Music, fashion and mass-media are all elements that create a culture. James Malcolm Jenkins is chock-full of all the knowledge and sensibilities when it comes to those elements, making him a certified educator and a definitive authority. Jenkins’s reputation precedes him, as back in the day, he was also a cofounder of Uptown Records, a popular record label in the eighties and nineties that defined an entire era of music and style.
James Jenkins, also known as Jimmy Luv, is an entrepreneur, record producer, tastemaker, and educator who has attained legendary status in the music industry. He collaborated with some of the greatest artists in the music scene, such as Mary J. Blige and Robin Thicke. Most notably, Jimmy Luv helped craft hits on Mary’s career-defining “What’s The 411” and Thicke’s debut “A Beautiful World” under the umbrella of companies like Universal Music Group, MCA Records, Giant Records, and Reprise Records.
Uptown Records, a subsidiary of MCA, was composed of big industry names who created more than just music. The true intention of the movement being created in the early 90’s was to feature the quickly evolving lifestyle of Hip-Hop so that it would generate the respect Jimmy felt it deserved. “We were credited as the first and only record company in history to create a lifestyle where people wanted to walk like us, talk like us, dress like us, and be us,” said Jenkins. Alongside recently deceased legend and childhood friend Andre Harrell, Jimmy Luv introduced many customs, colloquialisms, mannerisms and social positioning that, while having evolved significantly, cemented how rappers, harder-edged vocalists and fans would be portrayed during Hip-Hop’s adolescent phase.
Along with other moguls such as Russell Simmons, the team over at Uptown Records helped shape the careers of artists and executives alike. Two of these heavyweights pulling strings behind the scenes of countless acts that populated the past three decades of Hip-Hop are Teddy Riley, whom he helped leverage a prodigy-like genius, and P. Diddy, who owes his fashion/business sense to Jenkins. He was also instrumental in shaping the successful careers of other artists such as Al B. Sure, Christopher Williams, Guy, Heavy D & The Boyz, Father MC, Jodeci, Notorious B.I.G., and Soul For Real, many of which found difficulty landing a high-charting hit. Similar to its inception, Hip-Hop had not yet been fully legitimized so street credit became an intangible but very resourceful tool to further develop the lifestyle Jenkins and his crew were so diligently fighting to bring to the forefront of American culture. Currently, this is not only reflected in today’s youth but also in the parents who grew up during this era.
Eventually, with every chart-topping hit Uptown Records released it drew closer to capturing the attention of mainstream audiences. Historically, this was the first time white-american consumers began to not only listen to and buy what was considered Black Music but also mimic the creativity and style associated with what was referred to at the time as inner city ghettos. The strategy of developing culture by telling it’s peoples’ story through manufacturing original films, clothing lines and exploiting crossover agents via major gatekeepers of Pop and R&B paid off and was able to lift the medium of Hip-Hop out of questionable obscurity and into the spotlight, forcing labels to recognize it as its own entity. The bottom line was that Hip-Hop now delivered a myriad of highly profitable opportunities throughout just about every other industry from clothing to technology.
According to James Malcolm Jenkins, he is just getting warmed up as he foreshadows plans to build a business empire that expands beyond music and even Hip-Hop itself. Clear he is no one-trick-pony, Jenkins is currently immersed in the film industry as one of its historians. Presently he works alongside Allen Hughes (Born of 1993’s phenom Menace II Society.) with several projects, all positioned to chronologise the very intricate history of which he was a faithful architect. The declaration around this is at least one Oscar award for his work as a producer, “I lived all of this. The unadulterated truth is about to be told because most of the information out there is inaccurate. It’s my time.”
Be wary of the prospects of a poor Black kid from the mean streets of Bronx, New York, who very early on modeled his critical thinking and ambitions after greats such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Truman Capote, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nicky Barnes who he lists are his major influences besides the “godfather of Hip Hop”, Russell Simmons. These influences are reflected in Jenkin’s business savvy and persona. He tells it like it is in his reality. His results have proven the power of one creating his or her own reality outside whatever limiting circumstances an individual may find themselves. A skill within itself, this ability to create something special and revered, from the proverbial scraps of humanity is one sorely needed in world that while may not exist in the economic shambles of his original stomping grounds of the Bronx and Harlem, still is very much suffering through the turmoil of our people. Jenkins is here to pass on his invaluable experience to those aligned with the intention of uplifting people and giving proper respect for Hip-Hop’s culture and its builders.
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