What NBA Fans Really Need To Know About “The Commissioner” Steve Stoute

Steve Stoute is an iconic name in entertainment. The Queens, NY native was an integral part of the executive brain trust that fueled rap business during the golden age of hip-hop and contributed to the artform’s initial commercial explosion in the 90s.

Stoute,49, is known as “The Commissioner” in entertainment circles. He started out as a Roadie with the group Kid-N-Play and his refined business sense and progressive thinking elevated him to a power position in the rap industry that few have enjoyed.

Few are better than Stoute when it comes to pushing the envelope while preserving the authenticity of the culture. His journey has led him from the seats of broken-down buses on hip-hop’s traveling circus of the early 90s to the plush executive offices and boardrooms of some of the wealthiest business moguls in the United States.

The Vision To Stay Ahead Of The Race

If Jay-Z is the blueprint for rappers going global mogul, then Stoute, worth over $60 million, is similarly the blueprint for ambitious music executives who started on the grassroots level and crafted a dynasty by discovering impactful artists and permanently branding them as fixtures in American contemporary music.

It’s a 30-year-run of elevation, patience and dogged persistence that has landed Stoute on the cover of magazines, as a featured icon in videos and shows and in the pages of books sold as business bibles for the up and coming entrepreneur.

He’s a straight-shooter,  always led by his vision, as we clearly see in this 2014 interview with radio legend Angie Martinez.


Stoute wouldn’t include Drake or 50 Cent in his most influential artists at the time, but he also knew that Drake was coming and 50 needed another hustle besides music to take him to the top. 50’s Vitamin Water and Bitcoin deals would provide the seed money needed to venture into films, where he has iconized himself as a producer and recently was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Knicks Branding Consultant: Make NY Great Again 

The man who was hired a month ago as a branding consultant by the Knicks to remake their “tarnished image” and fancies himself as the Knicks’ Drake, spoke for the first time on ESPN’s First Take. Unsurprisingly, he was bold, brash and open about his perspective concerning the Knicks’ future and what he is here to do. 


Stoute is known for being instrumental in the iconic rise of artists such as Mary J. Blige and Nas and the same killer spirit, determination, and star power that led him to become “The Commissioner” is what he says he intends to bring to the Knicks. 

“The biggest thing is getting free agents and players to know this is a place to show up, this is where they should be,” Stoute said. “I think that the narrative has been lost. Players haven’t come, a free agent hasn’t come. And if we can solve that problem, which I know we will, we have a great chance. We’re the most iconic team in the league by far.”

Stoute is quickly learning, however, that the music business tends to be more boisterous and braggadocious. The business deals are more nefariously crafted than in NBA executive circles. While boosting the Knicks’ image, he will also have to tone down his blunt honesty and ego at times. 

Hours after the First Take interview went viral, the Knicks released a statement saying that Stoute “does not speak on behalf of New York Knicks personnel and basketball operations.”

Making of A Music Mogul

Most sports fans are confused as to why Stoute’s hiring has made such headlines in New York. They probably are oblivious to his journey and the major milestones in his life that have gotten him to this point.

From 1990 to 1999, Stoute was a cutting-edge executive at several influential music labels. He worked at Sony. At Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Stoute served as President of the Urban Music division and executive vice president. He was influential in the careers of many artists, Will Smith among them. 

Stout’s handling of Mary J. Blige and Nas’ classic sophomore albums, is the stuff of legends as he was able to pull off the rare feat of following up historically impactful albums with more classics. He imprinted his ideas and musical direction on the projects, proving to not only be a shrewd businessman but having an ear for commercially successful hip-hop. 

He details the trials and tribulations he encountered while trying to bridge Nas’ perfect street sound in Illmatic with a more commercial and career-sustaining appeal for his second album, Stillmatic.  


Carol’s Daughter 

In 2005, Stoute became the Managing Director and CEO of Carol’s Daughter, a line of natural hair and body care products created by Lisa Price in Brooklyn, NY. 

He organized a crop of elite investors including Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Jimmy Iovine, Tommy Mottola, and Thalía, as well as a bevy of spokeswomen for the line that also included Solange Knowles, Cassie Ventura, Selita Ebanks and Kim Fields

The company exploded and today he serves as the brand’s Lead Investor & Chairman.

United Masters 

After years of shepherding the careers of Nas, Foxy Brown, and The Track Masters, Stoute returned to the music industry in 2017 with his new company, United Masters.

Stoute received $70 million from investors such as Alphabet Inc. and Andreessen Horowitz to launch UnitedMasters, a music initiative that allows musicians to market directly to their fans across digital platforms. 

The service is affiliated with Apple Music and promotes artists keeping their master recordings and through social media and other avenues, provides resources for the modern market that once seemed reserved for major label acts. United Masters will split the income gained from Spotify, YouTube and other new platforms.

The days of record labels gutting artists or suppressing the music of independent artists are over. Stoute continues to change the game on every level.

Advertising Genius With Cultural Responsibility

Stoute is also thе СЕО аnd fоundеr оf Тrаnѕlаtіоn, a mаrkеtіng firm with сlіеntѕ including МсDоnаld’ѕ, Ѕtаtе Fаrm аnd Аnhеuѕеr-Вuѕсh. Hе wаѕ hоnоred wіth thе іnduѕtrу’ѕ рrеmіеr аwаrd fоr оutѕtаndіng аdvеrtіѕіng рrоfеѕѕіоnаlѕ undеr 40.

In 2017, Stoute brokered a deal through Translation for Gucci and hip-hop designer legend Dapper Dan to create a joint fashion line and open a new Harlem atelier.

At the time, there was mass cultural appropriation going on with Dapper Dan’s styles of dress. Gucci and other brands were stealing from his legacy and not paying. Beyonce was one of the first artists to speak up for him. 


Stoute has dedicated his life to delivering the recognition and compensation he believes are overdue to culture-shifting creators.

Organizing, Galvanizing & Acknowledging Black Excellence

Via billboard.com: 

“Three nights before the 2018 Grammy Awards, as music-industry executives huddled at familiar corporate functions around Manhattan, Steve Stoute hosted an intimate dinner party in a private room above the posh Gramercy Park restaurant Eleven Madison Park. 

Stoute… declared that the gathering was “about culture, storytellers coming together in a room, celebrating greatness” — a grandiose statement that actually seemed fitting when one surveyed the guests: Nas, Naomi Campbell, Colin Kaepernick, Darren Aronofsky, Quavo and Migos manager Coach K, art dealer Gavin Brown, Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, artist Hope Atherton and Thelma Golden, director/chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem”

Connecting brands has always been Stoute’s expertise. His next challenge is finding his niche in becoming part of the new solution for a Knicks franchise where losing has gotten old

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.