Scooter Braun is the Hustla 

How a white kid from the North became a power player in Atlanta hip-hop

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Entrance to the Velvet Room on Tuesday nights was $100. Braun would stay until the wee hours of the morning, often having spent much of what he had earned at the previous Thursday's party. But Braun says he wasn't just pissing his money away. He had a plan. He wanted the major players in the hip-hop industry to notice him. Braun says he met Ludacris, Fat Joe and P. Diddy at the Velvet Room. These were stars he wanted to impress. He wanted to show them that he was for real. Of course, he wasn't for real, but they didn't have to know that.

Chaka Zulu, one of several businessmen who has served as a role model for Braun, says Braun's attempt to gain access by throwing money around isn't a new idea. "It's called flash money," Zulu says. "People call it 'faking it till you make it.' It's like when you switch out cars with your buddy so it'll look like you've got two cars instead of one."

Braun kept faking. He bought a purple Mercedes Benz with rims on eBay for $35,000, paying for it all up front. He was flying all over the country to show up at the hottest events. He'd buy bottles of Grey Goose or champagne for everyone around him. All those expenses left him with little pocket change. There were times, Braun says, when the college kid with the purple sports car would have to scrounge for change to pay the pizza delivery guy.

Then Braun got his big break. Ludacris was about to go out on tour with Eminem. Ludacris and Zulu had gotten to know Braun at the Velvet Room, and the two were looking for somebody to throw parties in association with Ludacris and Eminem's Anger Management Tour 2002. They asked Braun to organize parties in five cities: New York, Tampa, Hartford, Miami and Atlanta. Braun says that Zulu recognized that many of the kids buying tickets for the Anger Management Tour were white, and he wanted a party that would appeal to both a white and black audience.

That gig really got the ball rolling. Before he knew it, Braun was the legit player he hustled to become in the hip-hop world. And that led him to super-producer Jermaine Dupri.

Dupri is one of the producers behind Usher's Confessions album and Mariah Carey's Grammy-winning comeback album, as well as the boyfriend of pop star Janet Jackson. Braun says Dupri was fascinated by Braun's ability to get white kids into historically black clubs.

When Dupri asked Braun to join So So Def Records, Braun was just 19 years old. But Dupri told him that he had a bright future in the industry, and he was going to teach Braun the ropes. "He told me that he didn't want me involved in his parties," Braun says. "He said I had more to offer than just parties. He wanted me doing his marketing, his business."

Within a year, Braun was named So So Def's executive director of marketing. He was living large -- making more than six-figures throwing his Emory parties and doing work for So So Def that involved flying back and forth from Atlanta to New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

The makers of 3 Vodka approached Braun and asked him to help market their product in the Southeast. Braun suggested teaming 3 Vodka with So So Def, and soon Dupri became the face of the brand, as well as part owner.

Braun produced Music Midtown's urban stage for two years, and threw a week's worth of parties in conjunction with NBA All-Star Weekend 2003 in Atlanta.

Braun's father came to visit that weekend and attended one of the NBA parties that his son was throwing. "I remember seeing John Salley standing outside and he was having trouble getting in," Ervin Braun says. "My son was standing near the front and Salley was yelling, 'Scooter, Scooter, come on, man, get me in here!' That's when I realized how successful Scott had gotten."

Braun was recruited to throw parties for NSYNC Celebrity Basketball Weekend and Britney Spears' Onyx Hotel Tour 2004, both in Miami. He was so connected by that point that Prince showed up at his birthday party at Midtown club Eleven50.

In his junior year, with his grades slipping from spending too much time traveling and not enough time in class, Braun decided to drop out of Emory. His father, who is a cosmetic dentist, says he was upset with his son's choice. "To say I was disappointed is an understatement," Ervin Braun says. "I went to four years of college and four years of dental school and four years of training. So him dropping out was difficult for me to accept." But he says he also realized that Braun had a unique opportunity.

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