Glu Agency CEO Derek Jackson Talks Managing Artists, Nicki Minaj's Pepsi Deal, & How Lil Wayne Fares On A Skateboard
Glu Agency CEO Derek Jackson Talks Artist Management, Nicki Minaj's Pepsi Deal, & Rates Lil Wayne's Skate Skills

V Exclusive! Glu Agency CEO Derek Jackson Talks Artist Management, Nicki Minaj's Pepsi Deal, & Rates Lil Wayne's Skate Skills

If you don't know Glu Agency CEO Derek Jackson, allow us to introduce you to the man responsible for getting lucrative deals for some of your favorite artists.

Lil Wayne's new skate park in New Orleans? Thank Derek. Nicki Minaj's multi-million dollar Pepsi deal? You can credit Mr. Jackson for that one too. With his Glu Agency—a firm that "weaves the latest and most relevant trends" together like glue (get it now?)—Jackson plans to take the music industry by storm, and give it a much needed face lift.

VIBE got a chance to catch up with the influential businessman to discuss everything from locking down Nicki's Pepsi deal, the difference between managing artists versus managing a business, his ten-year plan for Glu, and even rates Weezy's skating skills on a scale from 1 to 10. You might just be surprised with his rating.

VIBE: Let's talk about who you are as a person, GLU Agency, and how you got started in the business in the first place.

Derek Jackson: After Scott Storch and I went through what we went through (Editors Note: Jackson managed Storch spanning from the early 90s to November of last year), I found myself in a position where I wanted to do something different. I saw the transition occurring in the industry, and I needed to find a safe haven. I knew I was well connected, and I also knew that in the industry there's a pocket for brands & for the relationships. I found it necessary to fill that void. That was my driving force. I took a couple dollars of my own money and I started [GLU Agency] up. At that point, I met with a gentleman by the name of Marcus Glover—who's now the President of the company and my partner—and I suppose you can say, in a cliché way, the rest is history.

You went from managing Scott Storch to pretty much managing an entire company. What would you say is the biggest difference between managing artists vs managing business? Were there any kind of struggles while making that transition?

Actually, no. I’ve done this before, but managing a company is much simpler. When you’re managing individuals, you're managing them 24 hours a day—you manage their every need & want. Basically, you are on-call. In the business world, you can manage people, but you can manage them at a distance. It's not as intimate I should say.

Speaking of individual artists, let’s talk about this Nicki Minaj Pepsi deal. That was pretty huge, man. She was out in South Africa filming that! How did you go about approaching her with such a game-changing business venture?

The great thing was, I already knew that she was on her way to going on her international tour. I found it necessary to fill that void—like I did with Wayne. I’m great friends with the management company, and I said, 'Guys, there is a void. I think we can fill it.' At that point, I was committed to selling Pepsi on believing she was worth the money and the program. I think they’re learning the truth—she was worth it.

With addition to the Nicki deal, Weezy just launched his skate park—which you had a big role in cultivating. How did you get started with that whole YMCMB union?

From being a manager, I know a lot of the head guys at Blueprint Group (Lil Wayne's management firm), like Shawn Gee, Cortez Bryant, and Gee Roberson. I have great relationships with them. I’ve been in this business for 25 years, so these are people I know really well. I knew that there was a time, as I watched this thing grow into something so immense, when they could use some sponsorship opportunities. That’s what I did. I pitched to them that I can help bring additional pieces to the party, and they agreed. They believed.

Let's delve more into Weezy's new skate park. He’s been really dedicated to the whole “Skater Life." Have you ever seen him skate, with your own two eyes?

[Laughs] Yeah, yesterday. He skated in front of everybody! He was not intimidated.

So with that said, how would you honestly rate his skate skills—on a scale of 1 to 10?

I think, considering the timing, he’s definitely a 9.

Really?!

You gotta remember, kids usually start skating from a very young age. [Wayne's] only been skating for about a year in a half. He’s picking it up and really getting it.

For you to give him a 9 though is pretty crazy [Laughs].

Listen, watching Lil Wayne skate was one of the most amazing sights I’ve seen in my life. He wasn’t Wayne the rapper—he was Wayne the skater. The difference in that is, he had to stand in line, he wasn’t the best, and he was just a guy wanting to be a part of a group. It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen from him thus far. He knows that he, as a individual and celebrity, is huge. However, he respects the sport so much, that he doesn’t thrust his celebrity on everybody. He wants to be a skater and be respected as a skater.

You can definitely tell. Even in the DEWeezy campaign—which I know you had a hand in too—he's really trying to learn it and go through everything that actual skaters go through. From getting injured and coming right back from it, Wayne is really intertwining himself into this whole culture.

Let me say this to you: From the minute we did the launch at South By Southwest, he's been so committed to this that it's ridiculous. There’s not one thing I asked him to do that he hasn’t done. I couldn’t have asked for more. He was incredible.

With yesterday being his 30th birthday, where do you see Mr. Carter 30 years from now?

Wow! [Laughs] In all honesty, from doing some of Wayne’s biggest records with him, I really know this guy. Wayne is an intense human being and one that’s committed. With those kinds of characteristics, he’s destined to be successful for the rest of his life—as long as he stays true to that ritual. There are tools to success, and he has them. When it’s all said and done and he sells this, 60 years from now I see him somewhere with his kids & grandkids enjoying life—deservingly so too! He really is committed. He didn’t even miss a beat when he got incarcerated.

Agreed. He just surpassed Elvis Presley for the most Billboard Hot 100 entries, so he’s already paving a lane to becoming a living legend—if he hasn’t already.

He is a legend. I'll give him that—he's a living legend.

Definitely. To sum all this good stuff up, where do you see Glu Agency going in the near and distant future?

D: Well obviously we’ve got Nicki. We’re setting up some deals for Drake. We’ve got Muhammad Ali, Meek Mil, Trey Songz—I mean, we have the luxury! We're even doing stuff with Kelly Rowland, so the list is endless. I call us, as a company, “The Cleaners."

Care to elaborate?

What I mean by that is, this industry that we call advertising needs new life, new breath, and new ideas. That’s what we’re trying to bring in. We’re trying to cultivate new strategies. It's things that people are not doing what they should be doing. Just because you’re an A-List artist, doesn’t mean it’s certified success because you participate in something. What if I take a new artist, who has 500,000 Twitter followers and 1 million Facebook 'Likes', but they’re brand new. Why aren’t they just as important as Meek Mill?

Good point.

I'm cultivating the strategy of believing—not just in the A-List artists, but the B- List and C- List artists. They work just as hard and they need people to believe in their vision. If I go to a brand, we’re creating a phase-out program. You work from one level to the next, until you get to the top. People will definitely go crazy.

That sounds like an amazing business platform.

It’s all about getting everyone on track. Social networking has really turned the industry into a new plateau. It’s creating a new frontier. To be at the forefront of it, Marcus Glover, the staff at GLU, and myself all take great pride in it. The reality is, our future is dedicated to how much we can do. How much we can give directly affects what we will get back. That’s why we work at the pace we work at. We’ve had a hell of a year. We’ve done a lot of cultivating of the marketplace. Never in history have you heard about an advertising agency building a skate park. We built that skate park. We’re gonna leave it here, and let be left as a blueprint. It’s important to a community that has been downtrodden and affected by devastation. Now what happens is, we’ve given them a life preserve. It’s something to hold on to. I think that’s where I'm most prideful.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Adger Cowans/Getty Images

Music Sermon: The Groundbreaking Sprite and St. Ides Hip-Hop Campaigns

Today, rap music is used to sell everything from electronics to tax filing services to nut butter grinding machines at Whole Foods. We understand that hip-hop culture is essentially the root of everything cool and hip in culture, period, and it’s been commodified and appropriated within an inch of its life. But in the early ‘90s, the genre was far from Madison Avenue-friendly. Aside from the groundbreaking deal between Adidas and RUN DMC, brands didn’t yet see full value and impact of hip-hop…except in the food and beverage industry.

Beverage companies centering campaigns for the urban demo around black music was nothing new; Coca-Cola had ads featuring artists such as New Edition and Anita Baker singing their hearts out for the cola in the ‘80s, and Schlitz Malt Liquor had a legendary – and hilarious - run of spots featuring The Commodores, The Four Tops, Teddy Pendergrass and more through the ‘70s and early ‘80s. However, in the early ‘90s two brands put their entire business on hip-hop’s back, by not only building their brands but spring-boarding the recognition of the music and artists as a marketing and advertising tool: Sprite soda and St. Ides malt liquor.

In the ‘80s, Sprite was languishing behind competitor 7Up when parent company Coca-Cola decided to focus on the youth market, and the quickly growing hip-hop culture was part of the strategy. African-American ad agency Burrell Communications tagged hip-hop acts for a series of spots that began a long-standing marriage between the brand and the culture, starting with Kurtis Blow in 1986. It was one of the first national TV ads to feature a rapper.

KURTIS BLOW - 1986

In 1990, the brand kicked off the “I Like the Sprite in You” campaign, using rap acts that matched the soft drink’s bubbly energy, starting with Heavy D & the Boyz before partnering with Kid ’n Play the following year. The ads featured the artists clad in lemon-lime fare, rhymin’ about lymon.

HEAVY D - 1990 KID’N PLAY – 1991

With Kris Kross, they turned it up a notch and had us crunk inside the Sprite can. Edgy. Also, this was catchy as hell.

KRIS KROSS - 1993

Then in 1994, a young brand manager from Clark Atlanta University named Darryl Cobbin had an idea for a new direction: Gen X was about authenticity and independence of thought, not following the hype. Sprite ditched the pop-friendly crossover acts and identified more “authentic” rap artists – lyricists with street and cultural cred – to rep the brand. “Lymon” was also out of the window, as they moved away from marketing taste and towards marketing attitude. (Cobbin later spearheaded the iconic, yet grammatically questionable, Boost Mobile “Where You At?” campaign.)

Gone were the bright yellow and green sets, because while the new slogan said, “Image is nothing,” it was all about image. Bright and shiny was traded for dark and gritty. Now we were in the studio; a fly on the wall for freestyle sessions. In the first spot of the series with Grand Puba and Large Professor, Puba closes with “First thing’s first, obey your thirst.” It’s legend even within Coca-Cola that Puba ad-libbed the phrase that then became the brand’s tagline that remains to this day.

GRAND PUBA & LARGE PROFESSOR - 1994 PETE ROCK & CL SMOOTH – 1994 A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – 1994

The “Obey Your Thirst” spots also took us the street corner, the club, and inside the ring when Sprite resurrected the legendary KRS One vs. MC Shan battle.

KRS ONE & MC SHAN - 1996 NAS & AZ – 1997 THE LOST BOYS – 1997

By the late ‘90s Sprite had spent roughly $70M on the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign, tripled sales, and commanded a majority market share of the citrus category (which also included 7Up, Sierra Mist, and Mountain Dew).

Sprite had also succeeded in becoming an official and established part of the culture. They were family. The brand further expanded into urban youth culture through a partnership with the NBA, while continuing to evolve the creative of the rap campaigns.

KOBE BRYANT, TIM DUNCAN & MISSY ELLIOTT – 1998

Near the end of the decade, Sprite explored the overlap between hip-hop culture, comics and martial arts with a series of posse spots based on Voltron (representing all hip-hop regions) and the 5 Deadly Venoms (with all female emcees).

VOLTRON SERIES - 1998 5 DEADLY VENOMS SERIES – 1999

Over the years, Sprite has continued to be one of the most consistent brands in hip-hop. We’ve grown accustomed to spotting the logo everywhere from music festivals and shows to the background of BET’s hip-hop cyphers. They revitalized the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign with Drake in 2010 and paid homage to the greatest lyricists in rap with the “Obey Your Verse” campaign featuring iconic rappers and cans with classic lyrics in 2015.

SPRITE "Obey Your Verse - Cooler" (starring Rakim) from SHOUT IT OUT LOUD MUSIC on Vimeo.

St. Ides’ run with hip-hop doesn’t have the same happy ending as Sprite’s. The brand’s usage of rap petered out in the mid-90s after wide backlash and a series of lawsuits.

For St. Ides, hip-hop was the brand campaign. It’s how they built their business. The brand was introduced in 1987 and their rap campaigns launched in 1988. The malt liquor 40 oz., with significantly higher alcohol content than beer at around a $2 price point, was already a staple in lower-income neighborhoods and hip-hop culture. The “Crooked I” capitalized on that.

Parent company McKenzie River secured Ice Cube as their anchor spokesperson and tapped West Coast producer DJ Pooh to spearhead advertising creative. Pooh lined up a veritable who’s who of additional West Coast rappers over the years, including Geto Boys, Cypress Hill, Warren G, Snoop and Tupac; plus the thorough-est from the East, including Eric B and Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie and EPMD.

EPMD & ICE CUBE - 1991 GETO BOYS & ICE CUBE – 1992 ERIC B & RAKIM - 1992

Unlike Sprite’s campaigns which were first jingles and still felt like commercials, even when elevated to trading hot bars for Obey Your Thirst. St. Ides spots, however, looked and felt like straight up music videos with album-worthy production and flow.

ICE CUBE – 1993 MC EIHT – 1994 NOTORIOUS B.I.G. – 1995

Complex even named Wu-Tang’s St. Ides spot “Shaolin Brew” as one of the collective’s 100 best songs! (But at least it’s ranked near the bottom; #97.)

WU-TANG CLAN - 1995

In fact, in 1994, the brand did turn the hottest of the joints into an album, with the St. Ides promotional mixtape dropping at your neighborhood liquor store. It featured full-length songs about getting twisted off the malt liquor from Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, Scarface, MC Eiht, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Nate Dogg.

The Snoop and Nate track is low key a jam, still. Homegirl in the background starting at the 10-second mark is a whole mood.

This blatant marketing of malt liquor directly to black and brown youth wasn’t going to go unchecked indefinitely. It was all irresponsible, even while being genius for the demo. In 1991, the Wall Street Journal listed the St. Ides ad campaign among one of the worst of the year, which probably didn’t matter at the time since WSJ readers weren’t St. Ides’ base.

In 1991, Public Enemy released Apocalypse ’91: The Empire Strikes Back. The album featured “100 Bottle Bags,” a direct criticism against malt liquor companies marketing specifically to urban communities “…but they don’t sell that sh*t in the white neighborhoods.” Shortly after the release, St. Ides found itself in Chuck D’s crosshairs, and he fired the first in a series of big shots against the brand, marking the beginning of the end of their love affair with hip-hop. An 80-second radio spot featuring Cube used a sample of Chuck’s voice without his permission. The ad had already aired over 500 times on rap radio shows when Chuck sued St. Ides parent company McKenzie River for five million dollars (they settled out of court).

Then, St. Ides and McKenzie River fell under legal scrutiny from the New York State Attorney General in 1992 for using verbiage like Cube’s lyric “Get your girl in the mood quicker, make your jimmy thicker…St. Ides.” to suggest the malt liquor increased sexual prowess. Can you imagine the think pieces if that spot ran today?

They were later in hot water with the New York AG’s office again, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (the ATF) for advertising perceived to the be targeted towards minors, with complaints that it glamorized gang affiliation and promoted sex. After having production completely shut down for a short while and getting hit with heavy fines, St. Ides tried to clean up its act, adding “drink responsibly” messaging into the spots.

By ’96 the run was over. Hip-hop was growing up, getting money and moving towards more sophisticated alcoholic beverage choices. Alizé and Hennessy, anyone?

The relationship between hip-hop and alcohol never ended, of course, but has continued to evolve to match the evolution of the lifestyle. We don’t go to the corner store no more, homie (save a brief return in the early aughts of Four Loko). We’re toasting to the good life with premium brands, some of which are now owned by the artists.

We can look back now with the wizened, woke eyes of maturity and possibly scrutinize our artists selling out at the expense of the community, but for the young and burgeoning hip-hop culture, both the St. Ides campaigns and the Sprite campaigns opened the door for the power and commodification of hip-hop and consumer brands. For better or for worse.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

Police Forced A Bronx Woman To Give Birth While Handcuffed

A Bronx woman who was 40 weeks pregnant went into labor while in a holding cell. The police then took her to a local hospital where her wrists were handcuffed to the bed and her ankles shackled. The doctors at Montefiore Medical Center urged the patrolling guard to remove the restraints stating it would harm the mother, but the guard persisted.

According to a lawsuit filed, the woman has asked to remain anonymous. “I haven’t made sense of it myself and I’m not ready to explain it to my child,” she said in an affidavit.

The woman was 27 at the time endured an hour of excruciating labor pains before the guard relented and freed one of her arms. Jane Doe was only fully free nine hours after giving birth.

“The fact that pregnant women and women in labor would be subject to the most draconian treatment imaginable, particularly when they stand accused of a misdemeanor, speaks volumes about the macho culture of police departments and corrections,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said.

A judge arraigned Jane Doe in her hospital bed for violating a protective order. The woman's lawyer Katherine Rosenfeld explained to the New York Times the order stemmed from a protective-custody case involving her former partner. Ms. Doe spent almost 30 hours in protective custody.

“The fact that they disregarded the medical advice of doctors suggests that they didn’t use any humanity and sort of blindly followed what they perceived to be the policy in the Patrol Guide,” Ms. Rosenfeld said.

READ MORE: The Federal Government To Launch Database Tracking Deadly Police Encounters

Continue Reading
Getty Images

A Man Claiming To Be El Chapo's Nephew Threatens To Have Tekashi Mother Deported

In the never-ending saga of Tekashi 6ix 9ine, The Daily Beast has obtained a voicemail recording of a man alleging to be El Chapo's nephew and using the proposed connection to threaten the rapper's mother with deportation.

“His brother lives there. His mother lives there. She don’t even have no f**king papers,” he can be heard saying.

Jose Avila left a 49-second voicemail on Nov. 15 after the rainbow hair rapper failed to show up to an appearance he was promoting in Austin, Texas. At the time, Tekashi was on probation for a sex video stemming from 2015 involving a 13-year-old girl. Avila threatened to use his connection to have Tekashi placed in jail.

“I know a lot of government people and I’m going to send his ass to jail if he doesn’t come to Austin, Texas, today. He f**king makes me lose money already.” Avila said. "He needs to f***king come and be a fucking man. Or I’ll put his ass in jail.”

Reportedly, Tekashi wasn't made aware of the threats of imprisonment, but he did know of the supposed family connection because Avila texted Tekashi's booking manager, Tasea Ferguson.

“My uncle [is] in New York,” Avila reportedly texted. “Guzman Loera... My uncle sons control all USA.”

El Chapo's full name is Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera and he's currently on trial in Brooklyn. The allegation Avila leveled proved to be false. El Chapo's attorney Jeffrey Lichtman denied knowing of any nephew by that name.

When Tekashi, real name Daniel Hernandez, finally got in contact with Ferguson, he was brought up to speed and took to social media to announce he wouldn't be in Austin, Texas that evening.  “I spoke to the promoter, Jose Avila with Avila Music. We are going to be in business. I am coming back to Austin, Texas.”

Surprisingly, after Tekashi was taken into federal custody on racketeering charges, the Daily Beast reports Avila was in the courtroom and doted upon Tekashi's mother, who is often referred to as Nati. He even posted a picture with him. In the coming weeks, Availa also claimed he was Tekashi's manager. A source close to the rapper quickly dismissed the comment.

"There’s nothing to manage. Danny’s in jail.”

READ MORE: Mos Def Calls Tekashi 6ix 9ine  The Most Depressing Sh*t He's Ever Seen

Continue Reading

Top Stories