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Scooter Braun is the Hustla

How a white kid from the North became a power player in Atlanta hip-hop



Scooter Braun is doing what he does best. He's multitasking.

"If I'm about to crash, just tell me," Braun says as he texts with one hand and steers with the other. Braun is pulling out of Chaka Zulu's west Atlanta studio, where the two just discussed a possible venture in the movie industry, when the light at the intersection turns yellow. He pauses for a second, then seems to remember that he's driving a Mercedes CLK 320 with a 215-horsepower engine and steps on the gas. The light turns red, but Braun zooms through, anyway.

That's how Braun lives: fast, and with a certain disregard for the rules. It's how he's navigated his life since arriving in Atlanta five-and-a-half years ago as an Emory University freshman.

There are few people who could have predicted Braun's career would have unfolded the way it has. His family and friends assumed that the former high school class president would go into politics or maybe law. That's a long way from Braun's current job. Braun calls himself a "power player" in the entertainment industry, but his business associates describe him as a "hustla."

One thing is for sure: Wherever Braun is headed, he's moving fast. He has shot through the ranks of the hip-hop industry, establishing himself as one of the country's top party promoters, a growing force in media marketing, and just generally a guy "in the know." He has starred in music videos, brokered deals between controversial rappers and major corporations, and partied with Britney Spears, Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake. And at 23 years of age, Braun's just getting started.

Today is a typical day for the kid from Greenwich, Conn. He's spending his afternoon in the car, bouncing from recording studio to recording studio, meeting with producers, artists and studio execs, pitching projects and nurturing relationships.

As he's driving and texting on his T-Mobile Sidekick, Braun's Verizon cell phone rings. It's the representative for Britney Spears. Braun is throwing a party for Kevin Federline in Miami at the end of the month and has found a place for the celeb couple to stay while they're in town -- a luxurious $3.7 million house on nearby Allison Island.

"How insane am I?" Braun asks Spear's rep, his voice rising in excitement. "Love me right now. It's pretty hard to believe, right? It's 5,700 square feet. It's right on the water. It's gorgeous."

The voice on the other end of the phone doesn't seem to share Braun's enthusiasm.

"What's wrong?" Braun asks. "We're still doing the party, right?"

The rep assures him that the party is still on (though it would later be postponed); it's just that the Spears-Federline camp is dealing with a little bit of drama. She tells Braun that he should check the Star magazine website (later that day, the gossip sheet would report that Spears accidentally dropped her infant son, Sean Preston, on his head and that social workers had paid a visit to Spears' home).

Braun seems reassured. He looks up to see that he's stuck in a long line of cars waiting to pass through a downtown intersection near the Georgia Aquarium. He pulls a U-turn in the middle of Luckie Street and then goes back to talking about how great Spears and Federline's new house is. "The only thing I want is a key," Braun says. "I want one bedroom that I can stay in when I'm in town."

The rep laughs off his request. Braun hangs up his cell phone. But as soon as he hangs up, his Sprint phone rings. This time it's one of the managers of the exclusive downtown restaurant and lounge BED. The management of BED allocates passes to VIP guests, which entitles them to automatic access to the restaurant's rooftop lounge. The manager wants to know who Braun thinks should get a VIP pass.

"Send me the list you've got so far and I can tell you if they're the wrong people," Braun says. "Because a lot of people you think may be big, but then they come in and don't spend a lot of money and bring the wrong people with them."

As he's talking, Braun notices flashing lights from a Georgia state patrol car in his rearview mirror. "I've gotta go," Braun says. "I just got pulled over."

A state trooper walks up to the driver's side window of Braun's purple Mercedes and asks for his license and registration. Then she tells him he's getting a $25 ticket. He wasn't wearing his seat belt.

Don't call Scooter Braun a "party promoter." He hates that.

In March, Braun threw a party for "K-Fed" at Vision nightclub and the AJC ran a series of photos on its website from the event. In one, Braun was featured and identified as a "local party promoter." He wasn't too pleased. "I throw parties in NYC, L.A., Miami, London, and I'm 'local'?" Braun says. "I broker deals between a major hip-hop star and a huge corporation, and I'm still just a 'party promoter'?"

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