Cortez "Tez" Bryant, Co-CEO of The Blueprint Group, will teach the ins and outs of the entertainment business Oct. 5 – Nov. 20 at his alma mater, Jackson State University, during a Careers in Music course. The seven-week program, a hybrid-mix of online and in-person sessions, is described as the study of alternative careers to teaching in the field of music, including current needs, future trends and economic consideration.
"If I weren't in the music business, I would have been a teacher. I always wanted to come back to Jackson State, which has done so much for me in terms of making me the person I am," said Bryant, who attained a degree in mass communications from the university in '04.
"From my high school, McMain, in New Orleans, where I met Lil Wayne, to my years at Jackson State, education has been a driving force and a foundation for everything I've ever achieved."
Bryant, 41, hopes the class will be a springboard to fulfilling his long-term goal of establishing a music business school. For now, he is sticking to a two-hour weekly session where students will learn about ethics, digital marketing, branding, contractual agreements, publishing, copyrighting and other tools.
"We are beyond thrilled that Mr. Bryant will be sharing his knowledge and experiences with our students," said Thomas Hudson, acting president of JSU. "Not only is he a successful music mogul, but he is a JSU alum who continues to give back to his college home, which we greatly appreciate. I know our students will gain exponentially from his insight."
While attending JSU, Bryant began touring with best friend and mega-artist Lil Wayne, eventually becoming his manager. Together they launched Young Money Entertainment, where Bryant is COO. The label’s roster included heavy-hitting performers Drake, Nicki Minaj, Tyga, and others. The Blueprint Group was formed when he merged Bryant Management with Gee Roberson's Hip Hop Since 1978.
Early on, the newcomer distinguished himself as a strategic entertainment manager with a knack for securing high-profile branding partnerships with the likes of Beats by Dre, Samsung, Mountain Dew and more. Recent ventures include pairing Lil Nas X, of "Old Town Road" fame, with Doritos for a 2020 Super Bowl LIV commercial, and Lil Wayne joining Ghost Recon X, a videogame franchise.
If that isn't enough, Bryant and his team established Young Money Sports four years ago. The full-service sports agency provides management to 50 NFL players, including two first-round picks in the last two NFL drafts.
"It's really doing amazing and growing. We're planning on a basketball division. We've made some investments and developed some partnerships that should immediately amplify it," he shares. "It's been exciting working in a different space from music, and I've enjoyed running that side of the business for the last four years."
Now, Bryant is looking to lend his 16 years of hands-on expertise to students attempting to navigate a sometimes precarious industry.
"We're using innovative ways to teach and connect our students with the culture and the business of music in a more authentic way," says Dr. Brandi Newkirk-Turner, interim associate provost. "Bryant brings so much knowledge and has had so many successes and unique experiences the students will be in for an absolute treat."
A New Orleans native, Bryant was a member of JSU's Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band. He has always given props to the Boom and former band director, Dr. Lewis Liddell, for offering him a scholarship and instilling principles that he utilizes today. He says those sentiments still ring true.
"One of the reasons my spirit moved me back to Jackson State is that there may be a younger version of me looking for an outlet. There may be the next inner-city kid not having much that can come to Jackson State and find themselves," he says.
Giving students access to the various layers of his "wheelhouse" could provide missing links to long-lasting and productive careers for future generations, expressly for kids typically lacking resources and opportunities.
Many Black youths suffer from a lack of exposure and are matriculating through an often archaic secondary school system Bryant says. He contends there is an abundance of job options in the music field, but many kids only see the "glitz and glam" associated with rappers, athletes and singers.
Bryant intends to uncover the vast options the entertainment industry holds. In doing so, he reveals the most challenging part of preparing his all-encompassing curriculum was trying to fit the abundance of content into seven weeks.
"All the things I'll be covering could each have a course of its own," he says. "But developing my syllabus was easy because this is my life. This is what I've been living, and God blessed me to be good at it."
"The Music Business Toolbox" by Bryan Calhoun, who oversees the digital strategy for The Blueprint Group, will be the primary text for the class. Bryant says the guide provided the framework and structure for the principles he'll offer.
Bryant also disclosed his intention for special-guest lecturers like Chauncey Hamlett, VP and CMO for South, Pepsi Co, to speak to students. Hamlett leads the marketing efforts for the beverage brand.
"He was responsible for the Kevin Hart and the Migos Mountain Dew commercials last year. I want the students to understand the overlapping spaces that connect business to music," he says. “I want to show the importance of brand power and working for brands and having music backgrounds and how it all ties together."
For this new journey, Bryant reserves a special thanks to friend, Dr. Lowell Hollinger, assistant professor of music at JSU, for proffering the idea of teaching and encouraging him to do so.
He also expresses appreciation for Hudson, Newkirk-Turner, Dr. Alisa Mosley, interim provost, and Dr. Lisa Beckley-Roberts, chair of the music department, for their efforts bringing Careers in Music to fruition.
"Mr. Bryant is an expert in his field due to his tenacity, hard work and knowledge. His willingness to impart wisdom to our students and in turn, the future of the music industry, is priceless,” says Beckley-Roberts. “This is a testament to his character and the lasting impact that we can have on our students' lives as well as the quality education we provide our students in the past and the future."
Serving as another source of inspiration for Bryant is his 7-month-old son, River Bryant. The new father shares that River has made him more intentional about the substance of his legacy.
"I've been thinking about that more with the birth of my son. The music business is great. All the accolades I've been blessed to receive are great. I'm all about passing on those blessings, so I'm coming back to my alma mater. I want to leave something sustainable, so people will be using what I left to flourish and succeed in life when I'm gone."