Brooklyn native and current Boston Celtic Sebastian Telfair was robbed outside the Flatiron restaurant Justin’s last week, and an hour later, Brooklyn rapper Fabolous was shot there. Fab — who, remember, earns his living in a business where law-enforcement run-ins have never been much of a negative — has been utterly unapologetic about his post-shooting flight and his subsequent arrest for possession of unlicensed guns. Basketball players, too, try to build their street cred these days, but Telfair — a Coney Island projects legend, Stephon Marbury’s cousin, and a Jay-Z pal who’s about as cred-tastic a player as one could imagine — immediately hired superlawyer Ed Hayes to declare that not only had he given a statement to police, he had volunteered his cell-phone records to alleviate any suspicion that he was involved in the shooting. So what’s the marketing reason that Brooklyn-born rappers want to play up their urban appeal while Brooklyn-born ballplayers want to play it down? Shawn Sachs, a PR exec at Ken Sunshine Consultants, explained it to us.
Aren’t NBA players supposed to be desperate these days for the kind of cred a shooting brings?
Maybe. But in basketball, you’re ultimately managed by the NBA, and there’s certain rules they want you to follow and contractually you have to follow. The NBA wants to clamp down on the image that the stars in the league have a lot of problems with drugs, girlfriends, whatever. At the end of the day, they still really want parents to bring their kids to games and buy their kids jerseys.
And anything goes in the music industry.
Sure — certain guys very openly brag about how close they are to violence. In this case, the brand is the artist, as opposed to a larger institution. Rappers don’t have to worry about their advertisers.
But people like Jay-Z and Snoop are spokesmen for General Motors, Anheuser-Busch, all sorts of corporations.
If you’re 40 and you’re still in the news for being in fights, people just get sick of it. Jay-Z’s image changed. He grew up. Everybody loves a comeback. That kind of past can actually help. Everyone wants a story — don’t bring me from A to A, bring me from A to B and then maybe back to A again. Look at Britney — the public would love to see her succeed again. They want her to show them she’s trying to move on from all these things that seem destructive to her and her family.
So are these story lines real or just good PR work?
The client needs to be interested in pursuing a certain course. If someone’s out there getting in fights, you can only spin it for so long. It’s important to have someone who thinks about your public persona, but if your client doesn’t want to change, the best publicist in the world can’t do shit.
— Ben Mathis-Lilley