s birthday, which is just a few days later in August. [We were] very attentive to the anniversary of hip-hop, when to launch the festival and what to accomplish by doing it, which is to elevate the culture,” Cuthbert said.
Festival attendees will be blown away by the superb musical line-up which will include: the emcee himself, LL COOL J, Ice Cube, Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Lil Kim, Diplomats with Cam’Ron, Fat Joe, Remy Ma, Jadakiss, Scarface, Trina, NORE, Digable Planets, Roxanne Shante, and the list goes on.
According to DJ Scratch, the ability of the festival to bring together so many iconic artists of the genre to perform is evident that Hip Hop remains the voice of the proletarian.
“It is the genre that expresses itself the most on social questions, political questions and racial questions, the questions of the “people”.
Houston rap legend Bun B adds, “The sense of community that hip-hop fans get at gatherings like Rock The Bells is the most important thing this festival represents. Human connectivity is vital for mental health, especially coming out of a pandemic. [and] returning to some sense of normalcy requires us to come together in shared spaces to commune again.”
Festival-goers can also partake in a Hip Hop-themed cookout in the food court.
“So partnering with Bun B on the Trill Mealz food court, collaborating with Nas on a Sweet Chick and Ghostface on his killer cafe, and several other artists to put on this amazing bespoke event. We’re also partnering with Sirius XM on a cool on-site activation. Our presenting sponsor, Procter & Gamble, will be coming with its King C. Gillette and My Black Is Beautiful brands, which will also be activated on-site. So just create some cool moments in and around the festival with groundbreaking visuals and groundbreaking art and merchandise that we’re excited to launch as well.”
The synergy of different artists and their businesses working together can be difficult within the black community. However, Rock The Bell is the only brand owned and operated by creators and guardians of culture.
“When the company was founded, it wasn’t about LL COOL J; it was about LL COOL J as an ambassador of culture. So we formed a stock pool and gave stock to 14 Hip Hop Icons So everyone from Eminem to Run DMC to Roxanne Shante, to Kool Herc who founded HipHop to Fab Five Freddy, to a whole host of others have a stake in what we do says Cuthbert. He also explains that the business, festival, and other immersive experiences were built from the ground up with culture in mind and the belief that the creator should own the craftsmanship and monetization that happens on the business side.
“For us, it’s only natural for us to play the music of all these artists on Rock The Bells on Sirius XM. We strongly believe that culture is stronger together. It needs more cultural continuity, not just bringing together hip-hop icons and legends, but also getting our hands on the next generation, bridging the gap and bringing those people together as well,” he says.
Initially ridiculed by music critics in its infancy, Hip Hop is today a formidable musical genre. grow $15.7 billion in 2016, and annual revenue growth was estimated at an increase of $4.08 billion per year.
rolling stone estimates that the rap industry dominates 31% of the music market and that its impact nationally and globally continues to expand.
Modern hip-hop artists can command deals and endorsements with big brands, and in Cuthbert’s view, hip-hop doesn’t wait to be accepted; he boldly kicks down doors and takes names, demanding his respect. It highlights how the popular music genre influences every part of society. For example, in fashion, with the promotion of the late Virgil Abloh, a fashion designer who took on the role of artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection in 2018. Or how Basquiat’s street art sold in nine figures, artists are today now better positioned to take advantage of property and income generation.
“I want the whole culture to continue to expand, expand and leave its mark,” Cuthbert says.
In addition to providing a high-level entertaining experience through the festival, Cuthbert also gives back to the community by donating a portion of ticket sales proceeds to the Universal Hip Hop Museum because “hip-hop deserves it.” “.
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