Many Americans are upskilling, looking to learn new skills and industries. One of the major sectors of interest is entertainment, but it is also one of the hardest to break into. There were just 1.4 million Americans employed in the media and entertainment industry in 2022. A new educational platform called Rap Plug taps into the recent upskilling trend. It allows people to connect with music industry insiders and learn skills vital to entering the field.
Media company Diamond Diaspora Media — Finurah’s parent corporation — has now become the startup’s lead investor. Rap Plug is also being housed at the DDM Group headquarters in Atlanta.
DDM Providing Capital to Help Build Rap Plug
DDM Group is providing capital investment to help scale the business to the next level.
“We invested $500,000 in a combination of cash and in-kind service,” shares Neil Nelson, CEO of DDM Group, which creates, curates, and distributes digital media content that empowers its audience from an African-American-centered perspective.
A successful digital media firm, DDM Group has over 12 million unique users across its media platforms and, in addition, provides multiple content services to a variety of Fortune 500 companies. Under the DDM Group umbrella are three properties — Atlanta Black Star, its premier brand which is recognized as the largest Black-owned digital news platform in the U.S. per Comscore; The Shadow League, an 11-year sports site at the intersection of sports and culture; and Finurah, a financial news and information site.
Learning With Rap Plug
EdTech content provider Rap Plug, which was founded in 2016, helps users learn how to break into the music industry from established pros. The focus is hip hop because it is a leading genre, but the lessons can be applied to other genres as well. Hip-hop industry legends have designed the curriculum. The hip-hop segment controls about 31 percent of the music market, according to The Source, making it a lucrative genre to venture into. Rap Plug’s team comprises veteran entertainment entrepreneurs, music producers, and industry marketers.
Rap Plug’s creators stress that the program is easy to use. After downloading the app or visiting the website and creating an account, users choose the educational content to watch. The basic monthly subscription is $4.99 monthly, or a $90 monthly premium plan, including pay-per-view content. The app, which went live in 2018, is available in iOS and android.
You can sign up for the courses or use the videos on demand. Rap Plug also offers online networking sessions.
One of the classes available is “The Business of Producing” with Mr. Hanky, who has worked with Soulja Boy, J. Futuristic, and Young Dolph. There’s also “Songwriting By Grammy Winning Eric Bellinger
Getting Startup Funding
For Nelson, investing in Rap Plug is a win-win. “I think the combination of two fast-growing sectors — technology and education — is a win-win,” he explains. “Plus, the service that Rap Plus offers is for both adults and the youth, giving it a broad reach.”
Like most Black-owned startups, Rap Plug had to be creative in seeking funding.
“I think the challenge in funding [for Black founders] is that the history of capital has been mainly in the hands of white men, who tend to invest in people who they relate to and look like,” notes Nelson.
Rap Plug reached out to family, friends, industry insiders, and angel investors for funding. Spearheaded by a team of industry leaders with over 30 years of experience building, growing, and scaling businesses, Rap Plug has secured partnerships with celebrity investors such as Rick Ross and Sean “Diddy” Combs. According to the company, it has raised $650,000 in seed funding.
“We believe that the synergy between our two companies will be a catalyst for growth and success,” says Nelson. “Our investment in Rap Plug represents a shared commitment to creating value for our community, the culture, and shareholders. We believe that our combined efforts will bring significant benefits to the market and set a new standard in the industry. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Rap Plug.”
“We’ve always wanted to bring EdTech to the next chapter of hip hop. This DDM partnership provides that and beyond. It’s a game changer,” remarks Rap Plug co-founder and CEO Craig A. King.
King has a background in production, computer programming and engineering. He has worked with Will Smith, Ludacris, Aaliyah, Quincy Jones, Kanye West and countless others as a producer and musician. He produced the music and lyrics for Ford Motor Co. and its Born To Roll ad campaigns in 2017 and 2018. King also worked as an Adjunct Instructor at Vanderbilt University and Howard University.
Rap Plug co-founder and co-CEO Branden Criss added, “The capital and capacity building support DDM provides to Rap Plug enables us to create more educational based content with top music industry professionals while perfecting our platform and reaching key performance goals we have as a company.”
Criss is a marketing consultant and tech entrepreneur, who has collaborated, consulted and contracted with such entertainment companies as Revolt TV, Combs Enterprise, Microsoft, United Way, SXSW, A3C Music Festival and Conference, BET, Viacom, Quality Control Music, Capitol Records.
Rap Plug is also teaching interns the industry ropes. It has built an internship program composed of 60-plus paid, unpaid, and independently contracted staff members made up of youth and young adults from all over the country. The startup has also partnered with over 10 colleges.
“We plan to expand our team so that we may create more opportunities for young adults aspiring to work in the Hip-Hop industry,” according to its website.
For Osei Kweku, director of Business Development at DDM Group, Rap Plug is ahead of the curve.
“Rap Plug is the future,” Kweku states. “We are excited to be a part of shaping the next 50 years of hip-hop by educating our youth and providing employment for future generations, as well as Rap Plug being a platform for networking at the highest level.”
DDM, the lead investor in Rap Plug, is the owner and publisher of Finurah.