Senior Roc Nation VP Celebrates Hip-Hop's 50-Year Milestone at Art Basel, Foresees Artist Empowerment in the Genre's Future

Lenny Santiago reflects on the genre's evolution, emphasizes artist control in the industry's future, and shares insights into his upcoming book chronicling his 25-year journey in music.

Hip-Hop turning 50 is the best thing that could ever happen. Watching all the celebrations and the content that's been coming out, like the documentaries and the performances, you get a glimpse of how great this genre is. It keeps getting better and better, and you could see that there will be another 50 with no problem," said Lenny Santiago, Senior Vice President of Roc Nation.

Santiago spoke at the Museum of Graffiti's Art of Hip-Hop exhibit during Art Basel in Miami on December 8. He manages artists like Vic Mensa and DJ Khaled. The talk focused on the intersection of hip-hop, fashion, and art, part of a collaboration between Art of Hip-Hop and StockX. Santiago shared the stage with artist Cey Adams, discussing their journeys to stay relevant and the importance of getting things done without excuses.

"Overcoming obstacles was the name of the game. Back when I was in Def Jam, if something was in your way, you moved it. You could not go back and say you didn't get the job done," said Cey Adams.

"I was fortunate enough to spend time at Def Jam with Lyor Cohen and Kevin Llyles, also at Roc-A-Fella Records with Jay and Dame, and all of them did not take no for an answer. Everyone I ever worked with was like that," said Santiago.

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Santiago explains that he stayed current throughout the industry by accepting the new style of music that was released. He learned that music evolves and you will be left behind if you don't grow with it. In terms of the future of the music industry, He believes the artists will have an advantage over the labels.

"Artists now are creating their own destiny. They're creating a platform and brand that they can fully control. I think it will shift to artists taking control, as opposed to the first 50 years where the labels and the production companies have control," said Santiago.

The Roc Nation SVP conveyed that hip-hop has changed lives and will continue to change. He elaborates that hip-hop is the biggest genre of music and that it makes the culture. Photography is a hobby of Santigo. On stage, he shared that his photo of the late Nipsey Huslte in his all-blue outfit made it into the Smithsonian Museum. Santiago was very impressed with the Art of Hip Hop Exhibit because he saw different eras of the genre. Santiago has a collection of photos from behind the scenes and in the studio. His love for photography flourished because of the music industry.

"What I have seen so far is great photographs. I think they have done every decade since Hip Hop started. I love photography; one of the reasons I started taking up photography even more in my young adulthood was because I was in the music business. Being in different places, like in the studio, behind the scenes, and backstage at the show, I had that access that the average person didn't have. It made me pick up a camera. So being here and looking at hip hop through a camera lens is very special to me," said Santigo.

The corporate mogul's upcoming venture is his book debut in 2024. The book will delve into his 25-year experience behind the scenes in the music industry and will be published by Random House.

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