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Scooter Braun is the Hustla

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



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But you can't blame people for getting confused about what Braun does for a living. It's complicated.

"To be honest with you, I don't know what the hell he does," says his best friend Fernando Cuartas, who played basketball with Braun in high school and lived with him for a year after college. "But he's always got several projects going on. Whether it's promoting, or developing artists, it's always something."

Talk to the people who have worked with Scooter Braun, and they'll all describe him the same way: He's a "hustla."

"It's not just hustle, it's focused hustle," says Chaka Zulu, who is co-CEO with Ludacris of Disturbing Tha Peace Records. "He takes the opportunity and knows how to stretch it."

"He's hustle concentrate," says Jazze Pha, the rap producer who has worked with Ciara, Slick Rick and Nelly. "You ever made Minute Maid out of a can? That's the kind of hustle he's got."

"He hustles, that's what's good about him," says record producer Dallas Austin, one of Braun's friends. "Just because you're in the industry doesn't mean you know how to hustle. Scooter does."

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "hustle" as "to make strenuous efforts to obtain especially money or business." The hip-hop culture defines it a little differently.

"I think the urban community uses 'hustla' as the ultimate honor," Braun says. "A hustla is somebody that doesn't take no for an answer; somebody who has a vision and a goal and works to realize it; somebody who works his ass off to make it happen."

Of course, Braun has a somewhat different take on what it means to "work." Many of his deals are struck while sipping drinks on club rooftops or sitting courtside at Hawks games. He spends late nights partying, building relationships with the hip-hop industry's biggest producers and stars. He owns three cell phones -- one for text messaging, one with a number given only to select clients, and one that anybody can call -- and he is constantly talking or sending text messages to friends, family and business partners.

Braun's frustration at his inability to shed the "party promoter" label is understandable, though maybe a bit naïve. After all, he got his start and made much of his fortune throwing big, popular, successful parties.

When he was a freshman at Emory in 1999, Braun was broke. He came from a wealthy family, but didn't like borrowing money from his parents and wanted to find another way to pay for beer and pizza. First, he got involved in the fake ID market, serving as a link between the kids who needed the IDs and the guy who made them. In exchange, he kept 50 percent of the profits. "I was the fake ID king," Braun says. "I made so much money doing it, but I was afraid that I was going to get caught. So I quit after four months."

Then one Thursday night, while he was out with friends in Buckhead, Braun passed by the Paradox nightclub. The club was empty and Braun asked the bouncer if he could speak with the manager. "I knew that club was full on Friday and Saturday nights," Braun says. "And I thought, if I could fill it on a Thursday night, I could clean up."

Braun made the manager an offer: He would pack the club the following Thursday, and in exchange he would get to keep the door receipts. He put up flyers all over the Emory campus advertising his party and hired a DJ for the event. That Thursday, 1,000 people showed up at Paradox. Braun made a net profit of $600.

That was the beginning of something big. Braun continued to throw parties and his Thursday night events became a focal point of the Emory social scene. People who attended the parties say there was an energy to them. The DJs played all the right songs, a mix of hip-hop and rock that appealed to both blacks and whites.

Everyone wanted to party with Scooter. Stars like Ciara, J-Kwan, Chingy, Cee-Lo, Jagged Edge and Ludacris would stop by and sometimes perform. And as his parties got more popular, and Braun learned the ins and outs of the business, profits soared. By the end of his freshman year, Braun estimates that he was making $5,000-$10,000 from every party.

Thursday nights weren't the only ones Braun would stay out late. On Tuesdays, he would head to the Velvet Room, where many of the city's hip-hop elite gathered. Most weeks he would take a date, and Braun quickly became known as the "king of the white chicks."

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