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NATION BUILDER
JAY BROWN

Roc Nation co-founder Jay Brown has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He’s part of Jay-Z’s inner circle, along with longtime righthand man Tyran “Tata” Smith, newly anointed Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez and her husband, Roc Nation Sports President “OG” Juan Perez. He’s a dedicated supporter of the arts, having joined the Hammer Museum’s board of directors in 2018, as well as a champion of philanthropic causes. In short, this avid fisherman keeps reeling in the big ones. Brown is making his mark, indelibly and with a deep-seated sense of purpose.

“I think the legacy you 
create…is built on the people you help,” Brown told CEO.com in 2018. “It’s not in how much money you make or what you buy or anything like that. It’s about how many people you touch. It’s in how many jobs you help people get and how many dreams you help them achieve.”

Brown worked alongside Jay-Z at Def Jam from 2005 until 2008, as they presided over a loaded roster that included Hova, RiRi, Kanye West, Ne-Yo, Fabolous, The-Dream, Young Jeezy, Ghostface Killah, Ludacris, Rick Ross, Nas and LL Cool J. He says of his signature contribution there, “When I first met Rihanna, I knew that she was special. She was―16, but she was poised… You just knew that she was there. We didn’t want her to be seen as a novelty. So as we put the first record out, we started on the second one. It was Jay-Z’s idea originally. ‘I think we should start making the first album, and we shouldn’t stop.’ We wanted people to know she’s here to stay she’s not going anywhere. And here we are, eight albums later.”

In 2008, Brown and Jay-Z co-founded Roc Nation, signing a 10-year, $150 million joint-venture deal with Michael Rapino’s Live Nation. “I’ve turned into The Rolling Stones of hip-hop,” Jay-Z quipped, marveling at the size of the windfall and the sheer scale of the historic partnership.

The agreement was renegotiated in 2017, as the two parties agreed on another 10-year deal, this one worth $200 million, marking a watershed moment for both companies—and an extremely fruitful one at that.

Brown and Jay-Z have grown Roc Nation into a sprawling and diverse operation, but the company’s primary focus continues to be its star-studded, ever-growing artist roster. RN’s current label and management clients include Rihanna, Kaskade, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti, J. Cole, Shakira, Big Sean, Lil Uzi Vert, DJ Khaled, Mustard, Vic Mensa, Mariah Carey, Robin Thicke and Grimes, as well as Jay-Z himself.

When the original deal went down, Brown took the CEO title and began to apply the knowledge he’d gained from working with Jones, Rhone and Reid. He was assuming oversight of a multifaceted entity, which at the time extended to 
label operations, music publishing and artist management. Roc Nation’s initial distribution deal, with Sony Music, was struck in 2009.

More recently, Jay-Z launched the venture-capital fund Marcy Venture Partners, again partnering with Brown.

“Jay always knows how to influence you to be the best version of yourself,” Brown says of Jay-Z. “He doesn’t look at it as working relationship—it’s a partnership, a family atmosphere—and it’s a culture that can’t be purchased.”

Read the entire profile here.

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