I was listening to rapper Nas' new album, "Life Is Good," this past weekend -- his tenth studio effort, which marks a return after four years -- when, to my surprise, on the track called "A Queens Story," I heard a familiar name. Mine! No, just kidding. If only.
It was Steve Stoute, the founder-CEO of an agency that works for Budweiser, McDonald's, Coca-Cola and State Farm. Here's the line: "I was just trying to make it with Steve Stoute ... The legal way, drug-free route." It's not the only shout-out the rapper's giving Mr. Stoute, either. After snooping around a bit, I turned up this video for a single off the album called "The Don," in which Mr. Stoute was invited by Nas to make a cameo appearance. Toward the beginning of the video, the two guys are seen laughing and lunching together at a fancy-pants restaurant.
So what gives? It's not every day an ad exec gets such a mainstream pop-culture reference. It's because in a past life, Mr. Stoute was a record industry exec and served as the manager to Nas; they appear to still be good friends. And considering the dramatic situations they've been through together, it's perhaps no surprise.
According to the Wikipedia entry for Nas' single "Hate Me Now," "the music video for the single, directed by Hype Williams and featuring Nas being crucified, was the subject of extreme controversy, as the original edit also featured Puff Daddy on the cross. A Catholic, Puffy had demanded that his crucifixion scene be excised from the broadcast edit of the video, but the wrong edit was incorrectly sent to MTV and "TRL," and aired on April 15, 1999. Within minutes of the broadcast, Puffy had barged into the offices of Nas' manager Steve Stoute with several bodyguards, and struck Stoute over the head with a champagne bottle. Stoute later sued Puffy, the suit was settled out of court."
Also interesting about their friendship is that Mr. Stoute's ad agency, Translation Advertising, has investment from another high-profile rapper, Jay -Z, who for many years had a very nasty and very public rivalry with Nas.
It's all water under the bridge though; Jay and Nas patched things up a few years back and have collaborated together since, and Diddy and Mr. Stoute are now buds, too, even hanging out together at ad-industry events as recently as this past March at the 4A's conference.