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hip hop

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NAS Venture Capital Firm Invested in Online Pharmacy Bought By Amazon for $1 Billion

When it comes to having an eye for startups, Nas knows how to pick them. PillPack, a door-to-door pharmacy service backed by the rapper’s venture capital fund, scored big last week when Amazon acquired the company for $1 billion.

Amazon shared the news on June 28, with plans to finalize the deal as soon as this fall. PillPack was founded by TJ Parker, a second-generation pharmacist and Elliot Cohen, a computer scientist, the Chicago Tribune reports. The company ships consumers their medications across the country.

Nas’ Queensbridge Venture Partners was an early investor in 2014. Fox Business reports the fund raised $8.8 million for the startup. Since then, the company raised a reported $118 million in private capital before Amazon’s acquisition. This marks the second time Amazon purchased a company supported by the rapper. In March, Amazon acquired Ring, a smart doorbell company for $1 billion. The rapper made $40M in the deal.

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“PillPack’s visionary team has a combination of deep pharmacy experience and a focus on technology,” Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer said in a press release.“PillPack is meaningfully improving its customers’ lives, and we want to help them continue making it easy for people to save time, simplify their lives, and feel healthier. We’re excited to see what we can do together on behalf of customers over time.”

The owners raked in $100 million each in the deal. There’s no telling what Nas and his company scored, but we’re sure it’s another pretty penny.

The Queensbridge Venture enterprise has great taste in startups. Nas has placed investments in companies like Genius (formerly Rap Genius), Lyft and SeatGeek.

Source: VIBE

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RIP Craig Mack. A Hip Hop Icon Lost to Heart Failure Way Too Young

I wasn’t ready for this one. Not that you’re ever quite ready to hear that one of the celebrated MC’s from your youth has passed away.

 

Those of us in our late thirties to mid-forties remember exactly where we were when “Flava In Ya Ear” hit the airwaves July 1994.

It was an uneventful Cali summer for me, going into the eleventh grade. I remember chillin’ with the homies listening to 92.3 The Beat, wishing I could go to Summer Jam, which had the sickest lineup that year. Dope chart toppers were scheduled to perform, from Nas, Wu Tang and Gangstarr to OutKast, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Public Enemy (not to mention all of my R&B faves).

I never made it to the concert, but that was the summer I became mesmerized by that Easy Mo Bee instant classic track that put Bad Boy Records on the map. Here it is, almost twenty five years later and that old robotic, futuristic, George Jetson, crazy joint is still one of the illest cuts DJs will drop in their sets!

We’re all familiar with Craig Mack’s claim to fame solidifying that first hit for Puffy and Bad Boy. In a statement for Rolling Stone, Diddy left a touching tribute to his early protege: “You were the first artist to release music on Bad Boy and gave us our first hit. You always followed your heart and you had an energy that was out of this world. You believed in me and you believed in Bad Boy.

I will never forget what you did for hip-hop. You inspired me, and I will continue to try to keep inspiring others. We will always love you.” With both hallmark artists gone, first Notorious B.I.G. and now Craig Mack, it’s truly the end of an era for the Bad Boy label. I can only imagine the poignant reflections Puff must be processing considering the anniversary of Big’s death on March 9th.

But as a fan, I can’t help but point out the trend it seems we’re facing in losing our classic Hip Hop legends in middle age. I was talking to my 74-year-old pops about Craig Mack’s untimely passing, and his reply was, “Wow, it seems like every time I look up, another rapper has died from health complications.” It does feel like too many of our favorites are tragically going to meet their maker in record numbers.

I think back to a handful of notables from the music industry who have succumbed to medical illness just over the last three years: Prodigy, Phife Dawg, Prince Be of P.M. Dawn, Big Kap, DJ Crazy Toones, Fresh Kid Ice, Koopsta Knicca of Three 6 Mafia, Educated Rapper, Benjy Melendez, Kool DJ AJ, Pam The Funkstress, Charmayne “Maxee” Maxwell of Brownstone, Vanity, Kashif, Joseph “Joey” Robinson Jr. of Sugarhill Records,  and the recently departed attorney-turned-podcaster Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé. It begins to put things in a somber perspective when it comes to drawing these connections while factoring in age.

Sources of recent deaths:

http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2016/12/rappers-died-in-2016/

https://hiphopdx.com/editorials/id.3952/title.remembering-hip-hop-community-members-we-lost-in-2017

https://www.billboard.com/photos/6523827/music-star-deaths-2015

Sometimes diagnoses such as cancer and sickle cell anemia can only be managed for so long when it comes to battling life-threatening illness. There are countless variables and factors that make it futile to draw blanket statements on why certain individuals don’t survive the battle. Other illnesses like diabetes, stroke and heart disease are better managed through positive lifestyle choices, healthy eating and self-care.

Having strong faith, a trusted medical team and supportive loved ones can also prove to be transformative. Craig Mack’s cause of death is being reported as Congestive Heart Failure, which is hard to wrap your mind around considering his age of 46. Some fans are calling into question if this is truly the case, and I can understand why. Granted, I hadn’t heard much about Mack in the last few years, so I have no idea of his post-Bad Boy life.

But to learn that his death was related to heart disease just stirs the pot of concern for those of us in his age range, given that he was less than ten years older than me. Like most people, I think of Congestive Heart Failure as a disease of the elderly, something my grandparents suffered from. But in clicking through a few articles and medical webpages, I came across these startling statistics that put heart disease in a completely different light. According to Emory Healthcare:

  • Nearly 5 million Americans are currently living with congestive heart failure (CHF).
  • Congestive heart failure affects people of ALL ages, from children and young adults to the middle-aged and the elderly.
  • Almost 1.4 million persons with CHF are under 60 years of age.
  • CHF is present in 2 percent of persons age 40 to 59.
  • The incidence of CHF is equally frequent in men and women, and African-Americans are 1.5 times more likely to develop heart failure than Caucasians.

The Center for Disease Control points to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors in increasing one’s risk of heart failure, including: smoking tobacco; eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium; and not getting enough physical activity. Being obese certainly doesn’t help. But, as long as you receive an early diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible, the CDC reports that your quality and length of life can actually improve.

This may mean taking medications you aren’t used to, embracing a restricted diet, and increasing your daily physical activities. But, from what I’ve read, there are roads to recovery from CHF in younger or middle aged adults if you are proactive in the battle for your life. Better yet, let’s commit to living our best lives out here in these 2018 streets so that CHF isn’t even on our radar as young and middle aged Black folks.

I’m really saddened that Craig Mack’s story ended this way. And, more details surrounding his passing, like in most cases, may emerge to gain a better understanding of his last few years. Long time friend and collaborator, Alvin Toney, who produced his debut album, Project: Funk Da World, is reportedly working on a documentary on Mack’s life.

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The subject of the film will explore his decision to leave the world of Hip Hop due to his deep religious convictions, and will likely shine a brighter spotlight on his true legacy.

Toney says that Mack had been ill for some time. In one of their last conversations, he confided in his friend that he was “prepared” and even “ready,” come what may as he approached his final days. As fans, inspired artists and fellow legends of the Hip Hop community mourn his passing, we will always continue to celebrate Craig Mack’s undeniable “Flava” on the culture.

– Contributed by Mai Perkins

Mai Perkins, aka FlyMai, is Cali girl in a Bed Stuy world with global bon vivant flair and the passport stamps to prove it. She currently works in Edtech, and is the author of several blogs including Uberlicious.nyc and MaiOnTheMove.com and is a columnist for the music publication Pop-Mag.com.

With an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in International Affairs from The New School Milano, she reps her beloved alma mater Howard University every chance she gets. As a poet and a creative non-fiction writer, she looks forward to soon publishing her first manuscript, The Walking Nerve-Ending.

Insta: @flymai16

Twitter: @flymai on Twitter

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The Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship: Creating Moguls not Mixtapes

The Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship is focused on increasing economic opportunity by using Hip hop to provide hands-on business training to members of low-income groups. 

The nine month program, forged by Little Giant Creative, uses Hip hop’s best practices to “empower enterprising young people from nontraditional backgrounds with the skills necessary to take an idea and make it a reality.”

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We caught up with co- founder, Tayyib Smithand this is what he had to say:

tayyibSB: What is it that inspired the creation of the Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship?

TS: First, life experience. I don’t know of anything that’s encouraged more people to embrace fiscal literacy or financial independence or create their own businesses than Hip-hop.

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Secondly, almost two years ago, I was invited to a retreat at Place Lab Chicago hosted by Theaster Gates via The Knight Foundation.

They had an exercise asking for  three ideas from our personal experience that would have a positive impact on communities. This was one of the three ideas that I had offered. When the Knight City Challenge came up, we submitted it as an idea.

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SB: You won over $300,000 from the Knight City Challenge for the Institute.  What exactly does the money go towards?

TS: The bulk of the money goes to hiring staff to create the curriculum. It’s a nine-month long program and we have a considerable amount of facilitators, teachers, guest lecturers.

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We’re not charging any tuition to the students, so over nine months for 25 people, $300,000 is not a significant amount as much money as it sounds.

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SB: Nowadays, it seems that artists are more interested in partnering with record labels as opposed to the 360 deal where the label or management is getting a percentage from majority if not all of the artists work. Are artists now becoming more hip to the business side of things?

TS:  I would say the successful artists that we’ve heard of are the ones that are thoughtful like that. The ones who are living hand to mouth are most likely  still thinking about a traditional record deal or a 360.

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Many of the new generation of artist are taking advantage of the zero cost of distribution for creative intellectual property via advancements in technology that didn’t exist less than a decade ago.

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They may give away a song or album for free but they are enhancing and elevating their brands to convince fans to make a purchase of a t-shirt, hat, concert ticket etc.

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SB: Students at the Institute are going to be mentored by the best and the brightest. How important is mentorship to you and what makes a good mentor?

TS: I think mentorship is really important and I think we don’t do enough of it. A good mentor is somebody who is engaged, who listens, who can share from personal experience, and be empathetic. Sometimes it’s somebody who can just identify with you.

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Mentorship is also a two-way street. There are times when I’ve mentored people and felt like the experience was as valuable for me as it was for them.

SB: What advice would you have for the aspiring entrepreneur?

TS: Anytime an aspiring entrepreneur asks me for advice, I tell them to work with people who are as good or better than them.

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Nothing is more important than the actual work that you’re going to be known for. Equally important is having a stellar reputation and building the relationships and social capital that will resonate with future colleagues and clients early in your career.  I think personal reputation is one of those important parts of personal branding.
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I believe in  due diligence, building an outstanding  team and research. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to travel around as much as you can, explore new and challenging opportunities.
Also, study the history of the industry or profession that you desire a position in. Not just the contemporary or what’s trendy now, but the fundamental  history from inception.
The nine month program begins on November 12th 2016

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson