‘Rap Plug Live’ is where tech and the culture collide

Rap Plug Live co-founder Craig King tells theGrio that the app puts "the emphasis on all the people in my Rolodex who are super dope, but didn’t care about [getting] attention.”

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Hip-hop is the ultimate global influencer. Our music is the soundtrack to television and movies from Hollywood and Berlin, to Bollywood and Johannesburg. Our fashion sense is mimicked and is displayed on runways in Milan and Paris. And our vernacular is the go-to communication method when you don’t want to sound completely wack — everybody wants the sauce.

As curators of culture, many Black folks grow up with dreams of working in the world of hip-hop. Some of us hope to rock a mic and captivate those international audiences, but we forget (or never knew) about the dozens of other opportunities behind the main act — 48 to be exact.

“We counted and there are 49 verticals that are born inside the music industry that are just really untapped,” Rap Plug Live co-founder Craig King tells theGrio. “Our children continue to watch these entertainers with these hard-to-repeat careers and they often hit a brick wall. Rap Plug Live allows me to put the emphasis on all the people in my Rolodex who are super dope, but didn’t care about [getting] attention.”

(Credit: Rap Plug)

King has been a musical heavyweight for years, working with influential producers and artists like Quincy Jones, Aaliyah, Brandy, and more. He contributed to the music production on popular TV shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Simpsons, but got his musical start playing drums and the organ in his Nashville church as a teen. 

King caught his first big break when he landed a gig playing the organ for Ray Charles when he was a student at Howard University. More opportunities kept coming, but he says he always wished there were easier ways to share the knowledge he was learning in the business.

“I’ve always been into the giveback … wanting to give back to the community,” says King.

But that’s the purpose of Rap Plug Live.

Craig King. (Credit: Rap Plug)

The app brings hip-hop into the tech space by connecting aspiring artists, managers, producers, attorneys, engineers, and other future professionals to more than four dozen verticals, each essentially necessary to the success, preservation, and longevity of ‘The Culture.’

Up until this point, Black musicians traditionally rely on and collaborate with everybody but us to bring “business” to the music — and there’s nothing wrong with that. But how could The Culture stimulate and grow Black economies if Black youth knew about the multimillion-dollar opportunities that exist behind the talent?

“At its core, [Rap Plug Live is] all about giving people access; getting them plugged [in] and democratizing tech and the music industry,” King says.

Beyond connection, the app hopes to continue offering performance and other exposure opportunities to artists.

Atlanta-based Eritrean R&B artist Ferow won the chance of a lifetime: performing at Atlanta’s ONE Musicfest in October, headlined by Grammy-winning superstar, H.E.R., in front of thousands of fans.

“I love Rap Plug Live,” Ferow tells theGrio, later posting on Instagram that she’s “enjoying the process.”

In addition to the performance slot, Ferow walked away with a distribution deal through music legend Dallas Austin, free studio time at Atlanta’s famous Patchwerk Studios, and other prizes.

The technical brain behind Rap Plug Live is Branden Criss, a tech entrepreneur, and marketing consultant.

“He’s super dope, energetic, and we have a nice collaboration,” King says of his partner. “What I love the most is that everything he does is atypical or unorthodox. It’s a beautiful, refreshing thing. He brings a fresh look to a lot of the old, antiquated rules of the music industry.”

Rap Plug Live connects the next generation of business professionals, executives, creatives, and fans to the people who are leading the game today. Professional mentors include Leslie Brathwaite, and even (more than a few) celebrity cosigns.

“They’re gonna be talking about us 300 years from now,” Rick Ross said about the groundbreaking app on IG.

Ross is among several celebrity talents who are lending his star power to Rap Plug Live. Subscribers can “go” on tour with him, Jeezy, 2 Chainz, and Gucci Mane through the app to get personal behind the scenes looks at all the people—and the work—it takes to create the epic stage performances fans appreciate. Masterclasses from producers, songwriters, and music business moguls are also available.

“The idea came from wanting to connect people to the plugs,” Criss says. “I was in New York with my boys saying, ‘I wish we knew who to call [to advance our musical careers],’ and we didn’t have a plug. Anybody can have an idea, but an idea is not great until you put the right people into play with the right strategies. That’s how you take an idea and make it a real business.”

He and King have created opportunities that many wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Rap Plug Live breaks down the barriers that come in the form of algorithms, educational (in)access, and networking blocks.

“This is the sweet spot for our industry,” King says. “If we put emphasis on this, I think far more people would embrace hip-hop, and they would embrace our culture.”

Rap Plug Live is still accepting investments from interested parties via StartEngine. Artists and fans can get plugged in via RapPlugLive.com

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