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Vonzele David Reed

hip hop producer and businessman, was born Sean John Combs in Harlem in New York City to Melvin and Janice Combs. Combs's childhood years were spent in Harlem, where his father worked for the board of education and as a cab driver. His mother was a model. Eager to provide for his family, Melvin Combs succumbed to the lure of criminal activity, which ultimately led to his murder in 1973. In 1982 Janice moved her family to suburban Mount Vernon, New York, in an effort to escape the growing violence and unemployment in Harlem.

Following her husband s death Janice worked as a teacher s assistant bus driver and night attendant for children with cerebral palsy His mother s determination to provide for her family influenced Combs to work after school beginning at age twelve Too young to formally apply for his own paper route Combs convinced an ...

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Andrew Du Bois

Born in Harlem and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, Sean Combs attended Howard University and started working in the music industry as an intern at Andre Harrell's Uptown Records. Combs moved quickly through the ranks, producing hits for Uptown artists such as Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. At the age of twenty-two he was made a company vice president.

In 1993 Combs left Uptown to found Bad Boy Entertainment, where he began to assemble a crew of Hip-Hop and Rhythm and Blues talent. Combs served as executive producer on both albums by Bad Boy's biggest star, Notorious B.I.G. Following the 1997 shooting death of Notorious B.I.G., Combs (who rapped as “Puff Daddy”) recorded a tribute song entitled “I'll Be Missing You.” The single was a smash hit, and it sent Puff Daddy's solo debut album, No Way Out straight to the top of the ...

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Claranne Perkins

music executive, television and film producer, and screenwriter, was born in New York, New York. Her father worked for Seagram's and her mother was a schoolteacher. Her paternal grandfather was a physician in Harlem.

Her parents divorced when she was three but managed to maintain a supportive environment for their daughter. She spent the week with her mother and the weekend with her father. He remarried when de Passe was nine, and the three adults formed a supportive alliance that continued to nurture de Passe.

She lived the elite life of prominent black families in New York. She summered on Martha's Vineyard; attended the private, progressive, and integrated New Lincoln School; graduated from Manhattan High School; and entered Syracuse University in 1964 She found the university and its extremely small African American student body not to her liking so transferred to Manhattan Community College to major ...

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Paul Devlin

songwriter, pianist, producer, and record company executive, was born in Camden, New Jersey. His father was a barber and a blues guitarist, and his mother played gospel piano. Along with his songwriting and business partner Kenny Gamble, Huff was largely responsible for creating a popular musical style, known as Philadelphia soul, that was for a time nearly ubiquitous in American popular culture. Although Huff grew up playing drums at Camden High School and regularly made the Camden All-City Orchestra until his graduation in 1960, it was his piano playing that gained him entrance into the music business.

In the early 1960s Huff traveled to New York City and began playing piano on some of the legendary producer Phil Spector's recording sessions including the session for the Ronettes Baby I Love You He had the unique opportunity to observe the development of Spector s ...

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Jay Z  

Hua Hsu

hip-hop artist and record executive, was born Shawn Corey Carter in Brooklyn, New York, the fourth child of Adnes Reeves and Gloria Carter, of whom little is known. Reeves abandoned the family when Shawn was eleven. It has been suggested that Reeves left because of despondency over the fatal stabbing of his younger brother, though Carter himself did not learn this until he and his father reconciled, shortly before Reeves's death in 2003 A single mother Gloria Carter raised Shawn and his siblings in the Marcy Houses housing project in the rough Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn At a young age Carter demonstrated musical talent and became fascinated with hip hop culture He was given the nickname Jazzy which would eventually evolve into his stage name Jay Z The name held two meanings it was an homage to one of his early musical mentors a smalltime rapper ...

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Jay-Z  

Jennifer A. Bratyanski

rapper and business mogul. Shawn Corey Carter grew up quickly in the shadows of the Marcy Housing Projects of Brooklyn, New York. His parents Gloria Carter and Adnes Reeves split up when Jay-Z was a teenager, leaving him and his three siblings vulnerable to the urban environment of New York. His father's departure left the teenage Jay-Z free to explore the streets for an alternative family structure. He found his way into the dangerous world of crack cocaine and became, as he later stated in an interview in Rolling Stone, addicted to hustling. His moniker “Jay-Z” reportedly derives from combining an early nickname with the name of a subway line that traverses Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

His successes as a hustler translated into his earliest rap lyrics, which eventually became his first album, the widely acclaimed Reasonable Doubt. The album was released in 1996 by Roc ...

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Anthony Brown

(b Chicago, March 14, 1933). American producer, arranger, composer and entertainment entrepreneur. He was raised by his father and stepmother in Seattle from the age of ten, and learned various brass instruments before settling on the trumpet. He performed in dance bands with early musical associates including Charlie Taylor, Bumps Blackwell and Ernestine Anderson, and at 14 met the 16-year-old Ray Charles, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship and from whom he first received instruction in jazz harmony and arranging. While in high school, Jones performed with Billie Holiday and Billy Eckstine, and studied the trumpet with Clark Terry. He studied briefly at Seattle University and at the Berklee School of Music, Boston, but left to tour. He first toured Europe and made his first recordings while with Lionel Hampton, playing a solo on the 1951 recording of his own composition, Kingfish ...

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James Gavin

jazz musician, composer, and record, television, and film producer, was born Quincy Delight Jones Jr. on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, the son of Sarah (maiden name unknown) and Quincy Jones Sr., a carpenter who worked for a black gangster ring that ran the Chicago ghetto. When Quincy Sr.'s mentally ill wife was institutionalized, he sent their sons, Quincy Jr. and Lloyd, to live in the South with their grandmother. In his autobiography Jones writes of growing up so poor that his grandmother served them fried rats to eat. By the age of ten he was living with Lloyd and their father in Seattle, Washington. “My stepbrother, my brother, and myself, and my cousin … we burned down stores, we stole, whatever you had to do,” Jones said (CNN Online, “Q and A: A Talk with Quincy Jones,” 11 Dec ...

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James Sellman

Quincy Delight Jones, Jr., has had several careers in popular entertainment, including roles as a big-band musician, composer-arranger, record company executive, producer of films and music videos, magazine publisher, and partner in a television production company. He has emerged as one of the most influential figures in Hollywood. He commenced his music career in Seattle, Washington, where his family moved during the mid-1940s from Chicago, Illinois, where he was born. He sang in a vocal harmony group directed by Joseph Powe, who had once been with Wings over Jordan. After trying various instruments in high school band, Jones settled on the trumpet.

As a teenager, Jones played in local Jazz and Rhythm and Blues groups. He became acquainted with Ray Charles, an early musical influence, who moved to the Seattle area in 1950 Besides leading his own trio Charles wrote and arranged for the five ...

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Sam Burckhardt

musician, singer, pianist, songwriter, and recording label owner, was born Albert Welton Luandrew in Vance, Mississippi, the son of Thomas Welton Luandrew, a preacher, and Martha Lewis. Best known as Sunnyland Slim, he became one of the creators of and a driving force in post-war Chicago Blues, and towards the end of his life its elder statesman. Albert Luandrew was born into a family of farmers and preachers in the Mississippi Delta. His great-grandfather, a white slave owner, whom Sunnyland would call, “the ol' monster,” had a son, Albert Luandrew, with a slave woman in the years before the Civil War. The elder Albert Luandrew was able to purchase land near Vance, Mississippi, from which he cleared the timber and made crossties he then sold to the up and coming railroads. His father was born in 1887 for his mother precise ...

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John N. Ingham

entrepreneur, was born in Covington, Georgia, the son of Charles Pace, a blacksmith, and Nancy Francis. Pace's father died when he was an infant, but Pace was nonetheless able to secure a good education. He finished elementary school in Covington by the time he was twelve, and seven years later he graduated as valedictorian of his class at Atlanta University.

Pace learned the trade of printer's devil as a youth and worked in the Atlanta University printing office. After graduation he took a job in a new firm established by a group of prominent blacks in Atlanta. Pace served as foreman and shop manager, but the venture was unsuccessful and soon closed. In 1904 Pace became an instructor at the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia, where he remained for only a year before W. E. B. Du Bois who had been one of his teachers at ...

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Marian Aguiar

Harry Hubert Pace began his printing and business career in 1903, opening a company in Memphis with his former teacher W. E. B. Du Bois. Together, they produced Moon Illustrated Weekly (1905), the first illustrated African American journal. Pace met composer W. C. Handy in 1908, and they formed one of the most enduring African American music companies, Pace and Handy Music Company (1909). Pace went on to establish Pace Phonograph Company, issuing records by such artists as Alberta Hunter and Ethel Waters under the label of Black Swan. With the bankruptcy of the company in 1923, Pace returned to insurance work, expanding Chicago's Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Co. into the largest black-owned business in the North.

See also Magazines, Newspapers, and Journals; Music, African American.

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James M. Salem

entrepreneur and record label owner, was born Don Deadric Robey in Houston, Texas, the son of Zeb Robey and Gertrude (maiden name unknown). Little is known of his childhood. Don dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, reportedly to become a professional gambler in Houston nightspots frequented by African Americans; later he was suspected of being involved in the city's numbers operation. He also entered the taxi business prior to World War II and established a business in entertainment promotion, bringing name bands and celebrity attractions into segregated sections of the Houston area.

Though Robey opened his first nightclub in 1937, it was the postwar Bronze Peacock Dinner Club, opened in 1946, that he parlayed into an interconnected set of entertainment and music businesses that made him, according to the Houston Informer one of the city s foremost black business wizards Robey s skill ...

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Mark Steven Maulucci

was born Morgan Clyde Robinson in Union, South Carolina. His grandparents were former slaves and he was raised on a farm. Robinson was drafted into the army in 1942 and was stationed in Hawaii. He served as an entertainment officer procuring acts both big and small to entertain the troops. This was his introduction to the music business and remained his passion. He had also developed a side project in the army where he would loan money to fellow soldiers. He referred to himself as a “loan shark” and saved a significant amount of money from his earnings.

He relocated to New York City s Harlem neighborhood after World War II and bought a hat shop with $2 500 of his savings from the army The shop was located on 125th Street which was the cultural center of Harlem The legendary Apollo Theater was just down the street and Robinson ...

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Robert Farrell

entrepreneur in the entertainment and fashion industries. Simmons is one of the most influential African American entrepreneurs to arise out of the late twentieth century hip-hop culture. Starting as a manager of early hip-hop artists and cofounder of Def Jam Records, Simmons has since developed ventures in television, fashion, and film, and he has done much to make hip hop a mainstream part of contemporary cultural and economic life.

Simmons was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York, to middle-class, college-educated parents, both of whom worked for the City of New York. In 1965, the Simmons family moved to Hollis, Queens, a solidly middle-class neighborhood that began to decline as the use of heroin spread through New York in the 1970s. In 1975 the ambitious and highly style conscious Simmons began to attend the City College of New York which provided him with a social network connected to the ...

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Antoinette Handy

blues singer, songwriter, and record label founder, was born Victoria Regina Spivey in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Grant Spivey, a straw boss on Texas wharfs and a string player, and Addie Smith, a nurse. She was one of eight children in a musical family. Her father and brothers were members of a local string band, and her three sisters, Addie “Sweet Peas,” Elton “Za Zu,” and Leona, also were singers. Spivey began playing piano at an early age and soon was performing with various local groups, including Henry “Lazy Daddy” Filmore's Blues-Jazz Band and L. C. Tolen's Band and Revue. There followed appearances in vaudeville houses and theaters throughout Texas, Missouri, and Michigan. As a teenager she played piano for silent movies at the Lincoln Theater in Houston.

In 1926 Spivey went to St. Louis with the goal of meeting Jesse ...