Did you know All Def Poetry and All Def Comedy are coming back thanks to a Nupe from North Carolina A&T?!
It’s true! HBCU grads are making major moves in the entertainment industry. Cedric J. Rogers, a brother of Kappa Alpha Psi from North Carolina A&T has cofounded a company with Shawn Newsum that is backed by famous investors like TI and Baron Davis and has acquired All Def Digital, the media company Russel Simmons started in 2013.
Rogers, is an initiate of the Alpha Nu Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi at North Carolina A&T who left his job as an executive at Apple to move into the start-up space.
The Y-Combinator alum’s digital studio and tech startup focuses on “remixing technology for authentic urban culture and entertainment” and has already begun to revamp some of the popular brands it now owns including All Def Comedy and All Def Poetry as well as its new vertical All Def Cannabis.
The Los Angeles based media/tech company has attracted investors including venture-capital firms Betaworks and Mucker Capital as well as famous names including rapper-actor-entrepreneur T.I. “Tip” Harris, the founder of Grand Hustle Records Jason Geter and NBA All-Star and investor Baron Davis.
We at Watch The Yard recently sat down with the Cedric J. Rogers to talk about the acquisition, the comeback of All Def Poetry and All Def Comedy, minority and HBCU facing tech and entertainment, and how joining a Black fraternity as an undergrad at North Carolina A&T helped mold him into the entrepreneur he is today.
Check out the full interview below:
The last time we did an interview with you, you were launching a game show with actor Melvin Gregg, we blink and now we see that you have purchased All Def Digital. This is a HUGE move, how did it happen?
My CoFounder Shaun and I created Culture Genesis to be a tech company that remixes technology for the culture. We started working with All Def Digital to create a dope game show project on the show Bar Exam. Like this one from Roddy Ricch. Unfortunately they ran into tough financial times and we were presented the opportunity to make the acquisition. It’s truly a blessing and honor to move the Def Jam…All Def legacy forward.
All Def Digital is now backed by a group of Black entrepreneurs with really big names, can you tell us who they are and why this makes a difference?
Yes, All Def is now owned by Culture Genesis, which is a black owned tech startup. Our investors and business partners include Clifford T.I. Harris, Jason Geter (CoFounder of Grand Hustle Music) Baron Davis and a few more. Having an ownership group from the culture allows us to make decisions that understand and respect the culture.
Black people over index in our use of technology, social media, streaming music and shows and text messaging…it’s time for tech companies like ours to give back to the culture. We always start with the culture in mind, hence the name Culture Genesis.
How did you become business partners with TI?
Tip and I became business partners through my relationship with his business partner Jason Geter. I have known Jason for over 6 years and he introduced me to Tip years ago and we all have been working together. We really believe in black ownership and creating opportunities for others through the companies we build. We always want to build for us by us…do it for the culture.
We are excited to get back to the ethos of All Def, which is Def Comedy Jam and Def Poetry Jam. We can’t forget that one of Kanye’s first TV appearances was on Def Poetry Jam and so many great comedians got started on Def Comedy Jam from Martin Lawrence, Mike Epps, Chris Tucker, Ced the Entertainer to Dave Chappelle.
All Def is the internet 2.0 version of Def Jam. It will be a platform for the up and coming comedian, rapper, poet…all talent. We will be rolling out all kinds of dope content with up and coming talent.
You are a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, we did some research and found that a lot of your team members, your content creators and the people you employ are members of Black fraternities and sororities. How do you think this gives All Def Digital an edge?
The Divine 9 is deep in All Def. Meg Thomas is a Delta, Tony Baker and Brent Taylor are Sigmas, Billy Sorrells, CP, DLai and Brandon are Nupes and there are a few more. Having so many greeks on the team gives us a lot of knowledge and a great network to center the content. You sometimes can hear the greek references. We all hold to the principles of our organizations and it reflects well in what we do.
HBCUs have a long history of supporting Black comedians, how will All Def Digital keep this connection of HBCUs and Black comedy alive?
My goal is to get All Def participating in HBCU homecomings…starting with the best of them all…GHOE. We also plan to hire interns on campuses and be a part of the culture. We have already hired our first intern and she’s a student at North Carolina A&T. I got to look out for my school first.
Your platform reaches +10M people and you are based in Los Angeles. What advice do you have for our readers out there who are looking to break into the entertainment industry?
Breaking into all industries takes a lot of hard work, preparation, discipline, focus and good connections. There are no shortcuts. Everyone here has been grinding for a while before they get their opportunities…Issa Rae, Michael B. Jordan and Melvin Gregg are people I’ve gotten to know and they all have been grinding for a while…it doesn’t come easy or for the faint of heart.
You are a proud Aggie and member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. How did these networks help you get to where you are today?
Aggies Pride and Yo to the Alpha Nu Nupes! I have received so much love and support from my Aggie Family and all my Frat brothers. The help comes in many ways, they offer to help me in any way possible and often give me words of encouragement. The words of encouragement and just telling others about my work is the most helpful. It helps keep me going…I want to make them proud. There are so many Nupes in Silicon Valley and Hollywood…Charles King, Andrian Fenty, Brian Patterson, Lo Toney, Chris Lyons, Rashaun Williams, Tavis Smiley, Ced The Entertainer…so many to name. They have all opened doors for me.
You are a skilled networker and have used your networks and friendships to create growing Black owned businesses. How do you think HBCU students and members of Black fraternities and sororities should better utilize their networks to succeed?
Networking is how I got through of all my hard ass engineering courses at A&T in the first place…lol! I learned the networking skill early and realized how important it is to my success. Life is difficult and you can’t win alone. The same way I networked my way thru A&T, I’m doing now in Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Most people want to help other people who are working hard on their dreams. You just have to come prepared and have a clear ask of someone. You want to do your research and know how a person can help you. It works more often than not, so do not be afraid to ask for that help. Clear intentions bring clear results.
What is next for All Def Digital?
Now that Culture Genesis is in control we only call the brand All Def. It’s already digital. (wink) We are completely focused on creating Content. Community. Commerce. We believe that if we truly serve our audience and talent we will be successful. We just launched the All Def Cannabis channel to entertain and inform our community about Cannabis. We will keep coming with dope content for the culture. We will keep growing our content in Comedy, Music, Poetry and Nation (news). We will also add new categories in the near future. In the meantime, I’d ask your audience to check us out on YouTube or Instagram at All Def. Our website is www.alldef.tv