Stoute, Steve 1971(?)–
Steve Stoute 1971(?)–
Record company executive
Record company executive Steve Stoute, one of the top-ranked black executives in the music business, has ushered a number of talented artists to stardom, but has always maintained a low public profile. That changed in the spring of 1999 when rap mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs walked into Stoute’s office with bodyguards and brutally assaulted him. The injured Stoute filed charges, but Combs escaped with a cash payoff and attending an anger management class. “If this kind of behavior is allowed to go unpenalized, it’ll be like an invitation for extortion in the music business,” Stoute—not long after his assault—stated in an interview with Los Angeles Times writer Chuck Philips.
Stoute was born in the early 1970s and grew up in Hollis, a section of Queens, New York. His parents were immigrants from Trinidad, and he spent time at Syracuse University before taking a position in 1990 as a manager for bands. He quickly moved up in the music business, becoming involved with TrackMasters, a production team, that helped craft hits for Will Smith, L.L. Cool J., Mary J. Blige, and Mariah Carey. Eventually Stoute was hired by Sony Music, and served as manager of fellow Queens native and rapper Nas, also known as Nasir Jones and the son of musician Olu Dara. When Stoute left Sony to become president of black music at Interscope Records, he remained as an advisor to Nas.
Stoute was involved in the making of Nas’ video for the single “Hate Me Now,” which appeared on the 1999 LP I Am … The Autobiography. Combs rapped on the track and agreed to appear in the video; the storyboard called for Combs to be nailed to a crucifix in one scene, wearing a crown of thorns. After Combs took part in the shoot, he asked to have a verbal disclaimer added at the end about the scene to stave off any bad publicity. Combs then claimed to have talked with Reverend Hezekiah Walker, pastor of a Brooklyn Pentecostal church, and his mother, who both warned him that the scene was in poor taste. Combs said he asked Stoute and Interscope executives to cut the scene from the video on April 11th; four days later, the finished video was delivered to the cable music channel MTV, and aired a few hours later with the crucifixion scene intact. As it played, Combs reportedly telephoned Stoute, irate, and hung up on him. Thirty minutes later, Combs
At a Glance…
Born c. 1971, in New York, NY. Education: Attended Syracuse University.
Career: Began career in the music industry as a road manager, 1990; became Artists & Repertoire (A & R) executive with Sony Records, then the Interscope label, based in New York City; became president of black music at Interscope, c. 1998; made executive vice president at Interscope Geffen A & M Records; founded marketing company, PASS, with Peter Arnell, 2001, sold to Cultura, 2002.
Address: Office —Interscope Geffen A & M Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404.
arrived at Stoute’s office at Interscope, in the Manhattan headquarters of the Universal Music Group, owned by the Seagram Company, and “allegedly administered a street-style beat-down,” according to Time journalist David E. Thigpen. Subsequent testimony reported that Combs punched Stoute repeatedly, and beat him with a telephone and champagne bottle. Combs’s two accomplices joined in, kicking and hitting Stoute with a chair, and then trashed the office.
New York City police arrived, and Stoute was taken to a hospital and treated for his injuries; some reports say he suffered a broken jaw, while others mentioned a broken arm. He decided to press charges, and Combs was arraigned the next day. One of the bodyguards turned himself in two weeks later, while another remained missing for some time. Combs tried to explain what happened in an interview with the Los Angeles Times’s Philips, claiming that he had asked the label to edit his crucifix scene out of the video, and Interscope and Stoute had agreed. Combs faced felony assault charges for the attack and a possible seven-year jail sentence. The incident re-ignited charges in the media that rap music promoted violence, in part because some of its key players were themselves prone to violent behavior. Yet Def Jam Records executive Russell Simmons defended Combs, telling Thigpen in Time that Combs “is an artist, and artists are about guts and instinct and emotions,” said Simmons. Stoute admitted that he considered leaving the world of rap music behind. “After the beating, my family urged me to get out of the music business, and I considered it,” told Philips in the Los Angeles Times. “But the company has been very supportive of me and made me feel comfortable so that I can continue.”
Combs offered an apology to Stoute six weeks after the incident, claiming that the delay was due to Stoute’s failure to return his calls. “Puffy reached out to me and said, ‘Whatever happened happened, but as a man, I apologize to you,’” Stoute told Thigpen. “I told him, ‘I appreciate you calling.’” In early June, just before the case was set to go to trial, lawyers for both Stoute and Combs met with prosecutors and asked them to drop charges. The pair reportedly settled out of court, with Stoute receiving a reported half-million-dollar payout and Combs enrolling in a one-day anger management seminar after pleading guilty to charges of harassment instead of felony assault.
Stoute was eventually promoted to executive vice president at Interscope Geffen A & M, a position which gave him a roster of acts like No Doubt, Marilyn Manson, Garbage, Enrique Iglesias, and Nine Inch Nails to manage. In early 2001 he co-founded a marketing company with Peter Arnell, head of a highly regarded brand consulting firm; they called their new venture “PASS,” an acronym for their names. The duo planned to use their marketing and music expertise to consult on brand-imaging for major Fortune 500 companies interested in capturing a segment of the premium youth market. To prove their point, Stoute asked rapper Jay-Z to name-check Motorola’s two-way pager in his “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me)” song. Sales for the pager went through the roof, and PASS began to be noticed by numerous companies.
In 2002 Daimler Chrysler planned to quadruple its $40 million plus budget in marketing in an effort to reach more minorities. It decided to conduct a contest to reward ad agencies owned primarily by minorities with a contract to help them in their effort. The newlyformed PASS had already created a Dodge promotion for Chrysler, so the company was included in the contest. Stoute’s PASS was among the top five agencies to make the final cut. While the competition was swift, many, including Stoute’s partner, Peter Arnell, considered PASS to be the front runner, thanks to Stoute. “Steve Stoute has the best instincts creatively and strategically on pop culture, marketing and youth of anybody I’ve ever met,” said Arnell to Adage.com. However, according to Target Market News, PASS could not obtain certification as a minority-owned business and Arnell and Stoute sold the company to Cultura, a Hispanic agency. In the end, pioneering ad executive Don Coleman’s company, GlobalHue, “won” the contest—GlobalHue was already under contract with Daimler Chrysler.
Undeterred, the duo began to sell their own brand of cigar, the Zino Platinum. They also spearheaded a promotion with Reebok and The Source Magazine to hold a contest to locate the next hip-hop star. The winner would receive numerous prizes, including an endorsement deal with Reebok and an appearance in an Interscope hip-hop artist’s music video.
Stoute has also become a denizen of the fashion shows held biannually in New York and Paris. He arrived at the Fall 2002 Paris collections with New Jersey singer Claudette Ortiz, of the Grammy-nominated group City High, in a move to promote her to stylemakers and the media. He told New York Times Guy Trebay that pret-a-porter weeks served as a setting where “consumers with a lot of spending power see musicians with the right people around them, wearing the right clothes and the right makeup, and feel like, because of this, they want to start embracing those artists.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 4, 1999, p. C2.
Austin American-Statesman, September 9, 1999, p. B8.
HFN, November 25, 2002, p. 38.
Los Angeles Times, May 21, 1999, p. 2; June 24, 1999, p. 1.
New York Post, February 11, 2001, p. 63.
New York Times, March 19, 2002, p. April 7, 2002.
People, May 3, 1999, p. 7.
Time, June 28, 1999, p. 70.
Adage Online, www.adage.com/news
Reebok Press Release, www.reebok.com
Target Market News Online, www.targetmarketnews.com
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