Business Savvy and Eclectic Ivy Leaguers Lead Industry Phenomenon

If you’re noticing a trend of Ivy League students making strides in Hip Hop and R&B, you’re not alone. Ivy League graduates like Ryan Leslie, Rob Murat and Chester French are among those who have taken their business savvy and eclectic swagger from the school hall to the sound room, boardroom and the stage over the last two years. In what may be becoming a standard, artists are taking control of their music and their business – something that was virtually unheard of or even frowned upon thirty years ago. With the music industry becoming more open to the public and with business processes becoming more diverse and open versus secrets being tightly wrapped in the boardroom, it is now essential for an artist to not only be hands on with their music but also with their promotion, sales, marketing and other ventures. Ryan Leslie, a Harvard graduate, has become a self made media mogul and R&B artist in just four years. Taking control of his business with Next Selection, a music focused media company, Leslie has amassed a roster of recording artists including pop sensation Cassie, all while producing hits for some of R&B and Hip Hop’s hottest acts. With credits on songs from as far left as Britney Spears and as far right as Donell Jones Leslie has made a name for himself throughout the music industry as well as in the business world. Leslie is not the only one who is making moves, musician/producer Rob Murat, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania is also making notable strides in the industry. Following in the footsteps of great artists like Marvin Gaye, Murat is touching on topics that relate to life and the current struggles of today’s listener. Murat’s sound comes together on his album “So Much To Say,”a fusion of love and hate; joy and pain; and even tears and laughter, released earlier this year. Murat, who independently released his project says “we’re experiencing something phenomenal in the industry where the tighter you are with your business, the more attention to detail, the more specific you are with your career the better off you’ll be.” Murat is right, many established R&B artists like Bobby Valentino and Sammie are going independent, maintaining control over their projects and any attached business dealings. In a recent interview with Singersroom, Murat went further by saying “The better you are with your business the better off you’ll be as an artist.” Murat is in good company, the singer/songwriter is on the come up during an age of progressive genre-bending stars such as Star Trak recording artists and Harvard graduates Chester French as well as hipster rap artists Kidz In The Hall. Both groups have been admonished with the term“hipster rap” a trend AllHipHop categorizes as artists, specifically black male artists doing what they feel is right for their sound, regardless of eclecticism or consequences. In an article written earlier this year AllHipHop’s Matthew Kantor examined the phenomenon through interviews with these artists. “Kanye, Pharrell, and Lupe opened up doors because they were among the first successful artists that made it okay for black guys to be different. Before them it wasn’t okay to be an eclectic black guy. They allowed the public to see that there are black artists that aren’t on the same old Hip-Hop thug s**t.” says Mikey Rocks (Cool Kids) Whether or not “hipster rap” is the correct term, there is something bubbling up and it is undoubtably good for the industry. Look for more artists to, as MTV’s “From G’s To Gentleman” host Bentley says “advance their swagger” by not just being one dimensional, but by having their hand in all creative and business related aspects with their own brand of style. Furthermore, being hands on with your product in today’s competitive market is not longer an option, thanks to these gentlemen who have clearly taken notice it is now a standard.


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