LL COOL J started a business during COVID-19 — his 3 biggest tips for you

LL COOL J says the hip-hop industry has put too much attention on catering to millennials and forgot about the Gen X crowd that birthed them and some of the most classic tracks ever.

“I think that Generation X has been completely ignored and written off. I mean, they're a group that built hip hop. They're a generation that is rooted in the culture. They are a generation that really lives in and speaks it. They'll pay for elevated experiences,” LL COOL J explained at this year’s Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit. I think that they are just a group that really loves and enjoys classic hip-hop. And no one has really saw the value in that. And they've just been asleep.”

The music icon’s remedy? Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, he launched an Amazon-like marketplace that focuses on classic hip-hop and the Gen Xers who could appreciate it (and who have the money to spend to show that appreciation).

Dubbed Rock The Bells (the name pays homage to one of his biggest hits, “Rock The Bells”), it features written and video content from the legends of hip-hop such as Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC, Eric B, Salt-N-Pepa, Fab 5 Freddy, Risk, Crazy Legs, Roxanne Shanté and Jonathan Mannion. The site includes a carefully curated marketplace — segmented into jerseys, footwear, Black-owned businesses, and jackets — dedicated to buying classic hip-hop era merchandise. Want to look like LL in a trademark Kangol bowl hat? Plunk down $68 and the orange hat and the LL look is yours to splash all over Instagram.


LL COOL J concedes he did get a bit lucky on the launch.

For one, hip-hop has a loyal following. Two, the website is an extension of the Rock The Bells station on SiriusXM that LL COOL J launched in 2018. So, people do know the brand and of course, know LL.

And being LL COOL J does offer up access to heavy-hitters. Glenn Hutchin’s (co-founder of Silver Lake Partners and AT&T board member) North Island is on the Rock The Bells board. And so is Mark Cuban’s Radical Investments and Apple senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue.

Kennedy Center Honoree rapper LL Cool J arrives for the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2017.   REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Kennedy Center Honoree rapper LL Cool J arrives for the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

That said, the artist says he applied some key business principles that he has used for years in the business’ launch. He thinks other aspiring business owners could apply these same principles with success, especially if they are eyeing a startup during tough times like the pandemic.

“Well you've got to have faith. And you got to go with your gut. I think gut instincts are an important tool in your toolbox. You know, using your intuition, using your instincts. And if something is gnawing at you, don't ignore that voice inside of you. Don't ignore that small, still voice,” says LL COOL J. “You have to do something that you're not only passionate about, and that you can be the best at, but then you have to have the people around you that have the skill set to operationalize what it is you're trying to do. You know, Rock the Bells is not just about LL COOL J and my knowledge of classic hip hop. I've put people in positions who really understand the fundamentals of how to take this business from A to Z. And that's what it's about. And then, you know, the chips are gonna fall where they may.”

Sage advice from the two-time Grammy winner and Gen X businessman.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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