Yesterday the multihyphenate musician announced that he’d invested in Monster, the electronics outfit that originally manufactured Beats By Dr. Dre. Noel Lee, Monster’s chief, also named Swizz to the company’s advisory board.
“They built an empire, and my job will be to push the envelope–turn the lights of the castle up really bright and help Monster take its next big step forward,” said Swizz in a statement. Added Lee: “The products that we have planned are revolutionary in technology, sound, and style. We need the talents and reach of Swizz to help bring these products to life in the eyes of the consumer.”
In other words, Lee is hoping that Swizz will be the second coming of Dr. Dre. The hip-hop legend cofounded his eponymous headphone line with Interscope Records chief Jimmy Iovine and quickly developed a mutually-beneficial manufacturing arrangement with Monster. After gobbling up more than half of the $1 billion headphone market in the U.S.—and selling a chunk of equity to handset maker HTC, making Dr. Dre the world’s highest-paid musician—Beats declined to renew its deal with Lee last year.
The Head Monster has said there are no sour grapes. “Working with Dre and working with Jimmy was one of the best experiences of my life,” Lee told me at South By Southwest last year.
Dre’s departure still left a big hole. Monster’s collaborations with other artists including Earth, Wind & Fire (earbuds optimized for brass and percussion) and the estate of Miles Davis (headphones shaped like trumpets) were certainly innovative. Yet they didn’t match the explosive success of Dr. Dre’s eponymous product.
Can Swizz Beatz help Monster craft another Beats By Dre? That’s sort of like asking if Tim Cook can create the next iPod—possible, sure, but unlikely. Beats took off for many reasons, some of them having little to do with its namesake. Take, for instance, the host of other celebrity endorsers including Lady Gaga, Diddy and LeBron James.
Perhaps more importantly, Universal Music Group invested in Beats and lent its considerable muscle to promoting the headphones. In recent years, videos for just about every artist on the recording giant’s roster features Beats product placement.
Swizz and Monster do have a few advantages. The Bronx-born producer brings plenty of experience as a brand ambassador (he’s shilled for Reebok and Lotus in recent years). He’s also got a built-in publicity platform with 1.5 million Twitter followers, nearly three times as many as Dr. Dre. And there’s no reason that he, along with wife Alicia Keys, shouldn’t be able to recruit additional celebrity co-signs.
Equalling the feats of Beats By Dr. Dre may not be the most likely outcome of Swizz’s Monster agreement. Indeed, there are no immediate plans for a Swizz-branded headphone line. The company wouldn’t reveal how much he paid for his stake, or how much equity he received. But if he can help create something even half as successful as Beats, his investment in Monster—and Lee’s investment in him—will have been quite a wise one.
Regardless, diversifying his business interests through the deal with Monster fits the personal philosophy Swizz explained to me nearly five years ago when I first wrote about him for FORBES. He was 29 years old then, but he’s been living by the words he told me ever since.
“Some people are lucky to make history by having one goal,” he said. “I figure, if you have a bunch of goals and give each one you’re serious about a shot, you keep digging and digging until you can scrape something up. At the end of the day, I’m into making history.”