As I sat beside will.i.am at the mixing board inside one of the studios at the Record Plant in Hollywood, he queued up songs produced for Nas that didn’t make the cut for Hip-Hop Is Dead. I had already been floored to hear these exclusives, with enough ammo in my notebook to write a mini-profile about the Black Eyed Peas frontman’s foray into production. That’s the reason I was there, as a freelance writer for The Source magazine. It was August 2006 and I was still green to such high-profile in-person interviews, still prone to being star-struck. I had no idea what will would do next. We built rapport quickly, but I surely didn’t expect him to jump over to the next studio over and try to bring Sean “Diddy” Combs for secondary quotes.
Will came back without Diddy, I wrapped up my interview and didn’t make much of Diddy not making himself available. Combs, after all, cultivated a reputation as an ostentatious mogul, and his temper tantrums on MTV’s Making the Band at the time certainly didn’t make him a very endearing individual. As luck would have it, however, I was on my way out of the Record Plant when Diddy and I crossed paths and made eye contact. I automatically bowed my head and tapped a closed fist over my upper left chest, without even thinking about it twice. As I recounted to my friends, I did this out of respect for the man who brought the world Jodeci.
Fast forward to a few months ago. I knew about Diddy’s latest endeavor, a cable network REVOLT TV, but was only remotely interested. I chalked it up to being nothing more than a vanity project and a marginal venture. As a student of marketing, I’ve learned it takes years for a brand to establish and effectively compete. It doesn’t happen overnight – even if it does, it’s very hard to sustain.
With these notions inside my head, I began noticing an acquaintance was constantly posting about REVOLT on Facebook and Twitter and soon learned he had left an advertising firm to head up the social media team for the new channel. I still wasn’t sold. It wasn’t until August, three months before the network officially launched, that I reconnected with this individual, in an attempt to help another friend place a mini-documentary about a rather well-known R&B artist with REVOLT. Emails led to a meeting at the new network’s Hollywood office.
The energy inside the office was like that of any start-up. The offices occupy a full floor of a mid-sized office building off Highland and Franklin. Diverse groups of young men and women were either running around or meeting in groups. The excitement was in the air and my meeting went well. It was good to see my friend, and even though Diddy wasn’t there, I felt his presence. REVOLT is technically headquartered in Manhattan, but it was made clear to me that Combs is no stranger to the L.A. office. As much as it’s hard to picture a man worth nine-figures rolling up his sleeves, all signs also pointed to Diddy being very hands-on with his newest project.
What I’ve come to realize is that REVOLT is really not Diddy’s network at all. He is the face of it, sure, but what makes it go is an experienced management team and an infusion of fresh faces – most of them stepping up into the limelight after toiling in relative obscurity for a few years. Check out the videos below to see what I mean.
REVOLT launched this week (Oct. 21) on Time Warner Cable and Comcast. If you have either, it’s on your basic cable package. For DirecTV customers and others, the message Diddy and his team has been sending out is “call them and tell them you #needrevolt.” The social media mobilization, meanwhile, has been quite effective; on launch day, the nascent cable channel was among the top three Twitter trending topics worldwide. While Sean Combs has likened it to a new MTV or even “ESPN of music,” (which may be a stretch), there is no tempering the excitement that comes with a brand new minority-owned TV network becoming available in millions of homes around the country. Given Diddy’s Forbes-recognized success stories with music, clothing and vodka, the probability of REVOLT becoming another success story is high.