Years with Company: 3
Address: Boston, MA
Email: [email protected]
Clients: Swae Lee, Yo Gotti, Pitbull, Ozuna, Nigel Sylvester
Clinton Sparks wears many hats. Besides being a DJ, he’s a rapper, a dancer and a radio host, plus a Grammy-nominated producer- songwriter, author and entrepreneur. His latest venture is XSET, a video game lifestyle brand that brings together rappers, athletes and professional Egamers under a united roof.
Having a Plan
The secret of my success is patience, making a plan, and sticking to it. A lot of times, people let a speed bump derail them. But a speed bump doesn’t stop you from getting to your destination.
And being a bit naïve. Music wasn’t what I was going to try to do; this is what I was going to do. People would laugh at me and say things like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” “What connections do you have?” “You’re a white dude trying to make it in hip-hop.” But those things never penetrated my plan.
I live in L.A. now. Prior to that, I lived in Boston my whole life. I’d shovel snow to make gas money and then drive to New York. This is before social media, so I would stand in front of labels and wait for someone who looked like they were connected. I’d perfected the 30-second pitch on why you should listen to me.
Introducing Hip-Hop to Hollywood
When I became a host on E! News, all they talked about was Hollywood, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. And I was exposed to a diverse set of people early in life. I never was like, “I don’t understand that culture.” I understood it all. So, I’ve always been the guy that would connect people from different backgrounds.
I realized it was one culture they were talking to. And I was bringing all these rappers. To me, it was totally normal because I knew that the Paris Hiltons and Britney Spears thought that the 50 Cents and Kanye Wests were cool. And I also knew that Kanye and 50 thought that Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and their lifestyle was cool.
I would also throw the biggest parties in Las Vegas and invite Tommy Lee with Ne-Yo and Toni Braxton with Asher Roth. Back then, you would never see those people in the same room. I kind of brought these worlds together.
I was vice president of Dash Radio in 2017. My buddy, Greg Selkoe, is the founder of Karmaloop, which at one time was the world’s biggest street wear and fashion website. We were working on a company called Wanderset. It was going to be the second coming of Karmaloop.
He then got a call to be the CEO of a gaming company. We’d worked together for 20 years, so he wanted to bring me in. He said, “We’re going to do Esports.” He explained it to me and I’m like, holy crap. This industry is what I’ve been waiting for. I can connect music, fashion, sports, art, culture, everything to gaming.
We took a bunch of popular online kids and built it into a billion-dollar IPO called FaZe Clan. We left because diversity’s in our DNA and we kept struggling with the CEO. It felt like a frat house. After the George Floyd thing happened, I was like “I can’t be at this company anymore.” So, we decided to launch XSET.
Gaming for Prosperity
XSET is the fastest-growing gaming lifestyle brand in the world. We’re getting ready to make some major announcements that are going to disrupt culture in a major way. We’re really putting our money where our mouth is by representing all these underserved communities and introducing [them to] gaming and the careers that can be built in this $223 billion space.
When you’re from the hood, you think music and sports are the two ways to get out. People don’t recognize gaming is the third thing. And it’s more obtainable. You can do it from home and become a superstar.
Caring About Talent
Early in my career, I would see rappers and athletes used for all their talent until they don’t matter anymore. And then they just throw them away. And also the talent wouldn’t have good teams around them to help them think about five or 10 years down the line. So, I wanted to start a company that cared about talent and would help them see the future.
Musicians and Gamers Can Help One Another
There are billions of gamers afraid to use music because they’re going to get a strike or banned. There are millions of artists looking for exposure. Why don’t you guys know each other? “Let us use your music. Now, you’re getting promotion and I’m not fearful of getting a takedown.”
We’re not an Esports organization. We are a gaming lifestyle brand that happens to have a couple Esports teams. We have the number one Street Fighter [player] in the world, iDom. We have an all-female Valorant team. But we realized not long after starting that this isn’t the right path to achieve our mission.
Being Unique, Whether in Gaming or Music
You’ve got to find your own niche and personality. Just like there are a zillion rappers posting new music, there are a zillion gamers posting Call of Duty and Fortnite clips. You have to develop something that’s going to make you stand out and [have] people care about you.
I wrote two books. One is called How To Win Big In the Music Business. The tactics and strategies I teach in that book will help you win, whether you’re a gamer, an influencer in the music industry or just a straight entrepreneur.
My new book is Ten Traits That Made Me Millions in the Music Industry: A Guide On How They Can Help You, Too. These traits are not just limited to the music industry. These traits will help you navigate and move through any business.
Survival as Teacher
I was sexually abused as a kid. I was bullied. My dad was an alcoholic. My mother was a single mom. We were broke. I became a criminal. I’d steal cars and rob houses.
Then, I started my first business at 12 years old. It was called Rent-a-Teen. I would knock on people’s doors and ask them to hire me and my friends to wash their cars or shovel their driveways. I understood how to get money, because I needed to get money.
I learned how to do customer service and sales. And I also understood how to protect myself. How to not let traumatic things take over my emotions but instead analyze why a bully acts this way. Why does this guy molest me? Why does my dad choose alcohol over me? I took those things and learned how to utilize them for good.